Four Knockout Group Shows to See Now
By Roberta Smith
From eight centuries of the art now called Surrealist to startling new takes on assemblage from Port-au-Prince, our critic finds a heady mix of old and modern, sex and politics in these powerhouse gallery shows.
Among New York’s many commercial galleries, there are group shows and then there are group shows, veritable extravaganzas that give the genre all they’ve got. These exhibitions are immersive and often densely packed; they can require of viewers the same stamina as museum shows (and often as much effort on the part of their organizers). They reach into the past or focus on other cultures. They show us the art of our era in new thematic arrangements, or the art of this-very-instant, from unfamiliar creators. Here are four of the city’s most energizing and eye-opening group shows, with subjects stretching from fantastic art of the sixteenth century to contemporary assemblage from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Each creates its own world, full of surprises and multiple rewards.
Katherine Bernhardt, who has been sarcastically transforming such elements for two decades, is the show’s éminence grise, represented by a new Day-Glo Pink Panther painting. But all artists have made their mark in one sphere or another, whether street art, the fashion world or the gallery scene, starting with Derrick Adams and Austin Lee, both experts of stylized figuration, and the ceramist Ruby Neri. Other enticements include the sexually charged paintings of Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Reginald Sylvester II’s Picasso/Basquiat fusion; Charlie Roberts’s ambitious carved wood and painted wood sculptures; Alexandra Bell’s “radical edits” of New York Times articles she has annotated and retitled, and Cheyenne Julien’s skillful graphite drawings — poignant views of black life through a slightly cartoonized lens.