Spring is here and I fight the blues. The forecast is filled with dropping temperatures, sleet, rain and snow. Daydreams of Caribbean islands take hold as I nurse a lingering cold and look askance at my thinning winter coat. To ward off the onslaught of mother nature, seven art exhibits offer refuge around the city, giving the appearance of Spring through visionary eyes.
1. "Zhang Enli: The Garden" at Hauser & Wirth, 548 W 22nd Street, January 25- April 7, 2018. These oil on canvas works are explosions of juicy, scumbling pigments materializing from thinned out layers of wash in nearly disintegrating colors of sky blue and pale yellow. While Enli finds inspiration in the gardens around Shanghai, images of underwater worlds of earthly reflections and the origins of the universe also come to mind. Resembling enormous (most around 98 x 117 inches) Chinese brush paintings, the scrumptious deep violets, rich earthly greens, and crimson reds all contribute to the exuberance of blooming nature created on a grand scale.
2. “Allan Kaprow, Paintings New York” at Hauser & Wirth, 38 E 69th Street, February 1 – April 7, 2018. As you enter the exhibit, a wall quote welcomes you: “OH THE PLEASURES OF PAINTING . PLAYING IN MUD . THESMALL CHANGES IN TONE . LIKE MUSIC TO MY EYES . PAINT IS YOU . PAINT IS ME . SUCH A PLEASURE TO PAINT . TO PAINT IS TO LIVE . A MISTAKE . A RONG TURN . A SLIP. IMPOSSIBLE . NOT IN THIS RELM . THE JOY . HAPPINESS . THE PLEASURE OF PAINTING . TO CREATE THINGS LIKEGOD . TO DISTROY AT WILL A WORLD OF MY OWN. TO EXPERIMENT IN A PHALS FALSE WORLD . WHERE NOTHINGCOUNTS . AND EVERYTHING COUNTS . IT BRINGS ME CLOSER TO TRUTH . TRUTH DOES NOT EXIST . PAINTINGDOES . GOOD PAINT . BAD PAINT . RIGHT PAINT . WRONGPAINT . NEVER TOO MUCH . TOO LITTLE . TO BIG . TO SMALL . IT IS . THAT IS WHY I LOVE TO PAINT . I WILLALWAYS BE A PAINTER . OF SORTS’
– Allan Kaprow “
While in the 1940s and 50s Kaprow created New York cityscapes and art studio interiors, the true subject here is the act of painting itself. Created with bold, expressive brushstrokes of ease and joy, these transformative pictures capture the aliveness of city life while teaching how to delight in the process.
3. "Sue Williams: Paintings 1997-98" at Skarstedt Gallery, 20 E 79th Street, February 22 – April 21, 2018. From a distance these lyrical semi-abstractions look like colorful flowery doodles on white slick backgrounds. It’s only when we take a closer look that the connection to her earlier images of dark, subversive figuration take hold. Not so graphic here, the sexual organs and grabby hands and feet turn into loopy flowers and clouds. Gestural abstractions are made to please as they warn of darker secrets.
4. "Francesca DiMattio: Boucherouite at Salon 94", 243 Bowery, March 06–April 21, 2018. The gallery’s main room welcomes with three cartoonish sculptures that appear to belong in a fun house if it weren’t for the meticulous and beautiful craftsmanship referencing art history, children’s books, cartoons and pop culture. The mishmash of color and styles, along with the combining of animals and blooms - a porcelain dog covered in painted flowers becomes an appendage to a clay torso covered in porcelain flowers - make these works a visual smorgasbord of delight. Make sure you don’t miss the two paintings tucked in and out of the office that offer fragments from Velasquez and Disney held together by thickly painted textiles.
5. "Cy Twombly: In Beauty it is Finished Drawings 1951–2008" at Gagosian Gallery, 522 W 21st Street, March 8- April 25, 2018. This career-spanning exhibit of drawings and works on paper are poetic and mythological meanderings, symphonic rhapsodies, illegible Dear John letters, and abstract landscapes created with scrawling gestural lines in color pencils. Seeing decades of his work all together is to meditate on his timeless language of lyricism while marveling at the nuances created by years of experiential mark-making.
6. "Before/On/After: William Wegman and California Conceptualism," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Avenue, January 17–July 15, 2018. 1970s photographs and drawings by Wegman and his contemporaries make up the majority of this intimate exhibit, but it’s his videos that have audiences outright laughing. With meditations on the mundane, he entertains himself – and us - by talking to the camera in repetitive phrases, creating mismatched mirror images, filming his palatine uvula dancing as he grunts and groans, and attempting human understanding with his Weimaraner, Man Ray. Man Ray’s expressions change from excitement to exasperation to trepidation with every failed attempt to smoke, speak, or move a ball, offering hilarious insights into our own confusions about connecting. It’s these uncanny observations and finding joy in the banal that make Wegman a teacher in life’s potential effortlessness.
7. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Avenue, August 26, 2017–August 18, 2019. This transcendent exhibit of small paintings, wall scrolls, porcelain objects and handscrolls transport you into magical paradises capturing the infiniteness of nature. With handscrolls over 10 feet long, these landscapes literally move you through time, a wonderful metaphor for the impermanence of nature.