Art and real estate development met elsewhere in the city, but they got married in Chelsea. Tall, expensive buildings are rising around 10th Avenue, and gallery rents are rising along with them. Young art dealers arrive to try their hand in the official gallery neighborhood, and often fold-up shop quickly, as the promisingly offbeat American Medium, which started in Brooklyn, did recently. The juggernaut of mega-gallery showrooms continues, with behemoths like Hauser & Wirth mounting impressive historical shows (and starting their own bookstores, publishing houses, magazines and nonprofit foundations), and David Zwirner is planning a Renzo Piano-designed space to open in 2020. Meanwhile, the High Line looms ubiquitously overhead, like a people mover transporting tourists (mostly) from the new Hudson Yards on the north end to the gleaming Whitney Museum of American Art on the south. Contemporary art is everywhere though, including the High Line, where you’ll find a monumental sculpture by Simone Leigh, who just opened a show at the Guggenheim, along with other notable displays. Art has saturated the neighborhood, and you can see everything from work by emerging artists to the long deceased. Here are a few places to start.
1. Jack Shainman, ‘Paul Anthony Smith: Junction’
What you are viewing in Paul Anthony Smith’s exhibition at Jack Shainman are painstakingly altered large-scale photographs that he works on in his Brooklyn studio and which he calls “picotages.” The color photographs were taken in his native Jamaica, but also other locations, including at the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn. They have been covered with pointillist dots, which the artist digs into the photographs, and furthered altered with spray paint and colored pencil. Mr. Smith studied ceramics in Kansas City, Mo., and you sense the idea of glazing in his work, of images and things being covered over — although this works metaphorically, too, and suggests covered over events, people and histories. A face, a garden, or an urban scene peak through the dots in the picotage, resembling but never fully revealing themselves. Through May 11 at 513 West 20th Street and 524 West 24th Street; jackshainman.com.
2. Pace Gallery, ‘Raqib Shaw: Landscapes of Kashmir’
Raqib Shaw’s works have not always fared well with critics, and his current paintings at Pace Gallery exhibit some of the flamboyance and excess that have raised the ire of high art’s gatekeepers. From a distance, the high-gloss, virtuosic enamel paintings look like Thomas Kinkade landscapes mixed with Hieronymus Bosch scenarios: pretty, anodyne landscapes peppered with apocalyptic micro-hells in which mythic demons cribbed from traditions in Mr. Shaw’s native Kashmir battle with contemporary humans. The best works in the show are the most self-aware, in which Mr. Shaw depicts himself tending his artwork, pets or plants in a completely focused and self-absorbed manner — an effete maestro engulfed in “flow” while the hideous violence of the real world erupts outside his colonnaded window. Through May 18 at 537 West 24th Street; 212-421-3292, pacegallery.com.
3. Gladstone Gallery, Vivian Suter
One of the highlights of the international Documenta exhibition in 2017 was Vivian Suter’s display of loosely painted canvases, unframed, fluttering like elegant laundry outdoors in Athens and brightening up a glassy storefront in Kassel, Germany. Working for over 30 years near the volcanic Lake Atitlán in Panajachel, Guatemala, Ms. Suter was an art world drop-out who never dropped out of art. “Vivian’s Garden,” Rosalind Nashashibi’s film about Ms. Suter and her mother, Elizabeth Wild, also an artist, captured their art-centered lives in Guatemala. But Ms. Suter has re-emerged in the last few years, bringing that magic-garden feeling to traditional art spaces. She has transformed Gladstone’s space in Chelsea into a kind of ethereal Eden in which canvases hang from the ceiling, lie on the floor and generally work together, like branches on a tree or petals on a flower, to create an ecology of painting rather than a discrete-object experience. (Ms. Suter also has an installation on the High Line this season.) Through June 8 at 530 West 21st Street; 212-206-7606, gladstonegallery.com.
4. The Kitchen, ‘ANOHNI: Love’
Although you’re not always sure what you’re looking at, “ANOHNI: Love” at the Kitchen looks and feels like an art installation. It’s also deeply political. Near the entrance is an enlarged death certificate for Marsha P. Johnson, a gender activist after whom the Anohni-fronted musical group Antony and the Johnsons were named, and whose death by drowning in the Hudson was deemed a suicide (but many think was homicide). Nearby is a bookshelf with the library of Julia Yasuda, a former member of the Johnsons, which also serves as a memorial and a template for the group’s ethos and philosophy. Rough sculptures, collages, a film and the theatrically lit space create a moody ambience. It’s an apt approach for an artist for whom performance is a life project and gender is a medium. Through May 11 at 512 West 19th Street; 212-255-5793, thekitchen.org.
5. Mitchell-Innes & Nash, ‘Martin Kersels: Cover Story’
Martin Kersels characteristically splits the difference between performance and objects in his exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Cut-up and collaged record album covers are hung as relief wall sculptures, and on May 4 at 2:30 p.m. he will reprise a performance of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (1968), the 17-minute pop song by Iron Butterfly on a tricked-out stage in the gallery. Part comedy, part homage, Mr. Kersels’s work is a reminder that, despite the emphasis on art as business, there is still room in Chelsea for the absurd. Through May 18 at 534 West 26th Street; 212-744-7400, miandn.com.
6. Paula Cooper, Walid Raad
The works in Walid Raad’s exhibition at Paula Cooper follow a format he innovated in the 1980s and ’90s: “real” photographs paired with texts that may or may not be fictional. Applied to recent history in the Middle East — and particularly his native Lebanon and that country’s long civil war — photographs here of storefronts and people accompanied by “explanatory” texts show how para-fictions often become facts or official histories. The centerpiece is a new video made up of kaleidoscopically mirrored film loops that show buildings in the Beirut Central District being destroyed to create a new and, theoretically, better postwar city. The psychedelic forward-and-reverse motion of the loops simply but effectively questions the linear march of time and progress. Through May 24 at 521 West 21st Street; 212-255-1105, paulacoopergallery.com.
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