Want to see new art this weekend? Start in the East Village with the Swiss Institute’s annual architecture and design series. Then head to the Lower East Side to check out Sascha Braunig’s Neo-Surrealist paintings. And don’t miss Joana Choumali’s embellished photographs of her native Ivory Coast.
‘Beneath Tongues: Architecture and Design Series’
Through April 17. Swiss Institute, 38 St. Marks Place, Manhattan; 212-925-2035, swissinstitute.net.
For the 6th edition of Swiss Institute’s architecture and design series, the artist Sable Elyse Smith has assembled an exceptionally rich group show in which language, seen and heard, as image and sound, is the pivotal medium.
Smith understands language as having both entrapping and liberating potential. It’s presented as an instrument of control in E. Jane’s four-part video about Black femme divadom under surveillance. It’s source of potential misunderstanding in Christine Sun Kim’s translations from standard English into deaf signing. By contrast, hand-drawn images of household items are a way to catalog and savor the world in the art of Patricia Satterwhite, who died in 2016. And printed words are vehicles for political messaging in the large-scale collage by the Los Angeles artist Lauren Halsey.
Much of the language Smith has included is nonvisual, even nonverbal. A soundscape emanating from an assemblage by Cudelice Brazelton IV — a young artist to keep an eye on — is a kind of auditory argument between industrial clammer and rushing water. Three glass biomorphic sculptures by Lydia Ourahmane are equipped with mics to pick up the ambient sounds of the gallery itself. And the show’s second floor is a wraparound wall of sounds and words, with a musical composition by Smith, the composer Tariq Al-Sabir, and the vocalist Freddie June and album playlists chosen by artists (Nikita Gale, Jacolby Satterwhite) available on headphones. Finally, for a words-only experience, pick up a booklet of commissioned texts by seven writers responding to the show and the stimulating ideas about looking and listening it’s generating. HOLLAND COTTER
Lower East Side
In her latest Neo-Surrealist paintings, Sascha Braunig has gained in narrative complexity what she has lost in formal punch. It is a worthy trade-off — although I miss the power of some of her earlier works, especially the mysterious, Magrittean heads shrouded in exquisite, glowing trompe-l’oeil patterns that matched the background. These may have reached their culmination in the artist’s shows at Foxy Production, her former New York gallery, in 2015, and MoMA/P.S. 1 in 2017.
In the years since, Braunig’s work has increasingly focused on the human body, or at least on a highly attenuated headless intimation thereof, cryptically defined by narrow tubular lines both smooth and thorny. In ambitious shows of new paintings and related studies at Magenta Plains and François Ghebaly, two galleries in the Lower East Side, she has pushed more deeply into a slightly ominous feminist territory, one where suggestions of performance, dressmaking and ambiguous power dynamics circle one another.
Expanses of hanging fabric, in which Braunig’s love of color and light are especially strong, suggest stage curtains, but have been cut open and sharply gathered, usually by the wiry figures, to suggest both gowns and hourglasses. This occurs most clearly in a painting at Magenta Plains, where a yellow curtain is transformed into a gown by an attenuated figure of red lines which seems more puppet master than mannequin. The painting’s title, like the show’s, is “Lay Figure.” Aptly enough, this is the term for wood dolls with adjustable limbs that figurative artists use as substitutes for living models. ROBERTA SMITH
Lower East Side
Through April 30. Sperone Westwater, 257 Bowery, Manhattan; 212-999-7337, speronewestwater.com.
Embroidering on reality, Joana Choumali takes color photographs in her native Ivory Coast, prints them on cotton canvas and embellishes them with stitching. Shocking-pink balloons, flowering-branch headpieces or silver lines that radiate like energy fields transform a windswept beach or a littered unpaved street into a fairyland.
A sequence of twelve embroidered iPhone photographs that she made of Grand-Bassam, a beach resort that was devastated by a terrorist attack in 2016, won the prestigious Prix Pictet three years later. Choumali titled the series “Ça va aller,” a local expression that translates loosely as “It’s gonna be all right.”
Those pictures are included in “It Still Feels Like the Right Time,” her first solo exhibition in this country. Most depict solitary pedestrians with a melancholy stillness that is complicated by the colorful handwork. The instantaneous snap of the picture-taking is countered by the laborious meditative process of the stitching.
