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

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Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Start in the Upper East Side with Marina Adams’s brilliant new paintings at LGDR. Then walk a few blocks down to see Anne Imhof’s tantalizing “Avatar” installation at Galerie Buchholz. And don’t miss Minouk Lim’s thought-provoking “DuDu Mulmul” installations at Tina Kim Gallery in Chelsea.

Upper East Side

Through July 1. LGDR, 3 East 89th Street, Manhattan; 212-979-0001,lgdr.com.

In her brilliant new paintings, Marina Adams keeps everything more effectively on edge than ever. Her latest canvases are dominated by diamond and half-diamond shapes that avoid symmetry and balance, seeming to expand and contract, like elastic harlequin patterns that have forgotten the rules. Sometimes the diamonds curve where they should point, as in the fat red boulder edged in a darker red that is holding things up in “What Happened to DreamTime?”. The painting’s palette of red, orange and magenta, with two wedges of blue and a double wedge of yellow, is symptomatic, reflecting Adams’s preference for strong colors that hold their own against the eccentric ins and outs of her shapes.

With their changing textures and slightly rough edges, these shapes have the freshness of drawings. They operate in the gap between the geometric and the organic, the representational and the abstract, and pronounce both distinctions obsolete. Often the female forms of early modernism are retrieved and cloaked in the privacy of abstraction without being completely obscured. In “EttaEllaEartha,” Adams’s stacks of irregular diamonds evoke the three powerful women of the title, as well as Constantin Brancusi’s “Endless Column.” “Heads Over Heels” revisits the wasp-waisted pointy-elbowed women of Picasso’s “Demoiselles d’Avignon,” framing them in a yellow light. “See-Line Woman 12” can be read as a torso clad in blue and protected by an enormous amulet. The show’s title, “What are You Listening To?,” seems to invite you to lend an ear to your own responses and interpretations. ROBERTA SMITH

Upper East Side

Through July 2. Galerie Buchholz, 17 East 82nd Street, Manhattan; 212-328-7885, galeriebuchholz.de.

New gallery work by the German artist and Biennale darling Anne Imhof, known for fascist-lite performances featuring wire fences, waify models and Dobermans, presents a coy blend of petulance and elegance. Clusters of gray metal lockers line the walls or stick out in jetties. The checklist emphasizes that each set is a discrete piece (“‘Untitled,’ 5 aluminum lockers”) — and also reveals that many of them conceal a cinder block (“‘Untitled,’ 22 aluminum lockers, 10 concrete cinder blocks”). One row, out of sight around a corner, is cocked open, presenting its blocks placed just so. The combination of uniform bricks and featureless cubbies evokes the institutional aesthetics common to grade schools, factories and public pools. The possibility that the other lockers might not be empty, unexciting as it may seem, also suggests a roomful of Schrodinger’s cat boxes, their contents suspended between the states of “yes cinder block” or “no cinder block” by the prohibitions of gallery decorum. Open a locker, though, and you’ll find discarded packets of unused hardware and, in at least one, a smoldering photo of a shirtless model.

If this abstract cat-and-mouse game isn’t your thing, there’s a gorgeous three-panel painting of smoke or clouds rendered in red-and-blue 3D. There’s also a suite of loopy, disorienting contour drawings of figures, hands and huddles. Their pencil on paper fits the high school vibe. So do the many glossy acrylic-on-aluminum panels painted glittering green-to-black gradients and adolescently, maniacally scratched in long furrows. It’s so sullen, it’s almost luxurious. TRAVIS DIEHL

BROOKLYN

Through July 3. Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn; 718-210-3080, green-wood.com.

The Green-Wood Cemetery’s catacombs are small and lit only by skylights and an open door. Such conditions make it an unusual place to exhibit art, yet the setting is incredibly evocative. A few years ago, the artist Janine Antoni created work that seemed to commune with this 1850s burial building (which is mostly closed to the public). Now Heidi Lau, the cemetery’s first artist-in-residence, has done the same with “Gardens as Cosmic Terrains.”

The Macau-born, New York-based Lau sculpts elaborate, craggy ceramic vessels whose intricacy is often astonishing. Even under ideal viewing circumstances, it can be hard to get a visual handle on her works. Their luster and running colors mask the details, and they seem to shape-shift — from a mountain into a building into a fountain — before your eyes.

