BY Amy Zion in Critic's Guides | 06 MAR 18

Critic's Guide: New York

With the Armory Show opening in the city, a guide to the gallery and museum shows not to miss

BY Amy Zion in Critic's Guides | 06 MAR 18

Paul Laffoley, The Visionary Point, 1970, oil, acrylic and hand applied vinyl letters on canvas, 1.9 x 1.9 m. Courtesy: Francis Naumann Fine Art, New York

Paul Laffoley, ‘The Visionary Point’
Francis Naumann Fine Art
2 March – 13 April

The myth goes something like this: in 1961, after undergoing electro-shock therapy, Paul Laffoley had a dream in which he walked through an art exhibition. Upon waking, he began making art inspired by his crisp memory of the forms and shapes of those sculptures for the next 50 years. Before this event, he earned a degree from Brown. After the event, he studied architecture at Harvard, where he took a class with Italian painter and sculptor Mirko Basaldella, who challenged Laffoley to make 300 drawings. And after that, he looked up Andy Warhol's name in the yellow pages and gave the artist a call. The two met, and Warhol offered for Laffoley to stay in the fire station he had bought if Laffoley agreed to watch TV between two and six am every night. Those were the hours when nothing was aired and the screen was a static image by the RCA Corporation called Indian Test Pattern (introduced in 1939). The drawings prompted by Basaldella, and Laffoley's totally wild paintings inspired by the Indian Test Pattern's circle-in-square composition, are the focus of the late artist's exhibition at Francis Naumann.

Erika Verzutti, Flat Grandpa, 2017, papier-mâché, polystyrene and concrete, 71 x 97 x 20 cm. Courtesy: Andrew Kreps, New York

Erika Verzutti‚ 'Ex Gurus'
Andrew Kreps Gallery
3 March – 31 March

Brazilian sculptor Erika Verzutti has developed a sophisticated and seductive language through her wall works, free standing sculptures, and installations of the past two decades. Her exhibition ‘Ex Gurus’ begins with a new work titled Witch (2018). It is a small, dark rectangular wall sculpture, pulled and pressed by her fingers in polymer clay and adorned with delicate stones and similar bronze spheres. Or is the whole thing cast in bronze? Or coated in bronze? Other works of similar scale look like they're made in the same way, but have two different processes. Earring with Clouds (2017), for example, is cast bronze painted with oil and acrylic and Oblique Strategies (2016) is made of papier-mâché and wax. These simple details highlight how the artist makes subtle and humorous tweaks to traditional sculptural vocabularies, which play with perceptions of weight, volume and mass. On the floor, Dias da Semana (2017) is a stack of seven colourful cast bronze shapes sitting atop one another in a gravity-defying stack. Flat Grandpa (2017), a concrete work that looks like an ancient symbol fanned out from the floor appears sturdy but has a papier-mâché centre. There is something playful and attractive about these figures, and the way they create and blur their own tiny reality. 

Alexandra Pirici, ‘Co-natural’, 2018, installation view, New Museum, New York. Courtesy: New Museum, New York; photograph: Andrei Dinu

Alexandra Pirici, ‘Co-natural’
New Museum
6 February – 15 April

Depending on when you visit the New Museum to see Alexandra Pirici's new live work 'Co-Natural', performed by a group of dancers over a seven hour duration, you might see a man walk slowly across the room singing opera. Or, you might not see any movement save for a man in the corner who looks like he's stuck in a cage. When you approach him, you realize he's in fact an image – a hologram – of a dancer who is located elsewhere. Not in the museum; perhaps not on the continent. Hopefully when you visit, it's during a peaceful hour when the noise from the café and the lobby doesn't seep in and disturb a kilowatt of the energy these dancers and their hologram create together and somehow use to charge the space. As the dancers interact and move across the space they allegorize the idea of contemporary self, whereby, thanks to technology, we can no longer be contained in one space, one time, or one body. Pirici is searching for a language through movement and dialogue that expresses the nature of existence and what it means to be present in our digitally-dependent age.

