What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries Right Now

Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Start in the Meatpacking District to see artwork from a celebrated Aboriginal collective in Australia. Then head to Chelsea for two majestic Lee Krasner paintings. And don’t miss “Pure Joy,” in which disabled artists, who are often expected to speak about the challenges they face, instead celebrate happiness.

Summer hours vary at galleries. Visitors should check in advance.


Through Aug. 20. Fort Gansevoort, 5 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan; 917-639-3113, fortgansevoort.com

Finding balance between humor and colonialist critique, three artists from Iwantja Arts, an Aboriginal collective celebrated in Australia but hardly known in the United States, offer up work that galvanizes joy for the world-weary.

In the show, “Iwantja Rock n Roll,” Vincent Namatjira’s 2021 painting “Elizabeth and Vincent (On Country),” depicts a fictional meeting between Namatjira and the British colonizer-in-chief, set on his Indulkana homeland. Neither Namatjira, who wears a concert T-shirt, nor the friendly dingo holding pride of place seem overawed by their visitor. Nearby, “Albert Namatjira Meets Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Canberra, 1954” (2021) is based on a photograph of a presentation to the royals of Namatjira’s great-grandfather, a distinguished artist and the first Aboriginal person to be granted Australian citizenship. Namatjira, raised in foster care like a disproportionate number of Indigenous children, only learned about his ancestor as an adult.

The playful mythological creatures in Tiger Yaltangki’s “Malpa Wiru” (2021) have a fondness for rock music, AC/DC in particular. Equally raucous are Kaylene Whiskey’s works like “Dolly and Catgirl” (2021), which render a cartoon-inflected, girl power celebration of pop icons in the brightly colored “dot painting” technique that has become a signifier of certain Australian Indigenous communities. As with her equally lively videos on view nearby, including “Ngura Pukulpa — Happy Place” (2022), an undertone of cultural pride and insistence on Aboriginal land claims runs through the fun. All in all, “Iwantja Rock n Roll” is politics you can dance to. ARUNA D’SOUZA


Through Aug. 12. Kasmin Gallery, 509 West 27th Street, Manhattan; 212-563-4474, kasmingallery.com.

I ducked into Kasmin Gallery before a volley of thunder signaled a deluge of rain. The exhibition inside elucidates how the history of abstraction pours through contemporary representational painting. Howardena Pindell’s “Space Frame #2” (1969) features a white grid on canvas upon which cream and pastel ovals seem to move diagonally about its surface, as if pulled or repelled from the corners. The painting shares a wall with two majestic Lee Krasners from 1964 and a tall and slender Helen Frankenthaler, “Wine Dark” (1965), with its titular color saturating the canvas’s right side. Disrupting this suite of 1960s power painters is the moody “Orbiter” (2022) by the British artist Louise Giovanelli, a sequined sheath dress torso rendered in a style recalling Marilyn Minter.

It wasn’t just the claps of thunder and the white-noise rush of rain that made Jake Grewal’s paired paintings (both 2022) of figures in murky forest scenes so transfixing. Ghostly and sketchy, they neatly match the melancholy energy of Leonora Carrington’s “Composition (Ur of the Chaldees)” (1950), on the opposite end of the same wall. In her unreal landscape, figures fall from, while some climb, a cliff side with monsters lurking below. My favorite painting here is Nengi Omuku’s “The Lighthouse” (2021), unstretched and painted on sanyan, a traditional Nigerian woven fabric. Much like Grewal’s work, Omuku creates the impression of beautiful figuration distilled from some ethereal miasma of dreams. A perfectly unfinished quality, like the dialogue captured here between old and new. JOHN VINCLER


Through Aug. 13. 1969 Gallery, 39 White Street, Manhattan; 212-777-2172, 1969gallery.com.

The impetus for the exhibition “Pure Joy” was the title: The actor and artist Chella Man invited 14 disabled artists, who are often expected to speak about the challenges they face, to instead celebrate happiness. The theme is broad (as happens with many summer group shows), and the result is a bit of a jumble. But what the show lacks in cohesion, it makes up for in visibility and variety, in the pleasure of the works themselves and of making connections among them.

Unsurprisingly, the body is a dominant subject. Sometimes its presence is only implied, as in Panteha Abareshi’s “A Mistranslation” (2022), an assemblage of assistive and prosthetic devices and wires whose pastel colors bring an unexpected playfulness to something clinical. Kate Meissner’s fluorescent paintings feature obstructed views of naked bodies behind curtains — mysterious, seductive scenes seem like they might be set in hospitals.

By contrast, the delight of a Robert Andy Coombs photograph, from 2018, comes from its explicitness: The artist looks out at the viewer while tilted in his wheelchair and performing the titular sex act. His unabashed gaze resonates with Jerron Herman’s in “V::: Triptych” (2022), a film made with Cayla Mae Simpson that shows Herman posing in setups riffing on classical Western painting. In one, the artist wears a ruffled collar, but no shirt, and lounges alongside some fruit. He doesn’t hold a precise position, but instead breathes, wriggles and moves — visible effort, without a sense of force. Rather than struggle against his body, he relishes being in it. JILLIAN STEINHAUER

Lower East Side

Through Aug. 26. Fridman Gallery, 169 Bowery, Manhattan; 646-345-9831, fridmangallery.com.

In the weeks after the Russian invasion of her country, the Ukrainian artist Zhanna Kadyrova thought that art was “absolutely powerless and ephemeral in comparison to the merciless military machine destroying peaceful cities and human lives.” Now, Kadyrova, one of the artists in the group show “Women at War,” feels more hopeful. “I see that every artistic gesture makes us visible and our voices heard,” she writes in a wall label next to a video she made after fleeing Kyiv.

Nearly a dozen artists are included in this commanding, urgent show. Several offer background to the current conflict, like Dana Kavelina’s film “Letter to a Turtledove” (2020), which uses archival footage to explore the Donbas region. Alla Horska, who was murdered — presumably by the K.G.B. — in 1970, is represented by a blood-red linocut “Portrait of Ivan Svitlychny,” a Ukrainian dissident, from around 1963.

Drawings by Alevtina Kakhidze document how her mother died of cardiac arrest in 2019 while crossing a demarcation line to collect her pension. Vlada Ralko posts her vividly expressionist ink and watercolor drawings on Instagram, while Lesia Khomenko paints her partner, Max, becoming a soldier.

Why “women at war” and not every person? Many of the works here show how armed conflict affects women specifically, and the exhibition’s curator Monika Fabijanska asserts that “war is gendered.” If war has historically been waged and documented artistically by men, perhaps exhibitions like this reflect — or even subtly effect — a shift in universal historical consciousness. MARTHA SCHWENDENER


Through July 30. Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, 88 Essex Street, No. 21, Manhattan; 212-420-9202, artistsallianceinc.org.

The work that parents, especially mothers, do to raise their kids is often referred to as “invisible labor” because it happens out of the public eye. In her solo exhibition, “Ecologies of Care,” Ani Liu quantifies that amount of labor and makes it visible, turning her experience of new motherhood into a series of thought-provoking artworks.

Liu came to art by way of architecture and then technology: For her master’s thesis, she used an EEG device to control the movement of sperm on a custom circuit. The pieces here harness technology to consider what it means to be a parent. The investigation is physical — for example, custom machines pumping a breast milk look-alike through looping tubes — and cultural, as with works showcasing gendered toys generated by a machine-learning algorithm (e.g. “Silver Scented Pony Hair Barbie Doll”).

The strongest pieces translate Liu’s physical experiences into mediated self-portraits, following feminist artists like Teresa Burga, Lynn Hershman Leeson and Adrian Piper. There’s a quiet tension between the art’s sleek appearance and the visceral realities of parenting, and in the attempt to impose order on a process that’s stubbornly unpredictable. “Untitled (Labor of Love)” (2022) charts every feeding and diaper change during the first 30 days of Liu’s infant’s life through vials containing breast milk, formula and pieces of diapers. To this childless writer, it was an eye-opening lesson — all the more acute in a post-Roe America — in just how much labor it takes to keep someone alive. JILLIAN STEINHAUER


Through Aug. 1. SculptureCenter, 44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, Queens. 718-361-1750; sculpture-center.org.

