Upper East Side
ANTON KERN GALLERY Last weekend the Anton Kern Gallery, lately of Chelsea, unveiled its new digs on East 55th Street, which seems a world away from East 57th. Housed in a converted townhouse, it has a ground-floor space — an inviting rarity in these parts — with a Chelsea-like glass front. Both structure and address represent a big step for Mr. Kern, and befitting the occasion, they are being appropriately inaugurated with an excellent display of new work by the reserved yet soulful Polish painter Wilhelm Sasnal. Mr. Sasnal has found his own way to paint from photographs with a combination of blunt and tender brushwork. He moves effectively between the pastoral and the political, with small portraits of world leaders (mostly female and especially Angela Merkel) and larger scenes of protest, the United Nations logo on a television screen and also haunting landscapes, most of which suit the gravity of the times.
TIBOR DE NAGY GALLERY “Sarah McEneaney: Land, Sea, Sleep” is an impressive update on an artist who for nearly four decades has recorded her artist’s life in small, beguiling, superficially naïve paintings. Ms. McEneaney is seen infrequently, usually from the back or from a distance or when she’s asleep, her pets arrayed around her in settings notable for their bold colors, dense details and distortions of illusionistic space that exert a magnetic pull. The new works here document both the solitude and routine of the painter’s life, as well as its perks (artist residencies! travel grants!). A stillness prevails, even when Ms. McEneaney and her partner are on a bullet train speeding across China. It slows us down to experience her spatial and chromatic daring.
PETER BLUM GALLERY This is the first solo show in New York in two decades devoted to the gifted, unstable artist Sonja Sekula, who was born in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1918; came to the United States in 1936; and attended Sarah Lawrence College and the Art Students League, where she studied with Morris Kantor and Raphael Soyer. In the 1940s, Sekula made small abstractions favoring the grid structure, saturated colors and a lyrical, delicate sense of line. She showed five times at the Betty Parsons Gallery, and then in 1963, after bouts in asylums in the United States and Switzerland, she took her own life. The nearly 30 works on paper or canvas here date from 1942 to 1961 and, while scattered, are strong enough to make a fuller assessment mandatory. This touching exhibition gains further poignancy by being among the last to be held in this building, home to many galleries over the years but now one of four adjacent structures slated for demolition.
FRANCIS M. NAUMANN FINE ART One hundred years ago this month, Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” — his urinal-as-sculpture and his most transgressive readymade — was ejected from the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York City. That artists ever since have redone and rethought Duchamp’s revolution in porcelain is hardly news. Nonetheless, it’s a lark to see some of the sometimes dubious results: neckties, wallpaper and a building-size mock-up that was burned at Burning Man. Some card-carrying Duchampians are here, among them Sherrie Levine, Richard Pettibone and Mike Bidlo, and no one is more credentialed than Francis M. Naumann himself, one of our great scholar-art dealers, whose knowledge of Duchamp may be unequaled.
PACE GALLERY If, like many of us, you are mad for Alexander Calder’s 1943 “Wooden Bottle With Hairs” and its Mr. Peanut shape, in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, this exhibition should be bliss. It brings together 36 of Calder’s “Constellation” sculptures, stabiles and mobiles, which he made mostly in 1943 when wartime metal shortages in the United States forced him to turn to wood, generating one of the greatest phases of his career. The formula was basic: to carve wood into small, semiabstract forms resembling spoons, chess pieces, African sculptures (and works by Brancusi and Giacometti), bones, bobbins, balls, melon slices, sand dollars and toy boats. Maybe paint some, or just or let their natural wood tones shine forth. Then arrange them in floating “constellations,” with lengths of wire or string, resulting in arachnoid stabiles that climb walls or delicate hanging mobiles. Calder’s celebrated genius may never have been more delightfully apparent.