In a subsequent collection produced this year, “Alba’hian,” which in the Anyin language denotes the energy of dawn, Choumali works on a larger scale, portraying groups of people, sometimes in multipanel compositions. These photographs have been collaged to create theatrically flamboyant skies and larger-than-life figures. The tropical scenes are lusher, with luxuriant vegetation, and the embroidery denser. They are covered with a delicate voile, as if shrouded by a humid mist.
In one, “I Am Enough” (2022), a sorceress juggles planets as she stands alongside a beach pier, conjuring the cosmic in the quotidian. It could be Choumali’s self-portrait. ARTHUR LUBOW
Through April 16. Karma, 22 East 2nd Street, Manhattan; 212-390-8290, karmakarma.org.
Mungo Thomson’s “Time Life” at Karma is a thrilling accomplishment, adding a new chapter to the long conversation about photographs, mechanical reproduction and ways of seeing. It may not be for everyone, though: I watched all seven rapidly flashing videos, made with images scanned from vintage instructional manuals, catalogs and cookbooks, and I left the gallery feeling like I’d just ridden a high-speed roller coaster.
The premise of “Time Life” is simple: sifting through a vast, sometimes absurd archive of images and presenting them at breakneck speed. “Volume 2. Animal Locomotion” (2012-22) shows people demonstrating various forms of exercise, accompanied by a pulsing track by the electronic music pioneer Laurie Spiegel. “Volume 6. The Working End” (2021-22) features fingers tying knots and the percussion of the avant-garde composer Pauline Oliveros. The show’s opus might be “Volume 5. Sideways Thought” (2020-22), with an original score by Ernst Karel, which animates the expressive but inert bronze and marble sculptures of Auguste Rodin.
Thomson’s project draws fruitful comparisons to other artists and theorists: Eadweard Muybridge, Gerhard Richter, Arthur Jafa and Richard Prince, who, as a young artist, actually clipped publication images at Time-Life Inc. There are also echoes of Aby Warburg’s 1920s “Mnemosyne Atlas” and André Malraux’s “Museum Without Walls” (1949). What Thomson’s adds is a hydraulic-launch speed: We are not “supposed” to look at images this fast. And yet, the jarring somatic experience of “Time Life” offers a chiropractic antidote to scrolling aimlessly on your phone, languidly consuming pictures and casting a few of your own into the universe of technical images. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Barkley L. Hendricks
Through April 30. Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street, Manhattan; 212-645-1701, jackshainman.com.
The African American painter Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017) is best known for his portraits, but the sixteen Basketball Paintings now at Jack Shainman, made between 1966 and 1971, are just as exciting. (During lockdown, Shainman featured them in an online show.)
Some are straight-ahead depictions of hoops and backboards and balls. Others take the game’s signature forms — the ball’s circle, the arcs and right angles of a court’s markings — and turn them into pure pattern.
The standard way to talk about such works is in terms of late ’60s battles between abstraction and representation: They seem to hesitate between the two, as though Hendricks had yet to settle on his trademark figuration.
I prefer to read them metaphorically, less about issues of style as about the game of art, and the skills and positioning it takes to score in it. If art is like basketball, then painting becomes more verb than noun, more action than object. It’s about a set of moves, and the rules that shape what counts as fair or foul — and who gets to play at all.
The Basketball Paintings stage a witty demonstration of all the ways there were to score points in their era, from the new hyper-realism to the latest in color-field art.
Hendricks was between college and graduate school when he made most of them, so we can think of him as still semipro but picturing life in the majors.
These brilliant paintings prove he was already there. BLAKE GOPNIK
Through April 2. Gallery Henoch, 555 West 25th Street, Manhattan; 917-305-0003, galleryhenoch.com.
Born in Brooklyn in 1935, Mel Leipzig studied painting at Cooper Union and Yale, where his interest in realist portraiture was discouraged by such eminences as Josef Albers. But he stuck to his vision, and since 1970 he’s been chronicling the lives and contexts of friends and neighbors in Trenton, N.J. — where he taught for 45 years — with precision, empathy and a volume of detail that would overwhelm a photograph.
