It’s springtime but Enrique Martinez Celaya cannot let go of winter. In his new series of paintings, currently on view at Jack Shainman, Martinez Celaya lingers on frozen lakes, snow globes, and wintery landscapes sheathed in icy whites and steel greys with only an occasional faint ray of sunlight allowed to peek through. Melancholic and somber, the works are devoid of irony and patronizing pretense but instead emanate a quiet restraint and simple morality in an overbearing and loud world. At Jack Shainman through April 22.

The sexually suffused paintings of German artist Johannes Kahrs come with an unsettling violent undertone. Like other photo-based painters, such as Gerhard Richter, Marlene Dumas and Luc Tuymans, Kahrs’ methodology deals with figurative subject matter overlaid with a haze of ambiguity. Like his European compatriots, Kahrs works within the deceptive domain of memory and estrangement. His works invite multiple readings and challenge a restaging of events that is based solely on the individual cognizance of the viewer. At Luhring Augustine through April 22.

At a recent overly-crowded tour by Hilton Als of Alice Neel’s stunning exhibition “Uptown” at David Zwirner, an elderly woman showed me a painting on her phone of a small girl sitting in a large chair wearing a blue and white ruffle dress. The woman proudly whispered: It’s me – painted by Alice! It turned out that the woman’s mother was a neighbour of the artist in Spanish Harlem, and one day invited the little girl to sit for her. Alice Neel was as unmoved about art trends as she was unconcerned with the celebrity status of who sat for her. During her life in Upper Manhattan, Neel painted friends, neighbours, artists, and people of color that often did not receive recognition on or off canvas. It is the deep humanity and empathy with her sitters that separates Neel from other portraitists of her time. For Neel, it was not enough to capture a likeness – she was after the psychology of her sitters and that required a deep-seated humanity and empathy that allowed her to form a bond with her subjects. This is beautifully apparent in Anselmo from 1962. The dancer’s languid, graceful body is wedged into a horizontal space, yet he is completely relaxed. The moody blue color palette underscores the self-assured repose – a feeling of complete fealty and ease with the painter. At David Zwirner through April 22.

On the heels of Damian Hirst’s commercial underwater spectacle in Venice, Lawrence Weiner comes to the rescue to remind us of one of art’s essential credos: “1. The artist may construct the work. The work may be fabricated. 3. The work need not be built. Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership.” Weiner published this manifesto in 1968. It makes no mention of money, sales, art investment strategies, or auction results. Instead, the godfather of American conceptual art, exonerates us with a visual expression that is about clarity and authenticity: Language as linear renewal, transported directly onto the viewer. At Marian Goodman through April 22.

Trees are deeply rooted in the German psyche. German poets, composers and painters have long explored the forest as a place of longing, authenticity and dependability. For the past thirty years, German painter Albert Oehlen has been probing into the myths and symbolism of trees as it relates to the formal, historical and thematical aspects of painting. At Gagosian, Oehlen’s confines his Baumbilder (Tree Paintings) to mostly red and black (both colors are part of the German flag – symbols of blood and earth.) Bright, solid, blocks of red, overlaid with black recalcitrant surrealist “branches” on pristinely white Dibond, create tension and opposition via ebullience and self-containment. Like the rest of his exceptional oeuvre, Oehlen’s Baumbilder prove his technical prowess, color awareness and compositional dexterity and firmly cement his place among Kippenberger, Richter, Polke, Immendorrf, and Baselitz as one of the great German Post-War artists. At Gagosian through April 15.

At first blush Olaf Breuning’s ceramic sculptures appear like unaffected playdough creations of a preschooler. Simple, playful, and with a sly sense of humor, Breuning’s small figures inhabit a world of plain colors and little ornamentation. They are confined to a stage made of a rolled-out piece of thick oval dough, deprived of any added context. Look closer, however, and the scenes become psychologically foreboding. They trigger a disquieting cognizance that belies their mostly carefree presentation. Shown with Breuning’s pared down drawings, they leave a queasy aftertaste that stays long after you leave the gallery. At Metro Pictures through April 15.

Sue Williams’ new paintings are messy bursts of bright colors on neutral backgrounds that are highly abstracted forms of body parts, fragments of memory or complex political communiques. Scraggly lines often end in sharply executed graphic contours and are interrupted by thick smudges of aqua blue, seafoam green or Pepto-Bismol pink. Moving away from her earlier, denser compositions, Williams’ new undertakings allow more breathing room for dynamic orchestrations that seem to float on canvas. Yet the beauty, rhythm and harmony in these works defy the urgent social message in Williams’ long-time practice that counsels vigilance amidst political chaos and corruption. At 303 Gallery through April 14.

Humorous and verging on the absurd, the ceramic sculptures of Bruce M. Sherman are anthropomorphous forms which are rooted in modern spiritualism and old-fashioned Surrealism. A mélange of hands, eyes, plants and feet in pastel colors channel the unconscious into fantastical dreamscape and free the mind of conscious thought. Channelling Freudian ideas that our obsessions, fears and phobias are manifestations of repression, Sherman’s fragmented bodies unearth the two primary pillars of Surrealism: Desire and Fear. At Nicelle Beauchene through April 16.

A small treasure trove of first-rate collages awaits at the elegant townhouse gallery of Luxembourg & Dayan. The exhibition is loosely organized around the self-explanatory topic of “The Edge”.  It opens with Jack Goldstein’s superbly uncanny video “The Knife” from 1975 and moves along two more floors with treasures such as Jean Arp’s, Levre from 1926, Picasso’s Composition au verre. Nature morte au verre et raisins from 1914, several noteworthy Ellsworth Kelly Postcard collages, Cindy Sherman’s Doll Clothes, Rene Magritte Les fênetres del l’aube from 1928, a stunning recent collage by John Stezaker called Mask, Max Ernst’s Dada piece from 1929 La femme 100 têtes and many more. Here is a beautiful assemblage by Italian painter, poet and Futurist Giacomo Balla, Compenetrazione Bis from 1913. At Luxembourg and Dayan through April 15.

Anoka Faruqee likes to challenge the crystalline lens of our eyes. Located just behind the pupil, the lens focuses light rays on the retina which can alter its shape and allow the eye to focus on objects at various distances. Objects that are far away flatten the lens; zoom onto something closer and the lens contracts. Add a dizzying array of color into the mix, and the eye is in for a marathon workout. Drawing from Seurat’s Chromoluminarism which shifts the task of color mixing from the artist to the viewer’s eye, Faruqee, understands that a narrow placement of different colors can cause vibrations of colors that appear to be more vibrant and true. The result is a mercurial visual rollercoaster that is a different adventure for everybody. At Koenig and Clinton through April 8.

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