What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries in June


This week in Newly Reviewed, Jillian Steinhauer covers Farkhondeh Shahroudi’s nuanced history, a Latin American textile show and an exhibition featuring 46 contemporary artists who work in a wide range of mediums and materials.

Gramercy Park

Through July 3. Goethe-Institut New York, 30 Irving Place, Manhattan; 212-439-8700, goethe.de/ins/us/en/.

The artist Farkhondeh Shahroudi was born in Tehran 17 years before the 1979 Iranian Revolution that brought an oppressive Islamist government to power. She studied painting and stayed in her home country until 1990, when she sought political asylum in Germany, where she still lives.

This history informs Shahroudi’s art, on view for the first time in the United States in the exhibition “Of Weeping Trees” — but in a nuanced way. It’s useful to know the symbolism of the green and red she uses (colors on the Iranian flag), but that doesn’t offer a simple key to Shahroudi’s world. She comes at politics through poetry, with sculptures, paintings and videos that are far more evocative than didactic. Some of the work has a dark edge — for instance, “Net” (2021–24), which is woven from artificial hair and looks like a cage, especially with chains weighing it down. But other pieces are more playful, their meaning more slippery. “Ffoossiillllllll” (2024), with its droopy appendages dangling on a pole, could be a creature or a tree, alive or dead.

Shahroudi is interested in repetition, as evidenced by her use of language: Words in German, Farsi and English appear throughout, from the automatic writing on the institute’s street-facing window to conceptual videos featuring recurring actions and images. Sometimes the text is absurdist, gesturing toward meaningless; other times it’s a powerful incantation. The show’s installation is a bit crowded, but that may be fitting. It feels like Shahroudi is continually staging and iterating a set of questions.

TriBeCa

Through July 27. Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA), 142 Franklin Street, Manhattan; islaa.org.

For decades, textile art was trivialized as “craft” and “women’s work” by mainstream U.S. institutions. That longstanding bias has started to erode, but countless fiber art practices remain underexplored. “Threads to the South,” a thrilling exhibition curated by Anna Burckhardt Pérez, spotlights some of them.

The show focuses on Latin America, a region with long and varied thread-based traditions. Many of the 22 artists from 10 countries draw on these heritages, including Julieth Morales, a member of Colombia’s Misak Indigenous community. Her piece “Untitled” (2022) is woven in the style of a striped Misak skirt, but hangs instead as an unfinished banner from the ceiling — a statement of pride and possibility.

The exhibition is intergenerational, but the knockouts are mostly older. Among them are Olga de Amaral’s “Tapete — Número 330” (1979), a checkered wool and woven leather rug; Nora Correas’s “En Carne Viva” (1981), an animalistic bundle of dark red and fuchsia wool forms; Jorge Eielson’s “Amazonia XXVII” (1979), a cross between ancient Andean and Western postmodernist traditions; and Feliciano Centurión’s embroideries on synthetic blankets from the 1990s. These disparate works are alternately visceral and cerebral, intimate and chic. They expand the canon and common understanding of fiber art and who makes it.

Themes emerge throughout the show, but ultimately “Threads to the South” is about identity. Not in a reductive way, as has often been the case in the U.S. Rather, the exhibition argues convincingly that because fabric is at the root of so much Latin American art and life, it deserves, even demands, to move from the margins to the center.

Through Aug. 18. Ortega y Gasset Projects, 363 Third Avenue, Brooklyn; oygprojects.com.

What makes a painting a painting? Is it the application of color to canvas or board? The fact that it hangs on a wall? What about different types of art that are informed by painting’s histories and conventions? Where should we draw the line (pun intended)?

These are some of the questions raised by “Painting Deconstructed,” an exhibition featuring 46 contemporary artists who work in a wide range of mediums and materials. That’s what makes the show equally smart and fun: You won’t find a straightforward painting anywhere. Instead you’ll find pieces made of ceramics, fabric, photography, and even balloons that evoke paintings, and paint applied to all manner of surfaces, including T-shirts and palm husk.

