The six drawings of Richard Hawkins’s exhibition “Hotel Suicide” are devastating. A middle-aged man is seen in the aftermath of his suicide. CSI buffs will make note of the upturned stool, the untouched bed, and the potted palm on the balcony, suggesting a hotel room in a tropical locale. We don’t see the man’s face. Naked except for a fanny pack and the ubiquitous tourist sandals, he remains anonymous, yet we sense the guilt, shame, and pathos that led to his final act. With this set of drawings, and the accompanying painting, Hawkins is directing our attention to the sordid poison of sex tourism and the sexual exploitation that it breeds. According to a study from 2012 conducted by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, sex tourism is now feeding a multi-billion-dollar industry and is exacerbating a scourge of child-trafficking and child-pornography….The final drawing in the series is perhaps the most disturbing. It shows the hotel room the day after; cleaned up, fresh towels on the rack and with a bottle of disinfectant on the bathroom counter – all ready for a new guest. At Greene Naftali through February 23.

For the last fifty years, the driving force behind Barbara Turner Smith’s multi-faceted art practice has been an unwavering devotion in seeking equal rights and opportunities for women and the exposure of manipulation of consumer culture via new technology. A performance piece from 1974 has special resonance in today’s world. For “Scan 1”, Smith sat one group of white-robed performers in front of television commercials that asked them, according to pre-determined signals embedded in the skit, to blow bubblegum, smoke or stick out color-painted tongues. A second observing group was challenged to decipher the codes that prompted the response. The piece, originally performed at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles, is an eerily foreboding message from the past that seeks to rip us out of the mass hypnosis brought on by social media and a 24-hour breaking-news cycle. Documentation of “Scan 1” together with the performance piece “Longest Day of Night” from 1973 and “Outside Chance” from 1975 are currently on view at Andrew Kreps Gallery through February 24.

Although Charles Ladson’s paintings display the pretense of structure, the Georgia-based artist paints largely from intuition. Ladson plays with color and shapes, adding and subtracting until he reaches the point where, to quote Rembrandt “the painting is finished when the artist says it is”. Ladson’s moody settings are tinged with Surrealism where more often than not the subconscious trigger appears in the form of architecture or a peculiar perspective and where images that appear to be normal leave the viewer with a disquieting sense of unease. At Frosch & Portman through February 25.

Gianna Commito’s elegant geometric abstractions are kaleidoscopic fragmentations of every-day scenes seized from the artist’s daily routine. Commito’s geometric forms borrow confidently from Cubism and expertly employ a refined color palette that reminds of the free-spirited American ethos of Marsden Hartley. Stripes figure big in Commito’s work. They underscore vivid stylization of pictorial space and a heightened sense of color and composition. All-together they prove that life is worth living when viewed from different perspectives. At Rachel Uffner through February 25.

An accolade to color and shape. Nine of Tom Wesselmann’s monumental pop compositions, made between 1967 and 1981, currently grace the airplane-hanger-like halls of Gagosian Gallery. Comprised of individual stand-alone canvases, the groupings are lush vanity top scenes of a bygone consumer age replete with Mad-Man staples like cigarettes, pearls and cat-eye sunglasses. Their bold colors, sharp outlines, and unabashed why-not compositions exude an all-American optimism that these days is firmly relegated to the history books. At Gagosian through February 24.

In a new series of photographs, currently on view at Lehman Maupin, South-African artist Robin Rhode is decisively moving away from the graffiti inspired urban culture of his earlier works and instead embraces the pictorial language of Paul Centore’s Geometry of Color to explore post-colonialist ills such as poverty, crime and violence that underlie his multi-disciplinary art practice. As homage to Rhode’s special relationship with the wall, each of Rhode’s multi-photo works are given its own wall space. Form, color and space are the architectural building blocks with which the artist tackles recurring issues of social disintegration in urban spaces of his native South Africa – mostly performed in front of Rhode’s “Broken Wall” in the crime-ridden Newclare neighborhood of Johannesburg. It is bittersweet irony, then, that these are the last wall works made there. Rhode recently announced that he needed to abandon the space out of security concerns due to recurring drug and gang violence. At Lehman Maupin through February 24.

Spectacularly undervalued during her life-time and only now gaining a modicum of recognition, the late Channa Horwitz was one of the first female artists to attempt a visual language to create rhythm in time. Some works of the artist’s famous Sonakinatography series are currently on view at Lisson Gallery. Horwitz started the series, which is a made-up word amalgamating sound, motion, and notation, in 1968. In it, she assigned eight colors to eight numbers or “beats” in vertical grids where each color moved according to its pre-assigned rhythm. Later, the artist introduced lines and patterns complicating the compositions into infinite visual possibilities. Horwitz’s dogged preoccupation with sequencing the number eight derived from the standard American graph paper, eight squares to the inch, that she laid most of her drawings on. The drawings are exquisite mathematical poetry that transcends the visual and have been adopted for music, dance, poetry, and light-based work. They are unparalleled excursions into logic, symmetry, time and beauty. At Lisson Gallery through February 24.

A photographic pilgrimage to Noah Purifoy’s Desert Museum by African American artist and activist LaToya Ruby Frazier is currently on view at Gavin Brown’s cavernous uptown art emporium. Best known for her poignant yet sober examination of the economic, racial, and psychological fallout of the continuous collapse of her industrial steel hometown of Braddock, PA, Frazier trains her lens on the haunting stillness of the Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture. Driven out of Los Angeles by economic necessity, Noah Purifoy settled in the high desert about 140 miles east of Los Angeles in the late 1980s and assembled over fifty Dada Junk Art installation during the last fifteen years of his life. It is easy to draw parallels between the two artists. Social activism, racial inequality, economic displacement, and an art practice deeply rooted in philosophy connect these two artists who corral the physical and spiritual detritus of our existence into the enduring magnanimity of art. At Gavin Brown through February 25.

Like the dust silhouettes of vanished pictures and furnishings that remain long after the last tenant has moved out, Claudio Parmiggiani’s work tells of presence via absence. Parmiggiani uses soot and smoke to coax dreamy forms and figures out of walls and boards. At Bortolami a monochromatic wall of Morandi-like objects recall the Italian artist’s neo-classical historical heritage. Once phlegmatic and poetic, the work speaks of the testimony of an erstwhile existence and the unnerving capacity of memory born from subtraction. At Bortolami through February 24.

As an artist-in-residence at the LeDoux Laboratory at the Center for Neural Science at New York University since 2005, Nene Humphrey’s interdisciplinary practice probes into the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events such as death and grief.  At Lesley Heller Gallery, the artist uses as underpinning the 19th century grieving ritual of braiding the hair of departed loved into intricate amulets, rings or brooches. In Humphrey’s interpretation, wire replaces hair and mutates into long twisted strands which she incorporates into performance pieces, sculpture, video and exquisite charcoal drawings. “Transmissions” is a hauntingly beautiful exploration into the brain’s ability to process memory and emotion through the corporeal. At Lesley Heller through February 18.

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