New York Exhibition Notes Curated by Ilka Scobie

It’s been a challenging time in New York City and art has provided some relief from politics. A recent roundup of three current and very different exhibitions left me feeling quietly inspired.

Portia Munson’s shamanic show offers a blessed reprieve to the cold reality of post-Trump January blues. Twenty-four gorgeous intimate paintings, photo collages, sculpture and the mixed media masterpiece “The Garden’ joyously embody contemporary feminism.

The recently worn pink “pussyhats” donned by protesting women throughout the world echoes Munson’s longtime pink passion, visible in “Her Coffin.” An avalanche of discarded pink plastic products is a time capsule examining ecology and consumerism.

The recently worn pink “pussyhats” donned by protesting women throughout the world echoes Munson’s longtime pink passion

Much as I love Munson’s jewel-like paintings of quirkily quotidian domestic objects, and her kaleidoscopic pigmented ink jet flower mandala prints, the mixed media installation from 1995-96 “The Garden” is incomparable.   A true cornucopia of garden related imagery, from a canopy of vintage flower printed house dresses, to a bed that is both gorgeous and sinister, the room resonates with a ponderous poetry.

Munson recently showed at P.P.O.W’s booth in Frieze, London. Her work addresses urgent issues – feminism, consumerism, nature.  Now more than ever, we need the power of Munson’s exuberant beauty.

Portia Munson The Garden P.P.O.W. until Feb. 11 Image Courtesy P.P.O.W.


Roy Colmer at Lisson Gallery


Roy Colmer at Lisson Gallery

In New York, English artist Roy Colmer is best known for his 1975 conceptual photography project, “The Doors NYC”, where the artist photographed doors from downtown to uptown. This show focuses on his earlier work, ten “industrial model spray gun” paintings. Within the same central image, Colmer imbues the striped lozenge shapes with a post-psychedelic Op energy. The “Untitled” series from the 1970’s combine spray techniques with a deliberate color selection, suggesting cinematic movements of movement and distortion.

A decade after the paintings, Colmer created photo collages using repetition to both focus and distort plebian street imagery. Sidewalk posts and urban detritus become fractals of color.  Viewed together, the early paintings and photo collages highlight the artist’s lifetime explorations with color, form, and technique.

Curated by Alex Bacon, this meticulous exhibition reveals the depth of a career that was too unheralded in Colmer’s lifetime. Viewing these luminous forty-year-old canvases, alongside powerful photographic works, is both a rediscovery for the viewer and an overdue homage to an artist of great vision and integrity

Roy Colmer at Lisson Gallery Until 18 February

Elizabeth Murray at Canada

Elizabeth Murray Canada

This rare opportunity to see an artist’s working techniques – from doodles to intricately executed color studies focuses on the drawings of the late and beloved Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007) a major New York City painter.  Known for her fractured canvases and unique amalgamation of abstraction and figuration, Murray’s work has inspired the feature film, “Everyone Knows… Elizabeth Murray” that premiered at the Film Forum during this exhibition and a gallery panel discussion about her work was presented as well.

Curated by Carroll Dunham and Dan Nadel, fifty drawings include quick sketches on humble lined paper, to densely crosshatched pieces.  Included is a painting, where Murray imbues loopy shapes with an understated power.  Shown with the work of young painter, Marcus Jahmal, who also portrays domesticity, Canada opens a creative dialogue between two singular and disparate artists who share a highly individual idiosyncratic vision.

 Marcus Jahmal Dock at dusk, 2016
Marcus Jahmal “Meta Visions:” at Canada

I first saw and was entranced by Marcus Jahmal’s work in Swizz Beatz’ “No Commission” Art Fair in the South Bronx. Imbued with subtle humor, the young self-taught painter uses color and brushstroke in a quirkily appealing style that references both classical and street art. His imagery includes mirrors, frames, paintings within paintings and a puzzling bestiary of snakes, lambs and floating fish.

Like Murray, Jahmal uses narrative as a reflection. He creates intimate interiors with tilted floorboards and masterful brushy surfaces. In this first solo show in Canada, his imagery is theatrical and magical.  His work refines cartoonish imagery with a vibrant and off key palette. The Brooklyn-born Jahmal is an artist to follow.


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