That’s not to say that he’s literal-minded. Leipzig frequently distorts perspective to fit things in, or to emphasize the centrality of his subjects in their environments. He doesn’t shrink from moving a couch, adding a window or even changing the color of the sky if it serves a painting’s overall composition. He also glances against as much painterly self-awareness as any younger artist. “Gregory at Gallery Henoch” catches an employee of Leipzig’s own gallery posing in front of another one of his portraits, and in “The Woodcut” (1994), Leipzig paints himself and his daughter Francesca reflected in the glass over his own 1957 woodcut of his mother and sister.
But what he’s consistently infatuated with is the endless quantity of visual material presented by the real world. (“That’s the thing about realism,” he likes to say. “Everything is paintable!”) A portrait of Louis Draper, with whom Leipzig shared an office at Mercer County Community College, surrounds the photographer with books, papers and acoustic ceiling tiles, all rendered with as much attention as the man himself. WILL HEINRICH
Through April 2. Andrew Edlin Gallery, 212 Bowery, Manhattan; 212-206-9723; edlingallery.com.
Some underground comix creators of the late 1960s and mid-1970s have become mainstream famous, like R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman. But many others helped shape the rebellious, pathbreaking movement. Among them was Spain Rodriguez (1940-2012), whose work is featured in a mini-survey, curated by Dan Nadel, titled “Hard-Ass Friday Nite” after one of the artist’s stories.
Born Manuel Rodriguez in Buffalo, he was a self-described juvenile delinquent before dropping out of art school. He worked in a Western Electric plant and rode with a motorcycle club. In 1967, he moved to New York City, where he began publishing comix and working at the alternative newspaper The East Village Other. Two years later, he crossed the country to join the Bay Area scene.
Rodriguez’s socialist politics informed his work. The star of the show is Trashman, “agent of the 6th international,” who uses paranormal abilities and brute strength to battle tyrannical forces in a post-apocalyptic world. There’s also Manning, a corrupt cop; tales about his biker group, the Road Vultures Motorcycle Club; and one-offs like a wacky story about a murderous refrigerator.
Like many underground comix, the work is violent, and women are largely absent — although Rodriguez drew female leads that aren’t represented here. But his blocky, shadowy art, detailed cityscapes and inventive layouts are so engrossing, you’ll want to spend time with them. What comes through most is Rodriguez’s rejection of respectability and constant questioning of the established order. Even with his blind spots, that’s worth admiring. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Through April 2. Lomex, 86 Walker Street, Manhattan; 917-667-8541, lomex.gallery.
Cute, zany animal antics on TikTok may be the only thing holding civilization together at this point. In the art world, H.R. Giger’s dark depictions of erotic aliens and posthumans are the nonpartisan glue. His show, “HRGNYC,” organized with Alessio Ascari of Kaleidoscope media, is easily one of the most popular in downtown right now. In addition to sculptures, prints, drawings and photographs in the gallery, Lomex’s Instagram account also documents people showing off their Giger-inspired tattoos, tributes and costumes.
Giger (1940-2014) was a Swiss artist who used airbrush techniques to create “biomechanical” figures that merged humans with machines and imagined a future in creepily gothic terms. His contributions reached a high point in his designs for films like “Alien 3” (1992) and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unrealized version of “Dune.” However, in true Swiss fashion, Giger was also obsessed with wristwatches — a merger of body and mechanized time — and these appear frequently in the show, like in a purple aluminum and bronze “Female Torso (1994) that is actually a design for a Swatch watch.
Giger’s aesthetic is the touchstone for a variety of communities. The opening for “HRGNYC,” for instance, brought together members of the band Slayer as well as Comic Con devotees. Much like Tom of Finland’s over-the-top fantasy depictions of gay men cruising, Giger’s salacious drawings lean toward kitsch — but kitsch that’s become culturally relevant in these dystopian times. For most of the attendees here, it’s a not-so-guilty pleasure. I’m more of a recent, if reluctant convert. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Through April 2. JDJ Tribeca, 373 Broadway, B11, Manhattan. 518-339-6913; jdj.world.
