Lucien Freud’s monumental nude portraits overflow with raw psychological intensity and guttural veracity. Thirteen paintings, assembled by Freud’s long-time assistant David Dawson, are currently on view at Acquavella Gallery. In “Naked Man, Back View” (1991-1992) the enormous backside of the performer Leigh Bowery serves as a scrupulous examination of the extraordinary complexity of the human skin. It proves that white skin is neither white nor uniform but full of varying textures and sensations. Under Freud’s dispassionate gaze, gestural brushwork, impastoed texture, and an incredible play of color morph into abstract bodyscapes that hint at the extraordinary nuance and complexity of the human skin as alter egos for the psychological turmoil within. They are less about sexual desire but betray a raw intimacy that exposes the convoluted labyrinth of the human psyche. At Acquavella through May 24.

When nature is your assistant, the outcome must be truly dazzling. For the past thirty years Vivan Suter has lived and worked in a remote village in the Guatemalan rainforest where the lush tropical environment and an almost complete detachment from the artworld has deeply shaped her artistic output. Suter works mainly en plain air on raw canvas which she fills with volumetric forms and expressive markmaking rendered in vivid but natural colors. The works are then often left to their own devices and come out for the better. Rain, mud, and sun; echoes of fallen fruit and traces of small animals become  inaudible mutterings of the spiritual essence of nature. Suter abhors frames, considering them the anthesis to the abandon of nature. Instead, she arranges her large unstretched canvases into overlapping compositions that organically unfold into dramatic symphonies about the wonders our natural world. At Gladstone through June 8.

New Yorkers have always quite mistakenly thought themselves at the center of the Universe. The new commission for the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Polish-German artist Alicja Kwade may sustain this conceit. Two large structures of interlocking rectangular steel frames precariously balance planet-like stone spheres. Their stark black outlines allow for glorious views of Central Park and its stately West Side skyline and are arranged so that they might collapse – much like a linear Hoberman sphere – into themselves. Hovering above the city, the arrangement suggests a figuration of planets and points to the metaphysical link between space and time. And yet, Kwade, who has always worked at the intersection between science and illusion, is acutely aware that the array of ultra-luxury skyscrapers on the southern side of the park, does not fit the picture. They stand tall but empty on what has been dubbed Billionaire’s Row, contemptuously looking down at the world that strives to go up. Kwade knows, of course, that this bizarre folly of mankind carries no weight as we hurl ourselves through space at 515,000 miles per hour. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art through October 27.

Turning ideas of functionality and design on its head, Jessi Reaves strips furniture down to their frames and re-constructs the remaining skeletons into objects that seem to strive for exclusion in Elle Décor Magazine. To that end, vinyl slipcovers, plexiglass casings, foam padding, plywood, sawdust and glue become the raw materials with which the artist seeks to disrupt accepted notions regarding seating, eating, sleeping, and storage. Modernist pieces by well-recognized designers are particularly in her cross hairs. Under Reaves’ re-imagined rule book, a tower of Marcel Breuer’s cane chairs morphs into a bookshelf, an Eames spin-off receives driftwood arms and a glass casing and is thus christened a standing table, and a mid-century console sports a pink coating and gets propped up by its armchair-cousin to new heights. It’s easy to dismiss Reeve’s obsessive re-negotiations between components as yet another ploy to coax art out of design, but the artist’s clever use of materials and keen understanding of the body’s relationship to furniture, force a fresh consideration of established notions of taste, functionality and what gets anointed into the exalted realm of three-dimensional art. At Bridget Donahue through May 12.

A strand of melancholic stillness runs through each of Mira Schor’s early Californian paintings. Done roughly around the time the artist spent at Cal Arts in the early 1970s and heavily influenced by her work with the fabled Womanhouse Project of Feminist Art, Schor’s austere paintings embrace the vastness of the empty plains of the American West and the sobriety of the desert as the backdrop for eroticized exchanges between herself and nature. Her “Story Paintings”, among the best in the show, demonstrate a sobering reciprocity between sexual desire and isolation. Here, stillness casts an unnerving spell much like the sudden hush of nature before a storm. In “Bear Triptych” (Part III), 1973, a naked woman is in a cocoon-like embrace with a bear amidst an arid desert landscape. The scene holds a rare, still moment of true sexual equilibrium before the bear realizes the woman as prey and devours her. A series of nocturnal exchanges up the Surrealist ante. “Car Triptych” (Part I) 1972 is an extraordinary scene of animated suspense where a naked woman emerges from a lake into a pack of wolves. A car on a pedestal seems to be waiting for her to take its place. The woman looks at the wolves, but they look past her through the painting as if to wait for a cue from the viewer, daring us to be accomplices in an ever-evolving misogynist culture. In all respects, Schor’s painterly language skews self-referential but is simultaneously infused with the keen understanding that dreams and obsessions by women have historically been declared public domain, relentlessly analyzed and dissected to meet patriarchal needs. Her paintings are the lyrical residues of female sentience that remain stuck in our own consciousness. At Lyles & King through May 19.

