What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week

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By Roberta Smith, Will Heinrich, Martha Schwendener and Jillian Steinhauer

October 4, 2018

Bernard Kirschenbaum

Through Oct 20. Postmasters, 54 Franklin Street, Manhattan; 212-727-3323; postmastersart.com.

 Bernard Kirschenbaum’s “Monument to the Earth” (1981).CreditLishan Liu/Postmasters Gallery

Bernard Kirschenbaum’s “Monument to the Earth” (1981).CreditLishan Liu/Postmasters Gallery

Bernard Kirschenbaum (1924-2016) is sometimes called a Minimalist sculptor, but in this exhibition he comes across more as an architect/designer with a visionary streak. Mr. Kirschenbaum thought mainly in geometric patterns that might have been devised by computer but until late in his life usually were not.

The initial stimulus for his imagination included the flexible grid of triangles that make up the geodesic dome, which he knew intimately from collaborating with the inventor and theorist R. Buckminster Fuller in the mid-1950s. After that Mr. Kirschenbaum became one of the art world’s inveterate free spirits. In 1966, he exhibited two domes at Park Place Gallery, then a hotbed of sculptural experimentation. That year he also built what may have been the country’s first residential dome, in Connecticut, for the artist Susan Weil, whom he later married.

The works at Postmasters make Mr. Kirschenbaum’s thinking tangible. “Monument to the Earth” is a large seemingly flat-floor piece whose blue-dappled wood tiles slope gradually upward, breaking out at center in a tall thin, sci-fi obelisk. Even larger is the blazing white-orange-yellow “Two Element City,” a painted steel work exhibited, with “Three Element City,” at the Paula Cooper Gallery in 1969.
Spreading from floor to wall in two infinitely expandable patterns, “Two Element City” repeats diamond-and-pentagon schemes, a pairing that would become known as Penrose Tiles, after the British physicist who published a description of them in 1974. Mr. Kirschenbaum discovered them while trying to devise a floor cover for a geodesic dome, a large 1966 model of which is the show’s centerpiece. Just watching its white surface of mutating triangles curving toward the center is mesmerizing. Domes are among the first human-built architecture; they remain among the most mystical. ROBERTA SMITH

Charline von Heyl

Through Oct. 20. Petzel, 456 West 18th Street, Manhattan; 212-680-9467; petzel.com.

 Charline von Heyl’s painting “Hero Picnic” (2018).CreditCharline von Heyl, via Petzel, New York

Charline von Heyl’s painting “Hero Picnic” (2018).CreditCharline von Heyl, via Petzel, New York

Charline von Heyl’s paintings function like discrete universes of ideas and markings — but her overall position is clear. When she was coming up as a painter in Germany in the 1980s, the reigning attitude was the conflicted-but-arrogant posturing of painters like Sigmar Polke or Martin Kippenberger. Yet Ms. von Heyl, who now lives in New York and Marfa, Tex., is all in. There are jokes in her work, but little irony. Historical styles and references commingle rather than compete for attention in “New Work,” her ninth exhibition at Petzel.

Ms. von Heyl employs a range of techniques: Painterly marks are sprayed, drawn or stenciled. Abstract passages are disrupted by representational ones. Flat, jigsaw-puzzle and boomerang shapes recur. So do black and white stripes, rainy or batik-looking fields of diluted pigment and simple cartoonish objects: a telephone in “Dial P for Painting” (2017); a Pop-Cubist wine bottle and bowling pin in “Hero Picnic” (2018). Each piece displays a seeming clash of forms and colors that surprisingly cohere.

Some of the works here seem to argue for painting as a woman’s domain — which it sort of is at the moment, since women increasingly dominate the field. “Lady Moth” (2017) has marbled arabesques stamped over a background of faint musical notation, while silhouettes of women march through the “Poetry Machine” series of canvases.

A traveling survey of Ms. Heyl’s work will arrive at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. in November, but her impact can be more immediate. Leaving the gallery, I saw a cargo van in the street, sprayed and layered with riotous graffiti and biomorphic shapes. It was as if Ms. von Heyl’s aesthetic had leaked into the world, instead of the other way around. Her paintings have an instantaneous effect on your vision and perception. MARTHA SCHWENDENER

Sam Anderson

Through Oct. 21. Chapter, 249 East Houston Street, Manhattan; 646-850-7486; chapter-ny.com.

