Alex Jackson Grommet Essay

Ravi Jackson, Untitled(2017). Acrylic on wood and paper, ceramic tile 61 ¼ x 48 1/8 x 1 ¼ inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder.

I hadn’t thought this much about balls in a long time; but there they were, hanging out in Ravi Jackson’s debut solo exhibition Ice on Soul at Richard Telles Gallery: a messy, complex, and exciting presentation. In 13 untitled paintings (all 2017), Jackson pulls together a range of poignant associations that circle the drain around issues of masculinity. All the works draw heavily from the complicated writings in Eldridge Cleaver’s infamous text, Soul on Ice, from which the exhibition takes its name.

It’s hard to ignore the pedestrian quality of Jackson’s media: plywood, MDF, melamine, children’s cabinetry knobs, eye hooks and grommets, acrylic paint, swatches of cheap fabric, and feathered earrings from trendy seasons of yore. Print outs of Donatello’s David, a Black Bart Simpson, Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, eBay bidding pages, and typo-speckled Facebook posts are posed as vital as any stroke of paint. They share their surfaces with little hierarchy; they all intrude on one other in collaborative overlap— building meaning through interruption.

All the layers, seemingly casual in their placement, are in a sexy state of dishabille—forever somewhere between undress and redress. Painted-over records become exposed breasts, eyes, targets; cabinet knobs stand-in for colloquial “knobs”; cut-outs are portholes, glory holes, and every bodily orifice you can think of; brass hooks are “come hither” fingers; draped fabric becomes loin cloths, flirtatious hemlines, or a curtain for a certain Courbet.

But of these objects, the most euphemistic are the upturned furniture legs. In previous works, Jackson affixed them so that they stood straight out from their canvases. Here, the legs sit upturned on shelves, robbed of their supportive purpose and effectively neutered in the process. In their inversion and isolation they transform: they become phallic totems, miniature Brancusi’s… or butt plugs?

Ravi Jackson, Ice on Soul(2017) (installation view). Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder.

Furthest from the door, in a modest shadowbox, Jackson has posed a leg beside a hanging brown clod. Dangling below is Cleaver’s essay-cum-poem, “To All Black Women From All Black Men”; his landmark but problematic text details his return to the love of Black women while reifying a hegemonic masculinity, misogynistic perspectives, and shades of anti-blackness. In this arrangement, the virile male phallus is likened to the spent, the soft, and the fecal; which could lead one to gather that rigid masculinity isn’t worth shit—it’s far more complicated than that.

Beside the shadowbox, a smattering of eyepatched Snake Plisskens  stare out from among 1975 advertisements for the centerpiece of Eldridge de Paris’ new Fall collection. You’ll Be Cock of the Walk it announces. They’re for men only… Real men… the three-fisted variety. An essentialized representation of a black man (the model is Cleaver) sits on the same plane as the equally hyper-manly Plissken. Floating around them are the sienna-hued smudges reminiscent of the scatological affinities of Jean Dubuffet. Between the marks, loose flesh colored smears of paint recall the evocative scrawls of Cy Twombly. And all these men sit swaddled and rustling behind a sheer veil of pink and under the historic weight of Robert Rauschenberg’s Rebus.

Jackson’s paintings are a workspace and a bed and they call to us. His hazy saccharine scribbles and candy-colored balls bouncing between the manliest men ask us to play. Nearby, a human-scale print of the lyrics from the Isley Brothers’ Between the Sheets croons over us. Across the room, through a shroud of greens, the soft and somber faces of Donatello’s David look on at an outlandish display of manhood. All at once Jackson manages to lasso notions of machismo—of the black, big-screen, and Modernist, pop cultural, and ‘high-brow’ variety— and offers them as equal players in trafficking an impenetrable (and often false-front) model of masculinity. By plotting them all on the same plane, Jackson forces them to intrude on one another, denying any one incarnation total completion or certitude. Each one, no longer impervious, emulates the incredible complexity, messiness, and beauty that the masculine can be.

Ravi Jackson: Ice on Soul ran from September 9–October 14, 2017 at Richard Telles (7380 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036).


Ravi Jackson, Untitled(2017). Acrylic on paper and wood, string, fabric, yarn, clamshell and metal earrings, hardware, 60 ¼ x 42 x 7/8 inches, base: 9 ½ x 7 x 9 7/8 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ravi Jackson, Untitled (2017). Acrylic on paper and wood, formica, fabric 20 x 17 7/8 x 1 ¾ inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ravi Jackson, Ice on Soul(2017) (installation view). Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ravi Jackson, Untitled (2017). Acrylic on paper and wood, fabric, grommets, hardware, 42 x 35 x 1 5/8 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ravi Jackson, Untitled (2017). Acrylic on paper and wood, ceramic tile, formica, 19 3/8 x 16 7/8 x 1 ¾ inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder.

Ravi Jackson, Untitled (2017). Acrylic on paper and wood, formica, fabric, 20 x 17 7/8 x 1 ¾ inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Marten Elder.

