Best art in New York: Critics' picks

Find the best art exhibitions and gallery shows in NYC this week, as chosen by Time Out's critics.

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"Mike Kelley: Reconstructed History"

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

Originally presented as a limited-edition artist book, Mike Kelley’s 1989 series, “Reconstructed History,” consists of 50 works on paper depicting defaced images of historical figures taken from old U.S.-history textbooks. As seen here, the suite of scrawled-over illustrations mock America’s past with lewd comments and doodles that seem more like the handiwork of a juvenile delinquent than a 35-year-old artist—Kelley’s age when he made them. With their many references to sex, drugs and bodily functions, Kelley’s notations hold nothing sacred. In one altered picture, the Statue of Liberty is seen sporting testicles and ejaculating through her torch; in another, a prospector from the gold rush defecates in a stream while panning for gold. And so it goes from one hilarious

  1. Skarstedt Gallery 550 W 21st St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10011
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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"Rite of Passage: The Early Years of Vienna Actionism, 1960–1966"

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

People familiar with the 1960s Vienna Actionism movement are aware of its notoriety for trangressive works—or more succinctly, acts—of art. For everyone else, this survey of paintings, collages, drawings and performance photographs curated by Hubert Klocker should provide an eye-opening introduction to a group whose outrageous reputation is well earned, if also somewhat misunderstood. Like their German contemporaries Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Konrad Lueg, the Actionists (Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwarzkogler) were in many respects reacting against the refusal by their compatriots to confront Nazism’s legacy—a denial abetted by the claim that Austria had been “Hitler’s first victim,” even though the country had been willingly annexed by the

  1. Hauser & Wirth New York 32 E 69th St, between Madison and Park Aves, 10021
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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Richard Prince, "New Portraits"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Mercifully avoiding the temptation to present paintings, Prince does his photo-appropriation thing, this time plunging into the fever swamp of social media by grabbing selfies from Instagram and enlarging them as ink-jet prints on canvas. If nothing else, the images are less likely to get him sued for copyright infringement.

  1. Gagosian Gallery 976 Madison Ave , between 76th and 77th Sts , 10075
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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Marcel Dzama, "Une Danse des Bouffons (A Jester's Dance)"

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Marcel Dzama is known for imaginative drawings, sculptures, dioramas and films. All of those mediums come together for his most complex show since joining the gallery in 1998. The cornerstone is the eponymous black-and-white film that centers on the story of Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins, who was Marcel Duchamp’s lover for a while, and also the model for the nude in his last major artwork, Étant donnés. Heavy on Dadaist references—including Adoration of the Calf, Francis Picabia’s 1941–42 painting—Une Danse des Bouffons also recalls works by other artists Dzama admires—Francisco Goya’s dark etchings, Oskar Schlemmer’s costumes and Joseph Beuys’s shamanistic rituals—while weaving together allusions to current events and Dzama’s

  1. David Zwirner 525 W 19th St , 10011
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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Jim Shaw, “I Only Wanted You to Love Me”

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Shaw, who was part of the legendary CalArts class that included Mike Kelley, Tony Oursler and John Miller, is something of a polymath of pop-cultural styles and sources (often obscure), which he mixes with references to art history. The paintings in his latest show have been rendered on old theatrical backdrops containing scenic vistas, onto which Shaw layers images borrowed from Da Vinci, Disney and Jimi Hendrix album-cover art. The result might be called mythological allegory with contemporary icons instead of classical gods.

  1. Metro Pictures 519 W 24th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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Jenny Holzer, "Dust Paintings"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

For the past several years, Holzer has been creating a series of paintings sourced from redacted government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. She bases her latest show on accounts related to the use of "enhanced interrogation" (i.e., torture) by the U.S. military and the CIA on detainees captured during the War on Terror. Heavily censored, the files feature large areas of blacked-out text, and by playing upon their abstract shapes, Holzer draws a line connecting art history to the deep state.