That slipperiness is heightened here, where Lau’s sculptures, many hanging from skylights, alternately bathe in sun and dissolve in shadow. This feels right: to not fully know what you’re looking at and have your sense of sight destabilized in a place where the living meet the dead. Urns, hands, faces and chains are identifiable, emerging from more abstract forms. For the project, Lau drew on Taoist mythology, Chinese gardens and ancient burial objects, as well as her own grief over the death of her mother. The resulting works seem to bridge realms, capturing both the materiality of clay and the ephemerality of the spirit. They haunt the space as handmade ruins, eerie and beautiful manifestations of the process of mourning. JILLIAN STEINHAUER

CHELSEA

Through July 1. Tina Kim Gallery, 525 West 21st Street, Manhattan; 212-716-1100, tinakimgallery.com.

The marks we leave on the world and the forces of nature that erase them: These seem to be the twinned subjects of Minouk Lim’s latest show. The artist is better known in South Korea, where her works have explored the unsettling effects of urbanization. Here, she turns her focus seaward. In her 2020 video, “Portable Keeper_Sea,” a woman drifts in deep water, encircled by a ring of buoys, appearing to bide her time with the intensity of someone awaiting rebirth. Nearby are three sculptures that depict cross-sections of seashore. Their resin holds together sand and kelp alongside household detritus, including electrical wire and a half-eaten Belgian waffle. The works seem to be poetic illustrations of the Anthropocene, speaking to the idea that Earth’s most recent crust now records histories of tidal cycles and sedimentation, but also landfill junk that tells the stories of boiler rooms renovated, closets Marie Kondo-ed, toys outgrown.

If what we discard is important to Lim, so, too, is what we preserve: as with the 12 walking canes in the gallery’s front room. Lim’s friend carved the wooden forms to memorialize the civilians massacred in Mungyeong, South Korea in 1949. Lim, in turn, adorned the sticks with shells, leaflike forms and glass balls. While artworks about epochal time and the loss of cultural memory are a dime a dozen, Lim’s art distinguishes itself via small details. A spindly line in one drawing, for instance, turns out to be precisely placed thorns from prickly castor-oil trees. DAWN CHAN


TRIBECA

Through June 18. Theta, 184 Franklin Street, Manhattan; 917-262-0037; theta.nyc.

Elizabeth Englander’s strange and strangely affecting sculptures of dismembered nutcrackers should be too weird to function. Modeled after yoginis — Buddhist, Jain and Hindu female ascetics deified into religious icons — and perched in yogic poses on salvaged children’s furniture, their source material never fully dissolves: Tiny wooden soldier arms become a hand formed into an open-palmed mudra; faux-fur beards poke from newly formed clavicles; bared teeth and rictus grins pop up where they shouldn’t. The ghoulishness with which some yoginis are depicted (fanged and wearing garlands of severed skulls) becomes a droll frisson of feminism (a garland of severed dopey nutcracker heads).

Englander is a deft touch at locating the profane in the sacred. (She has previously rendered crucifixions in neon bikinis.) Splicing German folk art objects into pastiches of Eastern divinities would seem a vulgar proposition, until you remember that the process of commercializing both Christmas and yoga is already complete.

In any case, the sculptures’ power derives less from their spiritual forebears than their materiality. Englander’s spare and rangy yoginis reanimate her family’s collection of nutcrackers and others found online, which, along with the Lilliputian chairs bearing decades-old pony stickers and dusty letter block stools, are charged with the recollection of their past lives. Like Kurt Schwitters, Englander finds a more potent religiosity in memory’s ghosts. Yoginis embodied asceticism as the path to liberation from karmic suffering. As a means of exorcising your own ancestral baggage, filleting your family heirlooms would seem as good a place to start as any. MAX LAKIN

Tribeca

Through June 18. Bortolami, 55 Walker Street, Manhattan; 212-727-2050, bortolamigallery.com.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya returns again to the studio as setting and, partly, subject of his art. Screens and curtains, lights and the necessary stands and clamps to aid with the taking of pictures occupy the space alongside chairs, rugs, cushions, stools and tables. The central subjects are the photographer himself, his camera and — in the work presented here — only one other model. Although “model” seems too anodyne a word for the intimate relationship between photographer and subject captured here.

