Kathy Ruttenberg: Sunshine at Midnight
Until 30 April at Lyles & King, 21 Catherine Street, Manhattan
Kathy Ruttenberg’s wondrous ceramic sculptures fuse elements of Surrealism, paganism and environmentalism into richly detailed and technically stupendous tableaux featuring fairy tale figures and creatures. An eco-feminist streak also runs through the show, seen most clearly in the towering sculpture Climate Crisis, which grimly renders our current ecological trajectory as a figure with a thriving landscape for a dress and cut tree trunks for hair and topped by the bodies of dead birds. Elsewhere the imagery is less overt and often takes on the quality of myth and legend. In The Awakening (2022), for instance, two foxes drink from the breasts of a female figure who is on all fours with flowers sprouting from her back and supporting another figure who is balancing the sun on her head. There is real violence in this fanciful stoneware wilderness, too, though it is often framed as a stage in the natural cycle of decay and rebirth, as in Fertile Ground (2016) and The Moment After (2008), in which the bodies of dead women sprout new plant life. Throughout the nearly 40 works on view in the gallery and its courtyard, Ruttenberg has rendered a fantastical world with an incredibly rich level of detail, from the tiny, lively creatures lurking in every treetop and crevice, to the unexpected openings in her nearly life-size figures that reveal actual inner worlds with yet more landscapes populated by fanciful characters.
Emily Oliveira: Red Velvet, Orange Crush
Until 16 April at Geary, 208 Bowery, Manhattan and 34 Main Street, Millerton, New York
Brooklyn-based artist Emily Oliveira’s quilted works have a powerful gravitational pull, beckoning viewers into their brilliant scenes. Especially at Geary’s Manhattan space, whose walls have been painted a vibrant colour gradient from bright orange to deep purple, the sensation of being immersed in her radiant textile settings is overpowering. Many of the works, not incidentally, depict moments when the boundaries between everyday life and cosmic beings become porous and the two worlds flow into each other. Oliveira renders this slippage between the lives of goddesses and mere mortals with a range of techniques from dyed and quilted textile tapestries to small ceramic sculptures, cyanotypes executed on silk and the otherworldly velvet sculpture I am weak with much giving, I am weak with the desire to give more (2022). From its perch in the corner of Geary’s Manhattan gallery the sculpture is somehow both inviting and threatening, melding phallic and yonic forms into something that resembles a very seductive carnivorous plant. It is as if one of the otherworldly entities from the adjacent quilted works has crossed over into our plane of existence and touched off a chromatic explosion in the process.
Nuestra Casa: Rediscovering the Treasures of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library
Until 16 April at the Hispanic Society Museum & Library, Broadway between 155th and 156th streets, Manhattan
A few gems from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library’s expansive 750,000-piece collection have been exhumed for this exhibition that occupies a new rotating exhibition space at the institution. The philanthropist and Hispanophile Archer Milton Huntington founded the museum in 1904, amassing the largest and most significant collection of Spanish art and literature outside of Spain and Latin America in his lifetime. From masterworks by Goya, El Greco and Velázquez, to lesser-known Latin American artists who have faded from history, most of the pieces in the exhibition rarely surface form storage, often only being exhibited when they go on loan; a 2019 exhibition devoted to Sorolla at the National Gallery in London, for example, borrowed heavily from the Huntington collection. The show, curated by Madeleine Haddon, is part of recent efforts by the institution to bring attention to the richness of this under-appreciated treasure trove of art in Washington Heights.