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Below and Above Canal Street
“The art world should be understood as a complex ecology with many microclimates and some macro ones,” stated the curator Okwui Enwezor, who died in March. He could have been describing the geography of New York City galleries. In the 1970s, the climates were macro and few (the Upper East Side, SoHo). In the 1980s, they were joined by the East Village; in the 1990s, by Chelsea; and in the 2000s, by the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. And there are spillovers everywhere. Today, it can be hard to tag a gallery by district, as I learned when visiting a handful that straddle either side of Canal Street, a cross-island axis that runs from SoHo to Chinatown, without claiming full allegiance to either. HOLLAND COTTER
1. 56 Henry, ‘LaKela Brown: Surface Possessions’
This small storefront gallery, in Chinatown, is a distance from Canal Street, but well worth a walk for the local debut of the artist LaKela Brown. The look of her mostly white plaster reliefs is austere. The subject, ornamental bling associated with 1990s hip-hop, is the opposite: door-knocker earrings, rope neck chains and gold teeth. All are artifacts of the pop culture Ms. Brown grew up with in Detroit, her home city. Although the show’s title, “Surface Possessions,” hints at a critical remove from that culture, the work itself, exquisitely done, feels like an honoring gesture. Lining the gallery walls, the reliefs might have been lifted from an ancient royal tomb. Through June 16 at 56 Henry Street; 518-966-2622, 56henry.nyc.
2. apexart, ‘Dire Jank’
For 25 years, the nonprofit apexart has been inviting curators from across the globe to produce thematic group shows in its small space. Many of the curators have been artists, as is the case with Porpentine Charity Heartscape, the digital game designer who assembled the current show, “Dire Jank.” Keeping her checklist short, she has surrounded her own work with that of just three fellow gamers, all but one transgender. The exception, an artist who calls himself Thecatamites (Stephen Murphy), takes a sardonic look at old-school games in a click-heavy conquest narrative that goes nowhere, very slowly. Tabitha Nikolai, self-described as a “trashgender gutter elf” from Salt Lake City, offers a tour through a luxury mansion that houses a Borgesian library, a sexology institute, and opens up onto vistas of cosmic space. Devi McCallion, the rock star of the bunch, delivers a despairing, pulsating plea for environmental awareness in a music video. As for Ms. Heartscape’s work, centered on the risks of queerness, it’s startlingly soul-baring. Where most conventional games are about predation and its thrills, hers are about the evils of predation. I should mention that in the gallery I found the interactive pieces glitch-prone. (Maybe they’re meant to be? After all, jank is gaming talk for, among things, low quality.) But when I reran the show on my laptop everything worked like a charm. Through May 18 at 291 Church Street; 212-431-5270, apexart.org.
3. Alexander and Bonin, ‘Tandem: Gabriel Abrantes and Belén Uriel’
Alexander and Bonin is one of a handful of galleries that recently jumped Chelsea for TriBeCa. (Bortolami, Andrew Kreps and Kaufmann Repetto are others; more are on the way.) With the move, the gallery has gained airy duplex quarters, and filled them ambitiously. On the main floor there’s a large, intriguing photography show called “Exposures,” which uses little-seen work by some house artists to tease the line between documentary and creative nonfiction. Downstairs is the first of what will be five two-artist shows selected by the Lisbon-based curator Luiza Teixeira de Freitas. For the initial offering she’s paired cast-glass sculptures of everyday objects by Belén Uriel with a very funny seven-minute film by the young American-born artist Gabriel Abrantes about the imagined origins of Brancusi’s phallic 1916 sculpture “Princess X.” (Mr. Abrantes’s zany feature-length “Diamantino,” a collaboration with Daniel Schmidt, was a hit at Cannes last year.) Through April 27 at 47 Walker Street; 212-367-7474, alexanderandbonin.com.
4. Sapar Contemporary, ‘Ming Fay: Beyond Nature’
You get a foretaste of Chinatown in TriBeCa with the exhibition “Ming Fay: Beyond Nature” at Sapar Contemporary. Mr. Fay, who was born in Shanghai in 1943 and came to the United States in 1961, specializes in super-realist sculptures of vegetal forms — fruit, nuts, seedpods — modeled on what he finds in Chinatown’s street markets. What he adds is scale: everything in his botanical universe measures in feet, not inches — sweet peppers the size of satellites, maple seeds as big as drones. He magnifies other forms too: seashells, bird skulls (and shrinks a few in the case of some unexceptional bronze human figures). The show, organized by Alexandra Chang, looks like a glimpse into a wonderland in which Mr. Fay seems to say, nature really is. Through June 1 at 9 North Moore Street; saparcontemporary.com.
5. Bridget Donahue, ‘Jessi Reaves: II’
In her second solo show at Bridget Donahue, Jessi Reaves complicates the kind of work that made her a standout in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Her medium is assemblage; her material is recycled furniture; her method is to puzzle that furniture together, intact or cut up, into sculptures. The joining is ingenious; the look bulky but agile. What’s most distinctive, though, is the complex mood the work generates. There’s nostalgia built into the domestic middlebrow furniture Ms. Reaves chooses; violence implied in the way she strips it of practical use; and something like solicitude in the way she gives trashed things a funky new purpose. Through May 12 at 99 Bowery, second floor; 646-896-1368, bridgetdonahue.nyc.
