21 New York Gallery Shows Where You’ll Find Exciting Young Artists This May

Casey Lesser
May 5, 2016 2:27AM

While blockbuster shows abound in New York this month, the city’s galleries are also fertile ground for finding fresh works by younger generations of artists. From impressive solos by N. Dash and Eva Kot’átková, to a group show dedicated to China’s youngest generation of artists, below we highlight 21 shows that should not be missed this May.

Ragna Bley at Hester

55–59 Chrystie Street, Suite 203, April 29–May 29

Installation views of Ragna Bley at Hester, 2016. Photos courtesy of Hester.

For her first solo show in New York, Bley shows five paintings—tall canvases steeped with pools of color that conjure oil spills, glowing sea life, or the stain paintings of Helen Frankenthaler. The Swedish artist is influenced by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that showered a large part of the Soviet Union with radioactive material in 1986, the year Bley was born. 

Efficient Frontier” at Magenta Plains

94 Allen Street, May 1–June 8

With works by Michael Assiff, Gretchen Bender, Ethan Breckenridge, Ashley Carter, Lea Cetera, Peter Nagy, Ariane Schick, Josh Tonsfeldt, and Philip Vanderhyden

Installation view of “Efficient Frontier” at Magenta Plains, 2016. Photo courtesy of Magenta Plains.


Drawing its title from a financial management theory, this group show addresses the development of our corporate-driven society across two generations of artists—two were born in the 1950s, and the rest in the late ’70s to mid-’80s. These artists share a slippery approach to material. Straddling various media, they often combine video, performance, painting, photography, and sculpture to examine the ways in which culture and the corporate world intersect.

Kour Pour at Feuer/Mesler

319 Grand Street, 2nd Floor, May 11–June 19

Left: Kour Pour, Vanilla Mochi, 2016; Right: Kour Pour, Paris Syndrome, 2016. Images courtesy of the artist and Feuer/Mesler, New York.

The L.A.-based British artist of Iranian descent presents his new “Tectonic” paintings—works filled with flat, interlocking planes of color, which are inspired by the 19th-century European fascination with Japanese art. He creates these works using the traditional Japanese ukiyo-e printing process, and adopts their forms from earthquake and volcano maps that were generated by the Japanese Geological Survey. Also on view are new paper works inspired by Japanese papermaking, which he creates by throwing ink-dyed newspaper pulp at canvases.

Jesse Stecklow at Chapter NY

127 Henry Street, May 1–June 12 

Left: Jesse Stecklow, The Multi-Directional Elevator, 2016; Right: Jesse Stecklow, Untitled (Elbow meets Knee), 2016. Images courtesy of the artist and Chapter NY.

Stecklow’s mysterious photograph of a sculpture he passes by everyday on the way to his L.A. studio hangs in Chapter’s storefront window, introducing this compelling two-work show. The other piece, The Multi-Directional Elevator (2016), is a delightfully peculiar sound and sculptural installation. Moments of silence in between the work’s seven-part score activate Ear Wiggler (2015), a sculpture at the center of the room featuring two spinning corncobs adorned with drawings of human ears.

Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili at Andrea Rosen Gallery 2

544 West 24th Street, May 3–June 18

Left: Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Color of the day, 2015. Right: Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Lesley (after Woodman), 2015. Photos courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

For her first New York solo show, “Hollow Body,” Alexi-Meskhishvili adopts the term “hollow-body hold”—a wrestling and gymnastics position—as a metaphor for the way her photographic works hold invisible meaning. Known for skillfully splicing distinct photographs in a practice that combines analog and digital photography, the artist presents recent works, including staged photographs that emulate her forebears like Lee Friedlander and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Cy Gavin at Sargent’s Daughters

179 East Broadway, April 1–May 15

Cy Gavin, Aubade II, 2016. Image courtesy of Sargent’s Daughters.

In a new video and expansive paintings of tumultuous land- and seascapes, often featuring a central nude, the Pittsburgh-born artist examines the African Diaspora by focusing on Bermuda, the homeland of his father and a transactional site during the transatlantic slave trade. Gavin traveled to the island to prepare these works, embedding them with the country’s physical terrain and stories of slaves.

