What happens when you move from strict catholic Colombia to free-wheeling Holland? A carnal, bold, concupiscent version of Claes Oldenburg, of course! The late Colombian conceptual artist Miguel Ángel Cárdenas moved to Holland in 1962, became Michel Cardena, and immediately started to shed his deep-seated image of the body as shameful and indecent in favour of a sculptural practice that incorporated the use of genetilia, tubes, zippers, spongy materials and bold colours. Aside from staging regular happenings with the usual sixties free-love trimmings, Cárdenas was a pioneer in video and performance art in the Netherlands, exploring sexuality and body awareness that became influential for a new generation of performance artists. At Andrea Rosen through February 4.

Plexiglass came late to British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. Aged 87 and already renowned for his innovating use of different materials and shapes, Caro became fascinated by the indestructibility and infinite colour possibilities of the acrylic material. Several fine examples of Caro’s plinthless steel and plexiglass structures are now on view at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. They show Caro’s dedication to form, high regard for architecture and a keen understanding of colour which was sharpened by his marriage to British painter Shiela Girling. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of beautiful works on paper that show the artist’s ability to develop three dimensionality on a single plane of paper and which served as inspirations for his later work. Through February 4.

Throughout the ages, hand-crocheted blankets have provided comfort and warmth, and have often been an important vehicle for artistic expression by women denied access to a mostly male-dominated art spectrum. Michelle Grabner’s striking bronze sculptures of crocheted blankets, currently on view at James Cohan, have a decidedly mournful quality. Instead of neatly folded or carelessly crumpled, Grabner presents her blankets vertically, as if held up by two invisible hands. The result is disconcertingly lonely – the human presence is implied but ultimately denied – the original fabric lost in the process of bronzing. The artist pairs these sculptural ghosts with her abstract paintings of the same patterns connecting the abstract to the metaphoric and the conceptual to the corporeal. Through January 28.

“Mastry”, the magnificent retrospective of Kerry James Marshall’s work at the Met Breuer, is first and foremost a long overdue tribute to black bodies on and in front of the canvas. Marshall’s binary approach to an appalling art historic imbalance combines the monumentality of his works and the extraordinary deepness of the color black of his subjects’ skin. Marshall’s use of the blackest black is of course allegorical; his are African-American stories – not a drop of white is needed. The denseness of Marshall’s black often renders the features of his subjects nearly invisible and hints at the obscurity of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.  A master storyteller, Marshall weaves the political, urban, suburban, and African-American history into ordinary narratives that are meant to upend popular perceptions of black culture as impoverished, violent or outraged and directly challenge conventional ideals of beauty. Luscious colors, complex compositions, transcendental narratives and an ability to seamlessly work across media: Marshall is shifting expectations on racial identity and art historical discourse by declaring himself and his culture Invisible No More. Through January 29.

The Impasse Ronsin, a dilapidated Parisian alley tucked away behind the Montparnasse and near the entrance of a hospital morgue, has long been the stuff of legends for both art historians and fans of Dada and Surrealism. Notorious for a double murder involving the mistress of the President Félix Faure in 1908, the alley was seized upon soon after as the perfect studio space and home for artists such as Constantin Brancusi, William N. Copley, Max Ernst, Yves Klein, Les Lalanne, Larry Rivers and many other important artists of the early 20th century. Nikki de Saint Phalle made her famous shooting paintings there, Jean Tinguely and Yves Klein collaborated on “Excavatrice de l’Espace”; Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray were daily fixtures hatching avant-garde concepts on desire and sexuality and laying the groundwork for idea driven or conceptual art. Although never really able to spawn a discernible art movement, the Impasse nevertheless became a breeding ground for some of the most influential artistic breakthroughs of early 20th century art, no doubt fuelled by an insouciant atmosphere of invigorating rivalries, sexual relationship merry-go-rounds, creative inspiration, and artistic collaboration – all amid a carefree environment of Bohemian squalor. Paul Kasmin Gallery has resurrected the iconoclastic ambiance of the Impasse with a marvellous exhibition showing many of the artists who came together under its ramshackle roofs. The exhibition boasts many art historical treasures but a special treat awaits in the rear gallery where the Noguchi Museum created an homage to Brancusi, the éminence grise of the Impasse, whose influence percolated onto his lone assistant Isamu Noguchi and whose Brancusi-like studio is re-created here. Through January 14.

