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Could F. Scott Fitzgerald have seen the eyes of E. G. Washburne? In The Great Gatsby, “blue and gigantic” eyes look down from a billboard, “out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.”

“Evidently,” he continues, “some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sunk down himself into eternal blindness.” Perhaps, but a shop sign for Washburne & Co. on Fulton Street looks anything but blind. It has acquired spiffy new light bulbs at that, thanks to the American Folk Art Museum, where it presides over “Made in New York City,” through July 28, and a lively urban history—and I have added this to an earlier report on folk art in the city as a longer review and my latest upload. Here’s looking at you.

Subtitled “The Business of Folk Art,” the show opens with not just the carved and painted wood, from 1915, but also a paradox: can the city, today a world capital of the arts, have ever been home to outsider art and outsiders? Surely folk art comes from folk traditions, rural communities, and madhouses. Think, though, of the stiffness of so much early early American portraiture. Think of an art newly apart from the academies of Europe, with the sophistication of John Singer Sargent or Thomas Eakins yet to come. Think of almost the entirety of the American wing at the Met.

Think, for that matter, of shop signs, weather vanes, and samplers, Currier and Ives, duck decoys, carousel rides, and quilting. The show has examples of them all, including a “Reconciliation Quilt” after the Civil War by Lucinda Ward Honstain, across from also a colorful silken bedspread by Samuel Steinberger. It reflects trends today, when folk art is big business and craft is often fine art. As the show’s subtitle suggests, so they were in New York from the start. Woodcarvers and furniture makers had arrived from Europe, sure in their workshop training and eager to ply their trade, much as Steinberger had immigrated from Hungary. Portraits of all sorts and quality, too, found a ready market.

Artists and artisans played to the city, but they also described it. The curator, Elizabeth V. Warren, opens with the business of art in another sense—not the art business, but art about business. Unknown painters here depict glassworks, osytermen, and Wall Street. New York had bustling maritime industry, including a tradesman with the apt name Preserved Fish. Forty years before Walt Whitman wrote “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Robert Fulton got going with his ferry, cutting the travel time across the East River to minutes.

New York here seems quiet and even rural all the same. The bay off Brooklyn Heights looks idyllic, and the Manhattan skyline might as well belong to a small town. Canal Street still had its canal, with bridges. Later, Third Avenue had its train line and depots, but horses competed to the bitter end. Still, change defines a vibrant city, much as today. This is the kind of show one associates more with the New-York Historical Society than an art museum, and the society and the Met both contribute.

Art does sneak in, right under the eyes of E. G. Washburne. Portraits of the city’s elders from before the revolution can look less folksy than ceremonious. Yet a young man with a squirrel on his shoulder, from a series of child portraits by John Durand, combines forced dignity with easy playfulness. The best-known painter here, Ammi Phillips, uses softer edges and paler colors for a greater sense of life. Shop signs come to life as well, with outsized gestures in three dimensions, like those of a mariner, a tea salesman, or the spectacles. Samuel Anderson Robb used a baseball player to advertise his own business in carving.

Is this the real New York, even in its time? Everything seems sunnier than it could ever have been. (A “reconciliation quilt” indeed.) And everything is caught up in the prejudices of its time, like a Chinaman for a tea salesman or a happy Native American for Robb. Folk art looks relevant in yet another way to American art now—in its very limits. Those eyes, Fitzgerald wrote, “brood on.”

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Lorna Simpson will always have me humming along but unable to sing. It is my fate, as a white male standing apart from the black men and women in her art. It is their fate, too, in her 2001 video grid of lips humming “Easy to Remember,” by Rogers and Hart.

That video attests to the urgency of memory in a country still marred by racism. It also attests to the studied reserve in much of her work, just as one will never see the entire faces. I kept encountering it in an earlier review of Simpson at the Whitney (worth your checking out). Still, she was taking the viewer all along into private lives, including the daily routines in a video calendar. Could she be losing much of that reserve herself? Now she turns from found photographs and lost memories, at Hauser & Wirth through July 26, to paint.