For me, looking back and forth between the artworks and checklist became a kind of treasure hunt. I wanted to find out what elements made up Scott Vander Veen’s wonderfully tactile “Graft #2 (Thigmomorphogenesis)” (2023). Learning that Jodi Hays used a found plein-air painting kit in her weathered “Self Portrait at 61” (2024) made me chuckle.

Kevin Umaña’s “Split Apple Core” (2023) is a technical marvel: a complex and sumptuous ceramic work that could be an abstract painting. I delighted in the conceptual cleverness of Erika Ranee’s multimedia and nonrepresentational “Selfie” (2024), which includes black-eyed peas, a plant and the artist’s hair dipped in acrylic.

There’s remarkable skill on view throughout “Painting Deconstructed,” but it doesn’t feel like it’s being deployed solely for technical ends. These artists experiment in order to open up the category of painting. They use what it has been to imagine what it might yet be.

Chinatown

Through July 20. David Peter Francis, 35 East Broadway, No. 3F, Manhattan; 646-669-7064; davidpeterfrancis.com.

Pat Oleszko has performed at MoMA, the Whitney, P.S. 1 and P.S. 122, but “Pat’s Imperfect Present Tense,” at David Peter Francis in Chinatown, is her first solo show in nearly 25 years. As you’d expect, it’s overflowing with five decades’ worth of hats, costumes, signs and videos that delight in subversion and take subversively uncomplicated pleasure in delight.

In “Footsi,” two fingers in tiny shoes and socks tiptoe across a woman’s naked belly. In “Where Fools Russian,” Oleszko takes aim at Cold War paranoia, “Dr. Strangelove” style, by putting on a dozen layers of clothing and submerging herself in the Atlantic. There’s an enormous inflatable pelvis through which she can give birth to herself (“Womb With a View”), a “coat of arms” made for the 50th anniversary of the Surrealist Manifesto and a similar but more revealing “handmaiden” costume designed for a striptease in Japan. The punning is relentless.

There’s a clear feminist bite to much of this, and a frequent political edge that ranges from pointed to broad. There’s even a light tweaking of art-world categories, since you’re never quite sure if these are sculptures masquerading as costumes or vice versa. But the real subversion here is simply Oleszko’s full-scale refusal to take herself, or anything else, seriously: It’s hard to participate in this kind of humor, even as a viewer, without losing hold of whatever serious, oppressive trip you may have walked in with.

Chelsea

Through June 29. Matthew Marks Gallery, 522 West 22nd Street, Manhattan; 212-243-0200; matthewmarks.com.

Charles Ray is very good at white. He’s also good at silver, gray, variations of scale, excess and precision. But the three sculptures in this unfathomably elegant show — a 24-inch crashed car made of cut Japanese paper, a blurry nine-foot-tall, cast-paper-pulp woman, and two naked marble men lying on a slab — are all bright, bleachy white.

Whiteness of this kind offers all sorts of classical and scientific connotations for Ray to leverage and distort. And the pieces certainly have the undercurrent of horror that Herman Melville diagnosed in the “Whiteness of the Whale” chapter of “Moby-Dick, in part because in a white-cube gallery they mess with your sense of where the walls are. But mainly what struck me about them was how many subtleties of light and texture they let me see, particularly on “Two dead guys.”

The surfaces of these two supine, naked, machined, slightly larger-than-life men have been sanded but not polished. Fine gray impurities floating just under the surface become freckles or veins, and if you lean in close, you can sometimes see fingerprint-like grooves. The men’s faintly protruding nipples, catching the light differently than their smooth chests, were only just discernible. And as I crouched down to examine the sole of one foot, I discovered a minuscule bright red dot. Before I could notify the attendant, the dot began to move: It was a spider that must have fallen from someone’s jacket or crawled up from the floor. I wouldn’t have noticed it anywhere else.

NoHo

Through June 29. Eric Firestone Gallery, 40 Great Jones Street, Manhattan; 646-998-3727; ericfirestonegallery.com.