Originally published in Carla issue 10

Brooklyn Museum: ‘The Rise of Sneaker Culture’ (through Oct. 4) Presenting more than 150 pairs of athletic footwear dating from the mid-19th century to the present, this exhibition should be intriguing not only for students of modern design and fashion but also for those interested in the various subcultures associated with different types of sneakers. Especially noteworthy is the popularity of expensive basketball shoes among sports fans and hip-hop enthusiasts since the 1980s, which brings up complicated and difficult issues having to do with race, class, masculinity, money, celebrity, advertising and crime. 200 Eastern Parkway, at Prospect Park, 718-638-5000, (Johnson)

Brooklyn Museum: ‘Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence’ (through Nov. 1) Describing herself as a “visual activist,” the South African photographer Zanele Muholi is dedicated to increasing the visibility of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people with notable international success. Her stark black-and-white photographs often respond to the violence inflicted on those groups. But the exhibition also includes colorful photographs of same-sex weddings that are radiant, both with African sunshine and irrepressible joy. 200 Eastern Parkway, at Prospect Park, 718-638-5000, (Schwendener)

★ Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum (continuing) The stately doors of the 1902 Andrew Carnegie mansion, home to the Cooper Hewitt, are open again after an overhaul and expansion of the premises. Historic house and modern museum have always made an awkward fit, a standoff between preservation and innovation, and the problem remains, but the renovation has brought a wide-open new gallery space, a cafe and a raft of be-your-own-designer digital enhancements. Best of all, more of the museum’s vast permanent collection is now on view, including an Op Art weaving, miniature spiral staircases, ballistic face masks and a dainty enameled 18th-century version of a Swiss knife. Like design itself, this institution is built on tumult and friction, and you feel it. 2 East 91st Street, at Fifth Avenue, 212-849-8400, (Cotter)

★ Frick Collection: ‘Leighton’s “Flaming June”’ (through Sept. 6) “Flaming June,” by Frederic Leighton (1830-1896), a masterpiece of Victorian painting, has come to New York for the first time in more than 35 years, for a solo turn at the Frick. Anyone who’s ever perused books of late-19th-century British art will instantly recognize the idyllic image of a young woman in a sheer, incandescent orange dress curled up in sleep on piles of drapery on a marble bench, with a sunstruck Mediterranean in the distance. She’s particularly memorable for her disproportionately large right thigh. The painting is languorously beautiful and an exceptionally interesting artifact of Victorian consciousness. 1 East 70th Street, Manhattan, 212-288-0700, (Johnson)

★ Guggenheim Museum: ‘Doris Salcedo’ (through Oct. 12) Politically speaking, you don’t have to be a house to be haunted. All you need to be is someone who keeps an eye on the news; who pays attention to loss through violence; and feels a personal stake in that loss, as if it were happening to people you know and care about, to people who live in your home. The artist Doris Salcedo was born in Bogota, Colombia, in 1958, and came of age in an era when civic murder was a way of life in her country. For some 30 years, she has made such memories the essence of a witnessing art which includes the dozens of austere but viscerally animated sculptures and installations that fill all four floors of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Tower Level galleries in this career retrospective. 1071 Fifth Avenue, at 89th Street, 212-423-3500, (Cotter)

Jewish Museum: ‘Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television’ (through Sept. 27) This small but revealing and entertaining exhibition traces the connections between the high art of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and the developing medium of television. The connections aren’t always deep, but the material is always absorbing — from the “Twilight Zone” credits, to CBS promotional materials designed by Ben Shahn, to Andy Warhol’s Schrafft’s commercial. 1109 Fifth Avenue, at 92nd Street, 212-423-3200, (Mike Hale)

Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘The Roof Garden Commission: Pierre Huyghe’ (through Nov. 1) This outdoor rooftop exhibition is about time. The main attraction is a massive fish tank containing a curious assortment of objects, animate and inanimate. As if by magic, a boulder of lava floats in the water, its top rising a bit above the surface. A couple of inches below is a mound of sand around which are swimming little brown eel-like lampreys and bright orange Triops cancriformis, or tadpole shrimp, two species thought not to have evolved in millions of years. Elsewhere on the roof, a boulder of Manhattan schist, the material that forms the bedrock for many New York City skyscrapers, represents geological duration. 212-535-7710, (Johnson)

Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’ (through Sept. 7) Designed to illustrate the influence of Chinese culture on Western fashion, this visually extravagant exhibition fills both the basement-level Anna Wintour Costume Center and the Chinese galleries on the second floor, and claims a repurposed Egyptian space in between. In terms of real estate, it’s one of the museum’s largest shows ever. And it feels that way, exhaustingly so, with acres of objects, photographs, film clips and apparel punched up by sound-and-light special effects. In a way, it’s all just fashion business as usual, the product of a culture that speaks a language of overkill. In this case, though, a smaller, better show is all but buried: a nuanced historical essay on cultural hybridity, the mixing of styles and ideas over space and time that leaves every culture equal to every other culture in its creative impurity. 212-535-7710, (Cotter)

★ Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Discovering Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met’ (through Sept. 27) Highlighting contributions to the Met’s Japanese art holdings by American collectors from the 1880s to the present, this gorgeous show presents more than 200 superb paintings, drawings, prints, scrolls, folding screens, ceramics, lacquer ware and works in other mediums and genres, mostly dating from the fourth century to the late 19th. 212-535-7710, (Johnson)

★ Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River’ (through Sept. 20) This moving tribute to the 19th-century painter who depicted the hardscrabble life along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers as spacious idylls of serenity and even timelessness, presents 16 of his 17 river paintings known to exist, among nearly all the exacting studies of men at rest that preceded them. The human dimension of the figures is joined to the golden light and space of the setting by the geometric solidity of the boats and their wonderful details. 212-535-7710, (Smith)

★ Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Paintings by George Stubbs from the Yale Center for British Art’ (through Nov. 8) A rare sighting in New York: eight paintings by the inimitable English painter George Stubbs (1724-1806). They include two of his best racehorse pictures, with their stunning precision of anatomy, portraiture, landscape space and interspecies psychology. Four other paintings follow two men through a day of shooting small game and the fifth shows the gentle killing of a wounded doe at a hunt’s end. 212-535-7710, (Smith)

★ Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Reimagining Modernism: 1900-1950’ (continuing) One of the greatest encyclopedic museums in the world fulfills its mission a little more with an ambitious reinstallation of works of early European modernism with their American counterparts for the first time in nearly 30 years. Objects of design and paintings by a few self-taught artists further the integration. It is quite a sight, with interesting rotations and fine-tunings to come. 212-535-7710, (Smith)

★ Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends’ (through Oct. 4) Despite a career as a society portraitist, John Singer Sargent was, by many accounts, a shy man, given to halting speech or silence except among people he knew well and liked. He was not ever, though, a shy painter. Few artists in any era have had as extroverted a hand as his, and as keen an instinct for visual theater. And when his sitters were people he cared for, something extra came into the work, a relaxed recklessness of a kind that scintillates and sluices through the 90 paintings and drawings in this show that comes to New York from the National Portrait Gallery in London. It includes a few of the Beautiful People portrait commissions that made him a wealthy man, but mostly it’s made up of what might be called self-commissions, inspired by attraction, affection, or both. 212-535-7710, (Cotter)

★ Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Warriors and Mothers: Epic Mbembe Art’ (through Sept. 16) If a dozen masterpiece Renaissance sculptures, done in an unknown and wildly unorthodox style, suddenly turned up in the Italian countryside, the find would make the news. You’ll encounter the equivalent of such a discovery in this show of spectacular weatherworn, wood-carved figures, some dating to before the 17th century, that were made by the Mbembe in southeastern Nigeria and taken to Paris by an African dealer in the early 1970s. They caused a sensation among collectors and scholars at the time, and you can see why. But the effort to find more of them proved fruitless. The examples at the Met, which include the original dozen, represent all the fully intact stand-alone Mbembe figures known to exist. 212-535-7710, (Cotter)

MoMA PS1: Simon Denny: ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ (through Sept. 7) A hyperactive multimedia extravaganza by this Berlin-based artist takes down irrational exuberance about new technologies with sardonic verve. Along the way, it indirectly damns the high-end art market’s own inflationary mania. If Mr. Denny doesn’t get to the bottom of what’s causing the sociopathology infecting both industries, his show is certainly a good conversation starter. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, at 46th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, 718-784-2084, (Johnson)

★ MoMA PS1: ‘Wael Shawky: Cabaret Crusades’ (through Aug. 31) Some of the most vivid depictions of a war in the Middle East aren’t on television news these days. They’re in the local solo debut of the Egyptian artist Wael Shawky at MoMA PS1. Called “Cabaret Crusades,” it’s made up of three sequential films set in the distant past, beginning in the 11th century when European armies marched eastward to claim the Holy Land. The story is one of almost unremitting violence, and the scenes of battle, torture and execution are appalling to see, which is a surprise, considering that all the actors are marionettes, some of which are on view in the gallery, and an extraordinary sight they are. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, at 46th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, 718-784-2084, (Cotter)

MoMA PS1: ‘Samara Golden: The Flat Side of the Knife’ (through Aug. 31) Standing at a railing where you look into the museum’s two-story-tall Duplex Gallery, you behold a confoundingly complicated interior architecture with furniture, stairways, musical instruments, wheelchairs and many other domestic items rendered in silvery, foil-clad foam board. The gallery’s floor is covered by a grid of large mirrors so that everything is doubled. What you think is up may really be down, and what you take to be real might be a virtual reflection of the real. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, at 46th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, 718-784-2084, (Johnson)

MoMA PS1: ‘Im Heung-soon: Reincarnation’ (through Sept. 10) The South Korean artist and director, who won the Silver Lion at this year’s divisive Venice Biennale, presents his latest work: an exquisitely filmed, if somewhat jumbled, meditation on the enduring traumas of armed conflict. One video screen features Vietnamese women who suffered at the hands of the Korean army during the Vietnam war; the other follows women in Tehran who lost children during the Iran-Iraq war. Though the connections between the two conflicts finally remain somewhat obscure, “Reincarnation” hangs together thanks to Mr. Im’s striking cinematography and inventive approach to documentary — he intermingles historical footage with fictional reenactments and bold non-narrative sequences, such as a woman’s long black hair swallowed up in a flowing sand dune. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, at 46th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, 718-784-2084, (Jason Farago)

★ Morgan Library & Museum: ‘Hidden Likeness: Photographer Emmet Gowin at the Morgan’ (through Sept. 20) The library redefines the artist-selected museum exhibition by inviting Emmet Gowin to mix selections from its holdings with his own photographs. The extraordinary result is a retrospective inside a visual autobiography that can evoke a cabinet of wonders and includes many Morgan marvels, like the best Rembrandt drawing of an elephant you’ll ever see. Mr. Gowin’s interview in the catalog adds further depth. 225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, 212-685-0008, (Smith)

Museum of Arts and Design: ‘Richard Estes: Painting New York City’ (through Sept. 20) The core of this show is a selection of vivid, Photorealist paintings of urban subjects like glass and chrome storefronts, movie theater marquees, cars and trucks, subways, the Brooklyn Bridge, views from the Staten Island Ferry and idyllic images of Central Park made between 1965 and 2015. The exhibition also includes didactic sections about the craft and technique that go into Mr. Estes’s painting and prints, but that aspect doesn’t fully deliver what it promises. 2 Columbus Circle, Manhattan, 212-299-7777, (Johnson)

