Tonight, Manhattan galleries will open their doors for an extended first-look of fall exhibitions. Don’t be dissuaded by the rain; there are some exceptional offerings this year, from remixed retrospectives, to solo shows that spill out of the front door and over the facade, to irreverent painting that subvert some of art histories most hallowed masters. Treat it as a breather from the breakneck buffet of art fairs across the island.
Here are five exhibitions to add to your season’s to-do list.
1.Helen Mirra at Peter Freeman
I would call the “green holotrope”, a solo show of new and past work by Helen Mirra, a retrospective, but not in the conventional sense. Rather than an outside force proposing an overarching meaning in her oeuvre, Mirra has taken that responsibility upon herself. Many of the new canvases are revisions to some of her best-recognized work, and eschew notions of a sacrosanct oeuvre in favor of a live-wire take on art-marking, one that acknowledges that meaning is derived from the self; and the self is always changing. Several sections from the geodesic textile-work “Sky-wreck”, unseen in the United States since 2001, have returned to New York. In its first iteration, Mirra flattened 110 triangles of indigo-dyed fabric over a large part of the floor. It was a bit playful, dragging the heavens to earth in a corporeal form. The pieces have fallen apart in its second life, torn apart on a whim, in a reflection of our ruined biosphere.
Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase excels at reimagining domestic environments—the barbershop, laundromat, and bedroom—as refuges for queer Black people. “I’m not saying that anyone’s excluded, but my audience is my own people,” Lyndon Chase told ARTnews in 2021. “I want them to feel seen.” In his first institutional solo exhibition in New York, titled “his beard is soft, my hands are empty”, the passion behind this purpose is felt. Moving through the ground floor of Artists Space, visitors will find canvases, drawings, and soft sculptures that, when treated as parts of a sum, make obvious that we are being trusted with private wishes and regrets. As part of the show, Chase will transform the exterior of the building into the facade barbershop, “complete with its tri-colored barber pole,” says the gallery.
3.Jesse Mockrin at James Cohan
“The Venus Effect”, an exhibition of new paintings by Jesse Mockrin, opens today and is a can’t miss. Mockrin arrives at her first solo exhibition with the gallery with a fully realized remix of the tenants of Old Master painting: nude, voluminous forms, self-reference, and unreliable perspectives. Mockrin applies this to a stirring study of the studier—the men who make and stare at female muses; thankfully, these graceful ladies have the last laugh. In art historical terms, “The Venus Effect” is when the goddess is depicted looking into a mirror, fooling the viewer into where her gaze is trained. Mockrin makes this an apt metaphor for another art tradition, the painting of women in scenes of self-obsession, when the brush is in the hands of a man.
4.Bony Ramirez at Jeffrey Deitch
“Since moving to the United States at thirteen, Bony Ramirez has never returned to the Dominican Republic,” so begins the press release for “TROPICAL APEX”, which opens on Saturday. It’s relevant background, as it explains the joyful conflation of memory and fantasy in this solo show of mixed media paintings and taxidermy sculpture. Drawing on vivid, if unreliable, impressions from youth, Ramierz has made his own scrapbook of DR, or at least the DR of his dreams. And what a place that must be: ornamental as an odalisque but roiling beneath its paradisiac veneer with the complexities of Caribbean history, shaped as it was by colonial interference.
5.Ben Sakoguchi at Ortuzar Projects
“Belief & Wordplay”, Ortuzar Projects’ second exhibition with Pasadena-based artist Ben Sakoguchi, is a mammoth survey, comprising 94 canvases painted over the last five decades. A credit to Sakoguchi and the curation, no piece is a waste of space. There’s a macabre humor about his pictorial style—it takes a second’s inspection to spot the commercial imagery crowding, for example, a brilliant canyon vista. The most exciting entry, however, may be the multi-canvas work Comparative Religions 101 (2014/2019), exhibited publicly for the first time. This “classically Californian brand of conceptualism” (the gallery’s words) relies on the viewer to play an association game with disparate captions and images—and you do, even trying your best, until you realize the game is rigged, and that meaning in a capitalist America is a endlessly manipulated variable.