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What to See Right Now in New York Art Galleries


Through March 28. Paula Cooper Gallery, 521 West 21st Street, Manhattan; 212-255-1105, paulacoopergallery.com.

Rhythm is central to Ja’Tovia Gary’s “The Giverny Suite” (2019), a nearly 40-minute, three-screen film installation that is the centerpiece of “flesh that needs to be loved,” Ms. Gary’s first show at Paula Cooper.

There is the tempo of the music accompanying the moving images, but just as crucial are the pacing and arrangement of Ms. Gary’s material. There is borrowed footage of Josephine Baker in the movie “ZouZou” (1934) and shots of Ms. Gary walking in Monet’s lush gardens in Giverny, France; there are close-ups of leaves reminiscent of Stan Brakhage’s experimental films like “Mothlight” (1963). There is the terrifying video of Diamond Reynolds’s 911 call after her boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by a police officer — and right after that, the singer Nina Simone performing at the Montreux Festival in 1976 and commenting to the audience on how the lyrics of the seemingly saccharine song “Feelings” are actually depressing.

Ms. Gary’s installation could be compared to moving-image works by Arthur Jafa and John Akomfrah, which similarly examine the representation of black bodies and histories of violence. The difference is that Ms. Gary focuses on women. “Do you feel safe?” she asks women in Harlem, holding a microphone toward them. Most answer yes. “I don’t walk alone; I walk with God,” an older woman says. “We’re not the weaker sex,” another asserts. The rhythm of “The Giverny Suite” feels solid and confident, but the tone less consistently affirmative. MARTHA SCHWENDENER


Through March 22. 47 Canal, 291 Grand Street, Manhattan; (646) 415-7712, 47canal.us.

The painter Trevor Shimizu has tended to approach his medium with charming, fast-moving irreverence. A few rakish lines of black on a bare canvas would suffice for a figure, a head or a stuffed animal. To cite a recent buzzword, his efforts often seemed to epitomize “deskilled.”

But over the past two years or so, Mr. Shimizu has turned to making landscapes that, relatively speaking, convey a passion for both his medium and nature. He might almost be freshly returned from a residency at Monet’s Giverny, where the great Impressionist built and painted his famous water garden. Except not quite: Mr. Shimizu’s speedy offhand technique continues, as does his love of white canvas, either bare or shining through his often dry-brushed flora.

Different parts of the new canvases — all from 2019 — evoke weeping willows, watery expanses (as in the murky “Tide Pool”) and even lily pads, although similar schmears also imply bushes, distant woods or undergrowth in paintings like “Hills (2)” “Trees Around Stream (2)” or “Moss Garden (4).” Spiky lines function as tree trunks, reeds or tufts of grass. Most compositions are suspended before us, hanging in the air, their legibility intermittent at best. But this instability is a great part of their verve and attraction. Their imminent disintegration can be weirdly gripping, inviting us to examine them brush stroke by brush stroke. The most finished painting here is “Fog (2),” and, while quite beautiful, almost seems out of place. ROBERTA SMITH


Through March 22. Microscope, 1329 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn; (347) 925-1433, microscopegallery.com.

Experiments created at the Bauhaus, the influential art school eventually shut down by the Nazis in 1933, still have the power to instruct, enchant and inspire, as you can see in this exhibition devoted to a single work by the German artist Kurt Schwerdtfeger (1897-1966) at Microscope.

Titled “Reflektorische Farblichtspiele (Reflecting Color-Light-Play), it was created in the 1920s and first presented at Wassily Kandinsky’s home as part of the Lantern Festival in 1922, when Mr. Schwerdtfeger was a 25-year-old student at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. It consists of an apparatus made of wood, electric lights, colored gels and wooden stencils with cutout shapes that performers manipulate by moving sliding panels to create a scintillating light play. (The work was also accompanied by music composed by Wolfgang Roscher.)

Films of earlier performances are on view in the current exhibition and these look like abstract animations or the “expanded cinema” of the 1960s. (Mr. Schwerdtfeger’s light-and-color system also indirectly influenced — through the filmmaker Jonas Mekas — Andy Warhol’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” multimedia events.)

Live stagings were scheduled during the earlier weeks of the show at Microscope, but even the remaining gallery experience is extraordinary, drawing together music, light, sound and Bauhaus theories relating to form, color and movement that are mind-expanding. MARTHA SCHWENDENER


Through April 11. Perrotin, 130 Orchard Street, Manhattan; 212-812-2902, perrotin.com.

The South African painter Cinga Samson’s first U.S. solo show, “Amadoda Akafani, Afana Ngeentshebe Zodwa (men are different, though they look alike)” at Perrotin, is triumphantly single-minded. His portraits are made in oil the slow, painstaking way, with a dark, compressed palette and close attention to backdrop detail; his figures, alone or in groups, exude a commitment to daily joy edged with swagger.

A country kid from the Eastern Cape who made his way to Cape Town and its rough, sprawling Khayelitsha township, Mr. Samson bulled his way into a local art center and rose from there, undaunted by rejections from university art programs and determined to both inhabit and extend the art-history canon. His characters are black people, unperturbed and living their best lives; they mix jeans and undershirts with Xhosa robes and beads, tote shopping bags from the mall, feed each other grapes in a Dionysian scene at the Cecil Rhodes memorial, brandish a red lollipop against the green overgrowth of a lush urban pastoral.

Then there are the eyes. Mr. Samson leaves them empty, milky ovals on otherwise finely rendered faces that invert the quizzical gaze of figures in a Belkis Ayón collograph, and echo the ghostly migrants returned from a sea disaster who prowl Dakar in Mati Diop’s film “Atlantics,” demanding accounts. Mr. Samson’s people — including himself, through a set of small, intense self-portraits in the upstairs gallery — aren’t angry, but won’t cooperate with the viewer’s gaze. They navigate an exploitative world without sacrifice, spiritually armed. SIDDHARTHA MITTER

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