Liu Shiyuan, Isolated Above, Connected Down, 2018, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Liu Shiyuan, 'Isolated Above, Connected Down'
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
22 February – 7 April

The video Isolated Above, Connected Down (2018) is the central work in Liu Shiyuan's first substantial solo exhibition in the US. It's presented in a large, darkened room with a checkered carpet and soft pillows for people to recline and gaze up at clouds in blue sky – a repeating motif – while film strips of various images (animals, insects, children) scroll up and down at varying speeds. The sky might also contain a clock and a metronome before the shot changes to an interior domestic table and we get to peer into a conversation between a youngish married couple. They are European and have the same unplaceable accent, yet their dialogue betrays vast cultural and ideological differences. The husband tells the wife a story about once seeing a man walking a leek on a leash in Japan. The man was enacting a Japanese idiom of some sort, he tells his wife. She points out, that doesn't make it any more sensible. He replies, ‘I guess it is nice to know that there is a deeper cultural explanation hidden: Another kind of reasoning – right?’ Right.

Juan Antonio Olivares, Moléculas, 2017. HD video still. Courtesy: the artist and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Juan Antonio Olivares, ‘Moléculas’
Whitney Museum of American Art
2 March – 10 June

Juan Antonio Olivares chose a teddy to animate the words of his father speaking about the artist's deceased mother in his recent film Moléculas (2017) because it's relatable. As he puts it, it's ‘an almost universal symbol of empathy.’ The bear reclines on what looks like a Le Corbusier-style chaise longue as he discusses pain, separation, loss, grief, and other topics usually too ‘PG’ for such a cute and cuddly creature. The result is a captivating animation about the nature of life and death on this planet. Tears well in teddy's eyes as he picks up a phone receiver. In another scene, an empty bathroom floods with water as the tub overflows and the camera plunges underwater and hovers in silence. It's at once reminiscent of all-encompassing sadness counterbalanced by a childhood comfort agent come to life.

Carolee Schneemann, Up to and Including Her Limits, 1973–76, crayon on paper, rope, harness, 16mm film projector, video and six monitors, installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Courtesy: © the artist, 2015 The Museum of Modern Art, New York and PPOW Gallery, New York; photograph: Jonathan Muzikar  

Carolee Schneemann, 'Kinetic Painting'
22 October 2017 – 11 March 2018

‘I've waited a very long time for this,’ Carolee Schneemann said of her first comprehensive retrospective which opened during the first few weeks of the #metoo movement and which is set to close on Sunday. ‘The prejudice is that everything I have done comes down to sensual energy. Since my culture is puritan, they've confused the sensuous with the pornographic – this exhibit is going to correct that, finally.’ Like the movement, which has sparked a revaluation of commonplace behaviour, Schneemann remarked on her work that ‘the critical awareness wasn't there to let the complexity […] stand on its own.’ The exhibition frames her more infamous experimental theatre and performance works such as Meat Joy (1964) and Interior Scroll (1975) within the context of her work as a painter, tracing her developments from the 1950s into multimedia. That part sounds a bit puritanical. Forget I mentioned it.

Jesse Darling, Plexus, 2017, back brace, mild steel, lacquer, grip bar, cool pack, 73 × 50 × 20 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Chapter NY Gallery, New York 

Jesse Darling, ‘Support Level’
Chapter NY Gallery
26 January – 11 March

When the latest issue of Artforum came out last week, the cover artist tweeted humbly: ‘Yes its true, a pic I made 4 insta as a prayer wen sick has shown up on the cover of a magazine somehow, life is short & funny.’ Sickness, humour, and the artist's casualness typifies their first solo exhibition in the Lower East Side's Chapter NY Gallery which sees a surrealist touch applied to various medical equipment. A cane bends and twists and melts like a wilting body it's meant to support. A back brace with an ice pack hangs off a wall-mounted steel rack. The sculptures are paired with drawings that layer plastic over paper inside aluminium frames, ostensibly, from their titles, as part of a series of hospital posters. It looks as if the plastic has been vandalized by graffiti yet both the paper beneath and the scratches above look like symbols from some kind of indecipherable language. The medical devices and elements (a curtain divides the space like a hospital room) and language are things that shape the body – and subjectivity. So the artist presents them alone, twisted to their liking.

Main image: Liu Shiyuan, Almost Like Rebar No. 1 (detail), 2018, c-type print in artist frame, 129 x 159 x 5 cm

Amy Zion is a writer and curator based in New York, USA.