Through Sept. 2. MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens; 718-784-2084, momaps1.org.
The Lebanese artist Simone Fattal seems to make small ceramic sculptures the way some artists dash off fast, skillful sketches. There’s a sense of intoxicating speed and wry pleasure in their loose, sometimes clumsy forms and usually bright uneven surfaces. Like the best drawn sketches, these works also have an uncanny accuracy in their approximations of the real world. The colorful parade of 170 pieces, made from 1988 to 2019 dominating “Works and Days,” Ms. Fattal’s sumptuous, and first, solo museum exhibition in the United States, conveys a strong sense of ancient cultures, recent wars, personal memory and the erosions of time.
Many forms — which include damaged houses, abandoned walls in deserts and limbless tree trunks — suggest ruins or relics, as perhaps befits an artist who lived in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war, before decamping to California in 1980. Some titles establish meaning, for example, identifying with bitter irony a pile of small glazed gun-like sticks in a possible Quonset hut as “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” or imbuing cursory figures with the weight of myth, as in “Agamemnon,” “Siren,” “Visitation,” or “Warrior.” Other titles simply confirm what the eye may already suspect, as with “Lion,” “Ziggurat,” “Turtle” or “Window.”
Organized by Ruba Katrib, curator at MoMA PS1, this show includes paintings dating back to 1969, some of which, like “Submerged Landscape” (1969) are excellent, and several consistently convincing groups of works on paper. Among the best are five large collages dated 2011 to 2016, whose intricate arrays of images teem with the cultural references and personal experiences that Ms. Fattal’s sculptures so effortlessly synthesized. ROBERTA SMITH
‘The leaden circles dissolved in the air’
Through Aug. 25. Transmitter, 1329 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn; 646-389-9407, transmitter.nyc.
Carrie Yamaoka and Joy Episalla are both New York artists who work in the murky borderlands among photography, sculpture and painting. Their joint show at Transmitter Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, “The leaden circles dissolved in the air,” is named for Virginia Woolf’s recurring evocation of the striking hours in “Mrs. Dalloway.” And the objects included — stained reflective films; a flickering, black-and-white, abstract video installation in a corner — do all revolve around the passage of time. Because the two artists are also a long standing couple, though, I couldn’t help seeing the show mainly as the portrait of a marriage.
Two “foldtograms” (folded photograms) by Ms. Episalla, more or less crumpled sheets of glossy black photo paper, encapsulate the creative power of commitment. Simply by choosing to keep and display these particular sheets, the artist charges all the little accidents time has inflicted on them — the wrinkles, the cracks, the discoloration — with identity and meaning.
Ms. Yamaoka’s “untitled photograph 1,” on the other hand, which shows Ms. Episalla stretched out naked in bed, demonstrates how to be honest about your own limitations: By aiming her camera at a warped piece of reflective Mylar, instead of directly at her partner, Ms. Yamaoka manages to include herself, and her own position, in the picture. She also distorts the whole with handsome wobbles that remind you of the medium’s incompleteness and ambiguity without actually interfering with what the piece communicates — love, trust, obsession, and bravado. WILL HEINRICH
Through Sept. 7. White Columns, 91 Horatio Street, Manhattan; 212-924-4212, whitecolumns.org.
Ed Baynard’s biography is exponentially flashier than his floral still-life paintings. He was a graphic designer for the Beatles, a clothing designer for Jimi Hendrix, worked for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and appeared in Jack Smith’s incendiary underground film, “Flaming Creatures” (1963). Nonetheless, this exhibition at White Columns, which encompasses five decades of Mr. Baynard’s work, ripples with visual wit and occasional sedition.
Mr. Baynard’s mainstay was a vase of flowers painted with watercolor in a flat, design-like manner that recalls Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Alex Katz paintings or Andy Warhol paint-by-numbers compositions. The vases themselves are like trapdoors into other worlds, featuring detailed landscapes or smaller mise en abyme, still lifes within the still life.
The contrast between his exciting lifestyle and the staid genre of still-life painting wasn’t lost on Mr. Baynard. A framed poster for a 1971 gallery show of his work, which is here, includes a short text by Mr. Baynard in which he ruminates on order versus chaos and structure versus freedom. His paintings swing between these poles: They are tightly structured and yet tiny sparks of chaos — promiscuous blossoms, rogue washes of paint or a flamboyant frog flying toward the edge of a composition — erupt within otherwise placidly ordered canvases, suggesting the way subversion or even revolution might emerge from the quietest of quarters. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
‘What Is Here Is Open: Selections From the Treasures in the Trash Collection’
Through Sept. 14. Hunter East Harlem Gallery, 2180 Third Avenue, Manhattan; 212-396-7819, huntereastharlemgallery.org.
One of New York’s hallmarks is its curbside culture — the way people leave all manner of items on the street for the taking, such as toasters, baby bathtubs and magazines. Nelson Molina knows this side of the city well. For more than 30 years, the Department of Sanitation worker, now retired, picked up objects left along his route in East Harlem. As his collection grew to fill a whole floor of a sanitation garage, he gave it a name: Treasures in the Trash Museum.
For “What Is Here Is Open,” the artist and curator Alicia Grullón placed work by seven local artists alongside some of Mr. Molina’s treasures, collaborating with him on the installation. The result looks like part art gallery, part thrift store. Shellyne Rodriguez’s loving re-creation of the cover of her mother’s favorite album by the boogaloo musician Joe Bataan hangs with a mix of LPs. Dominique Duroseau’s defiant self-portraits dominate a table crowded with found family photos. Coronado Print Collective has cleverly repurposed an amNew York newspaper box.
All the artworks are a step removed from life — a transmutation of the everyday into something more singular. Their presence casts the intimate, mundane and kitschy objects that surround them as inspiring source material. Together, the treasures and the trash reaffirm a human need to express ourselves creatively, and remind us that making art is just one way. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Henni Alftan, Matt Hilvers, Ruth Ige, Andrew Sim
Through Sept. 15. Karma Gallery, 188 East Second Street, Manhattan; 212-390-8290, karmakarma.org.
Four separate painting shows currently fill as many consecutive rooms at Karma Gallery. What they have in common is a tight focus on the way we take in and construct images. The Glasgow-based Andrew Sim, in the first room, makes gentle pastels with titles like “A tree with twin trunks.” But by including a yeti and a U.F.O. among these restful scenes, he reminds us that nature, too, is constructed by the imagination.
Henni Alftan, born in Helsinki and working in Paris, paints our ideas of how things look — colorful, sharp-edged, a little flat. (A fine pair of small paintings, both called “Tiptoeing,” neatly argue that it’s her stockings that shape a woman’s ankles and not vice versa.) Matt Hilvers, the show’s only American, looks at the strange way words can dance and combine when they’re peeled away from the objects they refer to. In “Culture (Car) (Positioned),” curving bits of highway spell the word “Culture” against a bright, schematic landscape.
In the final room, Ruth Ige, who was born in Nigeria and lives in New Zealand, uses figuration like a weight to hold down great swoops of acrylic indigo, cerulean and gray. This figurative weight, though head-shaped and solid black, is the opposite of a silhouette. Its blackness isn’t neutral or empty but full and mysterious, a place where gestures and moods concentrate into unknowable density. WILL HEINRICH
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