With an ever-growing number of galleries scattered around New York, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Where to begin? Here at A.i.A., we are always on the hunt for thought-provoking, clever and memorable shows that stand out in a crowded field. Below is a selection of current shows our team of editors can't stop talking about.
This week we check out Leonardo Drew's gallery-spanning charred-wood constructions at Sikkema Jenkins, Richard Tuttle's tour-de-force display of uncharacteristically large-scale sculptures at Pace, and Michael Rakowitz's take on Middle East-inspired Beatlemania at Lombard Freid Projects.
Yayoi Kusama at D'Amelio, through Oct. 20
Yayoi Kusama's retrospective at the Whitney, open through the end of the month, opened with much fanfare earlier this summer. Coinciding with the splashy touring exhibition is an intimate one-room show of Kusama's drawings from the mid-1950s, which she worked on in Japan before moving to the U.S. in 1957. The 12 Surrealism-inspired tempera, pastel, oil and ballpoint pen works illuminate the origins of Kusama's long-running obsession with dots, nets, flowers and infinitely repeating patterns.
Leonardo Drew at Sikkema Jenkins, through Oct. 13
Sikkema Jenkins's normally spacious white cube gallery has been utterly transformed by Leonardo Drew's immersive site-specific installation, which took the artist nearly a month to install. An enormous fencelike sculpture made up of charred-wood slats winds its way from the entrance through the main gallery space all the way to the back room; visitor must duck under overhangs and squeeze past narrow opening along the way. The walls are lined with various sculptures, some narrow columns of layered wood chips, others more complex wood-and-aluminum constructions that protrude menacingly from the wall.
Michael Rakowitz at Lombard Freid, through Oct. 17
In his typical style, which combines dry humor with wide-eyed wonder, Michael Rakowitz has created a show, "The Breakup," that finds parallels between the breakup of the Beatles (the artist is a lifelong fan) and contemporaneous political developments in the Middle East (Rakowitz is of Iraqi descent). The show includes video, found objects and a limited-edition vinyl record. Just one of the droll combinations: A Christmas greeting card from Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt, sits in a display case alongside a Christmas letter to members of the Beatles fan club from the band. A video documents a rooftop performance in Jerusalem by the local band Sabreen, commissioned by Rakowitz, that echoes the Beatles' final concert, on a London rooftop, in 1969.
Janelle Iglesias at Larissa Goldston, through Sept. 29
The two main sculptures in Janelle Iglesias's playful, sprawling exhibition "Cartwheel Galaxy" pay homage to the gallery's soon-to-be demolished building and the streets of New York, where the artist collects many of her materials (rickety ladders, broken umbrella parts, branches and discarded lamps, among other urban detritus). Don't miss the delicate wall sculptures made up of broken umbrella parts and bits of colorful litter.
Richard Tuttle at Pace, through Oct. 13
Imagine the countless found-object junk sculptures there are to be seen on any given day in contemporary art galleries around the world. Certainly none come close to Richard Tuttle's in terms of audacity, verve and finesse. After several Tuttle shows of comparatively sedate, wall-hung fabric pieces, it is exciting to see the artist back in action with his wacky and elaborate free-standing sculptures and installations. In his hands-and with a little imagination from the viewer—abject elements and blithe gestures signal epic monuments and lyrical statements.
"Aggro Crag" at BOSI Contemporary, through Sept. 23
TV geeks and children of the ‘90s will recognize that the title of this group show of 10 New York-based painters evokes the Nickelodeon game show "Guts". In the final event, contestants had to race to the top of an artificial mountain (the Aggro Crag), hitting each of several lighted targets along the way. (Any resemblance to the contemporary art world is purely coincidental.) The emphasis in this exhibition is on simple painterly gestures and forms, with veterans Katherine Bradford and Joyce Pensato setting the pace for younger colleagues like Polly Shindler, Ian Swanson and Trudy Benson.
Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe at Marlborough Chelsea, through Oct. 27
Spend some time exploring "Stray Light Gray," an ambitious installation by Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. For this work, the pair meticulously transformed the gallery space into a multilevel, labyrinthine network of funky abandoned playrooms, narrow corridors, offices, a library and a dilapidated porn shop. Although other artists, like Michael Nelson and Gregor Schneider, for instance, have explored similar territory with hidden spaces for living—or dying—Freeman and Lowe offer here a unique experience.
Currently on view in the group show "Redux" at New York's Cristin Tierney Gallery (through Feb. 4) are two works by Joe Fig, both related to his 200