Josef Albers: Grey Steps, Grey Scales, Grey Ladders, is a mesmerizingly beautiful exhibition on the visual possibilities of the color grey within a confined geometric shape. Over his lifetime, both at the Bauhaus and later at Black Mountain college, Albers made over one thousand works in his celebrated series “Homage to the Square” – an investigation into the visual effects of color and the spatial relationships within mathematically spaced nesting squares. The elegant exhibition at David Zwirner, organized by Brenda Danilowitz, focuses on Albers’ explorations into the myriad possibilities of the color grey and how the visual perception of one shade of grey is altered depending on the intensity of an adjacent shade and its spatial relation to it. The result is a visual feast of harmony, movement and balance that influenced countless future artists concerned with the idiosyncrasies of Color Field painting and Geometric Abstraction. Through December 17.

In a recent interview with Augusten Burroughs for the New York Times, William Eggleston brushes off the suggestion that his photographs are carefully constructed compositions but insists instead that his craft is intuitive rather than analytical; a simple recording of what’s already there if one cares to look. Looking is of course a big part of photography but it takes on new meaning under Eggleston’s physical and mechanical lens. In this Untitled still from the “Democratic Forest” series, Eggleston elevates the humble condiment holder in a tightly framed composition of elegant harmony and rhythm where color and light are not descriptive but depend on the subjective perceptions the viewer’s optical lens. At David Zwirner through December 17.

Defying gravity, Joel Shapiro’s large new architectural installation at Dominque Levy centers on the artist’s lifelong pre-occupation with the relationship between object and space. Large, bulky and painted in intense primary colors, Shapiro’s geometric wooden structures are suspended in weightless fluidity amid the stark white background of the serene gallery space. Never comfortable with minimalism’s credo of non-objectivity, Shapiro’s work evokes an elegant ethereality and it’s all-consuming three-dimensional monumentality invites the discovery of multiple perspectives. Don’t miss Shapiro’s curated arrangement of his iconic smaller wall sculptures on the second floor and the three floor-based works in the adjoining room. Through January 7.

Picabia – provocateur, genius, charlatan, trailblazer, flâneur, poet, filmmaker, gifted painter? All of the above. The sprawling retrospective of Francis Picabia’s oeuvre that just started at the Museum of Modern Art leaves little doubt about the hard-to-pin-down elusiveness of this French avant-garde pioneer. Opening with Picabia’s solid early Cubist paintings which quickly diffused various critics’ claims of painterly illiteracy, the show plows ahead through Picabia’s scintillating obsession with Dada, examines his short-lived fascination with film, explores cutting edge experiments with Renaissance and Transparency painting techniques, shows his controversial war-time figurative paintings, and ends (rather deflatedly) with his return to Abstraction. Each section can take hours to explore and is a treasure trove for geeky cognoscenti of early Modernism. Picabia did not care what others thought of him (no doubt made easier by his financial independence), and did not take himself or his art making too seriously – poignant in the highly criticised and little understood realist works made in the South of France during the war. Deeply disturbing, and combining kitsch with politics, the paintings often build on found images from glossy magazines or war-time propaganda. Here is Picabia’s “The Adoration of the Calf”, from 1941, based on a photograph by Erwin Blumenfeld, – an eerie Goya-like reminder of the agitprop of the Hitler regime. It leaves present-day viewers with an uneasy sense of déjà vu and a call to heed the message of the exhibition’s title: “Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction”. Through March 19.

Complementing the brilliant exhibition of deeply moving personal photographic works by Nan Goldin at the Museum of Modern Art, Matthew Marks Gallery is presenting several of the renowned artist’s drawings. Shown for the first time, the drawings are often taken from her diary which Goldin has been keeping since childhood. At times uncanny harbingers for her emotionally charged photographs, and other times woolly daydreams, they are powerful works of art in their own right. They represent a rare glimpse into yet another layer of Goldin’s intimate and personal practice and her steadfast belief that personal healing can only begin when the darkest corner of one’s self is thoroughly aired. At Matthew Marks through December 23.

In 1968, Arte Povera maestro Mario Merz began making his renowned igloo series, evolving the idea into many iterations throughout his distinguished practice. Gladstone Gallery is currently showing, among other seminal works, the first Merz igloo, with the rather lengthy title “Se il nemico si concentra perde terreno se il disperde perde forza” (If the Enemy Masses His Forces, He Loses Ground: If he Scatters, he loses Strength). Based on a quote from a Viet Cong combat strategy by General Vo Nguyen Giap and made out of plates of dried mud with the title looped in neon script around its crown, the Giap Igloo reflects Merz’s deep preoccupation with the principals of human existence: shelter, our relationship with nature, and the absurdity of war. Through December 17.

An interesting dactylic project is on view at Alexander Gray Gallery. Artist Siah Armanjani has assembled a series of tombs of the philosophers, poets and writers who have inspired his sculptural practice. In his tomb for Frank O’Hara, Armanjani lovingly references the poet’s Lunch Poems from 1964, written mainly during O’Hara’s lunch hour in New York, with an assemblage of mismatches chairs and tables. Here is an homage to the city that O’Hara loved so dearly: The black ghinkos snarl their way up/the moon growls at each blinking window/the apartment houses climb deafeningly into the purple/A bat hisses northwards/the perilous steps lead to a grate/suddenly the heat is bearable. (From the Lunch Hour Series, Excerpt from “On the Way to the San Remo”). Through December 17.

Picking up from her now iconic Kitchen Series, the new work of artist Carrie Mae Weems expands on questions of image appropriation and on-screen representation of black female culture. In the photo series “Scenes & Takes”,  Weems assumes the persona of her black-robed alter-ego actress in imaginary elegant and sophisticated settings or in front of an empty stage. Shot from the back, Weems’ solitary character oozes vulnerability and loneliness articulated by the accompanying text that places her into an imaginary world of sophisticated clamour and fame that is at odds with the pop culture image of female black artists in film and music. By employing her own body as means of expression, Weems maintains that achieving more diversity in film and theatre is not simply a question of putting more non-white faces on the screen. It also is a also question of how the character is being perceived if the producers, writers, directors, and audience are white men. At Jack Shainman through December 10.

Lauren Marsolier’s photograph exhibition “Dislocation” is a timely interpretation of the pre- and post-election emotional labyrinth that many Americans have found themselves in during this contentious election. Marsolier deftly dismantles and reconstructs photographs of various locations into fictional environments that are both decidedly sterile and eerily desolate. The newly created settings are neither here nor there – disorienting not only in the ambiguity of time and place but also in the presence of a vague undertone of dread. In this political climate, Marsolier’s photographs reach across party divides. They can be understood as a manifestation of the sense of dislocation that led to the current crisis but also the psychological dislocation that many experienced long after the last vote was tallied up. At Galerie Richards through November 20.

Carolee Schneemann, the grand dame of feminist art, still has plenty left to say. A joint representative exhibition at PPOW and Galerie Lelong, assembles little seen video and installation work from the last thirty years that delve into Schneemann’s investigations into the female body in history, sexuality as politic tools, and mental captivity. In the multi-media installation “Known/Unknown: Plague Column” at PPOW, Schneemann examines the history of health and illness in a gender context, where permutated cancer cells metastasize amid a background of religious symbolism; no doubt a comment on how female diseases like breast cancer have had received only lagging attention until recently when, in a bizarre twist, campaigns promoting breast cancer awareness are now trivialized into marketing tools and even at times overtly sexualized. At PPOW and Galerie Lelong through December 3.

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