Objects, either hand-made or store-bought, have long formed the aesthetic and conceptual vertebrae of Nancy Shaver’s forty-plus career. Hers is a democratic, almost socialist idea. Traditional, indigenous blouses vie attention with cheap mass-produced t-shirts; elegant evening bags sit side by side with rusty plumbing parts and carefully embroidered little baby hats from Uzbekistan. That objects invariably lead to their owners, handlers, sellers and tenants leads to the question of how and why we accumulate things which in turn underlie many of our political and ethical conundrums. That is perhaps why the title of her show “a part of a part of a part” owes so much to Gertrude Stein’s “rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, loveliness extreme.extra gaiters,loveliness extreme.sweetest ice-cream. pages ages page ages page ages.” At Derek Eller Gallery through May 27.

Harmony Hammond has an uncanny ability to coax meaning out of materials. At times angling towards the psychological, proto-feminist aura of Eva Hesse, other times incorporating Neo-Dada ideas into Rauschenberg-like combines, Hammond uses Arte Povera materials such as straw, hair, rubber and rope to corral a raw physical presence with an unsettling undercurrent of unexplained violence. The underlying conflicts of queer and feminist struggle percolate Hammond’s art – occasionally she hides a second dimension on the underside of her sculptural paintings; implications of things suppressed or of secrets not revealed. At Alexander Gray through May 26.

Rhode Island-based artist Nadia Haji Omar makes beautiful chromatic abstractions. Drawing from her Syrian, Indian and Sri Lankan heritage, Omar’s practice is informed by rigorous studies into Islamic and traditional Chinese art and the decorative and religious symbolism and architecture of her childhood home in Sri Lanka. Sticking to a mild, washed-out pastel color palette, Omar weaves tiny, meditative mark-making into elegant Tamil and Sinhalese symbols and letters. Her works convey a wonderful sense of materiality and lightness that underlie the artist’s spirituality and devotion to the preservation of traditional mythology. At Kristen Lorello through May 25.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is a Native American painter, printmaker and sculptor whose tireless work as teacher and activist reaches beyond the confines of the studio to cultivate a contemporary understanding of Native American history and culture. At the forefront of her current exhibition at Garth Geenan lies her pre-occupation with the bifurcations of trade relations between New World Europeans and Native American tribes. Ostensibly set up as an act of friendship and benevolence, most barter transactions produced decidedly one-sided economic benefits and instead often became agents for dependency and decease. Brimming with imagery and symbolism, Quick-to-See’s monumental Trade Canoe paintings weave traditional narratives into contemporary moral admonitions that place the ethical treatment of animals, humans and our planet above the pursuit of profit and power. At Garth Greenan Gallery through May 19.

There is a lot going on in Keltie Ferris’ expressive abstract paintings. Amorphous forms writher across canvas getting roped in by looping black lines which in turn want to find their own bulbous shapes. A scattering of pixeled dots appears but is negated by thick grey erasures as if, by a carefully constructed pattern, the concrete wall was allowed in. Elsewhere, small chunks of oil paint mixed with marble dust build up to a topography that allows the eye to re-adjust from intermittent smudged blurriness. The color palette in this focused show veers from phosphorescent reds and blues to serene pastels and earthy ambers; altogether a vivacious and deeply rewarding visual adventure. At Mitchell-Innes & Nash through May 19.

The Met Breuer is celebrating its new gift of Leon Golub’s breath-taking epic Giantomachy II with an exhibition of a fine selection of the artist’s paintings and works on paper. Perhaps no other post-war artist has consistently exposed the depravity of war and the corrupting violence that it begets with such ferocious savagery. Crude and direct, raw and unrefined, Golub’s dense and meaty lacerations of victims and oppressors of conflict hit all-too close to home. Sinewy wrists, blood-shot eyes, flayed skin – these are testaments of conflicts past and present – they tell of the physical and psychological torment of conflict, the innate cruelty of man and his apparent inability to learn from history. Here is a haunting early charcoal drawing from 1947 where, in communion with Jean Dubuffet, Otto Dix, Käthe Kollwitz and Georg Grosz, Golub declares that any physical attack is also an irreparable assault on the mind.  At Met Breuer through May 27.

Outrageous Fortune: Jay DeFeo and Surrealism is a superb look at the late artist’s work through the lens of surrealism. The ghosts of Man Ray, and Hannah Höch stalk DeFeo’s collages of body parts and plants which flirt with Dada as much as they represent a synthesis between abstraction and realism. For DeFeo who, in much of her varied oeuvre, has had an intense fascination with her own body and the cultural repression of sexuality, surrealism provided a door into the unlocking of the subconscious and the uncanny. Conspicuously absent from this fine selection is DeFeo’s seven-foot-wide drawing “The Eyes” from 1958, now in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is a haunting depiction of a set of penetrating eyes with Freudian notions of the mind’s eye as manifestations of the supernatural and the human disinclination for self-examination. At Mitchell-Innes & Nash through April 7.

A gallery assistant stands guard at the edge of a steep trapdoor at Matthew Marks Gallery. This is America, after all; the land of 1-800-lawyer. The artist is, of course, Robert Gober. The trap door hails from Gober’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2001 and riffs on the murky symbolism of a church cellar door and the mystification of the unknown. Long fascinated with doors, windows, and legs, Gober presents a series of beautifully detailed torso drawings which reveal complicated inner lives locked in by prison windows. The real draw, however, is the room full of Joseph Cornell-style boxed tableaus. Within simple white wooden boxes await arrangements that range from a plaster heart on Victorian-type wallpaper; three small robin-egg blue eggs on a diaper framed by silkscreened paper of cherries and hydrangeas; the force cup of a plunger on cherry print; a stick of butter on a rolling landscape; or a sculptured ear with a dried leaf on flowery background. Trying to make sense of it is futile. Best to take it in without reservation and analysis – just like the artist intended. At Matthew Marks through April 7.

Mostly known for his pioneering role in dramatizing spatial relationships and subjectivity in performance art in the 1960s, Allan Kaprow’s painting practice was rooted in the muscular expressionist style championed by his friend and mentor Hans Hofmann. Kaprow’s painterly language began to evolve dramatically during the 1950s when, after immersion into the experimental downtown arts scene of New York, the artist began to play with spatial relationships, texture, collage and the introduction of different materials that eventually led him away from the canvas and into a life-long devotion of melding life with art. A small but cerebral survey of Kaprow’s painting and drawing practice, currently on view at Hauser & Wirth, demonstrates the artist’s unmitigated affection for his hometown New York. Color, form, and texture underline the dynamisms and energy of a city that, in Kaprow’s mind, must make no distinction between the richness of daily life and the art that is displayed in its museums. At Hauser & Wirth through April 7.

Paul Feeley’s most important artistic output can be distilled into the short decade between 1955 and 1965, landing him squarely in the heyday of Abstract Expressionism which aesthetics he resolutely rejected. Focusing on the earlier part of this time span, Garth Greenan is currently showing a beautiful suite of paintings and water colors that show the artist’s emblematic mastery of figure/ground relationships and a keen understanding of color theory. Feeley’s works from this period owe more to Helen Frankenthaler than Myron Stout, a contemporary whom he is often mentioned with. Abstract but warm, formal but free, Feeley’s fluent biomorphic forms blur into delicate color stains that rouse a mesmerizing lyricism which is hypnotic as it is palliative. At Garth Greenan through April 7.

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