6. Front Room Gallery, ‘Sasha Bezzubov: Albedo Zone’
In his 2001-7 photographic series “Things Fall Apart,” Sasha Bezzubov chronicled the effects of natural disasters — hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami — on landscapes in Asia and the United States. The series that followed, titled “Albedo Zone” and now on view at Front Room, refers to a scientific theory about climate change that has triggered such disasters. Ideally, the theory says, the earth’s surface reflects, rather than absorbs, sunlight, with ice being a protective reflector and water, an absorber. At present, global melting, caused by human carelessness, has thrown the balance dangerously off, a reality Mr. Bezzubov documents in black-and-white images of water and ice shot in Alaska. From a distance, the large-format photographs look abstract. Once you know the story behind them, they take on a very specific urgency. Through May 5 at 48 Hester Street; 718-782-2556, frontroomles.com.
7. Fierman, ‘Circus of Books’
Even smaller than 56 Henry, this storefront is packed to the ceiling with another cultural homage, this one to an excellent big group show. It’s organized by the artist Rachel Mason, whose parents until recently ran two adult bookshops in Los Angeles. Both were called “Circus of Books” and both served, since the pre-Stonewall 1960s, as unofficial social centers for the local gay community. The show evokes that community with work by nearly 60 artists, most gay, some well known (Ron Athey, Kathe Burkhart, Vaginal Davis, Tom of Finland), others (Chivas Clem, Scott Hug, Jimmy Wright) on and off the radar. Stacks of vintage porn magazines add a sex shop vibe, but it’s the art, installed salon-style, that holds the eye and kicks off still-important communal conversations in art and social history. Through May 6 at 127 Henry Street; 917-593-4086, fierman.nyc.
Some other exhibitions to visit while you’re in the area: Alan Sturm (through May 26) at Situations Gallery, 127 Henry Street, situations.us; Azza El Siddique (through June 2) at Helena Anrather, 28 Elizabeth Street, helenaanrather.com; Wendy Red Star (April 28-June 2) at Sargent’s Daughters, 179 East Broadway, sargentsdaughters.com; Katarzyna Kozyra (through June 1) at Postmasters Gallery, 54 Franklin Street, postmastersart.com.
The arc of the Lower East Side gallery scene bends toward youth. It is probably home to the greatest number of starting-out dealers showing the works of emerging artists in New York. This gives the art scene in this neighborhood and the ones developing around it — in NoHo, East Village South, Chinatown or Little Italy — a certain lightness of being. We’re often looking at first, not necessarily mature or final, artistic statements. It helps that the area lacks the dwarfing juggernaut of big-name, property-proud galleries and blue-chip artists that give Chelsea or the Upper East Side their weight. Most of the shows reviewed here emphasize youth in various forms. ROBERTA SMITH
1. Rachel Uffner Gallery, ‘Arcmanoro Niles: My Heart is Like Paper: Let the Old Ways Die’
The new work in Arcmanoro Niles’s third solo show in New York in three years and his second at Rachel Uffner comes with the vulnerable overall title “My Heart is Like Paper: Let the Old Ways Die.” The works depict members of a family, including the artist at home, usually lost in thought, even sad as suggested by titles like “Longing for Change (“I’ve Given up on Being Well),” or “Does a Broken Home Become a Broken Family.” The paintings are dark in mood, which Mr. Niles’s distinctive palette elevates with a dark, glorifying radiance that evokes a modern Byzantium. The brown skin of his figures often hints at gold, and their hair is rendered in dense coats of hot pink glitter, suggesting halos. The paintings have an unexpected gravity and grandeur that is almost religious. “My Heart is Like Paper” shows the artist alone in a gold-and-pink bathroom, wearing an orange undershirt. He is a man who has come to a turning point, a momentous choice. I’m not sure what the ghostly sex scenes outlined in red, or the gremlin-like stuffed dolls wielding knives, add, but they add something. Through April 28 at 170 Suffolk Street; 212-274-0064, racheluffnergallery.com.
2. Pierogi, ‘Sharon Horvath: Where Owls Stare at Painting’s Busted Eyeballs’
Some shows aren’t so much about youth as youthfulness, an ageless state. This seems to be the condition of Sharon Horvath’s show at Pierogi, “Where Owls Stare at Painting’s Busted Eyeballs.” Whatever the title means the artist is showing a substantial number of beautiful new paintings, which often conjure vistas in outer space, including “Out There Or In Here,” her largest canvas to date, whose green and black forms seem to show the enormous wraparound control board of a cockpit. In addition, she has transported virtually her entire studio to the gallery, laying out in vitrines everything she uses to make or inspire her art. It is a great deal of material, much of which is from her parents, who were artists, and her sister. This is a dense novelistic show that lays before us the important ways memories and especially family memories can figure in art-making. Through May 5 at 155 Suffolk Street; 646-429-9073, pierogi2000.com.
