Installation view of "Pipilotti Rist: Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon" at Luhring Augustine Chelsea, New York.
Photo: Farzad Owrang; Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine and Hauser & Wirth

8 Must-See Solo Gallery Shows Across America in January

From a survey of Pablo Picasso’s work created as a foreigner living in France to Hugh Hayden’s sculptural riffs on the American Dream

Rounding up the best gallery exhibitions across the United States each month, Galerie journeyed from New York and West Palm Beach to Houston and Los Angeles to discover the top solo shows for January. From a survey of Pablo Picasso’s work created as a foreigner living in France at Gagosian in New York to Hugh Hayden’s sculptural riffs on the American Dream at Lisson Gallery in Los Angeles, these shows are not to be missed.

Pablo Picasso, Minotaure, (1935). Photo: François Fernandez; Courtesy Musée Picasso, Antibes, France, and Gagosian; 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

1. Pablo Picasso at Gagosian, New York

An overview of Pablo Picasso’s life in France through an amazing selection of art that he made there, “A Foreigner Called Picasso” is a must-see, museum-quality exhibition. Curated by Annie Cohen-Solal—who authored the award-winning 2021 biography Un étranger nommé Picasso, which was published in English in 2023 as Picasso the Foreigner—and art historian Vérane Tasseau, the succinct show highlights five distinct periods of the celebrated Spanish artist’s career in France from 1900 through ’73. Part of “Picasso Celebration 1973–2023: 50 exhibitions and events to celebrate Picasso,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death, the survey features major works on loan from The Met, MoMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Fondation Beyeler, as well as rarely seen pieces from other public and private collections.

After a prelude presenting early works made in Spain, the five sections of the show range from paintings, sculptures, and works on paper created in his Montmartre studio in the sector “Anarchist under Surveillance,” which is how the Paris police labeled the file they started on him in 1901, to “Head of a Mediterranean Tribe in His Kingdom,” covering works inspired by the region during the last two decades of his life. Besides the many masterpieces in painting, drawing, and sculpture, the expansive exhibition includes prints, ceramics, and the tapestry Minotaure, lent by the Musée Picasso in Antibes, which was created from a collage by Picasso in ’35. A mythical creature portrayed with the head of a bull and the body of a man dwelling at the center of a labyrinth, the beast became a metaphor for the artist, who refused the offer of French citizenship—choosing instead to remain an artistic refugee ruling his own realm.

Through February 10

Lizzy Lunday, Garden's Edge, (2023). Photo: Cary Whittier; Courtesy Fredericks & Freiser

2. Lizzy Lunday at Fredericks & Freiser, New York

Earning an MFA in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in 2019—the same year that she was named one of Saatchi Arts rising stars—Lizzy Lunday has found a new, fascinating way of depicting the figure in painting. Starting with a digital collage created with imagery culled from reality television, social media, and her own iPhone photos, she imaginatively mixes her shifting subjects with swaths of painterly action. Dropping inspiration from such Modernist masters as Francis Bacon and contemporary art talents like Christina Quarles into the mix, the Brooklyn-based painter composes her colorful characters in art historical scenarios to further blur the boundary between the real and the artificial.

In her second solo show at the gallery, Lunday presents a dozen canvases of various sizes—including some of her largest to date—spread out over two spaces. Seeming to riff on biblical scenes, her painting Carried portrays a screaming young woman being lifted by three giggling guys to surreally mimic Rubens and Caravaggio’s renditions of Jesus being taken down from the cross, while Garden’s Edge could be Adam and Eve’s welcoming to or expulsion from the Garden of Eden, with pop culture celebrities in the sacred roles. Similarly, her Boxers painting might be referencing Théodore Géricault’s lithograph of pugilists at the Met or the French Romanticist’s masterpiece, The Raft of Medusa, at the Louvre. Yet, even if it’s neither of them, it’s still a captivating canvas, rich with allegorical content and inventive techniques.

Through January 20

Robert Ryman, Untitled, (c. 1961). Photo: 2023 Robert Ryman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy David Zwirner

3. Robert Ryman at David Zwirner, New York

Celebrated as a minimalist painter who made monochromatic canvases, Robert Ryman famously once said, “There is never any question of what to paint only how to paint.” Born in Nashville in 1930, he later moved to New York to pursue a career as a jazz saxophonist. Taking a job as a security guard at the Museum of Modern Art, he soon became interested in painting and began experimenting with the medium. When the self-taught artist left the museum seven years later, he was a full-fledged painter, who slowly started exhibiting his work in a few group shows in the early ’60s. From the time of his first solo show in ’67, however, until his death in 2019, Ryman made a lasting impact on contemporary art with the variety of ways he found to make a painting.

