Impeccably executed, Matthew Cerletty’s paintings shimmy on the intersection between reality and apparition. Ordinary objects like sweatshirts, footballs, or a box of sleeping pills are transformed through color into frozen, hyperreal things. Taking a large page out of the playbook from advertising and print media, Cerletty’s works exhibit a brilliant directness and clarity that play with the subconscious and leave behind a vivid imprint on the mind. At Karma through June 16.

Jenny Saville is mainly known for her oversized oil paintings depicting opulent fleshy nudes whose enormous size at once convey a robust intensity and a delicate intimacy. In a new exhibition at Gagosian, Saville sets nudes on plinths in classical postures with overemphasized feet and hands in front of heavily graffitied studio walls.  They radiate a visceral beauty that demonstrates Saville’s mastery of the female gaze. In this show, however, it is her drawings that shine. The translucent quality of the medium allows the overlay of multiple bodies and complex perspectives where limbs variously stretch, contract, and relax. A tender Pieta-like composition is a masterly contemporary correlative to last year’s blockbuster show of Michelangelo’s drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At Gagosian through June 16.

Coming to Paris on a GI bill and with a painting practice firmly rooted in figuration, the American painter Al Held arrived at the renowned Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1951 and immediately switched gears to a highly impastoed abstraction. Al Held Paris paintings are now subject to a small but focused show at Nathalie Karg Gallery. Almost entirely done in a broodingly dark color palette, (except for one autumn brown Paul Klee-like patchwork painting) the works display a viscous apocalyptic rawness interspersed by horizonal eruptions of bright color that supply bursts of vivacious energy. Accompanying ink studies of the works suggest barbed wire or Japanese symbols gone awry. These early works are a poignant reminder of the relentless innovation and about-faces of Held’s multi-faceted painting oeuvre which ranged from social realism to hard-edged geometric abstraction and throughout which he never lost sight of a deep commitment to the perceptual, spatial and ocular elements of painting. A selection of Al Held’s paintings that cover the years from 1954 until 1959 will be shown at Cheim & Reid through July 6. At Nathalie Karg through June 15.

Each of the twelve five feet by seven feet paintings in Terry Winters’s new show are pure visual delight. Cellular forms, cosmic organisms, and biomorphic shapes coil into scrolls or float ambiguously on seas of particles or fields of tiny squares that morph into patterns of infinite possibilities. Set on color schemes of sea foam, midnight blues, and flaming orange, these forms summon the kind of mysterious motion that fuels spirituality and the calm that underlies rhythmic vibrations. Beautiful, emotional, and cerebral, they hint at the wonders of science and the unexplained beauty of the human existence. At Matthew Marks through June 16.

Carroll Dunham’s new works delve into the world of joint locks, pins, and grappling holds. That these and other traditional wrestling moves are performed in the nude and set in lush, vibrant settings add to the ambiguity of the subject matter as it relates to entertainment vs competitive sport, pleasure vs. pain, and brutality vs. virtue.  Composition, color and texture vie, like his sparring partners, for the ultimate superior position. At Gladstone through June 16.

A Várzea forest is a seasonal floodplain forest inundated by whitewater rivers in the Amazon biome. Echoing the titanic expanse and magnificence of this natural spectacle, “Várzea”, a new exhibition by Brazilian artist Marina Rheingantz, fills the gallery space with four monumental canvases of semi-abstracted flood plains, horizon-less topographies, and lush tropical landscapes. Intensely material, almost sculptural, Rheingantz works from the top down. Thick layers of paint are scraped, sanded and prodded to cast mountains, riverbeds and ocean tides where human traces like utility poles, flags, tents and remnants of roads are swept up by the vast and relentless force of nature. At Bortolami through June 2.

The multi-disciplinary practice of Scottish artist Lucy Skaer is primarily concerned with the subjectivity of imagery and the manipulation of mental imprints of images through mass media. Albeit a difficult visual leap, a new series of abstract highly polished copper sculptures are based on the animal illustrations in the beautifully illustrated medieval hunting book Le Livre de Chasse by the French count Gaston III (an important manuscript, pages of which can be viewed at the Morgan Library). Instead, their flattened, sharp forms remind of elegantly executed snares and traps with which the wild creatures were captured. Elsewhere, Skaer jazzes up old floorboards and windows of her old childhood home with precious materials and expensive processes and thereby blurs the boundaries between personal memories and the luxury items with which we often try to preserve nostalgia. At Peter Freeman through June 2.

Objects, either hand-made or store-bought, have long formed the aesthetic and conceptual vertebrae of Nancy Shaver’s forty-plus career. Hers is a democratic, almost socialist idea. Traditional, indigenous blouses vie attention with cheap mass-produced t-shirts; elegant evening bags sit side by side with rusty plumbing parts and carefully embroidered little baby hats from Uzbekistan. That objects invariably lead to their owners, handlers, sellers and tenants leads to the question of how and why we accumulate things which in turn underlie many of our political and ethical conundrums. That is perhaps why the title of her show “a part of a part of a part” owes so much to Gertrude Stein’s “rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, loveliness extreme.extra gaiters,loveliness extreme.sweetest ice-cream. pages ages page ages page ages.” At Derek Eller Gallery through May 27.

Harmony Hammond has an uncanny ability to coax meaning out of materials. At times angling towards the psychological, proto-feminist aura of Eva Hesse, other times incorporating Neo-Dada ideas into Rauschenberg-like combines, Hammond uses Arte Povera materials such as straw, hair, rubber and rope to corral a raw physical presence with an unsettling undercurrent of unexplained violence. The underlying conflicts of queer and feminist struggle percolate Hammond’s art – occasionally she hides a second dimension on the underside of her sculptural paintings; implications of things suppressed or of secrets not revealed. At Alexander Gray through May 26.

Rhode Island-based artist Nadia Haji Omar makes beautiful chromatic abstractions. Drawing from her Syrian, Indian and Sri Lankan heritage, Omar’s practice is informed by rigorous studies into Islamic and traditional Chinese art and the decorative and religious symbolism and architecture of her childhood home in Sri Lanka. Sticking to a mild, washed-out pastel color palette, Omar weaves tiny, meditative mark-making into elegant Tamil and Sinhalese symbols and letters. Her works convey a wonderful sense of materiality and lightness that underlie the artist’s spirituality and devotion to the preservation of traditional mythology. At Kristen Lorello through May 25.

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