Simpson was opening up a dialogue even before her videos with sound. Some silkscreen cityscapes of the late 1990s, with felt panels for text, soften the message in a different way. Still, they oblige one to puzzle out even the obvious. And she still does, only now that means penetrating the darkness. She even calls her latest work “Darkening,” and there is more now than ever to penetrate. They open onto vast arctic seas in paint.

Is Simpson really painting? She made her name with photos paired with text, but even her videos border on conceptual art. Now a dozen big blue canvases combine silkscreen and paint, and it is hard to know where one ends and the other begins. It takes paint to make a silkscreen, and she lets it smudge and blur, for its own sake or for clouds and sea. Every so often it leaves exposed the white ground, sometimes in vertical bands that contain words. If the big blue recalls Onement by Barnett Newman, the words could be his “zips.”

The sheer scale recalls the Hudson River School—and towering icebergs an earlier sublime in Northern Romanticism. Still, another kind of glamour altogether slips in. One or two superimpose a black fashion model, in purples that deepen and enrich the blue, while smaller paintings overlay faces on one another, like a Cubist Ebony. A tall stack of magazines holds the center of the gallery as Simpson’s Timeline. She describes the series as taking considerable research, but that, too, might have been a guilty pleasure. If Andy Warhol had taken up the Abstract Expressionism, he might have found himself here.

Simpson would be the first to protest the association. She has worked with found photos long enough, thank you, and the felt was large, too. For several years now, she has also combined photocollage and paint, with color additions to images of woman. When she called one of those paintings Blue Wave, the wave meant a woman’s hair. Now light glistens off icebergs and distant skies, with no obvious source in the dark of night. Asked if the scale of her new work signals its ambition, she prefers to think of it as a loosening and a space for her to explore—not unlike an arctic exploration after all.

Is she, then, extending her old concerns, now to blackness and the blues, or deconstructing them? Instead of acid commentary, her pillars of text amount to mere fragments of words. (I believe I could make out “children” and “thieves.”) Pop Art made use of images and text, too, but filled with advertising’s impersonal desires. How far that seems from Glenn Ligon in his coal-spattered power slogans or Simpson’s own raw cultural history. How far it seems from these words as well.

As with so much of the revival of painting nowadays, she still leaves me wondering about its necessity. In fact, Warhol’s early silkscreens did indeed respond to Abstract Expressionism, with a loose touch and the anxiety of the electric chair, as she pointedly does not. Her evolution from the irony of the “Pictures generation” could serve as a relief or a dire warning. Can Simpson still define the gaps between black and white, words and black experience? Can she still put a white male like me on the spot? I have my doubts, but I can only wonder that she creates her own space between the visual and the unseen.

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People in Queens are cleaning up. True, Amazon backed off from a move to Long Island City after New Yorkers objected to paying in tax breaks the salary of every single promised new worker and then some. Yet the glass towers continue to rise, fast and furious—from a new waterfront park to the very edge of MoMA PS1. And, as usual when it comes to gentrification, artists lead the way.

Fiona Connor has agreed to sponsor an annual window cleaning for a third-floor apartment. It may sound like a modest gesture, but big things can start small, and so it is with her installation at SculptureCenter, through July 29—and I have added this to earlier reports on empty spaces as a longer review and my latest upload.

It may in fact sound invisible, and I could find no sign of her after a healthy walk to the windows on Vernon Boulevard. What, one might ask, has Connor contributed in performance other than a little cash? Or it may sound obsessed with decorum and light, befitting an artist from New Zealand at home in LA. It may even sound less about gentrification than preservation, given decidedly low-rise housing over a burger joint. All that applies to her basement sculpture as well. It may be an installation, but is also Closed for Installation—and it will be until the show comes down and she gets it right.

One might well wonder if it is there at all. Much of the pleasure of SculptureCenter comes with the Maya Lin architecture, leaving the basement tunnels of the former trolley repair shop crumbling but intact. It dares visitors to distinguish contemporary art from electric meters and other hardware, all the more so with Connor. She leaves exact copies here and there of a stool, a folding chair, a paint tray, a tape measure, a level, a push broom, and more. One may never locate them all or pin them all down, but that is part of the game, between the invisible and the real. The center provides no labels or even its customary map.

