Over 40 Art Shows to See Right Now

“The art world should be understood as a complex ecology with many microclimates and some macro ones,” said the curator Okwui Enwezor, who died in March. He could have been describing the geography of New York City galleries. In the 1970s, the climates were macro and few (the Upper East Side, SoHo). In the 1980s, they were joined by the East Village; in the 1990s, by Chelsea; and in the 2000s, by the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. And there are spillovers everywhere. Today, it can be hard to tag a gallery by district, as I learned when visiting a handful that straddle either side of Canal Street, a cross-island axis that runs from SoHo to Chinatown, without claiming full allegiance to either. HOLLAND COTTER


This small storefront gallery, in Chinatown, is a distance from Canal Street, but well worth a walk for the local debut of the artist LaKela Brown. The look of her mostly white plaster reliefs is austere. The subject, ornamental bling associated with 1990s hip-hop, is the opposite: door-knocker earrings, rope neck chains and gold teeth. All are artifacts of the pop culture Ms. Brown grew up with in Detroit, her home city. Although the show’s title, “Surface Possessions,” hints at a critical remove from that culture, the work itself, exquisitely done, feels like an honoring gesture. Lining the gallery walls, the reliefs might have been lifted from an ancient royal tomb. Through June 16 at 56 Henry Street; 518-966-2622, 56henry.nyc.

For 25 years, the nonprofit apexart has been inviting curators from across the globe to produce thematic group shows in its small space. Many of the curators have been artists, as is the case with Porpentine Charity Heartscape, the digital game designer who assembled the current show, “Dire Jank.” Keeping her checklist short, she has surrounded her own work with that of just three fellow gamers, all but one transgender. The exception, an artist who calls himself Thecatamites (Stephen Murphy), takes a sardonic look at old-school games in a click-heavy conquest narrative that goes nowhere, very slowly. Tabitha Nikolai, self-described as a “trashgender gutter elf” from Salt Lake City, offers a tour through a luxury mansion that houses a Borgesian library, a sexology institute, and opens up onto vistas of cosmic space. Devi McCallion, the rock star of the bunch, delivers a despairing, pulsating plea for environmental awareness in a music video. As for Ms. Heartscape’s work, centered on the risks of queerness, it’s startlingly soul-baring. Where most conventional games are about predation and its thrills, hers are about the evils of predation. I should mention that in the gallery I found the interactive pieces glitch-prone. (Maybe they’re meant to be? After all, jank is gaming talk for, among things, low quality.) But when I reran the show on my laptop everything worked like a charm. Through May 18 at 291 Church Street; 212-431-5270, apexart.org.


Aria Dean, who graduated from Oberlin College in 2015, is having her second show in New York. Her works weave the gallery space into a web of intersecting, sometimes contradictory languages and perspectives, as suggested by the show’s title “(meta)models or how I got my groove back.” (Not to mention the double remove of “meta” and “models.”) A video monitor in the middle of the gallery shows a camera dancing around a pedestal made of mirrored, or two-way glass, familiar to viewers of police procedurals. This pedestal sits on a New York sidewalk, providing chaotic, fragmented views of houses, cars and pavement. It’s a “non-site” — recalling Robert Smithson’s 1970s use of mirrors in small, temporary earthworks — except urban, in danger of being broken, a pedestal awaiting an artwork. We hear what appear to be three young men, identified as D.J.’s (it’s actually a single actor), move effortlessly between street talk and a kind of Beckettian theory-talk — riddling observations about a nothing that can be something but is ultimately a void, a form of invisibility. (The dialogue borrows from, among others, the writings of Heidegger, Robert Morris and Fred Moten.) Around the screen, on the floor or attached to the wall, four vaguely figurative shapes cut from the mirrored glass add to the disorientation. They are blank nothings but they also suggest leaping ghosts, Saturday morning cartoons (Casper) and the silhouettes of the bodies of murder victims, outlined in chalk on the street. Through May 5 at 249 East Houston Street; 646-850-7486, chapter-ny.com.


