9 Must-See Shows in New York This March
Mary Lovelace O’Neal, installation view at Mnuchin Gallery, 2020. Photo by Tom Powel Imaging. Courtesy of Mnuchin Gallery, New York.
Here, Artsy’s editors share their favorite exhibitions that recently opened in New York.
Brennan & Griffin, 122 Norfolk Street
Feb. 22–Mar. 28
Despite the ominous title “The Word-Killer,” Sacha Ingber’s exhibition at Brennan & Griffin showcases her wildly creative practice. The seven sculptures on view are delightful hybrid concoctions melding practices once dismissed as craft (ceramic, mosaic, blown glass) with paper pulp, silicone, brass, found objects, and more. By bringing together these disparate materials and processes, Ingber generates bewitching juxtapositions of everyday objects and forms charged with symbolism.
The first work visitors encounter, for instance, Keratoconus and things getting Hot (2013–20), is laden with references. Its title namechecks an eye disorder, which might explain its pair of glass globes. But the sculpture is also a BBQ grill made of ceramic and steel, as well as a giant hourglass—its lower chamber is filled with a pile of sand. An overly literal interpretation could be to see it as a finger-wagging harbinger of environmental apocalypse: Things are getting hot due to humanity’s lack of vision, and time is running out. But to straitjacket Ingber’s works into such readings would be limiting. Her stellar formal exploits conjure a sense of wonder with their how-did-she-do-that material invention and their ability to spark constellations of meanings.
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, 521 West 21st Street
Feb. 27–Apr. 18
Artists working in glass don’t usually command the space of Chelsea galleries. Yet Kelly Akashi’s first solo show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery proves that should not be the case. With her mastery of traditional glassmaking techniques, the Los Angeles–based artist harnesses the volatile material and combines it with other substances—bronze, rope, wood, marble, steel—to encapsulate and express feelings of fear, joy, and sadness, among others. The exhibition title, “Mood Organ,” helpfully offers a glimpse into Akashi’s intentions: It’s a nod to the Penfield Mood Organ, a gadget imagined by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick that would allow people to control and leverage their emotions.
On the main floor, water trickles from a spherical bronze fountain (Weep, 2020), which is encircled by five sculptures that pair a bronze cast of the artist’s elegant hand with glass forms—a Venetian-style bubble, a lacelike globe, a translucent curlicue. Each sits atop a walnut pedestal shaped after the EKG waves of Akashi’s heartbeat. The sharpness of the sculptures’ pointy fingernails contrast with the fragile glass forms they caress.
Upstairs, Cultivator (Metaphoric) (2020), a larger-than-life marble hand, is draped in delicate glass flowers and cradles what resembles a small spiky fruit. A small room is dedicated to Triple Helix (2020), a table of vessels that resemble the shapely torsos of ancient fertility figures; next door, braids of golden rope and hand-sculpted glass antlers drape a larger gallery. The enveloping experience does indeed toy with our moods, presenting exceptionally alluring objects that often feel incredibly breakable, and remind us that our emotions are just as fragile as glass.
Mary Lovelace O’Neal
Mnuchin Gallery, 45 East 78th Street
Feb. 6–Mar. 14
Mnuchin’s survey of Mary Lovelace O’Neal is a welcome spotlight on the underrepresented 78-year-old artist. Made between the 1960s and the 2000s, the bold paintings on view include unstretched canvases saturated with pigment and dashed with narrow wisps of color; giant pulsating expressionistic paintings with feverish brushstrokes and rashes of drips; and spiritual color fields doused in rich, translucent hues.
Now a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley and based in Oakland, O’Neal was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1942. She earned her BFA at Howard University in 1964 and her MFA at Columbia in 1969; at the latter, she was the only African American woman in her class. O’Neal’s works nod to the predecessors she studied—such as Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and later, the Color Field painters—but still feel uniquely her own. The artist recently told the New York Times, “I think my art has been given a wide berth until now…when you achieve stardom early on, you feel you cannot change your style. It was not that way with me.” At Mnuchin, we’re treated to a taste of that multiplicity, and a strong sense that such daring, distinctive work should be more familiar.
Michelle Segre & Julia Bland
Derek Eller, 300 Broome Street
Feb. 6–Mar. 8
Michelle Segre’s work asks: What is art but a playground for adults? Working at her most ambitious scale to date, Segre has constructed giant yarn contraptions that hang from green, blue, and orange metallic frames. In Star Zero (2020), the yarn takes the shape of a bull’s-eye. A painted blue lotus root chip dangles from the threads like an irreverent charm. Segre doubles down on her organic matter in Just why do you think you’re a plant? (2020), which features a massive orange carrot made from beeswax. It lies on the floor beneath all the yarn, conjuring a zany animation (Segre titled her last show at the gallery “Dawn of the Looney Tune”). Seeing the artist’s exuberant use of readily accessible craft materials, I thought of Joanne Greenbaum’s recent show at Rachel Uffner, which featured paintings made with magic marker. Down with self-seriousness!
The gallery makes a canny pairing, juxtaposing Segre’s sculptures with Julia Bland’s simultaneously lithe and sturdy textiles. They feature netted spines and pleasing symmetries, painted regions that add heft and rounded contours that suggest leaves and bulbs. The works are infused with the abstract feminine mysticism that pervades paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe or Hilma af Klint, yet their earthen tones make them feel much more grounded.
