To appreciate Katherine Bradford’s paintings, one needs to examine them from an abstract perspective. Formally, Bradford owes a large debt do Louise Fishman and Mark Rothko. Large soft-edged fields of color, achieved through carefully layered brush strokes on frontal compositions, create texture and light and her large-scale format allows the viewer to become part of the work. When Bradford sets her mind on a color, she goes all out. In her current exhibition, Friends and Strangers at Canada, pink rules. Blocks of orange pinks, magenta pinks, and purple pinks, open spatial relationships that lead to enigmatic corporeal figurations. The bodies that emerge are often rendered ambiguously detached so that in the end it is not narrative that hold them together but the emotional impact of the color relationships within. At Canada through October 21.

 

The South-African artist Liza Lou is inaugurating the new Peter-Marino-designed flagship of Lehman Maupin in Chelsea by delving into the ephemeral world of clouds. The self-styled queen of beads, who rocked to art-world fame with her life-size glass bead installation “Kitchen” at the New Museum in 1996, focuses her labor-intensive process on several nebulous constructions as well as the monumental wall piece “The Clouds” which consists of 600 beaded cloths and takes up one entire wall of the exhibition space. But it is her smaller sculptures in the gallery’s 22ndStreet location that shine. Here, bulbous masses of tiny glass particles preplace water molecules and morph into luminous and poetic constructions of such seductive beauty that inspire fanciful meditations on the fleetingness of life. At Lehman Maupin through October 27.

Whimsical and joyous, B. Wurtz’s small-scale sculptures nevertheless pack a deliberate and cerebral punch. Under Wurtz’s careful direction things that ordinarily end up in the rubbish bin, morph into elegant and poetic assemblages. Shoelaces, buttons, plastic bags, socks. Wurtz elevates the ordinary into the extraordinary and blurs the line between high art and craft, collector and hoarder, decoration and design. At Metro Pictures through October 20. Don’t miss the artist’s Public Art project “Kitchen Trees”, a playful exhibition of seven arboreal sculptures fashioned from kitchen utensils. At City Hall Park through December 7.

Mary Weatherford’s new neon paintings conjure up a West Coast road trip along rugged landscapes interspersed by colourful city neon and lines of bright red taillights that snake through hilly terrain. Her often dense compositions combine sweeping brushwork with patches of washed out Flashe paint and open up to small areas of drippy mark-making. Flesh coloured pinks, burnt-oranges, and brilliant sapphires are the peripheral visualization of a drive through the dense green forests of Western Washington, the leathery scenery of the coastal mountains, and to the brilliant oceans of Southern California where misty fogs give way to a radiant yellow sun. Formally her neon tubes read as additional lines but subjectively they speak of the amalgamation of nature and technology, urban and rural, and the space in-between where man must come to terms with solitude and progress. At Gagosian through October 15.

A Who’s Who of the contemporary art market is currently on display at Levy Gorvy. Organized by co-founder Brett Gorvy under the vague umbrella of the sublime (and subliminally the expensive), it includes such tantalizing morsels as Cy Twombly’s hypnotic blackboard scribbles, Robert Ryman’s whitish/green ‘Untitled’ from 1962, Lee Bontecou’s black hole, several Dubuffet butterfly collages, a few shadow boxes by Joseph Cornell, a mesmerizing Agnes Martin striped painting, surrealist works by Max Ernst, RenéMagritte, Yves Tanguy, and Joan Miró, a large nail painting by Günther Uecker, a Jasper Johns Flag, a glorious work by Carol Rama and many more. Here is Hannah Wilke’s latex and snaps assemblage “Mellow Yellow” from 1975. At Levy Gorvy through October 24.

Music and politics. These are the sparks that kindle most of Wolfgang Tillmans’ restless energy and define his photographic output. In addition to designing Benjamin Britten’s iconic opera “War Requiem” at the English National Opera and battling nationalism in the upcoming Dutch and German elections, the Turner-prize winning photographer and unflinching chronicler of generation X is also producing electro music under his own label “Fragile”, organized four solo exhibitions this year alone and is preparing for a major retrospective at Moma in 2021. His sweeping exhibition at David Zwirner shows still-lifes, landscapes, as well as his more emblematic portraits from the gay and techno scene. They go beyond subject matter into the murky wold of melancholy, desire, pain and pleasure and conjure a tactility that is as light as touch and raw as bruised skin. At David Zwirner through October 20.

There is a quiet but persistent clamouring in the art world calling for a museum show for Ellen Berkenblit. In its absence, a mini retrospective of her work at Anton Kern will have to do. The exhibition is arranged salon-style and features mostly small-scale drawings, gouaches, pencil on paper, textile collage, oil paintings and a combination of all of the above. Berkenblit’s works inhabit a spectral cartoon-like quality. What makes her work fascinating and baffling at the same time, is that recurring figures, such as a sharp-nosed witch, cats, birds and hands, never really add up to a satisfactory narrative. This mysterious ambiguousness is underscored by moody tones of black, greys and dark purples yet all interjected by a healthy dose of dark humour. With Berkenblit one never quite knows whether to laugh, cry or be absolutely terrified. At Anton Kern through October 20.

Black abstractionists are getting another well-deserved look. The market success of such stalwart artists as Sam Gillian and Jack Whitten have led museums and dealers to evaluate the work of others who have been working under obscurity since the 1960s. Guyana-born painter Frank Bowling has doggedly stuck with abstraction for over five decades; riding out figuration trends and dodging peer pressure towards political activism. Bowling owes a large debt to color fielder Barnett Newman but achieves transcendence through pouring and staining overlapping tones that morph into luminous shimmering lines and discrepant collaged surfaces with broken edges. Yet politics is seeping through quietly. Like a bothersome gadfly, under washed out bands of color, Bowling tacitly inserts the specter of Afro Caribbean colonialism and the dogmatism that haunts African American history. It culminates in his majestic map painting “Dan Johnson’s Surprise” which is currently covering an entire wall of the Brooklyn Museum’s blockbuster exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power”. A recognition long overdue! At Alexander Gray through October 13.

Simone Leigh’s new ceramic sculptures are stunning. Largely shedding the heavy ornamentation of her earlier ceramic busts, the pared down simplicity of Leigh’s new architectural bodies augment the majestic dignity of her subjects. Leigh’s preoccupation with female African-American identity, architecture and ethnography point towards the matriarchal body centric and to a magnanimous domesticity that morphs women’s heads into vases and bodies into homes. Solid, sincere and rich they exude a quiet tenacity that proclaims: I am here; in my unique and rightful place. At Luhring Augustine through October 20.

A fine selection of brilliant geometric abstract paintings by the Brazilian artist Luiz Zerbini is currently on view at Sikkema Jenkins. The works are stripped of the meandering plants and urban imagery of Zerbini’s earlier works but instead fuse the pictorial language of Neo concretism with the colourful optimism of Roberto Burle Marx and the kaleidoscopic imagery of Beatriz Milhazes. They culminate in the monumental abstracted cityscape “Macaé”, after a neighborhood of Zerbini’s hometown of Rio de Janerio. At Sikkema Jenkins through October 13.

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