They are all common enough and industrial strength, because they could all participate in their own installation. They could, that is, were they not bronze, although that lets them belong to the installation after all, as works of art. Like the windows, no doubt, Connor has left the tunnels bright, clean, and lasting, with sculpture to match. Is this art or anti-art, intervention or preservation? Is it a swipe at changes to the neighborhood to every side or their embodiment? At the very least, it takes the wind out of all those gallery signs in a hot market, reading “closed for installation” and turning the disappointed away.

Back upstairs, Jean-Luc Moulène makes no bones about making sculpture. A single large work occupies the main gallery in pure white, as More or Less Bone. It comes with no end of contradictions, too, only this time not what the artist intends. It comes with no end of pretence as well. The sculpture arose from Moulène’s residence in France’s equivalent of Silicon Valley. It relies on software to transform simple shapes into an ungainly mass, but as the ideal of “the absolute minimum necessary.”

Moulène began with a sphere, a spiral staircase, and a bone, but one can no longer discern them, not even in the hollows where the work breaks off. All art, he proclaims, works within constraints, but the shape looks arbitrary and unconstrained as it spreads across the floor in three directions. It has become “fleshless, scraped clean, hard, and without waste,” but apart from the white it does not resemble human or animal anatomy. It has used “advanced engineering procedures” to achieve “formal optimization,” but just what variables has it optimized? One can marvel at the scale of public sculpture and its roots in Modernism, like fossil forms for Gonzalo Fonseca and Isamu Noguchi. Or one can head off for a burger and optimally clean windows.

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Peter Campus abandoned video in 1978, in favor of outdoor photography, and one can see why. It must have come to seem confining, and no one did more to make it so.

He shot himself in performance up close, as if unable to move. He shot himself walking alone in a tunnel, in a lane normally reserved for cars, as if unable to escape. He shot himself from above, as if pinned to the floor, and overlaid with multiples of himself or just plain white noise, as if dissolving into another being altogether or nothing at all. Wait long enough, and the static subject often did shift to another performer.

Perhaps the whole performance scene had become confining. Campus meanwhile had moved closer to nature, on the South Shore of Long Island, where he could hold bits of it in one hand. Then, too, one can see why he took up video again in 1996, for what he now calls his videographs of Shinnecock Bay. Still images of small things must have fallen short of the evidence of his senses. “Video Ergo Sum,” a modest retrospective at Bronx Museum through July 22, identifies him with the medium, but it means something simpler and grander in Latin: I see, therefore I am.

He is training others how to look as well. Now that video is digital and capable of incredibly high definition, Campus exploits those two facts as facing extremes. At his gallery this spring, Cristin Tierney through April 20, one projection was highly pixilated, daring you to make out the changing scene. Another shows a man slowly reeling in a fish, but its sharp orange might have dropped into the picture from a cartoon or another world. The artist’s early black and white conjures up bare-bones memories of a performance space like the Kitchen in New York City, just when TV itself had moved to color. Now he relishes the light.

One can see his pleasure in the literalism and poetry of many a title, with thoughts of the stillness of winter, dusk, or at rest. And Campus has appeared in a retrospective of early video called “Into the Light.” In one video, the very pixilation transforms the side of a barn or home into blocks of near white—much like a Shaker meeting house for Mariam Ghani and Erin Ellen Kelly. At the same time, he treats a frozen image as a disturbance. A rill through a marsh, leading to the water’s edge, is A Tear in the Fabric, but he could be speaking about his art as well. The high res invites you to linger over the texture of seaweed or the crests of the tide, while the distortions invite you to linger over what nature has become.

His is an art of both contemplation and disturbance, but so it was all along. An early work reflects you, the viewer, back at yourself, so that with every twist and turn you feel less and less able to turn away. The hidden camera comes into the light, right on top of the monitor, but its surveillance continues. Yet it also shows the space and others behind you, at ease in the present. It accords with the Minimalism of its time, in what Michael Fried derided as theater—but also in daring you to turn away from the object, here the monitor, to experience the room. The largest of early close-ups even anticipate the later acceptance of anxiety as the fabric of life, with Head of a Man with Death on His Mind in the Bronx and Head of a Sad Young Woman, through March in Times Square.

