Dispatch from The Independent Art Fair 2017. Clockwise from top left. Charlene von Heyl at Nagel Draxler, Tatiana Trouve at Galerie Perrotin, Peter Hujar at Maureen Paley, David Shrigley at Anton Kern.

The fourteen elegant monochromes by the late Abstract Expressionist Korean artist Yun Hyong-Keun, currently on view at David Zwirner, deliver a much needed balm for sore eyes. Large, minimalistic compositions of burnt umber and ultramarine imbue harmonious serenity; bleeding edges onto raw canvas suggest a tranquil infinity. Yun’s restrained vertical bands evoke a more serene and bucolic Rothko, with whom he shared his spiritual connection to the natural world, and provide a gentler, kinder and ultimately more intimate cognizance. Through February 18.

The black and white image which announces the highly entertaining and brilliant new show “Inventing Downtown (Artist-run galleries in New York city 1952-1965)” at the Grey Art Gallery, shows the artist Red Grooms running across a street in downtown Manhattan circa 1960 delivering an artwork for a show at the artist-run Reuben gallery in a baby pram. No art handlers in protective gloves, art advisors with IPads, insurance papers, gallery contracts, tightly-smiling dealers or check-waving collectors in sight – just an artist getting the job done. The exhibition is a scintillating, and at times nostalgic, journey back in time where the entire arts scene of Manhattan could fit into a few dingy watering holes and where the absence of overwhelming commercialisation gave artists the breathing space for fearless experimentation and exciting innovation. Judiciously curated by Melissa Rachleff, the exhibition looks at fourteen artist-run galleries within the context of five thematic categories: Leaving Midtown, City as Muse, Space and Time, Politics as Practice, and Defining Downtown. On a recent visit, the gallery was jam-packed with wheelchairs and walkers – a joyous reunion of artists who irreversibly shaped American avant-garde art and art making. Here is Romare Bearden’s “The Prevalence of Ritual: Conjur Woman” from 1964, a photomontage using a photostat machine where the artist sought to highlight the fragmentation of society through collage and injecting a much-needed black perspective into an art world that was overwhelmingly white. Through April 1.

The recently opened exhibition, “Naturalia”, impeccably curated by the talented Danny Moyninhan, is yet another jewel-like, museum-quality art exhibition courtesy of the venerated dealer Paul Kasmin. This time, nature with its frightening unpredictability, serene beauty and shockingly brute force is being examined through a series of fine examples of artists’ perception and interpretation of the natural world. Some notable works include meticulous and wonderfully executed 18th century nature illustrations by Barbara Regina Dietsch and Walton Ford’s contemporary response to them; Damien Hirst’s dead fly cemetery; an exquisite miniature still life by Jan Brueghel the Elder; Sean Landers’ majestic markhor; Sam Taylor-Johnson’s ethereal video “Still Life”; and Fred Tomaselli’s brooding nocturnal landscape. Here is Albrecht Dürer’s imaginary Rhinocerus from 1515 which is beautifully juxtaposed with a monumental Walton Ford interpretation of the same mammal. Through March 4.

To escape the almost daily onslaught of horrid news, immerse yourself into Liliane Tomasko’s delightfully seductive abstractions. Originating in the Impressionist concern of painting their own environments, Tomasko’s bold, loose brushstrokes and elegant, decorative aesthetics depict highly abstracted domestic scenes that take a beautifully poetic view on everyday habits. Tomasko works and reworks the surface to reveal underlays of pastel washes, sweeping strokes of thick purple lines, and bold jewel-like colours. Her canvases have an optimistic luminosity and satisfying saturation of colour that sees the sublime in the things that surround us. At Marc Straus through February 5.

To get to Lee Bul’s new works at Lehman Maupin, you must enter through a narrowing mirrored passageway and crouch through a tight exit before entering the gallery space. Bul’s ongoing pre-occupation with the intersection of architectural systems and public consciousness are at the forefront of his new works which share his deep mistrust of technology and beguiling utopias. Like entering the mirrored corridor, new information utopias seem shiny and inviting at first but you can watch yourself in the black mirrors as euphoria turns to claustrophobia and promises of the digital Shangri-La is just your frightened image staring back at you. Through February 11.

Despite of its high-brow credo of using ordinary materials and its close association with the progressive Italian student movement of the 1960s, Arte Povera was essentially a cerebral men’s club. The lone woman, who was tolerated at the margins (no doubt owing to her role as the wife of one of the founders), is finally getting an extensive and long-overdue retrospective at the Met Breuer. Marisa Merz’s work is defined by the materials and processes she had at hand. Her studio was her kitchen and her weapon the knitting needle. For her earliest work she hung enormous molded aluminium forms from her kitchen ceiling which scared her small daughter Bea. She made up for the fright by knitting beautiful little shoes (scarpette) for the child using nylon and copper wire and decorating them with buttons and nails. Over the years, either by default or choice, Merz created works that blurred the line between fine art and function and muddied the role of artist, mother, and wife. The show includes several of Merz’s esoteric heads and faces from the 1980s and 1990s, her haunting Madonna-like drawings, as well as her later, much larger-scaled installation works. But it is the earlier works that stay with you, such as this wooden swing from 1968 which Merz made for Bea and hung from the ceiling of the family apartment. It shows Merz’s keen grasp of geometric minimalism, architectural awareness, and a sense that the nucleolus of our lives are the people who are closest to us. Through May 7.

A series of new works by Dutch artist Hannah van Bart currently on view at Marianne Boesky gallery beautifully explore the infinite possibilities of the line in female portraiture. In Van Bart’s muted paintings, the line is simultaneously meandering and controlled, the blurring of the edges suggest a fragility and transparency that exposes her subjects’ vulnerability and blending into the background – a role that has been traditionally ascribed to women. Van Bart takes the title of the exhibition, “The Smudge Waves Back”, from a scene in the breathtaking historical novel “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” by David Mitchell. The figures that emerge from her muted backgrounds are melancholic and mysterious Egon-Schiele-like women that seem beset by the complexity of history and possess a visceral perception of consciousness. As Mitchell fittingly writes in another passage of the same book: “An ink brush is a skeleton key for a prisoner’s mind.” Through February 4.

Hito Steyerl’s acclaimed video installation “Factory of the Sun (2015), currently on view at the Whitney as part of the beautifully curated exhibition “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905 – 2016, is an incredibly complex and ultimately sober assessment into the broadening elasticity between news, entertainment and virtual reality. Taking the guise of a video game, “Factory of the Sun” is loosely based on a fictional light and information dependant hegemony that raises urgent questions about the proliferation of reality-based news programming, the tyranny of public opinion, the pitfalls of corporate sponsorship, and the increasing unavoidability of mass surveillance. Through February 5.

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.

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