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Three to see: New York

From Marsden Hartley's Maine to Enrique Martinez Celaya's inquisitive work

by Victoria Stapley-Brown  |  30 March 2017
Three to see: New York
From left: Marsden Hartley's The Silence of High Noon—Midsummer (1907-08, collection of Jan T. and Marica Vilcek, promised Gift to The Vilcek Foundation) and Smelt Brook Falls (1937, Saint Louis Art Museum, Eliza McMillan Trust).
The exhibition Marsden Hartley’s Maine at the Met Breuer (until 18 June) “is not a show about pretty landscapes”, the curator, Randall Griffey, explains in a video preview, despite the beauty of the work. Instead, the exhibition explores Hartley's “wonderfully rich but complicated and sometimes contradictory relationship with Maine”, which he left for New York and Europe but returned to throughout his life. (He died in Maine in 1943.) The show includes around 90 paintings and drawings from throughout his career, including examples from his first solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s New York gallery 291 in 1909. A whole gallery is dedicated to his figure paintings, from fishermen at work to the gleaming bare male torso in Madawaska—Acadian Light-Heavy (1940). 

Sarah Morris turns an abstract lens to the urban structures of the Middle East in her solo show at Petzel Gallery, Finite and Infinite Games (until 8 April). There is an energetic, charged force in many of the works that evoke the rapid and relentless pace of building in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates—a city initially planned in 1967 for a population of 40,000 and now home to nearly 2.8m people. The show includes a series of smaller works in gouache drawn on movie posters that provoke questions of power. One work is done atop the poster for Exodus, a 1960 epic about the founding of the modern state of Israel, and another includes materials from the German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). 

Although the works in Enrique Martinez Celaya: the Gypsy Camp (until 22 April) at Jack Shainman’s West 20th Street location are technically figurative—subjects, often bizarre, range from a boy holding a drooping goose to a work that depicts shimmering yellow stars—the artist says he does not think of his work as figurative, but as an inquiry. You might leave the show puzzled, but also pondering over the art of painting. Celaya’s paintings are often executed in what he refers to as a deliberately “clumsy” or “crude” style. "I’m interested in paintings that, from the onset, contain their failure," he says. "There’s something very moving and very tender about that."

• Click here for a complete list of previously recommended New York shows

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