Assume Vivid Astro Focus
Through July 9. Tibor de Nagy, 11 Rivington Street, Manhattan; (212) 262-5050, tibordenagy.com.
It’s been seven years since the duo known as Assume Vivid Astro Focus has had a show in New York. But this exuberant comeback effort, “Hairy What? Hairy How?” at Tibor de Nagy, is also a solo debut. Its four large semiabstract paintings and a painted table — all lavishly fringed with wool yarn and surrounded by numerous smaller unfringed pieces — are the work of the Brazilian artist Eli Sudbrack, one half of Assume Vivid Astro Focus. He formed it in New York in 2001 with Christophe Hamaide-Pierson, a French artist. These days the pair functions as much independently as together, but always under the collective’s name. This confuses, yet makes sense: Both sensibilities are rooted in the hallucinatory, multi-style, multimedia environments they concocted all over the globe for nearly two decades.
The extravagant fringe expands the paintings, flowing from all four sides to the floor, conjuring craft, fashion, dance, ritual objects and over-the-top interior decoration. The yarn always matches the infectious palette of the percolating compositions — a mix of Walt Disney, Magic Realism and South American abstraction that somehow glows with freshness. The shapes can be solid colors or graduated, fading to white as if on the silver (or computer) screen. The transitions of color and shape cause sudden pockets of space and cloudlike levitation. Elsewhere body parts are more than implied. The show recalls the sensory overload of Assume Vivid Astro Focus environments past. Compressed into this jewel-box space, the works read as a whole, especially through the gallery’s all-glass front.
‘Field of Vision’
Through July 30. Peter Blum Gallery, 176 Grand Street, Manhattan; 212-244-6055; peterblumgallery.com.
I started the elegant five-artist show “Field of Vision” with Kamrooz Aram’s “Maghreb Drapery,” a pale green diptych filled with wax-pencil arabesques. Because these patterns carry such different weight in American abstraction and Islamic design, but Aram is so clearly referring to both, I couldn’t quite get my bearings. How was I to decide if the work was any good? And what did it say about my standards that the very qualities that made his paintings so pleasurable to look at — rough brush strokes, extra pencil lines, flat blocks of color that don’t quite reach their edges — could also, in a different context, simply be evidence that they were unfinished?
Tweaking the pretensions of American painting, it turns out, is a great way to set up work by four other American painters who flirt with the boundary between art and design. With colorful large squiggles like musical rests, Patricia Treib plays a game similar to Aram’s, setting ambiguous large squiggles that look almost like musical rests — or asterisks, fleurs-de-lis, or any number of other signs — against off-white backgrounds. Sarah Crowner and Rebecca Ward sew together pieces of painted canvas — boldly colored for Crowner, muted for Ward — and let seams form their patterns’ hard edges. Three pieces by Suzan Frecon, filled with muted red and burnished gold, confidently cast off the top-heavy shadow of 20th-century abstraction and simply glow.
Through July 30. Miguel Abreu, 88 Eldridge Street & 36 Orchard Street, Manhattan; (212) 995-1774, miguelabreugallery.com.
The summer group show at Miguel Abreu bills its 18 artists as poet-engineers, and I love the coinage. The cliché that artists are poetic risks conceiving of them as touchy-feely dreamers; reconceived as engineers, they come off as rigorous, highly trained pros who dig deep into intricate problems — who do at least as much thinking as feeling. Art becomes infrastructure, not perfumed frippery.
At Abreu, Scott Lyall presents one of his “Nanofoils” (2018), a modest little sheet of aluminum whose surface has been microscopically engraved to scatter light in subtle colors that could never be achieved with artists’ pigments. (Butterfly wings get their much bolder effects through similar “engineering” by Mother Nature.)
Nairy Baghramian’s “Big Valve” (2016) is a strange, head-high contraption made from a sheet of clear plastic bolted to a kind of galvanized hinge. It sits at the junction between two rooms at Abreu and looks as though it could somehow catapult viewers from one space into the other, or prevent their passage across.
The objects in Yuji Agematsu’s 2018 “Zip” project seem less technological. For years, Agematsu has collected tiny scraps of intriguing trash from the street; he presents each day’s fistful of finds as a sculptural assemblage, on display in a “vitrine” made from a cigarette pack’s cellophane. Agematsu’s materials may be low-tech, but the searching at the heart of his method recalls the samplings of a mining technician. It’s the exploration deployed by all poet-engineers as they dig deep for good art.
Many shows of technologized art are about the technology itself and the wow-cool objects it leads to. The works at Abreu are more reticent, sometimes even opaque and unprepossessing. They model the complex process that leads to good art; they don’t show off some salable product that’s the end result.