3. Bureau, ‘Julia Rommel: Candy Jail’
In Julia Rommel’s fourth show at Bureau, “Candy Jail,” she continues her brand of corrupted formalism, exploring ways to revivify Minimalist abstraction with a non-Minimalist, piecemeal sense of process. Ms. Rommel works on her paintings in stages, as they are stapled to ever-larger stretchers. This gives them an almost cinematic sense of growth and expansion. The monochromatic surfaces of earlier, smaller paintings shift about, becoming squares or rectangles within larger compositions — except that their edges are weirdly raised. The new efforts have more layers, which makes them less legible, as does the increase in arbitrary brushwork that is not related to the central process. There is sometimes an echo of the work of Richard Diebenkorn that she needs to resolve. But Ms. Rommel’s color is as beautiful as ever, especially in simpler works like “Volvo 240,” where two orange squares both divided by and edged in green rivet the eyes. Through May 5 at 178 Norfolk Street; 212-227-2783, bureau-inc.com.
4. Chapter NY, ‘Aria Dean: (meta)models or how i got my groove back’
Aria Dean, who graduated from Oberlin College in 2015, is having her second show in New York. Her works weave the gallery space into a web of intersecting, sometimes contradictory languages and perspectives, as suggested by the show’s title “(meta)models or how I got my groove back.” (Not to mention the double remove of “meta” and “models.”) A video monitor in the middle of the gallery shows a camera dancing around a pedestal made of mirrored, or two-way glass, familiar to viewers of police procedurals. This pedestal sits on a New York sidewalk, providing chaotic, fragmented views of houses, cars and pavement. It’s a “non-site” — recalling Robert Smithson’s 1970s use of mirrors in small, temporary earthworks — except urban, in danger of being broken, a pedestal awaiting an artwork. We hear what appear to be three young men, identified as D.J.’s (it’s actually a single actor), move effortlessly between street talk and a kind of Beckettian theory-talk — riddling observations about a nothing that can be something but is ultimately a void, a form of invisibility. (The dialogue borrows from, among others, the writings of Heidegger, Robert Morris and Fred Moten.) Around the screen, on the floor or attached to the wall, four vaguely figurative shapes cut from the mirrored glass add to the disorientation. They are blank nothings but they also suggest leaping ghosts, Saturday morning cartoons (Casper) and the silhouettes of the bodies of murder victims, outlined in chalk on the street. Through May 5 at 249 East Houston Street; 646-850-7486, chapter-ny.com.
5. Lyles & King, ‘Mira Schor: California Paintings: 1971-1973’
Youth in art doesn’t always mean newly made. It can also be an older artist’s early work that virtually no one has ever seen. So it is with “Mira Schor: California Paintings, 1971-73,” a stunning show of gouache on paper works that this leading feminist painter made while in graduate school at the California Institute of the Arts. She started out in Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s legendary feminist art program, but left to make these richly colored highly personal paintings about loneliness, longing and sexual awakening in which she frequently starred. The many works here have the flat, matte colors, deep space and lush greenery of Rajput painting and also call to mind the solitary women in the work of Leonora Carrington and Joan Brown. Historically, they form an unexpected addition to the early 1970s Conceptual offshoot known as Story Art, and also point to the return to painting the figure that transpired in the late 1970s and is once more ascendant. Through May 19 at 106 Forsyth Street; 646-484-5478, lylesandking.com.
6. Simone Subal Gallery, ‘Cameron Clayborn: Through the Wrong Tongue’
The sculptures and wall pieces in Cameron Clayborn’s New York solo debut have both historical and contemporary references. His preferred materials are leather-like vinyl and glittered vinyl sewn into stuffing-filled shapes that evoke the soft forms of Post-Minimalist sculpture of the 1970s. But he often adds gleaming sharp-pointed hardware associated with late ’80s Neo-Geo art. He pushes this combination into the present with subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions of gender, drag, race and violence. The show’s first artwork puts you on alert: “Roompiercer With Tool” might be described as a phallus of two different skin tones hanging from a sharp, shiny spike. “Toolholder” is a drape of glitter vinyl, the color of white flesh, hanging from steel clamps. In the crux of the vinyl rests a solid steel lozenge about four inches long. It suggests a man in drag, distilled to abstraction. Not everything in this show is as effective or as promising as these works, but much of it is. Stay tuned. Through May 12 at 131 Bowery, second floor; 917-409-0612, simonesubal.com.
The cockamamie real estate market has turned the good old Upper East Side into the most stimulating gallery neighborhood in New York — and as downtown stultifies and Chelsea wilts in the shadow of Hudson Yards, the old blue-blood quarter has grown manifold. Up here the big-ticket dealers in grand townhouses exhibit alongside younger galleries in walk-ups and outposts of international dealers; the last few years have welcomed Nara Roesler and Mendes Wood of São Paulo, Almine Rech of Paris, Simon Lee of London and Kurimanzutto of Mexico City. That’s not to mention the dealers in antiquities, Asian art and rare books.