Naked women lounge across cotton feed sacks mounted on stretcher bars in “No Man’s Land,” the self-taught painter Lauren dela Roche’s debut show with the Eric Firestone Gallery. Their heads all have the same dark hair and fine features, as if copied from the cover of a single Victorian calendar, and are two or three sizes too small for their statuesque bodies. An unbroken vista of fountains, butterflies, flowers, shallow tunnels and swans with chili-pepper beaks extends behind them.

Apart from their stockings and socks and the circles of red on their cheeks, the women are left the unpainted color of the sacks, which ranges from nearly white to cream of wheat, sometimes in a single figure. Occasionally one of the women wears an old brand name or farmer’s name like a tattoo: “Cincinnati Seamless” on a crotch, “Al Dumdey” on a leg. The feed sacks are also mended here and there, and the backgrounds balance the beige expanses of flesh with plenty of black and dark green.

It’s hard not to think of the great outsider artist Henry Darger (1892-1973), despite all the differences in the emotional tone of his and dela Roche’s work. She uses the same drifting, dreamy, not quite flat organization of space and a similar kind of 19th-century drawing that has more in common with cartography than figure study. Most of all, though, the chimeric reduplicating woman she keeps returning to suggests an unresolved fixation, like Darger’s, on the equally unresolvable incongruity at the heart of human life — that union of the carnal and the ethereal that we call sex.

Through June 15. Venus Over Manhattan, 39 Great Jones Street, Manhattan; 212-980-0700, venusovermanhattan.com.

The art of Xenobia Bailey has a prominent public presence in New York City. Her gleaming glass mosaic “Funktional Vibrations,” a 2015 Metropolitan Transportation Authority commission, arches, like a sky of shooting stars, over the entrance to the Hudson Yards subway station on 34th Street. Yet her current exhibition at the gallery Venus Over Manhattan is her first solo show here in some 20 years.

And like Vega, with his murals and beadwork, Bailey — born in Seattle in 1955 — has chosen to work primarily in a crafts-associated medium, namely fiber crochet. She came to it via a roundabout route, through the study of painting (Jacob Lawrence was one of her teachers), ethnomusicology, millinery and costume design. She learn hand crochet from the master needleworker Bernadette Sonona, and ended up putting this low-technology technique to extravagant use.

Bailey’s initial crochet pieces were body-scaled, based on African headpieces and hairstyles. (Some of her early designs can be spotted in Spike Lee’s 1989 movie, “Do the Right Thing.” An “Afrocentricity” hat, of the kind worn by Samuel L. Jackson in the film, is in the show.) The direction she was headed was Afrofuturistic, and her focus soon lifted off from wearables to producing the equivalent of fabric murals, which seemed to exist in spiritual realms proposed by performers like George Clinton and Sun Ra.

Here we visit that realm. Big, jazzily patterned crochet circles, crosses between mandalas and domestic throw rugs, predominate. Some hang alone on the wall, or, in “Sun Birthing” (1999), are joined together in a galactic cluster. Here and there, perfect circularity is varied. In “C-Trane Express Track” (circa 2000), a circle is stretched into propulsive ellipsis. In “Shooting Star” (2008), a kaleidoscopic grouping is given an arching comet tail. And in the early “She Bop-She Boom” (1996/1999), a grouping of connected circles serves as a bed of repose for a small, solid indigo female figure.

The dates of this last work indicate that it took three years to reach its finished state, and the show’s centerpiece, “Sistah Paradise’s Great Walls of Fire Revival Tent” took fully 16 years, from 1993 to 2009. You can see why. It’s a complex thing. Positioned in the center of the gallery, suspended over a flaming sun-shaped carpet, and ornamented with cowrie shells, its form is that of African royalty and priestly crown; its apparent function is as a meditative room-for-one-person shelter in which enchantments are cast and futures foretold. The words “Mystic Seer” are stitched over the entrance to this hand-sewn tour de force. Add “Artistic” to “Mystic” and you get Bailey’s identity exactly right.

