The Lookout: A Weekly Guide to Shows You Won’t Want to Miss

Kehinde Wiley: Abed Al Ashe and Chaled El Awari (The World Stage: Israel), 2011, oil and gold enamel on canvas. Courtesy Jewish Museum.


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 Matthew Higgs’s generation- and genre-spanning group show of abstract art at James Cohan, an intimate exhibition of Luther Price’s grim slide projections and prints at Calliccoon Fine Art, and Kehinde Wiley’s ornate, large-scale portraits of Israeli youths at the Jewish Museum.

Steven Charles at Stux, through June 30
“I Don’t Know What My Life To Do With” is the poetic, albeit rather cryptic, title Steven Charles gave to this new group of colorful abstractions. The British-born, New York-based artist makes paintings with densely packed layers of pigment and tightly controlled gestures. Certain pieces, like Doorway to 7-Eleven and The Fonz, seem lighthearted and almost effortless, as if for Charles the act of painting is more like breathing.      

“Caribbean: Crossroads of the World” at El Museo del Barrio and the Queens Museum of Art, through Jan. 6, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, through Oct. 21
This blockbuster, with its broad definition of the Caribbean as encompassing not only islands but rim and diaspora, is an exhausting and often confusing proposition-but worth the effort.  A thematic breakdown means that some of the hundreds of artists on view-ranging from the colonial period to the present-turn up in more than one venue. Go to the Studio Museum for slavery and banditry; to El Museo for economy and identity; and to the Queens Museum for populism and the sea, including some great images of mermaids.

Kehinde Wiley at the Jewish Museum, through July 29
The 14 large-scale paintings in this exhibition are monumental portraits of Israeli youths Wiley met during an extended stay there in 2010. Embedded in each composition are dense layers of organic patterns derived from Jewish ceremonial art and artifacts. Superb examples of these from the museum’s collection accompany the imposing portraits, all set against black walls, adding to the rather riveting theatrical effect of the overall installation. There is also a unique opportunity here to compare and contrast Wiley’s contemporary approach to portraiture with the luminous—and no less dynamic—portraits by Vuillard concurrently on view at the museum.

“Everyday Abstract-Abstract Everyday” at James Cohan, through July 27
Summer group shows are a dime a dozen, but Matthew Higgs (director of New York’s White Columns) has guest curated a fantastic show of contemporary abstract painting, sculpture and photography, with a particular focus on vernacular (aka “everyday”) materials. Standouts include a Josh Smith oil next to a Warhol oxidation painting, an N. Dash photo of a linty ball of cotton and textile sculptures by Judith Scott, Shinique Smith and Alexandra Bircken.

JASA at On Stellar Rays, through July 27
Slovenian artist JASA’s immersive performance/installation “Apnea’s Rhapsody” features swirly pink wallpaper, a black and white rug, an oversize swing, moody lighting and, for a touch of interactivity, instructions on requesting one of a few dozen objects carefully listed on a printout resting on the swing. Once you’ve made your choice, someone will disappear down a steep staircase into the gallery’s basement to retrieve your object and ritualistically place it on a waiting pedestal, per the artist’s mysterious instructions.

Luther Price at Callicoon Fine Arts, through July 27
Ever since a couple of his projected film collages were included in this year’s Whitney Biennial, Luther Price’s profile has been rising. Callicoon makes good use of its tiny LES space by covering the glass storefront, and parts of the gallery walls, with a grid of creepily seductive prints on vellum of fibroids and tumors, plus one of his entrancing handmade slide projections made up of scraps of 8mm film.

The Lookout” is compiled by A.i.A. associate editor Leigh Anne Miller.