I found myself thinking of Velázquez’s “Las Meninas,” more so than the history of studio photography that Sepuya also engages. The artist, who is from Los Angeles, puts to beguiling use mirrors and photo prints within the pictures themselves to create a telescopic deepening of space, much like Velázquez does with paint. This happens both within and between the photographs. Look closely and you’ll find “Darkroom Mirror” on a wall within “Daylight Studio Mirror” (both 2021), as just one example.

I thought too of Francis Bacon’s paintings. With Sepuya’s work, they share tightly ordered interiors, spare modern furniture, and the representation of queer desire. Even Bacon’s preferred way of showing his paintings under glass finds an echo in Sepuya’s framed works. But where Bacon depicts lust and animal violence, Sepuya’s photos are tender and assured. Where Bacon’s are twisted and flayed, Sepuya’s are almost classically poised yet also fragmented by mirrors, screens or another body. They reassure: Pleasure and connection are possible, even if you can never fully see a person. JOHN VINCLER

Upper East Side

Through June 18. Gray New York, 1018 Madison Avenue, Second Floor, Manhattan; 212-472- 8787, richardgraygallery.com.

Evelyn Statsinger’s art is making its stunning New York debut at Gray New York, six years after the artist, who was born in Brooklyn, died in Chicago at the age of 88. On hand are 10 oils and five drawings from the 1980s and early ’90s.

The show’s title, “Currents,” reflects Statsinger’s diverse cultural sources: Surrealism as well as Native American, prehistoric and Japanese arts and crafts. And it may also indicate the conduit-like elements that course through her compositions, pulsing with energy. The independence of her art derives from its inventive use of highly refined textures and patterns, their abundant associations and their peculiar balance of real and unreal. Her paintings are essentially representations of abstractions.

Associations with nature and design are especially strong: Various textures suggest bark, wave patterns, Formica and, frequently, custom molding. In “Central Forces” these moldings are full of undulating lines that suggest something like changing moisture levels. They frame a central area whose pattern of phthalo blue, black and red on a cream background mesmerizingly evokes Pollock, endpapers, Ken Price’s sanded ceramic surfaces and paisley.

Catalogs from some of Statsinger’s gallery shows in Chicago suggest that this presentation barely scratches the surface of the different ways she marshaled her motifs, patterns and color schemes from around 1950 forward. Her work was in the early Monster Roster exhibitions that prepared the ground for the Chicago Imagists. Her achievement is a great addition to the history of modern American art. ROBERTA SMITH

Upper East Side

Through June 18, Michael Werner, 4 East 77th Street, Manhattan. 212-988-1623; michaelwerner.com.

Drawings from the first decade of the 20th century depict Spanish performers with wide-set eyes and tiny bow-like lips who look like exotic cats. Later, Picabia drew Jazz Age movie sirens like Greta Garbo and Carole Lombard, their sharply tweezed eyebrows registering like shock-emojis on the silent film screen.

Picabia was known as a playboy and a trickster, but it would be wrong, I think, merely to throw him into the camp of male artists asserting their avant-garde prowess on the backs of women. (Four crude drawings of unhappy women parting their legs, presumably for sex, serve as glum reminders of the reality of most sex work.)

Instead, like his friend Marcel Duchamp, who styled his female alter ego Rrose Sélavy partially after Greta Garbo, Picabia was fascinated by the powerful impact of movies and illustrated magazines on huge populations. The “Women” here feel like analogue versions of today’s obsessions with digital filters and plastic surgery, pioneered after World War I, with Picabia capturing these transformations in modern culture, literally inscribed in the faces of women. MARTHA SCHWENDENER

SOHO

Through June 18. Hales New York, 547 West 20th Street, Manhattan; 646-590-0776, halesgallery.com.

Ebony G. Patterson’s work in her show “… to kiss a flower goodbye …” pulls me in varying directions at the same time. For example, the installation piece “… in the lament … there is a nest … a bursting a … nourishing” (2021-2022) contains rivulets of white beads cascading down to the ground, giving into what the poet Jorie Graham describes as “the slack and heaving argument of gravity.” Simultaneously, riotously colored flower stalks sprout upward, a host of plastic Monarch butterflies pervade the air and a python insinuates itself into the underbrush. There is so much happening in Patterson’s night garden that I learn to really see it only by first giving into the abundance, letting the flora and fauna represented by appliqué, fabric, trim, feathers, resin and glitter overwhelm me. It’s a monsoon of colorful embellishment, and I know I’m going to be drenched.

