Through July 31. The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, Manhattan; 212-255-5793, thekitchen.org.
Even if you’ve been attending performances and exhibitions at the Kitchen for decades, it’s harder now than ever to locate this nondescript former industrial building on 19th Street: It’s been swallowed up in a maze of residential towers and luxury boutiques in Chelsea. Alan Ruiz’s blunt, spare but impressive exhibition “Container and Contained,” addresses some these problems.
Ruiz is a New York-based artist and writer whose work explores the politics of architecture and the built environment. His most prominent work here is an installation in the ground-level black box theater titled “WS-C-62A; WS-C-62B” (2021). Made primarily of steel and glass, it cuts up the space like a fragmentary wall or viewing platform. Every day, about eight minutes before the gallery closes, flood lights come on and Philip Glass’s “Dance IX” (1986) is blasted throughout the space, a reminder of the institution’s earlier avant-garde days. Less obvious are the documents that make up “Transfer II (WS-B690-L40)” (2021), displayed on the gallery’s north wall, which detail how Ruiz has leased the Kitchen’s remaining air rights from the city for a year, for $1 per month.
Combining various recognizable strains of recent art — minimalism, conceptualism, pedagogy, institutional critique — Ruiz addresses the ways in which smaller institutions like the Kitchen have been engulfed by the titanic wake of real estate development and gentrification. It’s a depressing narrative, but Ruiz’s cleareyed approach mostly shuns nostalgia. Instead, he identifies and occupies the spaces that artists can still claim — or rent for a pittance — within a vastly altered New York.
New Red Order
Through Aug. 21. Artists Space, 11 Cortlandt Alley, Manhattan; (212) 226-3970, artistsspace.org.
The first time I saw a New Red Order (N.R.O.) video, I laughed — and then wondered if it was OK to laugh. The actor Jim Fletcher, calling himself a “reformed Native American impersonator,” was recruiting viewers to become informants for the N.R.O., an art collective that’s also a kind of secret society. The video was a pitch-perfect parody of a promo for something like a weight-loss program, only the goals were decolonization and the cultivation of Indigenous futures. It felt like a brilliant joke whose punchline was a genuine appeal to someone like me, a white person living on land taken from the Lenape.
The N.R.O. — whose core contributors are the artists Adam and Zack Khalil and Jackson Polys — now has a major exhibition at Artists Space, titled “Feel at Home Here.” The zany upstairs installation includes two semisatirical videos, graphics on the walls, branded beach products, and an imitation real-estate office for land repatriation. It also delves into two points of history: New York City’s seal, which features an amiable “Native American of Manhattan,” and the Improved Order of Red Men, a nationalistic secret society founded in 1834 by and for white men, who structured it based on their fantasies of Native society. Downstairs, lightboxes and videos take serious aim at well-known, stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans by the sculptor James Earle Fraser.
Although this is the N.R.O.’s largest show yet, the nature of the group remains elusive — which is precisely the point. Its gift is shrewd mutability. Using a mash-up of strategies and styles, the N.R.O. illuminates pervasive violence against Native Americans, but then, instead of letting perpetrators off the hook, urges us to do something with our guilt.
Through July 30. Metro Pictures, 519 West 24th Street, Manhattan; (212) 206-7100, metropictures.com.
Unrequited passions are central to the seven artists in “Wish,” a group exhibition about the productive pleasure of uncovering and anticipating the fulfillment of our hidden desires. That fulfillment can be subversively erotic, as indicated by several works in the show and most unsettlingly by Torbjorn Rodland’s series of photographs that tinge ordinary instances of human interaction with eeriness, like the outstretched pair of hands touching a funereal floral arrangement (“Floor Flowers,” 2015), or a mouth pried open in a medical office (“Intraoral no. 2,” 2015). In Heji Shin’s suggestive photographs, these discomfiting scenes extend to the animal kingdom, with the artist pairing common creatures with human nudity, as with “Dick and Snake” (2018), or allowing barnyard creatures to function as innuendos in themselves, such as in “Big Cock 7” (2020), a close-up shot of a rooster.
Though their punch lines may seem obvious or juvenile, Shin’s photographs home in on the exhibition’s emphasis on the tenuous connections, often humorous and disarming, between our desires and their real-world analogues. Nora Turato’s 2021 wall piece “This little piggy went to market” announces, with a perfect deadpan tenor, the omnipresence of the gig economy (“left his staff job to write a newsletter”) with the psychedelic patterns and sans-serif typeface of corporate advertising. In a similarly acerbic fashion, Elliot Reed presents a mound of salt — 163.2 pounds worth, equal to the artist’s body weight — within the gallery, atop of which is placed the clothes the artist wore while on a video call with his loved ones. The 2020 work, “End-to-End Encrypted (Lot’s Wife),” succeeds in signaling the bodily absence that video technology seeks to mitigate, but also evocatively alludes, like the exhibition as a whole, to the acutely felt sensations of longing for those dear and far away.
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