In 1968 Austrian artist Maria Lassnig threw off the shackles of a male-dominated and history-chocked European arts milieu and set out for the hotbed of New York’s dynamic downtown arts scene. Lassnig’s twelve-year stay in New York proved extremely formative for the artist and is subject to a small but beautiful exhibition at Petzel Gallery’s uptown location. Several wonderful drawings and arresting watercolors aside, it is the eight paintings that stand out. Lassnig’s theory of Körpergefühl (body awareness) which attempts to transfer bodily sensations and mental vulnerably via the canvas onto the viewer is particularly profound in her haunting self-portraits and has been exceptionally influential on future generations of artists. Selbstporträt mit Gurkenglas (1971) shows a middle-aged Lassnig holding a jar of pickles, defiantly looking at the viewer, the greenish tint of the work reflecting the contents of the jar; a wry commentary on the tumultuous workings of the artist’s inner self. Through October 29.

Long the only way for a woman to artistically express herself, quilt making and textile weaving have contributed to stunning artworks that have inspired and influenced art and design for centuries. Relegated to the Weaving Workshop by their male counterparts at the Bauhaus, female artists like Anni Albers and Gunta Stölzl created beautiful textiles in striking colors and innovative patterns that influenced countless artists since. For her new exhibition at Metro Pictures, New York based photographer Sara VanDerBeek embarked on a meticulous research into American quilt making, Pre-Columbian textiles, and modernist textile weaving to arrive at the geometric plastic sculptures that are the subject of her large scale photographs. She pairs these with actual plaster sculptures of the patterns and in doing so captures the whispers of women quilters, artisans and weavers long past. Through October 29.  

The new works by Ethiopian-born wunderkind Julie Mehretu currently on view at Marian Goodman, have not lost in size but are more soberly cast in a moody palette of grisaille with only occasional smudges of pastel allowed to break the forlorn melancholy. Mehretu’s familiar abstract layerings of acrylic with ink markings reminiscent of pre-historic cave paintings verge on the desolate. The title Hoodnyx, Voodoo and Stelae suggest mythology, bereavement, and the torment of the ghetto – a dark foreboding of the news that is emerging from Mehretu’s home country at the moment. Through October 29.

With a female presidency now tantalisingly near, it is fitting that New York is currently celebrating all things Ellen Cantor. Cantor’s seminal exhibition “Coming to Power” just closed to critical acclaim at Maccarone gallery, her video installation “Be my Baby” (1999) is on until October 23 at Foxy Production, Moma is screening her seminal film “Pincochet Porn” on October 31, Participant Inc. is showing related work and a host of public programming and talks are scheduled all around town. Perhaps the most cerebral examination into the pioneering feminist’s work, however, is being presented at 80WSE gallery. Since 2008 until her untimely death in 2013, Cantor laboured obsessively to incorporate her manifold drawings into her magnum opus, “Pinochet Porn”. In a clever curatorial maneuver, sets of Cantor’s drawings which amalgamate sexual fantasies and popular culture, are being paired with select clips of the film; playing on her deep-rooted assault on the placid and imbecilic presentation of female characters in animated movies. Through November 12.

Depending on one’s interpretation, Hans-Peter Feldmann is either a passionate collector or an incorrigible hoarder. The Hugo-Boss-Prize winning conceptual artist, who famously pasted his $100,000 prize in 100,000 one dollar bills on a gallery wall, obsessively collects photographs, paintings, toys, or books, just to re-arrange them in carefully conceived installations but not before tweaking them a bit for fun. His work, therefore, fits more into the realm of curator-sophist than artist-maker. For his new solo exhibition at 303 Gallery, Feldmann suspends a sea of slightly altered amateur portrait paintings and seascapes from the ceiling, creating a work in itself that is subject to an entirely new interpretation by the viewer. Glaring denunciation of an overabundance of bad art on the market? Trepidation at the daily avalanche of mundane images? The organizing of similar objects as a metaphor to find empowerment in groups? The reading is manifold and complex but the artist stays silent. Through October 29.

