Seven Can’t-Miss Arts Picks This Summer in NYC


George Widener

May 29–July 5

Self-taught artist and mathematical savant George Widener brings his beguiling, calendar-based numerology to new works that consider his two favorite subjects: the sinking of the Titanic and the so-called technological singularity, a speculated time when machines will dominate humankind. On large paper sheets assembled from scraps (often tea-stained napkins), he has inked hundreds of years, dates, and calculations. The obsessively dense numbers swirl around woodblock-ish drawings of the doomed ship or create colorful, complex patterns intended as puzzles for the future’s super-intelligent robots. Ricco/Maresca, 529 West 20th Street,

Ion Birch

May 29–July 13

Like a Mad Magazine parody of male sexual fantasy, Ion Birch’s latest drawings of boisterous orgies push the tropes of porn into the absurd. In a low-key style more typical of student portraiture—soft, lightly applied pencil, without color—Birch serves up a comedy of mockery with his trademark exaggerations: tree-trunk cocks, gaping vaginas, prim maidens in wide-eyed ecstasy, and boyish men grinning like Alfred E. Neuman. Horton Gallery, 55-59 Chrystie Street,

The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War
and Tourism in the Caucasus

May 30–July 10

The Sochi presented to viewers for the 2014 Winter Olympics was essentially a Potemkin village—a false front built to distract attention from the region’s poverty and separatist violence. In this exhibit, photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen show us, in poignant images and prose, the real Caucasus: old men in dilapidated apartments, strippers in down-and-out cafes, a sullen boy being treated for burns in an archaic sulfur-bath sanatorium, a former policeman bedridden after a rebel attack. Putin would not approve. Aperture Foundation, 547 West 27th Street,

Larry Clark

June 7–August 1

Famous for his startling photographs and films of adolescent sex, violence, and drug abuse, Larry Clark has assembled a collection of somewhat gentler work: favorite portraits that didn’t make the cut for the hard-edged themes in books like Tulsa and Teenage Lust. A diptych from 2011, for example, collages various shots of a casually posed Brad Renfro—a memorial-like tribute to the star of Clark’s film Bully, who died at the age of 25 from an overdose of heroin. Luhring Augustine, 531 West 24th Street,

Another Look At Detroit
(Part I And II)

June 26–August 9

The city is bankrupt, but its culture remains rich. Spanning more than 150 years and spread across two galleries, this sprawling exhibit showcases art associated in various ways with Detroit. The all-inclusive selection includes pastoral 19th-century paintings from a descendent of freed slaves; inventive work from the spirited Cass Corridor scene of the 1970s; contemporary pieces by the well-known (Nick Cave, Dana Schutz, and Mike Kelley, to name a few); examples of design from Cranbrook Academy; and plenty of historical items, such as recordings of 1980s techno on the pioneering Metroplex label. Marianne Boesky Gallery, 509 West 24th Street, and Marlborough Chelsea, 545 West 25th Street,

Charles Gaines:
Gridwork 1974–1989

July 17–October 29

Charles Gaines spent the first part of his career investigating the essence of imagery and perception with scientific rigor and philosophical intent. This comprehensive survey of his rarely displayed early work demonstrates how he transformed photographs (a tree, a dancer, a face) into schematic drawings on graph paper, using strings of written numbers (calculated from aspects of the original image) to form the picture’s outlines. These formal deconstructions of beauty, underpinned by a heady conceptualism, themselves achieve an austere beauty. The Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 West 125th Street,

Mad Meds

July 18–August 25

Once again turning her life into art, Marni Kotak is publicly going off her meds. In 2012, a year after giving birth to her son Ajax—in the gallery, as a performance—Kotak was briefly hospitalized for postpartum depression and given psychiatric drugs. During the course of the show here, in a space designed for relaxation, Kotak will attempt to reduce and finally eliminate her need for the pills while sharing her experiences (through conversation, photographs, and video) of “madness in an insane world.” Microscope Gallery, 4 Charles Place, Brooklyn,