★ Museum of Modern Art: ‘One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North’ (through Sept. 7) In the early 20th century, tens of thousands of African-Americans left the rural South for the industrial North in search of jobs, homes and respect. Officially, this MoMA show is meant to mark the centennial of that immense population shift, though it also marks another anniversary: the first time in two decades that all 60 paintings in Jacob Lawrence’s great “Migration Series,” now divided between New York and Washington, have been shown together at the museum. Here they are surrounded by period photographs, books and fabulous music in a display as stimulating to the mind and the ear as it is to the eye. 212-708-9400, (Cotter)

Museum of Modern Art: ‘Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection’ (through April 10) MoMA’s latest installation of works from its permanent collection fills the second-floor contemporary galleries with videos, installations, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs produced by more than 30 artists during the past three decades. It’s an uneven, haphazard selection, but leaving artistic quality aside, its unusually optimistic-sounding title inadvertently raises a large and intriguing question: At a time when contemporary art seems to be spinning its wheels, what could a new heritage be? 212-708-9400, (Johnson)

Museum of Modern Art: ‘From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola’ (through Oct. 4) Divided into alternating his-and-hers rooms, the show features the Argentine artist and filmmaker Horacio Coppola (1906-2012) and the German artist Grete Stern (1904-99). Stern was clearly the more strident innovator. Highlights of the show include her work with Ringl & Pit, the advertising agency she founded with Ellen Auerbach, as well as “Dreams (Sueños),” the surrealist photomontages she published in a women’s magazine from 1948 to 1951 to illustrate a column on psychoanalysis. 212-708-9400, (Martha Schwendener)

Museum of Modern Art: ‘Design and Violence’ (continuing) Described on the museum’s website as a “curatorial experiment,” “Design and Violence” was and is an exhibition that exists almost entirely on the Internet. The show includes pictures, descriptions, essays and discussions about design objects used for violent purposes, including the AK-47 rifle, animal slaughter systems, bullets, plastic handcuffs and graphics depicting everything from refugee migration to incarceration demographics to violent video games. It’s a heavy and heady gathering of information that leans at times toward a symposium rather than an exhibition, but remains grounded in innovative objects that have made — or could make — a cultural impact. Online at; 212-708-9400. (Schwendener)

Museum of Modern Art: Zoe Leonard: ‘Analogue’ (through Aug. 30) Ms. Leonard’s “Analogue,” a vast suite of photographs installed across three walls of the MoMA’s atrium, is an affectingly plangent update of Social Realist photography. Produced between 1998 and 2009, its 412 images — 342 color, 70 black and white — catalog examples of low-end commerce from New York to Africa, indirectly but evocatively representing the human toll of corporate globalization. 212-708-9400, (Johnson)

★ Museum of Modern Art: ‘Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971’ (through Sept. 7) In 1971, Yoko Ono gave herself an imaginary solo show at MoMA by means of a few cut-and-paste photographs and some strategically placed newspaper advertisements. More than 40 years later, the real thing has come to pass and it was worth the wait. Enhanced by films and a soundtrack, the show is largely archival, with lots of works on paper, including the 151 hand-typed note cards that, in 1964, became “Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings,” and demonstrate how radical this artist’s early experiments with language and performance were. A 2015 sculpture rounds things out. Sure to put you off balance, it’s a reminder of what a wake-up-to-life call that art can be, a message that this underestimated artist has been delivering for years. 212-708-9400, (Cotter)

Museum of the City of New York: ‘Activist New York’ (continuing) With a focus on activist tactics from the 17th century to the present, this exhibition — designed by the firm Pentagram — is a room-size onslaught of sensory stimulation, complete with videos, graphics and text. Told through 14 “moments” in New York activism, it includes a facsimile of the Flushing Remonstrance (1657), a petition for religious tolerance given to Peter Stuyvesant, director-general of the settlement, as well as contemporaneous objects, like a Dutch tobacco box, a Bible and “Meet the Activists” kiosks adjacent to each display, which identify activist groups working in the present. Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, 212-534-1672, (Schwendener)

Museum of the City of New York: ‘Everything Is Design: The Work of Paul Rand’ (through Sept. 7) You may not know the name Paul Rand (1914-1996), the immensely influential advertising art director, illustrator and graphic designer, but it’s a safe bet you’re familiar with some of his works. After shaking up American advertising and book cover design in the 1940s and ’50s, he created logos for UPS, IBM, Westinghouse and other American corporations. His admirers called him “the Picasso of graphic design.” This show tracks his six-decade career with 150 examples of vintage magazines, book covers, three-dimensional containers, children’s books and books by Mr. Rand about principles of design. Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, 212-534-1672, (Johnson)

Museum of the City of New York: ‘Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival’ (through Nov. 29) Handwritten Bob Dylan lyrics, well-strummed guitars from Lead Belly, Judy Collins and Odetta, concert posters, Sing Out! magazines, video from a raucous protest over banning folk singers from Washington Square, the street sign from Gerdes Folk City and plenty of songs on headphones evoke idealism and ambition in “Folk City.” The exhibition explores how New York City became a magnet for and a champion of rural styles and then the center of a pop-folk movement, from leftist “people’s music” efforts in the 1930s and ’40s, and the Red Scare reaction, to the civil rights rallies, coffeehouses and hootenannies of the folk revival at its peak. The tangle of tradition and change, earnestness and pop machinations are on view, along with the makings of a legacy that roots matter and a song can change the world. Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, 212-534-1672, (Jon Pareles)

Neue Galerie: ‘Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold’ (through Sept. 7) With the spring release of the movie “Woman in Gold,” which is about the restitution of some Nazi-looted paintings by Gustav Klimt to their rightful heir, the most celebrated of those works, the predominantly golden “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (1907), was brought back into the media spotlight after its 2006 purchase by Ronald S. Lauder for $135 million, then the highest price paid for a painting. This small show features the portrait along with eight other Klimts and an assortment of jewelry and decorative objects typifying the luxurious lifestyle of Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, the art collectors who commissioned it. 1048 Fifth Avenue, at 86th Street, 212-628-6200, (Johnson)

