Curator Dan Nadel on five shows in New York

“The pictures are funny and cutting and hilariously weird.”

“Christopher Forgues: Pin Change”
through June 8, 2018 ***CLOSED***
YUI Gallery and Lab

“Sarah Peters: Figureheads”
through June 16, 2018
Van Doren Waxter

“Carroll Dunham”
through June 16, 2018
Gladstone Gallery

“Laurie Simmons: Clothes Make the Man: Works from 1990–1994”
through July 27, 2018
Mary Boone Gallery

“Laurie Simmons: 2017–The Mess and Some New”
through June 16, 2018
Salon 94 Bowery

“Melissa Brown: Between States”
through July 6, 2018
Derek Eller Gallery

Exhibitions on my mind include Christopher Forgues’s solo show at YUI gallery. Forgues is better known as the graphic artist and cartoonist CF. The works here are all based on the idea of pins in locks—locking mechanisms. First, there are beautiful ballpoint-pen drawings—the biggest Forgues has ever made—of figures in ambiguous architectonic spaces. Then there are origami-like sculptures on bases made by hanging pieces of paper soaked in resin over stools and letting them harden. And finally, there’s a cast-concrete sculpture with lock pins embedded in it that is a masterpiece. At first glance, they appear to be three separate bodies of work, but in the end they connect. It’s all about the manipulation of paper and space.

Installation view of “Christopher Forgues: Pin Change” at YUI Gallery, New York, May 18–June 8, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

The Sarah Peters’s show at Van Doren Waxter is wonderful. Peters’s bronze busts are dense objects that convey ecstatic, psychedelic, and emotional states. They are rooted in ancient statuary, but partly as a way to access certain kinds of universal experience. If there were a Greco-Roman sculptor working today who had ingested sci-fi and Minimalism, and who was interested in different manifestations of power, you’d have Sarah.

Sarah Peters, Tripod (Animal), 2016, bronze, 11 x 10 x 13 1/2 inches, edition 2 of 5. Courtesy of the artist and Van Doren Waxter.

I also loved Carroll Dunham’s new paintings at Barbara Gladstone. When I was a kid, my brother and my grandfather would often tell me, “Be a man!,” and these works are incredibly profound meditations on what that means now. You can go a zillion different ways with them historically and materially, but I’m most interested in looking at them as reflections on what it is to be a father, a brother, or a son, and the physicality of all those things.

Carroll Dunham, Green Hills of Earth (1), 2017, urethane, acrylic and pencil on linen, 68 x 79 inches (73 1/8 x 84 x 2 1/4 inches framed). Copyright © Carroll Dunham. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Laurie Simmons’s exhibition down the block at Mary Boone was a welcome surprise; I hadn’t seen any of that work before. The pictures are funny and cutting and hilariously weird. And though the dummies are inert, Simmon’s sculptural treatment of them somehow makes them intimidating.  The show is very strong—well curated, laid out, and conceived. It takes on some of the same ideas as Dunham and Peters, but with a kind of knowing wink.

Laurie Simmons, Café of the Inner Mind: Men’s Room, 1994, cibachrome print, 41 x 58 inches. Courtesy of Mary Boone Gallery, and Salon 94, New York.

Finally, there is Melissa Brown’s show at Derek Eller. Brown’s new paintings are of the American landscape. One shows the view out the window of a Mexican restaurant in a shopping mall; another depicts a huge alligator wrapped around a Florida swamp. The paintings seem to betray the equal influence of psychedelic art and the work of Roger Brown, Grant Wood, and H.C. Westermann, and they evince a wonderful sense of the beauty in the ugliness of America. Then too, as objects they are really interesting, with silkscreened passages, stenciled passages, and passages of virtuoso painting. They’re invitingly complicated, which I love. It’s a killer show.

Melissa Brown, Swamp, 2018, oil, acrylic, and Flashe on aluminum panel, 59 x 78 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller Gallery, New York.

Dan Nadel is a writer, editor and curator based in Brooklyn. Founder of the Grammy Award-winning publishing company PictureBox, Nadel has authored books including Art Out of Time: Unknown Comic Visionaries, 1900–1969 (2006), Gary Panter (2008), and Chris Martin: Paintings (2018), and curated such exhibitions such as “What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art: 1960 to the Present” (2014–15) and “Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters 1973–1977” (2011).