Earlier this year the artist Lydia Ourahmane, having cleared reams of Algerian bureaucracy, traveled with some collaborators, led by Tuareg guides with donkeys, to Tassili n’Ajjer, a hostile and baroquely beautiful plateau deep in the Sahara whose jagged sandstone formations harbor caverns rich in prehistoric rock paintings. “Tassili,” Ourahmane’s 46-minute video shown on a huge screen at SculptureCenter, is, on one level, an absorbing landscape study from the point of view of a trekker in this terrain, its beauty enhanced by a swelling score in four parts by different electronic-music composers. An accompanying sculpture by Ourahmane and Yuma Burgess, who was on the trip, employs black thermoplastic tiles encoded with topographic information collected on site then modified in the studio using machine learning.

One lyrical and lush, the other abstract and coded, each work is a kind of response to land that resists interpretation. The Tassili was verdant 10,000 years ago; it drew colonial explorers in the 1950s who damaged rock art while trying to document it; today it lies on trafficking and migration routes. History draws the Algerian-born, British-educated Ourahmane to the Tassili, yet her project is open-ended and ultimately metaphysical — evidenced by a quote in the gallery text from the Tuareg novelist Ibrahim al-Koni, for whom the desert is “the only place where we can visit death … Because it is the isthmus between total freedom and existence.” SIDDHARTHA MITTER


Through Aug. 5. Greene Naftali, 508 West 26th Street, Manhattan; 212-463-7770, greenenaftaligallery.com.

Critical and cultural theory serve as raw materials in Tony Cokes’s videos, which consist of texts against bright backgrounds accompanied by driving, thumping soundtracks. The six works in “On Clubbing, Mourning and Critique” at Greene Naftali were all made in the last few years and address issues of race and global inequity — except for “Evil.48 (fn.know.it.alls)” (2012), which quotes conservative figures stating their views on reproductive policies and serves as an eerie portent for the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“Evil.13.5 (4 OE)” (2022) is a nearly 20-minute video that samples sections from a 2015 interview with the curator Okwui Enwezor, who died in 2019, describing how a market in Lagos sells obsolete Western goods, calling into question the idea of “recycling” as a universal panacea. Other videos examine police brutality and the politics of dance music, using texts and lectures by cutting-edge Black intellectuals like Tina Campt, Saidiya Hartman and Kodwo Eshun.

What’s changed recently in Cokes’s work is the arrangement and display of text, which has gotten looser and more consciously shaped and arranged, like concrete poetry. Similarly, rather than merely pointing out the various “Evils” of his titles, Cokes has shifted subtly to suggesting new activist futures, which is also the result of borrowing from a younger generation of thinkers and performers whose approach is often more playful and pragmatic than the pessimism of many postmodern thinkers. MARTHA SCHWENDENER


Through Aug. 5. Sean Kelly Gallery, 475 10th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-239-1181, skny.com.

“Care, growth, abundance, rebirth, loss, dislocation, the forgotten” are what the sculptor Layo Bright says are the key concerns that undergird her work in the group show “Undercurrents.” These interests first strike me as particularly millennial, but then I look at “Double Standard” (2022), two coruscating, yet darkly foreboding rectangles of glass epoxied over nylon tote bags. Then listening to her discuss the 1983 forced deportation of Ghanaians from her native Nigeria I realize this is a profoundly purposeful reflection on the inequities of migration. All her work is also visually delectable, especially the “Visions” (2022) pieces, kiln-formed-glass visages combined with natural elements such as leaves to look like 21st-century building capitals. The curators, Marissa Del Toro and Jamillah Hinson, installed the work high on the walls so that it reads just this way.

“Undercurrents” is a show by graduates of the NXTHVN fellowship program, thus, as you might expect, it’s a smorgasbord — though laid out elegantly. There are some cartoonish, propulsive, almost surreal paintings by John Guzman that do surprising things to human faces. Alyssa Klauer’s paintings are all fey, ethereally glowing portraits with the repeated motif of one woman’s silhouette merging with another. There are almost gimmicky paintings by Patrick Quarm that owe something to Kehinde Wiley and employ vividly colored portraits of Black people pierced by strategically placed holes.

The entire exhibition feels like the assembled artists do consider loss, dislocation and the forgotten, and yet find their way to abundance. SEPH RODNEY


Through Aug. 14. Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, 26 Wooster Street, Manhattan; 212-431-2609, leslielohman.org.