★ Neue Galerie: ‘Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents of German and Russian Art, 1907-1917’ (through Aug. 24) This lively, scattershot exhibition of about 70 paintings and works on paper forms an indispensable introduction to Russian modernism’s figurative beginnings and its ties to German Expressionism. That many of the Russians are unknown compensates for the unevenness of their work and for a selection of abstract pieces that feel tacked on. The German works, while outnumbered, look great. 1048 Fifth Avenue, at 86th Street, 212-628-6200, (Smith)

★ New Museum: ‘Albert Oehlen: Home and Garden’ (through Sept. 13) This fantastic, overdue show skims too lightly over three decades of painting — from 1983 to 2011 — as the artists moved from Neo-Expressionist self-portraits to his latest abstractions, in which irony is replaced by a semblance of anguish. In between: some of the first (and best) forays into painting by computer, and a group of canvases whose sublime abandon obliterates elaborate computer-built images. 235 Bowery, at Prince Street, Lower East Side, 212-219-1222, (Smith)

★ New Museum: ‘Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld’ (through Sept. 20) A trim, handsome, overdue survey of a prominent member of the Pictures Generation — who died in 2013 at 66 — charts her loyalty to and questioning exploration of her medium and its social, psychological and physical and historical aspects. At every turn she achieved a precision, beauty and mystery all her own. 235 Bowery, at Prince Street, Lower East Side, 212-219-1222, (Smith)

New-York Historical Society: ‘Art as Activism: Graphic Art from the Merrill C. Berman Collection’ (through Sept. 13) This show offers a selection of 71 posters from the 1930s to the ’70s that show the role visual art has played in political and protest movements in the United States. Drawn from the singular collection of Merrill C. Berman, an investor from Rye, N.Y., they offer a rich alternate history of the last century, one you probably didn’t learn about in your American history textbooks. 170 Central Park West, at 77th Street, 212-873-3400,

★ New-York Historical Society: ‘Freedom Journey 1965: Photographs of the Selma to Montgomery March by Stephen Somerstein’ (through Oct. 25) Almost 50 years ago, the picture editor of a campus newspaper at City College of New York assigned himself a breaking story: covering what promised to be a massive march in Alabama, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to demand free and clear voting rights for African-Americans. On short notice the editor, Stephen Somerstein, grabbed his cameras, climbed on a bus and headed south. The 55 pictures of black leaders and everyday people in this show, installed in a hallway and small gallery, are some that he shot that day. The image of Dr. King’s head seen in monumental silhouette that has become a virtual logo of the film “Selma” is based on a Somerstein original. 170 Central Park West, at 77th Street, 212-873-3400, (Cotter)

Queens Museum: ‘After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India, 1947/1997’ (through Sept. 13) This large group exhibition of South Asian-born artists is really two shows, a focused one of modernist painting from roughly the time of Independence in 1947 through the 1970s, and a larger, somewhat haphazard selection of multimedia work from the past few years. The best way to approach the second part is one artist at a time, and there are some fine ones, from Atul Dodiya and Dayanita Singh of an older generation, to Prajakta Potnis and Sreshta Rit Premnath of a younger. The placement of films by Nikhil Chopra around the museum’s grand New York City panorama makes for a win-win installation. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, 718-592-9700, (Cotter)

★ Studio Museum in Harlem: ‘Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange’ (through Oct. 25) This well-chosen show of works from the past decade surveys the maturation of a late-blooming abstract painter who has revived the modernist grid with a distinctive combination of freehand geometry and bold color (the full spectrum) and altogether an special sense of improvisation and, complexity. The work sustains multiple readings both in terms of the history of modernism and Mr. Whitney’s African-American heritage. 144 West 125th Street, Harlem, 212-864-4500, (Smith)

★ Whitney Museum of American Art: ‘America Is Hard to See’ (through Sept. 27) With high ceilings, soft pine-plank floors and light-flooded windows and terraces, the galleries of the new Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum in the meatpacking district are as airy as 19th-century sailmakers’ lofts. Art feels at home in them, and the work in the museum’s top-to-bottom inaugural exhibition is homegrown. Culled from the permanent collection, it mixes bookmarked favorites by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jasper Johns with objects and artists that the Whitney had all but forgotten or just brought in. As a vision of a larger America, the show is far from comprehensive; as a musing on the history of a particular New York institution over nearly a century, it is very fine, smartly detailed and superbly presented. 99 Gansevoort Street, at Washington Street, 212-570-3600, (Cotter)

Galleries: Chelsea

Elmer Bischoff: ‘Figurative Paintings’ (through Sept. 12) During the heyday of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s, a number of painters in San Francisco turned away from abstraction and back to representational painting, thereby founding what came to be known as Bay Area Figuration. Elmer Bischoff (1916-1991) was one of the leaders of the movement. This show reveals a visionary, unabashedly romantic painter working under the influences of Edward Hopper and Albert Pinkham Ryder. He created images of poetic nostalgia and spiritual yearning grounded in robustly applied, richly sensuous paint. George Adams Gallery, 525-531 West 26th Street, Chelsea, 212-564-8480, (Closed Aug. 15 through 31.) (Johnson)

