Shows to See During New York’s Frieze Week

From Christopher Wool’s swirling abstractions in the Financial District, to Huma Bhabha’s bronze forms at Brooklyn Bridge Park, these are the must-see exhibitions during Frieze New York

BY Travis Diehl in Critic's Guides | 01 MAY 24

Sabina Maria van der Linden | Gandt | 27 April – 2 June

Sabina Maria van der Linden, ‘Das Letzte / Last Thing’, 2024, installation view. Curated by Tenko Nakajima. Courtesy: the artist and Gandt, New York

At Gandt – a wood-panelled basement in Queens – you enter the lo-fi, vaudeville headspace of Sabina Maria van der Linden, a Dutch artist who was a central figure in 2000s Berlin. A big screen in front of a couch and a small monitor on the kitchen counter of the bar-like room play a procession of her wacky, porny videos. Many of them run the length of commercials – 30 to 90 seconds – which is no accident, since the lithe young models prancing through the frame in absurd ruffles and wigs present themselves like products: new, improved, consumable. In one sequence, set in a pre-war apartment wallpapered with graphic black squiggles, two women tiptoe in en pointe wearing nothing but draped taupe fabric cinched around their necks and (you see when they twirl) sheer nylons. It’s a cheeky take on self-serious couture, but gains something in repetition, when – in the next short in the playlist – what could be the same two women prance into the same room, dressed head-to-toe in clingy lilac tubes with red boas covering heads and feet, like animated soft barbells. Elsewhere in the gallery, several examples of Van der Linden’s calligraphic drawings (exhibited here for the first time) offer a glimpse of her off-kilter graphic sensibility: a synthesis of femininity, poise and irony that renders modern sexuality as kitsch and kink.

Christopher Wool | 101 Greenwich Street | 14 March – 31 July

Christopher Wool, ‘See Stop Run’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: the artist

Whether or not you enjoy Christopher Wool’s seemingly endless series of late abstractions, his current exhibition ‘See Stop Run’ is an experience of another order. Here, the artist’s grisaille swirls and blotches find new clarity in the gutted 19th floor of an office tower in the Financial District. Wool’s squiggly junk sculptures and smeary canvases attune to the space’s variegated stages of demolition: chipped-away finishes, utilitarian sprays and harsh sub-flooring left by decades of remodels. The blonde frames on a group of painted prints warms to the beige drywall, striped with plaster; Wool’s hanging skeins of dark mesh and barbed wire, or copper tubular tangles on plinths, rhyme with the general sprays of clipped wires and cables, and the cryptic graffiti left by contractors. The real stunner, and a rare venture into the medium for Wool, is a wall-based mosaic, irregular tiles mapping out another whirling abstraction in black, grey and salmon. The glossy colours pick up the dusty tones of the building’s tile floor – once elegant, now peeking out from cracked cement. It’s casual and emphatic and really something – plus there are downtown views.

Fred Schmidt-Arenales | Storefront for Art and Architecture | 13 March – 1 June

Fred Schmidt-Arenales, ‘IT IS A GOOD PROJECT AND SHOULD BE BUILT’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: Storefront for Art and Architecture; photograph: Luis Corzo

‘IT IS A GOOD PROJECT AND SHOULD BE BUILT’ blares the title of Fred Schmidt-Arenales’s three-channel video installation at Storefront for Art and Architecture. The piece is a quasi-documentary look at a plan to run a retractable barrier across Galveston Bay in Texas to deflect storm surges. Three projection screens dice up Storefront’s wedge-shaped space, offering a nonlinear window into the project’s development: in footage (both real and staged) of dry civic meetings, plugging up the bay seems not only feasible but common sense. But the video doesn’t culminate in construction, exactly: it ends with an eerie pantomime set in the bay’s tide plain. Dancers erect tripods of lashed-together pipes, then climb into the crook at the top, while a trio of performers stride in from the ocean wearing poles decked with lumpy masks. Fighting the sea is an old metaphor for human hubris, but Schmidt-Arenales also finds beauty in its futile poetry, like the figures walking out to sea, ushered by green phantoms.

Jesse Stecklow | Dracula’s Revenge | 28 April – 26 May

Jesse Stecklow, From Pipe to Light, 2024, Avon Wild Country aftershave, corn cob pipe bottles, glass, electronics, LED lights, paper, MDF, 33 × 45.7 × 24.8 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Dracula's Revenge, New York, and Sweetwater, Berlin; photograph: Jason Mandella 

‘Dracula’s Revenge 3’ – the nomadic space’s third gallery instalment – hosts a bespoke project by Los Angeles artist Jesse Stecklow, who for several years has dealt in the minutiae of language and matter. This body of work puns on corn-derived products, inspired by a project in which Stecklow sampled gallery air and discovered a strange aura. The show’s seven sculptures offer a narrative, beginning with five pieces – small assemblages on low platforms, delicately wrapped in white paper – that present a sort of ‘timeline’ in the narrow gallery’s front room: the first sculpture (deep past) a pair of fossilized whale ear-bones resembling blackened kidneys; the middle sculpture (the present) a mirror; the fifth, a fortune-cookie sized tag, asks you to imagine where you’ll be in ten million years. The elegance of the show takes time to unfold – you’re led deeper into the space by the successive sculptures. A wax-dipped lightbulb sunken into the floor invites you into the back room, where images of human ears and glass bottles shaped like corn cover a sixth platform like an altar, and a seventh piece – a clock with its hands pinned in place by small air samplers – hangs in a ruined brick fireplace, drawing you into sooty contemplation.

Huma Bhabha | Public Art Fund (Brooklyn Bridge Park) | 30 April – 9 March 2025

Huma Bhabha, ‘Before The End’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: the artist; David Zwirner; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, and Public Art Fund, New York; photograph: Nicholas Knight

When Huma Bhabha’s towering, veined bronze blocks appeared at David Zwirner Gallery this spring, touching the art was discouraged. Now, though, four are installed at Brooklyn Bridge Park near Pier 3, and no one is there to stop you. Bhabha, a Pakistani artist living in upstate New York, has developed the densely tactile technique of sculpting in cork and upscaling before casting in metal, for an effect both light and fleeting, solid and dark. Her forms recall neolithic statuary, craft projects, ancient ruins and fussy modernism, lined with fissures and covered in the molecular, globular texture of enlarged pellets. The four in the park serve as pedestals for cast-bronze and painted jawbones, fossils, a fanning horseshoe crab: a sort of animal trace to crown the heavy infinity of what looks like rock, but also everlasting plastic. Deep time is top of mind here, too, as the park’s greenery flushes into spring life, and football matches simmer on the nearby pitch, while across the water the stone and iron towers of lower Manhattan echo Bhabha’s forms above the trees.

Main image: Huma Bhabha, ‘Before The End’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: the artist; David Zwirner; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi and Public Art Fund, New York; photograph: Nicholas Knight

Travis Diehl is online editor at X-TRA. He is a recipient of the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and the Rabkin Prize in Visual Arts Journalism.