Esmaa Mohamoud: It Cannot Always Be Night
Until 18 June at Arsenal Contemporary, 214 Bowery, Manhattan
From the imposing regality of the wicker chair that opens Esmaa Mohamoud’s exhibition at Arsenal Contemporary to the warmth of being surrounded by laughter, despite the fact that you are alone and plunged into darkness, a sense of community permeates this exhibition. In the large central gallery there is a field of 500 dandelions. Fashioned from steel and painted black, these flowers, which some view as nothing more than weeds, feel as if they are alive, having sprouted from the diamond-plated metal floor. Visitors can ask the gallery staff for a cushion and sit among the rigid blossoms, enveloped in the orange sunset glow that lights the room from above. “I saw parallels between the disposability of black bodies and the innate desire in North America to eradicate this flower,” says Mohamoud. “The strength of this plant is that, despite that effort, they’re never going to go away. And what you think of that relationship to the Black diaspora, it is a beautiful thing.”
Courage Before Expectation, Curated by Keith Rivers
Until 4 June at the Flag Art Foundation, 545 West 25th Street, 9th Floor, Manhattan
Few things can feel as jarring as a radical change in one’s life. Yet radical change is often a facet of life that artists must embrace to reach their full potential. In this exhibition, the arts patron, collector and former professional football player Keith Rivers celebrates the work of artists who purposely chose to stray from the paths set before them to create something new out of their lives. “I am fascinated by the artists’ histories, stories and the challenges they overcome,” Rivers says. “Through the trajectory of my life, I feel a connection to artists who also had major career shifts and took a leap of faith to be able to dedicate themselves to their art.” From works on paper that signal to Philip Guston’s move away from abstraction to Laura Owens’s motivational memes, each work is inspired by quotes that intersect Rivers’s life in sports and his love of contemporary art. Other artists in the show include Etel Adnan, Mark Bradford, Sonia Gomes, Carmen Herrera, On Kawara, Kerry James Marshall and Thaddeus Mosley.
Marcus Vinícius De Paula: Superluminal
Until 11 June at Davidson Gallery, 521 West 26th Street, Manhattan
The Brazilian-American sculptor Marcus Vinícius De Paula works with light and ancient materials, creating works that draw inspiration from the cosmos. His first solo exhibition in New York features a series of ethereal sculptures that amalgamate mediums like volcanic rock, alabaster and triphosphor coated glass and are accentuated by hand-blown neon lighting fixtures that illuminate the interstellar properties of the material. The works were made in the last two years, some while the artist traversed the oceanic Southwest landscape, where remnants of prehistoric life sprout from the flat landscape in the form of dwarfing rocks carved naturally over millennia. The son of a Nasa engineer, the artist combines the otherworldliness of these materials with elements of Modernist Brazilian visual language, navigating both personal and universal narratives in his sculptures.