Think of paintings of angels, and art-historical images probably come to mind: fair-skinned, female Renaissance figures attending to a baby Jesus. In Lucia Love’s paintings, angels are shape-shifting characters that may appear cartoonish or statuesque. They have impressive wings, but no heads; instead, floating above their bodies are rings of stick figures with connecting arms, a symbol that might recall a logo for a nonprofit organization or two sideways crowns.
But the biggest change may be that, as the title of this show — “Angel at the Wheel” — suggests, here the angels have gone from sidekicks to protagonists, and they’re harnessing some cosmic forces. In “Saint George and the Dragon” (2022), an angel on horseback vanquishes a reptilian creature headed by Walt Disney, who’s carrying the Nazi aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun and surrounded by smirking Mickey Mouses. “Excelsior” (2021), rendered in a style I want to call surrealist socialist realism, could be a tribute to the marvels of air travel, except the planes seem poised to drop bombs on us viewers down below.
Previous paintings by Love, a Brooklyn-based artist whose influences include Peter Saul and Neo Rauch, have sometimes felt weird just for the sake of it, but this show has a conceptual coherence that strengthens the work. I recommend reading the zine Love made explaining the symbolism of each piece, but even if you don’t, you can still get lost in these terrifically trippy images of spiritual beings that seem only as good as the people who power them. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Through April 2. Hauser & Wirth, 542 West 22nd Street, Manhattan; 212-790-3900, hauserwirth.com.
In post-World War II Japan, a group of artists rejected tradition to create an art that emphasized individual freedom and the action of making. Under the banner of Gutai — “gu”meaning tool and “tai” body — they prefigured the emergence of performance art in the United States by decades.
The paintings here show Takesada Matsutani, once one of the Gutai group’s youngest members, still working at the age of 85 with the vinyl glue he began experimenting with in 1961. Now Paris-based, Matsutani blows air with straws or fans underneath the surface of the glue as it dries, creating canvases with delicate bulbous protrusions. As you enter the gallery, look closely at the egg-yolk yellow painting on the cover of his 2019 Centre Pompidou retrospective catalog on the gallery desk. It displays “Circle Yellow-19” from that same year but in a very different state than the painting now in the gallery: The inflated blister on its surface has since partly collapsed. At some point — on the plane from France, as it was unloaded in the midwinter cold of Chelsea? — the painting has exhaled the artist’s breath.
This is painting pressed to an extreme limit, or stuck in a cul-de-sac. Several works here repeat variations of inky near-black blue or purple vinyl featuring a bisecting line on white, creating abstractly floral constructions. Are flowers beautiful even when they are wilting and dying? JOHN VINCLER
Through April 3. Alyssa Davis Gallery, 2 Cornelia Street, No. 1102, Manhattan. 401-263-4093; alyssadavis.gallery.
Abby Lloyd’s show “Goodbye Dolly” consists of precisely one work: a huge, 12 foot-tall rag doll that colonizes an entire end of the gallery, an 11th-floor prow-shaped apartment in Greenwich Village. Lloyd has frequently returned to dolls for her subject matter, making detailed, unsettling sculptures in various media that conjure the often frightening parts of childhood. Here, though, Lloyd’s doll is simple and straightforward, a classic children’s toy scaled to monumental proportions, cut from uncomplicated fabric and filled with packing peanuts.
Lloyd began the work after the death of her mother, whose own childhood Raggedy Ann and clothespin dolls she came across when organizing her effects. It’s an effective manifestation of the way grief can fill an entire room, sucking up its oxygen — a Raggedy Ann bled of color, nearly blotting out an entire window’s worth of daylight. (The gallery’s domestic setting adds to the effect, allowing entry into someone’s private interiority.)
In its tender, lovingly rendered affect, it’s like an anti-KAWS: unpolished, lumpen, inescapably human. All dolls are slightly creepy, but Lloyd’s shades less sinister than vulnerable. Its mismatched button eyes and missing clothes, instead of jarring, suggest a quality of being fiercely loved, and bring to mind the roadside memorials that gradually wilt in the sun and decay. The textile medium usually invites an analysis of craft and women’s work, but here the ache overpowers any appetite for symposia. Lloyd’s doll smiles sweetly with its tremendous arms outstretched, waiting for an embrace that can never fully be returned. MAX LAKIN
More to See
Through April 8. Brooklyn Army Terminal, 80 58th Street, Annex, Level C, Brooklyn; veralistcenter.org.
