Fall Art Now: Ten Must-See Gallery Shows

In New York City, autumn is prime time for fine art. It’s the season to show and be seen among the changing and sometimes fickle “who’s who” clique of current (and veteran) art stars. Galleries will often reserve their most provocative and newsworthy exhibits for the start of the official art season, so it remains among the most exciting times of the year to go gallery hopping.

And while this survey is by no means complete (it represents our subjective overview of current shows), we did manage to include important seasoned favorites like Matthew Barney, Nick Cave, and sculptor Richard Serra, whose massive steel ribbons as easily caress viewers into a state of calm as they push them into an unmistaken uneasiness. We also gave shout-outs to newcomer Tim Okamura, whose multi-layered oil portraits of New Yorkers are as dense and detailed as the lives they depict. Overall, the fall art season is hitting a fevered pitch, with Chelsea, the Lower East Side and even galleries located in Brooklyn in neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint hitting important strides. We say bring it on!

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Paolo Ventura at Hasted Kraeutler

537 West 24 Street; On view September 8 – October 15

As they do in Do Ho Suh’s Home Within Home, miniature sets take center stage at Hasted Kraeutler, this time in the form of dreamy, languid photographs by former Italian fashion photographer Paolo Ventura in The Automation of Venice. Based on a story told to him by his father, Automation is set in a Venice ghetto in 1943 during the height of Nazism. Though the Jews have already escaped, a retired watchmaker walks the streets of the empty, surreal city and we are taken on his journey through a series of sets that were carefully created from found objects and then lovingly reproduced as large-scale photographs.

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Do Ho Suh at Lehmann Maupin Gallery

540 West 26 Street; On view September 8 – October 22

Witness a playful examination of crashing cultures in Do Ho Suh’s latest offering, an exhibit entitled Home Within Home at Lehmann Maupin Gallery. The showcase piece in the series, an impressive sculptural work called Fallen Star 1/5, literally shows the artist’s childhood home in Korea crashing into his adoptive home in Providence, Rhode Island. It is based on a private fictional narrative that Suh created for himself. In the fairytale-like story, Suh describes his journey from Asia as if he “dropped out of the sky” by tornado. The metaphor is not lost on viewers who see the display as if one small house was shot by a sling into the other with so much force that it destroyed its contents. Check out other elements of the exhibit too, like the series of ornately sewn household objects and an illuminated sculpture of the same Rhode Island property located in the back room.

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Susan Rothenberg at Sperone Westwater Gallery

257 Bowery; On view September 8 – October 22

Traditionalists in love with texture and tension will appreciate Susan Rothenberg’s latest paintings, a series of finely rendered ravens and dogs juxtaposed with other more abstract works. For decades Rothenberg has remained consistent, always carefully exploring figurative relationships in rich, painterly strokes that create luxurious, velvety images that border on the surreal. This Sperone Westwater show marks her tenth for the gallery since 1987 and another in a series that continues her exploration of figurative forms in minimalist abstractions.

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Johannes Kahrs at Luhring Augustine Gallery

531 West 24 Street; On view September 10 – October 22

German artist Johannes Kahrs presents new works at Luhring Augustine, marking his second exhibit there. Again using mass media as inspiration, Kahrs reinterprets his source material rendering the recreated images more mysterious, thus taking on other, sometimes loaded, meanings. In one, a cropped photograph of a seated man covered in injuries and bandages from an unspecified conflict sits off the frame and is blurred; in another, hands of two females caress the torso of a man whose head is also cropped off the canvas, allowing for open interpretation. An air of sexually lingers throughout.

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Nick Cave at Mary Boone Gallery / Jack Shainman Gallery

541 West 24 Street; On view September 10 – October 22

513 West 20 Street; On view September 8 – October 8

Nick Cave (not to be confused with the musician of the same name), creator of the sculptural forms known as ‘Soundsuits,’ takes over Chelsea with two concurrent shows this season, one at Jack Shainman that features current work—individual life-sized suits covered in long white fur and an inter-connected human-sized sculpture titled Speak Louder (2011) that was made from buttons, upholstery fabric, wire, and mannequins—and another at Mary Boone of earlier ‘Soundsuits.’ The second show, described as an “open playground,” celebrates exuberance, chaos, and color. See both to complete your encounter.

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Matthew Barney at Gladstone Gallery

530 West 21 Street; On view September 17 – October 22

Much can be made from Matthew Barney’s latest show at Gladstone Gallery, DJED, a series of industrial-looking sculptures and intricate drawings in the first New York show of his Ancient Evenings Project, which he began in 2007. The project was inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1983 novel of the same name in which the author describes the seven stages of a soul’s progression through the process of death and rebirth. Barney, taking a completely abstract approach, substitutes a 1967 Chrysler Imperial in the role of the soul being transformed, and as such, the metaphor of America’s decline of manufacturing swiftly enters the imagination. The fact that twenty-five tons of molten iron was poured from five custom-built furnaces in a derelict Detroit steel mill during the making of the works doesn’t hurt either.

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Richard Serra at Gagosian Gallery

555 West 24 Street; On view September 14 – November 26

Those who cannot get enough by sculptor Richard Serra will be pleased to find another compelling installation at Gagosian Gallery directly on the heels of the artist’s recent exhibit of drawings at MoMA this past summer. While compelling on their own, the drawings are no substitute for seeing the sculptures in person and walking among them. In this exhibit, viewers may walk inside and outside the forms continuously, unaware of any start or end point while enjoying the cavernous interiors that now divide the gallery in new ways. Don’t feel as if you’re the only one experiencing a feeling of inertia: Serra’s work is profound in that it gets under your skin, all at once making you feel both claustrophobic and exhilarated.

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Tim Okamura at Lyons Wier Gallery

542 West 24 Street; On view September 8 – October 8

Up-and-coming painter Tim Okamura keeps it real in Chelsea in a skillful series of urbanized portraits at Lyons Wier Gallery in the exhibit, Bronx – Brooklyn – Queens. Captured against crumbling urban facades, some of them sullied by layers of graffiti and dirt and set among broken bricks and other symbols of pre-gentrified New York, Okamura reveres his subjects in layer after layer of colorful oil paint in a lavishly rich surface before crowning them as royalty. The detail in these life-size paintings is impressive, as is Okamura’s loving respect for his subjects.

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Vered Sivan at Rooster Gallery

190 Orchard Street; On view September 7 – October 9

Israeli artist Vered Sivan offers a stunning examination of obsession and control in the focused show, Till Birth Do Us Part, currently on view at Rooster Gallery on the LES. Part performance, part installation, the exhibit in one section features a performer covered by threads, and upstairs, an entire room is made cocoon-like by thousands of miles of dental floss. The materials are simple and the message is straightforward, but Sivan has articulated a show of particular interest and she’s inspired our curiosity for more.

Honorable mentions go to David Byrne and Pace Gallery for A Tight Spot, the outdoor sculpture and sound loop that is currently showing under the High Line; the series of horrifically hirsute portraits by Zipora Fried at On Stellar Rays Gallery, and the lovely portraits by Psychedelic Furs’ frontman Richard Butler of his daughter at Krause Gallery, both on the LES.