Overview: Spring Highlights

Jessi Reaves at Bridget Donahue
On view through June 5

Jessi Reaves’ recent installation at SculptureCenter was intriguing but too small to encompass the breadth of her project. This exhibition impresses with an excess of funky, homespun pieces of semi-functional, inside-out furniture displayed in a showroom setting. The most prevalent materials are plywood and foam, which the artist often leaves exposed, though they are normally hidden beneath upholstery. In addition to repurposing found furniture, Reaves also uses leather scraps, silk, plywood, sawdust, and driftwood to create lounge chairs, cabinets, bookshelves, lamps, and tables. In Rules Around Here (Waterproof Shelf), 2016, a free-standing shelving unit is “waterproofed” by clothing it in a midnight-blue vinyl case that doubles as a kinky dress, emphasizing the natural relationship between design and the human form. For Mind At the Rodeo (XJ Fender Table Noguchi Knockoff #2), 2016, she creates a variation on Noguchi’s iconic table, using fenders from a Jeep Cherokee truck for the legs. This piece is indicative of how Reaves uses her own slapdash style of design to appropriate modernism, replacing its pristine tendencies with something more human.

99 Bowery | Chinatown

Top: Installation view with Muscle Chair (Laying down to talk) and Beaver's Lunch (The Uncoverer), both 2016; Bottom: Installation view, “Jessi Reaves,” April 10 – June 5, 2016, Bridget Donahue, NY. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

Josh Kline at 47 Canal
On view through June 12

Josh Kline, who isn’t shy about his politics, shares his apocalyptic vision of employment, which reduces everything to disposable commodities, including workers. In a carpeted gallery, 3D-printed sculptures depict dejected employees—most notably, a mortgage loan officer—curled up on the floor and wrapped up in clear plastic bags. They are ready to be discarded or recycled, just like the silicone casts of bottles and outmoded computer parts that are piled up into shopping carts. In Universal Early Retirement (spots #1 & #2), 2016, Kline advocates for guaranteed basic income with two commercials that imitate the idealized aesthetics of banking and pharmaceutical advertisements. Instead of blissful relief and financial security, Kline offers to liberate time from the limitations of a monetized system. In a darkened side gallery, a series of virus-shaped pods, titled Contagious Unemployment, 2016, are suspended from the ceiling. Like time capsules, each sculpture contains a banker’s box filled with the kind of personal belongings the recently laid-off would assemble from their cubicles—a potted plant, children's art, a baseball hat, and a spare tie. These are objects that tether a job to life outside the workplace, humanizing the daily grind. At least you get to take them with you when you go.

291 Grand Street | Lower East Side

Top: Installation view with Universal Early Retirement (spots #1 & #2), 2016; Bottom: Installation view, Josh Kline, “Unemployment,” May 3 ­– June 12, 47 Canal, NY. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

Ken Price at Matthew Marks Gallery
On view through June 25

In 2013, I was blown away by The Drawing Center’s exhibition of Ken Price’s works on paper, a show that spanned the sculptor’s entire career. The cups! The volcanic landscapes! The west coast noir! Similarly, this exhibition features previously unseen drawings that run the gamut, from his early sculptural studies to the spare Los Angeles interiors and car crashes he depicted in the 1990s, and onto the lava- and lightning-charged landscapes he created until his death in 2012. Price’s work in the medium has a laid-back graphic sensibility and his application of background washes and vibrant blocks of color points to the influence of popular art, especially comics and illustration. Several drawings, such as Egg Flower Specimen (1968), detail sculptures that may or may not have been realized, whereas others situate the amorphous forms that were typical to his later ceramics within acid-toned desert landscapes, as in The Beautiful West (2005). While his earlier drawings benefit from a relationship to his three-dimensional works, Price’s surreal landscapes stand on their own, rendering a desolate, imaginary world that has an uncanny resemblance to our own.

523 W 24th Street | Chelsea

Top: Car Plunge (detail), 1994, Acrylic and ink on paper, 14 x 11 1/4 inches; Bottom: All Alone (detail), 2007, Acrylic and ink on paper, 9 x 6 inches.

