What to See Right Now in New York Art Galleries

Nicky Nodjoumi Through Jan. 19. Helena Anrather, 28 Elizabeth Street, Manhattan; 212-587-9674, helenaanrather.com . In 1974, the Irani...

Through Jan. 19. Helena Anrather, 28 Elizabeth Street, Manhattan; 212-587-9674, helenaanrather.com.

In 1974, the Iranian-American artist Nicky Nodjoumi took his City College M.F.A. back to Tehran, where his politically charged painting quickly antagonized first the Shah’s secret police and then Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guards. In 1981, he was given a major show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, but it was closed after a single day, and he hurried back to New York, which has been his home ever since.

For a few years in the late ’90s, Mr. Nodjoumi made a daily practice of painting or drawing on a shellacked front page of The New York Times. He made portraits of his family; Picasso-like figures with latticework faces; explicit sexual scenes that are both funny and tender; and clearly political but nonspecific images, like a dense black silhouette of a man playing with a bloody-red cat’s cradle.

One appeal of a serial project like this, over and above the often wonderful drawing, is how it seems to encompass the endless days and scenes of the world at large even as it reduces them to a comprehensible number. I can count 60 spreads in Mr. Nodjoumi’s current show, “New York Times Sketchbooks (1996-1999),” at Helena Anrather; note that these include one Metro section cover and one interior spread painted early on, before he committed to front pages, as well as one flower for the day Princess Diana died; and feel as if I’ve really gotten to grips with something. Still more appealing, though, is the sense of fleet-footed possibility that the work transmits when hung en masse: If today’s nefarious silhouette can turn into tomorrow’s couple in flagrante or the next day’s bear on stilts, anything might be around the corner for all of us.


Through Jan. 25. Nahmad Contemporary, 980 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, 646 449 9118, nahmadcontemporary.com.

The last five months have brought two solo shows of early work by the restless German painter Albert Oehlen that were previously unseen in New York. In September, 12 paintings from the artist’s 1989-90 Fn (Footnote) series went on view at Skarstedt. In them, improvisatory abstract brushwork in off-key colors was infiltrated by fragments of images from popular culture to create sardonic mash-ups of Pop Art, Surrealism and Neo-Expressionism. They exemplified the ugly gorgeousness that is something of an Oehlen signature.

Now Nahmad is showing 13 canvases from Mr. Oehlen’s “Spiegelbilder” or “Mirror Paintings” series, which began in 1982, around the time of the artist’s solo shows, and extended to 1989. They are dark, dour, loosely painted interiors, consistent with his early interest in representation. Some, with titles like “Abolition of a Military Dictatorship,” “Oven I,” and “Hell, I” or depictions of bunkerlike cinder block structures conjure the Nazi period. But the paintings are suggestive of a messy aftermath, whether they show a grand but decrepit spiral staircase as in “Staircase Old,” or a library devoid of furniture. Of course Mr. Oehlen’s impatient brushwork contributes to the desultory mood. Countering it are random mirrors affixed to the surfaces of each canvas. These irreverently disrupt the painted images with blank patches or glimpses of reality, depending upon where you stand, at once punching holes in the medium’s spatial integrity and also implicating us in history’s devastations. Ugliness has the louder voice in these works, flanked by tragedy on one side and on the other by the engaging lightness of Mr. Oehlen’s sensibility.


Through Jan. 25. Denny Dimin Gallery, 39 Lispenard Street, Manhattan; 212-226-6537, dennydimingallery.com.

Since the late 1990s, Clarity Haynes has been painting portraits of people’s breasts. They aren’t descended from the sexy and sexist classical nudes of art history, nor do they have the fleshy weight of the paintings of more contemporary artists like Lucian Freud or Jenny Saville. Instead, in “The Breast Portrait Project,” Ms. Haynes — who works from life over a series of sessions with her sitters that can take years — depicts the torsos of women, trans, and gender-nonconforming people in remarkable, caring detail. She relishes the tattoos, wrinkles, scars, veins and folds that our dominant society may deem unsightly.

In her current show, “Altar-ed Bodies,” which was curated by Benjamin Tischer, co-founder of the recently closed Invisible-Exports gallery, several of Ms. Haynes’s breast portraits share space with new paintings of her own altars, which the news release calls “self-portraits of sorts.” The altar pieces lack something of the same magnetic force of their counterparts, but the combination of the series is fruitful. In “Genesis” (2009), the pioneering body artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge wears a necklace whose charms echo the hanging pendants and small totems in “Rainbow Altar (Spring into Summer),” from 2019, while one of her tattoos mirrors the placement of a dangling pink ribbon. Such parallels charge us to treat bodies as sacred, like altars. Rather than sources of worry or shame, they should be sites of empowerment and worship.


Through Jan. 25 at Tina Kim Gallery, 525 West 21st Street, Manhattan, 212-716-1100, tinakimgallery.com.

We are playing historical catch-up at the moment, driven partly by the art market’s incessant quest for fresh products, but also by a widespread desire to create a more global narrative of art in the 20th century. A good candidate for this is Kim Tschang-Yeul, a Korean-born artist who, along with Park Seo Bo and Lee Ufan, helped introduce Western modernism to Korea and whose terrific paintings from the 1960s and ’70s are currently on view in the exhibition “New York to Paris” at Tina Kim.

Mr. Kim studied art in South Korea and was part of the Korean Informel, a movement that originated in France and favored vigorous, expressive abstraction. Living in Paris and New York, however, Mr. Kim produced work that evolved into what you see here: a radiant, abstract brand of Pop Art, with concentric forms rendered in an unusual mix of acrylic and cellulose lacquer on burlap or canvas. Some of the paintings, like the “Composition” series from 1969 and 1970, have centers that look almost photo-realistic. This propensity was pushed even further in canvases from the mid-70s and one here, from 1980, which have naturalistic droplets of water painted against a monochromatic ground that look so real they might seep off the canvas.

My favorites are the “Compositions,” though, which look like psychedelic vortexes rimmed with neon or spectral rainbows. They feel very contemporary, partly because we’re in a moment of historical remix and revival that benefits lesser-known strains of art history: Mr. Kim’s work looks as if it were painted today, rather than 40 years ago.


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Newsrust - US Top News: What to See Right Now in New York Art Galleries
What to See Right Now in New York Art Galleries
Newsrust - US Top News
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