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

Donelle Woolford: Invisible Man, 2011, wood scraps, glue and corrugated board, 26 by 21 inches. In "Painting Expanded." Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar.


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 clever, memorable shows that stand out in a crowded field. Every Thursday, we’ll post the 10 shows our team of editors can’t stop talking about.

This week we check out Ryan Trecartin’s manic video installation at MoMA PS1, playful ceramics by some 40 contemporary artists, and rarely seen black-and-white photos by the late Sigmar Polke.

Ryan Trecartin at MoMA PS1, through Sept. 3
“Any Ever” comprises seven chaotic videos installed in theaters-come-playgrounds of color-coded Ikea furniture. Trecartin’s sheer ambition (which can outpace the genius of his wordplay and editing, and his sensitivity to gender, class and technology) means that there’s some filler here. He’s best-and unbeaten-when committing to poetry and trying out narratives; there’s focus beyond the ADD.

“7 Sculptors” at Brennan & Griffin, through July 29
This group show sounds general in its interests but is quite specific. Highlights of the playful, loosely figurative work include Rachel Foullon’s updated rudimentary tools, which imply inventive human gestures, and small, amusing pieces by Jennifer Cohen.

John Bock at Anton Kern, through Aug. 12
In the Shadow of the Maggot
, John Bock’s latest mock-horror film, takes place in some kind of mad scientist’s lab (the plot follows an artificial creature and a human who are punished and destroyed for falling in love with each other). The black-and-white film is screened in a darkened, enclosed space in the middle of the gallery, along with glass display cases of peculiar artifacts like lumpy heads, puppets and penis sculptures.

“microwave, eight” at Josée Bienvenu, through Sept. 3
The premise of this exhibition is to showcase artists who “imperceptibly move their fingertips to create works of precision and minimal displacement . . . .” Okay. It’s not clear how closely the work in this show-for example, a wall-size tangle of colored wire embedded with speakers by Julianne Swartz, a small corrugated-cardboard-and-fabric construction that looks like a collapsed architectural model by Ana Tiscornia, or two art world-skewering drawings by William Powhida-hew to the stated “microwave” theme, but it’s a lot of fun to look at.

Birgir Andrésson and Poul Gernes at Sean Kelly, through July 29
In “Bolt Out of the Blue,” two Nordic artists—Birgir Andrésson (1955–2007) and Poul Gernes (1925–1996) play with color. Andrésson, whose parents were both blind, developed a fictional Icelandic color system, pairing swaths of monochrome color with number codes and evocative phrases. Early dot and stripe paintings from the 1960s by Gernes, a Dane, are also on view.

Jason Polan at Nicholas Robinson, through July 30
For his self-published book The Every Piece of Art in the Museum of Modern Art Book, Jason Pollan drew, yes, every artwork on view at MoMA. Polan’s gallery show, “Living and Working,” takes his obsessive, low-tech work ethic a step further: the space is filled with drawings made between the confirmation of the exhibition and its opening day (among other objects, pages upon pages of labeled ink doodles of random things Polan saw on a given day, pinned to the wall in grids). For a month, the artist will work on more drawings, paintings, sculptures and books in the gallery while it’s open.

“Painting Expanded” at Tanya Bonakdar, through July 29
None of the materially experimental, mostly abstract works here look like traditional paintings, but that’s the point. Standouts in the tightly curated show include Justin Beal’s seductively shiny black Plexiglas panel mounted on a slightly larger mirror, swathed in black shrink wrap; Amanda Ross-Ho’s symmetrically cut-out canvas drop cloth adorned with gold chains and a pair of sunglasses; and Donelle Woolford’s wood-scrap puzzle.

Sigmar Polke at Leo Koenig, through Aug. 5
The German artist’s black-and-white photographs vary widely in style and subject matter, and span from 1964 to 2000, nearly his whole career (Polke died last year). Leo Koenig’s main gallery includes creepy photos of suited-up skeletons that Polke took at Palermo’s Capuchin Catacombs, as well as candid, dreamlike shots from his travels in New York, Paris and Afghanistan. In the project space next door, a humorous series of 14 lithographs features various objects (buttons, a glove, the artist himself) “posing” in the shape of a palm tree.

Group painting show at Mitchell Innes & Nash, through Aug 6
The highlights of the lively abstract works at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, where Alfred Jensen serves as progenitor, are Katherine Bernhardt’s nearly careening colorful canvases, and, though not precisely painting, Joyce Scott’s wound yarn sculptures.

“Paul Clay” at Salon 94 Bowery, through July 30
Step past the punning title (a quote by Klee is the show’s inspiration) and enter a world of sheer jouissance. You’ll need the key at the desk to keep track of the 40-plus contemporary artists on view, most of whose ceramic sculptures are clustered together on big plinths downstairs. Be on the alert for Arlene Shechet’s offbeat gravity, Naoki Koide’s anime-infused nature and Tam van Tran’s sheer formal intricacy. Ceramic veterans Betty Woodman, Mary Heilmann and Andrew Lord are present, and Marilyn Minter and Rosemarie Trockel offer some real surprises.