Growing up in Chile, Lorenza Böttner’s fascination with birds compelled her at the age of 8 to climb a utility pole topped by a bird’s nest. As she later told it, she was startled by the sudden opening of the mother bird’s wings and fell, grabbing onto the surrounding electrical wires, seriously burning both arms, resulting in their amputation. Her medical care brought her to Germany, where she attended the Kassel School of Art. Here she took the name Lorenza, publicly presented as a woman and began incorporating gender play in her art following a tradition from Claude Cahun to the Cockettes. She also commenced the multimedia works casting herself as Venus de Milo, seen in this exhibition, “Requiem for the Norm,” curated by the philosopher and transgender activist Paul B. Preciado. “I saw that many Greek statues without arms were admired for their beauty,” Böttner said. “I wanted to show the beauty of the crip body.” In her large-scale works on paper, Böttner used feet in lieu of hands, as dramatized in a Faber-Castell 1991 commercial, here on view, with the artist as a straitjacketed man drawing his way out of a white padded room with only his feet and a box of pastels.

One of her last works — a bouquet of flowers drawn on a hospital pad with markers most likely held in her mouth — brought me to tears. Completed in 1993, the year before her death from AIDS-related illness, it shows an unrelenting insistence on beauty. JOHN VINCLER


Through Aug. 12. Lehmann Maupin Gallery, 501 West 24th Street, Manhattan; 212-255- 2923; lehmannmaupin.com.

Teresita Fernández is known for installations that coax viewers into an awareness of their bodies in space. Here she takes the role of curator, assembling nine artists who are also interested in ways of perceiving that are not strictly visual — it’s work that is as much felt as seen.

Adriana Corral transfers archival documents onto prepared gesso boards for her “palimpsests,” layering the imprints so some parts remain legible while others accumulate into impenetrable abstract veils. Occasionally, a word or image is decipherable, offering horrifying evidence of how 20th-century Mexican immigrants were subjected to toxic “disinfection” by U.S. authorities for fear they would spread disease. Close by, Francheska Alcántara combines Hispano cuaba soap — ubiquitous in Caribbean households, used for everything from washing clothes to healing wounds — with charred wood to make “Tiger Jaw,” III and IV, both 2022, which hang on the wall like protective amulets. “Star Spangled” (2019) by Esteban Ramón Pérez combines leather (remnants from his father’s upholstery shop) and other scraps to cobble together a map of America that looks like flayed white skin. The intricate thread-and-nail work in Glendalys Medina’s “The Owl (El Búho)” from 2020, inspired by Taino myth, or the weaving in Kira Dominguez Hultgren’s “A Perpetual and Continuous Splitting” (2022), which draws on multiple South and Central American traditions, make you acutely aware of the precise bodily movements that must have gone into making them. Through a sensitivity to material and process, these artists reveal histories often invisible to the eye. ARUNA D’SOUZA

east village

Through Aug. 28. Swiss Institute, 38 St. Marks Place, Manhattan; 212-925-2035, swissinstitute.net.

We are in a moment of gender upheaval, with individuals questioning the roles of biology and culture in establishing traditional binaries. However, the drawings, paintings, photographs and videos of the Zurich-based artist Walter Pfeiffer from the 1970s into the 2000s remind us that this is only another moment of inquiry, not the first one. Gender fluidity and performance of all types run through Pfeiffer’s career survey at the Swiss Institute.

Pfeiffer was born in a small Swiss village and moved to Zurich in 1966 to attend the alternative art school F+F (Form und Farbe, or “Shape and Color.”) Many of the works here echo the experiments of that decade — as well as Dada, which originated in Zurich half a century earlier. Diaristic photographs and videos capture people dressing up in costumes and performing for the camera in a manner that echoes artists like Jack Smith, Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol — but also pop stars like Elvis Presley. When Pfeiffer went back to F+F as a teacher, he recruited students as models for his photographs and his mock music videos.

Pfeiffer’s best and most poignant model, however, was a young man named Carlo Joh. Shape-shifting before the camera, Joh had all the chameleon trappings of an androgynous fashion model or a gender-bending rock star such as Mick Jagger, David Bowie or Marc Bolan. Unfortunately, Joh died of a mysterious illness in the mid-1970s. Like many great art muses, though, he seemed never destined to age. MARTHA SCHWENDENER


Through Oct. 23. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 990 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-623-7260; bbg.org.

