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Eduardo Paolozzi, CROPPED SPLASH
Photograph: Courtesy CLEARINGEduardo Paolozzi, Human Fate and World Power, 1970

The top 10 NYC gallery exhibitions in October

Check out our art critic's picks for the best shows in the coming month at some of New York City's best galleries

Written by
Howard Halle
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Halloween is on the way. So why not augment your trick-or-treat plans with a little eye candy? If you have a sweet-tooth for art, allow us to recommend the 10 shows you have to check out in October. Looking for more upcoming art to get excited about this season? Make sure to browse through our top 20 art shows in NYC this fall as well!

Gallery exhibitions in October

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Since the 1980s, Australian Aboriginal painting has gained a following Down Under and abroad, including right here in the United States. Even so, Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, one of the leading practitioners of the form, is only now having a solo show in New York. Gathered here are a series of untitled canvases from 2015, each patterned with swirling lines resembling the whorls of a thumbprint. The optical density and eye-popping intensity of these compositions speak to the artist’s spiritual connection to the landscape of his people's home in Australia’s vast Western Desert.
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Grotjahn has been creating his funky takes on the bronze bust for a while now, though a viewer might be forgiven for not immediately recognizing any semblance of facial features (or the material itself) through the artist’s colorful, Expressionistic applications of paint. Cast from cardboard boxes and tubes, the pieces are assembled into cartoonish tribal masks, which like much of Grotjahn’s recent work, send up modernism’s rip-off of primitive art.
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While elegant weirdness may sound oxymoronic, this Italian artist achieved something like it, at least in his later work. As one of the founders of Arte Povera in the mid-1960s, his specialty was extremely reductive sculptures, calling to mind line drawings in three dimensions. Within a few years, these bulked up to recall furniture, but by the end of the decade, Piacentino shifted his focus to oddly attenuated or disarticulated forms that referenced flight (things like propellers or the wings from the Wright Brothers' flyer) and motor racing (soap-box derby cars or those bullet-shaped vehicles used to set land-speed records). Eccentrically beautiful, Piacentino’s objects hark back Italian Futurism’s early 20th-century obsession with automobiles and airplanes.
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The hugely influential German artist returns for her first solo exhibition at Zwirner in eight years with 2- and 3-D assemblages. Most noticeable is a selection from Genzken’s “Schauspieler (Actors)” series, which she first introduced at her 2013 MoMA retrospective. Building on the Surrealist fascination with mannequins, Genzken has filled Zwirner’s garage space with a plethora of dummies—male and female, girl and boy—dressed in a veritable thrift store inventory of disassociated clothing articles, with the sort of fluorescent-colored mesh vests worn by traffic cops being especially prevalent. The figures in some cases are also gagged or trussed with tape and colored ribbons. The ensemble suggests a kaleidoscopic impression of 21st-century pedestrian life, made all the more uncanny by the fact that the show is open to the street, permitting real people to flow in and become part of the work.
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The work of this Iranian-American artist explores the ties of memory that bind his birthplace (New York) to his Persian heritage. He employs traditional marquetry (fabricated for the artist by a craftsman in Iran) and mother-of-pearl, glass, agate and quartz to form objects and wall-hung panels that range from representational to abstract. Sumptuous, at times, as a Louis Vuitton handbag or a Tiffany lamp, Avini could be accused of indulging in a kind of orientalism, but if so, he complicates the issue by virtue of who he is and his cultural background.
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Contrary to conventional wisdom, Pop Art didn't emerge in the United States, but rather in England, thanks to a cadre of artists based around London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Starting in the late 1940s, the Independent Group, as they called themselves, began experimenting with collages based on images culled from advertising, comic books and movie magazines. In 1956, they mounted “This Is Tomorrow,” at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, an installation-cum-exhibition that's now considered a precursor to Pop Art. Paolozzi was a founder of the IG, but while he helped to foment the ideas behind “This Is Tomorrow,” his work—a paradoxical mix of glowering sculptures and vibrant screenprints—veered into Brutalism and machine aesthetics. Most interestingly, he tried to capture the incessant flow of imagery and information in a postindustrial society, anticipating the Internet; certainly, that case can be made for the sculptures and prints in this show.
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This show highlights the relationship between two artists from different generations with different styles, who nonetheless shared similar sensibilities when it came to color. Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923–2002) was a Francophone Canadian painter from Montreal who became a notable figure in the late Surrealist milieu of postwar Paris. Like his contemporaries in New York (Pollock, De Koonig) Riopelle found his way into Abstract Expressionism by way of automatic drawing, a technique developed by the Surrealists as a way of creating art by following the dictates of the unconscious. Riopelle, however, was more interested in the lyrical potential of color than in Sturm und Drang of Pollock and De Kooning. He became friends with the older Miró, with whom he shared a studio in the South of France for awhile. Even though Riopelle’s dense, overall attacks on the canvas differed vastly from Mìro’s light-on-its-feet Surrealism, the two turned out to be kindred spirits. Their association is made palpable by the juxtaposition here of Riopelle’s paintings and Mìro’s painted sculptures.
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Pousette-Dart was a key figure of the postwar New York School, a contemporary of Pollack and De Kooning whose work is generally associated with Abstract Expressionism. He’s best known for dense, overall compositions built out of small daubs of paint covering the surface of the canvas. But like all members of New York in the years before the war, he experimented with different styles that derived from Social Realism, Surrealism and the work of Picasso. This exhibit focuses on figurative works on paper from this period and should be of particular interest to younger artists working in a Neo-Modernist vernacular today.
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The conflicts and crises of the Arab world are the subject of this artist, born in Lebanon, whose childhood recollections of that country’s devastating civil war seem to reverberate throughout his work. Cooly conceptual yet passionate in their own fashion, Raad’s photos, videos and installations combine to create an art of memory and dislocation.
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This show represents the first U.S. survey of Zhang Hongtu, a Queens-based Chinese artist who left his homeland in 1982 to avoid his country's government censors—a move that was understandably prudent since his best known work, the “Mao” series, mocks the ubiquitous portraits of the Great Helmsman found on the mainland. That work is here, along with other pop-cultural satires of life and politics in contemporary China.
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