On 57th Street you’ll find things to see in the gallery-rich Fuller Building, along with stalwarts like Pace and Marian Goodman (where Tino Sehgal, the Greta Garbo of philosophical performance art, opens a new show on May 3). Start there and work your way up Madison Avenue, where the galleries (like Gagosian and Lévy Gorvy) cluster from the mid-60s to 79th Street. If you haven’t had your fill yet, turn left and head for the Metropolitan Museum of Art; if you’re worn out, rejuvenation awaits in the hotel bars. JASON FARAGO
1. Throckmorton Fine Art, ‘Graciela Iturbide 1969-2019’
This uncommon gallery, founded in 1980, deals both in Buddhist and pre-Columbian antiquities and in contemporary photography from Latin America, all of it shown in an unpretentious space where classical music tinkles in the background. Up now is a show of Graciela Iturbide, one of Mexico’s greatest photographers, whose black-and-white images of women, children and animals combine the slippery identifications of ethnography with the glamorous precision of the film still. (Her work is also on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, through May 12.) Ms. Iturbide shot these pictures everywhere from Madagascar to East Los Angeles, but the most compelling are her photographs from Juchitán, Oaxaca — above all “Our Lady of the Iguanas” (1979), in which a Zapotec woman stares confidently into the middle distance, her head crowned, Medusa-like, by a collection of reptiles. Through May 18 at 145 East 57th Street, third floor; 212-223-1059, throckmorton-nyc.com.
2. Van Doren Waxter, ‘Moira Dryer: Paintings & Works on Paper’
Here is a show of an abstract painter ahead of her time, and whose stylistic promiscuity belied a deep rigor. Moira Dryer, a Canadian artist who came to New York in the 1970s, made her most successful works by applying wavy stripes of black, teal, jonquil, and oxblood red to wood supports; the thin application of pigment, which in places spills top to bottom in trickles or floods, emphasizes the objecthood of the wooden paintings and the artist’s careful balancing act between design and chance. This show also includes a few lovely gouaches, alive with the Mediterranean colors of Matisse, that testify to Dryer’s artistic omnivorousness and ability to surprise. Her death in 1992, at 34, deprived art history of what was already a superb career, but her example saturates the studios of New York’s contemporary painters. Through May 24 at 23 East 73rd Street, second and third floors; 212-445-0444, vandorenwaxter.com.
3. L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, ‘Claude Tolmer: Photographiques’
East Midtown and the Upper East Side bulge with photography galleries, and this one-room space at the top of a Madison Avenue walk-up is a hidden gem. Up now is a stellar show of vintage prints by the French modernist photographer Claude Tolmer (1911-1991), whose images of the 1930s include dense, high-contrast visions of airplane propellers and merry-go-rounds; spectral photograms of scissors and goblets; and still lifes montaged with squiggly hand-drawn additions that recall Cocteau. They are strikingly bold, yet many of them had commercial uses — Tolmer’s father ran a leading firm for the packaging of luxury goods, and his photographer son put these images to use on advertisements and boxes. It’s worth remembering, as Instagram savagely injects the profit motive into all photographic communication, that an earlier avant-garde found its own methods to slide between artistic activity and commercial necessity. Through May 11 at 764 Madison Avenue; 212-517-8700, lparkerstephenson.nyc.
4. Ceysson & Bénétière, ‘Pierre Buraglio: PB. 1978-2018’
This French gallery’s outpost, now two years old, is presenting the first New York solo of Pierre Buraglio, a lone ranger of European painting and assemblage. His “Masquages Vides” of the late 1970s were cunning “paintings” that, in fact, collaged the color-streaked masking tape used to make earlier works into spare new compositions. (Their quixotic emptiness rhymed with the paintings of Supports/Surfaces, a high-concept approach to abstraction that’s seen a revival in fortunes lately, though he never formally joined that movement.) Later he turned to found objects, such as fragments of window frames and even the whole door of a Citroën 2CV, whose window he infilled with an abstract landscape of blue and green. After decades of neglect in New York, postwar French painting is everywhere these days, and there’s a good reason; long before we realized it, artists like Mr. Buraglio averred that there was no necessary boundary between painterly and conceptual sophistication. Through April 27 at 956 Madison Avenue, second floor; 646-678-371, ceyssonbenetiere.com.
5. The Artist’s Institute, Tauba Auerbach
If you forced me to name the most dependably challenging exhibition maker in the neighborhood, I’d pick Jenny Jaskey — the director of this nonprofit gallery, associated with Hunter College, whose semester-long experiments push established artists outside their comfort zones. Currently Tauba Auerbach, better known for her abstract paintings, is trying out something new: her first kinetic sculpture, solar-powered, composed of twisted, tensile wires that pull away from a soap-slicked central tube and produce coruscating but evanescent diamonds. The sculpture has the childlike legibility of a game of cat’s cradle, but two mildly nasty videos here, documenting surgery to the fascia that enclose human organs, inscribe the sculpture into a trickier domain of bodies and fluids. Through June 1 at Hunter College, 132 East 65th Street; 646-512-9608, theartistsinstitute.org.
6. Henrique Faria, ‘Eduardo Kac: Inner Telescope’
Another gallery with a strong Latin American focus, this dealership is presenting a show by the Chicago-based Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac that is, quite literally, out of this world. Mr. Kac (pronounced katz) teamed up with a French astronaut on the International Space Station, whom he instructed to cut a simple construction out of white paper: a capital M pierced by a cylinder. In a video here, plus preparatory drawings and research documents, you see the construction gently tumbling through zero gravity, and spinning to resemble the letters M-O-I (“me”): a spare but memorable evocation of the self lost in space. Through May 11 at 35 East 67th Street, fourth floor; 212-517-4609, henriquefaria.com.
Art and real estate development met elsewhere in the city, but they got married in Chelsea. Tall, expensive buildings are rising around 10th Avenue, and gallery rents are rising along with them. Young art dealers arrive to try their hand in the official gallery neighborhood, and often fold-up shop quickly, as the promisingly offbeat American Medium, which started in Brooklyn, did recently. The juggernaut of mega-gallery showrooms continues, with behemoths like Hauser & Wirth mounting impressive historical shows (and starting their own bookstores, publishing houses, magazines and nonprofit foundations), and David Zwirner is planning a Renzo Piano-designed space to open in 2020. Meanwhile, the High Line looms ubiquitously overhead, like a people mover transporting tourists (mostly) from the new Hudson Yards on the north end to the gleaming Whitney Museum of American Art on the south. Contemporary art is everywhere though, including the High Line, where you’ll find a monumental sculpture by Simone Leigh, who just opened a show at the Guggenheim, along with other notable displays. Art has saturated the neighborhood, and you can see everything from work by emerging artists to the long deceased. Here are a few places to start. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
1. Jack Shainman, ‘Paul Anthony Smith: Junction’
What you are viewing in Paul Anthony Smith’s exhibition at Jack Shainman are painstakingly altered large-scale photographs that he works on in his Brooklyn studio and which he calls “picotages.” The color photographs were taken in his native Jamaica, but also other locations, including at the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn. They have been covered with pointillist dots of paint or colored pencil. Mr. Smith studied ceramics in Kansas City, Mo., and you sense the idea of glazing in his work, of images and things being covered over — although this works metaphorically, too, and suggests covered over events, people and histories. A face, a garden, or an urban scene peak through the dots in the picotage, resembling but never fully revealing themselves. Through May 11 at 513 West 20th Street and 524 West 24th Street; jackshainman.com.
2. Pace Gallery, ‘Raqib Shaw: Landscapes of Kashmir’
Raqib Shaw’s works have not always fared well with critics, and his current paintings at Pace Gallery exhibit some of the flamboyance and excess that have raised the ire of high art’s gatekeepers. From a distance, the high-gloss, virtuosic enamel paintings look like Thomas Kinkade landscapes mixed with Hieronymus Bosch scenarios: pretty, anodyne landscapes peppered with apocalyptic micro-hells in which mythic demons cribbed from traditions in Mr. Shaw’s native Kashmir battle with contemporary humans. The best works in the show are the most self-aware, in which Mr. Shaw depicts himself tending his artwork, pets or plants in a completely focused and self-absorbed manner — an effete maestro engulfed in “flow” while the hideous violence of the real world erupts outside his colonnaded window. Through May 18 at 537 West 24th Street; 212-421-3292, pacegallery.com.
3. Gladstone Gallery, Vivian Suter
One of the highlights of the international Documenta exhibition in 2017 was Vivian Suter’s display of loosely painted canvases, unframed, fluttering like elegant laundry outdoors in Athens and brightening up a glassy storefront in Kassel, Germany. Working for over 30 years near the volcanic Lake Atitlán in Panajachel, Guatemala, Ms. Suter was an art world drop-out who never dropped out of art. “Vivian’s Garden,” Rosalind Nashashibi’s film about Ms. Suter and her mother, Elizabeth Wild, also an artist, captured their art-centered lives in Guatemala. But Ms. Suter has re-emerged in the last few years, bringing that magic-garden feeling to traditional art spaces. She has transformed Gladstone’s space in Chelsea into a kind of ethereal Eden in which canvases hang from the ceiling, lie on the floor and generally work together, like branches on a tree or petals on a flower, to create an ecology of painting rather than a discrete-object experience. (Ms. Suter also has an installation on the High Line this season.) Through June 8 at 530 West 21st Street; 212-206-7606, gladstonegallery.com.
4. The Kitchen, ‘ANOHNI: Love’
Although you’re not always sure what you’re looking at, “ANOHNI: Love” at the Kitchen looks and feels like an art installation. It’s also deeply political. Near the entrance is an enlarged death certificate for Marsha P. Johnson, a gender activist after whom the Anohni-fronted musical group Antony and the Johnsons were named, and whose death by drowning in the Hudson was deemed a suicide (but many think was homicide). Nearby is a bookshelf with the library of Julia Yasuda, a former member of the Johnsons, which also serves as a memorial and a template for the group’s ethos and philosophy. Rough sculptures, collages, a film and the theatrically lit space create a moody ambience. It’s an apt approach for an artist for whom performance is a life project and gender is a medium. Through May 11 at 512 West 19th Street; 212-255-5793, thekitchen.org.
5. Mitchell-Innes & Nash, ‘Martin Kersels: Cover Story’
Martin Kersels characteristically splits the difference between performance and objects in his exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Cut-up and collaged record album covers are hung as relief wall sculptures, and on May 4 at 2:30 p.m. he will reprise a performance of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (1968), the 17-minute pop song by Iron Butterfly on a tricked-out stage in the gallery. Part comedy, part homage, Mr. Kersels’s work is a reminder that, despite the emphasis on art as business, there is still room in Chelsea for the absurd. Through May 18 at 534 West 26th Street; 212-744-7400, miandn.com.