There are two other mid-to-late-career shows you won’t want to miss. One is “Norberto Roldan: How Not to Win a Revolution,” the first New York solo exhibition of a veteran artist born in 1953 in the Philippines, where he is a major cultural presence and, with his material-rich textile art-based work incorporating religious and political imagery, an intensely interesting one. (Silverlens, 505 West 24th Street, Chelsea, through June 15.)

The other, at Venus Over Manhattan’s second space, a few doors away from the Bailey show, is the first local solo exhibition since 1991 of the celebrated painter Chéri Samba, who lives and works in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, at 67, he is still going strong, like the international market for contemporary African figure painting that his career helped start. (Venus Over Manhattan, 55 Great Jones Street, through June 15). HOLLAND COTTER

Through June 15. Candice Madey, 1 Freeman Alley, Manhattan; 917-415-8655; candicemadey.com.

Among the Edo people of Nigeria’s Benin Kingdom, the art of forging mythologies is highly regarded. These myths permeate everything: language, festivals, stories told to children, as well as the famous Benin sculptures that are now scattered across museums around the world. In “Ties That Bind With Time,” Richard Ayodeji Ikhide is fashioning his own mythology, complete with Emiomo, the recurring protagonist who functions as an emissary or messenger in his paintings.

The large-scale watercolor, gouache and collage paintings here depict Emiomo’s journey through a kind of private universe. The figures are fluid and almost wobbly, as if they were pouring out of the canvas. Spots, dots and circles form repeated patterns, and all the figures are naked except for Emiomo, who occasionally has a red ribbon around his neck. The many activities in the frames almost make the fantastical creatures (like a goat with two eyes on each side of its face) believable.

Although most people consider the Benin sculptures ancient, they were largely intended to be contemporary, incorporating the events of the day such as the arrival of Portuguese missionaries and traders. Myths were therefore not just history-making but an enactment of the present. Ikhide’s era is obviously different from those of the Benin bronzes, yet he follows this tradition of recording the zeitgeist by including references to Japanese manga, virtual reality and video games in his own mythology. There are also more characters making a collective present here, unlike in “Emiomo,” the 2021 show at the same gallery where Ikhide had first introduced the character, mostly in solitary settings. Ikhide, born in Nigeria in 1991 and trained in textile design at the University of the Arts London, is navigating a community in his personal life, having just become a father. This is how in “Ties That Bind With Time,” the artist’s universe is fuller and Emiomo is no longer alone. YINKA ELUJOBA

Through June 15. David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, Manhattan; (212) 517-8677, davidzwirner.com.

The Brazilian artist Lucas Arruda’s recent paintings at David Zwirner recall an aspect of the collective wonder we experienced with the solar eclipse last month, which, for a moment, seemed to stop time so people could gather merely to look up and perceive how our humble planet fits into the greater celestial order.

Arruda evokes a similarly profound feeling of lightness and dark. This big and impressive show features 42 works from the last five years, all paintings ranging from monochrome abstractions to landscapes of jungles, deserts, clouds and sky. The most elemental works are included in a site-specific installation of three pairs of stacked rectangles: in each pair, one is painted directly on the wall, the other created via the projection of light. (Stare closely to see if you can tell which is which, before approaching and letting your shadow reveal the answer.)

Arruda manages transcendence at a modest scale: Most individual works are as small as a sheet of letter-size paper. His painterly appeal triangulates characteristics of Mark Rothko, the late works by J.M.W. Turner and most notably Vija Celmins. His scratchy treatment of starry skies are the rare misstep, with this expansive subject (mastered by Celmins) depicted by Arruda as claustrophobic and deadened.

