Fall Gallery Guide: Two Days in Chelsea and the Lower East Side

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A Fall 2018 New York Gallery Guide by Amber Eve Anderson

One of my favorite things about living in Baltimore is being close enough to New York to take advantage of the massive amounts of art exhibited without paying the premium of living there— financially or emotionally. Since most Chelsea galleries are closed on Sundays, I typically spend Saturday zig-zagging between 10th and 11th Avenues from 28th to 19th streets and Sunday downtown in the Lower East Side.

If you’re planning a weekend in the city, download the See Saw Gallery Guide app before you leave to find out what’s currently on view and add some pins to your map. I catch the Bolt Bus at 8am from the Maryland Avenue bridge over the Jones Falls Expressway and head back Sunday night on the last one back to Baltimore at 6:45pm. You’ll arrive at 36th & 11th Ave. Walk down 11th and start at 26th street to catch these highlights.

Saturday: Chelsea

Kathy Butterly at James Cohan
533 W 26th Street
September 6-October 20

These ceramic vessels are delectable. Urn-like forms that look to have been poked and prodded, collapse this way and that, rendering the forms utterly useless. The surfaces are layered in colorful glazes, from glistening to crackled. I walked in circles around the three tables in the front gallery before being equally beguiled by the paintings in the back: photographs of Butterly’s objects from catalogues are painted with nail polish, swirled and puddling. The results are gorgeous and indulgent.

Pope.L at Mitchell-Innes & Nash
534 W 26th Street
September 13-October 27

A 2×4 bisects the desk at the entrance to Mitchell-Innes & Nash, spanning from the floor to the ceiling where it props up a plastic moving tub that shows the marks of use over time. These are spaced throughout the exhibition whose walls are covered with larger-than-life collages in colorful frames, some in miniature beside certificates of authenticity on gallery letterhead. This being the artist’s first show with the gallery since he was awarded the Bucksbaum Award from the Whitney Museum in 2017, a $100,000 grant and an exhibition at the museum in the subsequent two years, the work seems to question its own authority. Put it up on a pedestal, confirm it as authentic, blow it up beyond life.

Wurtz at Metro Pictures
519 W 24th Street
September 6-October 20

In the front gallery, there are minimalist photographs of enlarged domestic objects—a colander, for instance—photographed from such an angle as to look monumental, the diminutive nature of the actual objects emphasized by their placement low to the ground. In the back room are large wooden frames draped with string, plastic sacks, and other found objects, like a wooden spoon and a sock. Photographs of towels flutter lightly in the air, draped over wooden dowels. Minimal and evocative, some combination of two- and three-dimensional whimsy takes place in the back that is lacking in the front.

Toyin Ojih Odutola at Jack Shainman
513 W 20th Street
September 6-October 27

These swirling drawings are the third installment in a fictitious trilogy that depicts two well-to-do Nigerian families in sumptuous surroundings. I was first taken with Odutola’s work last year at the Whitney, impressed not only by her sheer skill and prolificacy, but by the way skin in her work becomes another surface, like clothing or a tiled wall. She treats vases and letters and corners of the room with the same care with which she handles each person. The work is highly skilled and sincere, landing somewhere between sad and nonchalant. Each frame draws you into the lives of these characters and their nonexistent realities.

Urs Fischer at Gagosian
522 W 21st Street
September 6-October 13

Nine brightly-colored office chairs glide ethereally across the shining concrete floors of Gagosian on 21st street. Something in me wanted to be dismissive of this exhibition for what appears to be just a crowd-pleaser, but it’s actually a really delightful experience. Rightfully titled Play, the chairs, choreographed by Madeline Hollander, twist and spin in the gallery space. Just when you think one of the miscreant chairs is about to bump into your shin, you turn to find it responds to your movements. Step forward, it glides back. Spin in a circle, it twists and turns. Abandon it to the corner, it stands idly, wheels rotating in a circle as it patiently waits. It made me smile. It made me take a lot of videos. It kept me in the gallery longer than most.

Watch their video here.

James Clar at Jane Lombard Gallery
518 W 19th Street
September 6-October 20

Clar’s installation at Jane Lombard Gallery initially reminded me of a smaller version of Rashid Johnson’s Antoine’s Organ installed at Hauser & Wirth last year, a three-dimensional grid with houseplants and glowing elements (Clar uses screens, Johnson used neon). Here, though, Clar juxtaposes reality and virtual reality in a three-channel installation. On one screen, a figure takes on the visual aspects of the forest around it and walks through the forest to ethereal effect. Another shows professional video game players describing the day-to-day realities of the sport.

Sunday: Lower East Side

Mahmoud Khaled at Helena Anrather
28 Elizabeth Street, 2nd floor
September 14-November 4

This quiet, unpretentious show is Egyptian artist Mahmoud Khaled’s first in the United States. Using photography, text and screenshots, Khaled sets the stage for the viewer to peek into intimacies and uncertainties: an exchange on Grindr, a stranger getting a tattoo, a forgotten night at a club in New York. I almost didn’t recognize the cement bench sitting in front of a wall painted to look like black marble as art, where the viewer is instructed to look through photos of public spaces in Cairo, the images zooming in on pedestrians from one image to the next and following their paths. Viewing itself becomes an act of voyeurism.

Martine Syms at Bridget Donahue
99 Bowery, 2nd floor
September 16-October 28

A commanding installation of floor-to-ceiling photographs of bodies and cars covers the gallery walls. A calming, though hard-to-understand, soundtrack plays in surround sound. Four vertically mounted television screens dissect the room. Images of a man getting ready in the morning play while blank white screens that read TEXT ME +1-301-997-4973 come and go. The man washes his face, he cries, he plays a noise machine. It didn’t occur to me to text the number, but viewers can engage with the video through a chatbot programmed with Syms’ voice. The program works in tandem with her concurrent solo exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ in London, taking disembodied to a whole other level.

Danielle Dean at 47 Canal
47 Canal, 2nd floor
September 16-October 21

Colorful background scenery props fill the main gallery in vignettes surrounding a multi-channel installation. To one side are various washing machines below a screen depicting the same. Opposite this are painterly tents surrounding a video of the tents in a real-life park. In the back are two-dimensional coffee grinders below a video of a woman dancing next to a human-sized Nespresso machine. Playful and absurd, the work stems from Dean’s research in the archives of the Parisian department store known for having been where Duchamp purchased his bottle rack readymade.

Patti Hill at Essex Street
55 Hester Street
September 8-October 21

Made up entirely of scanned images, this work feels surprisingly contemporary given that it was made in the 1970s. The waistline of riding pants, a freshly laundered shirt, a grid of the same fringed scarf in 15 different compositions. The cooling effect of photocopying as a medium combined with the objects Hill chose to document conveys an intimacy and urgency. The gallery casually had a copy of Slave Days at the entrance to the gallery, a book Hill wrote consisting of 29 poems beside 31 photocopied objects, showcasing her strength as a writer, as well.

Daniel Arsham at Perrotin
130 Orchard Street
September 08-October 21

I was confounded by this exhibition. Meanwhile, the gallery was filled with people literally lining up to have their picture taken beside one of two cars on the first floor: a Delorean (think Back to the Future) and a Ferrari (i.e. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Both are made to look ashy, covered in crystals and pyrite, as if we are seeing these objects in the year 3018, the title of the show. Upstairs, life-sized cartoon-like figures are draped in encrusted white fabric and tied with rope. The word FUTURE in all caps, similarly draped, hangs on the wall overhead. It’s kitschy and aloof, yet somehow still takes itself too seriously.

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