(Joyce) #1

14 THENEWYORKER,MARCH16, 2020


© LEIDY CHURCHMAN / COURTESY MATTHEW MARKS GALLERY


Is there anything Leidy Churchman can’t paint? Among the subjects
of the twenty-one paintings in the New York phenom’s new show
at the Matthew Marks gallery (through April 18) are a fever-dream
bedroom, a moonrise, a girl on a bike, a rose garden, a monkey-filled
forest from the Ramayana, hypnotic abstractions, and a laundry-room
sign. The palette runs from monochrome black to hot purple and pink;
dimensions change from a scant dozen inches to more than ten feet
wide. The only logic at work is intuitive, even oracular. The mood is less
image-overload restless than optimistically omnivorous—Churchman
seems hungry to paint the whole world in all its mystery and ordi-
nariness, two categories that often collide here. In Churchman’s deft
hands, a cropped closeup of an iPhone 11 (pictured above) assumes
a third-eye mysticism worthy of Hilma af Klint.—Andrea K. Scott

AT THEGALLERIES


Expressionism in general, and that of Pollock
in particular, lacks crucial sense. As for the
politics, consider the persistently leftward tilt
of American art culture ever since—a residual
hankering, however sotto voce, to change the
world.—P.S. (Through May 17.)


“Zilia Sánchez”


Museo del Barrio
“Soy Isla” is the title of Sánchez’s buoyant
retrospective, and, indeed, a trio of islands—
Cuba, Manhattan, Puerto Rico—shaped the
career of this soulful hybridist, who is finally
in the spotlight she has so long deserved.
(The show arrives after a triumphant run at
the Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C.)
Born in Havana in 1926, Sánchez lived in
Manhattan for a few years, in the early nine-
teen-sixties, where her efforts shifted from
competent, earthy abstractions, inflected by
Art Informel (seen early in the exhibition),
to radical shaped canvases, which she has
continued to refine for the past fifty years
in her longtime home of San Juan. These
pared-down bicolor symmetries, which pro-
trude and recede—imagine a Rorschach test
co-designed by Lee Bontecou and Ellsworth
Kelly—are at once carnal and cosmic. Not
exactly paintings but not really sculptures,


they float something new, in a restrained
palette of black, white, peach, and fathomless
blues.—A.K.S. (Through March 22.)

Agnes Denes
The Shed
CHELSEA This sui-generis artist has long envi-
sioned—and occasionally realized—exception-
ally humane public projects. Her best-known
piece is “Wheatfield—A Confrontation,” from
1982, for which the New York-based artist culti-
vated two acres of grain near the Twin Towers to
draw attention to global hunger. In 1993, Denes
transformed a gravel pit in Finland into a small
mountain patterned with eleven thousand trees,
each one assigned its own human custodian.
New drone footage of that piece is on view in
the expansive, overdue retrospective “Abso-
lutes and Intermediates,” impeccably curated
by Emma Enderby (assisted by Adeze Wilford).
Two numinous sculptures, commissioned for
the exhibition, bring a pair of the artist’s sche-
matic “Pyramid” drawings—a series she began
in 1971—into three dimensions. In the first new
work, conceived on paper in 1976, thousands of
translucent, compostable bricks form a lumi-
nous seventeen-foot-high pyramid. In the sec-
ond sculpture, an electromagnetic model for the
1984 drawing “Teardrop—Monument to Being

Earthbound,” a glowing nine-inch-high ellipse
levitates like a candle flame above a circular
base—a melancholic architectonic memorial for
our threatened planet.—J.F. (Through March 22.)

Sydney Licht
Markel
CHELSEA For years, this New York artist has been
“looking at the overlooked,” as the art historian
Norman Bryson described still-life painting,
often reserving her most tender regard for the
pretty boxes and bags that are the throwaway tro-
phies of shopping. The charming, if scattershot,
canvases in Licht’s new show are colorful elegies
to the incidental, providing a good excuse for the
artist to revel in domestic pattern and decora-
tion. A cerulean-and-olive harlequin grid graces
a sleeveless blouse on a white hanger; curvilinear
geometries harmonize in a sweet picture of a
Wiener Werkstätte-like pillow against the slatted
back of a chair.—A.K.S. (Through March 28.)

Curtis Talwst Santiago
The Drawing Center
DOWNTOWN In “Can’t I Alter,” a transporting mul-
timedia installation, this Canadian-Trinidadian
artist continues his speculative exploration of a
Moorish knight, whom he discovered—online,
some years ago—in a Northern Renaissance
painting of a busy public square in Portugal.
After locating the anonymous sixteenth-century
work in Lisbon, Santiago’s fascination with the
representation of this black European noble-
man was complicated by the painting’s horrific
background scene, which depicts the torture of
Africans. In drawings, paintings, sculptures, and
a video, Santiago constructs a mythic past for the
figure he has dubbed the “J’ouvert Knight,” who
wears multicolored, beaded armor. The artist
draws on his own family history (both real and
imagined) to create faux artifacts—from the glass
nose of a defaced bust to replicated fragments of
medieval drawings—that he displays in stage-set-
like ruins that evoke both ancient stone walls and
contemporary construction scaffolding. An ac-
companying poster identifies the diverse objects
on view, mimicking the language of museum
labels as it illuminates the conceptual complexity
of Santiago’s premise.—J.F. (Through May 10.)

Allison Schulnik
P.P.O.W.
CHELSEA Sticky, frenzied accretions of colorful
paint resemble the wreckage of tiny tornadoes
in this California artist’s new show, titled
“Hatch.” Schulnik’s distinctive impasto tech-
nique lends her subjects—babies, seashells, wild
animals, pets—a curious depth. The built-up
areas jut out from the surface of her pictures
in defiance of pictorial logic. In “Rickles #1,”
the haunch of a Pekinese emerges from dark-
ness like an island of buttercream. “Tupelo #1”
portrays the artist’s daughter as a wide-eyed
infant on a red rug—a smeary, sweetly gro-
tesque alien in patchwork overalls. Schulnik’s
flickering animation “Moth” is a lovely foil to
her pigment-laden canvases, which have the
heft of bas-reliefs. Set to a spare composition
by Erik Satie, its gouache-on-paper images pair
washy translucence with chalky voids in a lovely,
three-minute story of metamorphosis.— J. F.
(Through March 21.)