4 art gallery exhibitions to see right now

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Until October 30. Skarstedt, 20 East 79th Street, Manhattan. 212-737-2060, skarstedt.com

The mostly disparaged 1980s art stars persist. David Salle’s latest exhibition, “Tree of Life,” indicates that the stagecoach produced some of the best and most beautiful paintings of his career. As usual, this former neo-expressionist / appropriationist artist overlays images from high and low culture (mostly low this time) and from different eras and styles of painting (usually abstract).

In most of the works here, the greyish shapes of well-dressed men and women from Peter Arno’s New Yorker cartoons fill the background, providing a calm imaginary sound of bickering couples, inappropriate remarks and unexpected jokes. At the top of Arnos, the simple outline of an innocent tree (perhaps taken from a children’s book) dominates the center of the painting; its trunk and (sometimes) the falling leaves are painted in different pastel colors. The tree is often the pedestal of an oversized S-curve caterpillar whose lines and colors add to the visual salad.

The best paintings are those with separate predella-shaped panels, attached below. Sometimes tree roots continue in this area, but usually a horizontal expanse of abstract painting follows – dripped, stained, or smeared in the manner of various post-war painters – with fragments on them, perhaps some angular head with modern appearance. Salle is a disillusioned painter, without emotion, which does not bother him; a skilled designer (especially with a projector) and a brilliant colorist and tonalist. His tangled compositions seem to have been compressed, giving them new tensions and twists. In a bleak age that has more than its share of bleak art – or maybe just bleak-eyed curators – these paintings are a bright spot, encouraging artists to do things that are optimistic – and to bring them to life. make better.

ROBERTA SMITH


Until October 24. Ashes / Ashes, 56 Eldridge Street, Manhattan. ashesonashes.com.

The weeds that protrude from the saturated, materially dense canvases of Michael Assiff in his show “Volunteer Flowers” will be familiar to anyone who has looked down in New York City, especially in neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, where the plants grow emphatically through cracked concrete and persist admirably in a harsh environment. (Gardening has its own deep well of euphemisms: Assiff prefers the term “volunteers” to “weeds.”) Assiff’s five paintings here are made up of hundreds of these specimens, each leaf, petal and stem individually carved with tinted methacrylic plastic pushed through a syringe and secured in monochromatic assemblies. They give a clever new meaning to the idea of ​​”color field”.

Specifically, the meticulously rendered Purslane, Creeping Charlie, and Ambrosia are translations of those Assiffs seen last year at All Faiths Cemetery in Queens, where the particularly hardy bloom has thrived through neglect. (The cemetery board is the subject of a 2019 embezzlement lawsuit by the New York attorney general; gardeners accused the board of withholding benefits.) Assiff become an image of the labor movement, an act of devotion honoring the struggle of these workers.

They are also a nuanced allegory of our darkening climate future. The choice of monochrome ties the paintings to a historical continuum of art, up to Malevich’s “Black Square”, an effect that artists appreciate for its spiritual purity and its ability to distil the natural sublime. The death of painting, declared every few years, has not yet fully held. Painting, in essence, is the weed of artistic creation, which continues to triumph despite the cataclysm. Our days may be numbered as our atmosphere swells with carbon dioxide, but the weeds are sure to stay.

MAX LAKIN


Until May 8. Asia Society Museum, 725 Park Avenue, Manhattan. 212-288-6400; asiasociety.org.

“Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians,” which hails from the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and arrives here at the Asia Society after a stop in Houston, is not just art in all mediums of 23 famous and emerging Iranian and Iranian artists at home and abroad. Most of the work is also In regards to being Iranian. Such a resolute curation, by Fereshteh Daftari, is understandable in a show intended to present one of the world’s greatest civilizations to an audience who may still think of Iran as part of the “axis of evil”. But this creates a somewhat claustrophobic overall effect, despite the variety of works.

The best approach for a viewer may be to focus on just one piece, be it the flaming red and silver calligraphy by Mohammed Ehsai; a shimmering collage of mirror fragments by Monir Farmanfarmaian; or Khosrow Hassanzadeh’s magnificent rose border silkscreen print of himself as a “terrorist”. For me, the song that lingers is Mahmoud Bakhshi’s “Tulips Rise From the Blood of the Nation’s Youth”, a searing vision of the trauma and propaganda of the Iran-Iraq war, in which three red neon “tulips” – stylized interpretations of the word “Allah” as it appears on the flag of the Islamic Republic – spinning on top of metallic cartridges that look like huge bullet casings.

HEINRICH


Until October 23. Martos Gallery, 41 Elizabeth Street, Manhattan. 212-560-0670; martosgallery.com.

After exhibiting at MoMA PS1 “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” which ended in April, the seven artists previously jailed in this exhibition present new work, continuing conversations about criminal justice reform.

At the entrance to the exhibit, “The Collective: Chosen Family,” there are five ink drawings by James “Yaya” Hough placed on the back of the prison cafeteria menus and office documents. Dark, austere, deep, Hough’s work illuminates the for-profit nature of the American prison industrial complex with images showing naked and sometimes anonymized bodies bound by chains and treated like raw material by machines.

These complement Jesse Krime’s “The Myth of the Golden Legend”, a 70 inch by 130 inch hand-sewn fabric with a collage depicting dystopian scenes – lanterns turn into oversized spiders, chairs taller than buildings, people in Ku Klux Klan capes, dragons.

Tameca Cole is withdrawn, even solemn, with collages of black male subjects on empty backgrounds, like vortices. On Gilberto Rivera’s densely painted canvases, a jumble of societal issues contrasts with the calm sadness of his female figures.

Perhaps this sadness is even more powerful in the photographs of Mary Enoch Elizabeth Baxter aka Isis Tha Savior, whose miniature images reinvent Thomas Eakins’ impression of an unknown prepubescent black girl posed nude. Baxter photoshoots himself in every scene, protecting the girl by covering her body.

Most notable is the materiality of the show, best embodied by Russell Craig’s “Louis Vuitton”, an installation of Louis Vuitton bags with a zipper opened by a dog, and Jared Owens’ “Panopticon” – a painting / plinth pair featuring featuring a pig, a burlap sack, steel cables and hooks, salvaged dunnage and even dirt from the prison yard at Fairton Federal Correctional Facility in New Jersey.

YINKA ELUJOBA


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