This weak spot only makes more apparent the small miracle Arruda performs in rendering the complex sprawl of jungle on his diminutive canvases. As in “Untitled (from the Deserto-Modelo series)” (2019/2020), where the mist of the horizon invades the scene, overtaking the tangles of foliage in a sublime dance of textures. A narrow band of horizontal strokes delineates the bottom of the composition before the trees begin. This helps organize the picture while suggesting clear cutting and nodding to man-made environmental destruction. Unmissable. JOHN VINCLER

Through June 15. Greene Naftali, 508 West 26th Street, Ground Floor, Manhattan; (212) 463-7770, greenenaftaligallery.com.

Walking through Chinatown before heading to Chelsea, I passed a man standing on the sidewalk beside a sheet of cardboard on which three large fish were resting, so fresh their gills seemed still gasping for air. A few paces away, another man used a pair of tongs to keep live blue crabs from pinching one another in the plastic tray he presented in his other outstretched hand to passers-by.

“Street Sellers” like these feature in Lubaina Himid’s oversized portraits and provide the name for the show, which renders the space of the gallery as a surreal street scene. Before each of the 10 portraits that tower at eight feet tall, a cardboard sign presents a phonetic rendering of words that the merchants might shout out to sell their wares. The effect is whimsical without being cloying, and most importantly the paintings are all lively.

The 69-year-old artist is having a well-deserved American moment. Born in Zanzibar, off the east coast of Africa and based in Preston, England, Himid has a solo show concurrently at the Contemporary Austin in Texas through July, having received the 2024 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize.

The best works here incorporate collections of depicted small objects, making whole universes out of the scenes, with numerous details to focus on. Take for example, the pale prosthetic hand stretching out from the “Talisman Seller” who is holding a ribbon while presenting a box containing various shells. The exhibition also includes two works of ceramics — a plate and serving dish — embellished with paintings of a molar and a tongue (both 2024), as well as two portraits painted in profile within two otherwise empty drawers affixed to the wall. A scavenger hunt of looking. JOHN VINCLER

Through Dec. 8. Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-534-1672, mcny.org.

In celebration of its centennial year, the Museum of the City of New York invited Manny Vega to be its first artist in residence. Fabulous choice. Vega is a native New Yorker and a treasure, with a nearly four-decade track record of visual scintillation behind him. The essence of that career is distilled in a 24-karat nugget of a survey, “Byzantine Bembé: New York by Manny Vega,” assembled by Monxo López, the museum’s curator of community histories.

Puerto Rican by descent, Vega was born in 1956 in the Bronx, raised there and in Manhattan, and an immersion in art came early. One of his first jobs after graduating from the High School of Art and Design was as a guard at the Cloisters, the Met’s branch in Upper Manhattan devoted to European medieval art. In 1979 he joined El Taller Boricua (Puerto Rican Workshop), the street-active artist collective and graphics workshop in the East Harlem neighborhood known as El Barrio.

In the early 1980s, he began traveling to Brazil, where he was initiated into Candomblé, an Afro-Atlantic religion that fuses West African Yoruba and Roman Catholic beliefs and has a vivid tradition of ceremonial art, including beaded banners and ritual utensils, both of which Vega has produced. Given these entwined influences, conventional distinctions between “high art,” “popular art” and “spiritual art” have never made sense to him, which explains the title of his show, “Byzantine” suggesting intricate formal polish; and “Bembé” evoking drum-driven religious worship that is also a party.

The mix is there in four small paintings he made in 1997 as studies for a set of mosaics commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the subway station at East 110th Street and Lexington Avenue. Brightly colored and packed with figures, the images depict El Barrio street life — neighbors jostling, vendors selling, bands playing — and give it a charge of devotional fervor, aural exultation. (A tour of other Vega commissions in East Harlem, all within walking distance of the museum, is well worth making, a highlight being his tender homage to the poet Julia de Burgos (1914-1953) on a building at East 106th Street and Lexington Avenue.)

Sound and movement are major components in Vega’s visual universe. Icon-like images of Ochun, the Yoruba goddess of dance, and St. Cecilia, the Roman Catholic patron saint of music, appear in the show as tutelary spirits. And there are others. One is the Barrio-born jazz musician Tito Puente, whose album covers Vega has reproduced as glass mosaics. And in a large ink drawing, as crisp as a woodcut, we find the assembled performers of Los Pleneros de la 21, a local dance and music troupe promoting traditional bomba and plena.