Two years into the pandemic, much art about it that I’ve seen has felt somewhat small and introspective. What makes Adelita Husni-Bey’s “These Conditions,” organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, refreshing is that her inquiry into Covid-19 steered her outward. She looked to previous pandemics and invited others to tell their stories.
Husni-Bey is interested in the possibilities of collectivity, which she explores in workshops where she prompts people to share and interpret their experiences. Part of “These Conditions” is an installation of three rooms that forms a set for sessions she’s conducting with participants who’ve had to work in person through the pandemic. The spaces contain references to a plague-inspired rebellion by Italian gravediggers and the AIDS crisis that serve as educational and inspirational material.
Husni-Bey will record parts of the workshops to make a film debuting this fall. The two artworks in the show, both from 2021, help illuminate her approach: “On Necessary Work,” a film featuring Danish and U.S. nurses who discuss their jobs and going on strike, and “Cronaca del Tempo Ripetuto” (“A Chronicle of Histories Repeating”), a sound work made with a collaborative chamber orchestra. They represent contrasting ways to process Covid-19: one political, one poetic; one contemporary, one historical; one more literal, the other more abstract. But both cast it as a collective phenomenon as much as a personal one. They insist on Covid as a social experience — a reminder that we are responsible to others and we’re not enduring it alone. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Through April 9. Thomas Erben, 526 West 26th Street, Manhattan; 212-645-8701, thomaserben.com.
Harriet Korman’s paintings have been good for a while. Now they’re getting better. In “New Work,” she continues her longtime practice of destabilizing geometry, making it a living, breathing, uneasy thing through asymmetry, personal touch and an unyielding palette. Especially important is her virtual banishment of white — which is so closely tied to geometric abstraction’s supposed purity, from Malevich and Mondrian forward.
For most of the 2000s, Korman specialized in paintings that were seemingly fractured into varying triangles, interrupted by occasional curves and ovals. Around 2016, she went symmetrical, most impressively with a series of cruciform compositions defined by right-angled bands of slightly jarring colors radiating into the paintings’ corners. They seemed to almost stretch before your eyes.
Now Korman has turned to concentric rectangles. These also radiate toward the edges, but concentricity bestows all sorts of associations — with picture frames, television logos, underground film and especially irreverent riffs on Josef Albers’s “Homage to the Square” paintings. In contrast to the master’s carefully calibrated proportions and colors, Korman’s homages to rectangles jump in and out, thanks to abrupt changes of width and color. Their frequent caramels and khakis flirt with tastelessness while bonding with adjacent blues, reds, greens and yellows, usually not very pure. Korman’s refusal of rulers also adds vitality. Made strictly by hand, the bands of color wobble and occasionally curve emphatically. These are delightful, elucidating paintings, with their own off-center ideas about beauty. Most of all, they are alive. ROBERTA SMITH
Lower East Side
Through April 16. Alexandre, 291 Grand Street, Manhattan. 212-755-2828; alexandregallery.com.
Pat Adams is something like the Jan van Eyck of postwar American abstraction. Her paintings have a fineness and excess of detail — and therefore of meticulous technique — that astound the eye. Thin precise lines of two or more colors — which imply a three-hair brush — bound, spiral or loop through fields of paint splatters and smears and geometric detritus. The resulting pictorial space is complicated and suggestive: simultaneously cartographical, microscopic and celestial. A recurring motif, as seen in “Out Come Out” (1980) or “On the Table” (1979), is a jutting plane intruding from an edge, its surface emphasized by the addition of mica, sand or broken eggshell. The effect is jarring, at once physical and cosmic.
Born in California in 1928 and schooled in art at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1940s, Adams came East in 1950, and exhibited until 2008 with Zabriskie Gallery in Manhattan. Her current exhibition — her first in New York since then — surveys paintings from the 1970s and ’80s. It presents the visual and philosophical richness of a style long at odds with so many first principles of New York painting in decades past: flatness, simplicity and straightforward process. Those decades are now over, making it easier to see Adams’s work as an inspiring depiction of diversity and unpredictability — vital to life as much as to art. Surprisingly her canvases are not yet represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan Museum. Just saying. ROBERTA SMITH
Through April 16. Paula Cooper Gallery, 524 West 26th Street, Manhattan; 212-255-1105, paulacoopergallery.com.
