With major and quirky art fairs, ranging from the Armory at the huge Javits Center (where I last went for my Covid vaccination) to tiny storefronts selling transgressive traffic signs, the world of New York art in full swing and masked. Galleries open and expensive tickets sold to fairs, all under the ghostly lights of the fallen Twin Towers. Here’s an idiosyncratic look at the artistic events of the week of September 11
Philip Guston 1969-1979 at Hauser and Wirth
Forty-one years after his death, Philip Guston’s successful work seems as visionary, powerful and provocative as it did when it first screened. This work, called by Peter Schedjal in 1984 “raucous figuration”, has sparked such recent controversy that English and American museums
postponed a planned retrospective, much to the chagrin of the international art world.
At the opening, his daughter Music said, “My father found a language to express the horror he found all his life – the theme of the genocide we have all witnessed. Apparently, the “controversial” imagery of hooded clumsy Klansmen prompted censorship from the PC, oblivious to the fact that Guston was a longtime leftist. His hooded and obviously satirical characters ride in cars, smoke cigars, inexplicably hang out in an urban apartment, and one of them is even transfigured into an artist’s self-portrait in a cheerful pink studio full of brushes in a box. .
Particularly poignant are the weeping eyes of “Tears” (1977), never before seen in New York. Painted after his wife’s devastating stroke, the indelible image portrays universal grief.
Uman, I hope you find it well at Fierman
The exact opposite of Hauser and Wirth, Fierman is a small, highly personalized gallery with an emphasis on queer art. Here, the multidisciplinary artist of Somali origin presents four large paintings and a sculpture. Uman’s fluid amalgam of figuration and explosive abstraction is perfectly embodied by vibrant oil and acrylic paints.
Uman has quietly wowed the art world with his recent work, featuring group exhibitions at the Karma and Nicola Vassell Gallery. His visual language combines childhood images of his African origins through an urban lens, with a sultry line and an unwavering brush. The recent use of jubilant color brightens up his latest work. Like Guston, Uman is a self-taught artist and her work is influenced by her travels in Europe, her experiences in New York City, and now rural life in upstate New York, where she lives and works.
Alvaro Barrington Garvey 1: Birth – The Silent Storm at Nicola Vassell Gallery (top photo)
“It’s good to be home,” said Alvaro Barrington during his packed opening. Performers like Kehinde Wiley and Arthur Jaffe were in attendance, and the Friday night opening ended with a memorable after-party, on a Covid secure terrace with stunning river views. Alvaro, clad in a DMX t-shirt, continued: “I got stuck in London after graduate school. I love London. This is where I live.
Her recent Sadie Coles exhibition in London has ended, her work is now included in the Hayward Gallery investigative exhibition “Mixing It Up: Painting Today”. The current New York show is inspired by the life and work of Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), a Jamaican national hero and political activist. Like Barrington, Garvey was born in the Caribbean and forged an international career spanning London and America.
The gallery walls, painted in navy blue, dark green, and muddy brown, create an immersive atmosphere. Large paintings incorporate images of islands, banana and aloe leaves, purple hibiscus flowers, and traditional island steel drums. In addition to the impressive paintings, the Hermès four-stroke concrete covers are powerful images of floating clouds. I especially liked the fifteen beautiful little works, the abstract eclipses and the upbeat sunsets. All work is hand framed in wood and steel.
The prolific artist is also exhibiting his work at Far Rockaway. Whether reclaiming luxury goods to create new celestial landscapes or manipulating painting with the sure mastery of abstract expressionism, Barrington represents a new vision of seductive and multicultural content.
Independent art fair
Started in 2009 by gallery owners Elizabeth Dee and Matthew Hicks, this beloved art fair has found a perfect home in the 1906 monument of Fine Arts, the Battery Maritime Building. Elegant, accessible and well ventilated, the terrace offered a treat with a breathtaking view of the city center. Some highlights included:
Karla Knight at Andrew Edlin Cosmic “tapestries” feature the artist’s unique hieroglyphic language: both sci-fi and tribal, much like a sophisticated 21st century Emma Kutz.
Jorge Galindo at Vito Schnabel, the first new solo exhibition of the Spanish abstractionist. Leilah Babirye at Gordon Robichaux The sculptures by Ugandan artist Babirye have a shamanic magic and a contemporary vision. His magnificent wood and ceramic sculptures incorporate materials found on the city streets. Martha Diamond at Magenta Plains Martha Diamond has lived in Bowery for fifty years, painting amazing cityscapes. Following her much-heralded Magenta Plains 2020 solo show, the gallery focused on Diamond’s’ 80s works for a solo show. Little Masonites are quirky knockouts, faded window monoliths to floating spheres awash in bright yellow. Large paintings are classic diamonds – breathtaking buildings without bricks.
Howl Arts / Howl Archive Ha / Ha 250 Bowery opening September 19
Since 2015, downtown residents have loved Howl, an intergenerational cultural venue that has hosted over 500 free events, including great art exhibitions. Now, with the opening of a new expansive gallery opposite the new museum, Ha / Ha will focus on the creative counterculture. The opening show “Icons, Iconoclasts and Outsiders” features treasures from David Worjnarowicz, Richard Hambleton, photographer Marcia Resnick and other downtown luminaries. Archival material from Taboo !, Patti Smith, John Kelly, will be featured along with Jeremiah Newton’s Candy Darling Archives. Kudos to Jane Friedman and the staff for keeping the Bohemian alive and healthy.