Maybe inevitably in the case of an artist coming from an immigrant background, and from a culture long, and still, devalued if not demonized in mainstream America, politics runs, like a bass note, throughout Vega’s art. In his case, though, it’s far less a politics of overt protest than of positive assertion.

In the work of this profoundly devotional artist, the presiding deity is also an immigrant. It’s Changó, the Afro-Atlantic spirit of justice and balance, and also of dancing and drumming. A watercolor painting of him closes the show, and it’s a classic Vega creation: formally precise, imaginatively stimulating, instantly accessible. And it has found just the right home. It’s on loan to the show from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who, a wall text tells us, displays it in her chambers in Washington. HOLLAND COTTER

East Village

Through June 22. Karma, 22, 172, and 188 East Second Street, Manhattan; 212-390-8290, karmakarma.org.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Alan Saret’s delicately chaotic sculptures and drawings — sensuous tangles of wire and whorls of colored pencil — were part of the cerebral work promoted at Bykert, the short-lived but influential gallery that provided wide latitude to post-Minimalist artists like Brice Marden and Lynda Benglis. Yet even that laxity proved too constraining for Saret, who chafed at being hemmed in, often to the point of self-sabotage. (He supposedly pulled out of a Whitney showcase in 1969 because he didn’t like the title.)

Saret’s allergy to gallery systems led him to search out alternatives. After contributing to the 1971 India Triennial, he hung around for nearly three years, immersing himself in spiritual self-inquiry. He took to exhibiting out of his studio, and later constructed Ghosthouse, an outdoor mesh shelter in upstate New York that he inhabited for several months.

So it’s a small miracle that a survey of Saret’s works from 1975 to the present currently stretches across Karma’s three galleries. Oracular, kaleidoscopic works on paper combine Saret’s mathematical studies with what appears like religious sacred geometry redolent of the I Ching and the Kabbalah’s Sefirot — intricate compositions thick with color, language, and visual information that spirals and stellates, like schematics for achieving transcendence.

The most disarmingly sublime though are Saret’s “dharanis,” calligraphic gossamer ink drawings of lyrical, gnomic koans — what were once called mantras but are referred to now, in wellness culture, as daily affirmations. For Saret this mode of thinking was not faddish but a deeply felt way of organizing his being. They’re less text art than devotional objects, a reminder that the real art is being alive. MAX LAKIN

Midtown and Chelsea

Through June 22. Kasmin, 297 10th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-563 4474, kasmingallery.com.

Through June 2. MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan; 212-708-9400, moma.org.

For nearly 50 years the artist Jamie Nares has sped up time and slowed it down, lingering on it or folding it back in on itself. This two-venue retrospective — at MoMA, 40 of Nares’s No Wave and post-Minimalist films from the mid-1970s; and at Kasmin, 100 works on paper made after she traded her Super 8 for a paintbrush — suggest that her concerns have remained constant even as their expression changes.

The most thrilling remains “Pendulum” (1976). Nares suspends a heavy metal sphere on a wire and shoots it from multiple angles — at street level and above, and with the camera duct-taped to it — as it slices through a deserted TriBeCa street for 17 minutes. The sphere flirts with walls and threatens to obliterate fire escapes, a wrecking ball presaging the neighborhood’s impending redevelopment. It is the exact kind of a film a painter would make, the pendulum tracing out its elegant line in the air, a metronome ticking out a visible pulse.

