New York Galleries: What to See Right Now


Through Aug. 10. Fierman, 127 Henry Street, Manhattan; 917-593-4086,

The multimedia artist Uman made a splash on the New York scene when she had her first solo show at White Columns in September 2015, followed quickly — maybe a little too quickly — by a second show three months later at Louis B. James on the Lower East Side. Her third show, “I Will Sit Here and Wait for You,” at Fierman, overseen by David Fierman, a former partner at James, is smaller than its predecessors — four paintings and two sculptures. But it serves to keep in sight a truly gifted self-taught artist who was born in Somalia, raised in Kenya and came to the United States in 2004.

The most beautiful painting here is a six-foot square with dots of brilliant, encircled color on a camel-brown background. The loosely painted result is abstract but also has the thrilling vitality of gemstones in dust. Variations on the dots and circles are a recurring motif in Uman’s abstractions that — as in Yayoi Kusama’s — remain consistently engaging. A new direction is signaled in the tall, elegant figure, silhouetted in black, in “Self-Portrait,” which is notable for its fluidity of gender and culture: male and female, shaman and fashion model. With luck, Uman’s work will return again soon, in force. ROBERTA SMITH

‘African Spirits’

Through Aug. 23. Yossi Milo Gallery, 245 10th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-414-0370,

You could spend all day in “African Spirits” at Yossi Milo Gallery, a sensational roundup of West African portrait photography from its golden age in the pre-independence 1950s to the present.

Malick Sidibé, the storied chronicler of Malian night life, reaches deep into the nuances of black and white with striped backdrops; the French-Senegalese portraitist Delphine Diallo takes bold color to its limits in a shot of a man with green hair posing in a hot pink bathrobe; and Samuel Fosso, who was born in Cameroon and started working as a photographer in the Central African Republic, shot himself in fabulous sunglasses, as well as in his underwear, as a teenager in the 1970s. Through all the work runs a powerful attention to presence — the camera’s as well as the subject’s — and a keen awareness that a person’s identity really only begins when it’s performed for someone else.

But I suggest going straight to a triptych of snapshots found in Benin and made, apparently, by a studio called Roka in the 1960s. In each, a young man drapes himself across a bicycle, or bicycles, in what looks like a cross between conceptual art and modern dance. Part of their appeal is certainly the mystery. But mainly it’s formal: Whatever their intention, they succeed in transforming bicycles and man alike into vivid, disconcerting sculpture. WILL HEINRICH

‘Calix, Cup, Chalice, Urn, Goblet: Presenting the Sexual Essence of Morris Graves’

Through Aug. 2. Michael Rosenfeld, 100 11th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-247-0082,

It is an open question whether this sumptuous show conveys the sexual essence of Morris Graves — as its overlong title implies — or an exquisitely refined, delicately erotic mysticism that may be the real underlying essence of his art. But the 23 works here, dating mostly from the mid-1930s to the mid-50s and mostly on paper, show him expressing his love of vessels by rendering them with flowers, animals or both, while evoking different cultures and manipulating different mediums (gouache, watercolor, tempera, ink and oil) to great and varied effect.

Each work is a superb balancing act. Some are meticulously depicted yet startlingly inspirited Chinese bronzes, like “Ceremonial Bronze Taking the Form of a Bird” (1947). Elsewhere the form-taking is earthier: In two instances white blossoms occupy sturdy jardinieres sporting the furry legs and cloven hooves of goats. Sometimes the vessels nod to modernism with flat simple outlines, as in “Haunted Bouquet” (1949). Nonetheless, its inexplicably rounded interior harbors a small white flower, while a thorny branch curls around the edges of the sheet, as if guarding the Sleeping Beauty, shadowed by some pale green atmosphere. In the beautifully worked surfaces of the pink and black “Summer Still Life,” one of two works in oil on canvas, a fully dimensional compote holds three pieces of fruit as an offering to a flat platelike aura in the sky. This is a show to savor. ROBERTA SMITH

Dana Hoey

Through April 2. Petzel, 456 West 18th Street, Manhattan; 212-680-9467,

Many cultures treat women as nurturers and peacemakers but Dana Hoey takes the opposite tack, foregrounding conflict and combat among women. Ms. Hoey herself trains as a boxer and a Muay Thai fighter in upstate New York, and her new exhibition, “Dana Hoey Presents” at Petzel, includes photographs of fighters and coaches, as well as sculptures, collages and a fighting ring where a Muay Thai match, (a sport similar to kickboxing) was staged earlier this month.

Ms. Hoey’s earlier photographs were conceptual and oblique; the new work is full-frontal and more confrontational. Color portraits of fighters and trainers are designed like advertising posters. A collage installed in a light box features Ms. Hoey in sunglasses and battle mode, suggesting the artist as action heroine.

Ms. Hoey highlights the collaborative nature of all this work, but what resonates more is the tone. Where her earlier photographs were cryptic, coy and ironic, these are infused with unmistakable fury. At a moment when attacks on women extend from the street to the highest levels of the United States government, Ms. Hoey’s is a gloves-off statement arguing for women as powerful and ready to rumble against discrimination or historical stereotypes — even against one another. MARTHA SCHWENDENER

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