ACQUAVELLA GALLERIES Bliss may also accrue at Acquavella, which has teamed up with Pace and mounted its own jaw-dropping “Constellations” exhibition featuring another modern genius in top form. On view are 23 of the 24 exquisite gouaches that Joan Miró, working on the other side of the Atlantic from his friend Calder, made from January 1940 to September 1941. They hang chronologically in a single gallery that, like the Pace show, almost levitates. Although separated by the war, the two artists seem to have been working on the same astral plane. Both devised networks of wiry lines and eccentric shapes, although Miró’s — suspended in cloudlike washes of color — are more elaborate in their formal intricacy and narrative innuendo. Pace and Acquavella have jointly published a three-volume catalog: one for him, one for him, and one chronicling their friendship.
MNUCHIN GALLERY In “Cindy Sherman: Once Upon a Time, 1981-2011,” a show organized with the independent curator Philippe Ségalot, three series from Ms. Sherman’s prolific career go head-to-head. They suggest an indomitable drive to reinvent her work while maintaining the variety and general ease of her landmark Untitled (Film Stills) series of 1977-80. Both her 1981 Centerfolds series, with its prone, vulnerable-looking young women, and her 2008 Society Portraits of scrupulously turned-out matrons feel somewhat repetitive here. In contrast, the History Portraits (1990) still disturb, with their cursory reprises of old master portraits of both sexes, replete with undisguised body and facial prosthetics. There are other notable Sherman series that remain startlingly rude. Too bad they weren’t chosen.
VENUS OVER MANHATTAN Some artists deserve to be forgotten, but the French painter Bernard Buffet (1928-1999), who enjoyed great success early in his career, may actually be too instructively lousy for that. His brittle greeting-card style and indifference to paint are apparent here in works representing some of his best-known series: flayed figures, strutting roosters, scary clowns, stingrays and tarot-card skeletons in Renaissance dress. Buffet’s spiky and always prominent signature is, like so much else about his work, an inadvertent parody.
CRAIG F. STARR GALLERY Craig F. Starr’s sparely elegant show “John Baldessari: Paintings 1966-68” revisits the leading Conceptualist’s formative Duchampian moment, when he was segueing beyond painting with canvases of text applied by commercial sign painters or printed with random photographs of intersections in National City, Calif. “Born to Paint,” a rarely seen study featuring several images of the artist, has a Rauschenbergian look, but the irony is pure Baldessari.
GLADSTONE GALLERY “Mimmo Rotella: Selected Early Works” provides New York’s first in-depth look at the work of this Italian poster artist since 1996. In the mid-1950s, Rotella (1918-2006) abandoned painting with brushes in favor of tearing layers of movie posters from city walls in Paris or Rome and pasting them on canvas. Rotella had a flair for this technique; his readymade collages are impressively varied if sometimes too artful. When Rotella used the backs of the posters, the creamy monochromes evoke Piero Manzoni and Yves Klein, while weathered pieces resemble Jean Dubuffet’s earth paintings. Such affinities can mute the radicalness of some works; others retain their streetwise beauty.
GAVIN BROWN’S ENTERPRISE Substantial art neighborhoods in Manhattan could be a thing of the past, overtaken by small, loose clusters of galleries like the one that has sprung up in Harlem, where Gavin Brown’s enterprise will open a show of work by the video-performance pioneer Joan Jonas on Sunday. The Jonas show is one of the largest staged in New York for the artist, who is now 80 and represented the United States at the 2015 Venice Biennale. It will feature an extensive display of the props, masks and models of houses from the artist’s last 20 years of performances and videos, as well as drawings she made during them. And two of Ms. Jonas’s arrestingly magical yet simple multimedia installations will have their American premiere: “Reanimation,” seen in Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, in 2012, and “stream or river flight or pattern iii,” her largest work since the Biennale. The exhibition will spread through three floors of the gallery, whose renovation is nearly complete. It is a work in progress, as most art galleries always are, one way or another.
An earlier version of this article misstated the location depicted in the paintings of John Baldessari at the Craig F. Starr Gallery. It is National City, Calif., not Los Angeles.