From New York to Los Angeles, 8 Must-See Solo Gallery Shows in December
These are the not-to-be-missed shows in December
Rounding up the most fascinating solo gallery shows in America each month, Galerie journeyed from New York, where White Cube is presenting Tracey Emin’s paintings of contorted bodies in its first solo show presentation since opening on the Upper East Side in October, to Los Angeles, where Gillian Wearing has smartly painted herself into the realms of past artists that she admires at Regen Projects.
1. Arghavan Khosravi at Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York
Blurring the boundary between painting and sculpture, Arghavan Khosravi mines her own life experiences as a young woman growing up in Iran, an immigrant in the United States and an Iranian exile. While her earlier work illustrated stories of oppression and perseverance, her latest creations—recently exhibited in her survey at the Rose Art Museum and included in her “True to Self” exhibition here—were inspired by the Woman, Life, Freedom movement, which has become a rallying cry since the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in Tehran. Complex hybrid paintings like The Battleground reveal the influence of Persian miniatures in her tales of patriarchal repression, while such freestanding sculptural paintings as The White Feather show the artist willing to defiantly battle to keep her freedom and peacefully fight to obtain it for others.
Through January 6
2. Frank Auerbach at Luhring Augustine, New York
One of the leading artists of the London School (a post-war movement of a loose figurative form of realism, which included Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Leon Kossoff), Frank Auerbach is best known for his thickly painted portraits of people and city scenes. Born in Germany in 1931, he was sent to England in 1939 by his parents, who perished in a concentration camp. Representing Great Britain at the 1986 Venice Biennale, he shared the Golden Lion Prize with Sigmar Polke. In that solo show, Auerbach—acclaimed as a painter’s painter—presented paintings and drawings, which is what’s on view in the selection of works from the past decade in the exhibition “Frank & Julia” at the gallery.
Offering six small-scale paintings on board and three slightly larger drawings of himself that were made over the past year paired with six intimate portraits of his wife Julia’s head in a reclining position painted between 2012 and 2020, the engaging exhibition presents a compelling look at a 70-year love affair and the 92-year-old artist’s fascinating style of composition. Painted with a buildup of brushwork that’s applied, scraped off and applied again and drawn with a well-chosen accumulation of graphite, ink and chalk lines, his portraits seem almost sculptural while capturing the subject’s shadowy likeness with just the right number of marks. Obsessed with specific subjects, he returns to them repeatedly, but with different results each time.
Through December 22
3. Tracey Emin at White Cube, New York
One of the YBAs (Young British Artists) who gained international recognition in the 1990s and sustained a career while working across a variety of media, Tracey Emin is the perfect choice for the first solo show at the recently launched New York outpost of White Cube, the celebrated London-based gallery, where she has exhibited for the past 30 years. Exploring her life as subject matter for her passionate paintings, drawings, sculptures, neons and prints, the soul-searching artist makes meaningful works that sensitively study themes of love, desire, loss and grief.
Occupying three floors of the gallery’s pristine Upper East Side locale with a new group of paintings and a sole sculpture of couples and lone figures engaged in erotic activities, her “Lovers Grave” exhibition offers a closeup view of her uniquely raw and unfiltered art-making style. Capturing spectral scenes of contorted bodies seeking sexual pleasure in beds and shallow graves with loose expressive lines and bold swaths of color, Emin reveals the rapture of love with the same enthusiasm for living life to the fullest that she so daringly unleashed with her earliest works of art.
Through January 13
4. Georg Baselitz at Gagosian, New York
Another important artist who uses unrestrained gestures to construct emotionally charged paintings, sculptures and works on paper, Georg Baselitz was one of the founders of the Neo-Expressionist movement that swept over Europe in the 1970s and made a major impact on the international art scene in the booming 1980s. Best known for his figurative paintings, drawings and prints of upside-down subjects that allow the viewer to focus on his expressive mark-making and the artifice of painting rather than the reality of the figure portrayed, the artist is equally celebrated for his distinctive brushwork, heightened palette and straightforward touch.
