Best of the Best: 5 Must-Visit Gallery Shows to Visit Over the Holidays

A roundup of New York's best gallery shows this winter.

Oh the weather outside is—kind of frightful, and it will only get worse as the winter progresses. Don’t even get us started about the stress of shopping for the holidays. What better way to forget the world outside than to visit a temperature controlled gallery where you likely can’t afford to buy anything? Below, we recommend five of the best gallery shows to take your mind off the holiday season this December.

Andrea Grützner
Julie Saul Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
October 29–December 23, 2016

It’s that time of the year when many people go home for the holidays; the photographs in “Erbgericht (Guesthouse),” an exhibition of photographs by Berlin-based artist Andrea Grützner, show both the acute nostalgia and sense of alienation that such a trip evokes. The photographs capture the details of a guesthouse in Polenz, Germany, owned by a family for five generations since 1889. The staircases, pipes, and ceilings are cropped in such a way that they become abstractions, recalling the photograms and paintings of the Hungarian constructivist László Moholy-Nagy. Vividly colored and brightly lit, the images—which are taken using an analog camera and not processed digitally—are both eerie and familiar, waiting for the viewer to fill the corners and strange recesses of the guesthouse with their own memories.

Andrea Grützner, Erbgericht (Guesthouse); Courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery

Susan Lipper
“Grapevine 1988-1992”
Higher Pictures
980 Madison Avenue
November 22, 2016–January 14, 2017

At “Grapevine 1988–1992,” an exhibition of 14 large-scale silver gelatin photographs by New York–based artist Susan Lipper, the series puts the people of middle America on full display. Taken during the four years that Lipper spent on intermittent residency in a small community in West Virginia, the images recall the documentary photography of Robert Frank. However, Lipper collaborated directly with her subjects, allowing them to “act out” the stories they were telling—whether they were truth or fiction. Doing so allowed for a surreal but vivid tableau of tall tales told by real characters—people with snakes in their beds, secrets in their past, and an affinity for messing around with their friends.

Photograph by Susan Lipper; courtesy of Julie Saul Gallery

Matthew Porter
89 Eldridge Street
November 11–December 18, 2016

Taking its name coined by the inventor Buckminster Fuller, “Sunclipse” is an exhibition of photographs by Brooklyn-based artist Matthew Porter that seems to portend the twilight of humanity. In the images, some of the things most revered by our culture—fashion models, the United Nations building designed by Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, a bird in the natural world—are depicted in the glow of a lens flare that suggests the light right before the sun sets. The term ‘sunclipse’ is another word for sunset, and the artist means for it to remind the viewer that our own sun is not at the center of the universe, but instead, a mere speck in an ever expanding field of celestial bodies. The mood of the show is best embodied in the images of a dome house built by an oil baron in 1980 in Cape Romano, Florida. Caught at different angles, as if by a satellite, the images show the husk of the original building, which has been largely overtaken by the ocean. It is the ultimate folly of human progress to think that our buildings, and the ideas contained within them, can stop the inexorable flow of nature. Foolish, but haunting to witness in Porter’s photographs.

Matthew Porter UN, 2016 Archival pigment print, white artist frame 51 x 40.5 inch image size, 2 inch mat border Edition of 4 + 2AP 1-3: $6,000 4: $8,000
Matthew Porter, UN, 2016; archival pigment print, white artist frame; 51 x 40.5 inches, 2 inch mat border; edition of 4 + 2AP; courtesy of Matthew Porter and INVISIBLE-EXPORTS

Ree Morton
Something in the Wind
Alexander and Bonin
47 Walker Street
October 15, 2016–December 22, 2016

Ree Morton became an artist when she abandoned her husband, a naval officer, and their three children for a life of peripatetic wandering. Shortly after, she only worked as a professional artist for ten years before dying in a car crash just shy of her 41st birthday in 1977. Her biography necessarily informs a reading of her work. As a female artist working in the 1970s, Morton had disavowed the domestic to be taken seriously—or perhaps to take herself seriously—however, touches of the feminine remain in her work. The eponymous work Something in the Wind is comprised of hand-sewn and painted flags that bear the names of friends, family members, and fellow artists. It was first shown on the mast of a ship docked at the South Street Seaport in the summer of 1975 and resembled a wall of drawings made in a children’s art class. For Kate is a sculptural installation of three-dimensional roses made from celastic that surround a painting of roses.

For Kate by Ree Morton

James Hoff
“Utopia Landfill or Vacation in the Age of Sad Passion”
Callicoon Fine Arts
49 Delancey Street
November 5–December 23, 2016

James Hoff, Useless Landscape No. 36 2016, copper etching on fiberglass, aluminum, wood, lacquer; 48 x 32 inches, courtesy of the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts, NY
James Hoff, Useless Landscape No. 36 2016, copper etching on fiberglass, aluminum, wood, lacquer; 48 x 32 inches, courtesy of the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts, NY

“Utopia Landfill or Vacation in the Age of Sad Passion” consists of two bodies of work by Brooklyn-based artist James Hoff that deal with the disappearance of the natural world, both metaphysically and actually, in the digital world. The series Useless Landscapes consist of etched copper derived from photographs of landscapes Hoff took with his iPhone in upstate New York. Hung like paintings, the landscapes are etched on fiberglass with a process used by electronic manufacturers to make circuit boards. The process seems modern but is, in fact, derived from classic printmaking. Scattered on the floor of the gallery are found stones and rocks painted in camouflage. They nod to the creation of camouflage at the beginning of the 20th century to hide soldiers from aerial photographers. Their inclusion in the show is a cheeky gesture, perhaps, that suggests that it is the natural world that needs to hide from humans before it is destroyed.