From 1957 until 1958 Hélio Oiticia worked on a series of small-scale, chromatically limited gouaches on paperboard that he called Metaesquemas. Their ramifications drew ripples that reverberate until today. By injecting the subjectivity of color and the instability of movement into geometric arrangements, Oiticia forced a re-consideration of concretism that would set him on a path of accelerating subjectivity through the liberation of color in three-dimensional space that would culminate in his Spatial Relief works and which would eventually lead to his highly impassioned conceptual art practice. The dogma of neo-concretism under the Grupo Frente provided an important springboard from which Oiticia developed sophisticated explorations into color, form and space. The unsettling precariousness of the Metaesquemas underlie a logical concept of mirrored arrangements of squares and rectangles in grid-like compositions. The neutrality of the cardboard background and the purity of Oiticia’s colors are conspirators in a liberating sense of space and movement and opened new ways in the visual consumption of art. In the end, these unstable compositions only give the illusion of chaos but in fact unmask a serene and logical geometric order – a hopeful message, perhaps, to our own tumultuous world. At Galerie Lelong through December 22.

Seth Price makes photographs that are not photography and paintings that never see a brush. Restlessly pushing materials and process, Price operates without intent and often lets the work adapt to the studio conditions before pushing it out into the light. Technological and material experimentation, the use and manipulation of ambiguous photographic imagery, and a healthy dose of chance seeks to neutralize content which may be read as an honest attempt to contradict today’s contemporary culture. At Petzel gallery, Price presents several black and white light boxes that show fissures of skin at extreme resolution. They reveal the artist’s pre-occupation with clothing and branding and sport blood-red “New York City” embroidery for emphasis. His “paintings” are an amalgam of hard and soft shapes salvaged from the ethers of the internet that remind of x-rayed body parts, make-up mirrors and other paraphernalia trapped in a clinical-analog chromatic environment. Poured polymer adds malleability so that the embedded manipulation seeps out as the political and social manipulation that engulfs us. That his work is also achingly beautiful may not entirely to Price’s liking. At Petzel through January 5.

Hedda Sterne, the lone woman standing in the back row in the iconic Life Magazine photograph “Irascibles” (1951) depicting eighteen high-calibre New York School artists, described the experience as “probably the worst thing that happened to me”. Sterne who was in the photograph only at the insistence of Betty Parsons, her dealer, recalls in an interview with Phillis Tuchman in 1981, that “They [the men] all were very furious that I was in it because they all were sufficiently macho to think that the presence of a woman took away from the seriousness of it all.” And so began a decades-long institutional and critical neglect of major Abstract-Expressionist-era women that included Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler, which only now is being corrected. Hedda Sterne: Structures and Landscapes, 1950 – 1968 at Van Doren Waxter is looking at an extraordinary prolific and creative moment in Sterne’s career, that was bracketed by Surrealism, figuration, text and geometric repetition, and which yielded some of her most seductive compositions. Major breakthroughs during that time period include her abstract/figurative paintings around motion, machines and architecture and her iconic “Vertical Horizontal” paintings which depict multiple horizons on vertical canvases. Throughout her multi-faceted lifework, Hedda Sterne worked with the utmost urgency and with the conviction that progress is never linear. Her contribution to the process of painting, her ability to balance structure and turmoil with a limited color palette, and her signature austere weightiness whilst defying stylistic categorization, is overlooked no more. At Van Doren Waxter through December 22.

Ken Price’s biomorphic forms spring from the intuitive spirit of a well-lived life and a self-possession that comes with a finely-honed acumen for his craft. A scintillating selection of sculptures from the last two decades of the artist’s life is currently on view at Matthew Marks. Price abandoned the wheel in the late 1970s, so these clay objects are hand-made, formed through a keen understanding of the medium’s technical challenges and inspired by the rough beauty of the high desert of New Mexico. Numerous coats of colors spawn sublime patinas of burnt orange, clay red, and earthy brown that hold infinitesimal patterns reminiscent of the microcosm of nature. At times Price sprinkled the clay with grains to achieve an organic texture that complements a curvy tactility which begs to be embraced rather than touched. At Matthew Marks through December 22.

Invented by a Chinese government official around 105 A.D., paper reached the European subcontinent only about one thousand years later via India and the Islamic part of the Iberian Peninsula. The Indian artist Zarina Hashmi, who goes by her first name only, has been exploring the myriad material possibilities of paper through physical manipulation like scratching, weaving and punctuating and through her multi-faceted printmaking practice. Zarina was born in Aligarh, India in 1937 when, after British colonials slashed a largely arbitrary line through the Indian Subcontinent, her family joined the millions of displaced persons in search of a new home. She went on to study math and architecture, wood-block printing in Japan and printmaking with S.W. Hayter at the legendary Aterlier-17 in Paris where she was exposed to concepts like minimalism and conceptualism. The trauma of displacement and the arbitrariness of borders has been her primary subject matter. Zarina’s work is spiritually related to Urdu poetry and materially to calligraphy for her absence of color. On hand-made paper the structure of maps and charts unfolds collage-like or is manipulated to look like skin – often covering jet-black ground derived from the Sumi inks she fell in love with when she lived in Japan. The work is perpetually see-sawing between the structured and the lyrical and gives a compassionate voice to the millions of displaced persons word-wide who are stripped of home, language and identity. At Luhring Augustine through December 22.

