What to See in New York City Art Galleries This Week

The New York Times

image

KAREL FUNK

Through Aug. 18. 303 Gallery, 555 West 21st Street, Manhattan; 212-255-1121, 303gallery.com.

Karel Funk’s oil paintings remain unwavering in their concentration on well-made outerwear. At 303 Gallery, in his first gallery show in New York since 2010, Mr. Funk continues to meticulously render the heads and shoulders of subjects who have their backs to the viewer and are wearing bright nylon parkas with the hoods up, silhouetted against white. They are, in other words, complete mysteries, their distance intensified because the hoods evoke monks’ or nuns’ habits. As always, Mr. Funk’s art has an undercurrent of religious devotion, maybe even a touch of the medieval.

Our lack of connection to the sitters is strange yet liberating for all concerned. They are cloistered, not displayed for the delectation of either painter or viewer. We, too, are slightly disembodied, free to examine these faceless yet somehow individualized portraits unwatched. Though, in the palpable silence, these figures might be listening, like confessors awaiting our revelations.

There is much to look at, and think about, besides this disruption of the viewer’s dominion, including the smooth, knowing perfection of the garments and their high-tech designs; the additions of rougher textures, like Velcro strips and nylon straps; the tiny stitches of their welted seams; and their effulgent colors of yellow, green, red and purple. But each color is set in motion by the quietly unruly topography of creases, sags and folds, and further subdivided by light into a tremendous variety of tones and hues. There is something of the grandeur of landscapes, even mountains or peaks. The dark concave side of a gray hood might almost be a landslide. Finally, there is the conscientious, intimate care with which Mr. Funk achieves this level of realism. Like his subjects, he is unseen, but we feel the intensity of both, along with our own.

ROBERTA SMITH

‘THE TIMES’

Through Aug. 11. FLAG Art Foundation, 545 West 25th Street, Manhattan; 212-206-0220, flagartfoundation.org.

If one way to measure the merit of a news publication is by the quality of the art that is made with, about and occasionally against it, then The New York Times is in pretty good shape. This is suggested by an outstanding show of 80 artists who use The Times as subject or material, or both, to make just about anything; commit various acts of dissection; or touch on specific events, social mores, the passage of time. The results are humorous, sobering or ingenious but rarely uninteresting.

Continue reading the main storSeveral artists use the newspaper as a surface for drawing or painting. Rirkrit Tiravanija paints “Tomorrow is the question” in giant letters on a canvas covered with tear sheets from the front section of the issue of Jan. 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump. NiiLartey De Osu, one of several artists selected from an open call, renders a large calligraphic head on a surface made from the paper’s Jan. 22, 2017, report on the Women’s March. Lubaina Himid, one of four artists shortlisted for the Turner Prize in Britain this year, paints or writes on gray rectangles that have been added to individual pages, extrapolating a poignant poetry, linguistic and not, from their existing headlines and images.

Michael Scoggins takes issue with a front-page article on Ivanka Trump, rendering the page as a large color caricature, and inserting a reference to this show. Jennifer Dalton compares the adjectives used by The Times’s art critics in their descriptions of work made by men and that by women, while Randall Rosenthal has carved and painted a trompe l’oeil wooden sculpture of The Times Magazine, open to the crossword puzzle, complete with coffee stains. In “Future Anterior,” from 2008, Agnieszka Kurant has created pages from 2020, whose ominous headlines include “Russia ‘Safeguards’ Chinese Democracy” and “Inspections of Food.” This show is something of a long read, but if I do say so myself, a very lively, enlightening one.

ROBERTA SMITH

‘EASY FEELINGS’

Through Aug. 6. Marvin Gardens, 1532 Decatur Street, Queens; marvin-gardens.org.

An electric tension between graphic clarity of form and chaotic, libidinal urgency of content powers all the work in “Easy Feelings,” a three-person show elegantly curated by the painter James Ulmer in an artist-run space in Ridgewood, Queens.

Two small drawings of demonic female nudes by June Culp look like woodblock prints of Troll dolls. The chunky figure in “Red Cow Mules,” in particular, done in thick blue and green lines with a kind of paint stick called a solid marker, has nipples resembling rocket ships and red accents at the tongue, crotch and toes.

Emilia Brintnall’s totemic black papier-mâché “Serpent” slithers up a gallery wall with a white racing stripe down its back. Her “Ring,” which sits on a round dolly about eight inches off the floor, portrays a mountainous goddess-turned-landscape-turned-goddess, also in black and white, surmounted by a seven-pointed star and surrounded by seven crosses.

And from Jayson Musson, best known for the brilliant series of art-world-skewering videos he made as the character Hennessy Youngman, but now returning to drawing, come two gouaches on coffee-stained paper. They are both silhouettes of armless figures in suggestively symbolic poses that might have been borrowed from a Bauhaus tarot deck. In “Thinking Boy,” a sky-blue character with one enormous eye curls into a kneeling position, while a black figure bent almost double, in “Paraguay,” strides through cascading red waves.

Taken together, the six pieces emit an almost audible hum.

WILL HEINRICH