Another survey, “Talent Show,” placed new media in context of Andy Warhol, who had his own thoughts of stillness in regard to the Empire State Building. In his isolation on camera, Campus also resembles Bill Viola, Bruce Nauman, and Sophie Calle—but without their theatrical excess, confrontations, or confessions. His Latin suggests early video’s philosophical side, too, in Gary Hill. Yet he meditates more on transitional spaces, the kind that can hold an image seemingly forever before leaping to another. In two samples at the 2019 art fairs, one could almost make out houses and fences along the bay, and other video hones in clearly on industry. They mark transitions between an escape to nature and its human disturbance.

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In his last self-portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe finally took a seat. It is just one of many searing images at the Guggenheim in “Implicit Tensions,” a retrospective drawn entirely from its collection, through July 10—and it is the subject of a longer and fuller review, in my latest upload.

No doubt he had to sit, for in 1988 he was dying of AIDS, and his face seems to belong to an older man. Mapplethorpe had his final resting place the next year, at age forty-two. Yet he granted himself not just a chair but a throne, much like Rembrandt in a late self-portrait in the Frick Collection. One cannot make it out in the darkness, but one can see it in his posture, his command, and his unblinking stare. Where Rembrandt used a painter’s stick for his scepter, Mapplethorpe holds a death’s head. He, too, was the monarch of all that he surveyed, and all that he surveyed was his mortality and his art.

People do not often sit for Mapplethorpe. He was a studio photographer, not a street photographer, but he could set up his studio anywhere, and he kept people in motion. He has Patti Smith, a favorite subject and a lover, ducking in and out of the shower, as Still Moving. (Oh, those implicit tensions.) She might be a dancer, with the shower curtain as her seven veils. He shows her again in slow motion, playing against her shadow on the wall.

He shows her naked, drawing up her knees with her hands on the radiator, to see whether she can hold her pose. When a black model draws up his knees, the nude may hold still, for now. But photographs show him in turn from all four sides, as if they were themselves in motion. Other men kiss, strut, or struggle, in the kingdom of S&M. Splayed out in his very first Polaroids, Mapplethorpe, too, seems in bondage, but his only partner is the camera or himself. When he gets off the floor, he is still struggling.

Yet he transforms action into stillness. In his still lifes, every flower stands in isolation apart from a seedling or its shadow. It might be in readiness for opiates or a funeral. They also bring out Mapplethorpe’s nurturing of contrasts in black and white. He uses shadows, tables, and molding to lock them into place—like a skull the year of that last self-portrait. He takes the pose with knees drawn up from elements of classical architecture.

Mapplethorpe was the master of explicit tensions, too—between black and white, clean lines and texturing, art and impulse, beauty and desire, the forbidden and permitted, sex and death, formalism and desire. Be careful, though: one cannot disentangle the opposites or reduce the tensions. Wall text speaks often of formalism, but also of S&M, in his words, as “sex and magic.” The Guggenheim has tried before to rescue him from perversity in favor of the “classical tradition” in 2005. Yet his photographs depend on their power to disturb even you or me.

In that last self-portrait, the rebel has become the damned. And the equation of sex and death for Mapplethorpe, for all its psychological truth, has become all too real. So has the fraying of a community, a decade after his photograph of a frayed American flag. Still, he adopts death as his scepter and his realm, and he looks it squarely in the face. Where David Wojnarowicz, another victim of AIDS, goes out screaming, he refuses self-justification or anger. He cannot settle for an easy answer, because he can feel the tensions in his flesh and bones.

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Really, it is safe to take in the work of Regina Silveira, no thanks to her. One has to put up with unforgiving concrete stairs, as with more than one Chelsea gallery that has expanded to two floors. Still, the stairwell does not appear to spin off in another dizzying direction above a bottomless pit, leaving one uncertain where to walk or to stand.

Silveira planned to create the illusion with a wall drawing in black vinyl. Its bold outlines would have given actual architecture the look of an artist’s sketchbook. I wish she had gone ahead, but for now it remains one of ten ambitious projects in “Não Feito,” or “unrealized,” at Alexander Gray through July 12.