Storyteller, social activist, quilt-maker, author, painter, feminist. These are just some of the eponymous callings of Faith Ringgold. Born in Harlem in 1930, Ringgold is best known for her narrative quilts that combine the artistic traditions of her African ancestry with searing political statements. During a trip to the Rijksmuseum in 1972 Ringgold was introduced to Tibetan thangkas, paintings on thin cloth framed with lush fabric borders, an artform that she would expertly manipulate to communicate her urgent political narrative. In the 1970s Ringgold turned to soft figurative sculpture that she combined into emotionally-charged installations that celebrate and African American life. Some of these pieces were incorporated into performances, like “The Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro” (1976), which combines elements of a Black American wake and the African belief that keeps ancestors in limbo unless they are released with music and dance. At ACA Galleries through December 22.

At first blush some of Daniel Lefcourt’s new paintings remind of the strangely idealized landscapes of Chinese Shan Shui paintings. Yet instead of brush and ink Lefcourt calls up airy mountainous topographies via numerically coded lines on stained monochrome surfaces. The confusing dynamic between numeric based science and aesthetic sublimity points to the conceptual re-presentation of the history of mapping systems. Several other pieces give his modus operandi away. In Terraform (Cloudbase) and Terraform (Soundings) the numerals appear grid-like or in configurations that beg for a game of connect the dots. Others, like Terraform (Autonomous Agents), recall geological diagrams superimposed on linear blueprints and are rendered with an airy fluidity that verges on the metaphysical. Mathematical harmony fused with geological diagramming is of course an important underpinning of painting and sculpture and, like all visual observations, deny absolute specificity which is exactly the syntax of Lefcourt’s art. At Mitchell-Innes & Nash through December 22.

Svenja Deininger does not necessarily consider her compositions abstract paintings although she concedes that they are not figurative either. Deininger likes us to think of her unorthodox asymmetries as the portrayal of a concept without physical manifestations. This brings her much closer to the methodology of objective abstraction with generous helpings of purity, simplicity and spirituality. Be that as it may, Deininger’s spare cut-out-like compositions ooze with overt and implied materiality. She works and re-works her paintings until the exhibition wall deems them finished. Deininger’s intuitive sense of color is spot-on. While formally intuitive on canvas, Deininger leaves nothing to chance in the installation of her works. Her works are carefully positioned within the architecture of the exhibition space like words that ultimately form a perfectly balanced Haiku. At Marianne Boesky through December 22.

Paintings and drawings from the final years of Michael Mazur’s life are currently on view at Ryan Lee gallery. Alternating between abstraction, narration and figuration in painting, drawing, print-making and sculpture, Mazur’s output was driven by an astutely analytic mindset, masterly draughtsmanship and a vivid sense of color. In his later paintings, Mazur returned to nature. Rain, with its complicated relationship between nature and man, salvation and disaster – held a particular fascination. Pools of azure blue, lavender, and bruised splotches of emerald greens submerge in tightly cropped compositions where man is implied but never visibly present. The scale, composition, and immersive handling of color remind of Monet’s Grande Décoration which captures the enchantment of nature and the awareness that life is inherently pleasurable. At Ryan Lee through December 22.

Josef Albers once said that eggs, cream, and butter make decent scrambled eggs, but that the same ingrediencies can also produce a divine soufflé. Color, line and form are the main ingredients of painters yet very few have managed to reach such delectable heights. Stanley Whitney, who is showing new paintings at Lisson Gallery, is an artist whose work holds up. Whitney progresses color and value to create linear, grid-like structures. Once started, rich vibrant hues beget others until they reach a magnificent crescendo. A few blocks down at Thomas Erben Gallery, Harriet Korman’s main concern is movement which she deftly resolves through a geometric progression fuelled by color. Both Whitney and Korman shock with beauty yet employ different formal tools. While neither artist’s composition is self-contained, Korman clearly points to a center whereas Whitney denies beginnings or ends. Both artists attempt to create space through color, but Whitney’s blocks allow for multiple dimensions whereas Korman finds clarity in the line. No isms are needed to describe either artist’s oeuvre; instead their works are akin to an interesting new thought that occurs about a thing that we have seen a thousand times before. Thankfully neither artist succumbs to pomp, but both arrive at a harmonious sublimity – each with their own bewitching recipe. At Lisson Gallery and Thomas Erben Gallery through December 21.

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