Galleries: SoHo

★ Robin Rhode: ‘Drawing Waves’ (through Aug. 30) Though now based in Berlin, the South African artist returned to Johannesburg to paint a mural of abstract waves on a rundown street. The suite of 16 photographs here documents the mural in progress, but instead of holding a brush, Mr. Rhode has a surfboard, and in a fine bit of urban slapstick he keeps trying to surf the breakers he’s just painted. This small but potent exhibition continues the artist’s engaging mixture of drawing and performance, notably via a wall-spanning work completed by local public school students, who wielded giant oil crayons to illustrate the waves that carried the ships of the Dutch East India Company to the Cape of Good Hope. As a video here shows, the children were more than game — when a pair of them try to draw a dark blue wave near the bottom of the wall, they drop the crayon and collapse onto the floor. Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street, SoHo, 212-219-2166, (Jason Farago)

Galleries: Other

‘ “The Last Party”: The Influence of New York’s Club Culture: Mid-70s to Early ’90s’ (through Aug. 23) This lively, messy scrapbook of a show uses photographs, videos, paintings and a recreation of the Mars Bar, the famous dive that became a tourist attraction, to look back on a downtown scene of gleeful debauchery. Art isn’t well served, but it’s fascinating to peruse the scores of photographs of Andy Warhol, Deborah Harry, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, the Ramones and many other luminaries hanging out in places like Studio 54, CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. It’s like flipping through back issues of People magazine. WhiteBox, 329 Broome Street, between Bowery and Chrystie Street, Lower East Side, 212-714-2347, (Johnson)

Public Art

Jeppe Hein: ‘Please Touch the Art’ (through April 2016) People with small children likely will enjoy Mr. Hein’s three-part show. If it’s a hot day, the kids will rush to be drenched by “Appearing Rooms,” which has water spouting up unpredictably from a square platform of metal grating. Youngsters as well as grown-ups also may be fascinating by the perceptually confounding “Mirror Labyrinth NY,” which consists of mirror-surfaced planks of stainless steel in varying heights planted in the grass in a spiral formation. Meanwhile, guardians can rest on one of 16 fanciful, shocking orange park benches while their young charges clamber about on the furniture’s surrealistically altered parts. Brooklyn Bridge Park, 334 Furman Street, Fulton Ferry, Brooklyn, (Johnson)

Out Of Town

★ Lynda Benglis: ‘Water Sources’ (through Nov. 8) The most compelling temporary exhibition at Storm King Art Center in recent years focuses on a heretofore unfamiliar but important dimension of Ms. Benglis’s distinguished career: creating working fountains. The show’s main attraction is a quartet of gorgeous fountains rising from temporary, circular pools embedded in the lawn outside the center’s home building. Two of them have abstract forms suggesting psychic monsters surging up from unconscious depths. The others feature flower shapes stacked into majestic columns. 1 Museum Road, New Windsor, N.Y., 845-534-3115, (Johnson)

Bruce Museum: ‘Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hofmann’ (through Sept. 6) This small but substantial and exuberantly colorful exhibition is the first to examine the four projects for mosaic murals that the Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) tackled in the 1950s. Only two were executed, but the paintings and collages Hofmann produced in preparation for them sharpened his signature clash of contrasting abstract styles, expanded his scale and set the stage for his last, and best, paintings. 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, Conn., 203-869-0376, (Smith)

★ Clark Art Institute: ‘Van Gogh and Nature’ (through Sept. 13) “Nature is very, very beautiful here,” van Gogh wrote to his younger brother Theo in the summer of 1890, a few weeks before he took his own life. He was referring to the vistas of forests and grain fields surrounding the town of Auvers-sur-Oise northwest of Paris. He had written almost identical words in other letters, from other places, over the years. Natural beauty was the first thing he noticed wherever he went, and this show of some 50 paintings and drawings, on loan from American and European museums, is filled with his images of it, from early, twilit Dutch landscapes, to sumptuous floral still lifes, to exquisite late drawings of insects and birds. They add up to one of this summer’s choice art attractions; a low-key big deal. 225 South Street, Williamstown, Mass., 413-458-2303, (Cotter)

Dia:Beacon: Robert Irwin: ‘Excursus: Homage to the Square³’ (continuing) A walk-in maze with walls of white scrim lit by color-filtered fluorescent tubes, Mr. Irwin’s “Excursus: Homage to the Square³” had its debut in 1998 at the Dia Center for the Arts in Chelsea. It was so popular that the curators elected to keep it on view a year longer than its originally planned run. It’s reincarnation here is similarly transporting, if not as thoroughly as the original was. But to experience it at Dia:Beacon along Minimalist works by other artists that encourage heightened perceptual attention to the here and now is as spiritually calming as it is historically illuminating. 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, 845-440-0100, (Johnson)

★ ‘Elaine de Kooning Portrayed’ (through Oct. 31) While she is probably best known for having been Willem de Kooning’s wife, Elaine de Kooning had an interesting life and career of her own. Indeed, if an enterprising filmmaker wanted to make a romantic biopic evoking the New York artworld from the rise of its bohemian avant-garde in the 1930s and ’40s through the pluralist era of the ’70s and ’80s, he or she could not find a more suitable subject than Ms. de Kooning. Adding up to a collective portrait, this show’s 18 paintings and drawings include four outstanding self-portraits by the artist herself along with works by Mr. de Kooning, Fairfield Porter, Hedda Sterne and Alex Katz. Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, 830 Springs-Fireplace Road, East Hampton, N.Y., 631-324-4929, (Johnson)

