A crowded May cultural calendar in New York this year has led to vast array of exhibitions on offer this spring, many of which have been open for a few weeks or opened at the end of last week.
With Frieze New York opening at the Shed in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards this year, however, visitors should remember that the fair is just a few blocks north of gallery hub Chelsea, and a short train ride from eclectic offerings further downtown. Several exhibitions worth catching are also opening this week, including a group show with an off-beat ode to Shakespeare’s Richard II, and a survey of the late, first-rate abstractionist Young-Il Ahn. Meanwhile across the river in Brooklyn, sculptors draw from the borough’s maritime history to explore the tangled channels that bind and define the American identity.
Read below for 5 exhibitions opening this week in New York.
"At Six and Seven" at Ulterior Gallery
For the inaugural presentation in its newly renovated space, Ulterior Gallery looks to a line from Shakespeare’s Richard II for inspiration: “But time will not permit: all is uneven, And every thing is left at six and seven.” The exhibition seems to ask, when did our world gone sideways into a state of perpetual confusion? The assembled artists, in lieu of an answer, have embraced the best the future has to offer—potential. The program serves as an homage to the gallery’s exhibition history, with a broad range of material and conceptual approaches, including painter Maryam Amiryani, known for sparse still-lifes; the late postwar Japanese painter and sculptor Minoru Yoshida, who created abstractions suggestive of primordial organisms or blooming flowers; and Margaret Meehan, whose multidisciplinary practice explores the societal tendency to assign otherness.
On view May 19–July 9, Ulterior Gallery, 424 Broadway #601.
"Black Atlantic" at the Brooklyn Bridge Park
“Black Atlantic,” organized by the Public Art Fund and installed at Brooklyn Bridge Park, is a group exhibition of sculptors in conversation with the borough’s historic waterfront which has served over the centuries as a colonial ferry-landing, a critical shipping port, and spot for sight-seeing. Titled after the book by Paul Gilroy, “Black Atlantic” centers work that explores Black American identity and its ties to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Hugh Hayden, fresh off his Brier Patch triumph at Madison Square Park, serves as co-curator with Public Art Fund adjunct curator Daniel S. Palmer.
Hayden is showing Gulf Stream, a wooden boat with a whale’s ribcage carved in the hull. According to the artist, the sculpture calls back to two canonical works: Winslow Homer’s 1899 work of the same name featuring a Black man struggling in a storm, and Kerry James Marshall’s 2003’s riff on the work, in which a Black family sails smoothly over the breaks. Also on display are two groups of totemic sculptures in homage to traditional West African techniques by Leilah Babirye; an interactive installation by Dozie Kanu in the form of a concrete chaise lounge; and Kiyan Williams’s take on the Statue of Freedom, installed facing another contentious symbol of promise, the Statue of Liberty.
On view May 17–November 27, at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Young-Il Ahn at Harper's Chelsea
Since his death in 2020, Young-Il Ahn, a pioneering Korean American painter of atmospheric abstractions, has seen a resurgence of interest in his art, in particular his entrancing “Water” series, in which blocks of monochromatic paint simulate the refraction of light on water. For an exhibition titled “Water, Space, California,” Harper’s has paired this series with two other formative bodies of work by the artist: the 1992 “Space” series, which features minimal color fields in a foggy palette, and the “California” series, which leveraged color and scale to the mimic sunlight on the Pacific Coast.
Born in 1934 in Korea, Ahn lived through a period of intense political and social upheaval caused by Japanese colonial rule during World War II and the subsequent Korean War. His art was very well received in Korea, but the unstable postwar economy made earning a living off his painting near impossible, prompting his move to the United States in 1966. This exhibition of paintings is evidence to the peace he must have found in Southern California, staring into the gently breaking waves as the sun sets ahead.
On view May 19–June 25, Harper’s Chelsea 512 (512 West 22nd Street) and Harper’s Chelsea 534 (534 West 22nd Street).
Abbas Zahedi at Anonymous Gallery
Abbas Zahedi’s art doesn’t just exist in space; it acts upon space, riffing on the inherent uncanniness of the empty gallery with interventions of sound, moving image, and performance. There’s less a sense of viewing one of his installations than of being hosted by it: his 2021 experiment, Sonic Support Group, was a physical and spiritual respite for frontline workers in west London.
His newest exhibition, “Metatopia 10013,” at Anonymous Gallery, a venue on the edge of Chinatown with a consistently intriguing program, continues his immersive, connection-driven practice, starting with sound: quivering, metallic blasts of a brass instrument wielded by Zahedi are broadcast throughout the gallery. A lamentation or sonic inquiry rising from the ocean’s depths—decide as the music envelopes you.
On view May 19–July 2, at Anonymous Gallery, 136 Baxter Street.
Glenn Kaino at Pace Gallery
Glenn Kaino’s first solo exhibition with Pace since joining the gallery in 2021 features a single, 50-foot-long installation that draws from sports imagery and the historic protest movements. Titled Bridge (Raise Your Voice in Silence), also the name of the show, the suspended sculpture snakes across the gallery’s ceiling in the form of a golden ribbon, reminiscent of an oceanic fossil that might be on display in a natural history museum. To this, Kaino has attached a series of repeating casts of the arm of Olympian track star Tommie Smith.
Kaino has had a decade-long collaboration with Smith, who was immortalized at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City for raising his fist in a Black Power salute on the podium for the 200-meter event, with fellow American John Carlos. “I think one of the most important roles of an artist is to imagine new futures, to think about what we can become as a society and to use their work to inspire change,” Kaino told Sarah Newman, a curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, last year when describing his collaboration with Smith.
On view May 20–June 11, at Pace Gallery, 540 West 25th Street.