Contrary to popular art lore, Jean Dubuffet was never actually an Art Brut artist. Dubuffet briefly studied painting at the Académie de Julian in Paris, moved in art circles with artists such as Fernand Léger and Juan Gris, and, after a brief stint in the family wine business, finally devoted himself fully to art making in 1942. Nevertheless, like his contemporary Paul Klee and others artists at that time, Dubuffet was fascinated by art made outside the art establishment like children’s drawings and art by the mentally ill. According to Dubuffet, “A work of art is only of interest, in my opinion, when it is an immediate and direct projection of what is happening in the depth of a person’s being.. ..It is my belief that only in this Art Brut can we find the natural and normal processes of artistic creation in their pure and elementary state.” (Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967). An extraordinary collection of Dubuffet’s drawings from 1935 until 1962, currently on view at the Morgan Library, perfectly showcases the channelling of this pure and elementary state, as in, for example, this wonderful gouache from 1943 depicting ordinary Parisiens in the Metro. Despite inspired by the colors and stylistic simplicity of children’s drawings, the scene, nevertheless reveals Dubuffet’s artistic genius. Deliberately set within the claustrophobia of a metro car in Nazi-occupied Paris, the passengers fit neatly in well-ordered rectangles not daring to fall out of line, as the “Rauchen Verboten” (Smoking not permitted) sign sternly admonishes. Through January 2.

In “Der Aufbruch” (2012) a blond boy in a Christian-Schad-like shirt and framed by a swan, stands awkwardly off-center while a sailor wrapped around a building is trying to coax an indifferent canary bird into his hand. A horse-drawn carriage is advancing quickly from the left amidst Moorish-looking architecture. The title of this work most likely refers to Kafka’s parable “Der Aufbruch” (The Departure), about a metamorphic equine trip into unknown – no doubt related to the coming-out symbolism in the scene. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of German painter Katharina Wulff! Complex, strange, and with an exquisite surrealist bent, Wulff’s figurative paintings are expert compositions that focus the eye on a visual path that is exasperatedly ambiguous yet firmly ground in the flattened surroundings of Wulff’s adopted home town of Marrakech. They are tokens of a contemporary painter that understands history, perspective, and color, and has the ability to take us on to a mysterious journey. At Greene Naftali through December 23.

A couple dines at an expensive restaurant. The elegant setting, the rare bottle of wine, the tuxedoed waiter, the tasteful art, all connote signifiers for privilege and sophistication. The pair, the jazz pianist Jason Moran and his wife Alicia Hall Moran, is attractive and cultured, the sound level is restrained, the conversation is banal. The meal stretches over an hour and twenty minutes: appetizer, main course, dessert, coffee.  “Dinner”, the single channel video, currently on view at Luhring Augustine and part of Ragnar Kjartansson’s multi-media exhibition “Scenes from Western Culture”, is a wonderful example of the Icelandic artist’s brilliantly hypnotic practice. Deeply concerned with romantic beauty, repetition and duration, Kjartansson’s videos are endurance performances that play with stereotypes and cultural clichés but are gratifyingly hypnotic; much like the new-fangled internet fad “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)” that now has many viewers hooked to their screens in endless viewing loops. Through December 22.

“Not Abstract II”, Andreas Gursky’s sprawling new exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, seeks to prove that the German photographer’s works are not abstract compositions because of their inability to disengage with the subject. Seen from afar Gursky’s gigantic photos are color field bands or geometric compositions; honing in, they morph into tulips, books, or household objects. Once indentified as objects, Gursky claims, the mind cannot go back to abstraction. Be that as it may – while Gursky’s objects may influence the work’s perceived meaning they do not, for example, affect eye movement or spatial recognition. Just like word/image relationships or style-related processing, Gursky’s objects are on equal footing with other cognitive competitors such as titles, auditory distractions, emotional disposition, or educational qualifications – just a few of the numerous factors that influence the emotive experience of abstract art. The mind can sort it out – it just depends on how open it is. At Gagosian through December 23.


Josef Albers: Grey Steps, Grey Scales, Grey Ladders, is a mesmerizingly beautiful exhibition on the visual possibilities of the color grey within a confined geometric shape. Over his lifetime, both at the Bauhaus and later at Black Mountain college, Albers made over one thousand works in his celebrated series “Homage to the Square” – an investigation into the visual effects of color and the spatial relationships within mathematically spaced nesting squares. The elegant exhibition at David Zwirner, organized by Brenda Danilowitz, focuses on Albers’ explorations into the myriad possibilities of the color grey and how the visual perception of one shade of grey is altered depending on the intensity of an adjacent shade and its spatial relation to it. The result is a visual feast of harmony, movement and balance that influenced countless future artists concerned with the idiosyncrasies of Color Field painting and Geometric Abstraction. Through December 17.

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