You never need extra reasons to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. But “For the Birds” has installed plenty of fresh excuses to make the trip, in the form of more than 30 whimsical new birdhouses scattered around the grounds. (The project also includes an album of birdsong-inspired music, among other things.)

Commissioned from both artists and architects, the birdhouses cover a wide range of visual possibilities. They’re as small — and as apparently inaccessible to anything larger than a baby hummingbird — as Mary Frank’s birch bark “Habitat” in the Shakespeare Garden, or as tall and extravagantly welcoming as Julie Peppito’s 14-foot pile of found objects and concrete, “United Birds of America (E Pluribus Unum).” They’re as rickety and charming as an island of recycled mineral oil jugs, designed especially for blue herons, that Chen Chen and Kai Williams installed in the Japanese Garden’s pond, or as sleek and ominous as the hardwood tower for crows lurking at the edge of Aster Field. (Erected by a collective called Bureau Spectacular, working with the architect Kyle May, that one is called “A Flock Without a Murder.”)

Not every last birdhouse in the garden is equally compelling, or even well constructed. But in a way it doesn’t matter, since the scavenger-hunt aspect of the show is so delightful. And anyway, the project’s real audience — even its real art — is in the mixed flock of winged passers-by it’s been attracting. WILL HEINRICH


Through Dec. 3. The School, 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, N.Y.; 518-758-1628, jackshainman.com.

How should art respond to difficult times? That’s more or less the question of a new group show at the School in Kinderhook, N.Y., and it offers a range of answers.

El Anatsui’s nearly 20-foot-long piece “Stressed World,” which gives the show its name, is an irregular tapestry of brightly colored liquor bottle caps that finds transcendence in garbage and misery.

But it’s the rare work of art that can do that. The next best strategy on offer is a kind of somber opacity, an acknowledgment of the world’s complexity that doesn’t aspire to penetrate it.

Malick Sidibé’s “Vues de Dos” photographs, shot in Mali in the 1960s and reprinted in the early 2000s, show his subjects from behind. You still get a lot of information — age, dress, posture — but you can’t overlook how much more is hidden from you. Michael Snow’s long video “Solar Breath (Northern Caryatids),” in which a curtain flaps to expose brief glimpses of a green Newfoundland backyard, works similarly.

And two sculptors seem to be exploring a new kind of surrealism, one which, instead of liberating us from the clutches of the unconscious, reveals instead how trapped we are. The squat, troll-like wooden figures of the South African artist Claudette Schreuders flirt maddeningly with psychological resonance, while the Cuban sculptor Yoan Capote, currently showing as well in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, aptly sums up the state of the world by presenting a brick wall in a rolling suitcase. WILL HEINRICH


On view indefinitely. Martos After Dark, 167 Canal Street, Manhattan; 212-260-0670; martosgallery.com.

Tyree Guyton came home to Detroit’s McDougall-Hunt in 1986. The neighborhood — like many in the city’s inner ring — has been gutted by decades of white flight and pointed neglect. Guyton cleaned up a string of fallow lots, then assembled the junk into bitter monuments of resilience. The resulting Heidelberg Project lines a long block with bleached mountains of shoes, harlequin tableaus of rusty cars and an acrobatic stack of shopping carts. Guyton’s topsy-turvy paintings of clocks, some turned around or without numbers, dot the view like roadside Bible verses. “Time is running out,” they seem to say: “Repent!” Bold designs cover nearby houses — some abandoned, but a few in solidarity with their residents against attacks from NIMBY arsonists and philistine politicians.

Gradually, the winds changed. Detroit’s ruling class now see the value that public art and selfie-hunting tourists bring to real estate — or, less cynically, see art Guyton’s way: as part of the blighted city’s spiritual recovery. Today, Heidelberg Project enjoys official status. And Guyton is franchising: A corner storefront on Canal Street in Chinatown contains a slice of Heidelberg. Through the glass, blotchy, costumed mannequins sit around a cluttered table and a TV painted with the words “World New.” A vacuum inhales an American flag. Clocks cover the walls. The domestic scene feels incongruous and vivisected at street level. Is this the neighborhood’s past? Its future? Detroit? New York? The display advertises the larger project. It also invokes the specter of urban renewal in downtown Manhattan. Time, time, time … TRAVIS DIEHL

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