10 Must-See Exhibitions This Week, From Mexico City to London and Beyond

A forest of hand-painted cushions, Hedda Sterne’s spectral paintings, Julian Charrière’s meditative footage of icy terrain, and more.

Robert Grosvenor, Untitled, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Karma.

Robert Grosvenor

When: Jan. 8–Feb. 23

Where: Karma, New York

What: For more than half a century, Robert Grosvenor has been making beguiling sculptures that toy gingerly with visual perception and conceptual associations. His work is Minimalism made mysterious, improbably, by the stuff of the everyday world, whether car parts or chain-link fencing. He’s one of the best sculptors we’ve got. The centerpiece of his latest one-person outing is a large pool of water, built with hefty concrete blocks and rubber, that is stolid, seductive, and slightly frightening. A back room contains dozens of model airplanes, boats, and other vehicles that Grosvenor has in many cases subtly altered: familiar objects slowly becoming something else, different and strange. —Andrew Russeth


Rafael Domenech: Model to Exhaust This Place

When: Jan. 16–March 23

Where: SculptureCenter, New York

What: In a previous life, SculptureCenter’s ground-floor gallery served as a former trolley repair shop. Its industrial gantry system, though no longer in use, remains, and inspired Cuban artist Rafael Domenech to reclaim it as a machine to produce a pavilion-like installation with materials typically destined for construction sites. Large panels made of aluminum-framed construction mesh function as what he terms “space modulators” to create various architectural configurations. Inside these constructions, Domenech presents his extensive research into concrete poetry printed on chairs and laser-cut into panels. In addition to his own writings, two poems by exiled Neo-Baroque Cuban writer Severo Sarduy (1937–93) speak to dislocation, a poignant display in Long Island City, where SculptureCenter is located, which is undergoing dramatic gentrification. —Ryan Waddoups 



When: Jan. 22–March 11

Where: Fort Makers, New York

What: Founded in 2008, the artist-run design studio Fort Makers made a splash when it opened a showroom last fall on New York’s Lower East Side. Its inaugural exhibition featured sofas and chairs with upholstery that Fort Makers’ cofounder Naomi S. Clark covered in her characteristic motif: large, messy hand-painted shapes. (Most of them were blue, in homage to Yves Klein). Since then, every month or so, the studio devises a new installation. The current one, “Puffy,” is everything its name suggests: visitors are invited to explore, and reconfigure, a psychedelic playground filled with a forest of pillows she has painted.  —Tiffany Jow


Not Vital: Scarch

When: Jan. 25–May 4

Where: Hauser & Wirth, Somerset

What: Having traveled throughout the United States, Niger, Italy, China, Brazil, and his native Switzerland over five decades, Not Vital has created an oeuvre that reflects the spatial and socio-cultural backdrops of his many adopted homes and workplaces. His quasi-nomadic lifestyle and anthropological curiosities have culminated in a series of socially driven works—including site-specific structures that reflect the exhibition title’s portmanteau of “sculpture” and “architecture”—such as House to Watch the Sunset, a model home built for the sole purpose of contemplating the sunset on every continent. Simpler creations, such as the found roof gutter Chanala da tet and three-dimensional works made from paper speak to his deep-rooted interest in the relationship between architecture, landscape, and human perception. —Ryan Waddoups


Farah Al Qasimi

When: Jan. 29 (ongoing)

Where: JCDecaux Bus Shelters throughout New York City

What: Using compositional techniques borrowed from documentary photography and Renaissance painting, photographer Farah Al Qasimi creates images that tell richly textured stories—usually ones about gender, class, and nationality. Beginning in late January, the artist, who earned her MFA from the Yale School of Art and lives between New York and Dubai, presents a new body of work that focuses on singular, fleeting moments of beauty. One hundred bus shelters throughout all five boroughs will double as frames for the photographs, thanks to the Public Art Fund’s ongoing partnership with the advertising firm JCDecaux. —Tiffany Jow


Hedda Sterne, Horizon #3, 1963-65. Courtesy Van Doren Waxter and Victoria Miro.

Hedda Sterne

When: Jan. 29–March 21

Where: Victoria Miro Mayfair, London

What: The fact that this is the first solo show in the United Kingdom devoted to Hedda Sterne, the inventive Romanian-American painter who died in 2011 at the age of 100, is painful, even if it is unsurprising, given the art industry’s perennial marginalization of pioneering women. Sterne was a vital member of the New York School gang in New York at mid-century, making spectral works, sometimes with spray paint, whose alluring mysteries point the way to contemporary figures like Keltie Ferris and Sterling Ruby. This show highlights pieces she made in the 1960s while in Venice, under the sway of sprawling sunsets and inimitable light of the Most Serene Republic. —Andrew Russeth


Martin Laforêt: Inside Out 

When: Jan. 30–April 30

Where: Carpenters Workshop Gallery, London

What: Carpenters Workshop Gallery discovered French artist Martin Laforêt at a graduate show in 2017, and has been working with him ever since. This month, its London location mounts the designer’s first ever solo show, featuring ten limited-edition pieces that incorporate a material as well as the mold used to shape it—Laforêt’s signature move. On view are his rugged concrete and oak objects, which look as if they were jury-rigged from construction-site debris (one chair’s base is held together with a pair of green tow straps), as well as a collection of bronze side tables, consoles, and floor and table lamps made using a lost-wax casting technique.. —Tiffany Jow


Nigel Cooke: New Paintings

When: Jan. 31–Feb. 29

Where: Pace Gallery, New York

What: Nigel Cooke is perhaps best known for atmospheric paintings that blend personal memories with abstract interpretations of the natural world. On the heels of a recent residency in New York, the Kent, England–based artist pivots toward a more abstract approach to figuration—they’re not portraits of individuals, per se, but hybrid depictions of people that he builds from photographs and observations. —Ryan Waddoups


Julian Charrière: Towards No Earthly Pole

When: Jan. 31–March 21

Where: Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

What: Julian Charrière first conceived his film Towards No Earthly Pole while aboard a Russian research ship for the first Antarctic Biennale in 2018. Mesmerized by the icy landscape, he then set out to explore Iceland, Greenland, the Rhône and Aletsch glaciers, and Mont Blanc in France. The result is a meditative 102-minute film that combines nighttime footage taken at each location, summoning otherworldly shapes and colors while a spotlight tracks across the dark terrain. Shown in conjunction with the piece are four sculptures, titled Not All Who Wander Are Lost (2019), which resemble perforated boulders and emulate geological deposits left behind by glacial ice. —Ryan Waddoups


Óscar Sánchez Gómez, Untitled, 2001. Courtesy MUAC.

The Seropositive Files (Visualizing HIV in Mexico)

When: Feb. 1–May 31

Where: Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City

What: An ambitious effort to chart how the Mexican art world—and the country at large—has responded to the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis, this exhibition includes scores of artworks, posters, and various kinds of records—in short, documentary evidence of vital efforts to raise awareness of the epidemic and counteract government inaction. Sol Henaro and Luis Matus are curating the show, with contributions by artists including Hilda Campillo, Richard Moszka, Arturo Kemchs, Gabriel Figueroa Flores, and many more. —Andrew Russeth

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