FALL IS ALWAYS PRIME TIME for exhibition programming and this season is no different, despite special protocols in place at galleries for in-person shows, given the pandemic. Some of the must-see art shows on view in New York City feature painting, both traditional forms and innovative mixed-media approaches incorporating a variety of materials. A selection includes a show focused on portraits by Benny Andrews at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, and the first solo exhibitions in New York of Ficre Ghebreyesus at Galerie Lelong and Theaster Gates at Gagosian.


FICRE GHEBREYESUS, “Gate to the Compound,” 2006 (acrylic on canvas, 48.25 x 48.25 inches / 122.6 x 122.6 cm). | © Ficre Ghebreyesus. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Lelong

FICRE GHEBREYESUS: Gate to the Blue, Galerie Lelong, West 26th Street | Sept. 10-Oct. 24, 2020

The first solo exhibition of Ficre Ghebreyesus (1962-2012) in New York City features small and large paintings that blend figuration and abstraction, focusing on dreamlike scenes, graphic compositions, and individual objects, all showcasing his dexterity with a range of palettes, from vibrant colors to lighter hues and deep, dark tones. Most of the paintings are being shown publicly for the first time. A refugee from Eritrea, Ghebreyesus traveled throughout Europe and eventually settled in New Haven, Conn. He was a chef and restaurant owner, all the while honing his painting practice. Eventually, he attended Yale School of Art. In 2012, he died suddenly of heart failure at age 50, leaving behind hundreds of paintings and “a visual narrative and language distinguishably his own.” His widow, Elizabeth Alexander, the poet and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is stewarding his artistic legacy. In September, Alexander was in conversation with Jason Moran, discussing the artist, personal stories, and specific works in the exhibition.

FIND MORE about Ficre Ghebreyesus on his website


Installation view of ODILI DONALD ODITA: Mirror,” Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, N.Y. | Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery

ODILI DONALD ODITA: Mirror, Jack Shainman Gallery, West 20th Street | Sept. 10-Nov. 7, 2020

For Odili Donald Odita, color is representational. Defined by kaleidoscopic patterns of vivid color, his paintings are a joy to behold, visually uplifting and bursting with energy. His intentions are much more grounded, however. He employs these bold and bright hues to explore the human condition. He regards his colors as “agents to express thoughts, ideas, and transformational change.” This exhibition features new paintings made between 2018 and 2020. Philadelphia-based Odita, was born in Nigeria and grew up in the American Midwest. The artist wrote the brief summary that describes the exhibition. Odita concluded by stating that the show, which is titled “Mirror,” is about self reflection.

FIND MORE about Odili Donald Odita on his website


BENNY ANDREWS (1930–2006), “The Park,” 1978 (oil and graphite on canvas with painted fabric collage, 36 x 49 3/4 x 1 1/4 inches / 91.4 x 126.4 x 3.2 cm). | © Benny Andrews Estate; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

BENNY ANDREWS: Portraits, A Real Person Before the Eyes, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, Eleventh Avenue at West 19th Street | Sept. 26, 2020-closing date TBD

Throughout his career, Benny Andrews (1930-2006) made a variety of images, including portraits. The mixed-media collage works humanized his subjects and also “served as a vehicle through which he could metaphorically express the personification of ideas, thoughts, emotions and values.” Born in rural Plainview, Ga., Andrews lived and worked in New York. He made self-portraits, depicted his wife and father, fellow artists Howardena Pindell, Alice Neel, Marcel Duchamp, and Norman Lewis, and others he knew and encountered. This exhibition presents 35 paintings and works on paper dating from 1957 to 1998.

FIND MORE about Benny Andrews on his website


THEASTER GATES, Flag Stretch, 2020 (industrial oil-based enamel, rubber torch down, bitumen, wood and cooper nails, 72 x72 inches (182.9 x 182.9 cm). | © Theaster Gates

THEASTER GATES: Black Vessel, Gagosian, West 24th Street | Oct. 10–Dec. 19, 2020

Theaster Gates, who has exhibited extensively and internationally, is presenting his first-ever solo show in New York. With a contemporary art practice “anchored equally in the canons of art history, the racial ideology of the Black diaspora, and the artist’s own personal history,” Gates is showing works in a variety of mediums across these themes. A series of abstract, mixed-media paintings incorporates roofing material and black asphalt, paying homage to the artist’s father, who was a roofer. A group of large-scale ceramic vessels Gates made during the pandemic quarantine is on view. The Chicago-based artist is also presenting a pair of installations containing bound volumes—a complete set of Ebony magazines (1945-2016) and a collection of historical books about the Black experience.

FIND MORE about Theaster Gates on his website


Installation view of KEVIN BEASLEY, “The Road,” 2019, Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York, N.Y. | Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan Gallery

“KEVIN BEASLEY: Reunion,” Casey Kaplan Gallery, West 27th Street | Sept. 10-Oct. 24, 2020

New York-based Kevin Beasley was shortlisted for the Hugo Boss Prize 2020. His practice mines his ancestral past through the history of his family’s property ownership, across generations, in rural Virginia. His current exhibition is inspired by the family tradition of gathering, which was interrupted this year when a longstanding annual reunion was canceled due to the pandemic. A series of new floor-based slab works is on view. Coated in resin, the sculptural formations are composed of a variety of meaningful materials, from raw Virginia cotton, tires and guinea fowl feathers to du-rags, polyester house dresses (from a now-shuttered shop in Harlem where his grandmother and great-grandmother were customers) and, for the first time, t-shirts featuring photographic images of the family property. Reimagined versions of the slab works are also presented, installed on the wall and displayed like paintings. CT


“Ficre Ghebreyesus: City with a River Running Through” was published to accompany the artist’s solo exhibition at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and includes contributions by Elizabeth Alexander, Lowery Stokes Sims, and artist Julie Mehretu. Alexander writes about losing her husband, the artist Ficre Ghebreyesus, in “The Light of the World: A Memoir,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography. Published in 2018, “Kevin Beasley” is the first monograph to explore the artist’s work. Kevin Beasley is also featured in “Four Generations: The Joyner / Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art.” With contributions by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Lowery Stokes Sims, “Benny Andrews: There Must Be a Heaven” documents the artist’s first solo exhibition at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. “Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews” introduces the artist to children. Odili Donald Odita’s first monograph was published by Sternthal Books. A second monograph is forthcoming from the Canadian publisher. “Theaster Gates: Black Madonna” documented the artist’s exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel. Also consider, “Theaster Gates” from Phaidon, “Theaster Gates: Black Archive,” and “Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum.”


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