Contributed by Julia Bland / Odili Donald Odita’s abstract paintings in “Burning Cross,” at Jack Shainman Gallery, are bright and rhythmic, drawing from European and American modernists as well as textiles from Nigeria, his country of birth. Works like Represent and Opus, X complicate geometric patterning with subtle shifts and contradictions, continually setting and thwarting the viewer’s expectations.
Paul Pagk: Pure painting revealed
Contributed by Adam Simon / I almost decided not to write about Paul Pagk’s first solo exhibition at Miguel Abreu on the Lower East Side after reading Raphael Rubinstein’s eloquent press statement. Rubinstein articulated so much of what struck me about the exhibition that I wondered what I could add. One thing Rubinstein alludes to but doesn’t explore in depth is the chasm that separates an initial glance at a Pagk painting from longer consideration of his work in person. For viewers not attuned to the ways painters glean meaning from forms and materials, these paintings might appear overly reductive, mere diagrams on fields of monochrome. You tend to take in a Pagk canvas quickly, as a one-to-one relationship of image to ground without a lot of interacting parts. It’s easy to miss the many ways in which his false starts, reiterations, miscues, and reworkings belie his apparent minimalism and austerity.
Joani Tremblay: No rage against the machine
Contributed by Zach Seeger /As the story goes, James Rosenquist’s images were inspired by his experience as a sign painter in the late 1950s. Blue-collar toil transcended the quotidian and informed not only the scale but also the imagery of Rosenquist’s paintings. The work seemed the most obvious new iteration of modernist opportunism, embracing culture’s latest ready-made: advertising. It did not elevate the artist to greater marketability through grand exhibition, however, but merely led to the appropriation of popular images for display on canvas in galleries. While the paintings sought to deconstruct the PR of capitalism (recall Edward Bernays’ “add an egg”), they also served to keep the capitalist machine humming. In juxtaposiing 20th-century American abstraction and 21st-century images of 19th-century landscape painting, Joani Tremblay tries to avoid this kind of regression in her solo show “Intericonicity” at Harper’s Chelsea 512.
Claudia Keep: Glistening moments of quiet drama
Contributed by Martin Bromirski / I first saw Claudia Keep’s paintings in a recent Jay Gorney Instagram post of her current show “Aubade” at March, in the East Village. The first of the three images Jay posted is of a swimmer, the figure all dashes of refraction under green waves, and the third image a summery painting of a small white garage dappled in sunshine and shadows from a nearby tree. Jay wrote, “small tender paintings.” I went to the gallery website to see more and was happy to learn that she lives here in Vermont, and we were able to set up a studio visit.
Don Doe’s pulp fictions
Contributed by Margaret McCann / The covetous, dismissive, playful title of Don Doe’s 490 Atlantic show, “I’ll Have What They’re Having,” aptly conveys the work’s lively yet frustrated romanticism. Painting from collages, Doe mixes bodies and genders, scale and spatial orientation, subject and object, high and low culture – all held together in a solid but illogical cubistic order. The few sculptures included show sophisticated facility and prioritize the grotesque. The viewer is manipulated through surprising twists and turns.
Siobhan McBride’s canny intimacy
Contributed by Peter Malone / “Long story short” could describe many an art review, but here it is also the name of one of a growing number of pocket galleries along the section of Henry Street beneath the Manhattan Bridge. Long Story Short NYC recently hosted an exhibition of a dozen of Siobhan McBride’s small but compelling paintings, titled “Always Means Never Not” and curated by Stavroula Coulianidis.
Jeff Gabel: Subtext rules this fucker
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / There’s a Seinfeld episode in which Elaine, annoyed by the knowing ellipticality of a New Yorker cartoon caption, marches into the august magazine’s offices and confronts the editor – portrayed to preppy-geek perfection by the late Edward Herrmann – about its meaning. After offering several generic, pretentious, and abjectly unconvincing interpretations, he admits that he has no idea what the hell the caption is supposed to mean. Jeff Gabel – whose elaborately narrated drawings and paintings, a few site-specific, are presently on display in a solo at Spencer Brownstone Gallery on the Lower East Side and a group show at Jennifer Baahng Gallery on the Upper East Side – runs no such risk, abjuring obscure glibness for mordantly wise, sourly penetrating bloviation.
Rob de Oude’s gorgeously fragile order
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Rob de Oude’s exquisitely painted geometric abstractions, on display at McKenzie Fine Art on the Lower East Side, at once resist and invite scrutiny. Though wholly handmade, they are all composed of small squares that appear so perfect, calmingly symmetrical, and plain beautiful as to discourage a closer look: there’s nothing more to see here, and what you see is fine enough. But his patterns – both over the expanse of the canvas and within each rectangle – are so intricate and their variations so subtle that a hard look turns out to be compulsory and in fact rewarding.
Spencer Finch’s dazzling originality
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.