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 a blockbuster Basquiat show at Gagosian, Khalil Rabah's imagined Palestinian museum and Richard Ross's anthropological photographic inquiry into incarcerated children.
Khalil Rabah at e-flux, through Apr. 20
How does a culture without a museum preserve its own history and tell its own story? That's just one question implied by Khalil Rabah's at once funny and poignant ongoing project, the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Mankind. With departments spanning fields such as botany, geology and paleontology, it exists principally as a newsletter, whose pages Rabah has reproduced for this show in large paintings. Just as Palestinians want a state, the artist told A.i.A. during a visit to the show, they want a museum, but it's no simple matter, as this slippery project demonstrates.
Jean-Michel Basquiat at Gagosian, through Apr. 6
With more than 50 paintings from public and private collections, many from the years between 1981 and '83, when the artist was in his early 20s, this show brought lines stretching halfway down 24th Street at its opening on Thursday. Chock full of his intense, bright colors and trademark nervous brushwork, along with scrawled text often crossed out, the exhibiton presents a rich overview of canvases devoted to boxers (Sugar Ray Robinson), musicians (an LP-shaped example for Charlie Parker) and other inspirations for the legendary artist.
Matthew Benedict at Alexander and Bonin, through Mar. 9
At once nostalgic and futuristic, Matthew Benedict's "Americana" features recent paintings, sculptures and installations that form an evocative environment drawing on fictional sources—an H.P. Lovecraft story, in one case—as well as the history of the artist's native New England. At his best, Benedict uses real antiques and contemporary imagery to convey a kind of personal mythology.
Julian Lethbridge at Paula Cooper, through Feb. 16.
In this intense display of virtuosity, Julian Lethbridge once again demonstrates that abstract gestural painting is alive and well. His rigorous allover compositions in a limited palette of black, white and a range of gray and red tones seem to follow a tightly controlled grid pattern. However, with feverish brushwork and a keen sense of color and layering, his compositions transcend these self-imposed limitations to allow subtle 3-D effects and a wide range of emotive qualities.
Richard Ross at Ronald Feldman, through Feb. 16
It's one thing to be for or against putting youthful offenders away. It's another to see where they are actually put. The photographs in Ross's searingly titled exhibition "Juvenile-in-Justice" offer unblinking views of the cells, holding pens, corridors, locked doors, handcuffs and ankle bracelets that are used to detain over 100,000 minors in the U.S. each day. As part of the 5-year project, Ross talked his way into some 200 facilities in 31 states, eventually contacting more than 1,000 kids—shown in these eerily colorful selections with their faces averted or blurred.
Shyu Ruey Shiann at the ISE Foundation, through Mar. 1
The Taiwanese artist (b. 1966) often endows his kinetic sculptures with personal references that carry wider cultural implications. This show's highlight, River of Childhood (1999), is a sprawling floor installation that features myriad small white ceramic boats bobbing on rods above electrical motors and their snaking cords. The boats recall paper versions that the young Shyu often made from his frustrating math homework and set dreamily on a nearby stream. The high modernist imperative to expose one's artistic means is thus deftly combined with an Eastern sense of slow, all-encompassing time in which past and future are ultimately one.
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