Nares’s 2011 film, “Street” is another one: a continuous, linear gesture, three minutes of footage trawling the streets of the city slowed into a 61-minute tableau of kinetic humanism. It recalls the artist’s untitled 1988 oil on wax paper: an undulating gesture made without breaking contact, the brushstroke as tracking shot. Many of the paper works behave this way, Nares’s thick marks gliding along the surface, inducing, as in her films, a trance-like state. In both the films and drawings, there’s an attempt to locate a still point amid perpetual motion, and the recognition that that impulse is both impossible as it is inevitable. MAX LAKIN

Through July 14. The Hispanic Society Museum & Library, 613 West 155th Street, Manhattan; 212-926-2234, hispanicsociety.org.

There are places you can’t easily return to, like childhood or, for many migrants and refugees, the country where they were born. This was true for Enrique Martínez Celaya, who was born in Cuba and relocated with his family to Madrid when he was a young boy. Martínez Celaya, now almost 60, returned to Cuba only in 2019, but he has found a way of retrieving both childhood and homeland in this impressive exhibition at the Hispanic Society.

Large canvases by Martínez Celaya include blown-up snippets from his childhood notebook, surrounded by interpretations of waves and seascapes. In a stroke of kismet, the notebook from which these early drawings were copied was given to him by his mother and featured a reproduction of a painting on its cover: Diego Velázquez’s “Portrait of a Little Girl” circa 1638-42, which is in the collection of the Hispanic Society. That painting is displayed at one end of the room.

Objects and their historical hierarchies are irreverently jumbled in the show: Velázquez, the great Spanish painter, sits alongside Martínez Celaya’s childish doodles. In another series of paintings by Martínez Celaya, the “Little Girl” holds objects that he coveted as a boy. The exhibition also includes work by other artists, like the 1971 notebook of Emilio Sánchez, an artist born in Cuba in 1921 who never went back to his homeland after 1960. In the end, the subject of the exhibition is really an immaterial poetic thread in which memory is fleeting but art, in its various forms, connects people, places and history. MARTHA SCHWENDENER

Through July 7. Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan; 212-708-9400, moma.org.

My favorite clock of all time is a video: A camera looks down onto two skinny mounds of garbage, maybe 20 and 15 feet long, meeting at one end like the hour and minute hands on a watchface; for the 12 hours of the video, we see two men with brooms sweeping these “hands” into ever new positions, at a pace that keeps time.

The piece is by the Dutch designer Maarten Baas, and it’s among the 80 works in “Life Cycles: The Materials of Contemporary Design,” a group show now in MoMA’s street-level gallery, which has free admission.

The “materials” of today’s most compelling design turn out to be ideas, even ethics, not the chrome or bent wood that MoMA’s title would once have invoked. This show’s ethical ideas center on the environment and how we might manage not to abuse it.

Baas’s “Sweeper’s Clock,” is perfectly functional — could I view it on an Apple Watch? — but it also works as a meditation on the Sisyphean, 24/7 task of dealing with the trash we generate.

All-black dishes by Kosuke Araki look very like the minimalist “black basalt” china designed by Josiah Wedgwood way back in 1768 (it’s some of the oldest “modernism” claimed by MoMA) except that Araki’s versions are made with carbonized food waste.

Food not at all wasted, but consumed — by cattle — goes into making Adhi Nugraha’s lamps and speakers, as explained by the title of the series they’re from: “Cow Dung.” BLAKE GOPNIK

Through July 31. 101 Greenwich Street (entrance on Rector Street), Manhattan; seestoprun.com.

The dilapidated 19th-floor office space hosting Christopher Wool’s recent sculptures and paintings could not be more simpatico with them. In its state of abandoned tear-down, the venue offers melodious visual rhymes: electrical cords dangling from the ceiling ape Wool’s snarls of found-wire sculpture; crumbling plaster mirrors the attitudinal blotches of his oils and inks. Scrawls of crude graffiti or quickly penciled notes left by workmen emulate the tendril-like lines dragged through Wool’s globular masses of spray paint. The space is a horseshoe-shaped echo of Wool’s work — raw, agitated — and the restless elegance he wrenches from a feeling of decay.

