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.

A stunning survey of Hans Hartung’s work is currently on view at Perrotin.  Under the expert direction of Matthieu Poirier, over sixty works from 1922 until 1989 are gathered in chronological order in five rooms. Hartung went through several phases during his almost seventy-year career but found a magnetic nerve center somewhere in the middle between rule-based and gestural abstraction. Hartung’s works from the 1960s are stunning. Moody, elegant layers of paint achieve a hazy, bruise-like effect and are only occasional overlaid with scratchy marks. Look long enough and the central dark stain expands and contracts, seemingly spilling out of its self-imposed confinement. These works wistfully hint at the ephemeral nature of the natural world and the wondrous transcendence of our existence. A concurrent exhibition of Hartung’s work is also on view at Nahmad Contemporary. At Perrotin through February 18 and Nahmad Contemporary through March 17.

Heimo Zobernig’s multi-disciplinary practice is deeply concerned with the implications of modernism in art history and the visitor/gallery relationship as it relates to both architecture and the cognitive experience of art. In a dual-gallery exhibition at Petzel, Zobernig presents nine new language-based paintings and a re-animation of his exhibition “Chess Painting” at MIT List Visual Arts Center. Zobernig’s text paintings play with the word REAL in four quadrants. Color and composition become catalysts in morphing the letters into different meanings. Like a scrabble board, REAL becomes EGAL (I don’t care in German). In Petzel’s downtown gallery, Zobernig’s immersive installation takes on the black and white geometry of the chess board within the context of the gallery setting. Black and white walls suggest structure and rules. But then Zobernig slyly crossbreeds the logical with the emotional. Warm and fuzzy checker-board fur blankets on top of stain-less steel podiums beckon to come in from the cold and get cozy. And so, architecture becomes installation, sculpture becomes painting, architecture becomes sculpture, viewer becomes art. At Petzel through February 17.

All of Thomas Nozkowski’s small abstract paintings are rooted in real life experiences. Memories take the form of color and shape; sounds and smells morph into patterns and silhouettes; images become color; flashbacks produce composition. By limiting himself to his signature 16 x 20-inch format, the subconscious becomes condensed and intensified; information gets transferred. There is nothing avant-garde in this approach, of course, yet each of Nozkowski‘s small gems trigger an emotional response that is deeply individual. Clarity of form, a superb sense of color and breathtaking plays with figure and ground place Nozkowski into the rare league of artists that transform the art of looking into an act of pure pleasure and delight. At Pace Gallery through February 17.

A beautiful selection of works from the 1980s by Italian artist Giorgio Griffa is currently on view at Casey Kaplan. Seemingly childlike, unfinished and ad-hoc, Griffa’s works are in fact relying on a strict set of analytical and cerebral rules. Griffa paints on unstretched, unprimed canvas employing symbolism and signage that always move from left to right. The finished works are then folded into specific sections where, over time, the creases perform an integral part of the work, specifically as focal points to its materiality. They are to be “awakened” or “activated” from their hibernation by ritual unfolding and nailed directly onto the wall according to precise instructions. Griffa’s paintings from the 1980s stand out for their melodious lyricism through imprecise repetition of gestures and vivid color aggregation. They are living organisms which hover around the intersection between Arte Povera, Conceptualism and Minimalism. They confound as well as astound. At Casey Kaplan through February 17.

Terry Adkins’ interdisciplinary art practice was deeply animated by his unwavering passion to transform sound into the material and to make music as concrete as sculpture. His artmaking was grounded in the spirituality of traditional African music and the radiant legacy of the great African-American composers and musicians of our time. A sublime selection of Adkins’ sculptural works made between 1986 and 2013 is now view at the elegant Levy Gorvy gallery. Curated by the artist’s long-time friend and collaborator, Charles Gaines, the show focuses on the physicality of Atkins’ practice: The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled. In the second-floor gallery “Darkwater Record”, a stack of five cassette desks with a bust of Mao Zedong, plays W.E.B. DuBois’ free speech appeal “Socialism and the American Negro” from 1960. Its volume on mute, with only the dial angrily visualizing sound, it is an auspicious reminder that that no matter how hard we try to suppress the voice of the disenfranchised, their silence will always be heard. At Levy Gorvy through February 17.

Zach Bruder is looking forward by looking back. Employing a vaguely expressionistic style, Zach Bruder’s subject matter ranges from the religious to the iconoclastic; the modern to the archaic.  Bruder revels in mystification. His sometimes surreal, sometimes humorous mise en scènes mimic Polke with an extra dose of unease. Yet the viridity lies in his ability to make us look anew. In “Demeter”, a moody Edward Munch-like composition, it is not clear whether the goddess of the harvest is pulling out or being pulled in by a plant. “Who is minding the shop” takes a not-so-subtle swipe at the art world. While his canvases seem to be mourning a loss of spirituality, Bruder never loses sight of the limitless allegorical possibilities of history. At Magenta Plains through February 11.

You know something is up the minute you step in the door and see the deranged bartender. Curator Weston Lowe invites to dinner. Proceed along the corridor into the main gallery and be greeted by “The Tenant”, an empty plaster arm chair by Dan Herschlein which seems to contemplate Brandon Ndife’s “Monument to Cold and Hunger”, a stunted hydrocal sculpture with a dirty white sock. Elsewhere, Corin Hewitt’s “Sausage Frescoes” dangle eerily from the ceiling while Jeanette Mundt and Stephanie Hier provide the conventional Western art backdrop of war and still lifes. But Big Brother is invited as well in the form of tiny RFDS embedded in copper casts of GMO corn kernels courtesy of Connecticut-based artist Violet Dennison. “Dinner that Night” is on at Bureau Gallery until February 11.

Thomas Erben Gallery is bringing together four stellar intergenerational artists in a small but cerebral group exhibition that ponders, through a variety of media, the existential, observational, factual, philosophical and idealistic complexities of our existence. The eclectic polaroids of the late German artist Horst Ademeit are obsessive recordings of “cold rays” and other forms of real and imaged radiation that in the artist’s complex reality measure up to the irrational recording of fear. Picking up on the contextual aggregation of irrationality, Jason Eberspeaker’s small oil paintings are moody abstractions that fuse movement with inertia in a superb showing of suspended animation whereas Kahlil Robert Irving’s rich ceramic pieces brilliantly fuse tradition with contemporary culture. The real high-light of the exhibition, however, are Mira Schor’s breezy child-like stick figure paintings.  Bitingly satirical and ethnolocially spot-on, they are powerful political manifestos that traverse the byway between language and painting. At Thomas Erben Gallery through February 10.

Any notion that humanity has learned piety, reconciliation, harmony and co-existence since the right panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych, is thoroughly dispelled by Canyon Castator’s comic book-like nightmarish scenes. Rendered collage-style with oil on canvas, the Los Angeles-based painter delves into the bizarre mayhem of today’s technologically rich/emotionally poor netherworld of consumer gratification, online sex, violence and substance abuse. Castator may replace grisaille and religious imagery with Pop colors and cartoon cut-outs but the result is as clear as it was in the Renaissance: humanity is doomed and we are headed straight to hell. At Postmasters through February 10.

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