White Cube? These 3 Art Shows Buck Convention | Modern Society of USA

White Cube? These 3 Art Shows Buck Convention

White Cube? These 3 Art Shows Buck Convention

Art galleries, especially those on the Lower East Side and its environs, can sometimes resemble found objects. Art dealers with shoestring budgets take the spaces as they are, or close to it. At the same time, artists often do more than simply show their work in them; they tweak them or execute substantial makeovers that temporarily turn the galleries into part of the art. Such shows are nearly always on view somewhere in New York’s sprawling gallery scene, and at the moment there are three very fine examples within a short distance of one another in downtown Manhattan.


Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Another video, this one on a small, flat-screen monitor, awaits on the other side of a trapdoor-like opening in the plywood wall. Even briefer than “Grounding,” it is titled “GTG TTYL” and shows Ms. Liden performing three simple acts of disappearance within the gallery itself. She hides, or takes cover, by climbing behind the gallery’s sofa, then a false wall and, finally, a large video screen. These short actions are each segmented into split-second moments that are isolated by the monitor’s going dark — interruptions like the falls in “Grounding.” The result is unexpectedly mysterious: choreographed stealth extended, through video, into oddly graceful, deconstructed dance.

Through Jan. 13 at 165 East Broadway, Manhattan; 212-477-5006, reenaspaulings.com.


Tramps

The German artist Kai Althoff is showing nearly 40 works, mostly small, characteristically strange paintings, in the warren of about 10 glass-walled offices that constitutes the gallery Tramps, on the second floor of a mall in Chinatown. Mr. Althoff has altered the vitrine-like display spaces, covering the floors with destabilizing sheets of heavy paper over slabs of foam, and the walls with more heavy paper, rice paper and raw cotton. He sometimes paints the paper deep mauve or adds brushwork to the glass. The result is a space that evokes alternating feelings of being oppressed and of being cosseted.

The paintings are fantastic and feral, both in execution and in suggested narrative; attenuated, often adolescent, sometimes gnomelike creatures populate them. The scenes often seem to illustrate, or at least conjure European, Japanese or Russian folk tales or children’s stories, reminding us that once upon a time such narratives were often violent, intended to warn the young against bad behavior.

There are benign scenes, like that of a group hanging up laundry outdoors, or one of a Buddhist teaching acolytes, as well as a series of images of women giving birth. Surfaces are deliberately murky, but careful examination clarifies both the goings-on and the artist’s eccentric paint handling (often more drawing than painting). Japanese screens; Degas’s monotypes of brothels; Vuillard’s fraught, richly colored surfaces; and Klimt’s lavish patterns may come to mind. But Mr. Althoff’s best efforts reveal larger, more ambiguous and dangerous worlds, full of life’s inescapable tensions, if not its sorrows.

Through Jan. 20 at 75 East Broadway, Manhattan; 212-988-1623, trampsltd.com.


56 Henry

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