Leonardo Drew likes to think of his work as layering and solidifying experiences. A raw physicality hedges the self-destructive versus built, regeneration versus decay. His monumental “Number 215” bursts out debris and wood like an exploding tsunami that spills from the ceiling and windows of  Galerie Lelong. Smaller sculptures in the adjacent gallery sprout darkly stained roots on stacked wood which conjure primordial fits of raw energy. The exhibition is congruent with Drew’s first outdoor public art installation at Madison Square Park that reverses the idea of the city green and instead introduces an imaginary city into a park. At Galerie Lelong through August 2 and Madison Square Park through December 15.

Magali Reus’ sculptures are conceptually off-kilter, devoid of narrative, disconnected from time and space, and drained of any trace of functionality. They are, however, materially complex and exceptionally well executed. Two new series, currently on view at Eva Presenhuber, supply a host of loose mental ends and a tangle of laborious inferences. “Settings” pre-supposes a European, car-owning audience. Here, the starting point is the Continental No Parking sign which is typically a red diagonal bar inside a blue circle framed by a red ring. Reus sets up these sculptures mirror-like and stages several material interventions that variously insert windshield wipers, remote controls, or mousetraps in recessed cavities akin to Catholic reliquaries. The result is vaguely authoritarian but deliciously subversive. The series “Empty Every Night” comes in two parts and reminds of the mirror and shelf combinations in entry halls and bathrooms. Here, the “mirror” is variously a fiberglass square or rectangle, or a tubular or square diorama box and plays host to coiled steel rods that spell out one particular digital time. The entangled mess reminds of Brahmic or Urdu calligraphy or perhaps the innards of an old television set. Any mental overflow is caught by the metal trays below which, instead of keys, hold impeccably fabricated monochrome objects like a nose, a lemon, or a shelled walnut. Collectively these sculptures present not so much a concept as overlapping binaries related to our state of being – individually they make no demands. They just are. At Eva Presenhuber through June 23.

 

Shara Hughes’ fantastical floral paintings are stunning compositions of extraordinary intensity. If nature is to be believed as ordered chaos with an unfathomable spectrum of mutations and diversity, then Hughes is allowing us to see a small slice of its astonishing wonder. That her remarkable arrangements are entirely figments of her boundless imagination makes them no less alluring. At times wildly energetic, other times elegantly restrained, Hughes’ floral explorations betray an incredibly perceptive grasp of color and composition. “Pretty Prickly” (2019) anchors a smattering of red roses on green ground that serves as the eye of a tornado composed of sweeping black lines and colorful doodles. A different mood is at play in “Naked Lady” (2019) where color and form are the main protagonists. A giant Amaryllis, dipped in a rich, deep purple rises from a bed of prickly greens while its amorphic petals melt languorously into the tropical landscape. Elsewhere, Hughes’ paintings recall the cropped compositions of Alma Thomas’ ordered flower beds or carry echoes of Georgia O’Keefe luscious sensuality. In “Just Another Pretty Face”, the stand-out work of the show, a dense array of flowers occupies most of the picture plane. Here, the intensity of colors and forms achieve an almost surreal sensory delight – it is as if the potency might call up its efflorescent scent. With a remarkable amount of energy Hughes captures and amplifies the vivacity and depth of nature that strains against the dogged logic of the rectangle. At Rachel Uffner through June 23.

If you have an MFA from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Dresden, you know your stuff. Caspar David Friedrich, Oskar Kokoschka, and Otto Dix all taught there, and famous alumni include Georg Grosz, Kurt Schwitters, and Gerhard Richter. Naturally the focus is on representational technique. Paint this cup for one year from different perspectives and in all sorts of colors and dimensions, and maybe we’ll let you paint the potted plant next. Jawohl! Anne Neukamp graduated from HfBK in 2007, just seventeen years after German reunification, a time when the old teaching guard was just about to phase out. The residues of a rigorous art education are unmistakable. Technically flawless, Neukamp approaches her subjects, which may range from paper clips, envelopes and other familiar every-day objects, with austerity and precision. She then reworks the mental imprint of a particular object by denying it context or by toying with perspective and proportion. In the end, instead of evoking a solid presence, her objects speak of an absence that begets a cornucopia of latent assumptions. And just like that she becomes an image maker par excellence which lets her paintings dance on the tension between reality and apparition… Anne Neukamp’s works are part of the group exhibition “Eight Ball” at Martos Gallery that also includes Math Bass, Edith Baumann and Lindsey Burke. Through June 16.

