The commercial fine art world, a reflection of the wider world, has thrown a lot at Vittoria Benzine in three years. I’ve watched it — somehow she just keeps getting stronger. Last week as all the planet (at home, in America, and beyond) descended into chaos without quarantine’s respite this time around, she girded her loins, swore silence to protect a Scorpio who doesn’t deserve it, and did the one thing she knows how: pounded pavement. Remember vaccines? The sickness is the medicine.
So this Autumn in New York and the hemisphere beyond is another spicy one. At least the galleries reflect it. Benzine doesn’t allege to know what you need. Ram Dass said “Some acts of compassion liberate on one level, but not on every level.” In the interest of simply setting the table for healing instead, please accept this spread of art remedies — whether you crave a tale to take your mind off the madness, retail therapy, or just a hug. For what it’s worth, there were never any ‘simpler times.’
Let’s kick it off with an annual occasion. So many people come out for the opening of Kenny Schachter’s curatorial endeavors that the March 2022 show which launched Morton Street Partners’ contemporary art forays changed my life forever. Even if you didn’t make it to the opening for his encore, “Kennyslist” is a sure spectacle, a clearing house event replete with deep cuts from Schachter’s archives. “Dozens of artists!” he posted before it all unveiled. “Low, low, recession-market-crunch prices!” Much of the work on view is Schachter’s own, acerbic and witty as the writing practice which made him famous, like posters of closed captioned interviews with street civilians about the art world. Additional artists fill out the vast space’s walls and shelves. I was excited to discover Brendan Cass’s celestial side, and a Bruce Nauman work I could’ve actually afforded. The most expensive piece in the show, in fact, is a motorcycle by MoMA darling Alfredo Martinez. That outlier ironically blends in with the signature automobiles that anchor Morton Street Partners. It’s still available. Skirt away from your troubles for just $25,000. Through December 6
Here’s something really good for the body by virtue of the soul. Sahana Ramakrishnan’s Fridman Gallery debut is getting loads of well-deserved buzz. She created this vast array of a series while recovering from surgery to heal a torn ACL. The intensity is palpable. Altogether it’s a modern take on Indian folk art that focuses on archetypal imagery to impact viewers deeper than their own cultural heritage. The show’s title takes its cues from ancient, diverse mythologies originating across the planet which “envision massive floods transitioning the world between ages dominated by different species,” the show’s release states. Ramakrishnan has culled animal imagery particularly from Hindu and Norse traditions alongside more abstract, contemporary images like a stitched up ear, and paired them with alluring accents like rhinestones, gold leaf, and dense circular script in the spirit of Buddhist chants, embedded midway within each piece’s painstaking layers of translucent acrylic. They’re so rich with color and gilt and expressive figuration that viewers don’t need these extra details to benefit from their wisdom. I promise. You’ll see. Through October 21
My first encounters with casinos were entirely visual awe. I’d never heard of them until second grade or so, when my brother and I got Sonic Adventure 2 on the Gamecube. There was a sustained sensation that I had to live in the casino in that game, and this show perfectly captures it. I think that yearning’s the same reason I’m an alcoholic. I felt that same visual excitement at this 16 artist group show for perhaps the first time since, courtesy especially of a bedazzled work by Harry Fonseca, a vivid vision of Santa Fe in Hollywood’s shoes by David Bradley, and an immersive installation by Bently Spang lit with a colorful disco ball. I inherited so many gaps in knowledge from my semi rural Pennyslvanian upbringing. Now that I have a better handle on the history of this country which public school students pledge allegiance to, it’s extra thrilling to see how contemporary Indigenous artists are harnessing their heritage while honoring tradition. Brooklyn-based Rachel Martin pares symbolism down to minimalism to maximize her scenes’ impact. Montreal-based Nico Williams isn’t just beading capitalist confections, he’s changing standards for how studios behind labor-intensive art can embody better collectives. The show’s about beating the odds. Its power alludes that you need people and, yes, a requisite measure of razzle dazzle. Through January 13
It’s tempting to say the world’s never needed this show more than it does now, but that’s just not true. Because today’s pains are born of yesterday’s, and the day before that, too. Until something profound and to-be-determined changes, it’ll be like this tomorrow as well. But every person has daily affairs they attend — and, if they can manage, periodic moments of pause to build an intimate relationship with the earth, the present, and life itself. Delcy Morelos has mastered mediums most overlook with two installations the likes of which you can only find at Dia. “Cielo terrenal,” which opens her two-part show in Chelsea, utilizes genuine pitch darkness. Viewers enter the work with dim light and walk a runway into the sparse if sprawling scene. As they approach the back wall, that light gets all but extinguished, leaving only the scent of earth infused with cinnamon and clove — alongside the time and silence necessary to let silhouettes of detritus from the Dia basement post-Sandy resolve. I didn’t think it was possible, but the show’s title work the next room over is an even crazier sensation, especially once you learn Morelos shaped every mud hill and planted every sprig of hay by hand. Not only can you touch this work, you can enter the deep crevasse she’s carved into it. Not so often you get a hug from the earth like that, and get to return. Through July 2024
White just joined Petzel. He has a two-part show across both their Upper East Side gallery and Derek Eller Gallery, who will continue to represent him. I met an unnamed source at White Cube’s first New York show this past Saturday. We ran into each other at “Family Dysphoria” twenty minutes later. She let me know that this iteration’s the more interesting of the two, if only because the more detailed townhome setting suits the series better than standard white walls. For years now, White has made heavy duty construction materials feel distinctly fine art, painting timeless and mythic if dark scenes with rubber, pigment, screen mesh, 3M reflective fabric, and more. Eight mid-sized works tessellate electric hues in the show’s light-drenched second room. They’re all technically mesmerizing and aesthetically attractive, which is loaded once you realize what they’re about. These latest works reference the real genre of casta painting, which codified racial classes in eighteenth century colonial Mexico — inspired by the White family’s recent revelation about complications around their own lineage. Delicate and meticulous works of ballpoint pen and watercolor on paper don’t soften the subject matter’s impact. If anything, they emphasize it. Through November 4