Contributed by David Carrier / Spencer Finch’s new and recent work at Hill Art Foundation in Chelsea are set in dialogue with The Creation and the Expulsion from Paradise, a magnificent 1533 stained-glass window by Renaissance master Valentin Bousch. “Lux and Lumen,” the exhibition’s title, comes from Abbot Suger of the cathedral at Saint-Denis, who praised the power of stained glass to transform natural light, or lux, into sacred light, or lumen. Inspired by that medieval idea, and by his visit to Claude Monet’s pond and garden at Giverny, Finch’s Painting Air, an immersive hanging-glass installation, is a dramatic visual essay on light.
Heidi Hahn’s bold challenge to figuration
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / On one level, in “Flex, Rot, and Sp(l)it,” a penetrating and conceptually cohesive show of paintings at Nathalie Karg Gallery, Heidi Hahn visually chronicles the tension between the unavoidable confinement of the body and the irrepressible expansiveness of the mind. While the so-called mind-body problem is as old as philosophy itself, to Western audiences it is perhaps most resonant in René Descartes’ exercise of systematic doubt, concluding with “I think therefore I am.” In terms of value, this ingrained formulation privileges the mind over the body. While philosophers are left to connect mental processes with gray matter, for painters and others it can be discomfiting to realize that although thinking is supposed to be the essence of being, a person’s mind is often prejudged on the basis of their body’s characteristics.
Firelei Báez: Uncharting charted territory, and vice-versa
Contributed by Julia Bland / The eleven canvases in Firelei Báez’s current exhibition “Americananana” at James Cohan Gallery continue her decades-long practice of painting directly on found maps and printed materials. By activating the surface with historical references, Báez calls into focus the dual nature of the painted gesture as both action and erasure. While considering what relevant details have now vanished behind an outstretched arm or pale yellow swath, one might also wonder whether any canvas is ever truly blank.
Ridley Howard: Provocative incongruity
Contributed by Riad Miah / Athens, Georgia-based painter Ridley Howard’s new body of work, now on display at his third solo show at Marinaro, continues to explore relationships between figuration and abstraction with a refined pop sensibility, easing effortlessly between small and larger formats. The gallery’s abundant new space on Broadway is ideal, allowing viewers to absorb shifts in scale and reflect on contrasting elements, which Howard now seems to have fully resolved and mastered.
Dylan Vandenhoeck: Seeing yourself seeing
Contributed by James J.A. Mercer / The main works in “Inside Out, Outside In,” Dylan Vandenhoeck’s bravura solo show at Jack Barrett gallery, are large, vertically oriented oil paintings, approximately human scale. Two are on interlocking irregular canvases, and there are three smaller horizontal pieces. Some are on unusual fabrics, or contain objects such as candy wrappers and string that could be related to the scenes painted on them. Big gestural swirls and streaks of color frame plein air landscapes and interiors. Certain zones are masterfully illusionistic, such as the wintry parking lot through dirty glass in Of the Corner. Other areas are daringly loose, collapsing into stray marks and spectral debris.
Leiko Ikemura: East Meets West
Contributed by Marjorie Welish / A Berlin-based Japanese artist well-established abroad, Leiko Ikemura is now having her first exhibition in the United States at Fergus McCaffrey in Chelsea. The show presents a range of her works to fine effect, including masks, figurines in terracotta, and others in cast glass. Her drawing and painting are of particular note. Ikemura pulls together antithetical forces to keep the drawing painterly, and the painting grounded in gestural drawing.
Don Dudley’s pure authenticity
Contributed by Adam Simon / Don Dudley’s minimalism has always had a West Coast flavor, more concerned with perception than objecthood. Like many artists of his generation, he has steered clear of expressionism, or anything that shifted attention from the object to the artist. His focus has been on the purely visual.
Fran O’Neill: Gestural heroine
Contributed by Riad Miah / The eleven oil paintings in Fran O’Neill’s solo show “Left Turn” at Equity Gallery traffic in vivid, vibrant gestures of color that form softly curved, ribbon-like shapes. While they bring to mind artists like James Nares, Karin Davie, and David Reed, O’Neill’s energetic but self-consciously controlled brushstrokes and honed sense of color and light more directly suggest instants of becoming or emergence. Reaching back so full-bloodedly to revisit gestural painting, and to exploit the expressive potential of abstraction and the flexibility of its formal attributes, somehow seems heroic.
Tom Butler’s cabinet of wonders
Contributed by Mark Wethli / Years ago I was fascinated to read about a theory that the grooves on ancient clay pots, like the grooves on a vintage music cylinder, might be playable. Given the right audio equipment, we might be able to hear the voices and sounds of the potter’s studio the moment the pot was being made. This beguiling notion came to mind while I was looking at the most recent work of Tom Butler at the Sarah Bouchard Gallery in Woolwich, Maine.
Christopher Knowles’s keen sense of time
Contributed by Kari Adelaide Razdow / The motif of time is deeply and deftly embedded in Christopher Knowles’s solo exhibition, STAND, at The Watermill Center…In his contemplation of time, Knowles provides a portal to pop culture from days of yore, with associations to language and sound.