Sonia Gechtoff: Objects on the New Landscape at Bortolami and Andrew Kreps Gallery
A collection of historical works by the Ukrainian-Jewish-American artist Sonia Gechtoff brings to view paintings from the early sixties to the early aughts. Gechtoff, who died in 2018, had a long and robust career that included exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Walker Art Center, and more. She steadily explored sharp lines and dynamic shapes—not the most pleasing ones, but certainly very vivid. The acrylic paintings in the show are covered in jittery lines in graphite. These paintings are uneasy, like windows into a storm, they are renderings of deadly waves and winds. The artist, who died before the full-scale war in Ukraine, did not see the tragic shift in her country’s landscape. Yet it’s hard not to see her work as a reflection on the images of destruction. Something pushed Gechtoff to investigate the visual language of harshness for as long as she painted, and the result is an impressive, irritating, challenging body of work.
Alexandria Tarver: New Paintings at Deli Gallery
The concept of a series of small paintings of flowers on a dark ground with an oily, shiny surface might seem ambivalent. At first, one might think: ‘Don’t we have enough of these?’ Flowers are an easy subject matter, the size is sellable and common, and the works are as easy as wallpaper. But giving them a closer look will bring enchantment. The rich, dark color of the background in all paintings throws the glowing flowers onto the viewer. Most paintings in the series also have markings on them that seem like a layer of paint was removed, leaving round lines that resemble handwriting. The glossy wood panels are close to religious icons in their materiality. The paintings are, after all, heavy, despite the simple and monotonous subject. They seem to belong to the emotional sphere of a painful breakup or even grief. The flowers look on the brink death—drying out— and the dusky skies are pressing on the soul. Something is over, gone. But on my way out, I read the press release and feel empty again. The artist finds inspiration on evening walks around New York City, taking pictures on her phone. How should I put it simply? I did not want to know that. The evening walk is not so romantic or relevant; we all like walks around our city, and we all know about pictures on the screen. If these paintings are intended to be elevated from the mundane, then this information smacks them back into the banal. I was also disappointed to learn that all four solo shows Tarver had in the gallery were titled New Paintings. In short, good paintings, unfortunate writing.
Kari Cholnoky: Horizontal Loader at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
How we love good sculpture. Sculptures that actually look good from all angles and pull you in with a critical richness of material. Work that interacts with our bodies in a way that respects us being three-dimensional and dynamic just like the eager viewer. Kari Cholnoky is one to take us on that ride. The vibrant colors together with the hairy textures and spiky shapes are no less than an invitation for a psychedelic trip, a positive one. There are many layers to look at and nooks and creases to peek into. If you get tired of the messy structure, there are tiny sweet paintings to lay your eyes on. Some are abstract, some are from the world of cartoons. Next to them you will see a bloody old bandaid, furry edges, laser-cut plastic and paper pulp shaped by hand. This stuff is cool, like a tattooed teenage boy on a skateboard, and spiritually grasping like an old healer woman. Let’s have more of these in 2024.