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What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week

In the resonating oppositions and agreements of these works, Mr. Childress’s show resembles a well-made puzzle, perhaps a kind of hexagram. And behind its otherworldly mood pulses an implicit resistance to the world as it is.

ROBERTA SMITH

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Joanne Kyger’s Descartes video at Matthew Marks.

Credit
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

‘SO I TRAVELED A GREAT DEAL …’

Through Aug. 18. Matthew Marks Gallery, 522 West 22nd Street, Manhattan; 212-243-0200, matthewmarks.com.

The best summer group exhibitions happen when a gallery untethers itself from the market and gives artists the run of a space. And just such laissez-faire conditions have produced a singular show with a long name (partially rendered here as “So I Traveled a Great Deal…”) and blessedly unfamiliar art at Matthew Marks.

For the occasion, the artist Vincent Fecteau and the curator Jordan Stein have chosen six artists associated by birth or residency with Northern California. Whether this was a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, I don’t know, but it works. All are individualists operating outside any mainstream, past or present.

Jack Mendenhall’s photorealistic paintings of mirrored, 1970s and ’80s middle-class interiors have an air of precision-built chaos, which is also found in Robert Strini’s two wood sculptures made from what looks like disassembled designer furniture.

If Tisa Walden’s small photographs of San Francisco look as if they might have been snapped on a laid-back stroll, Isabella Kirkland’s oil paintings of marine-life specimens, lined up like hors d’oeuvres on a tray, have a scientific clarity, and more than that, a sense of mescaline-washed wonder. So do ink drawings by the totally interesting filmmaker-mystic Jordan Belson (1926-2011); each one is a controlled explosion of fervid line.

The Belson drawings date from the 1950s, when beatnik was heading toward hippie, and those cultural impulses would seem to merge in a video by the writer Joanne Kyger (1934-2017). This is the only video that Kyger — a poet, a practicing Buddhist, briefly a Yippie, and a lifelong back-to-the-lander — ever made. In it, she recites her own adaptation of Descartes’s “Discourse on Method” and turns it into a personal and spiritual statement, from which the title of the show is drawn. Witty, moving, intellectually lucent, and quite far out, it instantly makes you want to know her better, and it more than justifies a visit to this show.

HOLLAND COTTER

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Karl Salzmann’s “Monopulism” at the Austrian Cultural Forum.

Credit
Peter Mochi

KARL SALZMANN

Through Sept. 4. Austrian Cultural Forum New York, 11 East 52nd Street, Manhattan; 212-319-5300, acfny.org.

The way music can be abused — that is, employed in ways its creators never imagined or intended — came under scrutiny in the last decade when members of bands like Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails protested the use of their music in the interrogation of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Karl Salzmann doesn’t address this specific episode in “Monopulism,” but sound and its emotional and psychological effects are central to his exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum.

A thrumming drone emits from what is described as an “acoustic monument” and remnants of other minimalist-type sculpture — some of which was hacked up at the exhibition’s opening — occupy this spare gallery space. Two humming automated vacuum cleaners move across the floor, bumping into walls and corners. These disk-like objects are making appearances in many artists’ works these days and they draw links between mass-produced ready-mades, like Jeff Koons’s vacuum cleaners encased in plexiglass in the ’80s, and the uncanny nature of clean and sterile spaces.

In creating this installation, however, Mr. Salzmann addresses one of contemporary art’s greatest conundrums: Can art installed in an antiseptic, corporate space like this one tackle gritty and ambitious subjects? (Interestingly, Brian O’Doherty, who wrote the seminal critique of white cube spaces, “Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space” in 1976, had a colorfully disruptive installation in the same gallery last year.) What Mr. Salzmann might suggest is how this type of space can be its own form of grueling interrogation: It may be banal, yet the invisible and immaterial output leaves deep marks on the psyche.

MARTHA SCHWENDENER

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