Klaus von Nichtssagend, 54 Ludlow Street
Feb. 21–Mar. 29
If you’re in search of grace and beauty, Klaus von Nichtssagend is worth a stop. Pamela Jorden’s five new acrylic and oil paintings (all 2020) are all diptychs comprising two shaped canvases that kiss at the seams. Heliotrope, for example, features a crescent moon–shaped canvas clouded with silver, sunshine yellow, sky blue, and sunset pink. At its points, it touches a half-circle lathered with weightier hues: deep grapes and navy blues, lightened up with a small patch of neon orange. The sliver of wall that peeps between the two canvases becomes intriguing negative space, like the center of a cat’s eye. The painting’s title recalls a purple flower, but break it down—“helio,” “trope”—and the work becomes self-conscious of its celestial insinuations.
Spine features a more delicate balance, evoking an abstracted torso atop hips. Jorden bases her scale on her full arm span and reach, grounding her heavenly palette with references to her own body. In the front room, don’t miss a small presentation of lovely canvases by Virginia Holt, selected by Jorden.
Karma, 188 East 2nd Street
Feb. 29–Apr. 26
Walking into Karma, visitors encounter a dense forest of Thaddeus Mosley’s sculptures made from cherry, bass, hickory, and walnut wood. The self-taught artist, now in his mid-nineties, salvages his material from sawmills, discarded building supplies, and the Forestry Division in his home city of Pittsburgh; his presentation is essentially an ode to a bygone landscape. Like a Lorax who expresses himself through mallet and chisel, Mosley speaks for the trees.
The works recall modernist greats and their tribal African antecedents. They forgo a sense of the contemporary for an appreciation of the past; slits and rings in the wood imply decades of natural history. The sculptures’ shapes range from short, squat stools to totemic vertical forms. In Totem for Nabta Playa (2016), Mosley carved circles and lines that evoke a secret language. Region in Suspension (1996), which features a thin plank propped between two thick, dark legs, conjures a human body. With their curving, delicately balanced limbs, many of the pieces suggest dance itself. When the lights go out and the gallery closes for the evening, I wouldn’t be surprised if all these sculptures started grooving together.
Thomas Erben Gallery, 526 West 26th Street, Floor 4
Feb. 13–Mar. 28
Artist Yamini Nayar works at the intersection of sculpture and photography, creating works that interrogate architecture and space. Nayar’s process begins by constructing sculptures from various materials, including plaster, paperboard, and primarily wood. She then photographs her forms. The resulting images are delicate architectural scenes with stunning complexity.
In her current show, “Three Spaces for Time,” Nayar incorporates new elements into her work. The images on view are rooted in Nayar’s process of working from black-and-white film negatives and using tri-color separation, a method that allows the artist to turn black-and-white film into color. For one prominent piece, Messenger (2020), Nayar layered the negatives and used the color-creating technique to develop a swirl of deep purples and pinks. The mesmerizing illusions evoke an almost multidimensional perspective of fan-like shapes; the layers of the sculpture create hazy silhouettes in the frame.
Jack Shainman Gallery, 524 West 24th Street
Feb. 21–Mar. 28
The first room in Vibha Galhotra’s show “Beyond the Blue” at Jack Shainman Gallery feels like an embalming chamber: Five pockmarked circles of Korean hanji paper peer from the walls. Corpse-white and reminiscent of gauze, their barren lunar landscapes speak to a riven world, sapped of its life and color, while on the frontmost wall, a steel-and-glass map of Earth hangs precariously from a wall rack. There’s a funereal weight to the monochrome room, but it’s undercut with a sense of fragility and even carelessness. The glittering map feels frightfully askew, soon to fall and shatter on the gallery floor.
The “blue” in the show’s title is Earth’s lifeblood—its water and resources. And while the initial gallery imagines what happens after those resources are gone, the back room imagines a cosmic geography humming with protean life. The four tondos in the series “Life on Mars” (2019) are of similar shape and size as the first room’s hanji paper works, but they’re made of miniature metallic bells called ghungroos; their multicolored topographies resemble both Martian landscapes and the patterned hides of animals. They feel like a promise of life after extinction, and are comforting in their color and tactility. But while this progression feels optimistic, you still have to leave the gallery the way you came, and that planetary morgue is a stark reminder of the immediate costs of ecological violence.
Yancey Richardson Gallery, 525 West 22nd Street
Feb. 13–Apr. 4
For his debut exhibition at Yancey Richardson Gallery, Guanyu Xu plastered images of homoerotic desire across his childhood home, then photographed each room. With references to Wolfgang Tillmans (as in The Living Room, 2018) and Paul Mpagi Sepuya (in Worlds Within Worlds, 2019), Xu’s photos collapse perspective so drastically that his work initially reads as collage. The rooms of his parents’ Beijing apartment become the mere backdrop from which Xu’s tensions surrounding sexuality, masculinity, and his family’s military background emerge.
The photographs offer glimpses into the ways Xu rebels, in secret, against the domesticity and heteronormativity of his childhood home. We see a drawer filled with photos of his male lovers (Inside of My Drawer, 2019) and his laptop lit with an image search for gay porn. The rest of Xu’s room in My Desktop (2018) is family-friendly: a stack of magazines featuring male heartthrobs on the cover of Bazaar Men’s Style and GQ, and a cropped photograph of Wolverine’s arms. In Parents’ Bedroom (2018), photos of his mother face life-size prints of the naked artist in bed with a man. The absence of Xu’s actual parents is palpable, but his series imagines a household where heterosexuality is not the default.