In a darkened, cavernous space, rushing waterfalls spill down the gallery walls surrounding the viewer on three sides. Minuscule figures stand on the floor at the edge of the wall, in the digitally projected cascades, casting their tiny shadows behind. As you approach, crouching down to bring these figures into focus, they reveal themselves as familiar personages at approximately the same height as their innumerable reproductions in newspapers: Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and others, rendered small in history’s unceasing flow.
A churning intermingling of the natural, geopolitical and fantastical characterizes the heady, mischievous work of the Lebanese-born and New York-based artist Walid Raad. Brief texts — part encyclopedic essay and part speculative fiction after Jorge Luis Borges — introduce each of seven series of works that make up “We Have Never Been So Populated.” Concurrently presented with three museum shows of the artist’s work in Spain, Belgium and Germany, the exhibition presents Raad as sharp and funny as ever, in an experience that feels like an intellectual theme park. At times the narrative concepts are stronger than the exhibited objects, as in a set of facsimile wall maquettes of a Beirut museum where incisions mark the places where the shadows of paintings might fall. But each series rewards with both mystery and insight, most notably a set of photographs winkingly documenting undiscovered cloud studies, possibly painted by John Constable, found hiding on the backs of canvases. JOHN VINCLER
Through April 16. Grimm Gallery, 54 White Street, Manhattan. 212-280 3877; grimmgallery.com.
Shadowy cabins, abandoned pools, tree houses, lonely suburban homes and vacant parked cars with doors ajar: Michael Raedecker’s unpeopled landscapes glow in eerie monochromes in his current exhibition, “Now.” His paintings — if we can call them that — are laser-printed on canvas from digitally scanned preliminary compositions, then heightened with dripped paint and finished with sewing and embroidery. Raedecker sometimes adds glitter and beading as in “Long-Term” (2021), a nearly all-black painting of the mouth of a cave where these elements suggest moisture and the reflection of moonlight.
Foliage crowds his environments where tangled branches, vines and shrubbery are embellished with creeping tendrils of thread. In “Circuitous” (2022), a yellow inflatable lounge raft floats in a pool in an otherwise blue-and-black painting, with the poolside chairs toppled over as the overgrown forest crowds in. Raedecker’s pools share little in common with David Hockney’s pictures of bright and casual L.A. glamour, but they do evoke Hollywood by way of 1980s horror films. They feel at once distinctly American and fantastic. This fantastical character continues in the treehouse paintings, leaving American suburbia for a primitive utopia recalling an Ewok village or some imagined post-apocalyptic commune.
The artist’s use of thread provides these works with their most remarkable — and beautiful — aspect, which cannot be reproduced and demand to be seen in person. The predominant bright colors and distilled neo-noir mood make for a strangely charming pairing. JOHN VINCLER
Union Square and East Village
“Stop flitting around the house and take off that ridiculous outfit.” These words, the artist Stephen Tashjian says, were often directed his way in the Armenian American household of his childhood in Leicester, Mass., when he was already a young professional puppeteer as well as a busy multitasker. They were prophetic because in the early 1980s, fresh from art school in Boston, Tashjian would land in New York and within days begin his rise to fame — in costume — as a drag performance artist on the East Village art scene, at the Pyramid Club and other establishments of gay downtown.
He quickly assumed the stage name of Tabboo! and also busied himself establishing the graphic style of the period with a multitude of grittily elegant posters, announcements and fliers for events at Pyramid and elsewhere. Their lavish curlicue lettering echoed, robustly, that of Warhol’s advertising work of the 1950s; their style often evoked German Expressionism by way of underground comics. ROBERTA SMITH
Read the full review here.
‘Nuestra Casa: Rediscovering the Treasures of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library’
Through April 17. Hispanic Society Museum & Library, 613 West 155th Street, Manhattan. 212-926-2234; hispanicsociety.org.