Glamorous, young, and stylish. Andy Warhol’s “Red Jackie” (1964) is a visual throwback to the idealistic days of Camelot and the youthful aspirations of a country with seemingly limitless possibilities. But by Spring of 1964, when Andy Warhol completed this now iconic portrait of the former First Lady Jackie Kennedy, all was in shambles. The young and handsome president lay dead, the country in the grip of a paralyzing wave of mourning. Television’s endless loop of grief and grainy images of somber adulation triggered a new conceptual perspective for the young artist. Warhol became increasingly transfixed by the idea of death as the architect of idols. Earlier, in 1962, he produced a series of portraits of Marilyn Monroe, who was found dead of an overdose of barbituratesjust months before and whose serialized screenprints are now amongst Warhol’s most recognized imagery. Although Warhol produced eight pictures that showed Jackie before and right after her husband’s assassination, the image for “Red Jackie” was culled from an official portrait for the Kennedy presidential campaign which showed a confidentially smiling young Jackie at the family compound at Hyannis Port in 1960. Warhol cropped the image, restyled the hair, and re-adjusted the angle of Jackie’s head to align the image with his earlier serialized portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol’s color choice of a deeply saturated red that matches the lips of the subject and which is offset by a halo of jet-black hair and turquoise accents, adds to the idea of a secular saint. For Warhol already had his pulse on popular culture and instinctively understood the essence of social media today: that for the making of an American Icon one needs to simplify the imagery of a young and glamorous subject and then hammer the same message home repeatedly until the masses have accepted it as divine truth. At Levy Gorvy through June 15.

 “Visions of Brazil”, the museum-quality exhibition expertly curated by Sofia Gotti, is seeking a new narrative approach to Brazilian Modernism through the re-examination of cultural and historical conditions from the perspective of the here and now. Spanning over one hundred years of Modernism in Brazil, the exhibition brings together works by Tarsila do Amaral, Sergio Camargo, Willys de Castro, Lygia Clark, Raimundo Colares, Antonio Dias, Sonia Gomes, Alberto da Veiga Guignard, Leonilson, Cildo Meireles, Beatriz Milhazes, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Mira Schendel, Rubem Valentim, and Alfredo Volpi. Anchoring the show around “Terra” (1943), the sole work in the show by Tarsila do Amaral, Gotti examines the evolution of Modernism under a set of shared beliefs by a disparate group of artists. Political and social marginalization, the re-discovery of pre-colonial identities, and an evolving aesthetics to landscape painting lead to different conceptual and material strategies that make up the maxim of Brazilian Modernism. Here is a fine example of one of Mira Schendel’s geometric compositions from the mid-1960s, an artist who alongside her contemporaries Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark re-invented the language of Modernism in Brazil. At Blum & Poe through June 22.

