Your Concise New York Art Guide for August 2021

The New York art world is bringing the heat this Leo season. From Wu Tsang and Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s healing sonic cocoon at the Guggenheim to Martine Gutierrez’s iconic photographs at bus shelters across the city, there’s a lot of strong work to see and celebrate. Check out our selection below, and don’t forget your mask!

—Cassie Packard

Martine Syms: Loot Sweets

Installation view, Martine Syms: Loot Sweets, Bridget Donahue (image courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, NYC, photo by Gregory Carideo)

When: through September 25
Where: Bridget Donahue (99 Bowery, Chinatown, Manhattan)

Drawing inspiration from a sale of Janet Jackson’s personal belongings, Loot Sweets expands upon transdisciplinary artist Martine Syms’ explorations of the ways in which Black identities are articulated online and off. The works on view are characterized by a chaotic, dense, multilayered appearance that reflects a contemporary internet aesthetic and frame of mind. A video in which an animated avatar based on the artist continually dies and springs back to life, and a “merch table” topped with a bronze cast hair weave, suggest ambivalence around late-stage capitalism and highlight the demands that it places upon certain bodies.

Diedrick Brackens: Rhyming Positions

Diedrick Brackens, “nine patch momento” (2021), woven cotton and acrylic yarn, 84 1/2 x 79 1/2 inches (image courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery)

When: through August 20
Where: Jack Shainman Gallery (513 West 20th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)

Elegant, silhouetted figures lyrically bend, curve, dance, and sway in eight new narrative and allegorical tapestries by Los Angeles-based artist Diedrick Brackens. The intricate jewel-tone textiles situate their subjects in front of the moon or amid beds of roses, alluding to the healing that can happen when queer and femme folk commune with nature and with one another. An animistic iconography of catfish and rabbits draws upon the imagery of the American South as well as African and African-American folklore.

Lizania Cruz: Gathering Evidence: Santo Domingo & New York City

 Lizania Cruz, “¡Se Buscan Testigos! [Looking for Witnesses!]” (2021), documentation of happening, dimensions variable (image courtesy the artist and CUE Art Foundation)

When: through August 25
Where: CUE Art Foundation (137 West 25th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan)

New York-based Dominican artist Lizania Cruz presents the second chapter of Investigation of the Dominican Racial Imaginary, a project that examines identity in the Dominican Republic and diasporic Dominican communities. Cruz, whose work centers around audience participation, oral histories, and personal and national archives, posed questions to the public in Santo Domingo and New York City, which are documented in photographs, videos, and signage throughout the gallery. Addressing the place of anti-Haitian sentiment in the Dominican racial imaginary, the exhibition features 20 volumes representing some 200,000 birth certificates that were retroactively revoked for Dominicans of Haitian descent as part of a 2013 ruling.

Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well

Installation view of Gregg Bordowitz, “Fast Trip, Long Drop: (1993) in Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well, MoMA PS1 (image courtesy MoMA PS1, photo by Kyle Knodell)

When: through October 11
Where: MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave, Queens)

I Wanna Be Well spans three decades of Gregg Bordowitz’s work as an artist, activist, and writer devoted to documenting the AIDS crisis and the efforts of activist organizations, while also grappling with his own experience living with HIV. The survey, which Hyperallergic covered during its run at the Art Institute of Chicago, features some of Bordowitz’s most important video works, including video portraits created for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (considered the first AIDS organization in the US), as well as writing, sculpture, contributions by artist friends, and a variety of political and personal ephemera.

With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985

Installation view, With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985, Hessel Museum of Art, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson (image courtesy CCS Bard, photo by Olympia Shannon)

When: through November 28
Where: Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College (33 Garden Road, Annandale-on-Hudson)

This major survey of the Pattern & Decoration movement (P&D) features painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, and more by 45 artists who embraced craft-based and domestic art in the 1970s and ’80s, a time when the art world tended to frown upon anything “decorative.” The show, which was reviewed by Elisa Wouk Almino at its previous iteration at MOCA Los Angeles, pairs work by well-known P&D artists such as Miriam Schapiro and Robert Kushner with pieces by artists who were less commonly associated with the movement but working with overlapping concerns and interests, such as Al Loving and Faith Ringgold.

JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film

It’s a Summer Film! (© 2020 “It’s a Summer Film!” Production Committee, image courtesy Japan Society)

When: August 20–September 2
Where: online and at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street, Midtown East, Manhattan)

For its 15th edition, the celebrated festival of contemporary Japanese cinema will hold a combination of virtual and in-person screenings. Highlights include Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s period drama Wife of a Spy (2020), which is having its New York premiere; Kaizo Hayashi’s To Sleep So as to Dream (1986), an iconic postmodern tribute to Japanese silent cinema and film noir that has been newly restored in 2K; and Soushi Matsumoto’s It’s a Summer Film! (2020), a teen coming-of-age story that is having its US debut.

Martine Gutierrez: ANTI-ICON

Martine Gutierrez, “Cleopatra” (2021), photographic work commissioned by Public Art Fund for Martine Gutierrez: ANTI – ICON presented on JCDecaux bus shelters across New York City’s five boroughs, Chicago, and Boston, 2021 (image courtesy the artist and Public Art Fund)

When: August 25–November 21
Where: JCDecaux bus shelters across New York City

Brooklyn-based artist, writer, and performer Martine Gutierrez is perhaps best known for her 2018 Indigenous Woman magazine, in which she celebrated and explored her own fluid identity as a Latinx transwoman of indigenous descent. Her newest project, on view at 300 JCDecaux bus shelters across New York City, Chicago, and Boston, features 10 new photographs in which the artist embodies the image and spirit of classical figures such as Aphrodite, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I, and Mulan, posing questions about iconicity and representation.

Marcia Schvartz: Works, 1976–2018

Installation view, Marcia Schvartz: Works, 1976–2018, 55 Walker (image courtesy the artist and Bortolami Gallery, kaufmann repetto, and Andrew Kreps Gallery, photo by Kristian Laudrup)

When: through September 7
Where: 55 Walker (55 Walker Street, Tribeca, Manhattan)

Marcia Schvartz’s first US survey show features 22 artworks from across her career, including those made during or about Argentina’s “Dirty War” (1976-1983), in which a brutal military junta tortured, murdered, and forcibly “disappeared” an estimated 30,000 people. The 66-year-old Argentine, who was a target and for a time self-exiled to Spain before returning home, has made populist paintings of the people in her community; works imagining those who have died, particularly women; and frank, unflinching self-portraits. Equally noteworthy are her landscapes, which feature fields of yarn or smatterings of shells and sand embedded in pigmented plaster.

Wu Tsang: Anthem

Wu Tsang, “Anthem” (2021), color video, with sound, with fabric and carpet, dimensions vary with installation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (© Wu Tsang, photo by David Heald; © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2021)

When: through September 6
Where: Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan)

For the Guggenheim’s summer 2021 Re/Projections program, in which a series of video and performance installations overtake the museum’s rotunda, multidisciplinary artist Wu Tsang made the breathtaking, immersive audiovisual installation “Anthem” (2021) in collaboration with singer, composer, and trans activist Beverly Glenn-Copeland. A spare, intent film portrait of Glenn-Copeland with a deep blue cast is projected on an 84-foot-high curtain, while passages of his moving music, layered with ambient noise, form a lush soundscape that is at once expansive and cocooning.

Coby Kennedy: Kalief Browder: The Box

Installation view, Coby Kennedy: Kalief Browder: The Box, Pioneer Works (organized by Negative Space and courtesy Pioneer Works, photo by Dan Bradica)

When: through September 19
Where: Pioneer Works (159 Pioneer Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn)

After being arrested on suspicion of having stolen a backpack, without anything remotely resembling an actual trial or conviction, Bronx teenager Kalief Browder was incarcerated at Rikers Island, where he would spend over 700 days in solitary confinement before committing suicide in 2015, two years after his release. Coby Kennedy’s steel and glass “box,” which is scaled to the inhumane dimensions of Browder’s solitary confinement cell, expounds upon the horrors of the American carceral system with sandblasted text on its various abuses and line renderings of Browder’s living quarters. For Freedoms, an artist-driven platform for civic engagement, is leading a four-part town hall on the issues explored in the work.

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