6. Paula Cooper, Walid Raad
The works in Walid Raad’s exhibition at Paula Cooper follow a format he innovated in the 1980s and ’90s: “real” photographs paired with texts that may or may not be fictional. Applied to recent history in the Middle East — and particularly his native Lebanon and that country’s long civil war — photographs here of storefronts and people accompanied by “explanatory” texts show how para-fictions often become facts or official histories. The centerpiece is a new video made up of kaleidoscopically mirrored film loops that show buildings in the Beirut Central District being destroyed to create a new and, theoretically, better postwar city. The psychedelic forward-and-reverse motion of the loops simply but effectively questions the linear march of time and progress. Through May 24 at 521 West 21st Street; 212-255-1105, paulacoopergallery.com.
1. Peter Blum, ‘Paul Fagerskiold: Flatlands’
Oil paint can be sculptural, especially if you use as much as Paul Fagerskiold does on “Flatland.” The young Swedish-born painter lays so much blackish-purple paint on this enormous canvas that the finished surface of its figure, a monochrome rectangle with a bowed bottom edge, has the definition of hammered bronze. Each ridgy brush stroke is an eddy, and the whole is a view of the ocean — but it’s a restless one that won’t subside into the easy diffidence of most two-dimensional images. Not for nothing did Mr. Fagerskiold name the painting, and the show it appears in, after Edward Abbot’s 19th-century novella of mind-bending sci-fi geometry. Through May 11 at 176 Grand Street; 212-244-6055, peterblumgallery.com.
2. Jeffrey Deitch, ‘Austin Lee: Feels Good’
Austin Lee’s analog portraits of cyberspace are strangely fascinating. After drawing floppy cartoon hearts, stumpy, grinning figures and prancing ponies on an iPad, the painter then renders the images by hand, at a much larger scale, with brush and airbrush. Maybe it’s the adeptly balanced hot pinks and neon reds, or the promise that a virtual world might someday seem as joyful and genuine as the real. Or maybe it’s just the marrying of such disparate mediums, the quiet shock of confronting computer effects in physical form, which makes it so difficult to look away. Through May 18 at 18 Wooster Street; 212-343-7300, deitch.com.
3. Team, ‘Scenes of the American Landscape’
We all know something’s askew — and the artists in “Scenes of the American Landscape,” which I was able to sneak into before it officially opened on Thursday, know it, too. Video installations by Collin Leitch and Theodore Darst channel the restless sense of imbalance in contemporary American life into a twitchy, unrelenting shifting of styles that feels very much like a new kind of rhythm. Andrew Jilka’s oil and enamel painting of sailor tattoos and cartoon Picassos puts the same effect into freeze frame. Color photographs by Lili Jamail, of an empty armchair, and Jheyda McGarrell, of a half-dressed woman seen through her window, are a deliberate tilt both jaunty and alarming. And an untitled painting by Alissa McKendrick, in which fiddly figures unspool against an intensely worked red background, is suffused with vertigo. Through June 1 at 83 Grand Street; 212-279-9219, teamgal.com.
4. Peter Freeman Inc., ‘Silvia Bächli and Eric Hattan: Between Windows’
The Swiss artists Silvia Bächli and Eric Hattan undertake a sublime exegesis of that simplest of artistic gestures: the line. A line is an emblem of sustained effort, but also a paradox. Whether as the confident green and brown stripes of Ms. Bächli’s elegant gouaches or the wonky metal poles that Mr. Hattan stands upright and sets in concrete, the line only gets richer in isolation. Mr. Hattan’s “Schnurvideo (String Video)” is a 20-minute close-up on the artist’s hands as he untangles a clump of string and winds it up again into a grapefruit-size ball. Notice how tightly he holds it, and how, when the string slips off, he simply presses an errant loop against the ball and keeps winding. Through May 25 at 140 Grand Street; 212-966-5154, peterfreemaninc.com.
5. Ronald Feldman, ‘Bruce Pearson: Shadow Language’
Bruce Pearson makes text paintings, technically. But by overlapping text and imagery in complicated patterns, cutting those patterns into foam, and painting every resulting divot a different color, he arrives at arresting compositions that evoke tropical camouflage or the inside of a psychedelic pomegranate — even when, as sometimes happens, the original text remains legible. This should be the case with “Shadow Language,” opening this weekend at Ronald Feldman Gallery. One star is likely to be “Not to Interrupt Your Beautiful Moment,” an orange-themed pixelation of an entrancingly ambiguous phrase. April 27-June 8 at 31 Mercer Street; 212-226-3232, feldmangallery.com.
It would take half the gallerists in America to make the vast expanses of Harlem into an arts district as pedestrian-friendly as SoHo, so take it in pieces. Galleries worth visiting on the east side include 1) David Richard Gallery, lately of Santa Fe, which is currently showing the brightly colored steel of the Canadian sculptor Robert Murray (through May 4); the nonprofit 2) WhiteBox next door, just relocated from SoHo, and inaugurating its new home with the thought-provoking group show “Waiting for the Garden of Eden” (through May 5); and 3) Hunter East Harlem Gallery, whose “do it (in school)” plumbs the overlap of conceptual art and arts education (through June 1).
