3 Art Gallery Shows to See Right Now06/15/2021
Through June 27. Outsider Art Fair, 150 Wooster Street, Manhattan, (212) 327-3338, outsiderartfair.com.
As befits the ongoing pandemic recovery, “Super-Rough” is a streamlined, tabletop version of the Outsider Art Fair. Selected by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, in collaboration with the fair’s owner, Andrew Edlin, this year’s version is medium-specific: Everything is sculpture, plus some wall reliefs. Most of its 250 works are crowded onto a hip-high pedestal 60 feet long and 7 feet across. Kambel Smith’s large painted cardboard model of the Capitol Building and Tom Duncan’s miniaturized mechanized panorama of Coney Island have been granted their own floor space.
The result is close to stupendous, like the cream skimmed off an average art fair and presented undiluted, no booths or aisles and not much walking. The 28 participating dealers are mostly from the New York area; the artists themselves hail from far and wide.
On the pedestal, things are loosely arranged according to material. Up front, a scrum of imposing carved-wood pieces come plain, like Moses Ogden’s haunting portrait bust, or painted, like Gaston Chaissac’s totem. Midway, a nest of textile-oriented works emerge, most notably Judith Scott’s superb wrapped-yarn piece; Yumiko Kawai’s colorfully embroidered mounds; and Ryuji Nomoto’s aerated landscapes of gossamer threads — actually strands of glue. Then carved stone seems announced by the fanciful creatures of Alikan Abdollahi, which are trompe l’oeil painted papier-mâché. Chomo (Roger Chomeaux) evokes stone with painted plaster-skimmed concrete. Truth to materials triumphs in four ferocious, beautifully carved limestone or alabaster gargoyle-like heads by Jerry Torre, known as the Marble Faun. Ceramics makes its presence felt with Shinichi Sawada’s textured creatures; Alan Constable’s glazed cameras and Seyni Awa Camara’s two-headed being, in unglazed terra cotta.
No surprise, the largest, most unruly category is assemblage. It begins with the blunt found-objects pieces of Lonnie Holley and Hawkins Bolden and extends to Paul Amar’s radiant melding of faces and altarpieces in painted shells — which resemble miniature Mardi Gras floats. A similar but more improvisatory intricacy obtains in a group of memory jars covered with coins and whatnot and the lavishly robed women of Sylvain and Ghyslaine Staëlens. Like much else here, they astonish.
Through June 26. Simone Subal, 131 Bowery, Manhattan, 917-409-0612, simonesubal.com.
At Simone Subal, two charming new videos by Frank Heath seem to point, in the most straightforward way, toward little-known corners of culture.
Heath’s 23-minute “Crypts of Civilization” begins by telling us about a room-size time capsule that has lived at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta since 1940. Filled with a sampling of records and objects from (mainly white, Christian, American) civilization, it is meant to stay sealed until the year 8113. The story of the Oglethorpe vault is narrated by Paul Hudson, co-founder of the International Time Capsule Society, who goes on to talk about other capsules he’s known.
Heath’s video has the look and appeal of a fine documentary, with one big difference: Because it’s being presented as art, there’s a temptation to question every “fact” that it offers. Are the clips from 1930s films seen in “Crypts” the same clips that Oglethorpe included in its sealed vault? How could Heath know, or have gained access to them? Is the film’s narrator really Hudson, the T.C.S. co-founder, or is he a hired actor? Are we witnessing real truth-telling or is this a Borgesian fiction dolled-up as truth? Once the commonplace gets put on display as art, we can’t trust what it’s up to: Who’d want to try urinating in Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain?”
The other video at Subal, called “Last Will and Testament,” suggests that Heath might not always feel a need to be truthful. It presents a conversation between Heath and a lawyer, in which the artist asks for advice on how he might arrange for the disposal of his bodily remains according to all 13 methods he’s heard of, from cannibalism to burial at sea. Heath’s funeral wishes are so unlikely that you start to suspect that, in everything he does, he’s less a master of facts than of deadpan comedy.
Through July 2. Andrew Kreps Gallery, 22 Cortlandt Alley, Manhattan; 212-741-8849, andrewkreps.com.
What more do objects have left to give when they have finished satisfying our needs and desires? This question sits at the heart of the Canadian sculptor Liz Magor’s new show, “I Have Wasted My Life,” suffusing her inert creations with a disarming but irresistible charm.
For over four decades, Magor has taken stock of the material world and rearranged its trappings in uncanny combinations that speak to the quiet, often emotional bonds that form between people and the stuff that fills their lives. Her work has a distinct ecological bent, and in recent years, she has walked a fine line between the mordant and the macabre, producing installations that feature unsettling hybrid combinations of sewn-together stuffed animals alongside found objects like duffle coats, blankets, Ikea tables and workbenches.
These prefabricated workbenches are the armatures of Magor’s newest works and serve as staging devices onto which bolts of shaggy faux fur and large silicone animal sculptures (a supine stork, a recumbent giraffe) are planked. Resting on the shelves of these benches, such as in “Float” (2021), are so much detritus: soiled wax paper and used coffee cups, arrays of small shells and rocks — once-useful objects that no longer serve their intended purpose. Surrounding these strange tableaus are replicas of weathered cardboard, made from polymerized gypsum and cardboard, that lean on the gallery walls and seem to sigh alongside the ephemera that make up Magor’s clever arrangements.
If the atmosphere of this exhibition is more wan than winsome, it speaks to the collective exhaustion that pervades even our inanimate objects, all destined to be discarded, forgotten and replaced. What is attractive about Magor’s configurations, however, is how they zero in on our propensity to fashion — or destroy — our environments to our exact liking.
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