Sometimes the most exciting spaces to see emerging art are off the beaten path. It seems that the more stairs you have to climb, subway transfers you have to make, and doorbells you have to ring, the more likely you are to see some high-quality art. The presence of apartment galleries and artist-run spaces in New York isn't a new phenomenon, but with young artists (and aspiring gallerists) facing an increase in political uncertainty, growing debt, and financial instability, these spaces have become less about art hobbies and passion projects, and more about serious exhibitions—exhibitions that perhaps would be in ground-floor spaces if we weren't in an era of financial squeeze. While not all the galleries on this list are artist-run, or even young (Koenig & Clinton had been in Chelsea for years), they're all worth checking out to see some of the best emerging artists on view this month. As we approach the end of another canonically unstable period, the infamous mercury retrograde, make sure to venture out and see these shows before they close.
REENA SPAULINGS (Two Bridges)
Matt Copson: “Down Boy”
Open Thursday -Sunday, 12-6pm
Through April 7th
Matt Copson’s exhibition of laser-projected foxes, taking up two walls and the entire Reena Spaulings’ spacious second floor space, is a must-see. Not quite video, not quite sculpture, Copson’s lasers take the form of a prisoner’s cinema, built of simplified animations and brief, beautiful bursts of color, accented by a distorted audio monologue from a fidgeting fox. Equal parts antagonist and narrator, the fox runs off into the void between fits of masturbating towards the viewer or barking commands at its own mirror image. Quitely near the entrance hangs a chandelier made of cast human femurs, thowing shadows onto the back wall. Copson’s work is at the same time primal and academic, drawing on the literary history of the fox as a mischievous character. The young artist is based in London, and graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2014.
77 MULLBERRY (Chinatown)
Jason Isolini and Gregory Nachmanovitch: "Perma-falling"
Open Sundays 12-6 and by appointment
Through March 24th
On the other side of Canal street, and up a few more flights of stairs, is the easy-to-miss gallery 77 Mulberry, run by artists Sara Blazej and Joshua Citarella inside the apartment shared by the couple. In one of the smallest galleries in the city (most certainly on this list), you’ll find a show that extends its aim far past its four walls. This month, Gregory Nachmanovitch’s ongoing interactive work Free Agency is paired with Jason Isolini’s fantastical images, which can be seen both on the walls of the gallery and on Google Street View (the artist uploaded his works, guerilla-style, to appear on the street outside the gallery and around the city.) Imagery in this show stems from all corners of digital culture: drones, anime body pillows, pixelated fast food, 3d-rendered busts, and Amazon merchandise bombard the viewer through a variety of media: a desktop video game, digitally-printed wall-pieces, a single-channel video, and the Google Maps app accessible by phone. It was overwhelming enough to keep track of before I fell through the floor in Free Agency, Nachmanovitch's desktop video game, and was forced to re-start the game. “It’s a glitch in the model” I was told, but given the title of the show, it seemed to be a perfectly reasonable outcome. “Perma-falling,” as Gregory explained to me, was a term used to describe a particular bug from early World of Warcraft, wherein users' characters would slip underneath a texture, and then fall through space forever and forever. To play the game again, users would have to file written complaints to a Game Master (an appointed server model) who would then use their special master powers to pull the character back into the game world. Gregory and Jason tackle issues like state surveillance, toxic masculinity, and the often-horrifying political realities of digital culture with the same sense of weightlessness. Falling alongside the viewer, they explore and reframe symbols and networks right in front of you, creating stepping stones rather than reaching in and pulling you out. After leaving I couldn’t help but think of a quote from Hito Steyerl’s “In Free Fall”:
"Paradoxically, while you are falling, you will probably feel as if you are floating—or not even moving at all. Falling is relational... Objects will stay suspended if you let go of them. Whole societies around you may be falling just as you are. And it may actually feel like perfect stasis.”
Jason Isolini received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, and Gregory is currently a BFA candidate at Pratt Institute.
COMPANY (Lower East Side)
Fin Simonetti: "Pledge"
Open Wednesday - Sundays, 12-6pm
Through April 21st
Just a few city blocks away, Spanish blue alabaster sculptures placed along a metal railing make up the heart of “Pledge,” the first solo exhibition by artist and musician Fin Simonetti at Company. It’s her second body of work that centers around carved marble objects, but there’s no mistaking these with the now-iconic pink pit bull heads that she debuted at Interstate Projects last year. This time around, her sculptures are accompanied by two frames of stained glass, obscuring sun-faded posters taken from barbershop windows, along with a looping video that shows male bodybuilders at the peak of exertion. In an artist talk at the gallery, she spoke on the semiotics of the imagery she chooses for her objects—symbols of safety, masculinity, fragility, and associated violence. When relating her medium of marble to its historical references, she’s quick to remark on Michelangelo's castrated David, pointing out the phallic nature of almost all of the sculpted objects in her show, like dog limbs and candles. Simonetti recently had a solo exhibition at SIGNAL in Brooklyn, and received her BFA from Ontario College of Art and Design University in 2009. Her album ICE PIX was selected by FACT magazine as one of their best albums of 2017.
KOENIG & CLINTON (Bushwick)
American Artist: “I’M BLUE (IF I WAS █████ I WOULD DIE)”
Through April 13th
Open Thursdays-Sundays 11-6 and by appointment
American Artist (yes that's their legal name) works in a mode similar to Simonetti's: cool, calm, and collected in the face of violence and instability. Their first solo at the gallery explores the Blue Lives Matter countermovement through alterations of classroom furniture to include riot shields and blue police fabric. Central to the exhibition is a video work, featuring a blue-skinned character delivering a speech collaged from statements by DC Comics’ Dr. Manhattan, and an LAPD officer. Artist plays with these clashing points of view on race and government throughout the show with a refined grace, using carefully chosen moments to reveal irony or logical failings. This show is an absolute highlight this season, and more than enough of a reason to travel out to Bushwick to see it before it closes. Artist received an MFA from the New School. Their last solo show, "Black Gooey Universe," debuted at the now defunct HOUSING gallery in Brooklyn. Last year they were named a 2018-19 recipient of the Queens Museum Jerome Foundation Fellowship.
MARVIN GARDENS (Ridgewood)
Mika Agari and Zack Rafuls: "Old Music"
Through March 31st
Open Sundays 1-5 and by appointment
Convincing people to come all the way out to the Halsey L stop in Ridgewood, Queens before 5pm is a feat unto itself, but this show at the refreshingly understated Marvin Gardens is more than worth it. Situated underneath a labyrinth of artist studios and maker spaces, this hidden gem of a gallery shines a light on emerging painters, sculptures, and multimedia artists in the area each month at an impressive pace; it boasts over 20 shows since opening just three years ago. This time, Mika Agari and Zack Rafuls each present a body of new work, as well as a collaboration. Agari’s multimedia sculptures are full of surprises, like crocheted covers over foam landscapes and embedded flip phones as video players—the perfect companions to Raful’s Tondo works, a succession of frying pan-resin pools filled with pairings of objects that look like they’ve jumped off of the pages of an I-Spy book. Where other shows in this list skirt fables, anime, and dystopian narratives, "Old Music" looks to science fiction for its escape hatch. Agari and Rafuls both hold BFAs from Watkins College of Art and Design. Rafuls, (along with artists Jessica Clay, David Onri Anderson, and Tristan Higginbotham) runs the curatorial collective Mild Climate in Nashville, TN.