Almeida & Dale (Sao Paulo), 466
Bringing together an immaculate presentation of the work of six Afro-Brazilian artists spanning nearly six decades, Almeida & Dale wins my pick for Best Booth at this year’s EXPO. It’s rare for a stand to come together so cohesively, especially given the breadth of artists on display here. From vibrant and delicate paintings by Heitor dos Prazeres to tactile sculptures in sculpted sandstone by Paulo Pires, every work in this booth is a hit. Mestre Didi’s ritual scepters, crafted from curved palm, painted leather, shells and pearls, are particularly dazzling. Installed on plinths and directly on the floor, they are incredibly delicate meditative instruments that could inspire the most secular soul to seek the divine. Also noteworthy are the ink and marker drawings by Sonia Gomes and the fabric sculptures modeled around aluminum supports; both put forth bulbous forms on the brink of endless proliferation.
Andrew Rafacz (Chicago), 351
Illinois’ fifty-five-mile Des Plaines River Trail offers a vast expanse of wilderness outside of the city. In a solo presentation at Andrew Rafacz, Soumya Netrabile captures the ebb and flow of this flooding landscape with wide passages of oil paint. Intense colors rub against each other, dissipating in a pool of marshy mud. With each collision, it is as if the forest were founded on itself. The sequence of panels, oriented horizontally, has a cinematic quality. The landscape passes you by at different paces, invoking the fact of following these paths on foot. It gets blurry. But points of definition, like the silhouette of a bird flapping its wings or the arm of a figure digging into the earth, provide moments where the eye pauses. Netrabile beautifully captures the life of an ecosystem, its terrors and triumphs cycling and suddenly disappearing.
CABINET Gallery (London), 334
Fancy a fight? Visit CABINET Gallery for a row with a suite of Diamond Stingily works. In a monumental but slender sculpture made of synthetic hair, braids emerge from a thick knot and spread erratically across the floor. These artificial black locks reappear in a trio of steel chains and hair sequences that hang stoically on the central wall. With a suffocating femininity that can only be recognized in themselves, these works exude a violent calm. This air of oppressive balance continues in Stingily’s photographs. In one image, the pointy toe of a tan cowboy boot lifts up, its scarring digging out a red carpet. Suspended, you feel the tension waiting for the shoe to drop. There is also a beautiful painting of a black cat by Gillian Carnegie, although the superstitious may be wary.
Deli Gallery (New York), 473
Flooded with darkness, a troop of spirits, spirits and specters emanate from the dismal lands of Eden Seifu like lanterns. Taking the tunes of romantic artists Henry Fuseli and William Blake, his figures shimmer like mystical allegories. In one vignette, a passed out ingenue slips away into the sinister clutches of a slender demon who plays a wind instrument with his nostril – their musical embrace ends in quavers. In another scene, a small fairy-like figure prances through the air. Sparks fly from the nymph’s outstretched wings lighting the wicks of the grotesquely flaming-faced wax candles. Seifu’s voluminous application of acrylic gives these six images a remarkable vibrancy. Every streak of paint exudes vigor. Watch the scenes long enough and you’ll start to fall for them.
Mickey (Chicago), 177
For a moment in the madhouse, stop by Mickey’s. Isabel Frances McGuire’s animatronic characters are real crowd pleasers. Living sculptures, their glass eyes popping and their plastic teeth grimacing with the screeching of an engine. With costumes sourced from singularly absurd characters – Karl Marx making an appearance in the video game “Assassin’s Creed” and moonlit Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter in the 2012 film – these models hit the gallery in oversized suits. Amid an excess of tired figurative painting currently favored by the market, McGuire’s menacing mannequins are an exciting advance in post-war figurative sculpture that arose in the sixties and seventies and would surely have brought smiles cyborg-obsessed art historian Jack Burnham. You can also see dizzying paintings by Nick Schutzenhofer, which tell of the relationship between Hans Bellmer and Unica Zürn. Rendered in nasty tones of mustard, teal, and mauve, and branded with sour cream container lids, it looks like something has expired. And yet, moments of serenity are not lacking in these domestic scenes. Schutzenhofer captures the intimate moments of pause before frenzy and hysteria set in. (Alexandra Drexelius)