Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is a Native American painter, printmaker and sculptor whose tireless work as teacher and activist reaches beyond the confines of the studio to cultivate a contemporary understanding of Native American history and culture. At the forefront of her current exhibition at Garth Geenan lies her pre-occupation with the bifurcations of trade relations between New World Europeans and Native American tribes. Ostensibly set up as an act of friendship and benevolence, most barter transactions produced decidedly one-sided economic benefits and instead often became agents for dependency and decease. Brimming with imagery and symbolism, Quick-to-See’s monumental Trade Canoe paintings weave traditional narratives into contemporary moral admonitions that place the ethical treatment of animals, humans and our planet above the pursuit of profit and power. At Garth Greenan Gallery through May 19.

There is a lot going on in Keltie Ferris’ expressive abstract paintings. Amorphous forms writher across canvas getting roped in by looping black lines which in turn want to find their own bulbous shapes. A scattering of pixeled dots appears but is negated by thick grey erasures as if, by a carefully constructed pattern, the concrete wall was allowed in. Elsewhere, small chunks of oil paint mixed with marble dust build up to a topography that allows the eye to re-adjust from intermittent smudged blurriness. The color palette in this focused show veers from phosphorescent reds and blues to serene pastels and earthy ambers; altogether a vivacious and deeply rewarding visual adventure. At Mitchell-Innes & Nash through May 19.

The Met Breuer is celebrating its new gift of Leon Golub’s breath-taking epic Giantomachy II with an exhibition of a fine selection of the artist’s paintings and works on paper. Perhaps no other post-war artist has consistently exposed the depravity of war and the corrupting violence that it begets with such ferocious savagery. Crude and direct, raw and unrefined, Golub’s dense and meaty lacerations of victims and oppressors of conflict hit all-too close to home. Sinewy wrists, blood-shot eyes, flayed skin – these are testaments of conflicts past and present – they tell of the physical and psychological torment of conflict, the innate cruelty of man and his apparent inability to learn from history. Here is a haunting early charcoal drawing from 1947 where, in communion with Jean Dubuffet, Otto Dix, Käthe Kollwitz and Georg Grosz, Golub declares that any physical attack is also an irreparable assault on the mind.  At Met Breuer through May 27.

Outrageous Fortune: Jay DeFeo and Surrealism is a superb look at the late artist’s work through the lens of surrealism. The ghosts of Man Ray, and Hannah Höch stalk DeFeo’s collages of body parts and plants which flirt with Dada as much as they represent a synthesis between abstraction and realism. For DeFeo who, in much of her varied oeuvre, has had an intense fascination with her own body and the cultural repression of sexuality, surrealism provided a door into the unlocking of the subconscious and the uncanny. Conspicuously absent from this fine selection is DeFeo’s seven-foot-wide drawing “The Eyes” from 1958, now in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is a haunting depiction of a set of penetrating eyes with Freudian notions of the mind’s eye as manifestations of the supernatural and the human disinclination for self-examination. At Mitchell-Innes & Nash through April 7.

A gallery assistant stands guard at the edge of a steep trapdoor at Matthew Marks Gallery. This is America, after all; the land of 1-800-lawyer. The artist is, of course, Robert Gober. The trap door hails from Gober’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2001 and riffs on the murky symbolism of a church cellar door and the mystification of the unknown. Long fascinated with doors, windows, and legs, Gober presents a series of beautifully detailed torso drawings which reveal complicated inner lives locked in by prison windows. The real draw, however, is the room full of Joseph Cornell-style boxed tableaus. Within simple white wooden boxes await arrangements that range from a plaster heart on Victorian-type wallpaper; three small robin-egg blue eggs on a diaper framed by silkscreened paper of cherries and hydrangeas; the force cup of a plunger on cherry print; a stick of butter on a rolling landscape; or a sculptured ear with a dried leaf on flowery background. Trying to make sense of it is futile. Best to take it in without reservation and analysis – just like the artist intended. At Matthew Marks through April 7.

Mostly known for his pioneering role in dramatizing spatial relationships and subjectivity in performance art in the 1960s, Allan Kaprow’s painting practice was rooted in the muscular expressionist style championed by his friend and mentor Hans Hofmann. Kaprow’s painterly language began to evolve dramatically during the 1950s when, after immersion into the experimental downtown arts scene of New York, the artist began to play with spatial relationships, texture, collage and the introduction of different materials that eventually led him away from the canvas and into a life-long devotion of melding life with art. A small but cerebral survey of Kaprow’s painting and drawing practice, currently on view at Hauser & Wirth, demonstrates the artist’s unmitigated affection for his hometown New York. Color, form, and texture underline the dynamisms and energy of a city that, in Kaprow’s mind, must make no distinction between the richness of daily life and the art that is displayed in its museums. At Hauser & Wirth through April 7.

Paul Feeley’s most important artistic output can be distilled into the short decade between 1955 and 1965, landing him squarely in the heyday of Abstract Expressionism which aesthetics he resolutely rejected. Focusing on the earlier part of this time span, Garth Greenan is currently showing a beautiful suite of paintings and water colors that show the artist’s emblematic mastery of figure/ground relationships and a keen understanding of color theory. Feeley’s works from this period owe more to Helen Frankenthaler than Myron Stout, a contemporary whom he is often mentioned with. Abstract but warm, formal but free, Feeley’s fluent biomorphic forms blur into delicate color stains that rouse a mesmerizing lyricism which is hypnotic as it is palliative. At Garth Greenan through April 7.

Zhang Enli’s majestic reflections on ‘The Garden’ is an unapologetic invitation into a world of beauty. Hazy washes of velvety browns, yellows, and mossy greens give way to feathery amorphous forms, delicate tendrils and clusters of flora. Zhang’s deliberate painting style borrows heavily from Traditional Chinese Painting and the inspiration for his newest body of work may well be the classical gardens of Shanghai. But the tightly cropped perspective and big intimacy of his work, owe a substantial debt to the muscularity of Abstract Expressionism and Jungian psychology. Luminescent color, a reverence for the sublime and unwavering gestural confidence materially embody the life-force of nature itself. As Thomas More once aptly observed, “The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul.” At Hauser & Wirth through April 7.

Weeds are plants that grow in the wrong place. In a new series of work, Sarah Crowner tames the urban sidewalk intruder that spring up uninvited on sidewalks and empty lots in her New York neighbourhood into highly abstracted vibrant collages. Mimicking Matisse’s cut-outs, Crowner sews together biomorphic shapes into elegant compositions that expertly meld striking colors with an amorphous sculptural presence. Ascetic but bold, Sarah Crowner’s weeds speak of a dedicated commitment to shape and color, clarity of form and restrained chaos – virtues that the real-life counterparts have yet to learn. At Casey Kaplan through April 21.

For the past twenty-five years, Kay Rosen has been splicing, distorting and untangling text with the singular aim of coaxing out hidden meaning. Through clever manipulations of font, color, placement, and words, Rosen explores the visual impact of text and language in our daily discourse. Like many artists in these politically fraught times, her newest work delves into the minefield of text/image transference in the daily onslaught of partisan sloganeering through television, print, and social media.  In this context, the disruption of language’s symbolic order becomes an indictment of the disruption of our political order. As, for example, a T-shaped wall painting spelling “trickle down” becomes “trick” and the green-blue “Triumph” is reduced to the fading last name of our current president. After all, Rosen knows that like all text art, the ultimate job of encoding falls to the viewer who, like many politically concerned Americans, are increasingly seeing the writing on the wall. At Alexander Gray through April 7.

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