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 John O’Reilly’s fragile, isolated animal sculptures, Stan Douglas’s photos mock-umenting the New York disco scene and post-Independence Angola, and Dan Walsh’s hypnotic rhythms.
John O’Reilly at RH Gallery, through Apr. 26
One would think that animal sculpture in the tradition of Barye would be long dead, but John O’Reilly resurrects it with vulnerable creatures that speak to human and ecological fragility. Modeling dogs, deer and even the faces of infant humans in clay, then casting them in resin, porcelain and bone, O’Reilly evokes liminal states between sleep and wakefulness, or life and death. He carefully considers his display, isolating the creatures on stretches of empty floors or walls, leaving them curiously lonely and contributing to their pathos.
Eugene Lemay at Mike Weiss, through Apr. 28
Lemay, 52, a self-taught artist who spent his teenage years on a kibbutz, offers dark, immersive works based on his experience as a “navigator”—i.e., a nighttime scout—for the Israeli army. The huge wall-filling digital prints, which suggest inky desert landscapes, are made by densely overlaying Hebrew script from letters addressed to the families of slain fellow soldiers-messages that Lemay composed but never sent. In a small back gallery, electronic tablet devices lined up in a vitrine demonstrate the fluidly evolving process by which script becomes image.
Dan Walsh at Paula Cooper, through Apr. 21
Dan Walsh creates endless variation with a given set of rules. Again he shows a group of large, low-hung abstract paintings with brilliant colors and gridded, patterned compositions that create a hypnotic ambience. Walsh works in systems, but analysis never trumps seduction. New is a series of gold drawings that feel downright apparitional.
Frances Stark at Gavin Brown, through Apr. 21
In two new video projections, France Stark shamelessly exports her (fairly PG) cyber sex chats from her computer onto bare gallery walls. Osservate, leggete con me (“Observe, read along with me” in Italian; Stark seems to have a thing for Italian men) is a three-channel video set to a Mozart aria—in this piece, the projections include excerpts from several of Stark’s Skype chats, peppered with digressions into politics, career, etc. The other video is more intimate in that it concerns an ongoing conversation with one man, and more openly addresses the guilt that comes with these habits.
Stan Douglas at David Zwirner, through Apr. 28
For the past five years, Stan Douglas has been creating staged, Hollywood-style photos from the point of view of a fictional protagonist. The eight large-scale color prints in his latest series, “Disco Angola,” were taken under the guise of a (made up) New York-based photojournalist who, in the mid-70s, documented both the emerging local disco scene as well as Angola immediately post Independence. Each Angola photo is loosely “matched” with a disco image-for example, a young dancer practicing kung fu moves in an empty ballroom pairs nicely with a group shot of fatigue-clad Angolan men practicing capoeira in a dusty field.
Iran do Espírito Santo at Sean Kelly, through Apr. 28
While not exactly breaking new ground, Brazilian artist Iran do Espírito Santo adds considerable intellectual if not emotional depth to his refined and austere brand of post-Minimalism. Filling the first room are two arresting site-specific wall paintings in grays and white. Santo has clearly absorbed the lessons of Sol LeWitt here, but adds a dash of illusionism that sets his work apart. Lining a shelf in another room are a dozen small white marble sculptures, precisely fashioned from household light fixtures. Filling the main gallery are Santo’s quietly spectacular “folded mirror” pieces that suggest a hazy and slightly narcissistic daydream.
Hernan Bas at Lehmann Maupin, through Apr. 21
The large paintings in “Occult Contemporary” are among the best of Miami-based Hernan Bas’s career. Although the works are culled mainly from folklore, Bas avoids the campy shenanigans the subject matter might allow. The wild, swirling brushstrokes defining vegetation and landscape hint at an anarchic hedonism, but his flamboyant mannerism is consistently held in check by the controlled rendering of the figures and the tightly gauged palette.
“The Lookout” is compiled by A.i.A. associate editor Leigh Anne Miller.