But it’s that relation of opposites that has kept me coming back to Patterson’s work for several years now. In this work, her use of collage is obvious, but there is also décollage, the tearing and cutting and subtracting of visual evidence from the digitally printed photographs and tapestries that form the foundation of these installations. Her gardens are always a confluence of contradiction: restoration and rebirth, but also burial and violence. With the human figures she nestles inside the foliage and ornaments, a hand here and a torso there, Patterson suggests not only that we can still live in this place of incongruous opulence but that we might belong there. SEPH RODNEY


CHELSEA

Through June 25. Yossi Milo Gallery, 245 10th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-414-0370; yossimilo.com.

There are three sculptures in Shikeith’s New York gallery debut, most notably a shoulder-high brown wooden cross, pierced with five peepholes to reveal flickering blue video screens, that gives the show its title, “grace comes violently.” There’s also a glass balloon, a tipped-over glass head and a delicate glass crib surrounded by hanging orbs, all using a color that this young Pittsburgh-based artist (whose name is pronounced like “shy Keith”) calls “haint blue,” a reference to the indigo paint that African-American Gullah Geechee people once used to ward off malevolent spirits.

Surrounding these are a series of large photo portraits of Black men, against black backgrounds, in black frames. They’re all frankly homoerotic, but sometimes the artist also tilts their nudity, or semi-nudity, in different directions. In one, two men extend their hands over the arching, sweat-beaded torso of a third, possibly blessing or exorcising him. Another shows a tattooed man in a gold chain and do-rag licking his lips. Closing his eyes, he seems at once present and remote, not fully captured by the camera.

It’s the evocative but never overly revealing way Shikeith portions out all this information, his combination of intimacy and inaccessibility, that makes the overall show so memorable. His practice may not yet be fully rooted — I don’t know whether “grace comes violently” is a photo show with sculptures, a sculpture show with photos or a single installation — but I’m excited to see where it goes. WILL HEINRICH

CHELSEA

Through June 25. Matthew Marks Gallery, 526 West 22nd Street, Manhattan. 212-243-0200, matthewmarks.com.

Ellsworth Kelly’s art often feels like a platonic ideal of shape and color rather than the work of human hands. There’s an immaculate presentation of five works, lit only by skylights, now on view at 522 West 22nd Street (which continues at 523 West 24th Street) in “Blue Green Black Red.” But it’s the exhibition “Postcards” next door at 526, that was a revelation precisely because the artworks are imperfect yet personal.

Purple, green, blue and yellow, in rough rectangles of printed ephemera, have been glued to the surface of a postcard of illuminated skyscrapers in “Manhattan Skyline at Night” (1985). The series of colors fits loosely with his visual style, but the nonchalance of the placement, the mix of torn and cut edges seems antithetical to his characteristic rigor. In others, fruit or fragments of bodies are overlayed onto the postcard’s landscape images. On view are 17 of the nearly 400 known examples of the artist’s collaged (and mailed) works.

After settling in New York in 1954 from his G.I. Bill stint in France, Kelly worked in the evenings sorting mail at the central post office in Manhattan, and soon befriended the patron saint of mail-art, Ray Johnson. Kelly (1923-2015) sustained his postcard practice across five decades from the earliest here, “Statue of Liberty” (1957) — a woman’s bare leg pasted over most of the sculpture — to the latest, “Basel III” (1992). These intuitive collages made me see the coolly perfect companion works next door as if for the first time. JOHN VINCLER

CHINATOWN

Through June 26. Reena Spaulings Fine Art, 165 East Broadway, Manhattan; 212-477-5006, reenaspaulings.com.

If the gallery scene were a baby shower, Marc Kokopeli would bring the most creative gift. “Die Pampertaarten,” or “the pamper cakes,” presents a veritable armada of trucks, tanks and trikes composed mostly of diapers — tightly rolled, wrapped around frames, bound into bristling pinwheels. In case this is your introduction to diaper cakes (if you missed that episode of “Sex and the City”), the idea is that every such confection provides a stash of new and usable diapers, garnished with useful accessories like pacifiers and bibs — while the memory of each fantastical arrangement will linger long after the last Pamper hits the landfill. As with expecting parents, so with jaded gallerygoers. These diaper cakes delight with their novelty, impress with their craft and amuse with their harlequin variety and wit.