The terrain, at once knobby and rough, other times smooth and cool, holds nature in a gentle clasp and surrenders a gentle sigh. Elisa D’Arrigo’s ceramic objects remind of prehistoric vessels and tools and garments held up by the memory of its wearer. They seek the support of terra firma like a teenager’s awkward pull of sleeves and the exhausted collapse of the world-weary. As forms turn into content, drifting memories make these objects intended and indeed alive. Humor, the great interrupter of conflict, appears subtly and unbidden while abstraction transmutes into amorphous form. D’Arrigo engages her objects the way a poet tries to account for the inside and outside of things. Cavities serve as subtle intermediary between functionality and décor. Surface textures celebrate smoothness and imperfection with a supporting cast of an earthy palette of speckled oranges, marbled greens, and fleshy pinks. D’Arrigo’s masterly balancing act between polished and raw, material and esoteric, craft and art, spawns delightful objects that are playful whilst simultaneously retaining their high ambition. At Elizabeth Harris through May 11.

Opulent, flamboyant, breathtaking. Raqib Shaw’s new intoxicating landscapes take us to the unimaginable beauty and lush scenery of his childhood Kashmir. Largely eschewing the erotic violence that tinged his earlier works, Shaw weaves fantastical tales borrowed from Indian mythology set among lakes fringed with lotus flowers, terraced Mughal-era gardens, and intricate Nagara-style architecture. Shaw’s painting process is taking craft to delirious heights. Intricate drawings of birds, lush foliage, and labyrinthine décor get projected onto canvas which he then traces and outlines with stained glass liner. He mixes industrial enamel paint into jewel-like colors which he pours into each individual section often blending hues to create patterns and optical depth. Even with a small army of assistants, a painting can take several years to complete. The results are stunning – almost as if Holbein, Lucas Cranach and Hieronymus Bosch were meeting in an exotic daydream and decided to have an all-out bacchanal. At Pace through May 18.

Jonathan Gardner’s paintings feel like entering a day-dream. Languid scenes of elegant people at play, nudes in classical repose, and unhurried tableaus of refined taste are set in carefully arranged compositions that intensify the geometry of every-day objects through an innate sense of color and form. Gardner’s laser-like focus on ordinary things like plates, vases, and décor, rendered in a flat hyper-stylization suggest flirtations with the Precisionist Cubist movement. Formally, Picasso and Léger spring to mind – yet the breezy subject matter remind of the carefree hedonism of Gerald and Sara Murphy while mechanical figures and disassociated symbolic objects point in the direction of Surrealism. That Gardner is able to gather all these disparate strands into an impeccably executed and distinctive collage-like style of his own, while at the same time grounding his narrative in the here and now, makes it such a pleasure to view his works. At Casey Kaplan through April 20.

Christina Forrer’s figurative weavings are dramatic scenes of contorting figures and implausible acrobatic feats that launch into full-on mayhem. Forrer interweaves cotton, wool, and linen into disturbing narratives of fear and rage. Cartoon-like characters in animated terror are physically tethered to each other by snake-like coils that emerge from their mouths and ears, others convolute as if speaking and listening is being reduced to streams of vomit. The insane ascension of the bodies towards some sort of deranged climax is underscored by a background of streaming bands of color as well as the monumental verticality of the works. In the end, the source of the terror is neither clear nor new but highly emblematic and lodged in the deepest folds of our subconscious as so vividly predicated by the pre-eminent weaver of apocalyptic tales, Hieronymus Bosch. At Luhring Augustine through April 20.

A museum-quality mini survey of Adolph Gottlieb’s late, large-scale abstractions is currently on view at Pace Gallery. Born from his horizontal “landscape” paintings, Gottlieb’s “Burst” series divide the vertical canvas into two distinct spheres with the upper part, occupied by an oblong color field, umbrellaing a vibrant eruption of paint on the lower plane. Gottlieb renders these floating shapes in numerous variations of color and tones, each as spirited as the next one. The ghost of Mark Rothko is panoptic, particularly in the immersive quality of the large-scale format about which the painter once remarked that “small pictures since the Renaissance are like novels; large pictures are like dramas in which one participates in a direct way.” In that spirit, Gottlieb’s works elicit an unsolicited eruption of images into our consciousness that simultaneously proffer hindsight and prediction. They allow for an ethereal space-time communication via paintings that long outlast their creator. At Pace through April 13.

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