Baby it's cold outside

David Everitt Howe picks four shows to see in New York in February

Charles Harlan, Ishtar, courtesy Venus Over Manhattan, New York Whitney Claflin, Crows, installation view, Courtesy the artist and Real Fine Arts Park McArthur, Ramps. Courtesy Essex Street, New York Wade Guyton, Untitled (detail), 2014, Photo: Arman Dzidzovic. courtesy The New York Observer

The oven is on and its door is wide open here at ArtReview, New York. No, we’re not trying to kill ourselves – not yet – we’re just trying to stay warm. If there was ever a good way to get rid of the artworld (we’re talking to you, Pamela M. Lee), extreme cold certainly does the trick – or at least, suppresses it for a blissful few months. The harsh reality, of course, is that the artworld carries on, even in the dead of winter. So in the spirit of good will – and fighting off hypothermia – ArtReview has found four shows in the city worth going out for.

Whitney Claflin, Crows, Real Fine Arts, through 16 February

Made mostly of oil and enamel on dead-stock, pre-fabricated surfaces – but often including spills of wine, drops of wax, or smudges of eyeshadow in their compositions – the paintings in Whitney Claflin’s Crows are the most ethereal kind, with lines swooping and pooling into erratic tufts, and hazy shades of colour forming round blobs, as if they’d been applied when the artist was a tad tipsy – in a good way. They’re most redolent of someone like Albert Oehlen, but the marks are so unfettered they could be made by anyone, which is their charm.

Park McArthur, Ramps, Essex Street, through 23 February

Unless you’re disabled, or have friends who are, it’s likely you’ve never noticed the state of wheelchair ramps around the city. Here, they’ve been collected by Park McArthur from downtown galleries and museums. Arranged flat and in fetchingly ad hoc pattern on the floor, they provide an interesting indictment of arts institutions – though indictment may be too strong a word. Tattered and DIY, Essex Street’s two ramps make a failing grade, while the Whitney ISP’s, by comparison, makes the case that ‘a Marxist boot camp’ only want the best. If anything, the show offers a uniquely revealing litmus test of how well certain spaces accommodate artists’ needs.

Wade Guyton, Petzel Gallery, through 22 February

For his first show at Petzel Gallery in seven years – and perhaps the biggest solo showing of his work since that big Whitney survey (in 2012) – Guyton has altered a digital file from several years ago, one used to print his trademark black monochromes, enlarging it to fit a bigger Epson printer. Feeding linen into it, he’s stretched the fabric horizontally to exactly fit the width of the gallery’s walls. Monumental in scale, the imperfect swaths of black-and-white monochromes, in their blank purity become an almost spiritual experience.

Charles Harlan, Ishtar, Venus Over Manhattan, 12 February – 22 March

Adept at making the most ordinary, industrial materials into striking statements about collective cultural values – such as bathroom counters and vinyl siding taken thrillingly out of context – Charles Harlan is taking over avant-garde, Upper East Side hotspot Venus Over Manhattan (a geographical paradox, if ever there was one), where visitors will be greeted by a ten-foot, roll-down gate, before being forced to navigate a claustrophobic passageway formed from an ‘endless wall of corrugated steel’, as Harlan puts it. Together, they’ll form an urban environment gone ominously awry.

February 2014