15 Art Shows to See in New York This September

The art world is officially back from its summer break, and it’s that time of year when there are so many good shows opening in New York that it’s impossible to catch them all. But we try, don’t we? Enjoy this month’s outstanding selections and for more recommendations, check out our Fall 2023 New York Art Guide, which focuses on large museum shows across the city.

Papo Colo

Papo Colo image
Papo Colo, “Rumble” (2022), earth and paint on canvas, 69 x 106 inches (image courtesy Caledrón Gallery)

Papo Colo’s paintings, all created in the El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico, appear to vibrate, murmur, and hum as though animated from within. This inherent turbulence stems from the artist’s distinctive working method: Colo stretches his canvas over stones arranged on the ground before applying pigments and earth using his fingers as well as tree vines in a dynamic, performative symphony. An omnipresent figure in New York’s alternative art scene of the 1980s, Colo bridges two worlds, a bifurcated experience reflected in his works: “My paintings are not abstract or figurative,” he says, “they are hybrid, like myself.” —Valentina Di Liscia

Calderón (calderon-ny.com)
7 Lispenard Street, Tribeca, Manhattan
Through September 30

Math Bass: Roses Are Red

Math Bass tanya bonakdar install
Installation view of Math Bass, Roses are Red; foreground: “Full body parentheses” (2023), painted MDF and wood, 95 3/4 x 46 3/4 x 30 3/4 inches each; background: “Perfume Map” (2023), oil on linen, 52 x 42 inches (photo by Pierre Le Hors, courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles)

Math Bass’s paintings exist at the edge of meaning. Through the years, the artist has developed a visual language of forms and symbols that are dimly familiar but never decipherable, drawing us into an irresistible tension. In new works exhibited at Tanya Bonakdar, rendered in oil on linen rather than gouache on canvas, Bass embraces the fluidity, expressiveness, and personal mark-making that the more temporal medium allows for. Romantic motifs — flowers, clouds — dominate the compositions, yet these are far from cloying. See the show for yourself to unlock the deeper message within: Bass’s poignant reflection on queer and trans identity. —VD

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (tanyabonakdargallery.com)
521 West 21st Street, Chelsea, Manhattan
Through October 14

Young Elder

Nico Williams Out and about again 2023
Nico Williams, “Out and about, again…” (2023), 11/0 glass beads and wallet, dimensions variable (photo by Jason Mandella, image courtesy the artist and James Fuentes)

A group show of contemporary Native and Indigenous artists is not something you see every day in New York City. That’s a bitter truth, sweetened for just a few weeks by this show, curated by Natalie Ball (Klamath/Modoc) and Zach Feuer. The six featured artists are Andrea Carlson (Grand Portage Ojibwe), Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Alaska Native), Tyrrell Tapaha (Diné), and Nico Williams (Aamjiwnaang First Nation). They’ve got some witty, irreverent, and challenging work for you to see. And why aren’t there more shows by Native artists in this city? —Hakim Bishara

James Fuentes (jamesfuentes.com)
55 Delancey Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Through October 14

Jane South: Halfway Off

Jane South Gadding
Jane South, “Gadding” (2023), acrylic, canvas, thread, batting, and mixed media, 97 x 108 inches (image courtesy Spencer Brownstone Gallery)

When I look at Jane South’s detail-rich canvases, I see the hulking suspension bridges of New York City, where she’s based, and the gray skies of Manchester in the UK, from which she hails. I see the fencing of a small garden between two buildings, a railroad fork, the Union Jack, a wheel of fortune, a puppet theater, the coughing specter of the Industrial Revolution, and a mother’s tender embrace. However, you don’t need to see any of that to love the work. —HB

Spencer Brownstone Gallery (spencerbrownstonegallery.com)
170-A Suffolk Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Through October 21

Michael Rakowitz: The Monument, The Monster and The Maquette

Michael rakowitz The Monument The Monster and the Maquette
Installation view of Michael Rakowitz, The Monument, The Monster and The Maquette; left: “American Golem (2022); right: “Behemoth” (2022) (photo by Arturo Sanchez, image courtesy the artist and Jane Lombard Gallery)

I was looking at Michael Rakowitz’s pencil drawings of troublesome public monuments and reading notes from his research about them, completely unaware of a monster that was growing behind me. It was “Behemoth” (2022), an inflatable sculpture of a shrouded monument that reminded me of the 2016 protest against the now-removed equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Rakowitz’s sculpture rises to the height of 11 feet before it deflates and collapses on the floor. That’s indeed the story: Some racist statues went down, but many more are still standing. —HB

Jane Lombard Gallery (janelombardgallery.com)
58 White Street, Tribeca, Manhattan
Through October 21

Rest Is Power

Daveed Baptiste Sin Dont Live Here
Daveed Baptiste, “Sin Don’t Live Here” (2017) (image courtesy of the artist)