Jon Pilkington at 247365

57 Stanton Street, April 22–May 22

Installation view of Jon Pilkington at 247365, 2016. Photo courtesy of 247365.

Stirring together painting’s basic elements of line, form, and color, the London-based Pilkington creates works that toe the line between abstraction and figuration. In some pieces, beneath whirls of energetic brushstrokes, a viewer might find hints of a still life—a plate, a plant, a Matisse-like fishbowl. Other canvases are gridded off into sections of pattern and washes of color.

Jessi Reaves at Bridget Donahue

99 Bowery, 2nd Floor, April 10–June 5

A table made from Jeep Cherokee fenders, a couch of upholstery foam, a driftwood vanity, and a waterproof, vinyl-swathed shelf are among the astute and imaginatively constructed sculptures that Reaves debuts in her first solo show. While successfully upending notions of how furniture should look and feel, and blurring boundaries between art and design, she never sacrifices functionality.

Zak Kitnick at C L E A R I N G

396 Johnson Avenue, May 3–June 26

Installation view of Zak Kitnick at C L E A R I N G, 2016. Photo courtesy of C L E A R I N G.

Kitnick enlarged illustrations of various breeds of dogs and cats from found postcards, then printed them across pieces of metal shelving. In the gallery, halves of each animal are lined up sequentially on the gallery walls, mimicking the visual device of a film strip. The sprawling, somewhat satirical installation that results challenges our perception of familiar—and these days, viral—images.

Nadia Haji Omar at Kristen Lorello

195 Chrystie Street #600A, May 3–June 12

Nadia Haji Omar, Untitled, 2016. Image courtesy of Kristen Lorello, NY.

In her first New York solo show, Haji Omar presents six new paintings created through an intuitive process of layering her canvases with dyes and acrylics. The Melbourne-born artist of Syrian-Indian and Sri Lankan descent is inspired by her upbringing and studies. The Arabic, Sinhalese, Tamil, and French languages, as well as Chinese landscape painting and Islamic art, are among influences that drive her paintings.

Bunny Rogers at Greenspon

71 Morton Street, May 6–June 25

Bunny Rogers, Cafeteria set, 2016. Courtesy of the artist, Greenspon, New York and Société, Berlin.

Following a show last month at Société in Berlin, Rogers presents her latest work in response to the notorious Columbine shooting. In poignant videos, the Texas-born artist taps into the collective memories, perpetuated through the media, that we have of the tragic events, and incorporates a sense of nostalgia by embedding the narratives of cartoon characters from her childhood into the narratives.

Drawing from the esteemed contemporary Chinese art collection of Sylvain and Dominique Levy and curated by Beili Wang, this show brings together works by nine Chinese artists born between 1976 and 1989. Without any personal experience or memory of the Cultural Revolution, art made by this younger generation is vastly removed from the work of their predecessors. Works on view exude the spirit of innovation and creative freedom that these artists are harnessing.

Eva Kot’átková at Maccarone

630 Greenwich Street, May 3–June 18

Left: Eva Kot’átková, Untitled (a mouse’s home is the snake’s boday), 2016; Right: Eva Kot’átková, Untitled (a mouse’s home is the snake’s boday), 2016. Images courtesy of the artist and Maccarone. 

Weaving together collage, sculpture, text, and audio, Kot’átková presents a complex new installation inspired by workshops she gave at the central psychiatric hospital in her hometown. Responding to drawings by children she encountered there, the Prague-based artist builds an environment that revolves around the restrictions that individuals face when living in social conditions where they cannot thrive.

Borna Sammak at American Medium

424 Gates Avenue, May 14–June 12 

At American Medium, the Brooklyn-based artist presents new sculptures and paintings. In recent years, Sammak has gained a reputation for innovative installations that span painting, sculpture, and digital media and are filled with vortexes of color, pattern, and cords. Since his breakout solo exhibition with  JTT in 2012, the artist’s work has filled solo booths at Art Basel and Independent New York; it also garnered unexpected buzz this past March when Sylvester Stallone took a selfie in front of one of Sammak’s videos at the High Museum of Art

“Mayest” at Orgy Park

237 Jefferson Street 1B, May 1–May 29

With works by Phoebe Berglund, Stacy Fisher, Elisabeth Kley, and Cassie Raihl 

Installation view of “Mayest” at Orgy Park. Left: View of Phoebe Berglund’s performance; Right: Works by Stacey Fisher and Cassie Raihl. Photos courtesy of Orgy Park.

