3 Art Gallery Shows to See Right Now
3 Art Gallery Shows to See Right Now
Through Aug. 30. Bridget Donahue, 99 Bowery, second floor, Manhattan; 646-896-1368, bridgetdonahue.nyc.
The nine works anchoring Lisa Alvarado’s solo show, “Thalweg,” at Bridget Donahue aren’t definitively one thing or another. They’re paintings: brightly colored and abstract, with geometric patterns or expressionistic swaths. They’re also tapestries suspended from the ceiling, with fabric backing and trim.
Notably, each one is titled “Thalweg (Traditional Object),” after a geological term that has multiple meanings, too, including a line that traces the lowest part of a valley or channel. Visually, they evoke natural elements like water and earth while referring to a number of traditions, among them Mexican textiles and European and American Modernist painting. But they borrow from and build on those sources to become something of their own.
Hybridity and in-betweenness are central to Ms. Alvarado’s practice. In addition to being a visual artist, she plays harmonium for the Natural Information Society, a group founded by her husband, Joshua Abrams, that fuses styles to make experimental, meditative music. Her hanging works take on yet another identity as set pieces for their performances.
At Bridget Donahue, the band supplies a droning, transportive audio piece that features the sound of running water — a motif that appears visually in four collages of Ms. Alvarado’s family photos, showing people of Mexican descent in Texas in the 1930s. Around that time, the U.S. government forcibly deported over a million people, many of them American citizens — including members of the artist’s family — to Mexico, in an act that’s euphemistically called “repatriation.”
In international law, there’s a principle that if the border between two countries is a waterway, its thalweg marks the boundary line. Ms. Alvarado uses her art to evoke the sensation of navigating one, an abstract and fluid yet politically all-too-real place.
Through Sept. 1. James Fuentes, jamesfuentes.online.
It’s not really fair to compare Luc Sante’s new collages to his better-known writing, since he started making zine covers and wheatpaste posters a good five decades ago. But while taking a long break from visual art, he got famous as a social historian: In books like “The Other Paris” and “Low Life,” about New York, the Belgian-born critic and professor strings together extraordinary quantities of striking detail about poverty, crime and gutter nightlife in what is, after all, a virtuosic kind of collage in its own right.
In his first ever gallery appearance, though, one of three concurrent online-only shows at James Fuentes Gallery, Mr. Sante focuses on one or two details at a time. Whether on reclaimed ledger paper or vintage picture postcards, the images he constructs are something like found details themselves — singular and mysterious, if occasionally a little on the nose.
“America Falls” adapts a souvenir photo of a waterfall into a picture of a man sneezing out enormous pathogens — or possibly screaming something hateful. “A Stranger in Town” dates back to 2017, but its flaming red skeleton on a black charger now reads as epidemic as well as apocalypse, with an incidental reference, perhaps, to the recent resurgence of American socialism, while “Empty Plinth Society 1,” one of several to address the current toppling of monuments, shows an erased General Robert E. Lee still taking up space atop his white horse.
My favorite is “Napoleon,” a simple superimposition of the French dictator’s imperial portrait atop a writhing ouroboros of old-timey wrestlers. Brute animal struggle crowning itself with laurel leaves: That’s pretty much where we are right now.
Through Aug. 30. 47 Canal; 646-415-7712, 47Canal.us.
Wang Xu, an artist who was involved with an alternative art space and residency program called Practice run out of collective artists’ studios, left New York in January to celebrate the Lunar New Year with his family in Dalian, China, assuming he would be gone a month. Seven months later, he is still in China, confined mostly to his family’s apartment because of the coronavirus. “Dream Animals,” a special online presentation of his work on 47 Canal’s website, offers a glimpse into his world.
“Seven Star Road” (2020), a nearly 13-minute video made in his family’s apartment, features close-ups of the artist’s hands sawing, carving and sanding a piece of stone to create a small sculpture, as well as scenes of people working and moving about the drab cityscape below. The final image is the finished object: “Daydreamer” (2020), a soapstone sculpture of a curled-up animal. Other sculptures in the presentation feature real and mythical creatures carved or made with a 3-D printer and which recall figures in historical Chinese art and literature.
A series of Wang Xu’s short poems on the website underscores our collective, odd and surreal year. One reads, “In an empty station / Anxious people are looking for their return train / Afraid to miss them / At such a moment / We indeed live in a spectacle / Our body is our own monument.” This could apply to Wang Xu’s sculptures and scenes in the video, but also to the current pandemic, in which fear and confinement are accompanied by opportunities for reflection and poetic reverie.