  1. Cheim & Read 547 W 25th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10001
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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“Move the world back from the abyss of destruction”

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

This reliably interesting small gallery brings together artworks that arise out of, or draw from, non-fine-art traditions. The exhibition title (a quote from JFK) suggests an art world in crisis. While the show includes a couple of market favorites, it makes a strong case for more sustainable modes of making and looking at art than are prevalent today. The show opens with a selection of folk-art memory jugs—vessels covered with souvenirs from departed loved ones. Alfonso Ossorio’s Spigot (1971) hangs nearby, a delirious concoction of glass eyes, bright plastic fragments, a healing charm and a wooden mallet. Mike Kelley’s Foreground, background (1990)—a three-dimensional needlepoint house set in front of an appliquéed scene of rural life—hilariously juxtaposes high-art

  1. JTT 170A Suffolk St, between E Houston and Stanton Sts, 10002
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sun Oct 26
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Jean-Luc Moulène, "Torture Concrete"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This show by the noted Parisian artist takes up both of Abreu's locations, and while drawings and photographs are included, the principal focus is on Moulène's sculptures in glass, steel and bronze, which could be described as organic or anatomical forms imbued with an ambiguously creepy vibe. A series of green-patinaed bronzes, for example, features what appear to be casts of pelvic bones, in whole or in part, impaled on tall, polelike stanchions.

  1. Miguel Abreu Gallery 36 Orchard St, between Canal and Hester Sts, 10002
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sun Oct 26
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Do Ho Suh, "Drawings"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This two-part show at both Lehmann locations presents the noted Korean artist's works on paper, including an installation at the gallery's Chelsea space of life-size rubbings re-creating the interior of his former apartment.

  1. Lehmann Maupin 540 W 26th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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Cory Arcangel, "tl;dr"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Over the past decade, media artist Cory Arcangel has explored the odd nexus of nostalgia and planned obsolescence with videos and large-format photos that reference 8-bit video games and other signifiers of the early digital age. The main series in his latest show comprises a group of flatscreens, hung on their sides and displaying ’90s pop-cultural clips downloaded from the Internet. Each scene has been altered using a Java applet called Lake, which overlays reflective or wavy effects onto images. Fin de siècle icons like Elaine from Seinfeld are thus given the shimmering gloss of memory as might be recalled by an iMac G3.

  1. Team Gallery 47 Wooster St, between Broome and Grand Sts
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sun Oct 26
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Monika Sosnowska, Tower

  • Critics choice
  • Free

There's a definite post-9/11 vibe to the work of this Polish sculptor, who creates huge twisting frameworks of steel that recall architectural elements deformed by war or disaster. The distressed nature of her objects, however, are contradicted by their smooth, powder-coated finishes in black or other colors, giving them an elegant formal presence. The work here is based on the structure of Mies van der Rohe’s undulating Chicago masterpiece, the Lake Shore Drive Apartments.

  1. Hauser & Wirth New York 511 W 18th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10011
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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David Benjamin Sherry, "Climate Vortex Sutra"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Sherry's photographs transform the familiar into the alien by saturating otherwise prosaic landscape scenes in deep acid hues to create brilliant monochrome compositions. Deserts, mountains, forests, etc., are rendered as if they were taken by something like the Mars rover or the Huygens probe on Saturn's moon Titan. The aim, according to Sherry, is to measure the deleterious impact on the environment by the effects of the anthropocene, the geological term for the era of human existence. Sherry has also done figure studies and stills lifes, and they're included in his latest show, which also introduces his use of black-and-white for the first time.

  1. Salon 94 Bowery 243 Bowery, at Stanton St, 10002
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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Tomma Abts

  • Critics choice
  • Free

For her first solo exhibition at the gallery in six years, the Turner Prize winner presents new works showcasing her signature take on abstraction: Small, portrait formatted canvases, featuring fluid geometries or patterns that are sometimes enhanced by illusionistic elements (like shadows), making them appear to float in space.  

  1. David Zwirner 519 W 19th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10011
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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Rob Pruitt, "Multiple Personalities"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

For his first New York show in four years, Pruitt’s jaded humor takes a backseat to a more introverted direction, especially in a series of smooth-all-over compositions—dubbed “Suicide Paintings”—that are featureless except for subtle gradients of skylike color shading vertically from dark to light. Is this the artist’s vision of heaven or purgatory?

  1. Gavin Brown's Enterprise 620 Greenwich St, at Leroy St
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Sat Oct 25
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Brett Lindell and Hunter Canning, "Permutations"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Local photographers Lindell and Canning show their decidedly queer work in a joint exhibition. Canning's images are ultra close-ups of male nudes, while Lindell focuses his lens on East Village nightlife creatures.

  1. Eyeheart Gallery 502 W 27th St, between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 10001
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Thu Oct 30
More info
See more art in New York

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Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 11 W 53rd St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves), 10019
More info

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice
  1. 1000 Fifth Ave, (at 82nd St), 10028
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Users say

1 comments
Katrin de Haen
Katrin de Haen

Jason Armstrong Beck's photo installation called "her name and the words used to describe her" at the Judith Charles Gallery is a touching exploration of love and loss. A must see. Be prepared to be moved.