Fall Arts Preview: Top 10 Gallery Shows

What we're looking forward to this season

In the 1970s, Gordon Matta-Clark wrote that, by slicing through buildings as part of the practice he called Anarchitecture, he aimed to offer “confusion guided by a clear sense of purpose.” Sarah Oppenheimer carries that project deep into sublime, uncharted territory by cutting into walls and floors to build subtle, nuanced installations that both guide and trick vision. Extreme confusion gives way to a surreal level of clarity in her second show at P.P.O.W., a gallery-altering installation.

Sarah Oppenheimer, D-33, 2012. (Courtesy P.P.O.W.)
Existential dread looks effortless and elegant in the austerely beautiful films that Dutch artist Guido van der Werve has made over the past decade. He walks in front of an icebreaker on the frozen Gulf of Finland in one, and, in another, spends a day at the North Pole, slowly rotating along with the Earth. Eight of his films will be screened at Luhring Augustine’s Bushwick branch, and at the gallery’s headquarters in Chelsea, he offers up two new works, one involving a 1,000-mile triathlon inspired by the journey that Frédéric Chopin’s sister took in the mid-19th century as she smuggled Chopin’s heart from Paris to Warsaw.

Guido van der Werve, still from Nummer veertien, home, 2012. (Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine)
Since the mid-1990s, a band of downtown intellectuals slash art-types have worked under the name the Bernadette Corporation, styling themselves as a vaguely left-wing aesthetic vanguard. They have authored a novel, made a film about globalization protests, published fashion magazines, staged photo shoots, collaborated with Chloë Sevigny, written poetry, designed bathroom faucets and put on numerous solo art exhibitions. Their influence on art has been considerable, but their willful obscurity can enervate. This first-ever retrospective, helmed by Stefan Kalmár and Richard Birkett, the director and curator of the nonprofit Artists Space, will offer an opportunity to sort it all out.

Bernadette Corporation, Bosozoku, Clothing and Styling: Bernadette Corporation. (Courtesy Cris Moor Photography)
For his latest show at Goodman, “Painting 2012,” Gerhard Richter has printed photographs that he made after digitally dividing one of his trademark abstract paintings from 1990 into 8,190 patches of various sizes then mirroring and stretching those into what he calls Strip Paintings, which are filled with horizontal lines of color, each created from a fleck of paint he placed on canvas 22 years ago. (Got all that?) Arguably the world’s greatest living painter, Mr. Richter could have comfortably coasted for the rest of his career on his beguiling abstractions. Instead, he’s bravely experimenting.

Gerhard Richter, 919 STRIP, unique digital print mounted between Aludibond and Perspex (Diasec), 78 3/4 x 86 5/8 in (200 x 220 cm). (Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery)
One of the highlights of this year’s Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany, was a roomful of small paintings that Beirut–born writer and artist Etel Adnan has been making since the late 1950s of Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco. Employing just a few choice colors and shapes—a searing pink circle for the sun, a long expanse of aquamarine for the sky—she has created spare landscapes that come close to being complete abstractions. This is her first solo gallery show in New York, and it’s about time—the artist is in her late 80s.

Etel Adnan, untitled, 2000-2005, Oil on canvas, 9 x 12 in (22.9 x 30.5 cm). (Courtesy the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts, New York)
“Is photography a thing?” Zoe Leonard asks in a statement for this show. “Or is it a way of seeing?” It’s both, judging by her plans for her first gallery outing in New York since 2003. She’s turning one room of the newly expanded Murray Guy into a camera obscura, that bewitching predecessor of photography, letting scenes from the street outside stream into the pitch-black space through a tiny hole. Next door, she’ll show her haunting silver photographs of the sun, which show her medium’s essential functions: recording light and stilling time.

Zoe Leonard, August 4, Frame 9, 2011. (Courtesy the artist and Murray Guy)
Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings of pristine cakes, pies and ice cream sundaes have become such iconic symbols of mid-20th century American life that it’s easy to forget their artistry and audacity. This career-spanning survey, curated by Princeton art historian John Wilmerding, should serve as a reminder, offering museum loans and, even more enticing, works that the artist has held in his collection for decades.

Wayne Thiebaud, Four Ice Cream Cones, 1964, oil on canvas, 14 x 16 in. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum. (Courtesy Ken Howie Art/Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)
In Gary Simmons’s ghostly paintings and drawings, buildings, objects and phrases—motifs or symbols laden with issues of power, race and class—are on the verge of going up in smoke or being smeared and erased like aging but persistent memories. This survey will present those iconic works alongside his early installations and sculptures, which have approached objects like boomboxes, Ku Klux Klan hoods and boxing rings with a similar clear-eyed, poetic cool.

Gary Simmons, Here's...Honey, 1992. Installation view, Drawing Center, New York. (Courtesy Metro Pictures)
Brooklyn painter Keltie Ferris’s large abstractions buzz with ecstatic, wildly syncopated rhythms, lines and fields of acrylic and oil dueling with bursts of spray paint in high-contrast colors. Think late Mondrian gone free jazz, or Marc Grotjahn laced with psychedelics. Often the works look ready to collapse into cacophony, but they somehow always hold themselves together, exemplars of painting’s mysterious powers. After years of showing at Horton, this is Ms. Ferris’s debut at Mitchell-Innes.

Keltie Ferris, :*, 2012, Oil, acrylic and pastel on canvas, 90 x 80 in (228.6 x 203.2 cm). (Courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash)

The fall art season has begun in New York, and The New York Observer‘s Fall Arts Preview magazine just hit newsstands around town. After a long, painful wait over the summer, new shows have begun to open.  The slide show at left offers a look at the 10 gallery shows we have been most looking forward to seeing this season. A few are already open, and others will open in the months to come. Welcome back.

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