Wool said he started to think about how environment affects the experience of looking at art when he began splitting his time between New York and Marfa, in West Texas. Photographic series he made there, like “Westtexaspsychosculpture,” depict forlorn whorls of fencing-wire debris that look like uncanny mimics of Wool’s own writhing scribbles, and which inspired scaled-up versions cast in bronze. (The Marfa landscape is fertile ground for New York artists. Rauschenberg made his scrap metal assemblages after witnessing the oil-ruined landscape of 1980s Texas, what he called “souvenirs without nostalgia,” a designation that’s appropriate here, too.)

Place has always seeped into Wool’s work. His photographs of the grime and trash-strewn streets of the Lower East Side in the 1990s — compiled as “East Broadway Breakdown” — aren’t included here, but “Incident on 9th Street” (1997), of his own burned-out studio, are. The chaos of those scenes repeat here, the wraparound floor plan and endless windows letting the city permeate the work, just as it did in their making. MAX LAKIN

SoHo

Through Aug 31. Judd Foundation, 101 Spring Street, Manhattan; 212-219-2747, juddfoundation.org. Public hours: Friday–Saturday, 1:00–5 p.m., or by appointment.

In 1971 Robert Irwin installed a 12-foot acrylic column in the ground floor of Donald Judd’s SoHo studio, a prism positioned to pick up light from the building’s large southern and western windows. Since the early ’60s, Irwin had been pushing the definition of art beyond objecthood, gradually reducing his work of distractions until he stopped producing salable art works. By 1970, he had abandoned his studio in favor of what he called a conditional practice: making subtle, barely perceptible interventions in architecture to tease out the marvels of visual potential. He viewed his installations merely as tools to induce the real art, which was perception — “to make people conscious of their consciousness.”

A later iteration of that work, “Sculpture/Configuration 2T/3L,” first exhibited at Pace in 2018, is on view in roughly the same spot (the hole bored through the floor 53 years ago remains, never filled). More advanced, formed by two columns of stuttering panels of teal and smoky brown acrylic, it’s beautiful, but its beauty is beside the point. It melts into the background, both there and not there. Sunlight catches a corner or flutters over a faceted edge as you move around it, splicing and refracting SoHo’s thrum, making it new.

The installation’s long run means the quality of natural light will change and so too will the effect. It’s a slow, affecting distillation of Irwin’s philosophy, which remains generously contra the art world’s relentless demand for novelty. Irwin, who died last year, refined an expansive vision, making us aware of the transitory, letting us see what was always there, for as long as we can. MAX LAKIN

Through Aug. 16. Pace Gallery, 540 West 25th Street, Manhattan; 212-421-3292; pacegallery.com.

Buoyed by a great sense of calm, and even silence, the paintings in Huong Dodinh’s “Transcendence” represent an artist’s triumph after decades of pursuing concision by adopting a minimalist vocabulary. It is this Paris-based artist’s first-ever solo exhibition in the United States in her close to 60 years of painting.

Beginning with a rare 1966 figurative painting, whose colors seem to recall Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “Hunters in the Snow,” the show progresses to the ’90s and to the last couple of years. Figuration falls away as the decades pass, the artist’s hand becomes less pronounced, and by the 2000s Dodinh’s central concerns emerge: light, density, transparency and how these interact with lines, forms and space. These come together gracefully in works like “Sans Titre,” from 1990, in which three sensual curves depict what could be mountains in a desert, or layers of women’s breasts.

Dodinh’s soft palette — a quiet but delightsome range of carton browns, light blues, and off-whites — originated from her first experience with snow in Paris, where her family fled from Vietnam in 1953 during the First Indochina War. She was a child in boarding school when she first witnessed snow and marveled at how it revealed subtle colors underneath when it started to melt. Subtlety, a hallmark of Dodinh’s work, is something she goes to great lengths to attain: She has always worked alone, without assistants, makes her own pigments, ensuring that every inch of her canvas is filled with an energy that is wholly hers. It has been a long solitary journey and after all these years, even while Dodinh masters the art of austerity, her work feels adorned. YINKA ELUJOBA

See the May gallery shows here.



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