In any given week, the art galleries of New York — and there are hundreds — are brimful of exhibitions showcasing works old and new, conventional and avant-garde, by the established and by the just discovered. This seems especially true right now, with the international art crowd set to jet into town for Frieze New York next weekend. Current shows feature repurposed pornography, depictions of the surveillance state, glass marijuana pipes, scrap metal, interpretations of a range of African-American experiences, prints from the land of Björk and a homage to the Duchamp urinal. There is magic, a little humor and no small amount of protest art.
How do you navigate it all? Five art critics for The Times have fanned out across the city, each focusing on one constellation of galleries and reviewing their favorites. Interested in only painting? We have those shows. Looking for sound installations? We have those too. Art reflecting the fraught politics of our time? Of course. Pick the flavor of art that suits you:
If You’re Feeling Politically Minded
KAI MATSUMIYA A tradition of political art on the Lower East Side lives on in the work of the Austrian-born New York Conceptualist Rainer Ganahl, who has been responding to current events with antic, deadpan wit for almost 30 years. The work in this packed show, “Legacy: Bush, Obama, Trump,” covers, in its references, roughly half of that time. In a series of ballpoint-pen drawings, he illustrates the phenomenon of combat as made-for-TV spectacle, introduced by George W. Bush, and of drone warfare that was business-as-usual during the Obama administration. More recently, he has made drawings of words that have been Donald J. Trump’s weapon of choice, like “fake news,” in a 1930s German-designed script. The good news, which is also bad news, is that Mr. Ganahl is unlikely ever to run out of fresh material for his art. The show, which has included public readings of Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” will close on May 3 with the release of a related book. HOLLAND COTTER
TIBOR DE NAGY GALLERY “Sarah McEneaney: Land, Sea, Sleep” is an impressive update on an artist who for nearly four decades has recorded her artist’s life in small, beguiling, superficially naïve paintings. Ms. McEneaney is seen infrequently, usually from the back or from a distance or when she’s asleep, her pets arrayed around her in settings notable for their bold colors, dense details and distortions of illusionistic space that exert a magnetic pull. The new works here document both the solitude and routine of the painter’s life, as well as its perks (artist residencies! travel grants!). A stillness prevails, even when Ms. McEneaney and her partner are on a bullet train speeding across China. It slows us down to experience her spatial and chromatic daring. ROBERTA SMITH
303 GALLERY Back in 1996, the astute dealer Lisa Spellman was among the first dealers to relocate from SoHo to Chelsea; now, 303 Gallery makes its home on the ground floor of one of the many brassy towers that have arisen in Highlineville. On view now is a sharp, droll exhibition of exactingly staged self-portraits by Rodney Graham, the slipperiest of the half-dozen conceptual photographers who came of age in 1980s Vancouver. In large lightboxes, the artist appears as a media studies professor in bell-bottom corduroys, smoking in class; as a sleeping antiques dealer surrounded by tchotchkes from British Columbia; and as a private detective peeping from behind a 19th-century newspaper. Like all the best wits, Mr. Graham is a tragic figure at heart — these photographic performances are all elegies for an age when artists had deeper convictions than we today can muster. JASON FARAGOContinue reading the main story
ART IN GENERAL Just across the East River and nestled between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, Dumbo has been one of the most on-again-off-again art neighborhoods in the city. With the spike in tech and various creative companies occupying lofts in the area, it is on again. Janet Borden, Minus Space and Klompching have opened galleries; Smack Mellon remains a nonprofit stalwart; and Art in General, another alternative space showcasing emerging artists, moved from TriBeCa to Dumbo last year. Art in General’s current show features Postcommodity, a collective of three artists participating in the 2017 Whitney Biennial whose work focuses on the Mexican-American border. Here, closed-circuit video and sound installations offer a poetic, sometimes creepy rumination on what it’s like to cross borders and live under surveillance. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
APEXART Bob Snodgrass has been blowing glass since 1971, specializing in marijuana pipes, as he explains in a charming short documentary attached to “Outlaw Glass,” an exhibition at this gallery organized by the marijuana writer David Bienenstock. He first sold the pipes outside Grateful Dead concerts. Several cases here of elaborate, brightly colored pipes made by Mr. Snodgrass’s spiritual descendants, while fascinating, tend toward the showy or grotesque, like a jar of green pickle-shaped pipes by Elbo, or “Smokin Sasquatch,” an intricate, smokable man-beast holding a joint of his own, by Coyle. (Artists of paraphernalia for what is still mostly an illegal product tend to go by nicknames.) While Mr. Snodgrass also does skulls and dragons, most of his pipes, made from clear, wavy glass and colored with mists of molten silver, look like delicate, lovely instruments borrowed from an elfin orchestra. WILL HEINRICH