Almeida & Dale (São Paulo), 466
Culling together an immaculate presentation of the work of six Afro-Brazilian artists spanning nearly six decades, Almeida & Dale wins my pick for best booth at EXPO this year. It is rare for a booth to come together so cohesively, especially given the breadth of the artists on view. From the vibrant, dainty paintings of Heitor dos Prazeres to the tactile carved sandstone sculptures of Paulo Pires, every work in this booth is a hit. Mestre Didi’s ritual scepters—crafted from bent palm, painted leather, shells and beads—are particularly dazzling. Installed on plinths and directly on the floor, they are impossibly delicate meditative instruments that could inspire the most secular soul to seek out the divine. Also notable are Sonia Gomes’ ink-and-marker drawings and fabric sculptures modeled around aluminum supports; both put forth bulbous forms on the precipice of endless proliferation.
Andrew Rafacz (Chicago), 351
Illinois’ fifty-five-mile Des Plaines River Trail offers an expansive stretch of wilderness outside the city. In a solo presentation at Andrew Rafacz, Soumya Netrabile captures the ebb and flow of this flood-prone landscape with sweeping passages of oil paint. Intense colors careen against one another, dissipating into a pool of swampy sludge. With each collision, it is as if the forest is fading into itself. The sequence of panels, oriented toward the horizontal, has a cinematic quality. The landscape moves past you at different paces, summoning the act of following these trails on foot. It becomes a blur. But points of definition, like the silhouette of a bird flapping its wings or the arm of a figure digging into the earth, provide moments for the eye to pause. Netrabile beautifully captures the life of an ecosystem, its terrors and triumphs cycling and disappearing all at once.
CABINET Gallery (London), 334
Raring for a fight? Visit CABINET Gallery for a row with a suite of works by Diamond Stingily. In a monumental yet willowy sculpture composed of synthetic hair, braids spill out of a thick knot and sprawl erratically across the floor. These artificial black locks reappear in a trio of steel chain and hair sequences dangling stoically on the center wall. Evincing a stifling femininity knowable only unto themselves, these works exude a violent calm. This air of oppressive poise continues in Stingily’s photographs. In one image the pointed toe of a tan cowboy boot raises upwards, its healing digging into a red carpet. Suspended, you sense the tension as you wait for the shoe to drop. There is also a nice painting of a black cat by Gillian Carnegie, although the superstitious may be wary.
Deli Gallery (New York), 473
Awash in darkness, a cast of spirits, sprites and specters emanate from Eden Seifu’s lugubrious grounds like lanterns. Echoing the airs of Romantic artists Henry Fuseli and William Blake, her figures flicker like mystical allegories. In one vignette, a swooning ingénue recedes into the sinister clutches of a slender demon who plays a wind instrument with his nostril—their musical embrace bookended by quavers. In another scene, a diminutive faerie-like figure prances in the air. Sparks gush from the nymph’s extended wings igniting the wicks of wax candles with grotesque visages inveigled in flames. Seifu’s billowy application of acrylic bestows these six images with remarkable liveliness. Each wisp of paint oozes vigor. Stare at the scenes long enough, and you will fall under their spell.
Mickey (Chicago), 177
For a moment in the madhouse, stop by Mickey. Isabelle Frances McGuire’s animatronic figures are true crowd-pleasers. Living sculptures: their glass eyes pop and their plastic teeth grimace with the screech of a motor. With costumes sourced from uniquely absurd characters—Karl Marx cameoing in the video game “Assassin’s Creed” and Abraham Lincoln moonlighting as a vampire hunter in the panned 2012 film—these dummies attend the gallery in comically oversized suits. Amid an excess of tired figurative painting currently favored by the market, McGuire’s menacing mannequins are an exciting advancement of post-war figurative sculpture that cropped up in the sixties and seventies and would surely have made the cyborg-obsessed art historian Jack Burnham smile. You can also see some dizzying paintings by Nick Schutzenhofer, which narrate the relationship between Hans Bellmer and Unica Zürn. Rendered in unpalatable shades of mustard, teal and mauve, and marked with sour cream container lids, one gets the sense that something has expired. And yet, there are plenty of moments of serenity in these domestic scenes. Schutzenhofer clutches the intimate moments of pause before frenzy and hysteria sets on. (Alexandra Drexelius)