The modernist sculptures of Los Angeles-based artist Amir Nikravan are painterly hybrids that strain to negate the physicality of sculpture in favor of the pictorial qualities of painting. Painted fabric over plaster and wood, Nikravan’s architectural jigsaw puzzles don’t make sense; the objects feel alien, as if one is looking at the backside of a sculpture or through a window – some sit awkwardly on top of plexiglass plinths reminiscent of TV consoles others are pinned on the wall their looping forms unsatisfactorily interrupted. Nikravan, a former photo-realist, works hard to achieve visual ambivalence. He is earnestly interested in the malleability between mediums and deeply methodical about the process. At Nathalie Karg through October 15.

It’s easy to like Polly Apfelbaum. Her exhilarating show at Alexander Gray pivots around the female head composition of the book cover “The Potential of Women” by the renowned Modernist graphic designer Rudolph deHarak. The show opens on the first floor with a series of brilliantly colored gouaches of deHarak’s faceted head motif that demonstrate Apfelbaum’s sound proficiency with color and composition. A visual delight awaits on the second floor where expansive handwoven rugs, featuring the theme design in deHarek’s original pale pink and brown colors, are framed by seventy stunning pieces of small, wall-mounted ceramic works. The visual communication of “The Potential of Women” is spot-on and provides a glimpse of the unlimited potential of this woman artist that makes one wanting to come back for more. At Alexander Gray through October 21.

The drawings and sketches of Stanley Whitney are permeated by the ghosts of Cézanne, Munch, Morandi, and Matisse. Whitney’s drawings are lighter, airier blocks of color than his larger canvases and are small treasures of rhythm, balance, and harmony. With Whitney, everything begins and ends with color; his drawings and sketches are delicate and exquisite studies on the possibilities of color on paper. At Lisson Gallery through October 21.

 “Parallels”, a splendid new sculpture by Barbara Kasten, is the impetus of a series of new photographic and photo-sculptural work. The floor-based work combines seven neon fluorescent square-prisms into a Mikado-like arrangement that is simultaneously precarious and yet completely balanced. It inspires a series of photographs where sharp-angled acrylic forms are affixed to the picture surface – elegantly melding photography and sculpture. Reversing her life-long practice of converting three-dimensional space onto a two-dimensional plane, Kasten, at 81 years, proves that she still is one of the eminent fountainheads at the crux between architecture and art. At Bortolami through October 21.

The romantification of the 70’s downtown art scene shows no sign of abating. Its chief protagonist, Peter Hujar, chronicler of the perennially broke and drugged-out, has inspired album covers, ad campaigns, book covers and fashion trends and sent prices of his photographs into new stratospheres. A full scale Hujar retrospective is planned for the Morgan Library in 2018. For those who cannot wait, a fascinating glimpse into the by-gone era of the allegedly more authentic, unadulterated art world can now be viewed in form of Hujar’s studio group portrait series “Tribe” from 1966 which shows a tame, properly-attired, and sober group of artists which includes, among others, Eva Hesse, Susi Bloch, Nancy Fish, Harold Krieger, and Paul Thek, and who would probably be dumbfounded by the fuss everyone is making about their time today. At Alexander and Bonin through October 21.

A stellar show of textile work by seven woefully overlooked Bay Area artists is currently on view at James Cohan Gallery. Beautifully curated by Jenelle Porter, “A Line Can Go Anywhere” pivots around the works of Trude Guermonprez and Ed Rossbach, two influential artists and teachers whose innovative techniques and tireless experimentation with new materials weaves like a thread through the works of the other artists in the show. Center stage, suspended onto a rectangular white platform, are four elegant hanging sculptures by Guermonprez and her student Kay Sekimachi which recall the work of Ruth Asawa who receives credit for the title of the exhibition. Other standouts include a magnificent tapestry by Terri Friedman who lovingly joins two sumptuous four-foot-wide panels with a simple matrimonial knot; works by Josh Faught who combines traditional craft techniques with unconventional materials; Alexandra Jacopetti Hart’s “Nebulae” which channels a softer Bauhaus-style; and the minimalist weavings of Ruth Laskey. At James Cohan though October 14.

The fantastical drawings of New-Zealand born, New York-based artist Jess Johnson are trippy expeditions into the world of comics, video games and supernatural empires. The artist uses colorful fiber-tip pens to arrive at her detailed, multi-layered compositions which brim with symbolism, ancient architectural forms, and demonic anatomy. Occasionally Johnson incorporates nonsensical language in the form of labels or borders which ultimately add up to a futile attempt to reign in the outlandish overspill of madness. At Jack Hanley through October 8.

On first blush, Brian Calvin’s female close-ups can only inhabit the up-tight world of New York or extreme image consciousness of neurotic Los Angeles. But Calvin is not interested in representation or telling stories. Instead, his surrealist often-cropped faces are carefully constructed landscapes composed of lips, eyes, nails, and noses on monochrome, bright backgrounds. They produce a fresh and glossy Philip Guston-like cartoon realism that feels disconnected from reality but just enough perceptibility to envision the detached girls of New York and LA. At Anton Kern through October 7.

It is becoming harder and harder to distinguish public collection spaces from commercial galleries. Dealers with big pockets have sought to rub off from the cachet of museums by conscripting starchitects to design impressive exhibition halls and hire museum curators. They add bookshops and cafés, publish shiny exhibition catalogues and provide over-explanatory walltext. “Non-selling” exhibitions are of course a marketing tool to get you into the gallery, even better if you can secure a collector-client to curate a show of her own works for you. Cynicism aside, Hauser & Wirth’s sprawling Arte Povera exhibition curated by German collector Ingvild Goetz is well worth a visit. Spread over three floors in the old Dia building, the show includes rare treasures by ‘I Poveristi’ stalwarts like Alighiero Boetti, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Guiseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Emilio Prini. Lacking a thematic thread, visitors are on their own to scout out such masterpieces like Pistoletto’s L’Etrusco from 1976, Alighiero Boetti’s Mappa from 1988, or Jannis Kounellis’ gold leaf shoes. Exit through the gift shop and pick up the book of the collector’s thoughts on collecting expensive art and, if the non-elitist credo of Arte Povera in this context leaves a bit of a stale taste in your mouth, you can always wash is down with a freshly squeezed organic juice at the adjoining café. At Hauser & Wirth through October 28.

In Carey Young’s 18-minute film “Palais de Justice” all judges are women. Secretly filmed in the vast halls of the Palais de Justice in Brussels, a neo-baroque monstrosity commissioned in boastful arrogance by the King Leopold II, Young trains her lens voyeur-like on female judges who go about their business disciplined and collected. The atmosphere is quietly professional and bordering on the boring: a legal system controlled by women. It’s a fictional world, of course, at once speculative and irrational. And yet… At Paula Cooper Gallery through October 14.

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