His exhibition “The Painter in His Bed” explores two motifs: figures in bed and the stag. Mixing briskly applied brushstrokes with affixed nylon stockings and sheets of gauze or impressions of their shapes on the canvas, the artist coaxes dynamic figurative themes from a series of new works with underlying references to such artists as Philip Guston, Robert Rauschenberg and Francis Picabia. Sketchy images of the symbolic beasts and brittle human bodies drift through monochromatic fields peppered with surreal stockings and veiling gauze sheets in the large-scale black and white paintings, while another commanding series of red-on-white canvases and ink renderings of the stags on paper explores the theme of life and death from another angle yet with the same powerfully poetic results.
Through December 22
5. Anish Kapoor at Lisson Gallery, New York
A standout at the 2022 Venice Biennale, where he had two strong satellite shows presenting an overview of his groundbreaking paintings, sculptures and installations, Anish Kapoor returns to New York with a related series of visceral abstract paintings and profound black sculptures, which utilize a nano-technology material that absorbs 99.8% of visible light. Created with Vantablack, which is promoted as the darkest of all manmade substances, the artist’s sublime opaque sculptures look completely flat until viewed in the round when they reveal their contoured or geometric forms while his 2D paintings with the material become eerie black holes to an unknown realm. His impasto paintings, however, speak a more explosive language, where his signature Kapoor Red paint bursts from his massive, heavily worked canvases like a gloriously erupting volcano or a ritualistic figure being brutally sacrificed to a blood-thirsty god.
Through December 16
6. Gideon Rubin at Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles
Celebrated for his reductive paintings, in which faceless figures are composed with the fewest gestures possible to convey a memory of a situation rather than a highly realistic representation of it, Gideon Rubin has been leaving much to the viewer’s imagination ever since he started showing internationally in 2002. Returning to L.A. for his second solo show with the gallery, aptly titled “Substance to Shadows,” the London-based painter presents a new series of canvases in a variety of sizes that are primarily influenced by three cinematic classics: Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror, Eric Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale and the Cuban film Memories of Underdevelopment by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. Painting eye-catching pictures of stylish people casually seen from behind or faceless frontal views with luscious brushwork, Rubin produces intimate images brimming with contemplative joy.
Through December 16
7. Sascha Braunig at François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles
Deconstructing the human form, Sascha Braunig creates theatrical, dreamlike scenarios that have appropriately been labeled neo-surrealism but seem to speak more directly to contemporary times. First fashioning paper, wire, wood and clay figures as models from which she paints, the Canadian-born, Maine-based artist then renders her characters in graphic settings, where geometric patterns intermingle with silhouetted female forms. Dresses play an important role for her feminine subjects, as her paper doll figures appear to be cut from fabric or paper and occasionally synched at the waste. Her color coordinated patterns and stainless-steel armature spines add another level of tension to Braunig’s psychological scenes in the paintings, while two bronze sculptures of spiked Cheshire Cat-like smiles, which are each drolly titled Jaws, show that humor is also a key ingredient in this talented artist’s work.
Through December 23
8. Gillian Wearing at Regen Projects, Los Angeles
Widely praised for her uncanny photographic self-portraits appropriating the guise of relatives or famous people, which she calls her spiritual family, Gillian Wearing displayed an artistic bag of tricks in her critically acclaimed Guggenheim Museum retrospective in 2021. For many viewers, it was the first time that they saw the 1997 Turner Prize-winning artist’s watercolors and paintings, which she began making during the Covid-19 lockdown. Whereas those initial works—her first attempt at painting since leaving college—were straightforward self-portraits, her deeper pursuit of painting on view in her “reflections” exhibition at the gallery show the London-based artist smartly painting herself into the realms of past artists that she admires, such as Manet or Rembrandt, whose eye’s she has inserted on her face. Not leaving photography in the past, Wearing dons another mask for a striking portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi, a 17th century painter who was also known for dramatically depicting the female figure in a natural way.
Through December 23