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.