Curated by Katherine Aungier, “Mayest” opened on May Day with Berglund’s outdoor performance based on the 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring; during it, dancers in colored tights treaded over wet terra cotta tiles, which will be fired and returned to the show for its closing reception. Inside the gallery,  paintings and a vessel by Kley commingle with candy-colored works by Fisher, and rock-like sculptures made from chocolate and frosting by Raihl. 

N. Dash at Casey Kaplan

121 West 27th Street, May 3–June 18

Installation view of N. Dash at Casey Kaplan, New York, 2016. Photo by Jean Vong, courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York.

Dash places great emphasis on physical contact in her artistic process, channeling her body into her work through touch. Indeed, for her first show with Casey Kaplan, the New York- and New Mexico-based artist has created visceral, elegant compositions by layering canvas, linen, and jute over adobe panels; where these disparate materials meet, edges fray, strings dangle, and fabric wrinkles compellingly, almost like skin or an aging blanket. Other works show ghostly, abstract forms resembling auras. For these, Dash silkscreened images of small cloth sculptures she has shaped spontaneously with her hands throughout her career onto the terra cotta-hued substrate. 

Dora Budor at Ramiken Crucible

389 Grand Street, May 1–June 5, 2016

Budor’s new show comprises one sculpture: a giant fiberglass mold of a head. Folding together fiction and reality, the work is inspired primarily by the plot of David Cronenberg’s 1981 sci-fi film Scanners, in which a character builds a large sculptural head. Also central to the movie’s plot is a fictional experimental drug, called ephemerol (also the exhibition’s title), which is administered to pregnant women as a sedative, and unintentionally makes their children telepathic.

Jared Madere at David Lewis

88 Eldridge Street, Fifth Floor, May 6–June 19

Left: Jared Madere, Sky Milf, 2016; Right: Jared Madere, Brutthammelo, 2016. Images courtesy of the artist and David Lewis.

The New York-based Madere has focused his artistic approach on avoiding the conventions of leading contemporary artists. His effusive installations incorporate dozens of materials—from marble dust to PVC to tinsel—and reflect an emphasis on aesthetics, perception, and energy. Following his show at The Whitney last fall, this solo exhibition marks his first at a gallery.

Stephen Lichty at Foxy Production

2 East Broadway, 200, May 1–June 12

Snake, 2016
Foxy Production
Bell, 2016
Foxy Production

Objects like a black lacquer bowl and a bronze bell in Lichty’s new show may appear to be nondescript objects or readymades, but they are in fact commissions by craftsmen who are highly skilled at bell-making, lacquer-working, taxidermy, and woodworking. Lichty incorporates these traditional methods to create enigmatic, conceptual objects including a taxidermy python moving through a brass ring, and clenching another in its mouth.

Agnes Lux at Martos Gallery

540 West 29th Street, April 28–June 4

Instllation view of Agnes Lux at Martos Gallery, 2016. Photos courtesy of Martos Gallery.

Lux’s four large-scale, glow-in-the-dark collages are made up of postcards that she systematically numbers and codes with phosphorescent paint, then sends to herself in the mail—a process that adds variation that is beyond her control to each card. By using phosphorescence, she taps into the postal service’s use of the material in the 1950s and ’60s as a means to direct machinery, as well as its material properties—its ability to capture and emit light.

Ana Bidart at Josée Bienvenu

529 W 20th St # 2E, April 30–June 4

Floor Plan, 2016
Josée Bienvenu
Color Grid, 2016
Josée Bienvenu

The Mexico City-based Bidart transforms this Chelsea gallery into a fictional studio space, strewn with tarps, tools, and her playful oil paintings, which lean against the walls. These tall canvases are filled with doodles, grids, and floor plans—allusions to domestic living and the paperwork-filled process of apartment hunting.

Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Content.