On the west side, the former Chelsea gallerist 4) Janice Guy’s latest show at a project space called MBnB is a terrific run of photographs by Judy Linn (through May 5). Finely observed but never precious, they’re a thrilling demonstration of artistic self-reflection undertaken for its own sake — particularly a sequence that starts with an image of a photo of James Joyce taped to a foggy window and ends with the back of James Caan’s neck on a Trinitron TV. Opening this weekend at 5) Gavin Brown’s palatial establishment on West 127th Street is a show of balletic nudes in green fields and huge new landscapes roiling with stormy energy by the 92-year-old master of slick painterly flatness, Alex Katz (through Aug. 3). And at 6) Columbia University’s Leroy Neiman Gallery, on Harlem’s southern edge, is a multimedia solo show by South African artist Mary Sibande (through May 1). WILL HEINRICH
Like so much else in Brooklyn these days, the art scene there seems to be in flux. Galleries that were familiar presences have closed; others have changed names and moved to Manhattan. Neighborhoods that previously served as linchpins now have fewer dedicated art spaces; rents are high, and other parts of the city promise greater foot traffic.
Yet in a way, transition has always been central to a geographically scattered scene that’s uneven in its offerings and anchored by a handful of larger nonprofits alongside a rotating cast of small spaces run as labors of love. Even commercial operations seem to work differently here: Jenkins Johnson Gallery’s outpost aims to build a relationship with the surrounding community (and its coming show “Free to Be,” featuring Rico Gatson and Baseera Khan, should be worth a visit). Part of the thrill of seeing art in Brooklyn is that you don’t quite know what you’re going to get.
This list is just a sample of what Brooklyn has to offer. It will take you from Bushwick down to Park Slope and focuses on exhibitions that are, quite loosely, about identity. These artists are exploring how cultural, national, social and other factors shape us, even as they take very different approaches. It’s a fitting theme for a borough that, despite becoming a brand, is still a haven for those looking to make a creative life in New York City. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
1. The Chimney, ‘Sara Mejia Kriendler: Sangre y Sol’
Industrial art spaces aren’t as au courant as they used to be, but Brooklyn and Queens still have their fair share. The Chimney rightly embraces the roughness of its home by commissioning artists to create work for its brick walls and concrete floor. Sara Mejia Kriendler has even extended her solo show onto the ceiling, covering it with mounds of gold-tinted foil. Down below, broken terra-cotta hands are piled in a huge circle on the ground, like the remnants of an ancient society or mysterious ritual. Inspired by her Colombian roots, Ms. Kriendler uses simplicity and scale to turn the gallery into a space that feels simultaneously sacred and profane. Through May 5 at 200 Morgan Avenue, Bushwick; thechimneynyc.com.
2. Tiger Strikes Asteroid NY, ‘baseball show’
The seven galleries in this building have had consistently strong programs. Tiger Strikes Asteroid is one of the smaller spaces but regularly swings for the fences, focusing on solo presentations for underrepresented artists and group exhibitions with unusual themes, like the current “baseball show.” Organized by Andrew Prayzner, the show brings together an array of astute work, including Elias Necol Melad’s clever paintings of baseball cards without their figures (and thus their value) and Christopher Gideon’s incriminating scans that show dipping tobacco tins in players’ pockets. The nine artists treat the sport not simply as a beloved pastime but as a cultural phenomenon worth examining. Through May 5 at 1329 Willoughby Avenue, No. 2A, Bushwick; 347-746-8041, tigerstrikesasteroid.com.
3. Recess, ‘Lex Brown: The Inside Room’ and ‘American Artist: blue are the feelings that live inside me’
The nonprofit Recess does something different than most other art spaces: It gives artists the gallery and roughly two months to realize their projects on-site. So the work happens before the public’s eyes, and it’s best to visit multiple times to follow the progress. Right now, Lex Brown is building a studio for the production of an experimental TV show that will disregard the typical conventions of the medium — scenes and story lines will be improvised, multiple people will play a single character — to focus on human interaction. Hanging in the front room are disquieting photographs by American Artist of books from the Blue Lives Matter movement — an extension of their recent, powerful show at Brooklyn gallery Koenig & Clinton. Through June 8 and May 11 at 46 Washington Avenue, Clinton Hill; 646-863-3765, recessart.org.
4. Open Source, ‘Ronny Quevedo: Field of play’
Located in a renovated carriage house near the Prospect Expressway, Open Source is something of an outlier in a neighborhood without many art galleries. That hasn’t stopped it from mounting ambitious exhibitions. Ronny Quevedo’s current solo show continues his investigation of games and their relationship to the migration of people. On the floor, he’s placed gold and silver tiles that turn the space into a kind of board. Some of them hold concrete sculptures of misshapen sports balls, while prints on the walls turn the shapes associated with various games into evocative abstractions. With the whole gallery as a “Field of play,” as the exhibition is titled, it falls to the viewer to invent the rules for navigating it. Through May 11 at 306 17th Street, Park Slope; open-source-gallery.org.
