September finds New Yorkers reluctantly getting back down to business after three welcome months of sun and listless long weekends. But watching summer recede in the rearview mirror isn’t all bad: along with some breezy relief from the heat, the first week of September heralds the start of a new season of exhibitions at galleries all over the city. This year’s offerings run the gamut from heavy-hitting post-minimalist sculpture in Chelsea to a crop of notably good group shows downtown.
In “Palmist and Editor,” the Los Angeles-based painter Alex Olson’s second solo show at Lisa Cooley, a suite of unabashedly pretty abstractions reward closer examination. Olson focuses on the painted surface, and her compositions create a delicate and lovely interplay between color and texture. Olson used a number of implements—including trowels, cheap brushes, knives, and scrapers—to execute the works on display. Though they vary greatly in mood and technique, they collectively reflect Olson’s deft sensitivity to the interplay of colors and her ability to imbue flat surfaces with great depth through layering methods that are both physical and a trick of perception. Through October 28 at Lisa Cooley, 107 Norfolk Street.
At Invisible Exports, the work of three very different artists gel to create “Props for Memory,” an excellent group show. Two young artists, the painter Paul P. and the multimedia artist Amanda Ross-Ho, are shown alongside the great Joseph Beuys in an exhibition that is explicitly about the frailty and failings of human memory. Paul P. is best known for his soft-focus, often treacly portraits of bantamweight teens (he culls his source material from vintage gay porn). His dreamy depictions of youthful beauty have the same borderline-kitsch aftertaste as the work of Elizabeth Peyton (along with its easy mass appeal), but here a series of half-remembered landscapes have the airy, romantic quality of a fading dream. Meanwhile, Ross-Ho’s pegboard assemblages are pulled together from bits and pieces of decidedly unromantic objects. They are tokens of the everyday, and at the same time they attest to the mnemonic power of the souvenir, no matter how utilitarian. Beuys’s Economic Value tableaus—a highly personal collection of discontinued consumer products that bears no outside referent—are also on display. Taken together, these disparate takes on remembrance feel lopsided, necessarily incomplete, and hence are deeply touching: they are an ode to the moments and objects that shape our understanding of our lives and ourselves, often for reasons we never fully understand. Through October 21 at 14A Orchard Street.
A little further uptown, Chris Dorland’s “Permanent Vacation” at Winkleman is a psychedelic jumble of garish paintings and collages. Like many young artists, Dorland is captivated by that aesthetic inadvertently birthed by the weirdest, saddest corners of late-night TV from the VHS era—the kohl-colored throwback future of The Terminator and Scanners. Dorland’s work is full of dark humor—his canvases are pieced together from the flotsam of current pop culture at its most mundane, while simultaneously exposing the insidious financial and industrial forces that keep the machine running. Claustrophobic semi-abstractions in acid hues come off like the world’s most dystopic Trapper Keeper covers, while familiar corporate logos are recast in slick, dark gradients on canvas the color of magnetic tape. Is that the Chase insignia, or is it Skynet? Through October 20 at 621 West 27th Street.
Tony Smith’s monumental Source dominates the gallery at Matthew Marks. An enormous, black, faceted steel form weighing over twelve thousand pounds, Source was originally created for Documenta IV in Kassel in 1968. This is the first time the piece has been exhibited in New York. Smith worked as an architect for decades before transitioning to art making full-time, and Source reflects his belief that the problems of art and architecture are the same. Smith’s work has a flinty, dynamic effect on the rectangular confines of the generous gallery space that contains it. This is a piece best appreciated on approach, or from the perspective of a circumambulatory stroll, as the dark slanted surfaces inhale and refract the changing light that pours in from the skylights above. Through October 27 at 522 West 22nd Street.
Not far away, Robert Irwin, another post-minimalist titan, takes the spotlight at Pace for the second time this year. Irwin, who is eighty-four, has relentlessly pursued questions about perception across six decades and a remarkable range of media. His body of work is nuanced, ephemeral, exceedingly subtle, and at its best, almost incomparably sublime. The highlight of this second half of Pace’s “Dotting the i’s and Crossing the t’s” is Irwin’s seamless acrylic columns, realized for the first time at a full height of fifteen feet, as originally conceived. Visually, the sculptures are barely there, creating a subtle shift in the light and space of the room, and in so doing, bringing our perception of perspective and parallax into sharp focus. Through October 20 at 510 West 25th Street.