Not everything within speaks to safety. More vinyl would have covered a museum in Stuttgart, with the illusion of glass shattered by an enormous bullet. It would have converted the projecting façade into a billboard in protest against violence—like the gun violence in her native Brazil. It would also have called attention to the fragility of support for the arts. Mostly, though, Silveira is a visionary. She must have liked the optical density of shattered glass, just as she must have liked competing with M. C. Escher and G. B. Piranesi for the delirium of fictive stairs.

Silveira, now eighty, wants others to become dreamers as well. A traffic circle in Bogotá would have become a waterfall, but more often she has her head in the clouds. Stairs at the Bronx Library in New York would have ended in clouds, and the ceiling of the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence would have dissolved in clouds as well. She would have covered another ceiling, for a passenger tunnel at a subway in São Paulo, with oversized paw prints—and more paw prints would have lined a four-story elevator at the city’s university, while work not in the show represents frogs, snakes, and insects. As with Wild Elevator, she loves the sensation of nature and architecture run wild. She loves even more that one cannot always tell them apart.

The display centers on sketches, scale models, and computer simulations. Her tools are an architect’s, in the proud tradition of Latin American architecture, and her constructions are installations. Her bullet wall in Germany would have entered “Mixed Realities,” a group show on the theme of VR. Still, she is first and foremost a painter, in vinyl on a mural scale. The paw prints look much like postwar abstraction, like the late drips by Jackson Pollock in black and white. He left his male paw prints at least once on canvas.

Visionary architects, like Buckminster Fuller and Frank Lloyd Wright, have a bad habit of imposing their visions on others. Wright’s Guggenheim Museum is notoriously hostile to art. His and other projects in “Never Built New York” would have come close to destroying the city. Silveira, in contrast, welcomes her surroundings. Her library design would have opened with the word for library in different languages, in an ethnically diverse borough. Her covering for a soccer stadium would have altered its tiered seating, but only with the illusion of a circular arena—with an enormous soccer ball flying off into space, as Supersonic Goal.

Not that form follows function. Silveira’s work goes back to 1986, but her breakthrough came at the contemporary art museum in Mexico in 1999. She proposed to use vinyl to create deep shadows from two imagined light sources, enriching an interior with natural and unnatural light. Still, she also proposed to empty the rooms of their art. Where Edmund de Waal plays his sculpture off the Frick Collection, she wanted none of what she saws. She was figuratively overshadowing the museum, and one can see why it passed on the opportunity—but one can enjoy it all the more in the safer enclosure of a gallery.

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As an artist, Giambattista Tiepolo was open to the sky and the light—and not just in his ceiling paintings. His wall paintings, too, have one’s head leaning back to take in their often dizzying foreshortening.

Key figures rest on clouds or pose in midair as their natural right—just as his portrait sitters pose ready for a fight. Lesser characters like nymphs and cherubs fly casually past. The undersides of clouds are dark, not just because a storm is brewing on earth, but because they are lit from above. Imagine, then, if Tiepolo had lived to World War II, to find the upper stories of the Palazzo Archinto torn away, light pouring in, and his paintings there destroyed.

Just months ago, The Frick built a show around a single painting from its collection by Jan van Eyck and Petrus Christus—and around not the artists but their patron, Jan Vos. Now it builds on an oil sketch from its collection for Count Carlo Archinto in Milan, and I have combined my reviews as my latest upload. The museum’s two modest basement rooms mark two decisive moments, in the lives of his palazzo and Tiepolo. One room has photographs from before and after the Allied bombing in August 1943, plus volumes from the count’s extensive publications and library. The other has the artist at work on his first commission beyond Venice. Where the Met titled his 1997 retrospective “Tiepolo’s Venice,” the Frick shows him in his mid-thirties at the start of an international career.

Uniting the two are the count’s intellect and the artist’s heavenly aspirations, as seen by the Frick’s Xavier F. Salomon with two Italian academics, Andrea Tomezzoli and Denis Ton. Grand as it was, the palazzo’s three stories make no effort to impose on a narrow street and its neighbors. Rather, it welcomed scholars to its library, where the count supervised and contributed to twenty-five volumes of Christian allegory and Italian history. Tiepolo had already supplied prints when he undertook five of eight paintings for the building in 1730. For the ceiling, he painted Triumph of the Arts and Sciences. His book illustrations celebrate triumphs in history, too.

