That ghost town moment of New York City in August seems to be upon us, when half of its residents and most of the art world seems to be out of town. Are you still here? (If you are, a reminder, it’s primary day #2 so get out and vote!) It can be kind of comforting having all that space, right? And there are still some must-see exhibitions you can take advantage of, minus the crowds. Our creative director Nitin Mukul has the rundown:
Deana Lawson (through Sept. 5)
The first museum survey dedicated to the work of the celebrated photographer. For more than 15 years, Deana Lawson (b. 1979, Rochester, New York) has been exploring and challenging conventional representations of Black life through photography, drawing on a wide spectrum of photographic languages, including the family album, studio portraiture, staged tableaux, documentary pictures, and appropriated images. There is a selection of more than 50 works from 2004 to present.
If you get there this Friday, catch a free DJ set by Miho Hatori and others starting at 5 p.m.
Admission is free for New York residents.
While you’re there, check out Queensbridge Photo Collective: Still like Air I Rise (through Sept. 23), which centers on the nearby housing complex.
Robert Colescott (through October)
Featuring approximately 40 paintings, “Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott” highlights the 65-year-long career of Robert Colescott. Colescott’s bold and richly rendered works traverse art history to offer a satirical take on issues of race, beauty, and 20th century American culture. Often ahead of his time, Colescott explored the ways in which personal and cultural identities are constructed and enacted through the language and history of painting. He anticipated urgent contemporary discussions around the power of images and shifting political and social values, while asserting the continuing validity of painting as a critical medium for exploring these questions. This exhibition offers a long overdue celebration of Colescott as one of the most consequential artists of his time. Colescott is perhaps best known for works made during the 1970s in which he reimagined iconic artworks to examine the absence of Black men and women as protagonists in dominant cultural and social narratives. Paintings like George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook (1975) offer irreverent parodies of familiar masterpieces, while incisively critiquing America’s often brutally discriminatory past and present. His transgressive use of racial stereotypes to interrogate hierarchies of power was echoed in the strategies of younger artists in the 1990s such as Kerry James Marshall and Kara Walker.
To Bleach, To Fold: Zeshan Ahmed and Yasi Alipour (through Sept. 11)
Zeshan Ahmed’s complex abstractions begin in Photoshop where he isolates the essential language of digital photography—the three distinct values of RGB, or the primary colors of light in additive synthesis. He prints red, green, and blue as solid colors on silver halide transparencies, then applies bleach in different manners and for varied increments of time. The bleach changes the tone and hue of the color printed on the transparency, at times disappearing the color completely. Together, his layered transparencies produce collages of exuberant colors and translucent marks made not through the application of color, but through its erasure.
Yasi Alipour’s tactile works on paper employ the contrary gestures of folding and unfolding. Each fold is decided upon and guided by the artist’s keen interest in mathematics, particularly in how geometric principles informed the history of Islamic architecture. Working with thin black coated inkjet paper as well as in the cyanotype process, the artist’s obsessive and deliberate folds, once opened, leave a striking colorless mark—a trace created from the force of each fold. This repeated ritual transforms the otherwise flat paper surface with a three-dimensional physicality.
Guadalupe Maravilla: Tierra Blanca Joven (through Sept. 18)
Drawing on the artist’s personal story of migration, illness, and recovery, Guadalupe Maravilla: Tierra Blanca Joven centers the need for care and healing, particularly for the undocumented and cancer communities of which Guadalupe Maravilla is a part. In the 1980s, eight-year-old Maravilla fled El Salvador’s civil war and made a perilous journey through Central America to reunite with family in the United States. Following his recovery from cancer in the 2010s, the artist devoted his practice to healing through ancient methods such as sound-as-medicine (employing vibrations and frequencies of gongs to release toxins in the body). The exhibition features new sculptures, retablo paintings, tripa chuca drawings, and sound works, as well as a Healing Room, a community space for collective care designed by teen staff.
Epicenter-NYC featured artists are currently in exhibitions around the country: