Casual precisions and semantic objectivity envisioned in this series of art picks from our 1/16 issue.
SHARON BUTLER: PRECISIONIST CASUAL
Pocket Utopia, 191 Henry St., through February 17th
Formally, chromatically, compositionally, conceptually: Sharon Butler abstracts and distorts glimpses of urban trappings on all such fronts with a closely considered yet Casualist air of fine touch. Mining the apparatus of the painting itself to bring its potential aesthetics to the fore, Butler does not merely leave areas of canvas bare, sutures shown, staples seen, stretchers exposed; rather, she exploits all of the same for their textures and lines, for their variant contours and earthy tones. At times one almost believes he is looking at a sculpture of a painted sketch of an installation to come, so thoroughly does Butler concatenate her explicit teasing of dimensions. At any rate, objects painted and painted objects are here insouciantly intermingled and exactingly candid all at once.
WANG XIEDA: SUBJECT VERB OBJECT
James Cohan Gallery, 533 West 26th St., through February 9th
Wang Xieda's first solo exhibition in the United States consists of primarily small to medium-sized bronze sculptures depicting, in a sense—via ancient Chinese pictographs and ideographs, graphic linguistic forms in which structures from the simple to the complex are entirely intertwined with meaning—notes of wisdom and insight handed down through the ages. As such, material objects and abstract notions are at once written and made three-dimensionally manifest, exploding whatever physical standards we might have for words while expanding their semantic horizons. 'Writ large' is here both literal and understatement.
FRANCIS ALŸS: REEL-UNREEL
David Zwirner, 525 & 533 West 19th St., through February 9th
Originally scheduled for last November but postponed due to historically inclement weather, Francis Alÿs' show is now, at long last, on view. If you saw his exhibition at MoMA last year, you might have seen videos in which he dashes into cyclonic storms, pushes a melting block of ice through Mexico City, performs Sisyphean cycles with an automobile, and simultaneously acts out and reenacts a surprisingly long stroll he took in public wielding a handgun unto arrest. If such works of somewhat absurdist moment were to your liking, you will not want to miss REEL-UNREEL, a video work he produced for dOCUMENTA(13) in which Afghan boys play a traditional street game using a film reel instead of a wheel—underscoring the mixed ontologies of media representations of life in Afghanistan under the aegis of war. A series of paintings accompanying the video are further explorations of the same.
MANTEGNA TO MATISSE: MASTER DRAWINGS FROM THE COURTAULD GALLERY
The Frick Collection, 1 East 70th St., through January 27th
There's an exhibit of master drawings at The Morgan, Matisse is in fuller form at The Met, and Picasso is typically findable all over town, but none of that should make the spread of works on view at the Frick here any less enticing. Regarding exhibits of this caliber, the more the merrier. From sketches and studies to fully executed pieces, the display's forms and dimensions are several and sundry, but not quite as varied as its names—to name a few, Dürer, Rembrandt, Seurat, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Géricault, Watteau. All courtesy of a generous loan from the Courtauld Gallery in London.
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