A small selection of works by Al Loving at Garth Greenan Gallery shows the artist’s extraordinary breadth of formal and material proficiency. Created after his “escape from the box” in the 1970’s, the works play with the giddy sense freedom that comes with the sudden awareness that the door to the cage is wide open. Born from his torn canvas paintings, Loving’s mixed media works pierce together vibrant paper collages into meandering compositions that meld the painterly with the sculptural. Overlapping patterns and shapes animate the space around them with a boundless energy that emanates from the barely contained swirling motion within. Loving came to these works only after a complete break with his earlier, commercially successful, hard-edged abstraction. In art history, sadly some gems only crystallize after stepping back. The au courant vivacity of these works is testament that the agony of a u-turn in an artist’s oeuvre will eventually be rewarded, if only post-humously. At Garth Greenan Gallery through December 21.

In a shift away from her darkly disturbing caricature style of her earlier works, Tala Madani’s new paintings function first and foremost like messages from the id and remind of the narrative strategies and the cinematic manipulation of light and dark of the surrealist masterpiece “Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). Madani’s ominous settings where men are often the main protagonists encourage readings of alienation and submission. At times at the edge of getting lost into the theatrical, Madani nevertheless achieves a darkly sexualized mapping of the unconscious and is able to reveal the most intimate considerations of human behaviour. At 303 Gallery through December 15.

Is Martha Edelheit a feminist or is she just having fun? A new exhibition at Eric Firestone called “Flesh Walls: Tales from the 60’s” doesn’t tell. Part of the newly awaked and radically sexualized avant-garde of the 1960s that coalesced around happenings, drugs, and political manifestos, Edelheit employed the female body as both canvas and narrative. Her monumental triptych “Female Flesh Wall” from 1965 is magnificent. Overlapping female bodies in suggestive poses linger in a state of repose in front of a prim wooden drafting table. Chromatically the bodies read from consciousness to mortality; pale flesh pinks morph into Maria-Lassnig-greens and culminate in bold turquoise blues on ground that ranges from muted to cacophonous. Feminism with a nod to classical painting must have been a tough pill to swallow in the 1960s, so the punch comes in form of an inserted self-portrait which satirizes traditional subject matter for women artists. Edelheit’s drawings take a decidedly raucous turn. Here, delicate lines spawn burlesque sexualized fantasies with exaggerated female and male genitalia swirling in circus-like settings. They speak of a very contemporary urgency to subvert traditional notions of gender and sexuality and a provocative assertiveness that seeks to splinter complacency. At Eric Firestone through December 15.

Long before her coming out as the notorious Mlle Bourgeois Noire in 1980 and even longer before the art-world took notice, Lorraine O’Grady was making clip-out poetry from the New York Times. Twenty-six works, of what she called counter-confessional poetry, are now on view at Alexander Gray in form of “Haiku-diptychs”. What had been created between June 5 and November 20, 1977 is as relevant today as it was at its time of conception – if not more so. Although politics in art has recently taken center stage, Lorraine O’Grady’s multi-disciplinary art practice has been political for decades. Marginalization, invisibility and the subjectivation of the black female body, these are just some of the urgent topics that were front-page news then and are still today…Futurists believe that art has the power to change the world, even when it means speaking out of turn. Throughout her career, Lorraine O’Grady has been speaking when it was not her turn to speak. It’s time we listened. At Alexander Gray through December 15.

For much of art history, clay has functioned more or less as a craft object combining functionality with design. Its traditional relegation as the preparatory stage for bronze and other high-brow sculpture has held it back as a legitimate artform for centuries. It was not until Picasso, inspired by a visit to a pottery fair in 1946, embraced the tactility of the medium and opened the door wide for generations of artists to create art from earth. Almine Rech is bringing together a group of contemporary artists who partly or wholly incorporate ceramics into their practice. Artists such as Ron Nagle, Mai-Thu Perret, Anselm Reyle, Arlene Shechet, Rosemarie Trockel and Betty Woodman are set up against Modernist masters Picasso, Joan Miró, and Wilfredo Lam and demonstrate that through a variety of formal and material approaches clay can spawn an exhaustible creative potential. Here is one of Amy Bessone’s truncated female torsos in front of Mark Hagen’s glazed ceramic tile wall sprinkled with animal tracks. At Almine Rech through December 15