The palazzo’s interior contained a sunlit courtyard and garden, an enclave between indoors and out like the wooded atrium of the Ford Foundation in New York today. They only add to the bitter irony of the upper stories fallen away, to be rebuilt beginning a full decade after the war. Tiepolo’s paintings included Nobility and Juno, Venus, and Fortune, but otherwise the sky. Only three preparatory oils survive—for the Triumph, Perseus and Andromeda, and Apollo and Phaeton. Perseus rescued Andromeda by slaying a sea monster and spiriting her away. Phaeton, Apollo’s half-human son, asked to ride the god’s chariot, and you can guess how that turns out.

Three oil sketches plus two even quicker and lighter chalk drawings make for a rather small show of art, through July 14, but an intriguing intellectual history. They also bring out how the artist approached the great beyond. One can see the foreshortening, with Saturn seen through his feet. One can see the predominant sky blue and sun yellow, with red as accent. Tiepolo shares in the late Baroque and Rococo excess, like that of French period rooms at the Frick. He treats everything as theater, with the heavens as stage set.

He also takes charge of the set design, with fictive architecture as a painting’s frame. The surprise comes in how steady and stable he was, if not exactly down to earth—just as his figures rest so comfortably on rocks and clouds. Rather than the chariot’s fall, he shows Phaeton beside Apollo at the painting’s center, and Andromeda’s tormenter is already dead. In his historical prints, he minimizes the gore. That majestic ease, like the delicacy of his chalk drawings, amounts to light theater as well, since it precludes the human predicament and human psychology. The count may have meant Phaeton as a warning to his own son, but Tiepolo’s only warning is to look up.

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Hate the art fairs, for their unending commercialism and their fierce pressure on artists and dealers to survive? Consider an escape—to an art fair. Hate them, too, for never seeming to end? Allow one to linger for months, only starting with Frieze week. It will also give you a breezy, green place to go on a summer holiday weekend.

NADA gave up the game in 2019, apart from a residency on Governors Island through August 4. It remains modest and accessible, with fewer than fifty dealers in three houses on the island’s Colonel’s Row, most with just one artist per room. In its second year as NADA House, it is also making itself at home.

The artists are making themselves at home, too. They take over the former officers quarters as if making them over for a fresh start. They add draperies and wall painting, like Ayana Evans (with EFA Robert Blackburn), Denise Kupferschmidt (with Halsey McKay), and Joseph Hart (with Romer Young). They fill cabinets and closets with their paintings, like Billy Jacobs (with False Flag) and A.I.R., the women’s collective. Ethan Greenbaum (with Lyles & Kin) boards up old walls or, depending on how you look at them, creates new ones as part of the shifting ground of his reliefs. Mournful silhouettes in anything but mournful colors by Emma Kohlmann (with Jack Hanley) happily ascend the stairs. The remaining paint is still peeling, but Zach Martin (with Fisher Parrish) adapts to that, too, with a smoky gray.

Martin also supplies furniture, only in a slippery resin—as do Tony Pedemonte (with Creative Growth), only bound up in yarn, and Paul Gabrielli (with New Discretions), only in miniature. Others offer table settings, like Katy Fischer (with Geary) in shelves of broken pottery and Laurie King (with Franz Kaka), who fills metal bowls with . . . I hesitate to say. James Hoff (with Callicoon) is already recycling glass and plastic, to keep up with what he calls a “marketing revolution.” Sophie Stone (with Safe) takes care of area rugs, although her coarse weave also extends to walls. Kristin Walsh (with Helena Anratha) brings bedroom clocks, although they tick ominously in cold steel. Fernanda Fragateiro and Shahrzad Kamel (with Josée Bienvenu) stock a “reading room” for books on the Cold War, while used saddles serve Ilana Savdie (with ltd los angeles) as a backyard swing.