Other Recommendations:

Lui Shtini at Kate Werble Gallery
83 Vandam Street | TriBeCa
On view through June 4

Ariel Dill at Turn Gallery
37 East 1st Street | East Village
On view through June 12

Hilton Als at The Artist’s Institute
132 E 65th Street | Upper East Side
On view through June 18

"Frida Smoked" at Invisible-Exports
89 Eldridge Street | Lower East Side
On view through June 19

"Overview" posts provide recommendations for current exhibitions in and around New York City.

Overview: Fall Highlights

Sheila Hicks @ Sikkema Jenkins & Co
On view through November 28

Veteran fiber artist Sheila Hicks works equally well in large-scale sculpture and expansive installations as she does in her “minimes”—modest weavings created on a small handmade loom.* This excellent exhibition of recent works displays both the intimate and immersive facets of her work. White River (Fleuve Blanc), 2013-14, is an installation of knotted and twined yarns and linens in various shades of white that cascade down from the ceiling to collect in a cloudy pile on the floor. Hicks continues her study of monochromes with several woven and spooled “canvases,” in which she creates subtle variations in color and texture with different weaving patterns. Several sculptural works, which feature colorful fibers tightly wound around bamboo rods and bundled together, are titled to reference movement across borders (i.e., The Right of Entry and Perpetual Migration).  These could reference the artist’s own travels to procure materials and learn about processes, but as a resident of Paris, Hicks is undoubtedly bringing attention to Europe’s current immigrant and refugee crisis.

530 W 22nd Street  |  Chelsea

*A small exhibition of Hicks’s “minimes” is concurrently on view at Davis & Langdale through December 23.

Top: Installation view with White River (Fleuve Blanc), 2013-14; Bottom: Installation view with Agreed Upon, 2015, and Perpetual Migration, 2014-15; “Sheila Hicks,” Sikkema Jenkins & Co., NY. (All photos by Chris Murtha unless otherwise noted.)

Keith Myerson @ Marlborough Chelsea
On view through December 23

With “My American Dream,” Keith Mayerson continues his thorough chronicling of American culture, a project he previewed in last year’s Whitney Biennial. After making your way through a “Prologue” of two galleries minimally adorned with seemingly anonymous paintings of skylines, mountains, and seascapes, the viewer is confronted by a floor-to-ceiling salon-style installation of over 150 paintings created over 25 years. Mayerson’s vision of America flirts with cliché and conventionality—superheroes, movie stars, and politicians are well represented—but personal snapshots and special attention to rebels, dissidents, and gay icons instill an underlying sense of “otherness.” A series of paintings that tackle abstraction (his Iconscape series) and art history (most notably El Greco’s Vision of St. John) help offset and anchor the painterly photo-realism of many of Mayerson’s works. In this ongoing and cumulative project, the political, cultural, and personal are all one and the same.

545 W 25th Street  |  Chelsea

Top: High School Senior Portrait, 1984, 2014, oil on linen, 44 x 35 inches; Bottom: Installation view, Keith Mayerson, “My American Dream,” Marlborough Chelsea, NY.


Camille Henrot @ Metro Pictures
On view through December 12

The French artist Camille Henrot’s first gallery show in New York is a humorous collection of interactive sculptures, large-scale watercolors, and a zoetrope, all of which needle at human dependency and abuse. Installed in a butter-yellow room, the pale watercolors, which are full of visual puns and populated by anthropomorphic and hybrid figures, are reminiscent of New Yorker cartoons, specifically the work of Saul Steinberg (who was included in a recent exhibition Henrot co-curated for SculptureCenter). In the diptych titled Bad Dad, a pelican surveys his imploring (and perhaps too gullible) offspring in one watercolor and consumes them in the next. In the first gallery, playfully cumbersome telephones connect the viewer with despondently absurdist self-help and support hotlines. Written in collaboration with the poet Jacob Bromberg, the hotline menus mockingly address issues such as infidelity, undependable fathers, and misbehaving pets. Printed on the backside of a “Lack of Self Confidence” hotline card, which is available at the gallery’s front desk, is perhaps the best encouragement Henrot can offer: “You’re not all that bad.”

