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Top five shows: Feb 20–26, 2014

The best of the week in art


Michel Majerus
Matthew Marks Gallery, through Apr 19
Matthew Marks Gallery devotes three of its Chelsea spaces to a survey of Michel Majerus, a Luxembourg-born Berlin artist whose career was cut short at age 35 by a plane crash in 2002. This show, his first in the U.S. since his death, presents some 25 paintings, created in a style that could be described as Millennial Pop. Often graphic and vibrantly colorful, the work is chockablock with such pop-cultural references as Mario Bros., Space Invaders, anime and The Simpsons. The mix also nods to his art-historical betters—Kippenberger, Stella and Warhol among them. A sort of Rosenquist for the digital age, Majerus exuded an undeniable confidence while channeling the zeitgeist, and it’s interesting to contemplate how he might have responded to our current era of mobile technology had he lived to see it.

 (Photograph: Courtesy the artist)
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

“The Shadows Took Shape”
Studio Museum in Harlem, through Mar 9
This lively group exhibition examines the aesthetics of Afrofuturism, a genre embraced by various African-American artists, musicians and writers who use elements of science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and Pan-Africanism in their work. Its origins can be traced to the sonic stylings and cosmic philosophy of legendary jazz composer and electronic-music pioneer Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, 1914–1993)—who, among other things, claimed he was from Saturn and performed in costumes that mixed the pharaonic with the extraterrestrial. Initially created as a kind of alternative reality positioned against the racism of American society, Afrofuturism has become an important strain in contemporary African-American culture.

 (Photograph: Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery)
Photograph: Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery

David Altmejd, “Juices”
Andrea Rosen Gallery, through Mar 8
There’s rarely a dull moment in the work of David Altmejd, who doesn’t deconstruct sculpture’s figurative tradition so much as send it hurtling into a wormhole of stylistic shifts and effects. He uses a wide range of materials, including plaster, fur, mannequin pieces and mirror shards. The fantastical results—which more recently have included vitrines containing animal-like parts ensnared in webs—seem ready to fly apart at any moment, but miraculously don’t.

 (Photograph: Courtesy Salon 94)
Photograph: Courtesy Salon 94

Kueng Caputo, “Never Too Much”
Salon 94 Freemans, through Feb 28
Swiss design duo Sarah Kueng and Lovis Caputo deliver on the promise of the show’s title with a selection of benches, stools and bowls, all finished with Oppy, Poppy patterns, hand-painted on Italian leather. The result, which resembles a psychedelic smoking lounge with extremely large ashtrays, is illuminated by a series of wall sconces, casting their glow in starburst formations. The artists call it an homage to both Bauhaus and the Memphis Group, the Italian design and architecture office that gave the 1980s its Miami Vice–style flash.

 (Photograph: Courtesy Taymour Grahne Gallery)
Photograph: Courtesy Taymour Grahne Gallery

HASSAN HAJJAJ, “Kesh Angels”
Taymour Grahne Gallery, through Mar 7
This artist, who divides his time between London and his native Morocco, will definitely get your motor running with his fascinating look at a subculture of young Arab women who zoom around the streets of Marrakesh on scooters and motorcycles. As depicted in vivid, large-format color photos, they create a dynamic if contradictory impression, posing atop their rides while wearing traditional head scarves, veils and robes. As if to enhance this sense of cultural dissonance, Hajjaj mounts each image within handmade wooden frames inlaid with such consumer items as Pepsi cans and cell-phone covers. The show also includes a video and an installation, as well as Barbie doll versions of his subjects, but the photos are the main event: They’ll make you want to head out on the highway.