5. Theodore:Art, ‘Peter Krashes: Contact!’
Once upon a time, 56 Bogart was the place to see art in Bushwick; today it’s no longer the neighborhood’s artistic nerve center. The galleries that remain are a mix of newcomers and longtime holdouts, of which Theodore:Art, at almost a decade old, is one. Peter Krashes’s current exhibition is a poignant reflection of the changes being felt throughout Brooklyn. The artist is a longtime community organizer, and in his gouache-on-paper paintings he captures street festivals, encounters with the New York Police Department and celebrity sightings near Barclays Center. Krashes paints with smooth, confident strokes but leaves blank specks throughout, suggesting the gaps of memory that make even the best representations of reality imperfect. Through May 18 at 56 Bogart Street, Bushwick; 212-966-4322, theodoreart.com.
6. Art in General, ‘Chim↑Pom: Threat of Peace (Hiroshima!!!!!!)’ and ‘Don’t Follow the Wind: Non-Visitor Center’
This storied nonprofit is best known for presenting conceptual shows that contain an ambitious site-specific element. The current centerpiece is the Japanese artist collective Chim↑Pom’s affecting, tunnel-like installation made of paper cranes that people from around the world have sent to Hiroshima as a gesture of peace. The city keeps the cranes — millions of them — in a special warehouse, where the collective also filmed a new video. On view concurrently is a “non-visitor center” for “Don’t Follow the Wind,” an exhibition created inside the radioactive Fukushima exclusion zone by Chim↑Pom, other artists and the curator Jason Waite (who organized both shows at Art in General). Visitors can glimpse the restricted area via a 360-degree video and contemplate the sobering past and present of our nuclear reality. Through July 13 at 145 Plymouth Street, Dumbo; artingeneral.org.
People can find visiting galleries intimidating, mysterious or irksome, but it needn’t be, even for beginners. There’s no time like our annual Spring Gallery Guide to discuss the basics (and pleasures) of this time-honored activity. My fellow critics and I have fanned out across the city to take the pulse of the scene, but before you get to our recommendations, let me offer some advice:
Galleries don’t charge admission. New York City has the largest concentration of art galleries anywhere; there’s a great deal of information and many experiences to be had, free of charge. These are welcoming places that don’t exist only to sell art. They’re also a public service, a way for artists and art students to see what other artists are up to, but also for the rest of us as well.
Be engaged. Wave or smile to the people at the front desk when you enter (and maybe say “Thank you” when you leave). Join the ritual of signing the sign-in book. (Most galleries have them.) It lets artists know you’ve been there and provides a little private moment before plunging in. You’ll also see news releases by the sign-in book. They give you the title of the show (if there is one), some whiff of the artist’s intention and a short biography. There’s a good chance there will also be checklists, almost always with photographs of the works. This provides the title, date, materials and dimensions of every artwork on view. It’s your map.
Take the process seriously. Give every show a chance. Art is never trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Walk around the sculptures; study the paintings — and their surfaces — from various distances. Examine the checklist, and think about how the art objects were made and of what. Can you identify the materials used on first sight?
Listen to yourself. Realize that you are having reactions and forming opinions even if you can’t quite articulate them. Tally up what you like or don’t like about a certain piece. Strike up a conversation with someone who seems to be looking as hard as you. Compare notes. Got questions? Ask them of whoever behind the desk looks the least busy. Keep in mind that many people in these positions at galleries are young artists or writers and usually quite smart. You never know when you’re talking to the next Huma Bhabha. ROBERTA SMITH
Top image grid, from top left: ChimPom and Art in General; Dario Lasagni; Dawn Mellor and TEAM Gallery; via Alexander and Bonin, New York; Joerg Lohse; American Artist; ANOHNI and The Kitchen; Arcmanoro Niles and Rachel Uffner Gallery; Aria Dean and Chapter NY; Dario Lasagni; Bruce Pearson and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York; Austin Lee; Cameron Clayborn and Simone Subal Gallery; Dario Lasagni; Mark Mulroney and Mrs. Gallery; Vivian Suter and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; David Regen; Claude Tolmer and L. Parker Stephenson Photographs; via apexart; Eduardo Kac and Henrique Faria, New York; Jessi Reaves and Bridget Donahue NYC; Greg Carideo; Sasha Bezzubov and Front Room Gallery; Sharon Horvath and Pierogi; Julia Rommel and Bureau, New York; Dario Lasagni; Mira Schor and Lyles & King; Walid Raad and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Peter Krashes and Theodore:Art, Brooklyn; Martin Kersels and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York; Silvia Bächli and Peter Freeman, Inc.; Moira Dryer and Van Doren Waxter, New York; Stefan Hagen; Ming Fay and Sapar Contemporary; via 56 Henry; Object Studies; Raqib Shaw, via Pace Gallery; Pierre Buraglio and Ceysson & Bénétière; Graciela Iturbide; Lili Jamail and TEAM; via Artist’s Institute at Hunter College; Paul Fagerskiold and Peter Blum Gallery, New York; Etienne Frossard; Paul Anthony Smith and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Sara Mejia Kriendler and The Chimney; Reggie Shiobara.