A Bouquet of Group Art Shows Near Houston Street

Nothing says welcome back to the art world like a gallery group show. Consider it a choral, rather than solo, performance that speaks of the diversity and durability of art, an affirmation that is especially needed after months of inactivity, isolation and uncertainty. Not that any of that is over.

Nonetheless, these types of exhibitions allow us to catch up, to cover extra ground and to appreciate the persistence, against all odds, of art galleries that are less than global in their reach. They can be focused or broad; can touch on particular themes or histories. And group shows are also self-portraits, snapshots of the gallery’s sensibility and purpose. Right now four exhibitions on or near the Lower East Side, while also available online, especially reward in-person visits.

Through Sept. 13 at Karma, 172 & 188 East Second Street; karmakarma.org.

The most sizable and impressive of these four group shows is “(Nothing but) Flowers” at Karma, an East Village gallery with two spaces — one quite large, one small, both immaculate. Each location is overflowing with paintings and works on paper that feature various blooms or suggestions of same, either centrally or as part of larger compositions, whether interiors, portraits or landscapes, or even abstract. They are the work of nearly 60 artists — most but not all still with us — more than half represented by two or more works. With such numbers the show pays homage to one of art’s most modest yet enduring subjects and to the energy and joy ultimately at the core of all soul-sustaining creations.

Part of the impact comes from the way the selections are generously mixed and matched through several generations. They extend from the likes of Jane Freilicher, Nell Blaine, Lois Dodd and Alex Katz — whose attention to various forms of plant life began in the 1950s, when they were swimming against the current of Abstract Expressionism — to a host of emerging or little-known artists.

The less-familiar names have their own generational spread, from the great multitalented modernist Zenzaburo Kojima (1893-1962), who in this instance looks like the Henri Rousseau of Japan, to Andrew Cranston, a Scottish painter with a wonderful Vuillardian touch who has just turned 51, and the Paris-based Henni Alftan (born in Finland in 1979), who brings a flat, crisp formalism to the subject at hand. The midcareer artists include Amy Sillman, who has taken up a painterly realism (on paper) for floral subjects, and Tabboo!, who floats flowers in vases or pots on fields of plain linen, as well as Jonas Wood, Nicole Eisenman and Ida Ekblad.

A tremendous vitality emanates from the ranks of emerging artists, some of whom have not yet had solo shows in New York. In “Last to Leave,” Reggie Burrows Hodges combines oil and pastel on linen and poignantly evokes the commemorative symbolism of flowers with a shrouded image of a young man holding a lavish bouquet. Soumya Netrabile paints a pulpy dark red form that is nearly abstract and titled “The Waning of the Powerful.”

Woody De Othello translates the tragicomic exaggerations of his emotionally charged ceramics into “Space for Growth,” an oil on paper that to my eye at least finds common ground between David Hockney and Elizabeth Murray. And Max Jansons borrows from the decorative vocabulary of peasant art to comment slyly on modernist abstraction. Other works to look out for are by Samuel Hindolo, Jeanette Mundt, Jennifer Packer, Uman and Ernst Yohji Jaeger.

“(Nothing but) Flowers,” which was organized by Brendan Dugan, Karma’s proprietor, with lots of input from across the art world, is actually quite profound, inspiring in its inclusiveness and liberating in its pleasures. Its message is simple but deep: Artists must do what they must do — which means anything and nothing else. In all, this show is an excellent template for a Whitney Biennial.

Through Sept. 6 at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, 208 Forsyth Street; shfap.com.

Is the photographer Weegee, who taught himself his trade and elevated it to art, an outsider? Is the poet and actor Taylor Mead, who once scrawled on a small black canvas the sentence, “I was born with a silver foot in my mouth”? And what about Jim Carrey, a genius as an actor, represented here by a cartoonish work on paper that portrays the president as a piece of toast?

Canonical artists abound here, among them Bill Traylor, Henry Darger, Adolf Wölfli, Grandma Moses and Minnie Evans (also in the Karma show). And, of course, a main attraction lies in seeing what art dealers, who rank high among the people who cannot live without art, keep for themselves. Their choices can be great, eccentric or, it seems, what they could afford or couldn’t sell. None of that is detailed here so you have to just look and form your own opinions.

Perhaps you’ll be drawn — as I was — to excellent work by unfamiliar names. This includes several pieces lent by Shari Cavin and Randall Morris of Chelsea’s Cavin-Morris Gallery, among them a tapestry-like stain-painted scene of mythological animals by Leonard Daley from 1998; a small drawing of a pile of words and neon details by Zdenek Kosek (1991); and a sedimentary array of scrolling lines by Joseph Lambert (2014). Also of interest, a hallucinogenic landscape painting by Elisabetta Zangrandi, and a painting of a slightly squishy female nude by Vera Girivi from the dealer James Barron. Overall, these efforts leave no doubt that art of quality is always being made somewhere, by someone, and that there are, inevitably people seeking it out.

Sahred From Source link Arts

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