Five Shows to See in New York During Armory Week

From Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s first institutional solo show in the US at the New Museum to Elle Perez’s semi-abstract photographs at 47 Canal

BY Zoë Hopkins in Critic's Guides , Exhibition Reviews | 08 SEP 23

Tuan Andrew Nguyen

New Museum

29 June – 17 September

A film still of a man holding golden hands in his own
Tuan Andrew Nguyen, The Unburied Sounds of a Troubled Horizon, 2022, film still. Courtesy: © Tuan Andrew Nguyen and James Cohan, New York

Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s first institutional solo exhibition in the US is a quiet yet intensely affective gesture of historical remediation. Rooted in the artist’s native Vietnam, the exhibition ‘Radiant Remembrance’ is a negotiation of ancestry, trauma and recollection.

The emphasis here is on Nguyen’s film works, three of which are laced into dialogue with a selection of sculptures and archival photographs. Of them, the crown jewel is The Unburied Sounds of a Troubled Horizon (2022), an ache-laden, hour-long video following the relationship between a young Vietnamese artist and her mother, who appears to suffer from PTSD. The film is displayed alongside sculptures by Nguyen that also appear onscreen, forming a discreet meta narrative in which the film is revealed as a kind of proxy of the artist’s creative exigencies.

With immense softness, Nguyen lingers on his country’s open wounds. The historical rigour of his project is obvious: he takes a research-based approach to the complexities of war, colonization and migration. But the exhibition is equally awash with poetics and a tender gaze at the subjects it takes up.

Covey Gong


7 September – 28 October

A hanging assemblage of string and thing extrusions
Covey Gong, NW298, 2023, brass, tin, copper, assorted fibers, 193 × 28 × 17 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Derosia, New York

Covey Gong’s artworks are configured with an astonishing care for fragile things: thin wires and rods, brittle netting and cloth, feathers and fibres. There is no denying the delight that the artist takes in the life of his materials. In ‘Intercontinental’, the artist’s latest solo exhibition at Derosia, these tenuous objects are made into four large sculptures of apparently weightless intricacy: gorgeous entanglements of found and reclaimed matter that seem to float from the gallery’s walls and ceilings.

United under the rubric ‘garments’ – a signifier that the artist deploys to usher his sculptures into proximity with the adorned body – the works are potential containers for fleshy inhabitants. And, while the objects themselves are not readily wearable, there is something inviting in thinking of them as ornaments that have been assembled out of a will to self-fashion. Perhaps we might all live in the garments that Gong’s sculptures allude to, finding a shared cloak inside this constellation of delicate things.

Liz Magic Laser

Pioneer Works

8 September – 19 November

Installation view: cavernous dark space, video screens on either side of people in various athletic positions
Liz Magic Laser, ‘Convulsive States’, 2023. Courtesy: the artist and Pioneer Works, New York

You can’t escape the body – quivering, writhing or simply being – at Liz Magic Laser’s ‘Convulsive States’. Conceived in collaboration with poet Ariana Reines, the exhibition is a spectacle of corporeal catharsis. Taking convulsion, hysteria and psychotherapy as her points of departure, Laser deploys film and performance to investigate histories of somatic disorder and related treatment and therapy. Incorporating a plethora of documentation – from TikTok to footage of early 20th-century neurology – the project is a veritable explosion of archive fever that asks us to contemplate the horrifying, shocking, yet glorious extremities of historical and contemporary bodies.

In Exorcise 1 through 8 (2023), Laser dumps us into a confrontation with our own bodies by way of a kind of mirror stage in which our reflections are entangled with footage of exercising bodies practicing activities from Qigong to holotropic breathwork (a breathing technique intended to encourage psycho-emotional wholeness). In the titular film Convulsive States (2023), however, Laser also gestures towards the self, attending to her own experiences with psychosomatic traumas and therapies.

A trip to Pioneer Works also solicits time with Jenson Leonard’s exhibition ‘Workflow’, which closes 10 September. The artist’s eponymous, darkly humorous short film re-interprets Aria Dean’s 2017 essay ‘Notes on Blacceleration’, a text that draws parallels between Black radical thought and accelerationism.

Carlos Motta with Elio Miraña, ELO, Gil Farekatde Maribba, Higinio Bautista, Kiyedekago, Rosita and Yoí nanegü


8 September – 7 October

A film still: a sculpture of some kind of large cat on the lap of a man in a red shirt in a forest
Carlos Motta with Elio Miraña, ELO, Gil Farekatde Maribba, Higinio Bautista, Kiyedekago, Rosita, and Yoí nanegü, Jjagɨyɨ: Air of Life, 2023. Courtesy: the artists and P.P.O.W, New York

A dialogue of sculpture, video installation and mixed-media work, ‘Jjagɨyɨ: Air of Life’ is the result of years of collaboration between Carlos Motta and indigenous artists and cultural leaders in the Colombian Amazon. Taking its name from a Murui word referring to the collective heritage of indigenous groups from the region (loosely translated as ‘the people at the centre of the world’ or ‘the children of the creator’), ‘Jjagɨyɨ’ seeks to recover and reclaim histories that have been obscured by colonialism and its attendant epistemic displacements.

Jjagɨyɨ’ is centred around a titular, three-channel video installation narrating the impact of colonial religious missions on the creative and cultural practices of indigenous Amazonians. The film is split into several chapters, each of which homes in on an oral history delivered by one of the exhibition’s collaborators. These moments of storytelling are woven together by scenes of song and dance, as well as by recordings of the Amazon and its sonic atmosphere. For most of the film, each video monitor plays a different scene, resulting in an overlapping chorus of voices and sounds bound together in a resplendent tumult of knowledge production.

Elle Pérez

47 Canal

9 September – 7 October

A black and white photograph that looks like buckling rubber
Elle Pérez, Night dining shed 1, 2023. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal

There is nothing quite like the gust of recognition that occurs when looking at a photograph and beginning to realize that things are not as they originally appear. Elle Pérez’s solo show at 47 Canal is full of these shocks: recurring moments in which the eye is tossed in and out of uncertainty.

The photographs on view in the exhibition titled ‘guabancex’ – a reference to the Taíno deity of chaos and disorder – creep towards the realm of abstraction. Disembodied shadows and reflections pervade alongside curving lines and unidentifiable forms. A subway window becomes a field of zig-zagging light and reflection. The textured wall of a cave appears almost liquid, filled with undulating pools of chalky matter. These gestures of defamiliarization and abstraction may seem like a surprising turn for a photographer whose work is so often thought of in relation to the body and intimacy. Yet, there is tenderness to be found in the way that Pérez gives new life to the forms they capture, lifting them into new ways of being seen. Indeed, though Pérez’s photographs seem placid enough on the surface, they possess a subtle entropy, refusing stable or clear cut subject matter.

Main image: Tuan Andrew Nguyen, The Unburied Sounds of a Troubled Horizon, 2022, film still. Courtesy: © Tuan Andrew Nguyen and James Cohan, New York

Zoë Hopkins is a writer and critic based in New York, USA. She received her BA in art history and African American studies at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA, and is currently working on her MA in modern and contemporary art at Columbia University, New York. Her writing has been published in Artforum, The Brooklyn Rail, Cultured and Hyperallergic.