Must-Visit Exhibitions in New York During Frieze Week 2023

From solo shows at PROXYCO and the Whitney Museum to a group show at CARA, here are the best exhibitions in New York

BY Danielle Wu in Critic's Guides , US Reviews | 16 MAY 23

Lizania Cruz


12 May–22 June

A photograph of a woman in a headscarf, sunglasses, blue shirt, and dark blue skirt in sunny Seville, Spain
Lizania Cruz, Portrait of a Detective in Sevilla, 2022, c-print, 51 × 76 cm. Courtesy: the artist

At PROXYCO Gallery, Lizania Cruz presents evidence from her extended investigation into how Caribbean history has been sanitized by centuries of anti-Black and anti-Haitian policies (Investigation of the Dominican Racial Imaginary, 2019–ongoing). In Documentación Acción en Sevilla (Seville Action Documentation, 2022), for instance, Cruz dons a headscarf, blood-red lipstick and black shades and goes to a public plaza in Seville. There, she conducts a survey with passersby to see whether they know where disgraced colonialist seafarer Christopher Columbus is buried – a point of dispute between Spain and its former colony. On display in the gallery are the Dominican-flag-coloured ensemble the artist wore and the doctored government seals she used to lend her survey an air of authority – adding some welcome high jinks to the weight of the irretrievable past. Like Adrian Piper’s Mythic Being (1973–75), in which the artist stepped out as a braggadocious male alter ego to disrupt the public’s homeostasis, Cruz’s performance feigns naiveté to draw out her observers’ ignorance. Undergirding the performance is a more tragic realization that sometimes, archival voids can only be filled with fiction.

Josh Kline

Whitney Museum of American Art

19 April – 13 August

An IV drip bag with an amber liquid and the ingredients list -- some strange ones -- written upon it
Josh Kline, Overtime Drip, 2013/2023, IV bag, espresso, Adderall, deodorant, Red Bull, Ritalin, printer ink, Vitamin C, mouthwash, toothpaste, and light-box column: plexiglass, LEDs, and wood, 533 × 15 × 20 cm. Courtesy: © Josh Kline; 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Christian Øen

The first US museum survey of Asian American artist Josh Kline’s work distils unexpected poetry from life’s humiliating daily grind. Far from romances, however, the artist’s text-based works read like sardonic personal mantras for end times. ‘Phone as mind […] living for likes,’ is printed on the fabric of Free Trade (2023), a glowing tent sculpture forming part of the artist’s ‘Personal Responsibility’ series, which examines the disproportionate effect of environmental crisis on the least advantaged. Each tent houses a television monitor that plays an interview with a fictional future refugee. Another room flooded with piercing white light illuminates IV drip bags prepared to inject a noxious potion straight into the veins. Overtime Drip (2013/23), for instance, includes espresso, Adderall, Vitamin C and mouthwash. Amid these critiques of humanity’s unrelenting downward spiral, Kline’s film Adaptation (2019–22) depicts a group of coworkers adrift in a post-apocalyptic world. Their acts of care for one other – unzipping each other’s hazmat suits, sharing candy bars – comes as a welcome relief.

Simon Benjamin

Baxter Street Camera Club of New York

3 May – 14 July

A gorgeous photograph of cerulean sky, a tree, a structure
Simon Benjamin, Paw Paw, pigment print and acrylic paint mounted on panel, 76 × 102 inches. Courtesy: the artist

Jamaican artist and filmmaker Simon Benjamin presents a body of work – begun as part of his 2022 Baxter Street Camera Club Residency – that relinquishes the power of narration to the sublimity of the ocean. Postcard works from his ‘Tropical Imaginaries’ series paint a melancholic brilliant azure over scenes from the Caribbean. In works like Sycorax_10.videostyle.01 (all works 2023), scenes screened on cathode ray televisions are spliced to re-dignify touristic portrayals of locals by shielding their exposed bodies from a casual voyeur. In Benjamin’s collage Glass Bottom 1, the word ‘native’ can still be made out despite being torn at the edges – a rejection of whom this identifying marker was for and the intentions behind such exotifying categorizations. Something about the waters’ silence holds a more honest account of the longue durée – a long view of history – than any text by a human author.