“Rest” and “self-care” have recently been warped and distorted beyond recognition (thank you, productivity culture), making this exhibition organized by the Black Rest Project all the more resonant. In Tyler Mitchell’s luminous “Riverside Scene” (2021), Black families and friends lounge on a grassy Georgia riverbank dotted with yellow flowers, signaling a freedom from the region’s violent history. Co-curator Deborah Willis is featured, as well, through her tender photograph of a woman resting her head during a hair wash in “Ms. Brown’s Beauty Shop, Philadelphia (shampoo)” (1999). Other artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Gordon Parks, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, and Chris Friday contribute their own works to a collective visualization of rest across the Black diaspora, taking inspiration from Nap Ministry founder Tricia Hersey’s guiding principle, “rest is resistance.” —Lakshmi Rivera Amin

Center for Black Visual Culture at New York University (cbvc.nyu.edu)
The 20 Cooper Square Gallery, Noho, Manhattan
Through October 22

Courtney M. Leonard: Logbook 2004–2023

Hrag Photo Heckscher Courtney M. Leonard
Courtney M. Leonard, “BREACH: Logbook 23 | ALLUVION” (2023), ceramics, oyster shells, pallets, paint, and video (photo Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

This small survey of Shinnecock artist Courtney M. Leonard deserves to be larger, but curator Karli Wurzelbacher has done a solid job of packing in a lot of power in this two-room show (one devoted entirely to a special new commission). It’s fantastic to see an art institution toasting a local talent, but it’s even better to get a chance to see Leonard’s early ceramic works, later scrimshaw-influenced objects (including the haunting “BREACH: Logbook 23|BREACH #2” from this year), and other paintings as well as a larger work from the artist’s CONTACT series, which was also commissioned by the museum. While Leonard may be best known for her ceramic pieces, which always look mysterious and in dialogue with the history of object making, this show allows you to see how expansive her imagination can very much be. —Hrag Vartanian

Heckscher Museum of Art (heckscher.org)
2 Prime Avenue, Huntington, New York
Through November 12

Art for the Millions: American Culture and Politics in the 1930s

O. Louis Guglielmi One Third of a Nation
O. Louis Guglielmi, “One Third of a Nation” (1939), oil and tempera on wood, 30 x 24 inches (image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

You may be familiar with the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the program implemented by President Roosevelt in 1935 that supported many unemployed artists during the Great Depression. The Federal Art Project’s lemma of “art for the millions” inspired the title of this exhibition, which looks at the ways in which creators of the decade made sense of a chaotic world following the 1929 stock market crash. While the show features some of the usual suspects — Philip Guston and Alice Neel, for instance — it also illuminates the contributions of artists who didn’t become household names, like the Egypt-born, New York-raised O. Louis Guglielmi, a WPA muralist whose work “One Third of a Nation” (1939) conveys the devastating effects of poverty and housing insecurity. Far from entrenching the ’30s firmly in the past, the curators push back against excessive historization, contextualizing the period as “a touchstone of sorts for our own age” — its echo resonating too loudly, perhaps, nearly 100 years later. —VD

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org)
1000 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan
Through December 10

Staten Island Mode: Identity, Memory, Fashion

Staten Island Mode Michael McWeeney Red Hat
Michael McWeeney, “Red Hat” (photo courtesy the artist)

This archival exhibition of Staten Island fashion history explores the links between local dress, memory, and identity. Led by fashion history scholars Jenna Rossi-Camus and Alexis Romano, who both grew up in the borough, Staten Island Mode is the result of a research project chronicling the “self-fashioning” of a seaside community’s past and present residents. The show features installations of garments and photography across four rooms, in conjunction with several public events. —Maya Pontone

Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden (snug-harbor.org)
1000 Richmond Terrace, Building C, Randall Manor, Staten Island
Through December 31

Ruth Asawa Through Line

Ruth Asawa Untitled Eucalyptus Grove
Ruth Asawa, “Untitled” (1961), ink on coated paper on board, 23 x 35 inches (artwork © 2023 Ruth Asawa Lanier, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; image courtesy David Zwirner)

Ruth Asawa is celebrated for her intricately woven sculptures built of concentric mesh forms, whose webs and networks recall patterns found in the organic world. The Japanese-American artist, educator, and activist’s first love, however, was drawing, a practice she continued to develop throughout her lifetime. This show features over 100 works on paper including sketches, watercolors, collages, prints, and more dating from the 1940s to her late period, attesting to her experimentation with techniques and mediums as varied as stamps and calligraphy. The pieces on display, many of them rarely exhibited, trace Asawa’s obsession with line, rhythm, and form to the raw, simple pleasure of mark-making. —VD

Whitney Museum of American Art (whitney.org)
99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan
Through January 15, 2024

Art Fairs to See This Month:

More Recommendations From Our Fall 2023 New York Art Guide:

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