519 W 24th Street  |  Chelsea

Top: Is He Cheating, 2015, three-dimensional resin print with video and telephone components, 37 7/8 x 9 1/2 x 3 1/4 inches; Bottom: Installation view, “Camille Henrot,” Metro Pictures Gallery, NY.


Keith Sonnier @ Maccarone
On view through December 19

Keith Sonnier’s current exhibition, “Portals,” features eleven new neon sculptures that resemble doors and passageways, along with several associated drawings. The works reference classic architectural forms but undercut that allusion with a colorful palette and phallic protrusions. The portals are also scaled down from their architectural referents to relate more closely to the human body. There are several drawings of abstracted heads that allude to two neon works, titled Circle Portal, which are closer to emoticons than passageways. One work, Wall Portal B, operates more as a line drawing than a sculpture, but it works nicely with the preparatory sketches in the two drawings, Multiple Portal Drone Study A and B. Whereas most of the neon works are mounted flat against the wall, two “Wall Extension” pieces are particularly successful as they extend the light drawings out into the gallery space, changing our perception of the work while becoming the most literal pathways in the exhibition.

630 Greenwich Street  |  West Village

Image caption: Top: Installation view with Syracusa Portal (2015); Bottom: Installation view, Keith Sonnier, "Portals," Maccarone, NY.

Jennifer Bornstein’s fourth exhibition at the gallery, “New Rubbing and Psychological and Performance Tests,” is a tribute to her father. In a series of blueprint-colored rubbings installed across the gallery’s largest wall, Bornstein captures trace images of her father's possessions, including clothing, cameras, books, and watches. The rubbing technique, called frottage, creates flat artworks that retain a sense of three-dimensionality—images of bodiless jackets and shirts are particularly evocative. Because of the indexical nature of their installation, Bornstein’s rubbings call to mind natural specimens or archaeological fossil rubbings. The connection to science continues with a series of plaster and wire sculptures that resemble mazes and testing apparatuses for lab mice, which, as confirmed by a captivating video piece, is exactly what they are. In fact, the mice that navigate Bornstein’s sculptures in the video were genetically engineered by her father, a scientist, to be exceptionally flexible and nimble. Watching the augmented mice navigate the structures—struggling to stay upright on the axle of a spinning wheel, using their tails to shimmy across a tightrope wire, or simply sniffing along the edges of a wall—one imagines Bornstein developed these structures specifically to test or challenge her father's achievement.

291 Grand Street  |  Lower East Side

Top and bottom: Installation views, Jennifer Bornstein, “New Rubbing and Psychological and Performance Tests,” Gavin Brown's enterprise, NY.  (Photos courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise.)

Zach Harris @ Feuer/Mesler
On view through December 19

This exhibition is something of a departure for Zach Harris, who is known for intricate paintings on carved wood. Pattern and psychedelic geometries are still central to his work, but in these recent paintings Harris also incorporates narrative and pictorial imagery. Full of mythological figures and apocalyptic scenes, the finely drawn images are tucked into the spaces between the incised patterns and sometimes carved into the wood as well. The works continuously reward close inspection—in several pieces Harris has included tiny handwritten texts along the margins and within the elaborate patterns. Many are just notes about the formal elements that would normally be removed or painted over, but others help to narrate or decipher the elaborate imagery: “Nuclear herbivoricost;” “Take off money mask to relax face;” and “Color goes backwards in time when after image shines = fireworks.” Thankfully, the exhibition’s title, “Must Chill,” gives us a hint as to how we should process all of the violent and volatile imagery in Harris’s new work, and perhaps the world at large as well.