To get to the two sole paintings in Firelei Báez’s spectacular installation one must enter an enchanted garden. For her recent exhibition at James Cohan, the Dominican-born artist has re-imagined the gallery space into a nocturnal lagoon overflowing with tropical birdsong, lush plants, and flowery scents. Yet underneath the breathtaking show of nature lurks a far more uncomfortable truth. Intersecting themes of Caribbean colonialism, black female empowerment, migration, and socio-political rationales of black resistance have always provided the scaffolding that supports most of Báez’s oeuvre. They are apparent in the material strategies and conceptual blueprints that underlie this exhibition. Here, Báez imagines the visitor as an accidental tourist to a Caribbean island whose lush tropical climate masks the difficult post-colonial reverberation that lead many of their countries’ best and brightest to seek opportunities elsewhere – a dilemma emblematic of the blue tarp of migrants and disaster shelters that makes up the exhibition’s night sky. The two female portraits that face each other in the center of the room are stunning. Framed by tropical plants, they remind of retablos, which are small devotional depictions of Catholic saints used in home altars throughout Latin America. Both women are wearing bright tignons, the headdress that free and slave women were forced to wrap around their hair and that they instead turned into stylish symbols of resistance. Graceful and poised, with skin a fluid mélange of vibrant color, they are representative of resplendent mythical Yoruba goddesses whose striking gaze is challenging the legacy of history through the empowerment of the black female experience. At James Cohan through June 16.

Virginia Overton does have a nice, big studio but most of the planning and thinking takes place in her head. A lot of her deliberation revolves around her personal relationship to a particular space and the rapport between space and material. Her installations often veer towards the industrial. Junkyards, old tractors, pick-up trucks, and industrial building materials like cross-beams and sheet rock, hold a particular fascination for the artist. Her quest for the essence of a particular object often lead her towards the meticulous physical deconstruction and re-assembly of her objects. To that end, the reconfiguration of a gigantic cement mixer into a fully functioning water fountain seems preposterous at first but is in fact the distillation of the apparatus into its core elements of gravity and weight. Overton’s queries into the essence of things are often rooted in art history, albeit with a light touch. Thus a simple projection of a house plant onto an empty canvas may be an attempt to  reconcile retinal painting and conceptual art with a tender nod towards the botanical symbolism that inspired Henri Matisse’s cutouts. At Bortolami through June 15.

Sanya Kantarosvsky is a sardonic story teller whose paintings depict strange snapshots in time where it is difficult to figure out what came before and what will happen after. Kantarovsky’s visual language employs cropped, pared-down compositions that frequently create an alarming tension between the distress of the subject and the ambiguousness of the scene. His material strategies, he mixes oil paint with water color, extend to the schism of his characters where it is often hard to distinguish between victim and perpetrator. “On Them” 2019, is particularly disturbing. Two ghostly figures stand half-submerged in dark water. Their bodies merge into one long, tunnel-like form and are joined in an urgent grip. Kantarovsky sets the scene in a claustrophobic perspective awash in ominous streaks of purple. The longer one stares at the display, the less it becomes clear whether this is a rescue or a sinister deed. For the only person who can solve the riddle is an unseen third person towards which the top figure strains. Slyly, Kantarovsky toys with the audience as eye and mind instinctively search for the mysterious Third Man and makes them uneasily complicit in his sinister riddle. His recalcitrant mise-en-scènes hold an involuntary, hypnotic grip on the viewer that touches on our primal fear of unknown terror. At Luhring Augustine through June 15.

Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate Homer’s Odyssey into modern English, describes the goddess-nymph Calypso as “a weaver, like so many elite female characters in Homer; she has her shuttle made of gold… but she also presides over a world where nature weaves itself around her.” In a new series of exquisite paintings and drawings, Chris Offili re-imagines Calypso as a seductive mermaid who lures the hapless Odysseus into a love affair in a luxuriously opulent setting that brims with lush foliage and lavish sprays of flowers. As expected, Offili’s sense of color is spot on. Vibrant aqua blues trade with kaleidoscopic yellow-greens; ripples of soft pink weave into ribbons of orange; a nocturnal scene is beautifully mournful with dark purple and flecks of gold. There is a seductive fluidity in these works that winds itself around the curvaceous bodies of the two lovers and flows into nature itself. It conjures up this exquisitely unearthly description of Calypso’s lagoon in Wilson’s adaptation: “The scent of citrus and of brittle pine/Suffused the island. Inside, she was singing/And weaving with a shuttle made of gold./Her voice was beautiful. Around the cave/A luscious forest flourished: alder, poplar,/And scented cypress.” At David Zwirner through June 15.

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