3 art gallery exhibitions to see right now
Until June 27. Outsider Art Fair, 150 Wooster Street, Manhattan, (212) 337-3338, outsiderartfair.com.
As befitting the ongoing resumption of the pandemic, “Super-Rough” is a simplified tabletop version of the Outsider Art Fair. Selected by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, in collaboration with the owner of the fair, Andrew Edlin, this year’s version is specific to the medium: everything is sculpture, plus a few wall reliefs. Most of his 250 works are crammed onto a pedestal 60 feet long and 7 feet wide. Kambel Smith’s large painted cardboard model of the Capitol and Tom Duncan’s miniaturized mechanized panorama of Coney Island were given their own floor space.
The result is close to the extraordinary, like the creamy skim of an average art fair and presented undiluted, with no stalls or aisles and not much walking. The 28 participating dealers are mostly from the New York area; the artists themselves come from afar.
On the pedestal things are loosely arranged according to the material. At the front, a melee of imposing pieces of carved wood is simple, like the haunting bust of Moses Ogden, or painted, like Gaston Chaissac’s totem pole. Halfway through, a nest of textile-oriented works emerges, most notably Judith Scott’s stunning yarn-wrapped piece; the brightly embroidered mounds of Yumiko Kawai; and Ryuji Nomoto’s airy landscapes of wispy threads – in fact sticks of glue. Then the cut stone seems announced by the fanciful creatures of Alikan Abdollahi, who are trompe l’oeil painted in papier mache. Chomo (Roger Chomeaux) evokes stone with painted plastered concrete. The Truth About Materials triumphs in four fierce and beautifully carved limestone or alabaster gargoyle-like heads of Jerry Torre, known as Marble Faun. Ceramics make its presence felt with the textured creatures of Shinichi Sawada; The enameled cameras of Alan Constable and the two-headed being of Seyni Awa Camara, in unglazed terracotta.
No surprise, the biggest and most unruly category is blending. It begins with the blunt found objects of Lonnie Holley and Hawkins Bolden and extends to the radiant fusion of faces and altarpieces by Paul Amar in painted seashells – which resemble miniature Mardi Gras floats. A similar but more improvised complexity is achieved in a group of souvenir jars covered with coins and the like and the lavishly clad women of Sylvain and Ghyslaine Staëlens. Like many others here, they amaze.
Until June 26. Simone Subal, 131 Bowery, Manhattan, 917-409-0612, simonesubal.com.
At Simone Subal’s, two charming new videos by Frank Heath seem to point, in the most direct way, to little-known corners of culture.
23 minutes from Heath “Crypts of civilization” begins by telling us about a room-sized time capsule that has lived at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta since 1940. Filled with a sample of documents and objects from civilization (mostly white, Christian, American) , it is supposed to remain sealed until the year 8113. The story of the Oglethorpe Vault is told by Paul Hudson, co-founder of the International Society of Time Capsules, who then talks about other capsules he knows.
Heath’s video has the look and appeal of a good documentary, with one big difference: because it is presented as art, there is a temptation to question every “fact” that it makes. she offers. Are the excerpts from the films of the 30s seen in “Cryptes” the same clips that Oglethorpe included in his sealed safe? How could Heath have known or accessed them? Is the narrator of the film really Hudson, the co-founder of TCS, or is he a committed actor? Are we witnessing a true story of the truth or is it a Borgesian fiction made up in truth? Once the banal is exhibited as art, we can no longer trust what it is: who would want to try to urinate in the “Fountain?” “From Marcel Duchamp?
Subal’s other video, titled “Last will and testament,” suggests that Heath might not always feel the need to be truthful. It presents a phone call between someone we assume to be Heath – it turns out his role is voiced by an actor – and a real lawyer, in which Heath’s character asks for advice on how he might organize the elimination of his bodily remains by all 13 methods he has heard of, from cannibalism to burial at sea. Heath’s funeral wishes are so improbable that you begin to suspect that in everything he does he is less of a master of facts as of impassive comedy.
Until July 2. Andrew Kreps Gallery, 22 Cortlandt Alley, Manhattan; 212-741-8849, andrewkreps.com.
What is left to give to objects when they have finished satisfying our needs and wants? This question is at the heart of Canadian sculptor Liz Magor’s new show, “I wasted my life,” imbuing her inert creations with a disarming yet irresistible charm.
For more than four decades, Magor has taken stock of the material world and rearranged its attributes into eerie combinations that speak to the calm and often emotional bonds that form between people and the things that fill their lives. Her work has a distinct ecological bent, and in recent years she has walked a fine line between the biting and the macabre, producing installations that feature unsettling hybrid combinations of stuffed animals stitched together alongside found objects like duffle-coats, blankets, Ikea tables and workbenches.
These prefabricated workbenches are the frames of Magor’s most recent works and serve as staging devices on which are plated shaggy faux fur bolts and large silicone animal sculptures (a reclining stork, a reclining giraffe). On the shelves of these benches, as in “Float” (2021), rest as much rubbish: soiled wax paper and used coffee cups, rows of small shells and pebbles – once useful objects that no longer serve for their destination. Around these strange paintings are replicas of weathered cardboard, made from polymerized gypsum and cardboard, which lean against the walls of the gallery and seem to sigh alongside the ephemera that make up Magor’s scholarly arrangements.
If the atmosphere of this exhibition is more gloomy than seductive, it testifies to the collective exhaustion that pervades even our inanimate objects, all destined to be thrown away, forgotten and replaced. What’s interesting about Magor’s setups, however, is how they focus on our propensity to shape – or destroy – our environments to our exact liking.