Six New York Shows to Close Out Your May


Sometimes we need beauty. Other times, we desire bad paintings, grotesque creatures, and even pain (or its visual representation at least). Right now seems to be a good time for both. From art collective AES+F’s sardonic takes on extreme wealth and formulaic works by male modernists in a show ostensibly about pioneering women artists to Jamie Martinez’s tragicomic takedowns of Christopher Columbus and Carlos Martiel’s high-stakes performance art, this is art in all shades of critique. Follow it all up with the warmth and care of Carol Peligian’s video and installation works and the Constructivist fun of Katie Bell. — Natalie Haddad, Reviews Editor


Katie Bell: Edges in Search of Form

Katie Bell’s new exhibition builds on her continuing interest in El Lissitzky’s Proun Rooms and other Constructivist goodness, but here she incorporates elements that bring to mind the Memphis Group oeuvre and commercial display culture as much as fine art. Her large drawing-like sculpture “In Search of Form” (2024) appears to be where she works out her visual ideas, while incorporating objects she amasses on her travels. The more somber circular Line of Sight series on the other side of the gallery, and the stumpy “Water Table (Bird Bath)” (2024) in the backyard distill some of that thinking into elegant forms that exude a refreshing stoicism, if that’s even a thing. It’s nice to see a show use the language of formalism without necessarily feeling nostalgic, like so many exhibitions are doing nowadays. — Hrag Vartanian

Spencer Brownstone Gallery (spencerbrownstonegallery.com)
170-A Suffolk Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Through May 18


The New School of Paris Through Its Pioneering Women (1945–1964)

I’m recommending this show mostly because I find exhibitions filled with bad paintings fun to visit for various reasons. While the gallery’s intentions may be good, and Anna-Eva Bergman’s works are definitely worth a look, the overall show is predominantly male artists 29 works by men vs 16 by women. This seems to inadvertently justify why New York became the focus of the Western art world in the 1950s. The Hans Hartung and George Mathieu paintings on display are mostly staid, the Pierre Soulages and Serge Poliakoff works look formulaic, and those aren’t the only artworks that feel like filler in an exhibition that could’ve been pretty good (and much smaller). I still recommend it though, because, what can I say, sometimes I’m into things that are bad for me. — HV

Perrotin gallery (perrotin.com)
130 Orchard Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Through May 23


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AES+F, “Inverso Mundus, Woman with Pugtopus” (2022), oil on canvas (photo Daniel Larkin/Hyperallergic)

AES+F: Inverso Mundus: Chimeras

With their current exhibition at Sargent’s Daughters, Russian art collective AES+F have found a sly way to call out the 1%. The sardonic hyperrealist paintings of the Inverso Mundus series portray wealthy individuals in designer clothes cooing over their strange hybrid luxury pets. For example, in “Woman with Brainfish” (2022), a blonde bombshell’s posh appearance is disrupted by a grotesque chimera in her lap. The paintings are a response to the collective’s disgust at the Russian elites who have stood by and profited from Putin. Whereas so many images in visual culture glamorize the 1%, AES+F, now based in Berlin, comment on the elite’s moral lapses in the contrast between their superficial beauty and the monstrous creatures they so lovingly nurture. — Daniel Larkin

Sargent’s Daughters (sargentsdaughters.com)
179 East Broadway, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Through June 1


Jamie Martinez: The Shadow of Colonialism

At the back of this Lower East Side gallery is an inflatable Christopher Columbus. It is an apt artistic symbol for the chaotic mood around monuments, history, and memory that has reached a feverish pace since the start of the 2020 pandemic. Jamie Martinez’s “The Rise and Fall of Christopher Columbus” (2024) inflates and deflates in an alcove-like space. It is mesmerizing to watch this awkward creature twist and turn in unexpected ways as it is filled and emptied of air. Other works by Martinez complete the show, including stone-encrusted objects, but I couldn’t stop staring at the sculpture of one of history’s most renowned genocidal maniacs, as it seems to twist and turn in a strange state of powerlessness. — HV

Ghost Machine Gallery (ghostmachine.nyc)
23 Monroe Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Through June 8


Carol Peligian: Shift and Lift

Carol Peligian often hides objects in her sculptures, including in the large black “He by She” (2013–24) on display here, but it’s the video work and pink urethane installation downstairs that I think are worth a close look. “What a Little Doll” (2024) is based on a figurine a fellow artist shared with Peligian when she started art school and you can feel her attempt to regain that intimacy and care in these reproductions, which she places just above our heads and lights it so that the shadows appear to meet, chat, and offer another veil of meaning to the ethereal installation. “Mourners” and “To Hot to Handle,” both experimental films, are being screened in an adjacent room. They immerse you into a world that feels as fragile as it is dizzying and layered. — HV

Atamian Hovsepian (atamianhovsepian.art)
227 East 24th Street, Gramercy Park, Manhattan
Through June 22


Cuerpo: Carlos Martiel

In his second show at El Museo del Barrio, and first survey in New York, Havana-born artist Carlos Martiel denounces the legacies of enslavement and colonialism, and embodies the ongoing trauma suffered by Cuba’s Afro-descendants. Winner of this year’s Maestro Dobel Latinx Art Prize, the artist has achieved this through bodily distress and harm, including cuts and bondage. Photographs, videos, and drawings document his visceral live performances. In the Monuments series (2021), represented in the show with a photograph, Martiel stands naked on a podium, his hands tied behind his back. The series, originally performed without an audience, questions which bodies are celebrated and immortalized, and which are subjected to violence, silenced, erased, or forgotten. The exhibition is accompanied by a library with texts locating his practice in a lineage of artists who similarly enact cultural, social, and historical critique through the presence and pain of the body. — Ela Bittencourt

El Museo del Barrio (elmuseo.org)
1230 5th Avenue, East Harlem, Manhattan
Through September 1



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