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Art Reviews

New York Galleries: What to See Right Now

Sol LeWitt’s book art; Ridley Howard’s paintings; Kahlil Robert Irving’s assemblages; Yvonne Thomas’s abstractions; and William Powhida’s critical chart-paintings.

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CreditCreditvia Printed Matter, Inc

Through Oct. 1. Printed Matter; 231 11th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-925-0325, printedmatter.org.

Last week at MoMA PS1, an epic sprawl of artists’ books were on display at New York Art Book Fair, which was started by the nonprofit organization Printed Matter. You can still visit Printed Matter’s Chelsea location, however, and see more than 75 books by the conceptual artist and sculptor Sol LeWitt, one of the organization’s founders, in the show “Book as System: The Artists’ Books of Sol LeWitt.”

Mr. LeWitt was part of an art generation that explored alternatives to traditional studios and galleries. Instead, he developed rigorous “systems” that explored the rudiments of visual art and could be illustrated in books he made and published. Display cases here hold Mr. LeWitt’s books, each of which dealt with a particular theme: lines, circles, cubes, grids and colors. Very often Mr. LeWitt worked in an algorithmic mode, playing out all the permutations of a self-defined system or category.

The show, which starts with works from 1967, includes Mr. LeWitt’s contribution to a famous project, “The Xerox Book,” published in 1968 by the gallerist Seth Siegelaub. Mr. LeWitt continued working in book form until his death in 2007, the books often accompanying gallery shows of his spare geometric sculptures or immense wall drawings. Although the stripped-down systems here can seem dry to the uninitiated, the books show how simple ideas can be exponentially expanded (and reproduced and disseminated). The book form is bounded only by the artist’s imagination and modest means, rather than the physical walls of a gallery or the commercial art market system.

MARTHA SCHWENDENER


Through Oct. 5. Berry Campbell, 530 West 24th Street, Manhattan; 212-924-2178, berrycampbell.com

In the early 1960s, Yvonne Thomas (1913-2009) was one of many painters seeking a more rational, methodical alternative to the untethered, intuitive and often outsize gestures of Abstract Expressionism. The French-born Ms. Thomas — who came to the United States as a child and was a regular on the New York art scene after 1950 — made a series of modest but radiant proto-Minimalist works that, as seen in this moving show, “Windows and Variations: Paintings From 1963-65,” may be the best of her career.

Until around 1960, Ms. Thomas’s loose patches of color had been relatively generic, a de Kooning-infused form of Abstract Expressionism, albeit sensitive in its paint-handling and palette. But gradually she simplified: reducing the numbers of colors and limiting her shapes to a repeating pattern of lozenges or, often, fat, short brush strokes that suggest a form of counting.

Leaning this way and that, these elements floated in horizontal rows before fields of related hues. In “Transition” (1963), for example, yellow ocher, green and black repeatedly change places, defining shiny strokes and then matte background areas, almost in a kind of dance. In “Variations,” also from 1963, shades of red prevail fore and aft, but additions of white and black create shifting lights, shadows and shimmers. The repetition of identical elements would be foundational to Minimalism, but Ms. Thomas was less strict and more expressive. She kept her hand in, adding a fresh directness of touch, and the results give her a place in the still-emerging saga of postwar American abstraction.

ROBERTA SMITH


Through Oct. 12. Postmasters, 54 Franklin Street, Manhattan; 212-727-3323, postmastersart.com.

Despite the art world’s progressive reputation, the networks of money and power that dominate it are vexingly opaque. In response, some artists have worked hard to let in the light. Among them is William Powhida, who uses research, text and a realist style to marry flippant social commentary with trenchant political critique.

Mr. Powhida has been pursuing his form of truth telling for years, but his exhibition “Complicities” at Postmasters feels like a breakthrough. Whereas previous efforts could seem insular or nihilistic, the new show sees Mr. Powhida earnestly broadening his scope and digging deeper than before. The artist hasn’t lost his sense of humor, but he has gained a better idea of when to tell a joke.

Here the jokes are delicate paintings of memes made by Mr. Powhida and first posted on Instagram; in one, a scene from the horror movie “Halloween” is captioned, “When you find out how your collector makes money.” These punctuate the stars of the show: seven chart-paintings that map out such subjects as the family tree of the Sacklers, whose pharmaceutical company helped fuel the opioid epidemic, and decades of neoliberal economic and legislative policies under the last six United States presidents. There are fewer quips in these artworks than dense layers of information tracing an inordinately complex web of capital, culture and corruption. Spend time with them. The more you do, the more implicated and motivated you may become.

JILLIAN STEINHAUER


Through Oct. 13. Marinaro, 1 Oliver Street, Manhattan; 212-989-7700, marinaro.biz.

Ridley Howard’s new “Light Paintings” at Marinaro are suffused with sunlight, steeped in dusk or suggest deep-black universes. The canvases evoke other definitions of “light,” however, reminding you that most of our visual models these days originate outside of art, in popular places like the internet, television or advertising.

The two young women posed against a peachy backdrop in “Pink Sky and Plastic Frames” (all works are from 2019) are reminiscent of an advertisement for sunglasses, while the disembodied profile heads and geometric forms floating through “Shape Visions” are like an ’80s demonstration for digital graphic design. Other paintings depict static sunbathers, tepid lovers or an outdoor showing of Andy Warhol’s “screen tests.”

The common denominator in “Light Paintings” is a controlled anodyne effect like what you see in Alex Katz’s paintings, Warhol’s oeuvre or much of the Pop Art canon. What Mr. Howard adds to this art history, however, is the knowledge that, even after the internet, painting can pull off tricks and subtleties no other medium can. His work is cool and calculated like Pop from the ’60s, but it’s generous, too, veering toward the lightness of a given situation — from a kiss to a modeling session — rather than the existential darkness.

MARTHA SCHWENDENER


Through Oct. 20. Callicoon Fine Arts, 49 Delancey Street, Manhattan; 212-219-0326, callicoonfinearts.com.

In “Black Ice,” his outstanding sophomore show at Callicoon Fine Arts, Kahlil Robert Irving takes a longer view of history. He’s still making trompe-l’oeil ceramic replicas of everyday objects, from a scrap of corrugated cardboard to a clamshell takeout container. In the first show, in 2017, small piles of those replicas were often adorned with newspaper headlines relating to Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. The current show includes four white ceramic tiles overlaid with text from the verdict that acquitted a former police officer, Jason Stockley, in the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24-year-old black man.

Most of the replicas, though, are embedded this time in the show’s imposing title piece, a grid of 80 handsome black clay rectangles that sit on an elegant wooden platform six inches off the floor. Mr. Irving’s process of reproducing familiar objects from scratch seems to argue that there’s no escaping your context, or even that, as Ecclesiastes says, there’s nothing new under the sun. Your imagination is as conditioned as anything else by your lived experience, and certain facts of history are impossible to escape. Taken alone, this would make for a bleak, though compelling, political statement and a dispiriting view of art. But what Mr. Irving does with his replicas — the restless and inventive way he combines and recombines them — makes an opposite point, one charged with hope and excitement: that everything is always changing, and that even if some details persist, their context is never the same.

WILL HEINRICH

Correction: 

An earlier version of a review of “Black Ice” referred incorrectly to the source of a text. It was from the verdict that acquitted a former police officer, Jason Stockley, of murder, not from his malicious prosecution lawsuit.

A version of this article appears in print on , Section C, Page 19 of the New York edition with the headline: Galleries. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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