‘Acquired on eBay (and from other surrogate sources)’
Through Feb. 23. Mitchell Algus, 132 Delancey Street, 2nd Floor, Manhattan; 516-639-4918; mitchellalgusgallery.com
“Acquired on eBay (and from other surrogate sources)” comes on like a magnetic cornucopia of paintings and drawings by dozens of mostly midcentury artists, many now obscure, contextualized by sundry photographs and books. It mirrors the narrowness of established taste, the fickleness of the art market and the friendships forged among artists that help them survive. The effect is alternately informative, sobering and weirdly optimistic and ineffably touching. A parting wisdom: Collecting art is less about money than about passion, curiosity and persistence. If you truly love art for itself, not for status or investment, you will find things you can afford.
Few people are better equipped to organize this show than Mitchell Algus, a longtime advocate for forgotten or overlooked artists, with an abiding interest in late Surrealism, both European and American. Many of the works were purchased by him or other lenders for not much money on eBay. Some pieces surfaced in antique stores, out-of-the-way auctions or artists’ estates. A few were artists’ gifts to or trades with Mr. Algus — once an artist himself. Note the bold abstraction by Edward Avedisian, whose 1960s canvases Mr. Algus resurrected in the 1990s.
Some names here are well known, including the artists Elaine de Kooning, Hans Bellmer and Pavel Tchelitchew; the filmmaker Hollis Frampton and the composer Virgil Thomson. Others ring few bells. These include Darrel Austin (1907-1994), who is represented by the robustly painted “Wiley Fox,” from 1970; and Karl Priebe (1914-1976), the creator of four dreamy fantasy portraits of large-eyed beauties. Yet in the mid-1940s, each artist was the subject of a Life Magazine feature. A large lacy ink drawing of a country house is by one Elie Lascaux (1888-1968), who exhibited with Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Picasso’s art dealer. Don’t miss a small enticing undated painting of onions by Mary Meigs (1917-2002), described in Mr. Algus’s checklist as “a writer, artist and L.G.B.T. standard-bearer” and the inspiration for Dolly Lamb, a frustrated artist, in Mary McCarthy’s novel “A Charmed Life.” Said book is displayed nearby with a photograph of McCarthy by Charles Henri Ford, editor of the art magazine View. And next to an image by an unknown photographer of the artist Jack Smith and the actress Maria Antoinette Rogers on the train to Coney Island hangs a fine 1965 drawing that depicts Smith’s name carved in looming rock, à la Mount Rushmore. It is by John Hawkins, about whom Mr. Algus knows nearly nothing. As of yet.
‘Depicting Duchamp: Portraits of Marcel Duchamp and/or Rrose Sélavy’
Through Feb 28. Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, 24 West 57th Street, Suite 305, Manhattan; 212-582-3201, francisnaumann.com.
Beyond the Chelsea galleries, away from the new made-for-Instagram art amusements, New York is still home to scholarly, specialist dealers whose reappraisals and rediscoveries keep art history moving. A leading figure among them is Francis M. Naumann, who has presented all sorts of Dada delights for two decades in his Midtown Manhattan gallery, and who is this city’s most fervent guardian of the flame of Marcel Duchamp.
But these days, art galleries operate on margins that the French-born artist would call “inframince” (infrathin, barely perceptible). Mr. Naumann is closing his Midtown space this month, and his business will function as a private concern. His touching farewell show, “Depicting Duchamp,” includes a century’s worth of portraits, by more than 50 artists, of the gallery’s patron saint. Jasper Johns, by cutting a stencil board, and Ai Weiwei, with a bent wire hanger, both crafted silhouettes of Duchamp that make a signature of his trademark aquiline nose. The Japanese photographer Yasumasa Morimura crosses lines of race and gender to pose as Rrose Sélavy, Duchamp’s alter ego. There are photographic portraits by Irving Penn and Man Ray, and depictions by all three of Duchamp’s artist siblings: Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Jacques Villon and Suzanne Duchamp.
It’s a classically Duchampian irony that, even as all artists now work in the shadow of his bicycle wheel and upturned urinal, he inspired so much of the figurative painting he knocked as “retinal” art. (Doesn’t hurt that the last century’s most enduringly influential artist was also one of its most handsome.) Some of the weirdest and greatest came about in 1977, on the occasion of the Duchamp retrospective that inaugurated the Centre Pompidou in Paris — for which the illustrator André Raffray painted a dozen touching gouaches of the young Duchamp buying his bottle rack or carrying his “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Seeing them here, in Mr. Naumann’s final show, left me desperately nostalgic for a New York still open to figures who made their whole life into art.
Through Feb. 21 at Bortolami, 55 Walker Street, Manhattan; 212-727-2050; bortolamigallery.com.
Madeline Hollander identifies as a choreographer but she works at the outer edges of dance — and not always with humans. A performance she created on the beach at Far Rockaway, Queens, included a sand-cleaning truck; another featured office chairs moving around a gallery. She also developed movement sequences for Jordan Peele’s horror film “Us” (2019).
For “Heads/Tails,” her new show at Bortolami, Ms. Hollander has mounted dozens of used car headlights and taillights on the gallery walls and synced them with the traffic signal at the nearby intersection of Broadway and Walker Street. The gentle on-off rhythm of red and white lights in the gallery is controlled by an interface programmed from data that tracks the movement of drivers in that area. Part of Ms. Hollander’s work was the arduous process of obtaining permission to have access to this system from the city’s Traffic Management Center at the Transportation Department.
There’s an eerie disconnect here between quiet gallery and noisy street, as well as technologically “programmed” versus artistically “choreographed.” Ms. Hollander burrows into these fissures. The private contemplation of art becomes tied to hoards of strangers moving throughout the city. In today’s world, everything is connected, networked and interfaced. Ms. Hollander highlights this phenomenon but also glimpses into the post-human future, where links between programmed apparatuses and humans will be, presumably, even more prevalent and profound.
Since I saw some of them at David Zwirner last week, I’ve been struggling to understand why Yun Hyong-keun’s paintings from the late 1980s and early ’90s are so enthralling. A Korean who became famous as part of the postwar dansaekhwa movement, Yun spent decades, before he died in 2007, painting simple stripes and blocks with thin, overlapping layers of burnt umber and ultramarine. Dansaekhwa literally means “monochrome,” but the dansaekhwa group were artists who found a bridge between Western-style modern art and Korean aesthetic traditions, not necessarily with strict monochrome, but in an overall focus on material surfaces and minimal elegance.
There’s the color, of course. Ultramarine and burnt umber combine into a distinctly sweet and mysterious black. You register both tones at once but can’t distinguish them. This feels like a spiritual experience — it pits an intuitive certainty against the inadequacy of your own conscious perceptions. Then there’s the confidence of those smoky but unmistakable edges with their occasional halos of brownish static. Set against the densely textured raw linen Yun painted on, these assertive lines are another appealing certainty, one unshaken by emptiness all around them. But in the end, I think what fascinates me is the way that every black rectangle, whether tall and narrow or one of several, echoes the shape of the canvas it’s painted on. It makes them into paintings within paintings, or like shadows peeled up off the ground and reattached to the objects that cast them.