Kokopeli, a New York artist in his mid-30s, isn’t a parent himself — he draws inspiration from the teaching aids for kids that his mother used to make. Here, departing from the pudgy tractors and tiered towers seen on tutorials, he concocts muddy dirt bikes, a mammoth German-style coal excavator, a gory auto accident, a Pamper Popemobile trailed by two Swiss Guards. This infantile show indulges the kitsch of gender reveals and bridal brunches, so thoroughly that it satirizes the originality, skill and seriousness expected of high culture. Apparently, in this decadent day and age, both the late style of contemporary art and the latest trends in feting newborns prompt roomfuls of grown-ups to imagine eating diapers. TRAVIS DIEHL

LOWER EAST SIDE

Through June 26. Thomas Nickles Project, 47 Orchard Street, Manhattan; 917-667-5016, thomasnickles.com.

There are two popular magazines — Muchacha and Mujeres — that the Cuban-born and educated artist Gertrudis Rivalta cites in “Selected Pages,” her solo exhibition of dioramas and paintings. Rivalta aptly uses the show to represent her own psychological and intellectual development from girlhood to womanhood in a culture where immense forces sought to shape that transition, among them: Negritude, racism, colonialism, Soviet-Cuban solidarity, and the persuasive power of the language of publicity.

Mining the material culture of her childhood, Rivalta reinvents the magazine covers using nontraditional materials like sequins, at once visually seductive, commonplace and aspirational. But her canvases represent the confluence of even more intricacy. Take “Cheerleaders” (2009), with its underlying image of schoolchildren laying a wreath by a bust of José Martí, a national hero venerated for his role in liberating Cuba from Spain. Superimposed is an image of an unnamed Black female athlete flexing her muscular body in the opposite direction, turning her gaze inward instead of fixing it on Martí’s bust. The artist understands that what she calls “the euphoria of liberation” isn’t enough to sustain her growth or nurture her self-determination.

Installed in the back of the gallery are very different works: paper and canvas dioramas that operate as small puppet theaters rich in narrative exposition and historical allusion. In all, “Selected Pages” has a wonderful, novelistic premise: We can grasp the complexity of a culture by seeing it through the eyes of an astute observer who came of age in it. SEPH RODNEY

Tribeca

Through July 1. George Adams Gallery, 38 Walker Street, Manhattan. 212-564-8480; georgeadamsgallery.com.

Robert Colescott, who died in 2009, was deadly serious about complexity and injustice, but the paintings he made about race in America also had a sense of humor — if not about the subject itself, then at least about the limitations of art as a way of confronting it. His wry, resigned, fiery approach is particularly well encapsulated by “Frankly My Dear … I Don’t Give a Damn,” one of several 1990s-era acrylics currently showing, along with a few slightly surreal watercolors, at George Adams Gallery.

In the painting’s lower left corner, a maudlin white man with a pompadour and goatee holds a swooning Black woman in a checked gingham dress; two skeletons recap their pose on the other side. Imperious golden faces gaze down, a nervous woman leans against a burning planet down below, and a suggestion of hellfire whispers behind the skeletons. A ribbon of red and green, in combination with the angels’ gold, suggest a Pan-African banner. Everything is there to bring out the cosmic epic implicit in one famous line from “Gone With the Wind” — Colescott even letters the phrase across a starry blue sky.

But his color choices, the way he crowds all the figures to the front, and his quick and vigorous brushwork combine to give the piece the feeling of a magazine illustration, too. It’s as good as saying, “Don’t look to me for solutions. This is only a comment.” WILL HEINRICH

SOHO

Through July 3. A83 Gallery, 83 Grand Street, Manhattan, a83.site.

Claude Parent (1923-2016), a visionary French architect, imagined an evocative universe of architectural possibilities in exquisite graphite drawings. He is not well known in the United States, but was a central figure in the cultural and social tumult of Paris that began in the late 1960s.