Following its seminal exhibition of his last paintings in 2022, the gallery has organized “Robert Ryman: 1961–1964,” curated by Dieter Schwarz (former director of the Kunstmuseum Winterthur), to explore the artist’s earliest engagements with the medium. The importance of his brushstrokes and the broad range of compositions that he was able to create with them make this show a delight for the analytical eye. From paintings within paintings—such as One Down, whose title comes from jazz jargon—to the repetition of his signature as a representational element and three similarly painted drawings that turned out differently, we discover that although they may have each employed white paint, every Ryman painting is experimentally quite unique.

Through February 3

Pipilotti Rist, Ich brenne für dich (I burn for you), (2018) - installation view. Photo: Thomas Barratt; Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine; Pipilotti Rist / ARS, New York

4. Pipilotti Rist at Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine, New York

A pioneer in spatial video art, Pipilotti Rist studied commercial art, illustration, and photography in the early 1980s before turning to making Super-8 films and videos influenced by advertisements and mass media. A member of a music and performance band from 1988 to ’94, the Swiss artist—whose taken name, Pipilotti, playfully comes from an amalgamation of her childhood nickname “Lotti” with Pippi Longstocking, her childhood hero—cleverly combines her interest in visual imagery and music to explore contemporary issues of gender, sexuality and the human body. Mixing moving pictures projected in larger environments with sound components, the self-proclaimed “wild and friendly” artist has been internationally recognized for immersive installations with spaces for viewers to rest or lounge—and the ones at this dual exhibition do not disappoint.

Hauser & Wirth presents a selection of videos embedded in and projected on everyday objects and body parts—ranging from a tabletop bar and fireplace mantel with displayed collectibles to clothing items, a model of intestines and enormous fiberglass teeth—in the first gallery and living environments staged on carpeted islands with moving projections that create meditative realms to rest or chat with friends in the second space. Two streets north, Luhring Augustine offers a scholar’s rock with a trippy video projection, houses with a shared backyard and patio furniture for communal viewing of sensual video projections in the windows and nature scenes on a giant rock and the surrounding walls. The gallery’s second space suggests a more hippie-like environment with big floor pillows for staring up at surreal, simulated skies—leaving viewers of the two-part show with an array of multisensory experiences.

Through January 13 and February 3

Nengi Omuku, Bathers, (2023). Photo: Courtesy the artist and Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery

5. Nengi Omuku at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, West Palm Beach

An artist-in-residence at Black Rock Senegal in 2022, Nigerian painter Nengi Omuku began her six-years of training at Slade School of Art in London in 2008 as a sculptor under the tutelage of Phyllida Barlow. Departing the school with a master’s degree in 2012, she returned to her homeland with a profound awareness of methods and materials for painting, which over the course of her studies had become her chosen medium. Living and working in Lagos, she developed an interest in traditional textiles, which she sourced from family and friends. Coming across ceremonial clothing made from a sanyan, an Aso-oke fabric crafted by the Yoruba people, she started using it instead of the expensive linen she had been ordering from England. From that point forward, there was no looking back.

Employing pre-colonial fabric that was made from wild silk from the cocoons of moths, spun into fiber and woven together to make fabric, Omuku reversed the stitching and put the strips of fabric together to make a new surface on the back of the fabric for her otherworldly pictures. Painting hazy, featureless people in mottled landscapes, she’s discovered a means to merge the present with the past. She sources her subject matter from Nigerian press photos and archival imagery, while also working with models—placing them in lush, imaginary backgrounds informed by assisting her mother, a horticulturalist and florist. Rather than presenting her paintings on traditional stretcher bars, she suspends the stitched, painted fabric from hanging rods, away from the wall, so that the original textiles can be glimpsed. Finding a spiritual connection with the vintage fabric, Omuku creates ethereal allegories that imaginatively explore her colorful cultural heritage, as well as her country’s current state of social unrest.