Maybe, they suggest, art just needs a real fair after all, rather than collectors swooping in for the weekend and swooping out to the next global city. (Whether buyers will bother with the ferry to the island is another matter.) Like a craft fair or county fair, they invite one to linger over warm summer months and to feel part of a community. New York already had that model, with the Governors Island Art Fair at the end of the season. NADA House merely fills the gap in time and responds more effectively to its site.

It also responds to obvious trends. The New Art Dealers Alliance favors emerging and midlevel dealers, many from New York’s Lower East Side, that art so desperately needs. Yet to them this is business as usual. It has its fabric and ceramics. It has its creepy allusions to the human body. Gender appears explicitly with fierce pussy, the AIDS activists (with Essex Flowers), and African Americans with Bailey Scieszka (with What Pipeline)—in gilded portraits much like those of Titus Kaphar. The fluid boundary between painting and sculpture enters faces in relief by Anya Kielar (with Rachel Uffner) as well as the installations.

Still, it mostly steps around political art. The island’s history as military and Coast Guard base appears only obliquely as well. Tyler Healy (with AA/LA) does place a colonial era sword and uniform past a blue tarp and curtain of shells that he might have gathered from New York’s harbor. Yet the most haunting reminders come, of all things, with a visitor from Dubai. Sara Rebar (with Carbon 12) turns old leather into a battered flag and old rifles into dark sculpture. If Louise Nevelson had sought a very different revolution than her own, she might have found it here. She might also have found a home.

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From 1978 to 1982, Janet Cooling painted a single extended nightmare. Coming to New York from Chicago just in time for the AIDS crisis, she must have felt that she was living one as well.

Just once, though, she shows herself caught up in a waking dream, at Jack Hanley through July 3. She appears to relish it, too, and to have slept on her back. Her face looks upward, teeth bared in predatory pleasure, and oh what she sees or dreams. She is looking directly at her future and imagining what she has left behind.

Just above, apartment towers have a bleak but gorgeous anonymity. They lean back, as in an amateur photograph that tilts upward to take in tall buildings. Cooling never much cares to correct her mistakes, not when they take her so deep into a dream. They could be literally collapsing, and for a moment one could mistake her entire city for the twin towers on 9/11—or they could be rising, twisting, and alive. In other paintings, they are also on fire, like candles in the night, and a Chicago resident was sure to remember riots and burning. An African American, Purvis Young, has relied on similar images for his energy in LA.

Hers, though, are still halfway idyllic, even at their worst. Elsewhere, stags and other animals leap across the chasm between buildings, as if catastrophe could return humanity to Eden. New York had its crime in those years, but also its enclaves like much of Manhattan before it was no longer affordable and Central Park before it drew a crowd. At the center of another painting, couples cross a green world. In the dream itself, suburban tract housing from her childhood fills the space below her head. She might take relief from catastrophe in her memories, or she might be grateful to have moved on.

She must have been grateful to find herself in New York as an artist and a sexual being. The bare teeth mark her as a demon lover. If that sounds stereotypical for a woman, Cooling is delighted to play against stereotype. It makes her dark myths that much more fun. Often a large woman’s head dominates a shaped panel close to an oval, like an eighteenth-century portrait but with trendier hair. At the center of still another painting, a couple is plainly having sex.

Then again, nothing in a dream is quite plain. She is asserting herself as queer, but that couple has no obvious gender, and those on the grass are mixed. The first AIDS cases did not appear until 1981, but Cooling had no shortage of nightmares all along. Cars crossing a painting look more savage than the stags, and nuclear towers look worse. She remembered them from growing up in New Jersey, and, the gallery suggests, nukes had to be on her mind late in the Cold War. If nothing else, they supply the paintings with radioactive colors, like the heads in a downright fiery blue.

The gallery also compares her to David Wojnarowicz. Still, Wojnarowicz before AIDS layered on his colors, while Cooling’s glow from within. Later, she amped up the reds and oranges in faces, for a Neo-Expressionism closer to Sandro Chia. Then she amped up the bodies, including male bodies, and more recently she has brighter landscapes far from cities, at once harsher and more idyllic. Still, nothing since goes anywhere near as sensual or as nuclear as those first four years. She was dreaming, but always wide awake.