After a yearslong renovation, the Hispanic Society Museum & Library partially reopened last fall with a heart-stopping exhibition of polychrome and gilded wood sculptures. For its second show in the new gallery — located in the same stately Beaux-Arts complex just north of Trinity Church Cemetery — the curator Madeleine Haddon gives fans a chance to reconnect with some of the museum’s more famous treasures: Goya’s impossibly crisp “The Duchess of Alba”; El Greco’s Saint Jerome, with the beard of a philosopher and body of a basketball star; an extraordinary “Portrait of a Little Girl” by Velázquez.
But Haddon also brought out a number of less familiar artifacts and canvases, among them “The Family of the Gypsy Bullfighter,” a festive 1903 scene by the Basque painter Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta, and the Catalan painter Ramón Casas i Carbó’s 1915-1916 “La Santera,” a near life-size study of a religious mendicant with a haunting gaze. Another Catalan, Miguel Viladrich Vilá, places two subjects sideways against bright, slightly surreal backgrounds in a pair of highly accomplished portraits from the mid-1920s. Turning her face toward the viewer, “The Woman From Montevideo” is nervous but defiant, while “The Man From Montevideo,” peering only from the corner of his eye, seems to be waiting uneasily for the viewer to leave. In both cases Viladrich makes you feel just how extraordinary it is to capture something as evanescent as a personality in a painting. WILL HEINRICH
Upper East Side
‘Pompeii in Color: The Life of Roman Painting’
Through May 29. Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 15 East 84th Street, Manhattan. 212-992-7800; isaw.nyu.edu.
This unusual loan of Pompeian frescoes from the National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy — arranged by the curator Clare Fitzgerald — is a rare chance to catch ancient Roman visual culture mid-stride.
Consider one six-and-a-half-foot-tall portrait of Hercules and Omphale — a queen who briefly enslaved the famous demigod. At first, its colorful but faded surfaces give you the impression of a sketch waiting for final details, though you can still appreciate the cunning composition. Drunken Hercules, leaning on a helper, turns one way and severe Omphale the other, yet they’re both head-on to the viewer, with a discreet crowd of extras tucked neatly behind their shoulders. A delicate balance of pinks and blues makes the picture vivid but not aggressive — perfect dining room décor.
But enough detail does survive not only to make the picture engaging, but also to make its mythical scene seem less like a religious archetype than a homey fairy tale. Hercules, the strongest man in the world, is blind drunk and staggering — you can see it from the way his legs turn and his eyes gape open — and he’s put on Omphale’s clothes. Omphale’s look is harder to parse. Is it contempt? Indignation? Either way, she’s clearly unamused. Two attendants turn to each other, one with a gossipy “can you believe this?” look, the other praying; an old man supporting Hercules is too worried about keeping him upright to spare a thought for disapproval. WILL HEINRICH
Through June 11. Blank Forms, 468 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn. 347-916-0833; blankforms.org.
Jerry Hunt (1943-93) was a lot of things: a “virtuoso talker,” according to a new book devoted to the artist; a modern-day shaman who was a cross between a 1950s insurance salesman and the Beat writer William S. Burroughs; and an electronic music pioneer who lived in Texas but was better known in Europe. “Transmissions From the Pleroma” at Blank Forms examines Hunt’s career, showcasing his videos, photographs of his outré performances, handwritten musical scores and enigmatic objects such as his totem-like “wands,” made with the assemblage artist David McManaway.
Born in Waco, Texas, Hunt was trained as a classical pianist and plied his craft everywhere, from jazz clubs to strip clubs. However, he once said, “I might have given up on music altogether if it hadn’t been for John Cage and the new emphasis he gave to communication.” Cage’s experimental influence can be felt everywhere in Hunt’s work, from videos in which he carries on absurd conversations to musical scores that look more like abstract drawings. The curious “wands,” often used in performances, cobble together sticks, old gloves and hardware parts.
One deadpan video is titled “How to Kill Yourself Using the Inhalation of Carbon Monoxide Gas” (1993). The work calls to mind the famous existentially tinged quote by the French writer Albert Camus: “There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” Hunt’s video adds to that proposition a consideration of everyone else who might be affected by that decision. Suicide, after all, as he stresses, involves more than the individual performer. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
https://www.nytimes.com/article/new-york-art-galleries.html What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries Right Now