The 44 “architectural fictions” — as Parent called them — on view in the show “Oblique Narratives No. 1” explore ways of freeing the perception of architecture from the tyranny of utilitarian Modernism. Parent’s “theory of the oblique” was sensual and experiential, designs that people would feel with their bodies, thanks to sloping floors and tilting walls.

Parent built a few extraordinary buildings, restlessly reinventing his style each time. Architects including Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne and Jean Nouvel found a kindred spirit in Parent, as they designed fluid surfaces and fragmented structures.

He drew constantly until near the end of his life at age 93. In the dreamlike works the gallery has brought from the Claude Parent Archive in Paris, the oblique is represented as a point of view — an aerial perspective of the composition zooming off the paper at a diagonal, for example. He imagined enormous, monumentally sublime fragments of cities.

An elegant draftsman, Parent used a technique called scumbling to painstakingly build up layers of curved scratches to create a wide range of tonal effects. The result is as alluringly tactile as a fine swath of fabric, while sometimes possessing an undertow of menace. JAMES S. RUSSELL

Upper East Side

Through July 29. Meredith Ward Fine Art, 44 East 74th Street, Manhattan; 212-744-7306, meredithwardfineart.com; through June 18 at Anton Kern Gallery, 16 East 55th Street, Manhattan; 212-367-9663, antonkerngallery.com.

Two gallery shows celebrate the achievement of the Puerto Rico-born artist, Frank Diaz Escalet (1930-2012), who initially made paintings from stained leather before translating its rich flat colors into acrylic paint. Escalet’s life had its share of sadness, but the condensed version centers on a man who, from 1958 to 1971, lived in a loft on the Bowery, frequented New York’s jazz scene and enjoyed considerable success providing custom-made leather garments for celebrity clients, who included Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones. In 1971, he moved to Maine, where demand for his designs disappeared, and by the mid-1980s, he had turned full time to his leather paintings.

The two shows reflect the breadth of Escalet’s subjects and sympathies, from mythic musicians to moments in ordinary, sometimes oppressed, lives. “Sing Me the Blues” at Meredith Ward reflects an ecumenical love of music with works titled “Taxi Dancers, 1940s,” “Nite at the Opera,” “Tango No. 12” and “Can-Can.” “Prez ‘n’ Blue” silhouettes the saxophonist Lester Young and the trumpeter Blue Mitchell in performance against big geometric planes of bright magenta and yellow.

The show at Anton Kern, organized with the Andrew Kreps Gallery and Kaufmann Repetto, begins with an especially beautiful untitled composition in leather from 1975: a gramophone with a psychedelic sound horn, a muscular arm operating its hand crank and, floating before it, a pair of eyes and singing lips — all this against a background of pale buttery yellow. Other works feature a chain gang, a washerwoman and an airman about to hand-spin a plane’s propeller. These shows are both great. ROBERTA SMITH

Chelsea

Through July 29. Hauser & Wirth, 542 West 22nd Street, Manhattan. 212-790-3900, hauserwirth.com.

Artists are models of freedom. It’s part of the fantasy that sustains art’s cultural relevance, but artmaking is work.

The star of Nicole Eisenman’s “(Untitled) Show” is an oversized cartoonish figure sitting at the center of “Maker’s Muck” (2022). The hands of this plaster sculpture are at a potter’s wheel that’s spinning away interminably producing rocklike forms that pile on its right. Surrounding, on the low sprawling platform, are numerous other sculptural attempts, among them: baked flatbread, an oversized ketchup bottle and what appears to be a time bomb. As a whole, the eclectic accumulation reads as an emblem about the necessity to fail and the need to keep at it.

The mischievous whimsy of Eisenman’s sculptures shouldn’t distract you from seriously looking at the paintings, which use a grab bag of modernist formal approaches and techniques (like raked paint for the texture of clothing or hair). The Brooklyn artist often uses several styles in the same work, as in the standout painting, “The Abolitionists in the Park” (2020-21). There’s pizza and tender embraces among a crowd gathered on a blue tarp, with Guston-like caricatures occupying the margins and a realist dual-portrait of Hannah Black and Tobi Haslett occupying the middle. Black and Haslett are the authors (along with Ciarán Finlayson) of “The Tear Gas Biennial,” a 2019 essay protesting the presence of a weapons manufacturer on the Whitney Museum’s board. This is ambitious history painting thinking through freedom, asking whose? JOHN VINCLER

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

Chinatown

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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