Through Dec. 21. Ramiken, 154 Scott Avenue, Brooklyn; 917-434-4245, ramikencrucible.com.
As a few giant galleries absorb ever more market share, thank the muses of art and commerce for Ramiken. The young dealer Mike Egan has piloted this enigmatic, protean gallery through a choppy decade for both art and real estate, and presented its ambitious exhibitions in a crumbling basement, an Upper East Side penthouse, a cave in Puerto Rico — and, now, a 17,000-square-foot warehouse floor in industrial Bushwick, Brooklyn, with a view of both refulgent skyscrapers and an infernal scrap-metal recycling plant.
Ramiken’s first Brooklyn show, “Nobodies,” goes to Andra Ursuta, whose six remarkable glass sculptures, resting on cinder-block plinths, create an arresting tableau of sex, stress and self-portraiture. Each conjoins the artist’s face and body to heaped clothing, B.D.S.M. gear and drink bottles; faces melt into bags, heads balloon like the beast’s from “Alien.”
Although Ms. Ursuta uses 3-D scanners to prepare molds, these works are traditionally cast glass sculptures — in marbled amber or Perrier green — which (thanks to the bottle spouts) also function as vessels. That makes them different, and more contemporary, than similar sculptures by Louise Bourgeois and Alina Szapocznikow, who also imagined bodies as permeable bundles of pell-mell parts. These freakish personages, cinched by corsets or stretched out like yogis, cannot escape today’s always-on performativity; even in your most unsound form, you must still work.
Other versions of some sculptures here appeared at this year’s largely blah Venice Biennale. But Ms. Ursuta’s exquisitely awkward glass feels far more urgent here in Bushwick, with a view out the windows to both capital and oblivion. JASON FARAGO
Through Dec. 21. Gagosian, 980 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; 212-744-2313, gagosian.com.
Calling an artist’s new work “transitional” is usually a lukewarm compliment, implying a striking out for new territory that remains unlocated. The latest paintings, oil studies and works on paper in Brice Marden’s blazing exhibition, “It reminds me of something, and I don’t know what it is,” amp up “transitional” to mean unstoppable forward motion. The painter, now 81, has found new land on several fronts, leaving us to ponder what he might do next.
The six largest paintings charge ahead by partly circling back, flanking the calligraphic circuitry that Mr. Marden has pursued for three decades — with areas of solid color reminiscent of his early monochrome paintings. In their variety of chroma and brushwork, they vigorously explore different tensions between the flanking planes of color and the tangles of line between them.
In “Elevation,” a misty green softens the entire surface, creating a floating atmosphere in which the linear scaffolding is suspended. But in “Yellow Painting,” the side color — a bright lemon — darkens at the center, tinted by the red and green lines that career back and forth across it, creating an unpredictable geometry. This same transformation occurs in “Oued,” whose pale shade of cantaloupe is deepened toward burnt orange by a network of dark red and gray. In the oil studies, Mr. Marden pares down his surfaces to a light gray with grids of black dots, eccentrically connected by deep blue or red, perhaps signaling his next jumping-off point. ROBERTA SMITH
Through Dec. 21. Blum & Poe, 19 East 66th Street, Manhattan; 212-249-2249, blumandpoe.com.
The title of Henry Taylor’s large, robust solo at Blum & Poe — “Niece Cousin Kin Look How Long It’s Been” — suggests a big, raucous family reunion. The show does too; it’s full of portraits, energized by tactility and individual personality. It includes a group of small punchy likenesses of unnamed people painted in Dakar, Senegal. Their big, staring black and white eyes could bore through you, like those on Nkondi idols from Central Africa.
Things are more nuanced when Mr. Taylor paints people he knows. A 2013 seated portrait of Steve Cannon, a poet and publisher of the literary magazine A Gathering of the Tribes, reflects the artist’s penchant for thrilling abbreviation: vigorously brushed areas imply furniture without losing their force as painted background. The sitter’s intellectual intensity is balanced by casual intimacy as he apparently chews on his left pinkie.
Several other as yet untitled portraits from 2019 have a similar power, including one of a tall woman in bright blue shorts who teeters anxiously on brightly striped lawn furniture. Behind her, the silhouette of another seated figure seems to have stepped out of Manet’s landmark painting “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe” (1862-63). Mr. Taylor pays tribute to the French artist’s once shockingly physical paint handling. His own brusque brushwork, which sometimes overwhelms his images, extends it to new, radical extremes, and is a cornerstone of his greatness. ROBERTA SMITH
Through Dec. 22. Simone Subal Gallery, 131 Bowery, Manhattan; 917-409-0612, simonesubal.com.
There are eight mesmerizing photo-collage constructions in “snake skin,” Baseera Khan’s new show at Simone Subal Gallery. Brightly colored plexiglass cutouts alternately highlight and obscure a mix of found and original imagery that includes a view of the oldest surviving mosque in India — which happens to be in Gujarat, the site of terrible anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002.
There are images of the artist’s own slender hands, ornamented with rings and black nail polish, holding an essay by Arundhati Roy about the politics behind those pogroms; and of another Indian mosque, this one built in Delhi on the site of a former Jain temple, using pieces of the ruined temple in its own design.
There are also shots of Ms. Khan holding annotated copies of Mosaik, an East German satirical comic book with an anticapitalist bent and the occasional racist or anti-Semitic caricature, that she bought in Berlin. And then there’s the 14-foot-high fluted foam column, upholstered with custom-woven Kashmiri carpet. Sliced into two-foot sections and arranged across the gallery, it looks like the cogs of some enormous, surreal machine.
It’s a lot of elements, but they all come together as incisively as scissor blades. There are the impersonal forces that shape people’s lives — religion, empire, ideology — and there are the individuals who, like Ms. Khan, shape them right back. But as deeply as the forces and their subjects seem to affect each other, they can never truly communicate. WILL HEINRICH
Through Dec. 29. Swiss Institute, 38 St. Marks Place, Manhattan; swissinstitute.net.
When Chase Bank closed its branch on the corner of St. Marks Place and Second Avenue in 2016, someone scrawled “Good riddance!” on a sign in the window announcing their move. Now the same building, occupied by the Swiss Institute, is hosting Jill Mulleady’s exhibition in “Fight-or-Flight,” which explores the far-reaching effects of the financial industry.
The best work here, “A Fantasy of Transcendence and a Preoccupation With Downfall and Ruin” (2019), is a large Neo-Surrealist painting of a giant humanoid figure reclining on a barren landscape. The sky above the blank-eyed creature is reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (1893), but the painting also refers to works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and the satires of François Rabelais, in which bucolic landscapes are occupied or marred by destructive humans.
A series of acrid-hued woodcuts of a colossal, anthropomorphized rat riding two horses over a cityscape, and a rat hand-painted inside a huge pipe lying near the painting underscore the vermin-like nature of human civilization. Finally, an installation consisting of a darkened bank vault with a cash machine vandalized by the artist, more directly connects the banking industry with the “downfall” suggested in the painting’s title. The message is artfully delivered — but not dissimilar in theme or tone to the missive written on that bank window back in 2016. MARTHA SCHWENDENER