In New York, Group Art Shows Provide Temporary Shelter From Urbanite Isolation

K as in Knight at Helena Anrather
K as in Knight at Helena Anrather

While we are anticipating with every fiber of our being the day that we will be able to eat, look, party and dance together, we aren’t holding our breath for the opportunity to present ourselves this winter. Yet in our chilly solo rambles during New York’s typical February misery, we've found ourselves warmed by a different kind of company—that of the group art show, a phenomenon that seems to have taken over the whole of the Manhattan gallery scene ahead of its normal summer slot.

For both viewer and presenter, there are many upsides to this trend. Multi-artist presentations offer gallerists a two-for-one deal: the chance to add new voices into the programmatic mix and to connect the dots between historical and contemporary narratives. For artists, it's an opportunity to congregate and correspond directly with peers albeit, in these times, through their work and not in person. For us, it was a bellwether, signaling an art world that while exhausted by a year of revolution is on the rebound in feeling optimistic towards the future. Here are four such presentations to ease the isolation.

Manal Kara's I thought more about what you were asking, and, like a fly, I landed, 2021 and Raque Ford's Said too softly, 2021 at "K as in Knight" at Helena Anrather.

K as in Knight at Helena Anrather

What are the parameters of the image as a storytelling device and where do they meet the same limitations of a text? As far as contemporary art is concerned, the semiotic bowling alley is a fountain of youth with waves of artists bouncing off its bumpers through the years. K as in Knight, curated by Blake Oetting and Megan Yuan, examines this phenomenon through an intergenerational prism that favors outspoken narrators in the current conversation like Tony Cokes, Pope.L and Micahel E. Smith. Recognizable onsite, these idiosyncratic practices establish a baseline of history, a fertile context for younger voices to find their place in the halcyon. For instance, Raque Ford, whose towering contribution, extends the juxtaposition of aesthetics and letter to architecture. Don’t you love when a new wing of the house shimmers into being?

"Arches and Ink" at Rachel Uffner (2021).

Arches and Ink at Rachel Uffner

With its mythological affectations, Arches and Ink is perhaps more personal than it first lets on. Curated by Rachel Uffner, this concentrated group brings together three artists (Sheree Hovsepian, Nate Lewis, and Sahana Ramakrishnan) who have been on the gallerist’s mind, in some cases for years. The mood is mystic familiar like a satisfying tarot reading with a talented friend on a rainy night. Ramakrishnan’s Bison Always Return (2021) sets this tone with its Medieval flair, a triumphant crouching Bison atop a nonplus lamb. Power’s baked-in relationship to symbology and folklore is pressed further outwards by the abstracted collages of Sheree Hovsepian and Nate Lewis, who arrive with hieroglyphics in hand to gently show us the roots of how we are shaped by the forces around us. Speaking to each other across the room, these practices invite a vision large enough to house extremes: frantic, unstoppable movement and insurmountable inertia.

Nicole Eisenman and Keith Boadwee at The FLAG Art Foundation

Rarely highlighted in curatorial circles, friendship and its shared trove of ideas and methodologies comes into focus at Nicole Eisenman and Keith Boadwee’s joint presentation at The Flag Foundation in Chelsea. More than peers for over thirty years, the artist friends share a dark sense of humor that comes through in their dedication to the joke in the face of taboo’s slap. Both artists are represented in their polyamorous metholodgical splendor with Eisenman presenting drawings, sculpture and paintings and Boadwee opening up his extensive archive of scatalogical drawings. The latter fill a set of vitrines offering pages and pages of colorful antidote to the unironically constipating embarrassment built up around our body’s most basic function. The show is best enjoyed if you laugh along with them.

Installation view of Home Life, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, January 29 – March 20, 2021. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.

Home Life at Matthew Marks

If anything, Home Life, a blue-chip group show dedicated to domesticity, proves that we could live in a house designed by Matthew Marks quite happily. Alex Da Corte and Robert Gober finally paired together fulfill a dark wish. The latter’s paper snowflake diorama extends a gentle hand towards the former’s signature neon window frames. Da Corte then meets him halfway with an exploded shelter drawing that reminds me of Gober’s burnt dollhouse. Marks continues to pile on the residential pleasures with a Ken Price drawing of a purple living room with a carpet of green tick marks, and a lovable portrait of a shadow-obscured window gazer by Nan Goldin. This is the only instance where a spot of laundry, in the form of a sculpture by Charles Ray, has brought a smile to my face. It’s just like home but better.

De Por Vida at Company gallery is also on our mind. Isabel Flower takes a closer look.