The first quarter of 2010 finished with all signs pointing to a strong market recovery, but the New York art world has settled into weary doldrums and a faint malaise hangs in the air. A chastened Whitney Biennial has earned warm if not stellar reviews, but has yet to christen a clear new trend or talent. (Writing on Artnet, critic Ben Davis nominated Jessica Jackson Hutchins, though even he admitted her work was “a minor pleasure and not a major one.”) Chelsea’s big names, from Banks Violette to Wolfgang Tillmans, delivered average work, meaning that the season’s only real surprise was that critical reaction to Jeff Koons's “Skin Fruit” was so resoundingly negative. Spring, however, is here. The torrential rains have stopped, at least for now. This could be the week when it all turns around.
Amanda RossHo, “SOMEBODY STOP ME,” at Mitchell-Innes Nash, 534 West 26th Street, through May 1, 2010, opening April 1, 6–8 p.m.
With the 2010 Whitney Biennial in full swing, Mitchell-Innes Nash checks in with one of the 2008 edition’s stars. Ross-Ho uses photography, sculpture, painting, and found objects to create inscrutable installations that suggest Douglas Blaus image constellations crossed with minimalist sculpture. Past works have included peg boards lined with banal picture postcards, and one piece that set a chair and sneakers in front of a humble lattice trestle. In an era that requires artists to have a signature style, Ross-Ho nurtures a devout idiosyncrasy. It’s unclear if her title for this show signifies a plea or a dare, but it seems unlikely that anyone will be able to pull off that feat anytime soon.
“iconoGRAPHIC – Works by Carroll Dunham, Philip Guston, Elizabeth Murray, and Peter Saul,” at Mary Ryan Gallery, 527 West 26th Street, through May 8, opening April 1, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
“It was as though I had left the Church,” Philip Guston famously remarked of critical reaction to his decision to abandon Abstract Expressionism. “I was excommunicated for a while.” This four-person exhibition of prints, drawings, and multiples argues that Guston’s heresy — New York Times critic Hilton Kramer titled his 1970 review of the artist’s new work “A Mandarin Pretending to Be a Stumblebum” — established a faith of his own. Carroll Dunham and Peter Saul followed Guston’s otherworldly cartoon style to manic, sometimes erotic extremes, while Elizabeth Murray ventured off into bright, oozing abstractions. This seems likely to be a sublime, topsy-turvy grouping.
“Baker, Braunig, Gokita, Hopkins,” at Foxy Production, 623 West 27th Street, through May 1, opening April 2, 6–8 p.m.
Don’t let this show’s low-key, law-firm-style title obscure the dark intents of its four artists. Jimmy Bakers lush landscapes share the uneasy intrigue of Luc Tuymanss paintings, offering expansive views of territories whose unmarked buildings and smoke–filled skies seem to harbor clandestine affairs. Violet Hopkins, meanwhile, draws spindly, tentacled Rorschach inkblots on black paper, offering uncanny horrors in place of the carnal pleasures Warhol teased from that motif. The figural half of the show is represented by Tomoo Gokita, who deforms the polished noir subjects of McDermott & McGough with abstract washes and spills, and Sascha Braunig, who endows her female subjects with fluorescent glows and supernatural stares.
“Donald Baechler: New Work,” at Cheim & Read, 547 West 25th Street, through May 1, opening April 2, 6–8 p.m.
Thirty years into his career, Donald Baechler and his work remain oddly enigmatic. The shapes and images that paper his backgrounds look familiar, though their sources are never quite certain, and the subjects that dominate his foregrounds — ice cream sundaes, flowers, and globes — hover eerily in space, lined in white, as strange as they were when they first appeared in the early 1980s. This new body of work is said to focus on flowers, perfectly timed for this week’s long-overdue burst of spring, and a sure-to-be interesting counterpoint to Charles Ray's floral explosion at the Biennial. Celebrate the season's hard-won warmth by leaving work early and also visiting the magisterial retrospective of former Baechler compatriot Keith Haring at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery (544 West 26th Street) for a bracing view of a future that never quite managed to unfold.
Allyson Vieira, “Ozymandias,” at Laurel Gitlen | Small A Projects, 261 Broome Street, through May 9, opening April 2, 6–8 p.m.
Eighteen columns, sliced from a single block of poured plaster, will fill the Lower East Side gallery, inhabiting, as the gallery’s press release so succinctly puts it, “the slippery instant when raw material transforms into form.” They could be dripping, near-organic versions of Joseph Beuyss felt Fonds, adding quiet and intimacy to the same space it disrupts and obscures. One wonders if the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem that shares the exhibition’s title ever inspired such rugged elegance. In the gallery’s back room, Vieira provides a surprise: a live octopus, guarded by two bas-reliefs. Here’s hoping it figures into her contribution to SculptureCenters next group exhibition, “Knight’s Move,” opening May 3.