Gerald Jackson and Daisy May Sheff
Through May 15. White Columns, 91 Horatio Street, Manhattan, (212) 924-4212, whitecolumns.org.
In its pairings of large and small shows, White Columns has come up with some extraordinary combinations, but its present one is especially excellent. The larger exhibition reintroduces the veteran artist and poet Gerald Jackson, now in his mid-80s, whose work was fearlessly multimedia long before it became the thing to do. The smaller show, “A Mountain Girl With Skyblue Teeth,” is the New York debut of a young painter, Daisy May Sheff, whose layered fantasies exude an overheated Fauvism of oranges, pinks, purples and greens populated by eccentric personages — all in a style best described as fluid-state Florine Stettheimer.
Jackson’s abstract paintings were featured last fall in an exhibition at Kenkeleba House, and will also figure in a show at Gordon Robichaux in the fall. The White Columns presentation examines his pervasive use of collage in two or three dimensions. Five large pieces alternate words, either red/black in one case or white/black in others, written in large letters on individual sheets of typing paper that are then glued into wrinkly grids. The words bounce in and out of focus, in seemingly alternating but actually unpredictable rhythms. Three imposing collages — two of which say “Divine Providence” — combine enlarged photocopies of magazine images (including portraits of the artist) with more vigorous color names as well as handwritten poems and motifs from Egyptian art.
The show’s highlight consists of four jackets-pants ensemble that Jackson has unerringly embellished with stenciled images, paint, appliquéd embroideries or larger pieces of fabric, patterned or solid. Multicultural in their references and dazzling in their colors, these garments suggest a global sophistication. They are made for citizens of the world.
The complexity of Jackson’s distinctive garments underscores the pieced-together nature of Sheff’s larger compositions, with their accumulations of disparate objects, patterns, characters and scenes, nominally united by paint.
Through May 9. Performance Space New York, 150 First Avenue, Manhattan, 212-477-5829, performancespacenewyork.org.
The Nigerian-American artist and poet Precious Okoyomon, who uses the pronouns “they/them,” creates large environments that evoke fantastic landscapes. Last year, they staged “Earthseed” in a museum in Frankfurt, Germany, that featured live kudzu, a plant introduced to the American South to prevent erosion in soil ravaged by the overcultivation of cotton that was tended by enslaved people. For “Fragmented Body Perceptions as Higher Vibration Frequencies to God” at Performance Space New York, Okoyomon has taken that same kudzu, incinerated it, and installed machines to blow the ashes over a sculptural environment that includes fake boulders and real moss, gravel, soil and a few ladybugs and crickets.
The overall effect is impressive. Red lighting, a brooding soundtrack and the mossy faux-landscape conjure gothic tales, film sets and haunted houses. Beyond initial impressions, however, the work is a boilerplate mash-up of land art, earthworks, installation and sound art with weak links to history and Black trauma.
According to the exhibition’s news release, the project is as “an ecosystem that seeks to hold grief” after last year’s “brutal mood of apocalypse and rapture.” For me, though, so many other situations — ad hoc altars at protests and vigils, news conferences, and the removal of racist statues and monuments — provided far more powerful spaces for communal grief, mourning and rapture, while acknowledging how much work is yet to be done.
Through May 8. Mrs., 60-40 56th Drive, Maspeth, Queens. 347-841-6149; mrsgallery.com.
For years the sculptor Damien Davis has been making graphic renditions of cowrie shells, African masks and other icons of Black identity from laser-cut sheets of colored acrylic. Combining the shells, masks and other shapes with stainless steel bolts, chains and hinges, he makes three-dimensional collages that can be mounted on a wall, propped open like a book or hung from the ceiling.
It’s always been a clever approach, one that offers a vivid metaphor for the way symbols shift meaning and context over time. But “Weightless,” the artist’s first solo show with Mrs. Gallery, expands the project dramatically, using a wider range of colors, patterns and references. A number of small acrylic faces play with the similar silhouettes of high-top fade haircuts and ancient Egyptian crowns; an intricately cut piece of plywood alludes to a wicker throne in which the Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton was once photographed; and a number of masklike collages incorporate a white space-shuttle shape as a background or a kind of headdress. (The show was inspired by the astronaut Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space.)
The tension, in these complicated new pieces, between easily read components and harder to parse overall compositions is visually bewitching. It’s also important conceptually: It amplifies the sense of an American moment whose details are impossible to reconcile, when a Black man can become president but also stands a very real chance of being killed by the police.
Through May 8. Andrew Edlin Gallery, 212 Bowery, 212-206-9723, edlingallery.com.
Beverly Buchanan (1940-2015) has received a lot of attention for her larger concrete sculptures and her “Marsh Ruins” a 1981 earthwork in a site in coastal Georgia where 75 Igbo people collectively drowned themselves to escape enslavement in 1803. The works in her new show, “Beverly Buchanan: Shacks and Legends, 1985-2011,” at Andrew Edlin are smaller and craftlike, celebrating vernacular architecture among rural folk in the American South.
Many of the tabletop-size sculptures, made with wood, glue, tin and foamcore, resemble actual houses. Enlarged photographs taken by the artist underscore this connection. “Esther’s Shack” (1988) is a simple brown structure that echoes a photographed house like “Madison, Georgia” (1991). Handwritten “legends,” shown in display cases or mounted on the wall, describe the story of individual shacks.
Some of the other shacks easily draw comparisons with modern sculpture. (In her New York days, Buchanan was mentored by two modern-art heavyweights: Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden.) The flaming red-orange cardboard “House” from around 1985 and the austere “Turned Over House” (2010) are like minimalist studies, while the thrilling “Orangeburg County Family House” (1993), festooned with buttons, bottle caps and a license plate, is an expressionist confection. Throughout the show, however, the message is clear: Art does not belong merely to urban dwellers or the wealthy. Shacks designed with ingenuity, warmth and soul offer proof of this.
Through May 15. Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th St and 524 West 24th Street, Manhattan, 212-645-1701, jackshainman.com.
The land is iridescent pink, purple and teal in Richard Mosse’s bravura aerial images of the Brazilian Amazon. Elsewhere it recedes into familiar-seeming greens and browns, but with tonal effects that show both the advanced technology used to capture these pictures and the artist’s considerable compositional role in their manipulation.
The sites are mainly points on the “arc of fire,” from Rondônia in the southwest to Pará in the north, where in dry season fires are set to clear rainforest for cropland. In 2019, these fires reached a decade peak, generating global consternation. Mosse, who is Irish and lives in New York, traveled to Brazil soon after, equipped with a drone-mounted multispectral camera that detects nuances in soil, vegetal condition, and much else beyond the human eye.
Now at Jack Shainman Gallery, his finished images are big — a triptych of the Crepori River, in the Amazon basin, stretches almost 15 feet — and the effect is magnetic. The eye works to decode the landscapes: dull nubs of felled trees; a pond in red, full of lines that are actually caimans; a sudden well-ordered zone — a cattle feedlot. In the pervasive sense of seepage and fragility, Mosse achieves, quite elegantly, a central aim in his work, which is to convey world-changing phenomena beyond the limits of documentary photography.
The technology here is used both by scientists working for conservation and agro-industrial conglomerates that undermine it. In past projects, Mosse has used heat-sensing surveillance tools to photograph migrants and refugee camps, and old military infrared film to document war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The methodology can be a bit sinister, but also illuminating. Up close, depicting human subjects, his work has sometimes verged on the lurid. Here, however — despite the earnest title “Tristes Tropiques,” referring to the dated Claude Lévi-Strauss anthropology classic — the work gains from altitude and becomes a welcome project in critical cartography.
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