In Alex Prager’s film La Grand Sortie (2015), currently on view at Lehman Maupin, the Los Angeles based photographer and filmmaker returns to her two great passions: theatre and ballet. Together with dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet and with a score taken from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, French prima ballerina Emilie Cozette stars in a nightmarish performance where an indifferent audience gradually merges with the dancer on stage. In the accompanying photo work in the main gallery, Prager underscores the dramatic viewer/audience dynamic by reversing roles. Set to a background recording of theatre crowd noise, the observers become the observed and critics morph into artists, all amplified through the viewer’s own reflection on the photo glass. Through October 22.

Cairns, the ancient Celtic way of stacking rocks, has long found a new-age audience amongst stressed out city slickers and overworked tech execs trying to tether themselves from their screens. Balancing stones requires poise and concentration. The practice is often used as a new form of mediation; in Korea stones are stacked as a form of prayer. Long fascinated with nature’s pull onto humanity, the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s new mountain sculptures come via his erudite preoccupation with German Romanticism. Rondinone’s precarious, gravity defying totemic assemblages are hardly the stuff of nature, though. They are hand-formed clay, cast in aluminium and painted in shocking day-glo colors; their placement on plinths clearly marking them as artworks more at home on the gallery stage rather than on a pine-cushioned forest floor. At Gladstone Gallery through October 22.

On your way to the magnificent Agnes Martin show at the Guggenheim, make a quick pit stop at Galerie Buchholz on East 82nd Street. The venerable gallery has staged a fascinating homage to the brilliant author, curator and critic Douglas Crimp and the many artist careers he directly and indirectly touched. His acclaimed “Pictures” show from 1977 at Artists Space and his important essay “Pictures” in October magazine influenced the careers of many artists like Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, or Barbara Kruger; a group now known under the somewhat murky label “The Pictures Generation”. In 1971 Crimp organized a wonderful exhibition of Agnes Martin’s work at the Visual Arts Gallery followed by an astute essay examining the role of emotions in Martin’s work. In essence, Crimp was very much a child of the social upheavals that tore through 1970’s New York. He was an astute observer of the raunchy downtown arts scene and its devastating effects of the AIDS carnage that followed. His writings on re-presentation, the taking of a picture of a picture, were an important precursor to current questions of individualism and self-identification in the age of selfie manipulation, reality shows and manufactured online personalities. Here is Peter Hujar’s “Stephen Varble, Soho, Franklin Street I” from 1976. Douglas Crimp’s new book “Before Pictures” is on sale now. Through October 22.

It’s a sad truth that the first contact we have with an artwork these days is usually through a screen. Digitally manipulated images are used to get us to the museum or into a gallery while curators often sift through hundreds of online images before seeing the real thing. The artist Jeff Elrod is of a generation that grew up with the screen and has made the relationship between digitized abstraction and corporeal painting the main focus of his practice. Replacing the mouse with the brush and employing image-editors like Photoshop or Illustrator, Elrod then often uses tape and acrylic to tether his works to materiality. A new set of his digital/analog paintings can be seen at Luhring Augustine and are based on the visual stimuli of Brion Gysin’s Dream machine. Through October 22.

In 1936 the great French poet, essayist, actor and theatre director Antonin Artaud left Bohemian Paris and travelled to Mexico to study and live with the Tarahumaran people of the Sierra Madre. Artaud recorded his year-long cultural and drug-fuelled experience in an intriguing volume called Les Tarahumara which became the catalyst for much of his famed poetry and writings. The American artist Richard Hawkins’ research into Artaud’s experience serves as the bedrock for a fascinating new exhibition of ceramic works at Greene Natfali Gallery. Hawkins incorporates many of the iconography, hand-painted designs, and sexual-esoteric imagery of Artaud’s expedition into his striking ceramics. Hawkins’ research document “After Artaud”, which is available on the gallery website, makes for a fascinating read. Through October 22.

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