British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare’s latest project is a timely commentary on the invaluable contributions that immigrants make to enrich other cultures. Thousands of beautifully bound books on dark library shelves feature the gold-embossed names of immigrants that made Great Britain into the enlightened multi-cultural society that it is today. They sit side-by-side with immigrant skeptics such as Nigel Farage or Jonathan Arnott who champion tighter restrictions on new comers and refugees. Their shared space questions attitudes of xenophobia and narrow-mindedness and asks where we would be without the brilliant minds and contributions of individuals such as T.S. Eliot, Henry James, Hans Holbein, Zaha Hadid, Mick Jagger, George Friedrich Handel, Amartya Sen and many more. At James Cohan through March 5.

Lehman Maupin gallery is currently presenting the deeply emotional video installation “Reason’s Oxymorons” (2015) by French-Algerian artist Kader Attia. Employing a sterile cubicle maze as incubator, “Reason’s Oxymorons”, shows 18 video interviews with African and European psychoanalysts, historians and mental health practitioners discussing the psychological fallout of Western hegemony on African cultures. Attia’s multi-faceted practice has long focused on the emotional and economic reverberations of Post-Colonialism. “Reason’s Oxymorons”, hones in on the dichotomy of mental health repair between Western and non-Western cultures. Whilst Western approaches to healing emotional distress is primarily focused on fixing the problem to make it disappear, many African and Asian societies are embracing the imperfections of the mind and allow the individual to be active members of communities. The result is a Western culture that is increasingly suppressing the imperfect in favour of an immaculate and antiseptic environment echoing the modular cubicles the work is presented in. Through March 4.

Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu is the visual artist equivalent to the brilliant Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Drawing from their shared limbo-land experience of African-American vs American-African, both women investigate urgent questions of race, identity politics, and the objectification of the black female body. Mostly known for her large-scale, complex and colorful collages, Wangechi Mutu’s current exhibition at Gladstone Gallery offers two beautiful new cast bronze sculptures that use imagery and symbolism to challenge concept of representation and perception. A perfectly balanced and larger-scaled new work of the artist’s nguva (Mermaid) series, stuns with grace and elegant beauty. Through March 25.

Important media works by American video pioneer Lynn Hershman Leeson are currently on view at Bridget Donahue. The exhibition shows key works from the 1970s until today which relate Leeson’s primary concerns with feminism, gender identity, and sexuality in an ever-tightening online straitjacket. Particularly disquieting is “Home Front”, a video installation in a pinterest-worthy doll house where the viewer becomes an oversized creepy voyeur to scenes of domestic strife. But it is Leeson’s often brutal self analysis in the single channel video confessional “The Complete Electronic Diaries” (1986-1994) that haunts long after you leave the gallery. It is a brutally honest, Nan Goldinesque, autobiography of love, loss and sexual dependency that shows the artist’s brilliant manipulation of viewer’s unease by directly confronting the camera and thereby transforming the spectator into the reluctant role of psychoanalyst. Through March 19.

How do you inhabit the world through a line on paper? Columbian artist Mateo López’s multi-disciplinary installation at the Drawing Center takes a stab at solving this vexing problem. Trained as an architect, López uses drawings, video, performance, and architecture to engage the human body in space. In conjunction with accompanying video work, and leaning heavily on Bauhaus conceptualist Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet, López engaged choreographer and dancer Lee Serle in a performance that takes over several architectural spaces and objects. The result is a piece of choreographed geometry that highlights the limitations and challenges of the human body in relation to its surroundings. Through March 19.

In “Fifteen Million Merits”, Episode 2 of the darkly satirical TV series “Black Mirror”, everyone in a bleak dystopian future must cycle daily on exercise bikes to accumulate a currency called Merits. Obese people are second class citizens who are relegated to cleaning around the machines or are made fun of in game shows. Soul Gym, the brilliant new show by artist duo Simon Evans and Sarah Lannan currently on view at James Cohan Gallery, takes on our increasing obsession with fitness, self-improvement and social media representation through brilliantly collaged text clutters and elaborate drawings. The artists are savvy readers of our current social reality and imply that the dystopian fiction in Black Mirror is closer than we think. Here is a detail of the elaborate patchwork “Black Magic Capitalism” where the viewer is pounded into visual exhaustion by an onslaught of exertions to Run, Run, Run to self-fulfilment and success! Through March 5.

Rezi van Lankveld’s new works at Petzel Gallery’s uptown outpost are unapologetically beautiful paintings of thick impasto and sweeping movement where hints of the real are only allowed to peek through in the form of shadows or highly abstracted forms. The Dutch artist’s sense of color is superb. Rich purples blend harmoniously with subtle greys and artichoke greens. One particularly fetching work takes the viewer on an exhilarating upward journey into cool blues: midnight into blue-green interspersed by hints of pink and beige. Another one is a brilliant study of the color grey. Van Lankfeld’s deliberately bucks the mega-size trend of other artists. Her intimately scaled works belie their immense emotive impact and sheer joy that they extract. Through February 25.

The recent wave of 80s nostalgia shows no signs of abating. In this context, Steven Kasher is showing 30 newly discovered Cibachrome photographs of one of the quintessential photographers of that decade: the late Jimmy DeSana. Ravaged by the physical and psychological afflictions of AIDS, DeSana, in the early 1980s, pushed out a heartbreaking body of work that communicates the often devastating isolation and despair that accompanied the decease. Particularly haunting is this self portrait from 1985 that uses the solitary confinement of the darkroom to create a blurry ambiguity which underscores the gradual loss of the body and the self. At Steven Kasher through February 18.

Deep in the Tehachapi Mountains in California, at an elevation of 3,970 feet, sits the small town Tehachapi (pop. 14,414). Wedged in between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert, Tehachapi is the kind of town that conjures up romantic, Hollywood-fabricated notions of hardened ranchers, tumbleweed swept alleys and a native population that is tolerated in the context of a rustic Frontier narrative. It is also the subject of a brilliantly embroidered denim fabric artwork by California-based artist Ivan Morley. Morley is a masterful story teller and virtual collector of bits of American history which he bends and twists into fantastical tactile narrations that seek to dissect the historical context that shape myths from the American West. At Bortolami through February 18.

Seven years after her death, Louise Bourgeois still does not cease to amaze. The breadth and depth of the late artist’s diverse artistic practice ranges from installations, paintings, and printmaking to, of course, her celebrated sculptures. But very few people outside her extensive fan base know that in 1998 Bourgeois, in collaboration with C-Project, also created eight hauntingly beautiful Holograms. The small boxes transport viewers into 3D scenes suffused with the artist’s emblematic brooding and sexually charged psychology, underscored by a hazy bordello red that conjures an uneasy feeling of impeding dread. The technology was state-of-the-art at the time: Laser beams recorded the light bouncing off of the contents of a photograph and are then etched onto glass. The glass appears black until the viewer stands directly in front of the boxes resulting into an uncannily voyeuristic 3D view onto scenes where either something dreadful has just happened or is about to commence. At Cheim & Read through February 11.

WordPress Image Lightbox Plugin