Allison Schulnik at Zieher Smith, through October 8 (516 West 20th Street)
This Los Angeles-based painter lays on the oil pigment like the Great Recession never happened, creating gnarly, dense compositions. “Two Long Unicorns,” 2016, sets the tone. It depicts the titular mythical creatures buck-toothed, with wide, wild eyes; rendered in gentle pastels, the painting could double as an enormous birthday cake, perfect for a tween on the edge of their first drug-induced psychotic break. For “Gin #14,” Schulnik uses her heavy hand to palpably conjure the patterns of a hippy rug graced by her cat. The mood overall is light and bright, tempered cruelly by “Lady,” a nightmarish vision emerging from gasoline-black depths.
Joe Nanashe at Victori + Mo (50 Bogart Street, Brooklyn)
With “American Vanitas,” Nanashe proves himself a master of the winking conceptual prank. A working refrigerator stocked with cold Budweiser cans — rebranded America, mind you, for this pre-election summer — also contains a speaker playing Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” used by Bill Clinton for his ‘92 campaign. Nearby, a grid of marble tiles on the floor holds a banana peel waiting for its pratfall; think of it as a sophomoric Carl Andre (or, hell, maybe a terrible legal defense explaining how a certain feminist-art pioneer accidentally, you know, fell out of a window). Three iPads play endlessly looping GIFs featuring Nanashe enacting various juvenile gestures for sex acts, among other things, and a brilliant photographic diptych gives us hope that Christ, like a shop owner who has simply stepped out for lunch, will be back real soon.
Bruce Conner at the Museum of Modern Art, through October 2 (11 West 53rd Street)
Gathering work made between the late 1950s and the ‘00s, this retrospective for the late artist might leave you conflicted. It’s close to impossible to appreciate or celebrate everything the West Coast artist conjured, from luridly abject found-object assemblages to delicate ink drawings of the night sky and in-your-face photo-documentation of the punk scene. A series of films punctuates the exhibition, including the excellent “Looking for Mushrooms,” a purposefully trippy, jittery montage of footage shot in Mexico. (We get it here in two differently edited renditions, one soundtracked to the Beatles, the other to Terry Riley.) Some of the work may fail to inspire simply because it has been ripped off so soundly, and so often, since, like collages Conner composed using black-and-white 19th century illustrations. A roomful of obsessive, labor-intensive inkblot drawings, however, are sure to open the doors of perception for even the most jaded viewer.
Caitlin Keogh at Bortolami Gallery, through October 29 (520 West 20th Street)
A standout of the “Flatlands” show at the Whitney, Keogh solo turn here fixates on truncated bodies and vaguely intestinal motifs. “Wuthering Nephron,” 2016, resembles the outlines of a coloring book page only half finished (a hand wielding a brush suggests the whole thing is still in-process). “Correspondences” and “Renaissance Painting” both imagine beneath-the-skin organs as a series of tubes, snaking pipes, and withered deep-sea sponges. “Loose Ankles,” the comparatively tiny painting that lends its name to the exhibition, is one of the more stirring and loaded compositions: We get two feet sporting yellow shoes, tied together by rope just below their cut-off ankles, with an elegant, cigarette-wielding hand popping out of nowhere. While Keogh’s paintings look pristine or even computer-generated in reproduction, up close they’re quite a bit less finished, with pencil-drawn lines of a tracing grid still visible beneath — a fact that will either dismay or delight, depending on the viewer.
Rashid Johnson at Hauser & Wirth, through October 22 (511 West 18th Street)
In the event of a zombie apocalypse, “you could clean yourself with my paintings,” the L.A.-based artist joked during a press walk-through, referring to a series of black-soap-on-tile works, depicting rows of shaky faces, from his “Anxious Audience” series. He was talking to a large, mostly white crowd of journalists and hangers-on, which made the whole scenario a bit surreal — it has to be a bit awkward to spin these epic paintings, clearly meant to respond to our contemporary climate of political race-baiting and murder-by-police, considering that they’re also destined for the walls of one of this mega-gallery’s well-heeled collectors. In any case, from a purely formal level, there are just too many of them here — but don’t let that dissuade you from the more nuanced work that awaits in a series of adjoining side rooms. Three “Escape” collages on view, all 2016, use similar tile as their base, but enliven that material with spray paint — sometimes applied in bombastic splashes, à la Stephen Prina on Wade Guyton — and a series of found imagery: snippets of lush jungle, mostly, as well as an image of Johnson’s own father in a karate outfit, standing before a bookshelf that includes copies of the I-Ching and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. The over-the-top heart of the show, though, is “Antoine’s Organ,” a massive multimedia shelving structure that looks like what might happen if an Urban Outfitters fixture designer lost their damn mind. It’s dotted with plants in handmade ceramic pots; copies of books by Paul Beatty, Debra Dickerson, and others; busts hewn from carved shea butter; and small televisions screening earlier video work by the artist. Hidden in this overstuffed thicket is an actual guy named Antoine, playing an actual piano. In contrast to the parade of slightly one-note paintings that open the show, this work offers something a bit more chaotic, not to mention borderline unsalable.
ALSO WORTH SEEING: “3 Sculptors” at Rachel Uffner Gallery, with offbeat animal figures by Sally Saul, wooden structures by Sara Murphy, and fervently finger-gouged glazed ceramics by Brie Ruais. Upstairs, Hayal Pozanti presents a video along with a series of paintings enacted on outdoor sun shades. Both through October 23.