This month, bodies are everywhere — even when they’re not. Exhibitions across New York City delicately dissect the omnipresence of the body in abstract and virtual space, address corporeality’s constructed or collaged nature, explore the political potential of bodies in dialogue, and revel in the sheer absurdity of moving through the world in one of these things. Take care out there and enjoy.
When: through April 23
Where: Greene Naftali (508 West 26th Street, Ground Floor, Chelsea, Manhattan)
A bait fisherman by day and painter by night, Forrest Bess (1911-77) made symbolic abstractions inspired by an elaborate personal philosophy that tied hermaphroditism to immortality and prompted him to explore body modification. For The Forrest Bess Variations, contemporary artist Richard Hawkins, whose work grapples with bodily taboos via (counter)cultural reference points, probed Bess’s lexicon through a research deep dive, hypnagogia, and Jungian Active Imagination. Hawkins’s painted and collaged variations on Bess’s work incorporate legends that interpret the meaning of specific colors — white means “penetrable” — and shapes — a black line is a “prostate stimulator” and “sounding rod.”
When: through April 23 (Performance dates: April 1, 8, 14, 22 at 7:30pm)
Where: Bridget Donahue (99 Bowery, 2nd Floor, Chinatown, Manhattan)
“Why were you so curt in your appointment reminder text?” comes a whisper from the hidden speaker in a potted plant by an analyst’s couch. Comedic musical performer and obsessive list-maker Morgan Bassichis brings their subversive hilarity into a solo show context with offerings spanning videos (“My father told me one day I’d grow up and have a line of saunas,” Bassichis informs us), informational pamphlets (“Questions to Ask Before Visiting Marfa”), and to-do lists (“To do: Silent meals (conversation is peer pressure)”). The show will also feature a live solo performance, “Questions to Ask Beforehand,” directed by Tina Satter.
When: through April 30
Where: Nicola Vassell Gallery (138 10th Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan)
Taking its evocative title from Gayle Jones’s Corregidora (1975), a novel on intergenerational trauma, Closed Up Like A Fist features a group of 16 haunting collages and digital prints by Norwegian Nigerian artist and sociologist Frida Orupabo. Pinning together cut-up imagery, much of it culled from colonial archives, Orupabo constructs anonymous, fragmented Black women subjects, sometimes with White body parts. These figures variously spread their sweeping batwings, crush Black and White dolls underfoot, stare out from behind chairs, or hold out an apple as if it were a pistol in a Western shootout — or a gift.
When: through May 7
Where: Sapar Contemporary (9 North Moore Street, Tribeca, Manhattan)
A master of contemporary Mongol Zurag, Uuriintuya Dagvasambuu hails from a generation of Mongolian artists that revived a style of pictorial painting on secular and nationalist themes that was suppressed for the bulk of the 20th century under Soviet influence. Dagvasambuu’s fantastical, hyper-detailed paintings capture some of the surreality of the pandemic, remote work, and life online: A blue deity wears a protective mask on each of its many faces; a dachshund stretches across two Zoom screens, simultaneously inhabiting the deep sea and a meadow; icons from a phone’s home screen float above a roiling tumult of horses and sheep.
When: through May 7
Where: Mrs. (60-40 56th Drive, Maspeth, Queens)
In her sculpture-centric show too bad for heaven, too good for hell, Rose Nestler takes on the freakiness of femininity with discerning wit and a wicked sense of body humor. Wooden hands lift a tulle skirt to reveal a young woman/old woman optical illusion; a massive florid cone bra presides over a bent, phallic red candle; a parade of red high-heeled shoes circling around a frilly centerpiece evokes Hans Christian Andersen’s twisted fairy tale The Red Shoes. The exhibition also features a new video work exploring the phenomenon of women-produced TikToks dedicated to the satisfaction of playing with slime.
When: through May 7
Where: Yossi Milo Gallery (245 Tenth Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan)
In historically scaled mosaics made from marble, stone, glass, paint, found objects, and tile (some of which is cheekily printed to mimic marble), Brooklyn-based artist Cameron Welch brings a contemporary collage- or graffiti-style aesthetic to an ancient art form that has similarly prized flat, graphic imagery at many points in its history. These monumental mosaics are densely packed with a temporally and thematically diffuse iconography of cartoonish figures — ranging from a cross-eyed cowboy to an anti-police protester to a Modigliani-style nude — along with animals, handprints, ceramic pots, skulls, blood, and masstige clothing.
When: April 6–September 5
Where: Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking, Manhattan)
Hotly anticipated and only slightly delayed, the 80th edition of the Whitney Biennial is the brainchild of Whitney Museum curators David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards, who elected to follow a “series of hunches” about the present moment rather than a “unified theme.” The presentation features an artist list that is as interdisciplinary as it is intergenerational: The works of long-established artists such as Tony Cokes, Ralph Lemon, and Yto Barrada can be found alongside those of relative newcomers such as Aria Dean and Andrew Roberts, and several figures often more associated with literary arts — including Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, N.H. Pritchard, and Steve Cannon — are also given room to shine.
When: April 14–September 11
Where: El Museo del Barrio (1230 Fifth Avenue, East Harlem, Manhattan)
More than fifty years ago, artist and educator Raphael Montañez Ortiz, along with a coalition of community members, founded El Museo del Barrio to counter a dearth of local arts representation for Latinx and Caribbean creators. Now, the museum is honoring Ortiz with a survey spanning six decades of his work as an artist and activist. The exhibition includes early films and sculptures resulting from destructivist performances and deconstructions of everyday objects, reclamatory work springing from ethnoaesthetics, and later participatory performances rooted in ritual and breathwork.
When: April 23–June 26
Where: online & MoMA (11 West 53rd Street, Midtown, Manhattan)
Through multimedia installations and live performances, collaborators Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme create non-linear narratives that explore the politics of bodies in our endless — and endlessly catastrophic — present. The duo’s evolving project May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020–ongoing), which can be viewed as a multichannel video installation at MoMA or experienced online via Dia Art Foundation, grew out of an extensive collection of found online recordings of singing and dancing in public space in Iraq, Palestine, and Syria, and features new performances that the artists made in tandem with Ramallah musicians and a dancer.
When: April 29–July 10
Where: Japan Society (333 East 47th Street, Midtown East, Manhattan)
Not long after moving to New York in her twenties in 1964, Tokyo-born artist Kazuko Miyamoto became Sol LeWitt’s studio assistant, joined the women-led nonprofit A.I.R. Gallery, and, within a decade, secured her debut New York City solo show at 55 Mercer. Marking the first institutional survey of Miyamoto’s pioneering post-minimalist oeuvre, the Japan Society exhibition spans early paintings, string construction drawings, conceptual performances, and performalist kimono pieces, tracing the artist’s evolution and increasing interest in exploring her own intersectional identity in her work.