★ National Gallery of Art: ‘Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye’ (through Oct. 4) Flash on French Impressionism and you’re likely to see gauzy clouds of flickering paint strokes like molecules flying apart. But if you’d visited the third annual Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1877, you would have found a few things that countered such expectations: realistic paintings of a new Paris of mausoleum-like luxury high-rises and ruler-straight boulevards running back into infinite space. The name of the artist attached to these pictures was Gustave Caillebotte. His “Paris Street, Rainy Day,” billboard-size and graphically bold, with its detailed but oddly empty image of well-dressed urban amblers, was a showstopper in 1877. And so it is again in this taut survey of a fascinating artist’s career, which includes portraits of friends, market still lifes, and views of the suburban gardens he came to love. On the National Mall, between Third and Seventh Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, 202-737-4215, (Cotter)

★ National Gallery of Art: ‘Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566-1638)’ (through Oct. 4) Joachim Wtewael was one of the great Dutch artists of the years leading up to the 17th-century Golden Age, though for a variety of reasons — changes in fashion, the artist’s hard-to-say last name — he has taken a secondary place in the history books. This show is his first ever museum solo, and it’s a winner. Comfortable in scale — 37 paintings and some drawings, roughly a third to a half of his known output — it not only brings a major figure properly into view, but demonstrates both what was brilliant and what was confusing about an artist who painted like an angel and sometimes thought like a devil. To Wtewael (pronounced oo-tuh-vawl), portraits, religious scenes, and pornography were equally valid subjects for art. On the National Mall, between Third and Seventh Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, 202-737-4215, (Cotter)

★ National Museum of African Art: ‘Conversations: African and African American Artists in Dialogue’ (through Jan. 24) For its 50th anniversary, this museum has brilliantly thread together work from two sources: its own holdings in African material and the Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr. collection of African-American art. The Cosby collection, weighted toward canonical figures like Romare Bearden and Charles White, will bring in the crowds, but it is the curators and museum itself, which is in a period of renaissance, that have made the show rise well above predictability. Smithsonian Institution, 950 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, 202-633-4600, (Cotter)

Parrish Art Museum: Andreas Gursky: ‘Landscapes’ (through Oct. 18) When this German artist’s immense photographs first began appearing in New York galleries in the 1990s they were terrifically exciting for their sheer size and for their implicit commentaries on capitalist globalization. Now they have about them the stale air of white elephants. Uninitiated viewers, however, might thrill to the strenuously spectacular prints in this 19-piece show, which includes a dismally dystopian, aerial view of cattle in a muddy, Colorado stockyard and a futuristic image of the gleaming, gold-hued interior of a huge gas tank on a transport ship in the Persian Gulf. 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, N.Y., 631-283-2118, (Johnson)

★ Philadelphia Museum of Art: ‘Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting’ (through Sept. 13) This terrific exhibition presents more than 90 Impressionist paintings, including many that haven’t been seen in the United States in decades or ever, all of which passed through the hands of Paul Durand-Ruel, the Paris art dealer who put Impressionism on the international map. The paintings alone will make the show a popular draw. But it’s the tale of Durand-Ruel’s long and hugely influential career, richly detailed in the exhibition catalog, that makes this something more than just another crowd-pleaser. Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street, 215-763-8100, (Johnson)

★ Smithsonian American Art Museum: ‘The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi’ (through Aug. 30) The first American survey in decades of the Japanese-American painter emphasizes his efforts of the 1920s, distinguished by their singular synthesis of American folk art, Asian art and European modernism. But throughout it reveals an artist open to influence yet always true to his own sensibility whose his life, art and times fuse with instructive clarity. Unfortunately, the show will not travel. Eighth and F Streets NW, Washington, 202-633-7970, (Smith)

Last Chance

‘Anthems for the Mother Earth Goddess’ (closes on Friday) This provocatively plaintive show of temporary murals and a sculptural installation is the gallery’s last exhibition at this location. Kevin Sampson’s visionary “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” protests almost everything about modern society, including the recent deaths of young black men at the hands of the police. In bright, sharply outlined colors, Chris Doyle’s “Everhigher” depicts an absurd utopia of high-rise residential buildings. Peter Fend proposes a pragmatic idea: He has diagramed a submarine that would turn ocean biomass into methane fuel. Andrew Edlin Gallery, 134 10th Avenue, near 18th Street, Chelsea, 212-206-9723, (Johnson)

‘Bonsai #5’ (closes on Friday) This exquisitely calibrated group show honors Roger Brown, the Chicago painter whose “Virtual Still Life” series occupies the gallery’s larger space (at 630 Greenwich Street). It centers on Mr. Brown’s 1997 painting “Bonsai #5, Literati (Bunjing),” joined for the occasion by paintings and sculptures by Peter Halley, Kenneth Price, Carol Bove, Diana Simpson and Alex da Corte. Engaging crosscurrents about art-making, craft and much else abound. Maccarone, 98 Morton Street, at Washington Street, West Village, 212-431-4977, (Smith)

Françoise Grossen (closes on Friday) This small, excellent retrospective of Ms. Grossen’s work from 1967 to 1991 offers plenty of examples of how fiber artists broke, as Ms. Grossen once said, with the “rectangle” and the “wall.” “Sisyphe” (1974), a magnificent sculpture made of rope and laid out on a low platform, is reminiscent of elaborately braided hair or masses of coiled rope on a ship’s deck. Works from her “Metamorphosis” series (1987-90) are suspended from the ceiling like hanging nets or carcasses with exposed skeletons. All of these demonstrate what Ms. Grossen could achieve, working almost exclusively with knotted and braided rope. Blum & Poe, 19 East 66th Street, at Madison Avenue, Upper East Side, 212-249-2249, (Schwendener)

★ Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Fatal Attraction: Piotr Uklanski Photographs’ (closes on Sunday) A small but succinct survey of the multimedia bad-boy artist’s polymorphous relationship to photography shows him constantly changing scale, film and printing methods while exploring the medium’s ability to startle, seduce and become generic. He appropriates, imitates and pays homage as he goes, regularly invoking his Polish roots. Don’t miss the large photo-banners in the museum’s Great Hall or the massive fiber-sculpture monument to the eye and to insatiable looking. 212-535-7710, (Smith)

★ Metropolitan Museum of Art: ‘Van Gogh: Irises and Roses’ (closes on Sunday) Art is long, but color can be brief. That’s the message conveyed by this concentrated, juicy show. Reuniting four biggish floral still lifes painted in under a week, it affirms the artist’s ability to give flowers the presence of portraits. And, using the latest digital means, it also examines the changes wrought by an orange-scarlet that faded over time. Enjoyable and edifying. 212-535-7710, (Smith)

★ ‘Margaret Morton: A Retrospective’ (closes on Saturday) This photographer’s primary subject since the late 1980s has been the homeless population of New York City — men, women, children and animal companions who live in public parks, empty lots, train tunnels, doorways and on the street. In Ms. Morton’s pictures their poverty is plain, but so is their ingenuity and resilience in creating conditions of survival and community. Her view isn’t romantic in either direction of uplift or despair; it’s an act of realistic witness, which is crucial as the city continues to grow criminally rich at the top, leaving more and more people stranded at the bottom. Leica Gallery New York, 670 Broadway, near Bond Street, NoHo, 212-777-3051, (Cotter)

Ebecho Muslimova (closes on Saturday) Ms. Muslimova draws funny, wordless cartoons of a lovably goofy, corpulent alter ego called Fatebe. Deftly outlined with fine brushes in sinuous, black ink lines on snowy white pages, Fatebe always appears naked and with an expression of popeyed surprise in all sorts of awkward and confounding situations. She’s a performance artist in “Fatebe Floor Piece,” in which she’s cutting a splintery circle in a gallery’s wooden floor, using her head like a jigsaw. Room East, 41 Orchard Street, at Hester Street, Lower East Side, 212-226-7108, (Johnson)

★ ‘George Ohr Pottery: No Two Alike’ (closes on Friday) Ohr (1857-1918) dubbed himself “the Mad Potter of Biloxi,” but the 50 bowls, cups, vases and pitchers in this stunning exhibition testify to a creative sensibility much different from his bumptious public persona. They are marked by an exquisite delicacy of touch, a subtle sense of humor, an extraordinary formal sophistication and a Picasso-like inventiveness. Craig F. Starr Gallery, 5 East 73rd Street, Manhattan, 212-570-1739, (Johnson)

Ruth Root (closes on Friday) Ms. Root’s new works are paradoxically more minimal and yet more opulent than her earlier paintings. Each one is composed of two parts: a digitally printed fabric shape designed by Ms. Root and a plexiglass component covered with enamel and spray paint. The two parts are connected by simple folds, like origami or a cardboard box, and hung from grommets on the wall. The real difference in the new works, however, is that Ms. Root has unleashed a firestorm of patterns, deftly harnessing art history and vernacular culture to shift the narrative of abstract painting, just a little bit. Andrew Kreps Gallery, 537 West 22nd Street, Chelsea, 212-741-8849, (Schwendener)

Michael Smith: ‘Excuse me!?!...I’m looking for the “Fountain of Youth” ’ (closes on Friday) The current show includes heraldic banners with half-finished Sudoku puzzles, photographs of trips to theme parks, a ballet with Baby Ikki (Mr. Smith’s signature character), and a fountain made of handblown glass that mimics the mundane office water cooler. Honed over a long career, Mr. Smith’s work is still heavy on irony and postmodern ennui — but it also channels the dissonant sensation of being alone in an overpopulated world, coupled with a cultivated infantile artistic response to the insanity of “adult” society. Greene Naftali, 508 West 26th Street, Chelsea,, 212-463-7770. (Schwendener)

★ ‘Virtual Still Life’ (closes on Friday) The 11 paintings here belong to a series that Roger Brown, the Chicago Imagist, produced in the mid-1990s. Each features a luminous, pastoral landscape sparely dotted by silhouetted, Lilliputian figures. Each also has a shelf jutting out from the bottom of the canvas on which cups, vases, ashtrays and other pieces of vernacular pottery are displayed, as if on a windowsill. There’s a surprising sense of harmony between the physically here-and-now and the further reaches of imaginative vision in these beautiful works. Maccarone, 630 Greenwich Street, at Morton Street, West Village, 212-431-4977, (Johnson)

★ ‘What Nerve!: Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present’ (closes on Friday) A lavish challenge to postwar American art history’s focus on New York, abstraction and Conceptual art brings to the fore the exemplars of California Funk, Chicago’s Hairy Who and Detroit’s Destroy All Monsters, with, as tacked-on tail, the Forcefield collective from Providence, R.I. “What Nerve!” presents excellent early works and ephemera all around, and much fertile ground for fresh curatorial thought. Matthew Marks Gallery, 502, 522 and 526 West 22nd Street, Chelsea, 212-243-0200, (Smith)

Stanley Whitney (closes on Sunday) A group of five little-seen paintings, scores of works on paper and small oil studies from the 1990s illuminate the painter’s path to recent works on view at the Studio Museum in Harlem. They also reveal a keen and versatile talent for drawing, as well as Mr. Whitney’s relentless exploration of color, mark-making and the grid. Karma, 39 Great Jones Street, between Lafayette Street and Bowery, East Village, 917-675-7508, (Smith)

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