Cologne-based artist Rosemarie Trockel’s work is hard to place. Lacking medium specificity and often embedded with sly humor, the gateway to her work can frequently be found in her titles. A black ceramic splat on the wall titled “Studio Visit” implies a not-so-perfect encounter with a collector or curator; a ceramic mirror called “Prisoner of Yourself” is anchored to the wall with a heavy chain: an ode to people who can’t move beyond themselves; a clown-like figure in a ridiculous get-up stares out from a digital print where the caption reads “Yes, Where Others Say No” proffers a warning to all fashion victims; “Lucky Lady” recalls the minimalist protruding breasts of Zilia Sanchez. And finally, “Wette Gegen Sich Selbst” which translates to “A Bet Against Oneself” is a self-defeating mirror structure that would be a perfect addition to the private collection of the current occupant of the White House. At Gladstone through October 28

Language is primordial in Walter Swennen’s practice. A poet before becoming a painter, Swennen often uses words, letters, and symbols to underscore a serious practice that tirelessly probes into the problems and limitations of painting. Swennen’s indiscriminate subject matter is often derived from popular culture, magazines or advertisements but could easily come from everyday objects that catch his eye. Swennen insists on the absolute autonomy of painting. He neither seeks an emotive response nor does he invite interpretation. Unpretentious, playful and often slyly humorous, Swennen’s works are deliberate and rigorous explorations into the essence of painting that cement his place, alongside Luc Tuymans and Raoul De Keyser, at the top echelons of Belgian artists today. At Gladstone through October 28.

The humble still life is getting a fresh new dusting courtesy of Georgia-based artist Holly Coulis. Coulis arranges cups, vases, flowers and fruit into striking minimalist compositions that radiate balance, purity and serenity. Sharp double outlines demark objects and table surface and create a three-dimensionality that plays with light and perception. But the main actor in Coulis’ work is color. She expertly pairs cold cornflower blues with warm burnt orange hues and vibrant yellows. Coulis’ Table Studies recall the hard-edged abstraction and sixties color palette of Sarah Morris and the principled color proficiency of Alex Katz. I am glad that the artist has abandoned her willfully amateurish landscapes and still lifes in favor of a more refined aesthetic that highlights the artist’s supreme mastery of color and form. At Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery through October 22.

An otherworldly experience awaits at David Zwirner. A roomful of Ruth Asawa’s ethereal hanging sculptures are suspended from the ceiling above simple white floor forms that mimic the lightness and curvature of the works. Ruth Asawa learned how to crochet during World War II in the Rohwer Internment Camp in Arkansas for Japanese Americans, where she was instructed to weave camouflage nets for the Army. She brought her knowledge to Black Mountain College where, under the stewardship of Josef Albers and Buckminster Fuller, Asawa perfected her technique of weaving copper wire into airy, body-shaped forms. At Zwirner, the multitude of shapes recall gently floating jellyfish or effervescent botany: the experience is simply transcendental. At David Zwirner through October 21    

The ghosts of Jean Dubuffet, Leon Golub and Antoni Tàpies stalk the mixed media work of Dominick Di Meo. Mournful and somber, Di Meo’s oeuvre leans heavily on the materials and symbolism of indigenous cultures, arte povera, and art brut. Floating limbs, skulls, and beads are recurring themes in Di Meo’s work, grim reminders, perhaps, of a harrowing childhood experience in a polio ward in the 1930s. His monochrome sculptural reliefs are strangely architectural and seem to float off the wall; other works exploit the textual richness of matter to arrive at haunting faces within faces; still others recall the surrealism of Miró with bone-white body fragments on stark black background. A selection of works from 1952 until 1991 is now on view at JJT Gallery. Altogether, the show is a stark reminder by this extraordinary ninety-year old artist of the darker proclivities of humanity. At JTT through October 22.

Leslie Wayne models paint like clay. In a new series of works, the German-born, New York –based artist wraps multiple layers of paint around standard rectangular wooden panels to create the illusion of fabric or metal; elsewhere she compresses sheets of paint at the bottom of a panel that looks like the painting was pushed through a compressor; still other works perceive as damp paint rags but are, in fact, painstakingly applied overlays of paint. Wayne’s works occupy the peculiar terrain where it is not exactly clear where painting ends and sculpture begins. At Jack Shainman Gallery through October 21.

Tell me what you are wearing and I tell you who you are. From the poodle skirts and New Look dresses of the Fifties to the bell-bottoms and afros of the drug-fueled Seventies and the padded shoulders and fingerless gloves of the Material-Girl Eighties, the past has dutifully furnished fashion with recognizable signifiers that reflected changes in society and were driven by major cultural undercurrents of their time. With over half way into the next decade, we should be able, then, to identify major trends and cultural harbingers of the 2000s. That is exactly what Matthew Linde and Saim Demicran at Mathew Gallery in collaboration with the MINI-Goethe-Institute in the superlative fashion exhibition “The Overworked Body: An Anthology of 2000s Dress” set out to do. Gathering key apparel from major collections, first-time collaborations with major retail behemoths such as Target and H&M, and influential ensembles from important fashion schools, Linde and Demicran were able to assemble a comprehensive collection of key apparel of the first decade of the new millennium. If any coherent theme emerges, it is an overwhelming obsession with self-expression and a quixotic quest for individuality that is partly driven by social media and the ever-tightening net of identity politics. To that end, and especially for those of us who stand in front of a full closet and find nothing to wear, the show reminds us that everything goes if it is just worn with the right attitude! At Mathew through October 15.

Family portraits are tricky. Long simmering feuds, complex sibling relationships, overbearing parents and underwhelming offspring usually don’t make for harmonious compositions. In a new series of photographs Polish-born artist Aneta Bartos trains her lens on the fraught relationship with her aging body builder father. Set entirely in rural Poland, the shots feature Bartos’ father sporting a tight-fitting speedo often in company of his equally scantily-clad daughter. Bartos, a former fashion photographer, shot the entire series on expired rolls of Polaroid and 126 film, and treats each scene with an Edward Steichen-like overlay of haze that underscores the bizarre undercurrent of sexuality that stands in stark contrast to the over-confident muscular masculinity of a body past its prime. In “Family Portrait” Bartos’s accomplishes the rare feat of thrusting the female gaze onto a complicated, personal, narrative that leaves a nagging residue of unease long after you leave the gallery. At Postmasters through October 14.

How do you decontextualize historical narratives around race in America? Harlem-based artist Sanford Biggers takes African wooden figurative sculptures, dips them in wax to erase the facial features, shoots them repeatedly at close range, and then recasts them in bronze. Sometimes he makes wrenching video recordings of the shootings. The results, including brilliant reworkings of antique quilts into three-dimensional objects, are currently on view at Marianne Boesky gallery. They confirm the artist’s firm grasp on the historical context of race and authority and challenge the exclusive right of a chosen few in the retelling of a nation’s past. At Marianne Boesky through October 21.

Mira Schendel’s “Sarrafos” works are stunning in their complex simplicity: A protruding black bar is slicing the space of stark-white rectangles, simultaneously dividing space and creating volume which is demanded back from the viewer. At the same time, the bar casts a shadow which in turn creates a third dimension. Separate but together, Schendel’s Sarrafos works are among the earliest successful amalgamations between sculpture and painting. At Hauser & Wirth through October 21.

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