Abraham Cruzvillegas


3 May – 14 June

An installation view, uh, what looks to be a concrete block with metal and colorful components sticking out, which holds up a hammock that is strung across another corner against another... contraption
Abraham Cruzvillegas, ‘little song’, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artist

The title of Abraham Cruzvillegas’s solo exhibition, ‘little song’, draws from an eponymous poem by Langston Hughes (1958) – ‘Ring around we go – / Weaving our bright ribbons / Into a rainbow!’ reads its closing lines – and rejoices in a similar childlike desire for play. Cruzvillegas finds the gleeful scribble in the coiled wire of a retired electronic or the seductive gleam in scavenged copper pennies. Assemblages are unified by frequent punctuations of green and pink – achieved through natural dyes or oxidation processes – and embalmed by wax. Parts of an instrument jut out or a netted fabric will swing in a satisfying hammock-like arc, evoking the idiom of throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks. Don’t miss the performance on 16 May, in which the artist will perform a selection of lyrics related to the exhibition.

Lap-See Lam

Swiss Institute

10 May – 27 August

A Chinese puppet show that casts opposite shadows upon the floor in a dark room
Lap-See Lam, ‘Tales of the Altersea’, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm/Berlin/Mexiko City; photograph: Alwin Lay

Swedish artist Lap-See Lam plunges into the haunting world of the Chinese diaspora’s failed aspirations in ‘Tales of the Altersea’, her first solo show in the United States. An eponymous ten-channel video projection blankets the walls of the Swiss Institute’s basement, submerging viewers in a shadow play – a form of Chinese theatre in which puppeteers manipulate leather or paper figures to music – loosely inspired by the life of Swedish entrepreneur Johan Wang. In the 1990s, Wang commissioned a ship named Sea Palace that sailed from Shanghai to Europe. The vessel, which housed a restaurant for 230 guests, fell into financial ruin, echoing Lam’s continued investigations of shuttered Chinese restaurants, including that of her own parents. As if anthropomorphizing Lam’s research process, the projection follows the silhouettes of twin sisters who breaststroke across murky amniotic waters before being driven apart by a storm. The trauma of the event causes one of the sisters to reappear with the head of a dragon – a hybrid sea beast that must learn to swim with its new anatomy. An original score by Linus Hillborg and Marlena Salonen completes the sensorium of an eerie voyage gone awry.

and we learn to keep the soil wet

The Center for Art, Research and Alliances (CARA)

18 March – 25 June

Against a patterned wallpaper, a scintillating abstract sculpture (on the left); a pile of soil toward the front; a hanging sculpture
 ‘and we learn to keep the soil wet’, 2023, exhibition view. Courtesy; the artists; photograph: Greg Carideo

At the new Center for Art, Research and Alliances, smartly designed by 6a architects, curator Manuela Moscoso presents work by nine artists – Antonio Henrique Amaral, Ane Graff, Timothy Yanick Hunter, Kite, Ana María Millán, Ebony G. Patterson, Khari Johnson-Ricks, Suellen Rocca and Zheng Bo – exploring relationships between (and within) humans and technologies, with nature as conduit. A standout is Yanick Hunter’s Untitled (Polyptych) (2023), in which the Toronto-based artist glitches a landscape from a vintage Ford advertisement, disturbing the empty consumerist euphoria of the original sales pitch. The work is complemented by Graff’s The Loss of Memory with Other Losses (2023), a queasy sculpture about digestive systems, and Patterson’s glittering wall installation, in which botanicals become indiscernible from flesh. Together, the works unsettle the easy boundaries that encase the human.

Main image: Josh Kline, Adaptation, 2019–22, film still. Courtesy: © Josh Kline, the artist and 47 Canal, New York

Danielle Wu is a writer and curator based in New York, USA. She is a Digital Fellow at Democracy Now! and her reviews have been published in Art in America, Artforum and The Offing. Her recent curatorial projects include Water Works at the International Studio & Curatorial Program, New York (2022).