7 Must-See Exhibitions This Week, From San Francisco to London and Beyond

The cartoonish clairvoyance of Peter Saul, Kerry Schuss’s experiments in Kirlian photography, Dawoud Bey’s honest depictions of everyday life, and more.

Installation view of “Kerry Schuss: Electrograms 1978–2020” at Gordon Robichaux. Courtesy Gordon Robichaux.

Kerry Schuss: Electrograms 1978–2020

When: Jan. 19–Feb 23

Where: Gordon Robichaux, New York

What: For more than two decades, the art dealer Kerry Schuss has been running one of the most exciting, idiosyncratic galleries in town, and like many of his most venturesome peers (Gavin Brown and Mitchell Algus, say), he was an artist before opening up shop. This show reveals that Schuss was something of a mad scientist in his earlier role, making abstract black-and-white images via the process known as Kirlian photography, which involves using high-voltage electricity. Working in a dark room with—you can’t make this up—a Tesla coil in the late 1970s, he produced small drawings by placing objects and even his own fingers onto film. The results, enlarged in fresh prints last year, suggest celestial eclipses on distant solar systems or exceedingly detailed x-rays of microscopic creatures, with countless minuscule capillaries glowing from hovering squares. Digital reproductions do the quicksilver changes of light in these pieces zero justice; go see them in person. —Andrew Russeth


Forest Primeval

When: Feb. 10–March 21

Where: Hostler Burrows, Los Angeles 

What: To mark the opening of its Los Angeles gallery, Hostler Burrows will mount a group show that explores how nature inspires creativity. Its title, borrowed from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 poem “Evangeline,” evokes the wonder, history, and magic produced by the natural world—and a similar awe permeates the work on view. Look out for pieces by Gal Gaon, Donna Green, Babs Haenen, and John Shea, whose spray-painted ceramic sculptures recall stacks of supersize biological cells. —Tiffany Jow


Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment

When: Feb. 11–May 31

Where: New Museum, New York

What: At the age of 85, the artist Peter Saul continues to defy categorization. His cartoonishly iconoclastic paintings, which interrogate American history by rendering comically distorted political and cultural figures in Day-Glo colors, smack of Pop Art, Surrealism, and Expressionism, yet exist independently from the narrative confines of 20th-century art. That’s perhaps why he has yet to receive a New York museum survey until now, with the New Museum bringing together approximately 60 paintings across his long career. Early pieces, which responded to Vietnam War–era atrocities and the dissolution of the counterculture, perhaps forecasted today’s Trumpian reality, making the case that Saul’s lifetime of work amounts to a poignant expression of the present. —Ryan Waddoups


Steve McQueen, Static, 2009. © Steve McQueen. Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery, and Marian Goodman Gallery.

Steve McQueen

When: Feb. 13–May 11

Where: Tate Modern, London

What: The artist and director Steve McQueen, a master of poetic, unflinching images, has created some of the signal feature films of the present era, like Shame (2008) and 12 Years a Slave (2013). He’s also made some of its most indelible art videos, like the haunting Ashes (2002–15) and Static (2009), an intimate and hypnotic helicopter-shot examination of the Statue of Liberty. Staged almost exactly 20 years after McQueen won the Turner Prize at the age of 30, this exhibition showcases 14 works from his career, and comes amid a flurry of other activities by the artist in the British capital. Tate Britain is showing photographs he had shot of tens of thousands of local school students—an optimistic celebration of the future—and the nonprofit Artangel is displaying those works on some 600 billboards around town. McQueen’s time is now. We’re lucky to be here for it. —Andrew Russeth


Dawoud Bey, A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Harlem, NY, from the series Harlem, U.S.A., 1977; courtesy the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; © Dawoud Bey.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project

When: Feb. 15–May 25

Where: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

What: Dawoud Bey received his first camera as a gift from his godmother in 1968. The following year, he saw the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s infamous “Harlem on My Mind” show, which completely omitted  the work of African-American artists, and decided to document the neighborhood himself. He’s been photographing underrepresented communities ever since. This exhibition, organized with the Whitney Museum of American Art (where it will appear in November), features around 80 works taken from the 1970s to present. The key images on view, including A Woman at a Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Harlem, NY (1977) and A Boy Eating a Foxy Pop, Brooklyn, NY (1988), capture fleeting, poignant moments of everyday life. —Tiffany Jow


Bosco Sodi: A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains

When: Feb. 15–March 28

Where: Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Hong Kong

What: Though the color turquoise played a pivotal role in Bosco Sodi’s childhood (the Mexico-born artist grew up visiting the Caribbean, cenotes, and the Agua Azul waterfalls), he has never used it in his richly textured, vividly colored paintings. That changed during a two-week residency in Hong Kong, during which Sodi witnessed how views of nearby mountainous horizons and oceanic vistas enliven everyday life. For this solo exhibition, he debuts 17 vivid paintings using his signature technique of mixing raw, monochromatic pigments with sawdust and glue, and layering it by hand onto a linen-stretched canvas until it hardens to create a crackled, lava-like effect. —Ryan Waddoups


Lisa Yuskavage: Wilderness

When: Feb. 16–May 31

Where: Aspen Art Museum, Colorado

What: Lisa Yuskavage is perhaps best known for her paintings of voluptuous, sexualized female figures in romantic, dramatically lit environments. The results, which subvert the male gaze, continue to divide critics. (The Washington Post published a 2007 article titled “Lisa Yuskavage: Critiquing Prurient Sexuality, or Disingenuously Peddling a Soft-Porn Aesthetic?”) This exhibition, co-organized by the Aspen Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art, looks beyond eroticism to instead highlight the fantastical nature of her landscapes, which skew supernatural while channeling Old Master, Romantic, and Impressionist tropes. Across nearly 50 works, Yuskavage ascribes an otherworldly transcendence to her portraits, eschewing pictorial conventions to lend a sense of seductivity to the everyday. —Ryan Waddoups

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