What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week – New York Times

Posted: August 18, 2017 at 5:32 am

Photo DAngelo Lovell Williamss Structural Dishonesty, on view at Higher Pictures. Credit Higher Pictures DANGELO LOVELL WILLIAMS

Through Sept. 2. Higher Pictures, 980 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; 212-249-6100, higherpictures.com.

The 10 reverberant color photographs in DAngelo Lovell Williamss show at Higher Pictures form one of the years best gallery debuts. Seemingly uncomplicated and improvisational, the works set off startling strings of associations and meaning, tearing through references to race, gender, eroticism, art, fashion, culture and history like crashing dominoes. Yet silence reigns: All is encompassed and centered by the presence of the artist, who is usually shown leveling a steady, slightly quizzical gaze at the camera, and the certainty with which he wields his black, male body as shape-shifting subject and material.

This happens with special power in Structural Dishonesty, a title that resonates with the phrase institutional racism. We see Mr. Williams seated, bare chested, against a wall of raw plywood, in a state of extreme inhale. His chest is pulled up so that his waist is tiny, seemingly corseted; his flaring rib cage suggests a padded bosom, especially because he delicately touches his throat, as if fingering jewels. It is the exaggerated silhouette of a 19th-century woman of wealth, straight from the novels of Edith Wharton or Henry James, as well as a discreetly ambiguous, possibly homoerotic come-on, given his unbuckled belt and unzipped pants. But also here are intimations of horror: slaves cabins, 19th-century photographs of slaves backs scarred by flogging, the open pants of lynching victims.

In Face Down, Ass Up, the artist bends over in a corner, in front of a wall covered with flowered fabric. We see only his backside, his white briefs and the vulvalike shape of pink edged in yellow at the center: It is menses and a sign of torture, yet oddly painterly and artificial, like the image of a stigmata lifted from some over-the-top painting of a saint. Fleurish shows him naked against a dark turquoise wall, seated on a folded quilt atop a thick cabinet with his feet barely touching the floor. His genitals are obscured by a phallic vase whose long-stemmed blossoms frame his face: a childlike yet imperial dandy an analogy aided by the titles hints of flourish and flneur.

The Lovers shows the heads of two black men kissing through the veils of reversed black do-rags. The taboo of black male love is evoked, while the frustrated white couple of Ren Magrittes identically titled Surrealist landmark white-shrouded and heterosexual is inverted. These disarmingly casual yet solemnly astute images are performances that aim for the hearts of many matters.

ROBERTA SMITH

Through Sept. 3. New Museum, 235 Bowery, Manhattan; 212-219-1222, newmuseum.org.

It may be hard for tolerant, art-loving souls to resist the urge to groan when reading pretentious titles for artworks. Consider Elaine Cameron-Weirs viscera has questions about itself it pushed the corner of the room down from behind so that it could not move and delivered the following message: it are now in an erogenous zone. In altered-state subcutanean tantric the skingrip palpable, it, for a sculpture from 2017. Luckily, I saw the works in Ms. Cameron-Weirs New Museum exhibition before encountering the titles.

These pieces are rather good, harnessing a variety of materials and employing them toward evocative, sensual and slightly menacing ends. The viscera has questions about itself sculpture, suspended midair and held taut, looks like a suit of chain metal or flayed skin. Snake 8 (2017) has copper scales that cascade from the ceiling, while another sculpture with a torturously long title consists of a trough lined with a lattice of small transformers and amber-colored labdanum resin, which serves as the base for some incense and perfume (although the scent is mild here).

The show feels vaguely medieval in its visual and alchemical references (a silver human skull in one sculpture evokes a Renaissance memento mori or vanitas symbol), but fittingly contemporary too. Its title, viscera has questions about itself, signals our posthuman moment, in which artists imagine a world where objects and organisms are imagined to have as much agency as large-brained bipeds. Like Alberto Giacometti and Kiki Smith, Ms. Cameron-Weir pushes the limits of figurative sculpture, suggesting the human body in flux a kind of deconstructed spiritual-biological machine. And the titles, despite their preciousness, develop this even further.

MARTHA SCHWENDENER

A version of this review appears in print on August 18, 2017, on Page C17 of the New York edition with the headline: Galleries.

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What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week – New York Times

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