Installation view of Elise Ansel's Sea Change at Miles McEnery Gallery, New York
Photo: Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery

From New York to Los Angeles, 6 Not-to-Be-Missed Solo Gallery Shows in August

Featuring Robert Arneson’s influential ceramic and bronze self-portraits at George Adams Gallery and Hank Willis Thomas's Pace Gallery debut in Los Angeles

Seeking the most interesting solo gallery shows in America each month, Galerie journeyed from New York, where George Adams Gallery is presenting Robert Arneson’s influential ceramic and bronze self-portraits and Elise Ansel has gestural abstractions referencing Old Master paintings at Miles McEnery Gallery, to Los Angeles, where Hank Willis Thomas is making his Pace Gallery debut with referential imagery that changes before our eyes when flashed with a smart phone. These are the must-see shows in August.

Installation view of Daniel Pitín's The Time Machine" at Nicodim, New York Photo: Courtesy of Nicodim

Daniel Pitín, Deers,, 2023 Photo: Courtesy of Nicodim

1. Daniel Pitín at Nicodim, New York

Born in 1977 in Prague, where he still lives and work, painter Daniel Pitín makes his New York solo show debut with a new series of paintings that blur the boundary between figuration and abstraction in an engaging exhibition, appropriately titled “The Time Machine.” Known for creating fictional characters drawn from such movies as Taxi Driver, Goldfinger and Rear Window, which are set in painterly realms that reference modernist art aesthetics, the Czech Republic artist creates his own film-like narrative with the fourteen dystopic canvases spread across the gallery’s two rooms.

Deconstructing archival photographs, film scenes and architectural interiors, Pitín creates mixed-media paintings, where cardboard boxes collaged with newspaper clipping replace heads and other body parts on people and animals. Figures become empty vessels passing through strange landscapes and mysterious urban interiors that are rendered in brushstrokes that capture realism one minute and deteriorating realities the next. Paintings like Deers, which capture a series of constructivist-style beasts in the forest, and Detective, depicting the boxy resemblance of a man at a desk, portray a dreamlike vision of a world that’s frozen in a digital glitch.

Through August 12

Installation view of Robert Arneson's "Astonishing Possibilities for Self-Expression" at George Adams Gallery, New York Photo: Courtesy of the Estate of Robert Arneson and the George Adams Gallery

Robert Arneson, Balderdash-dash,, 1978 Photo: Courtesy of George Adams Gallery

2. Robert Arneson at George Adams Gallery, New York

A cartoonist-turned-ceramicist, Robert Arneson was one of the leading members of the 1960s San Francisco Bay Area Funk Art movement. A cigar-smoking artist and professor, he made a lasting impact on the evolution of contemporary ceramics. Long considered only as craft, the realist sculptor helped elevate the medium to acceptance as fine art. His striking ceramic bust Portrait of an Artist Losing His Marbles is in the collection of New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, while other major works by the artist reside at the Whitney Museum, Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and SFMOMA.

His “Astonishing Possibilities for Self-Expression” exhibition at the gallery takes a deep-dive into his marvelously witty self-portraiture through a variety of media. Ink drawings from 1964 show the then 30-something artist capturing his reflected likeness on paper, while pencil, pastel and mixed-media renderings from the 1980s portray an aging rebel still fighting the fight. But it’s Arneson’s ceramic and bronze self-portraits—including 1978’s Balderdash-dash, with its monochromatic brown head and shockingly realistic mouth and eyes, and cannoodling Cheek, which finds him eye-to-eye in two versions of his head, from 1992, the year he died—that reveal how the jocular artist employed humor to draw you into the remarkable craftsmanship of his wonderfully expressive art.

Through August 11

Installation view of Elise Ansel's "Sea Change" at Miles McEnery Gallery, New York Photo: Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery

3. Elise Ansel at Miles McEnery Gallery, New York

Best known for her gestural transformations of Old Master paintings by celebrated male artists, who have represented women in either an idealized or sexually objectified way, Elise Ansel uses the pictorial language of abstraction to communicate an equivalent point of view with a bit of a feminist twist. Having exhibited her improvisational interpretations of alluring works by such revered masters as Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer at galleries across the United States and Europe, the American artist is now having her first solo show, which is her 35th one-person exhibition worldwide, with a new series of abstractions at the gallery.