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Leonora Carrington painted Down Under in 1940, the very year of her stay in a mental institution in Spain. Both took her into psychic depths, and she used the same title three years later for an account of her journey.

By then, she had moved to New York, where a painted landscape has its own underworld, in brown beneath the lushness of a formal garden. Yet it has nothing on the strangeness of the inhabitants above, in both works. They include a bird woman and a woman between a Madonna and a harlequin, a green prancing horse and a bright red dog leashed to a tree, stag heads emerging from a purple cauldron, and distant towers in a chilling but visionary white. For Carrington, daylight had nightmares to spare—and I have combined with an earlier report on a woman wrestling with Modernism and visions, Hilma af Klint, as a longer review and my latest upload.

Born in England in 1927, she had moved to Paris, where she fell in love with Surrealism and Max Ernst. His wartime incarceration triggered her breakdown, but not because of dependency on men. She exhibited in New York with Pierre Matisse and Peggy Guggenheim, before heading off to Mexico City—where she shared a run-down mansion with Remedios Varo, another woman immigrant from Spain, and got to know Frida Kahlo. Carrington’s women are as wild as her animals and star in much the same circus, and either one can become the other. Her Mujeres Concencia (or “female awareness”) from 1972 recasts the temptation in Eden with two women. A red owl might stand for a woman’s wisdom.

As early as 1937, a horse pauses before an open doorway flanked by pillars that rise up into living women. Carrington called it Fear, but whose and of what? Could it be male fears of female sexuality? No doubt, but she, too, had her lusts and fears, the kind that sent her to the sanatorium. Her mythology and feminism also have ample room for men. An elk costumed as royalty shares a stage set with his grown daughter and a child. They seem well aware of a wintry landscape to all sides.

Another horned creature and robed being presides over a magician’s table, with two children in black robes as apprentices. It could represent a woman’s magic or that of a male sage comfortable in evoking a woman’s. Regardless, Surrealism for Carrington was always first and foremost a “magic realism.” A small but luxuriant survey centers on long-handled fans that could equally be masks, shields, or entire bodies. They convert the space into an enchanted forest. The San Francisco dealer, Wendi Norris, also brings twenty paintings to its pop-up exhibition on Madison Avenue, through June 29, and you never know who may pop up.

It carries her into the 1970s, although she lived into her nineties. Over time, the hard edges and formal gardens give way to softer and more fiery colors. A young male alter ego takes up a quill to decorate an enormous egg because, as she wrote in Down Under, “The Egg is the macrocosm and the microcosm.” Her mystic universe had room for both. Was Carrington old-fashioned in clinging to Surrealism after “action painting” and its counterparts overseas had outgrown it? A concurrent exhibition places her amid a bustling wartime and postwar circle, as “Surrealism in Mexico,” at Di Donna.

She was hardly alone in forced exile. Mexico was affordable, too, and Latin America had a history of exchanges with Modernism in Europe—like that of Tarsila do Amara and remnants of the Bauhaus in Brazil. Ernst turns up with a collage, along with Man Ray and Roberto Matta on his way from Chile to Abstract Expressionist New York. They could join Kahlo and Diego Rivera, whose terse drawing gives André Breton an incisive gaze and a block-like head. They could also find a common style and imagery. Carrington’s mix of humans and animals, costumes and carnivals, or land and sea journeys appears again and again.

Kahlo brings her head to a hunted deer, and the shared obsessions humanize her pose with parrots and a cigarette. She also adopts native dress for her most flattering photographer, Nickolas Muray, but others had little time for local customs or themselves. They lurk behind veils, like The Surrealists for Bridget Bate Tichenor, and they achieve a collective deepening of color, for what Walfgang Paalen calls Tropical Night and Gordon Onslow Ford The Luminous Land. The greatest share of work, though, belongs to Carrington and Varo, whose slyness steals the show. Varo stars as herself—letting her hair down as white fur, sailing into a coral jungle, exploring a dark river in a leather bucket, and spoon feeding a caged crescent moon. When two eyes face empty spectacles on a bare table, Surrealism in Mexico has found its inner vision.

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