From Alice Neel: People Come First at The Met

Art Space Shows I’ve Loved Recently




Online through July 25, 2021

I’m not huge on films but I love this one—it’s ~20 minutes long and features writing and photograph by Sean D. Henry-Smith. The artist narrates the video themselves, and their soft voice is nothing but lovely to listen to. Describing their friends as they move through the world is a refreshing relief from so much of the overwhelming video footage I see everywhere all the time (instagram) (the news). Watching this feels a little like being submerged in a cool tub of water. 


Jaishri Abichandani, Anders Jones, Felipe Baeza, Eleisha Faith McCorkle, Joseph A. Cuillier III, Devin N. Morris, Alteronce Gumby, Soull Ogun, Joe Hayes III, Lina Puerta, Leslie Hewitt, Dana Robinson

Curated by Nico Wheadon
Welancora Gallery

Through August 21, 2021

“Liberating it from its often binary existence, RED resists popular tropes and invites deep reflection on how red shows up in an increasingly fluid world.”
- Nico Wheadon
This show is nothing short of fantastic. It feels so refreshing to see a show that feels so simplistic in nature yet highlights so many incredible artists working today. The color red has an extensive cultural history—often associated with feelings of pain, desire, “woman”hood, love, lust, anger, violence, to name a few. This show recognizes all the color’s working definitions and invites viewers to consider it in all its complexity. I feel grateful for the chance to consider such complex topics under the umbrella of a joining force. It allows true entrance into the space for everyone, and doesn’t ask for eons of prior historical knowledge.

Eleisha Faith McCorkle’s Power (2019), created a few years ago while we were in school together at NYU, is featured on our art community board, and was also shown in Our Skin, Our Logo, at the Commons Gallery at NYU for a solo show featuring her and her twin sister Tonisha Hope McCorkle. I love shamelessly bragging about being friends with the two of them because they’re so cool and the hardest working people I went to school with. Do not miss this show. These two are about to do so many cool things with their artistic careers and don’t you want to be able to say you saw an Eleisha Faith McCorkle original up close in person before she was impossible to reach?


Njari Anderson, Paulina Freifeld
Estrella Gallery
Through July 30, 2021

I’m a huge fan of everything Paulina makes (we went to school together briefly, I admire her from afar, etc). Somewhat of a master in her own right when it comes to contemporary acrylic paintings that often look like they could be made of oil, her painting up as a part of this show, Cosas de Cama begin to explore the body in a very abstract was that it feels like she’s been heading for a while. I love how often she dials back her use of color and centers her figures in a way that places all the attention on the way things curve.

Njari Anderson’s sculptures are so bodily it feels almost insane. Fugue #1, comprised of steel, a microphone, an amp, nails, and screws, rises high and resembles a pine tree. The harshness of the body and the jarring feeling of looking at a bunch of nails stuck into a single tall post. Njari Anderson makes sculptures that don’t seem redundant when it comes to physical representation using


Bortolami Gallery
Through July 31, 2021

These new pieces by Ivan Morley are so fun and so visually appealing. The show includes works on paper and canvas using watercolor, thread, ink, oil paint, and KY jelly (basically lube). He uses a variety of abstracted representational images: oranges, leaves, what appear to be limbs and body parts, tables, bowls, and even people occasionally. The show is beautiful and the textural quality of the work makes everything interesting to look at. The different material qualities really encourage closeness—I always like to make (slight) judgements at gallery shows based on whether or not the work asks me to come right up next to it. A complete viewing experience requires this closeness. 

One of my favorite pieces—Fandango, 2021—has the most insane embroidered surface. Such a dream when it comes to the idea of painting with materials that aren’t strictly paint. I was really into fiber based work for a while so to see thread used as part of a painting is like everything I love existing at once.


The Met
Through August 1, 2021

I had to wait on line for half an hour to see the Alice Neel show at the Met. Even then, the place was crowded and felt oversaturated people-wise, which may have also been because most of the paintings are one-off portraits of one or two people. My immediate reaction was oh god, another bunch of paintings on a wall. But the curation is good, and the layout of the exhibition itself is done excellently. If you’re losing yourself correctly, you’ll bounce through the galleries without any kind of intentional aim. And that’s just the way to do it. Neel spent her entire life painting, and we’re meant to understand every piece in conversation with one another. She’s a great example of an artist we only care about because we compare her work to itself.

That’s part of the reason why I feel confident saying: not all of Neel’s paintings are good. A lot of them aren’t, but she often made several renditions of paintings about the same ideas. Her still-lives all communicate. Her portraits with that one green couch all seem to communicate. Her paintings all so wonderfully overflow with simple connections such that we can feel ourselves wander through different moments in her life. It pulls her work from the another-white-woman-painting-new-jersey category and tugs her across the line into a world she’s carefully constructed specifically for our viewing.

Last time I spoke with one of my professors while stressed about my own work, I was told to go to the Met with someone I loved to look specifically at the surfaces of things. My best friend gave me the People Come First show publication as a present a few weeks ago, and I’d already thoroughly perused and sticky-note-tabbed my favorite paintings. So I feel like I had pretty good context about what I was going to be seeing. But looking at the surfaces specifically felt like it brought the paintings to life. There are small moments where the paint glows, where Neel has so unabashedly felt her action of painting that it’s shocking. Her blue outlines are so consistently confident its almost annoying. A lot of her canvases are stretched badly. Paint rarely ever covers the entire surface. Alice Neel has won us over by tricking us into trusting her. And I’m hardly mad about it.

Things I’m looking forward to seeing that I haven’t gotten around to going to yet/are opening in the future:

Waking the Witch @ Fireplace
Surrealism Beyond Borders @ the Met
More Life @ David Zwirner