Here Are the Five New York Exhibitions You Have To See Before the Year Ends
With the holiday bustle just weeks away, time is running out on art year 2023. Fortunately, New York is anything but sleepy—galleries often save their best artists for a last hoorah, and the next month and a half is no exception. Whether you’ve booked a visit or call the cultural core home, Duly Noted is here with the five exhibitions you can’t miss in Manhattan before the ball drops.
The One-Stop Option
If you only have time for one stop, make it Diana Al-Hadid’s first solo exhibition with KasminGallery, “Women, Bronze, and Dangerous Things,” unfolding across the West 27th Street space and the Kasmin Sculpture Garden. The new work spans the last five years of the Syrian-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s practice—a political and emotional lifetime.
The artist is known for colossal molten forms, deceptively ancient and gauzy, made of industrial goods like fiberglass and steel. Al-Hadid mined everything from cosmology to particle physics to Islamic texts during her 2021 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. New Yorkers are especially thrilled to have her back: Her ghostly, liquiform sculptures at Madison Square Park in 2018 rank among the city’s most engaging public art of recent memory (discerning viewers will appreciate an allegorical thread from “Delirious Matter”to the Kasmin show).
In 2020, Al-Hadid relocated to Upstate New York, a move she describes as one of her biggest life changes. “In collecting and growing many plants, indoors and outdoors, I felt I needed to learn about science and compost,” she says of the flora and fauna references in the exhibition. “This is similar to my studio work. I tend to want to understand the basic chemistry of a material before I know how to manipulate it.” She continues, “There is a kind of ‘plant logic’ in some of the works. My sculptures often start from the ground up, so it made sense to me to look at soil.” Al-Hadid also illuminates a migratory theme in the show, with rootbound plants serving as a metaphor for the immigrant experience and resilience.
Dana Schutz is an unbridled legend, whose ultra-vivid, tragicomic paintings command attention like few others of her generation. At both of David Zwirner’s Chelsea locations this month, the gallery unveils a major exhibition, “Jupiter’s Lottery,”to coincide with Schutz’s newly opened survey at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris.
Schutz paints wet-on-wet, populating her scenes with a semi-grotesque, evocative cast of characters—and sometimes bigger is better. Case in point: The Gathering, 2023, the show’s largest tableau—a cacophony of bulbous-nose beauty—is worth the trip to New York on its own.
In 2018, Schutz added sculpture to her practice, which plays a pivotal role in this exhibition. “Working with clay has been really direct,” she explains. “The material is so malleable; it’s always shifting in process. The forms feel very physical but so much of how they read is informed by light—how it interacts with the surface and its recesses.”
Jade Guanaro Kuriki-Olivo, known as Puppies Puppies, has made the New Museum’s Bowery lobby a spectacularly voyeuristic mise-en-scene that vaults Marina Abramović’s House with the Ocean View into the social media and trans exclusionary age of American politics.
The exhibition, “Nothing New,”recreates part of Kuriki-Olivo’s bedroom, periodically fogging glass to negotiate the relationship between artist and audience, while cameras capture Kuriki-Olivo as she travels to and from her apartment seven blocks away—blurring IRL and art installation, surveillance and participation.
Hauntingly aesthetic beneath the acid green glow of fetishized Akari lights, the work reminds us how, “endurance is existing as a trans woman of color in this society,” says Kuriki-Olivo. “I’ve thought about care quite a bit. The art world and art institutions are often, if not always, inhospitable.” In fact, she found this museum experience no different. “I realize now endurance is fighting the unspoken expectation to be grateful for the opportunities and stay quiet,” she says. “Endurance is fighting for your basic needs when a large institution benefits from your brain, work, and presence.”
“Nothing New” is on view through January 14, 2024 at the New Museum.
The Break Out Star
Every season an artist emerges with a collective, heightened buzz around them. As 2023 draws to a close, my money is on Karyn Lyons, whose solo exhibition, “The Trespasser and Other Tales” at Turn Gallery on the Upper East Side, debuted earlier this month. Suspended between the fictional and the biographical, Lyons creates a lush world of nostalgia-imagined film stills in pitch-perfect detail. You can practically hear and smell that sacred, liminal space of teen girlhood: a McDonald’s cup, the copy of Jane Eyre, that hickey under a sweet white blouse.
“My paintings are about my teenage memories, the embarrassment and shame and loneliness, but also about the beauty and hope,” says Lyons. “I believe in the saying that the more personal you make something, the more universal it becomes.”
The work, she continues, is meant to feel like songs in a minor chord. “In the studio, I start the day by putting on a playlist of music from my adolescence, everything from [Bob] Dylan to Traffic to Hendrix to the Velvet Underground,” she says. “I tack a piece of linen to the wall and start with a memory and go from there.” Equal parts gothic motif, ’80s iconography, and 15th-century Romanticism, Lyons is a painter who should be on everybody’s radar.
For more than three decades, British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare CBE has shed light on colonialism and the global slave trade by creating sculptural mannequins and library-shelf installations of hardcover books, camouflaged by Dutch wax print textiles. The signature batik fabrics were taken from Indonesia by the Dutch, mass produced in the Netherlands, and then popularized in West Africa.
It’s said about his practice that he uses beauty as a sly strategy to draw us in—and then it’s too late. But Shonibare’s latest solo exhibition at James Cohan, “Boomerang: Returning to African Abstraction,” exposes another form of colonialism— 20th-century painters who appropriated African aesthetics to create the great Western art movements.
In April, Shonibare will present at the Nigerian Pavilion, a group presentation in the country’s Venice Biennale. In Tribeca this month are new hand-painted bronze sculptures, a series of pictorial quilts, and the artist’s first tapestry to date, conveying the pivotal role of unnamed African artists in the legacies of names like Picasso, Matisse, and Miro, upending the myth of individualism and modernism. The show is an opportunity to see one of the world’s preeminent visual voices, and celebrate the creative force of African abstraction in the canon.