In the exhibition Sea Change, Ansel creates painterly conversations with classical canvases by Bellini, Tiepolo, Titian, Veronese and other celebrated Old Masters. Starting with small studies, she makes multiple renewals of the revered works, which become the points of departure for her larger expressive paintings that capture the figures and drama through bold, velvety brushwork. She turns Paolo Veronese’s The Allegory of Virtue and Vice into two different paintings filled with swaths of color that abstractly conjure the theatrics of the 1565 masterpiece, while flipping the script on Titian’s 1511 Christ and the Adulteress by highlighting the scorned woman’s right to pleasure through a flurry of vibrant brushstrokes in her joyful Fire Fangled Feathers painting.

Through August 31

Suchitra Mattai, The Unveiling, , 2023. Photo: Heather Rasmussen, Courtesy of Suchitra Mattai and Robert Projects

Installation view of Suchitra Mattai's "In the absence of power, In the presence of love" at Roberts Projects, Los Angeles Photo: Robert Wedemeyer, Courtesy of Suchitra Mattai and Roberts Projects

4. Suchitra Mattai at Roberts Projects, Los Angeles 

Born in Guyana in 1973, educated at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and currently living and working in Los Angeles, Suchitra Mattai is a painter, sculptor and installation artist of Indo-Caribbean descent. A maximalist who constructs colorful assemblages from found objects, the vastly talented artist uses craft-based processes and materials to poetically tell visual stories that address the legacy of colonialism and relationships between culture and gender.

Her first solo outing with the gallery, “In the absence of power. In the presence of love” is also her largest, most comprehensive one-person exhibition to date. Exhibiting mixed-media paintings, tapestries woven from traditional saris and soft-sculpture installations, Mattai transforms the white box space of the massive gallery into what she calls a “brown reclamation,” where she has reworked original imagery to convey new narratives with brown heroines salvaging a patriarchal past. In artworks like the unveiling, she adeptly assembles her sister’s first dance costume, embroidery, needlepoint, a sari and an architectural fragment to right the wrongs and show how women have led the way to building a better tomorrow.

Through August 26

Installation view of Thomas J Price's "Beyond Measure" at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles Photo: Keith Lubow, Courtesy of Thomas J Price and Hauser & Wirth

5. Thomas J Price at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles

Since making a splash with his 2001 performance Licked, which involved the artist licking the walls of a gallery over a three-day period, Thomas J Price has mainly exhibited his sculptures, films and photographs in project and institutional spaces. The British artist had a 2016 solo show at the National Portrait Gallery in London and has a current one the Victoria and Albert Museum, but now that he’s represented by Hauser & Wirth his work has become engaged in a more global conversation, as witnessed by this show, titled “Beyond Measure,” in the powerhouse’s downtown LA space.

Price is best-known for his figurative sculptures of everyday people that are cast in bronze, aluminum and synthetic polymer. Inspired by an amalgamation of sources, including observed individuals, media stereotypes and historical statuary, they’re fictional versions of ordinary people, which the artist considers to be psychological portraits of the viewer. Presenting a group of large-scale figurative sculptures together in one location for the first time, the new bronzes—partly created with 3D scans from an open call in L.A.—are larger than life, ranging from 9 to 12 ft in height. His life-like, giant figures are complemented in the show by a new series of pink marble heads, which were digitally carved and hand-finished to capture the likenesses of real-life participants with characteristics from the artist’s evolving image bank.

Through August 20

Installation view of Hank Willis Thomas' "I've Known Rivers" at Pace Gallery, Los Angeles Photo: Flying Studio, Courtesy of Pace Gallery

6. Hank Willis Thomas at Pace, Los Angeles 

A conceptual artist working in a variety of media, Hank Willis Thomas has been exhibiting his art in solo gallery shows since 2003, even before finishing school. Represented by galleries internationally, he became nationally renowned earlier this year for The Embrace, a monumental memorial that has been permanently placed in the Boston Common. Inspired by an archival photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, the elegant bronze sculpture captures their joyous embrace after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

His initial show with the gallery, “I’ve Known Rivers”—the title is derived from a poem by Langston Hughes—presents ten new, large-scale retroreflective artworks, which reveal latent images depending on lighting and the perspective of the viewer. Presenting two distinct images that are revealed in one way by ambient and in another way by flash lighting, they are created with a combination of screen printing and UV-printed retroreflective vinyl. Drawing from art history, the trained photographer’s 2D pieces reference the modernist works of Romare Bearden, Aaron Douglas, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse and Malick Sidibé. Our favorite, I heard the singing of the Mississippi takes Sidibé’s famous 1963 black-and-white of an African couple dancing as the source image, composed with scores of smaller pictures referencing European colonialism and the American civil rights movement, which is a testament to how far we have come and how much further society needs to go.

Through August 26

Cover: Installation view of Elise Ansel's Sea Change at Miles McEnery Gallery, New York
Photo: Courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery


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