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


This week in Newly Reviewed, Max Lakin covers Alan Saret’s delicately chaotic sculptures, Jamie Nares’s two-venue retrospective and Robert Irwin’s stuttering panels of teal and smoky brown acrylic.

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 the 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.

Midtown and Chelsea

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

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

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.

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 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.



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