Look Ahead: Art



Noteworthy exhibits, now through July


April was the month of the volcano. When Eyjafjallajokull erupted in Iceland in mid-April, Europe suddenly found itself covered by an ash cloud — and international travelers, without flights.

Two of Europe’s major art fairs occur each April — namely Art Cologne (April 21-25) and Art Brussels (April 23-26). Many international art shipments were stuck in limbo, not making it to the fairs before the visitors. For most, it has been a humbling reminder of how little one can do if nature interferes on a major scale.

This May…

If considering all of last month’s recommended and disparate exhibitions, one view stands out — that this is a time marked by diversity devoid of a preferable style or medium. Kristen Schiele offers a selection of intriguing paintings that reflect an avid embrace of contemporary eclecticism. Her mixed media concoctions (made with oil paint, airbrush and silkscreen) are defined by a bright palette and layered imagery. In these obscure spaces, Schiele’s female protagonists appear in fragments. In cinematic fashion, they emerge from mythic backgrounds and become main compositional reference points. Despite this incorporation of the figure, Schiele is not interested in providing narratives or telling tales. Her figures solely serve as stand-ins to establish an ominous iconic presence. As Schiele’s heroines are sucked up by their abstract surroundings, the spotlight zooms in on something non-descript: the mesmerizing fog of ambiguity. At Sloan Fine Art, 128 Rivington St., through May 15th).

In comparison, Leon Golub (1922-2004) provides us with more explicit content. Throughout his career, Golub was outspoken in his views on politics, art and life. His handling of subject matter and paint was vigorous, and his oeuvre stands out for its unique synthesis of aggression and beauty. This selection of drawings dating from 1999 until 2004 proves that Golub was able to capture the ferocious quality he was known for until the end of his career. Sex and the articulation of rage against physical decay and death are recurring themes. They define these works on paper and manifest as the intimate contemplations of a man who knew that he was approaching his final years, but who mentally felt as young as ever. Finding himself restricted by this conundrum, the artist considers himself somewhat of a freak; or simply, a victim of nature. “Fuck Death” and “Age Sucks” are two of several written exclamations in these works, expressing Golub’s unwavering lust for life. Contrasted with renditions of lions in their physical prime, eternal symbols of elegant strength and reigning wisdom, Golub’s words become heart-wrenching reminders that nature’s course is inevitable and that human passion is, in the end, ineffective. At The Drawing Center, 40 Wooster St., through July 23rd.

In her current exhibition, bearing the lengthy title “Transformer (…or, how many light bulbs does it take to change a painting?),” Amy Sillman poses a question and hints at an answer. While she does not give us a number for how many great ideas it takes, she does provide a glimpse into the complexities that are involved in her personal search for a resolved composition. She does this by installing two suites of multiple drawings that function not as studies for paintings per se, but as a reflection of a thorough brainstorming process. Sillman’s paintings are mainly abstract, but occasional forms do allude to figurative elements or machine part, for example. It is a mysterious language and the drawings spell out part of Sillman’s hidden content. An admirer of cartoons, she introduces the light bulb in its cartoonish reincarnation in a sequence of works: as a graphic symbol for spontaneous enlightenment. Overall, it is refreshing that Sillman despite her obvious talent and admired skill does not take herself too seriously. At the gallery, one can pick up a new edition of Sillman’s one-dollar magazine, which she has released with every new group of paintings for the past year. It’s printed in black and white and contains thoughts on philosophy and the story of the light bulb. At Sikkema Jenkins & Co., 530 W. 22nd St., through May 15th.

The recently-opened group exhibition “Devotion” offers an exceptional discourse into abstract art. Its curator and participating artist Joe Fyfe is a seasoned traveler who has spent much time exploring and making art in the Far East and Europe. He brings to “Devotion” an impeccable eye for the expressive variety that even the most restrained gestures can facilitate. His solid selection of works by prominent New York based artists, such as Mary Heilmann and Pat Steir, and lesser-known French artist Alix Le Meleder or the Australian Aboriginal artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-1996), confirms that a vocabulary simply based on the devotion to color and form can evoke a full range of moods and emotions. At Zürcher Studio, 33 Bleecker St., Through May 16th.

“Ann Craven: Flowers” features new paintings focusing on one of the most traditional subjects in art — the still life. In contrast to her previous depictions of animals (which were based on collected and scanned print outs), her new compositions are painted directly from life. Craven’s interest in flowers began several years ago when, following the death of a loved one, she painted flowers taken home from the funeral. Here, she focuses on the rose — addressing its inherent historical and popular symbolism. Her palette, made primarily of black, greys and white, evokes the aura of times past — but also bestows a keen focus on compositional and spatial concerns. The exhibition will be organized around three groups of paintings, each installed in a separate part of the gallery. While the first room will contain a series of nine paintings of bouquets of white roses, another room will feature mirror images of them, symbolically reflecting the artist’s memory of the moment just past. At Maccarone Inc. (630 Greenwich St., through June 26th).

In her exhibition comprised of sound work, photographs, and sculptural installation, Barbara Bloom examines the customs and mannerisms surrounding the act of gift-giving. The various inherent activities, such as the selection, giving, receiving, or return of them, represent abstracted day-to-day rituals. According to Bloom, these acts can be of a moral, economic, political, or legal nature. They can be based on religious motifs, be simply practical, personal or made with social ambitions in mind. It can allude to a special connection between both parties, such as a past conversation or a shared experience. In the act of gift giving, timeliness is of the essence. Not without reason has Bloom titled her show “Present” rather than “Gift” — drawing attention to the here and now. At Tracey Williams; 521 W. 23rd St., through June 30th.

Andy Goldsworthy will step into new terrain and divert from his usual (and well-known) practice of working in the rural landscape. Instead, “New York Dirt Water Light” will focus on nature in urban environments and present works that were made exclusively in New York City. On two separate trips, Goldsworthy repeatedly worked in Times Square at night. There, he drew lines and circles on the pavement with water and photographed them in natural and artificial light as they slowly evaporated. The various stages were captured in photographs, several of which will be on display. In addition a sculptural installation made of street dirt, a series of time-based photographs, as well as a video triptych showcasing a New York version of Goldsworthy’s “rain shadows” will be included in the show. Despite this unusual focus on urban nature, the exhibition promises to stay true to Goldsworthy’s pre-dominant themes: effects of time, the relationship between people and environments, and the persistence of cycles. At Galerie Lelong, 528 W. 26th St., through June 19th.