Through January 27

Jason Stopa, The Ideal City, (2022). Photo: Courtesy Assembly

6. Jason Stopa at Assembly, Houston

An abstract painter, writer, and art professor who has been actively exhibiting since earning an MFA from Pratt Institute in 2010, Jason Stopa is fascinated by color and forms that are loaded with spiritual and historical significance. Deconstructing utopian architecture related to progress, he employs a grid format to compose joyful canvases with structural shapes and considered but casual brushwork. Inspired by the palette and relaxed painterly style of artists like Henri Matisse, Bob Thompson, Mary Heilmann, and Stanley Whitney, the Brooklyn-based artist utilizes an optimistic language of color and abstraction—one that’s grown out of years of research and experimentation—to construct graphic paintings that build on the past to envision a better future.

Following recent one-person exhibitions at Morgan Lehman Gallery in New York and Diane Rosenstein Gallery in Los Angeles, his show at Assembly—an adventurous gallery and art advisory exhibiting an international group of artists working in a variety of media—presents a site-specific mural, new paintings, and canvas and on paper and the artist’s first sculptural works. Referencing influences that range from Constantine the Great (a Roman emperor who played a huge role in the progress of Western culture) to Luis Barragán, who advanced modernist architecture in the post-war period, Stopa uses geometric shapes and arabesque patterns mixed with lattice and gradient forms to idealistic images for a “DIY Paradise,” which is the well-chosen title of his lively solo show.

Through February 24

Yuri Yuan, Wrecker, (2023). Photo: Courtesy Make Room

7. Yuri Yuan at Make Room, Los Angeles

Taking its title, “A Thousand Ships,” from Natalie Hynes’ book that revisits the Trojan War and its aftermath from the perspective of women whose lives were altered by it, Yuri Yuan presents a series of allegorical paintings that suggest interior psychological states. A Chinese-born artist who was raised in Singapore and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before receiving her MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts in 2021, Yuan makes paintings that express complex emotions while examining her place in the world. “Because of my background—of growing up in different places—I don’t have a sense of belonging,” she told an art journalist in 2022. Through her contemplative art, she’s able to express feelings of solitude, melancholy, loss and longing that so many transplanted people experience.

An avid reader since childhood, she has built bodies of work for previous solo shows at Make Room and New York’s Alexander Berggruen Gallery around texts by Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf and Olivia Liang. With a strong appreciation for art history and a desire to create a place for her work within it, Yuan has taken inspiration from J.M.W. Turner, Edward Hopper, and Lois Dodd while making her paintings with figures and places very much her own. Seeing herself somewhat like a filmmaker, she creates scenarios for her subjects, with each painting in a series representing a frame of an imagined film or chapter of an unwritten book. Her paintings start with representation, but then elements are taken away. What’s said and what’s unsaid—presented from a liminal point of view—are strategic aspects of her art.

Through February 2

Hugh Hayden, The Audition, (2023). Photo: Courtesy Lisson Gallery

8. Hugh Hayden at Lisson Gallery, Los Angeles

Examining the idea of the American Dream and the difficulty of inhabiting that space, Hugh Hayden transforms things that people take for granted by recontextualizing them through handiwork and craft. Initially trained as an architect at Cornell University in the early 2000s, the Dallas-born sculptor went back to school nearly ten years later to get a graduate degree in fine art from Columbia University School of the Arts. Best known for his use of natural and familiar materials, the Brooklyn-based artist is out to change people perspective on wood, while altering our social point of view of the objects he’s transforming with it.

Trees and wood are abundant in his “Hughman” exhibition, which is the 40-year-old artist’s first solo show in Los Angeles. Seeing toilets as an equalizing device and bathrooms as hook-up spaces, Hayden created a sprawling installation of metal bathroom stalls, with each cubicle becoming a space to display his work. Considering the gallery’s recent location had been a sex club for nearly three decades, his functioning double urinals—where participants stand in more intimate arrangements—and wooden toilets sprouting branches seem right at home. Hayden’s sculpture The Audition also points to the gallery being in #metoo Hollywood with his alteration of a director’s chair (a piece of vernacular furniture that’s as American as the movie industry) by tree branches shaped like penises. From a barbwire and chain link fencing baby’s crib and a cherry bark Zegna suit to a cast resin pelvic bone turned into a toilet brush, there’s a surprise waiting behind each bathroom stall door.

Through January 13

Cover: Installation view of "Pipilotti Rist: Prickling Goosebumps & Humming Horizon" at Luhring Augustine Chelsea, New York.
Photo: Farzad Owrang; Courtesy the artist, Luhring Augustine and Hauser & Wirth


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