Until 5 September at MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens
This traveling mid-career show devoted to the American photographer Deana Lawson, her first museum retrospective, brings together more than 50 works spanning nearly two decades of her practice. Lawson is celebrated for her intimate portraits of Black subjects who are often staged in naturalistic domestic settings, offering a voyeuristic but fictional glimpse into their lives. Relatives, friends and strangers serve as subjects for the works, which aims to convey the “majesty of Black life, a nuanced Black life, one that is by far more complex, deep, beautiful, celebratory, tragic, weird, strange”, the artist describes. The show includes pieces featured in the museum’s Greater New York exhibition in 2010, and work featured in her Hugo Boss Prize solo exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York in 2020, which marked the first time in more than two decades that a photographer was awarded the prize. This show has been co-organised with the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, where it premiered in November last year, and will open at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in October.
Guadalupe Maravilla: Tierra Blanca Joven
Until 18 September at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
The Salvadoran-American artist Guadalupe Maravilla, who fled El Salvador as a child amid political turmoil in the country in the 1980s, draws on personal stories to harmoniously blend spiritual and political narratives in his work. He began his Disease Throwers series of shrine-like sculptures, some that take the form of thrones or beds amalgamated from various materials, some that generate vibrational sounds, after a cancer diagnosis in 2013 led him on a years-long sound therapy treatment that he credits for his recovery. He describes the Disease Throwers as healing instruments, or machines that appear menacing but are also protective, drawing on Maya and other non-Catholic mythologies that recognise the duality of nature and humanity. Works in the exhibition are shown in dialogue with Maya artefacts from the museum’s collection, like ceramic figurines and nearly complete conch shell trumpets that would have been used for sonic rituals. The title of the exhibition, which translates to "Young White Ash/Earth", references the volcanic eruption of the Tierra Blanca Joven volcano in present-day El Salvador in the fifth century that displaced Maya people, and aims to underscore the ongoing displacement of immigrant communities like those held in detention centres across the US. The show is part of an international initiative launched by the London-based Wellcome Trust to support art projects dealing with mental well-being.
Kyle Staver: Tout Court
Until 6 May at Half Gallery, 235 East 4th Street, Manhattan
Kyle Staver’s new paintings depict the adventures of goddesses, mythic heroines and nymphs in compositions that are disarmingly comical and quietly masterful. Her take on the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis I (all works 2022) shows the titular figure not brandishing a bow and arrow (though there is plenty of that in adjacent works) but sitting by a campfire and enjoying an amiable conversation with a large bear while a sage moose looks on and glowing moths flutter about. The sweet scene, rendered in thick brushstrokes of mostly-dark blues, browns and greens, has the warmth of an endearing fairy tale. But it is also ingeniously composed, with the bright, sloping line of a tree trunk matching the bear’s curving silhouette perfectly to guide our eyes toward the electric gaze being exchanged between Artemis and her ursine interlocutor. This pattern of casting mythic and allegorical figures in inventively re-imagined and expertly choreographed scenes plays out across the exhibition. Unexpected and borderline supernatural bursts of colour add to the dazzling effect, from the mauve glow shading the entire scene in Artemis I to the pulsing turquoise tusks of the titular prey in Boar Hunt or the practically radioactive grass that provides the ground in Crows. Staver conjures myths and landscapes that are not only lovingly recast but dramatically augmented.