August in the art galleries

  • by Sura Wood
  • Thursday August 10, 2017
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So you're in town for August, beach vacations and overseas trips over and done, and you're casting about for edifying, dare we say, enlightening ways to spend your time. Here are a few suggestions.

Casemore Kirkeby: "Doublespeak" Yale's graduate programs have brought us Meryl Streep, a roster of prominent attorneys, and now the MFA thesis presentations of that esteemed university's photography students. Based on the new works in this touring show, they merit attention. Influenced by the Trump Era when distortion and lying are the coin of the realm, the 10 assembled photographers find themselves on the murky shoals of ambiguity and uncertainty. Res, whose mother worked for the Trump organization and managed construction of the President's faux Versailles lair, took some dark power pictures of Trump Tower, though not the penthouse cave where the ogre dwells, for the ironically titled project "To Tell the Truth." Lance Brewer's "enchant away the rigid Furiae" (2017) is a candlelit portrait of lovers or friends in intimate embrace. Shot tight and slightly overhead, it's a romantic scene holding its mystery close, not letting on exactly who or what we're looking at or their respective genders until our noses are pressed against the image, and even then we're not sure. Intentions are difficult to discern in Farah Al Qasimi's "Falcon Hospital 1 (Blue Glove)" (2017), in which a helpless, possibly injured bird of prey, its eyes masked, is held by its throat with a disembodied, blue-gloved hand against a blue-screen backdrop. Is it being treated by an altruistic doctor? Tortured and imprisoned by a malevolent captor, or strangled? You decide. Drawn to the depiction of female subjects who are often stereotyped as objects of desire, "damsels in distress" or femme fatales, Anna Shimshak examines the female body as battleground, the ambiguity of power, suppression and intimations of violence in "Soft Seduction," a series whose conceit is a fictitious secret meeting. In one of the black & white images, an anonymous figure standing behind a woman lowers a black hood over her head; her lips are parted as if on the verge of protest. ("Untitled 5," 2017.) Aug. 11-Sept. 23.

Haines Gallery: "Andy Goldsworthy: Drawing Water Standing Still" Usually one has to pull on the wading boots and journey into the wild to observe Goldsworthy's evanescent sculptures forged from organic elements - dust, rocks, ice, water, kelp and sand - before they vanish, like time itself, and return to the earth from whence they came. But with this show, his work comes to us courtesy of the British artist's multi-panel photographs and images that show him tossing kelp into the air on an overcast day at Drake's Beach, or throwing red dust towards the sky, godlike, to create a cloud. Several videos that chronicle his incursions into the landscape make their debut, and a new feature-length documentary, "Leaning into the Wind," delves into his singular practice. Through Sept. 2;

Altman Siegel: With the marketing bonanza that is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, we've been inundated with nostalgia, psychedelia and the attendant hullaballoo, but "From Counterculture to Cyberculture" has weightier ideas on its mind. Inspired by Fred Turner's book of the same name and summoning the late great Bruce Conner as guardian angel and touchstone, the show asks how today's emerging artists, children of the Internet, relate and reconcile the DIY aesthetic, communal spirit and the Whole Earth Catalogue with the digital age. A post-internet baby who bridges hallucinatory experience and computer-based technology, Jared Madere ran a Brooklyn gallery out of his kitchen called Bed-Stuy Love Affair, a venture that married entrepreneurship and originality with canny pragmatism. His "To be titled (Matter Harmonic Topiary)" (2016-17), appropriately exhibited on the floor, is a harsh urban garden sculpture of organic and non-traditional materials: sand, broken glass, flowers and wood branches, with a magic dash of glitter and singed paper. Trevor Paglen, ever cosmic in aspiration and outlook, is represented by photographs from "The Last Pictures (Construction of Hoover Dam; The Wow! Signal)" (2012), an imagined project tasked with compiling a record of human existence destined to be aboard a communications satellite orbiting Earth, at least until the sun explodes, a cataclysm anticipated 4.5 billion years from now. Lucy Dodd's "Lady Long Gone," which calls up 1960s rock divas like Grace Slick and Joplin, is a hand-woven, "artsy craftsy," shaggy armchair suitable for a hippie pad, while her large canvas "Beyond Blind (1981 1?2)," (2013) in pale, soothing neutrals, is anointed with natural materials such as foss leaf extract, sumac extract, black lichen, graphite and a blurred inky blot. It was also blessed by Bub's urine, an invaluable, likely inadvertent contribution to the world of art from the artist's faithful pooch. Thanks, Bub. Through Aug. 26.


Bedford Gallery: As we're still knee-deep in summer, how about "Sweet n Low: An International Show of Cute," a confection as light and sticky as cotton candy? To which you can add goofy and high-calorie; there's even an ice cream cone upside-down in a dish of whipped cream, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, though the acrylic paint might go down hard. If it were possible to gain weight and get a sugar headache by viewing an exhibition, this would be it. In Charlotte Kruk's ceramic "Peep Show," a cupcake with pink icing and sprinkles assumes the shape of a headless showgirl kicking her bare legs. Coleen Sidey serves up Snow White asleep on a wintry bed of fawns and baby sparrows; and Mark Nixon's teddy bear wears an expression halfway between perplexed and dismayed, perhaps because he's feeling it's beneath his dignity to be so pink. And who could blame him? Through Aug. 27.

Lance Brewer, "enchant away the rigid Furiae" (2017), pigment print. Photo: Courtesy the artist and Casemore Kirkeby

Charlotte Kruk, "Peepshow" (2016), ceramic, candy wrapper, resin, glass beads, screws. Photo: Courtesy the artist and Bedford Gallery