Upper East Side
Through March 25. Sprüth Magers, 22 East 80th Street, Manhattan; 917-722-2370, spruethmagers.com.
Karen Kilimnik is a master of the deliberately glib. Her paintings, equally wistful and willfully naïve, their imagery scavenged from art history, fashion magazines and other pop culture artifacts, evoke the affections of a teenage girl with the studied aloofness of the slacker, each pose inhabited with self-possessed camp.
Curated with good humor by Mireille Mosler, “The Kingdom of the Renaissance” places the artist’s horses and hounds alongside old master works of similar interest, so that Kilimnik’s kitschy-sweet “cats playing in the snow, Siberia” (2020) joins Henriëtte Ronner-Knip’s similarly powdery “An odd-eyed cat” (1894), and the majestic stag in Edwin Landseer’s “The Highland Nurses” (1854) dribbles into the crayon lines of Kilimnik’s coloring book reindeer. These pairings can appear funny, like someone doing a bad impression, but Kilimnik’s pictures are deceptively sophisticated. The looseness of her brushstrokes suggest someone whose attention has already moved on.
This is less a study of Kilimnik’s fealty to her source material (basically zero) than a canny dissection of the way she excavates its tropes and romantic obsessions, which in their echo prove pretty campy themselves. (The only direct relationship here is Kilimnik’s “dinner in the alley” (2010), an efficient distillation of Jan Baptist Weenix’s anxious pooch guarding its meal, from 1650, which Kilimnik spotted in an auction catalog; like most of us, she saw it in person for the first time at this show.) If she’s devotional, it’s to a theory of consumption, the way the hypercirculation of images mashes everything into a muddy pulp. In Kilimnik’s revisionism, the pulp is endlessly elastic. MAX LAKIN
Through March 18. Andrew Edlin Gallery, 212 Bowery, Manhattan; 212-206-9723, edlingallery.com.
Ray Materson’s embroideries are astonishing for their size and intricacy: detailed images rendered in rectangles that never measure more than 5 ¼ inches on either side. One of the smallest pieces in his current exhibition is titled “Sunrise Sunset” (1999) and depicts a room bifurcated by a doorway leading to a balcony and beach beyond. A red bra hangs on the railing, and the sun setting over the water outside complements a framed image inside of a couple watching a colorful sunrise. Materson fits all this and more into an area that’s only 2 by 2 ¾ inches.
The artist got his start in prison, where he was serving time for robberies committed while addicted to drugs. Thinking of his grandmother, who sewed, he fashioned a makeshift embroidery hoop out of a plastic bowl lid and unraveled a pair of socks for thread; a guard gave him a needle. That was in 1988. Materson has since gotten clean and left prison, and he has continued embroidering. He’s shown his work in galleries and museums, some of which have collected it, too (like the American Folk Art Museum). Sock threads are still his preferred material.
The works here cover the three-plus decades of his career. They range from personal pieces, like a depiction of his father, to sentimental portraits of cultural icons, and from charged political statements to campier or more surreal images like “Invasion” (2022), a sci-fi scene with aliens. Whatever the subject, the embroideries are evocative. Materson’s deft compositions and meticulous stitching give his works a richness that lingers after the novelty of their making has faded away. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Gordon Matta-Clark and Pope.L
Through April 1. 52 Walker, 52 Walker Street, Manhattan; 212-727-1961, 52walker.com.
A cartoonish cacophony governs the inspired pairing of Gordon Matta-Clark and Pope.L in the show “Impossible Failures” at Zwirner’s revamped downtown space. Matta-Clark, of course — who died in 1978 at just 35 — famously, elegantly sliced and severed condemned buildings, including in the South Bronx. He was also among the artists who homesteaded SoHo in the 1970s, and his work’s presence in 52 Walker feels pointed. Three videos (transferred from films) depicting cuts in progress are projected onto three walls; where Matta-Clark and crew bore through Parisian flats in documentation of “Conical Intersect,” it’s almost like they’re sawing into the gallery.
Pope.L actually has: The first work visitors see is a one-foot-diameter circle hacked through the wall of the building’s foyer, comically puncturing one of the Matta-Clark projections on the other side and deflating the solemn white cube. Known for abject performances, especially a series of epic “crawls” around New York dressed as a businessman (or Superman), Pope.L brings a sardonic sense of urbanism to Matta-Clark’s poetic one. A new installation by Pope.L, “Vigilance a.k.a. Dust Room,” sits at the gallery’s center: A white box of two-by-fours and plywood, rigged with shop fans on timers, sounds like a choir of leaf blowers. Two small windows on one side reveal its dim interior thick with whirling foam pellets, light and dark. It’s powerful and unhinged and overbuilt — a monument to the entropy of the postindustrial city, and the tenuous dance of its inhabitants. TRAVIS DIEHL
Through March 18. Artists Space, 11 Cortlandt Alley, Manhattan; 212-226-3970, artistsspace.org.
Like the poet-painter Etel Adnan or the Canadian novelist-turned-artist Douglas Coupland, Renee Gladman enters the art world from a rarely used side door from the world of literature. Through poems, novels and essays, Gladman has established herself as one of the most original writers of her generation. Her series of philosophical speculative novels centering on an imaginary city named Ravicka catalyzed the founding of the taste-making indie publisher, Dorothy Project. Then Gladman wrote her way into drawing.
In “Narratives of Magnitude,” Gladman’s New York solo debut, you will find her distinctive cursive-like lines that resemble writing but remain illegible. In her early published drawings these lines clustered and stretched elegantly to suggest architectural forms. But the more recent (2019-22), two dozen or so, drawings at Artists Space seem less assured and more tentative as Gladman pushes her work closer to painting by both upping the scale and incorporating color. The large black sheet of “Untitled (moon math)” (2022) features a dense block of white writing at left interrupted by several drawn circles, and a chalky explosion at right that conjures both mathematical theorems and medieval marginal glosses. Throughout, the works recall the graphic compositions of the Russian artist El Lissitzky, who influenced the Bauhaus a century ago. In her writing, Gladman often dramatizes thinking by weaving doubt or awareness of the body into her sentences so as to push her prose into revelatory and unexpected places. In these drawings, we find her still searching on the cusp of her next revelation. JOHN VINCLER