Martha Rosler’s biggest contribution to feminism may rest quite simply in her timing. Rosler picks up steam in the mid-1970s when, after the first wave of radical feminism trickled away, women were sent back into their kitchens. Rosler’s audacious aesthetic accessibility and self-referential approach is most evident in her most famous video “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975) where, in a parody of TV-cooking shows, she presents ordinary kitchen utensils in an increasingly violent and irrational manner. Variously employing video, film, photomontage, performance and installation, Rosler has exposed misogynistic methodologies such as the objectification of women in main-stream advertising and the chauvinism in pornography ads which perversely fosters the participation of women in their own debasement. War, censorship, ideology and the culture of fear are recurring subjects that have special resonance to the political condition of today. In “Reading Hannah Arendt (Politically, for an Artist in the 21stCentury)” (2006), excerpts from Arendt’s “The Origin of Totalitarianism” are printed on long transparent panels that hang from the ceiling. Visitors who navigate the grim word-forest can just make out a large digital print of our current president captured during a campaign rally in 2016 where he famously declared that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, o.k.? It’s like incredible.” At the Jewish Museum through March 3.

Truth & Beauty: Charles White and his Circle considers the artist’s work in relation to the group of black artists that he inspired and those he sought inspiration from. It complements the first major museum survey dedicated to the artist in over thirty years at the Museum of Modern Art. Charles White was an activist, teacher and a mentor. His influence on black culture and his contribution towards the emancipation of black art in the entrenched cultural discourse was momentous and far-reaching. To now-famous artists, such as David Hammons and Kerry James Marshall, White would be a trigger of pride and dignity and the spark that kindled their careers. Charles White was a master draughtsman. Doggedly defensive of realism, even when most of the art world moved into other directions, White drew civil rights activists, entertainers as well as ordinary people. He studied his subject to the minutest detail capturing the spirituality of the human nature with precision and grace. His legacy on African American history and culture lives on in his work and through the countless artists and activists that he inspired. At Michael Rosenfeld through November 10.

The needlepoint works of multi-disciplinary artist Cecilia Charlton synthesize the beauty and artistry of the decorative arts with the values and techniques of modernism. Looking back in order to move forward, Charlton finds inspiration in ancient patterns and designs which she hints at in such cryptic titles as “It might’ve been a walk-in spirit (according to my 72-year-old Peruvian roommate)”. Charlton is a masterful technician. Her rich tactile works weave the Simultanism of Sonia Delaunay with the geometric complexity of the textile works of Anni Albers. Rhythm, motion and depth – repetition and overlap. Cecilia Charlton’s art bestows an exquisite visual pleasure where medium and process result in pictorial forms that transcended time. At Thomas Jaeckel through November 13.

In 1906 the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint commenced on a series of biomorphic paintings and drawings that she destined to be housed in a spiralling building that she called the temple of spirit. One hundred and two years later the output of this effort is currently gracing the corkscrew ramp of the Guggenheim Museum. The ten large paintings that occupy the first gallery are magnificent. Matissian color schema and free-spirited forms of such exquisite beauty and energy feel as if the works were painted yesterday. Af Klint was a follower of theosophy and regularly communed with spirits that guided her work. Nevertheless, she adopted a decidedly scientific and ordered approach. Af Klint worked in series and her primordial imaging is driven by religion, nature and science through the implementation of diagramic compositions using an incredibly complex color coding system. The spiral, often in the form of snails, is a recurring symbol. It speaks of evolution, energy and change – a life-long mission that aimed to coax order out of chaos. In 1932, after several attempts at wider recognition ended in failure, Af Klint realized that her work would be better understood by future generations and decided to destroy a majority of her output. She decreed that her remaining paintings, drawings and over 20,000 pages of writing should not be displayed until 20 years after her death… Hilma af Klint had no followers and did not follow anyone. Yet her determination to capture the unseen world by obeying intuition and her devoted embrace of spirituality is a magnanimous gift that she bequeathed to the world. At the Guggenheim Museum through April 23.

Depression, High-blood Pressure, Anxiety, Alcoholism: there’s a pill for all. These physical and psychological ailments are also the titles of Beverly Fishman’s new scintillating hard-edge abstract paintings. Yet Fishman’s does not offer actual remedies in form of pills and potions, instead her geometric forms suggest only the illusion of a cure. Flawless and clean, her cut-out geometric shapes sport primary colors on wood with rounded corners to take the edge off. Fishman plays with the margins by surrounding her paintings with florescent colors that give the illusion of weightlessness and hint at the psychology of neon advertisements. Unlike opioids, Fishman’s combination of forms, colors and surface material heighten the senses and induce a rewarding visual high that changes the chemistry of the brain without negative physical and psychological side effects. At Miles McEnery Gallery through November 10.

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