319 Grand Street  |  Lower East Side

Top: Grand St. Boogie Woogie, 2014-15, water-based paint, archival ink, graphite, and wood, 82 x 60 inches; Bottom: Linen Last Judgement (V) / Saltan Sea (detail), 2015, water-based paint, archival ink, graphite, linen, and wood, 72 x 54 1/2 inches; Zach Harris, “Must Chill,” Feuer/Mesler, NY.

"Overview" posts provide recommendations for current exhibitions.

Overview: Summer Group Shows

Chicago may just be on my mind after a recent trip, but it seems like many of the city’s overlooked artists are well represented in New York galleries this summer. It might be a residual effect of the most recent Whitney Biennial's focus on Chicago artists and curators, but it’s good to see long overdue recognition coming to artists such as Diane Simpson, Miyoko Ito, the Hairy Who, and Chicago Imagists like Roger Brown and Christina Ramberg. I hope it continues.

Rock Hound Swap Meet @ Junior Projects
On view through August 14

As expressed by artist and organizer Randy Wray, the understated impetus behind this exhibition is that contemporary sculpture can be “as compelling as some rocks.” He means it in a good way and what he’s assembled is a cohesive collection of funky, tactile, and expressive sculptures that is smartly installed in this small space. Recent works by Jennifer Paige Cohen and Ernesto Burgos emphasize the absence of forms, whereas small ceramics by Arlene Shechet, Joanne Greenebaum, and Pam Lins call attention to the architectural aspect of the medium.

139 Norfolk Street  |  Lower East Side

Top: Installation view with Ernesto Burgos' Negative Nothing (2014) and Michelle Segre's Untitled (Bone) (2013); Bottom: Installation view with Jennifer Paige Cohen's Untitled (Green and Yellow Sweater) (2014) and Arlene Shechet's Hero (2015); Rock Hound Swap Meet, Junior Projects, NY. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

What Nerve! @ Matthew Marks Gallery
On view through August 14

Across three galleries, Matthew Marks is currently presenting a leaner version of a survey originally shown at the RISD Museum in fall 2014 entitled, What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present. Curated by Dan Nadel, the bulk of material on display here is courtesy the legendary image-pranksters, Chicago’s Hairy Who. It also focuses on Destroy All Monsters, Forcefield, and the loosely defined California Funk movement.  Though I enjoy their work, the show would have been more focused without the California artists, if only because their approach wasn’t as collaborative as the other three groups.  The exhibition is still very much worth seeing, especially for the comprehensive collection of Hairy Who material.

502, 522 & 526 W 22 Street  |  Chelsea

From left to right: Forcefield's P Lobe Autumn Shroud (2002), Karl Wirsum's Gilateen (1968), and Peter Voulkos' Blue and Gray (1959); What Nerve!, Matthew Marks Gallery, NY.  (Photo: Chris Murtha)

Bonsai #5 @ Maccarone
On view through August 7

Presented as a companion to Maccarone’s exhibition of Roger Brown’s clumsy but visionary “Virtual Still Life” series (on view at 630 Greenwich), this small group show surrounds one of his final paintings with works by Carol Bove, Alex Da Corte, Peter Halley, Ken Price, and Diane Simpson. In the eponymous painting, as he does in the works around the corner, Brown uses pattern and a shift in scale to trap two of his signature silhouetted figures in a trippy and unnerving landscape. Two sculptures by Diane Simpson, who re-casts forms from fashion as architectural elements, are similarly uncanny. Right now, any chance to see her work (which is also on view in a group show at Sikkema Jenkins) is a welcome treat.

98 Morton Street  |  West Village

Installation view with Ken Price’s Tubby (2011), Diane Simpson’s Vest (scalloped) (2010), and Roger Brown’s Bonsai #5, Literati (Bunjing) (1997); Bonsai #5, Maccarone, NY.  (Photo: Chris Murtha)

Tiger Tiger @ Salon 94 Bowery
On view through August 21

It’s hard not to enjoy this colorful, tropics-infused group show, which is anchored by Yutaka Sone’s life-size wicker palm. But the show is also presided over by Misaki Kawai’s polka-dotted snake bench, humorously suggesting the tropics can also bite. When you consider that Sone’s traveler’s palm is made from rattan, a species of palm widely used in furniture, the work can be read as a critique on the exploitation of natural resources. Installed on a low platform just off the floor, Paul Swenbeck’s jagged ceramics exaggerate the eerie, science fiction characteristics of sponges and other underwater organisms. Paintings by Katherine Bernhardt and Brian Belott are playful and innocent, but in works by Jules de Balincourt and Shara Hughes, figures hide in the shadows of thick foliage – strangers in their own land.

