Cancer season has arrived once again, and us water signs are embracing the creative impulse. Across the city, new art exhibitions pay tribute to overlooked masters of their craft, address the urgency of direct political action, and evoke a shared sense of nostalgia. Our top exhibitions for July include installations on the global climate crisis, pedagogical studies of Japanese photographers, and a throughline between ancient and contemporary printing traditions.
When: through July 9
Where: 47 Canal (291 Grand Street, Second Floor, Lower East Side, Manhattan)
Last year, Ajay Kurian told BOMB magazine that he envisioned two future exhibitions in his mind that were “loosely about failed escape: one where we’re in the process of leaving the planet and mourning the loss of it. And the other where we’re somewhere else and mourning our circumstances there.” This latter idea, which addresses the neocolonial tendency of space exploration, forms the basis of his latest series. The mounted foam core sculptures of Missing Home are cerebral and celestial. From afar, they merge ancient Indian sculpture techniques with Rorschach test imagery; up close, they reveal microcosmic worlds that appear to float serenely in the gallery space.
When: through July 23
Where: The Compound Cowork (1120 Washington Avenue, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn)
Zulu Padilla’s newest series merges two seemingly unlikely developments: the seasonal migration of warbler birds and queer cruising in Prospect Park. Padilla’s colorful mixed media and photo collages draw visual comparisons between used condoms, which degrade down to just rings, and the life cycles of the small birds who visit the city once a year. Everything Is Migrating brings to mind the varied meanings of flight in New York, and how gentrification influences Brooklyn’s nature and culture.
When: through July 29
Where: Alison Bradley Projects (526 West 26th Street, Suite 814, Chelsea, Manhattan)
Renowned Japanese artist Tokuko Ushioda is largely known for her series Bibliotheca (2017), which uplifted books and printed ephemera as valid art objects. Her latest exhibition, From Student to Master, traces the pedagogical influence of Ushioda’s lesser-known mentors, Yasuhiro Ishimoto and Kiyoji Ōtsuji. Presented together, their intimate images of domestic scenes and streetscapes illustrate the private and public lives of Japanese photographers long before they were strongly represented in the field.
When: through July 29
Where: Hauser & Wirth (542 West 22nd Street, Chelsea and 32 East 69th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan)
Hauser & Wirth’s summer programming highlights two accomplished women artists. Before her well-known “General Strike Piece” (1969), which marked the artist’s subsequent withdrawal from the industry, Lee Lozano created warm yet haunting minimalist oil paintings that elide stylistic definition. Meanwhile, a Cindy Sherman photo retrospective focuses on self-portraits in color from 1977 to ’82, the five-year period in which her many character studies reached a high point of productivity.
When: through July 31
Where: Kentler International Drawing Space (353 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn)
Two group exhibitions at the Red Hook gallery trace the influence of Japanese printing traditions on contemporary artists. Mokuhanga takes its name from the water-based technique explored by artists-in-residence at the Mokuhanga Innovation Laboratory in Yamanashi prefecture, which forms the basis of the exhibition. And in Focus on the Flatfiles, a group of these artists who go by the Mokuhanga Sisters curated a related series of works from Kentler’s permanent collection. Together, the two shows detail the discipline and precision of a time-honored artform and chart its future as a collective practice.
When: through July 17 and 31
Where: FiveMyles (558 Saint John’s Place, Crown Heights, Brooklyn)
Stacey Davidson’s “Boatload” will likely be a familiar scene for many viewers. Made with dolls, red Solo cups, and miniature American flags, the hanging installation depicts the bizarre camp of white nationalism in the United States. Floating in a sea of dead air, the piece is on display at the Crown Heights mainstay’s Plus/Space 24 hours a day. And in the main gallery, Tuçe Yasak’s summer residency Light Is Generous creates space for silent introspection, with colorful lights and shadowplay on reflective sculptural installations.
When: July 21–August 13
Where: Recess (46 Washington Avenue, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn)
Bronx-based Dominicanx artist Francheska Alcántara is deconstructing cultural symbols of the Caribbean diaspora. Through an examination of “loaded objects,” such as brown paper bags and Hispano Cuaba soap, the artist unpacks histories of racial coding and governance over queer bodies. The gallery-wide installation at Recess will also allow visitors to play a makeshift game of dominoes as an allegory for breaking down layers of oppression.
When: July 6–August 18
Where: Godwin-Ternbach Museum (Klapper Hall at Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, Queens)
Chinese sculptor Liu Shiming passed away in 2010, but his art is only now receiving its due here in New York. His new retrospective brings together 62 works from his five-decade career, including his post-Revolution beginnings to Rodin-inspired surrealism. Positioned as China’s first truly modern sculptor, Shiming worked with bronze, wood, and ceramic to honor daily life in the People’s Republic using traditional and folk techniques. Rather than an assimilationist, he envisioned a world in which everyday Chinese people could be appreciated worldwide as complex and vital beings.
When: through August 12 and 26
Where: International Studio & Curatorial Program (1040 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
Two artists-in-residence at the North Brooklyn curatorial program address historical trauma in the African diaspora. In Every Immigrant Is a Writer, Dominican artist Lizania Cruz presents her traveling series We the News, a wood newsstand containing written and printed testimonies from migrants around the world. Meanwhile, Steven Anthony Johnson II’s Getting Blood from Stone translates the artist’s interviews with family and friends into fragmentary sketches and sound collages that resonate across the gallery. Together, their work forms a shared vernacular of displacement and resilience.
When: through August 27
Where: Anita Rogers Gallery (494 Greenwich Street, Tribeca, Manhattan)
Syrian painter Anas Albraehe places marginalized men in compromising positions. The laborers and refugees in his expressionist paintings appear asleep in random public spaces, speaking to the layers of fatigue and exposure that stem from immigration. Bringing the styles of Matisse and Gauguin into landscapes from the artist’s current hometown of Beirut, The Dreamer visualizes the migrant experience of lying in wait for something unknown and unguaranteed.
When: through August 28
Where: Wave Hill Public Garden & Sculptural Center (4900 Independence Avenue, Riverdale, the Bronx)
It’s no secret that we are in the midst of a clean water shortage. Rampant desertification is leading people in African countries to leave their homes, exacerbating the global refugee crisis. Climate change, too, is melting polar ice caps and setting forests ablaze across the Western hemisphere, threatening the lives of Indigenous water protectors. With all this in mind, Wave Hill’s Water Scarcity draws from histories of resistance, with site-specific installations by Tahir Carl Karmali, Cannupa Hanska Luger, and Lucy and Jorge Orta highlighting nomadic and communal modes of survival.
When: July 8–September 10
Where: White Columns (91 Horatio Street, West Village, Manhattan)
Dr. Charles Smith claims God once told him to make art as an antidote to his suffering. A Vietnam War veteran and ordained minister, Smith heeded the call by turning his family homes in Illinois and Louisiana into wondrous outdoor sculpture gardens called the African-American History Museum + Black Veterans’ Archive. More than 30 new figurative sculptures comprise his first solo show in New York City, hearkening to his experience exploring legacies of slavery in the United States and teaching himself sculpture as a remedy to personal trauma.