This storied nonprofit is best known for presenting conceptual shows that contain an ambitious site-specific element. The current centerpiece is the Japanese artist collective ChimPom’s affecting, tunnel-like installation made of paper cranes that people from around the world have sent to Hiroshima as a gesture of peace. The city keeps the cranes — millions of them — in a special warehouse, where the collective also filmed a new video. On view concurrently is a “non-visitor center” for “Don’t Follow the Wind,” an exhibition created inside the radioactive Fukushima exclusion zone by ChimPom, other artists and the curator Jason Waite (who organized both shows at Art in General). Visitors can glimpse the restricted area via a 360-degree video and contemplate the sobering past and present of our nuclear reality. Through July 13 at 145 Plymouth Street, Dumbo; artingeneral.org.


People can find visiting galleries intimidating, mysterious or irksome, but it needn’t be, even for beginners. There’s no time like our annual Spring Gallery Guide to discuss the basics (and pleasures) of this time-honored activity. Before you get to our recommendations, let me offer some advice:

Galleries don’t charge admission. New York City has the largest concentration of art galleries anywhere; there’s a great deal of information and many experiences to be had, free of charge. These are welcoming places that don’t exist only to sell art. They’re also a public service, a way for artists and art students to see what other artists are up to, but also for the rest of us as well.

Be engaged. Wave or smile to the people at the front desk when you enter (and maybe say “Thank you” when you leave). Join the ritual of signing the sign-in book. (Most galleries have them.) It lets artists know you’ve been there and provides a little private moment before plunging in. You’ll also see news releases by the sign-in book. They give you the title of the show (if there is one), some whiff of the artist’s intention and a short biography. There’s a good chance there will also be checklists, almost always with photographs of the works. This provides the title, date, materials and dimensions of every artwork on view. It’s your map.

Take the process seriously. Give every show a chance. Art is never trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Walk around the sculptures; study the paintings — and their surfaces — from various distances. Examine the checklist, and think about how the art objects were made and of what. Can you identify the materials used on first sight?

Listen to yourself. Realize that you are having reactions and forming opinions even if you can’t quite articulate them. Tally up what you like or don’t like about a certain piece. Strike up a conversation with someone who seems to be looking as hard as you. Compare notes. Got questions? Ask them of whoever behind the desk looks the least busy. Keep in mind that many people in these positions at galleries are young artists or writers and usually quite smart. You never know when you’re talking to the next Huma Bhabha. ROBERTA SMITH


Top image grid, from top left: ChimPom and Art in General; Dario Lasagni; Dawn Mellor and TEAM Gallery; via Alexander and Bonin, New York; Joerg Lohse; American Artist; ANOHNI and The Kitchen; Arcmanoro Niles and Rachel Uffner Gallery; Aria Dean and Chapter NY; Dario Lasagni; Bruce Pearson and Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York; Austin Lee; Cameron Clayborn and Simone Subal Gallery; Dario Lasagni; Mark Mulroney and Mrs. Gallery; Vivian Suter and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; David Regen; Claude Tolmer and L. Parker Stephenson Photographs; via apexart; Eduardo Kac and Henrique Faria, New York; Jessi Reaves and Bridget Donahue NYC; Greg Carideo; Sasha Bezzubov and Front Room Gallery; Sharon Horvath and Pierogi; Julia Rommel and Bureau, New York; Dario Lasagni; Mira Schor and Lyles & King; Walid Raad and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Peter Krashes and Theodore:Art, Brooklyn; Martin Kersels and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York; Silvia Bächli and Peter Freeman, Inc.; Moira Dryer and Van Doren Waxter, New York; Stefan Hagen; Ming Fay and Sapar Contemporary; via 56 Henry; Object Studies; Raqib Shaw, via Pace Gallery; Pierre Buraglio and Ceysson & Bénétière; Graciela Iturbide; Lili Jamail and TEAM; via Artist’s Institute at Hunter College; Paul Fagerskiold and Peter Blum Gallery, New York; Etienne Frossard; Paul Anthony Smith and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Sara Mejia Kriendler and The Chimney; Reggie Shiobara.


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