243 Bowery  |  Lower East Side

Top: Installation view with Paul Swendeck's Porifera III and VI (2015); Bottom: Installation view; Tiger Tiger, Salon 94 Bowery, NY.  (Photos: Chris Murtha)

No Vacancies @ Marianne Boesky Gallery
On view through August 7

Organized by gallery Director Kristen Becker, this tightly packed exhibition of minimalist sculpture and painting could have benefited from a lighter touch, but there are very strong works and pairings to be found. Many of the sculptures operate as minimalist updates on classical architecture forms, and recent painted wood sculptures by LA-based artist Lisa Williamson create a nice conversation with older sculptures by Robert Morris and Phillip King. The two columns of Williamson’s Long Dimension (Gates) read more like antennae or magnetic prongs and form a different type of gateway than Morris’ eroticized felt sculpture, Vetti V.  The late Miyoko Ito, a relatively unknown Chicago artist, is well represented with several paintings, including the brooding nocturne, The Seawatch.

509 West 24th Street  |  Chelsea

From left to right: Miyoko Ito’s The Seawatch (1957), Lisa Williamson’s Wavy Dimension (June)(2015), and Robert Morris’s Vetti V (1983); No Vacancies, Marianne Boesky Gallery, NY. (Photo: Chris Murtha)

"Overview" posts provide recommendations for current exhibitions.

Overview: Three Exhibitions

Hito Steyerl @ Artists Space
On view through May 24

This mini retrospective features a selection of the German artist and writer's videos and lectures from the past decade. In warped, deconstructed documentary pieces, such as Liquidity, Inc. (2014) and In Free Fall (2010), Steyerl employs (with a heavy hand) fragmented interviews, found material, and layers of crude visual graphics to an almost dizzying effect. Yet these pieces are extremely incisive, cutting, and humorous.

38 Greene Street & 55 Walker Street

Detail of  Liquidity, Inc.  (2014) by Hito Steyerl, Artists Space, NY.  (Photo: Chris Murtha)

Detail of Liquidity, Inc. (2014) by Hito Steyerl, Artists Space, NY.  (Photo: Chris Murtha)

Nicole Eisenman @ The Jewish Museum
On view through Aug 9

Eisenman’s contribution to MoMA’s Forever Now left me a little disappointed, mainly because that setting couldn't convey the scope of her work, but this small presentation at the Jewish Museum is surprisingly satisfying. The exhibition features just one of her paintings – Seder (2010), an expressive rendering of the traditional Passover meal – but it is deftly paired with works from the Museum’s collection. Enhanced by the context, this one canvas contains an entire history of painterly gestures and styles.

1109 5th Avenue (at 92nd Street)

Masterpieces & Curiosities: Nicole Eisenman’s  Seder, The Jewish Museum, NY.  (Photo: Chris Murtha)

Masterpieces & Curiosities: Nicole Eisenman’s Seder, The Jewish Museum, NY.  (Photo: Chris Murtha)

Barbara Kasten @ ICA Philadelphia
On view through August 16

If artists can be said to have a mission, then Kasten’s has been to explore the function and properties of light within space.  Covering each phase of her work, from the early cyanotypes and fabric sculptures to a recent foray into installation-based video, this career-spanning survey illuminates the artist’s profound influence on many contemporary photographers.

118 S 36th Street  |  Philadelphia

Barbara Kasten,  Stages , Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.  (Photo: Chris Murtha)

Barbara Kasten, Stages, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.  (Photo: Chris Murtha)

"Overview" posts provide recommendations for current exhibitions.