3 Art Gallery Shows to See Right Now
Galleries and museums are getting creative about presenting work online. Some are open for in-person visits. Here are shows worth viewing either way.
The nine works anchoring Lisa Alvarado’s solo show, “Thalweg,” at Bridget Donahue aren’t definitively one thing or another. They’re paintings: brightly colored and abstract, with geometric patterns or expressionistic swaths. They’re also tapestries suspended from the ceiling, with fabric backing and trim.
Notably each one is titled “Thalweg (Traditional Object),” after a geological term that has multiple meanings, too, including a line that traces the lowest part of a valley or channel. Visually, they evoke natural elements like water and earth while referring to a number of traditions, among them Mexican textiles and European and American Modernist painting. But they borrow from and build on those sources to become something of their own.
Hybridity and in-betweenness are central to Ms. Alvarado’s practice. In addition to being a visual artist, she plays harmonium for the Natural Information a group founded by her husband Joshua Abrams that fuses styles to make experimental meditative music. Her hanging works take on yet another identity as set pieces for their performances.
At Bridget Donahue, the band supplies a droning, transportation audio piece that features the sound of running water — a motif that appears visually in four collages of Ms. Alvarado’s family photos, showing people of Mexican descent in Texas. Around that time, the U.S. government forcibly deported over a million people, many of them American citizens — including members of the artist’s family — to Mexico, in an act that’s euphemistically called “repatriation.”
It’s not really fair to compare Luc Sante’s new collages to his better-known writing, since he started making zine covers and wheat paste posters a good five decades ago. But while taking a long break from visual art, he got famous as a social: In books like “The Other Paris” and “Low Life,” about New York, the Belgian-born critic and professor strings together extraordinary quantities of striking detail about poverty and gutter nightlife in what is after all a virtuosic kind of collage in its own right.
In his first ever gallery appearance though one of three concurrent online-only shows at James Fuentes Gallery, Mr. Sante focuses on one or two details at a time. Whether on reclaimed ledger paper or vintage picture postcards, the images he constructs are something like found details themselves — singular and mysterious, if occasionally a little on the nose.
“America Falls” adapts a souvenir photo of a waterfall into a picture of a man sneezing out enormous pathogens — or possibly screaming something hateful. “A Stranger in Town” dates back to, but its flaming red skeleton on a black charger now reads as well as apocalypse, with an incidental reference, perhaps, to the recent resurgence of American socialism, while “Empty Plinth Society 1,” one of several to address the current toppling of monuments shows an erased General Robert E. Lee still taking up space atop his white horse.
My favourite is “Napoleon,” a simple superimposition of the French dictator’s imperial portrait atop a writhing ouroboros of old-timey wrestlers. Brute animal struggle crowning itself with laurel leaves: That’s pretty much where we are right now.