 Sam Anderson’s installation at Chapter NY, from left: “The King” (2016-18), wood and ceramic; “Paula” (2018), papier-mâché wood and metal; “Two Babies” (2018), papier-mâché, wood, glue and electric tape; and “Sunrise” (2018), tape rolls, acrylic and sunscreen.CreditDario Lasagni, via Chapter NY

Sam Anderson’s installation at Chapter NY, from left: “The King” (2016-18), wood and ceramic; “Paula” (2018), papier-mâché wood and metal; “Two Babies” (2018), papier-mâché, wood, glue and electric tape; and “Sunrise” (2018), tape rolls, acrylic and sunscreen.CreditDario Lasagni, via Chapter NY

Perched atop five round white pedestals of varying heights, in Sam Anderson’s show, “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” at Chapter, are a slender papier-mâché princess; two grotesque babies with snowball heads and wooden struts for legs; a found ceramic hippo; and a tube of Babyganics sunscreen, its bold graphic sun logo peeking up over a collar of tape rolls. At one end of the gallery, near the door, sits a wooden harp with multicolored strings. At the other side, by the office, two low, armless figures watch a video pastiche of clouds, storks and hippos, accompanied by an eerie voice-over and the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s gentle 1957 instrumental take on the Billy Strayhorn song, after which the video and Ms. Anderson’s show are named.

To me, this all felt both precious and ad hoc, as if the pieces weren’t finished sculptures but props, or even maquettes for props, for some unspecified performance. What I couldn’t figure out, at first, was just what that performance would be. But as I looked from the wedding-white princess, with her blank expression and tiny earrings, to the ceramic hippo, and from the yawning hippo to the grimacing, listing baby, and as I struggled to reconcile the chaotic bouquet of sadness, silliness, yearning, dislocation and theatrically exaggerated self-consciousness that Ms. Anderson’s work evoked in me, I finally recognized the performance she was going for: It was a long, slow wink, and I was doing it. WILL HEINRICH

Chitra Ganesh

Through Oct. 20. The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, Manhattan; 212-255-5793; thekitchen.org.

 Chitra Ganesh’s linocut print “Refugees and Queen” (2018).CreditDurham Press

Chitra Ganesh’s linocut print “Refugees and Queen” (2018).CreditDurham Press

At a time when stories of sexual misconduct continue to dominate the news, feminist utopias offer a refuge. For her solo show at the Kitchen, “Her Garden, a Mirror,” the Brooklyn artist Chitra Ganesh finds inspiration in a remarkable utopia that’s over a century old.

Ms. Ganesh takes off from a 1905 novella, “Sultana’s Dream,” by the Bengali writer and activist Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. First published in an Indian women’s magazine, the tale — an audio recording of which plays in the gallery near handouts that contain the text — is told by a narrator who’s transported to Ladyland, where India’s gender roles are reversed. Women lead the country and roam freely, while men remain at home. The women are so educated they’ve figured out how to use solar energy to defeat an invading army.

“Sultana’s Dream” informs the print series that is the backbone of the exhibition, which also includes videos and sculptures. The dynamic linocuts combine Ms. Ganesh’s talents in fine art and comics by riffing on the story without being slavish. The works abound with female characters and creatures, futuristic structures, and recurring, symbolic imagery like hands.

Appearing elsewhere in the show, the hands seem significant. A large aluminum and silk sculpture of one occupies a corner of the gallery, with an animation playing across it. Hands are also a constant presence in “How We Do” (2018), two compilations of videos sourced from the news and social media and commissioned by Ms. Ganesh from her friends. The clips showwomen and queer and transgender people demonstrating different activities, from cooking and ukulele playing to truck driving, and much more. “How We Do” is mesmerizing in its capaciousness. It’s a cross between a survival kit and an instruction manual for a feminist world that may yet be within reach. JILLIAN STEINHAUER