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What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week

ROBERTA SMITH

Photo

An untitled 2014 work by Peter Shear.

Credit
Courtesy of the artist and Fortnight Institute

PETER SHEAR

Through July 16. Fortnight Institute, 60 East Fourth Street, Manhattan; fortnight.institute.

The Fortnight Institute, which does not represent artists, sprang up last year on the old stamping grounds of the East Village gallery scene of the 1980s. Its latest offering is the New York solo debut of Peter Shear, a young painter based in Indiana, whose show, “Magnolias All at Once,” takes its blossom-conjuring title from Norman Fischer’s book of poetry. The phrase fits the freshness and evident spontaneity of Mr. Shear’s small canvases, which average 10 inches by 8 inches. At a time when so much art is big, fabricated and public, these works adhere to the small-is-radical concept. Nearly 50 line the walls, each quite different from the others, but united by the robust, unfussy physicality of touch and surface.

Mr. Shear follows the tradition of intuitive, stylistically polymorphous abstract painters like Raoul De Keyser and René Daniëls, but connects more directly with the canvas. There’s not a hard edge in sight, just lots of lively approximations. In “Friend,” for example, a wobbly black line separates a field of gray from an intruding rectangle of amiable chartreuse.

And while figure-ground dichotomies prevail, Mr. Shear occasionally breaks out in more complex compositions. One beauty is “Cameo,” a field of colorful, upward-drifting strokes whose title may refer to the single black square in the upper right. Another is an untitled work from 2014: nothing but daubs of blue, connected by a sinuous smear of the same, applied wet-on-wet to a field of cream. The marks casually challenge us to figure out which came first, and may also depict a painting within a painting. Mr. Shear’s canvases are like good, short poems whose simplicities turn complex almost before we know it.

ROBERTA SMITH

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“Giraffe Birth,” a 2017 oil painting by Leidy Churchman.

Credit
Leidy Churchman and Mary Boone Gallery with Janice Guy

LEIDY CHURCHMAN

Through July 28. Mary Boone Gallery, 745 Fifth Avenue; 212-752-2929, maryboonegallery.com.

Leidy Churchman’s response to the existential threat of the internet looks like the protective mimicry that a lot of contemporary painters have adopted. His latest show, “Kindly Bent to Ease Us,” at Mary Boone’s gallery on the southern edge of the Upper East Side, is a riot of reproduction, repurposing and appropriation, with oil paintings of a friend’s family Christmas card; of a panel discussion (“Is the Universe a Simulation, Moderated by Neil deGrasse Tyson”); and of works by Richard Prince, the sculptor Frank Benson and the artist Eric Drooker, who is known for his New Yorker covers. The painting of the Benson sculpture, moreover, was a collaboration with TM Davy, and the painting of the Drooker cover includes a copy of Mr. Drooker’s signature.

But what would distinguish Mr. Churchman’s work, even without the few discreet references to Buddhist philosophy, is that instead of infusing his painting with the speed and evanescence of its subject matter, he uses his painting to slow down that matter. (If the universe is a simulation, in other words, that doesn’t quite mean that it isn’t real.)

The best example of that here is the richly colored, seven-foot-wide “Giraffe Birth.” It shows a laboring giraffe standing solemnly in front of a sandy savanna, her newborn hanging halfway out, with its head still in the amniotic sac. It couldn’t more obviously represent a passing moment. But it’s also a reminder that even a passing moment has its weight.

WILL HEINRICH

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An installation view of Darren Bader’s “Forest/Trees.”

Credit
Courtesy of the artist and Greenspon Gallery, New York

DARREN BADER

Through July 21. Greenspon, 71 Morton Street, Manhattan; 212-255-7872, greenspongallery.com.

Daren Bader specializes in the kind of casual Conceptualism — think of the Swiss duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss, or Mark Leckey — that looks dumb on the surface but purports to contain lower registers of intelligence (or at least cleverness). Mr. Bader’s past projects include a collection of “Photographs I Like” and sculptures with decaying food, like a pizza loaded into a dishwasher, or guacamole poured into a French horn. Now he has wandered into sound art, with mixed results.

For his current installation, “Forest/Trees,” at Greenspon, dozens of black speakers have been mounted on the walls of the gallery. The setup looks like some kind of control center, but it also has the hallmarks of serious Minimalist art: geometric shapes, serial repetition, a simple black-and-white palette and a relentless, thrumming drone. That drone is achieved by Mr. Bader’s downloading songs based on loose themes — Hitchcock movies, the 20th century or Shakespeare — which are mixed and played simultaneously through the speakers.

The loud hum in the gallery is bolstered by descriptions of these categories, serving as ad hoc poetry, that have been handwritten on the wall. There are many relevant touchstones for this kind of work: Luigi Russolo’s 1913 manifesto, “The Art of Noises,” and his concerts with noise-making devices (and speakers); La Monte Young’s immersive installations; Glenn Branca’s symphony for 100 guitars or Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Army; and all the varieties of heavy-death-black-metal music. Compared with these, Mr. Bader’s gesture feels like sophomoric sonic carpet-bombing. It’s extreme, but it’s not extreme enough.

MARTHA SCHWENDENER

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