Latest: What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries in March

This week, Roberta Smith covers EJ Hauser’s solo exhibition of new paintings at Derek Eller, Vija Celmins’s “Winter” show at Matthew Marks and Huma Bhabha’s sculptures at David Zwirner.

Through March 9. Derek Eller, 300 Broome Street, Manhattan; 212-206-6411,

EJ Hauser’s first five solo shows in New York galleries have always exuded promise and presented one or two terrific paintings but could also leave you wanting more. Now, with her sixth, which is appropriately titled “Grow Room,” she breaks through to another level. This time, all the paintings convince and even dazzle, straddling the line between representation and abstraction with new flair.

Many of Hauser’s primordial motifs persist — the most frequent being repeating triangles suggestive of mountains, evergreens and ancient pyramids. Also present are the floating spheres of various sizes (reading at once as snow, atoms and Christmas tree ornaments) and the play between naïve and sophisticated and between analog and digital.

Hauser has switched from oil to acrylic, a big difference. Her colors have brightened; see the purple, green and burgundy of “Hawaiian Snow” or the turquoise and orange-on-yellow of “Golden Ticket,” which can read as a framed painting. Her surfaces are smoother and less worried over. Hauser has always had a great touch, but at times it has seemed so “felt” that it got in the way of everything else. Now it’s quick and light (acrylic dries faster), which means that there’s a sharper tension between saturated color and her characteristic rough or skipping lines. The latter now can evoke stitches, which introduces analog textiles, as suggested by the title of the black-on-red “Dream Weaver.”

Although I was told that nothing digital was involved in this show, the confusion between analog and digital (and printmaking) remains. Related: the different layers of drawing and painting are more transparent and distinct, creating a shallow computer-screen space.

Through April 6. Matthew Marks, 522 West 22nd Street, Manhattan; 212-243-0200,

As an artist, Vija Celmins has always operated within a narrow bandwidth that she has expanded from the inside out, building a career-long meditation on time. The time needed for her to see, understand and render her mesmerizing images; the time needed for us to comprehend them and work back through the precision of her processes to the real thing. In the past several decades, some of her most consuming subjects have included quiet views of natural wonders: semiabstract yet meticulously realistic expanses of ocean waves, pebble-strewn desert floors and star-dotted night skies.

In “Winter,” her first gallery show of new work in six years, Celmins has expanded her views of nature to include falling snow — a rare depiction of weather, and of transience.

The titles often specify viewing conditions. The first painting, “Snow (Coat)” portrays snow collecting and melting on the back of a dark coat. The snow in “Snow (Window),” a light gray, daytime scene, might be seen through the subtle distortions of a pane of old, imperfect glass. In “Snow #1,” #2, and #3, the snowflakes are especially starlike and distant, and bands of uneven white bubble along the canvases’ bottom edge. Snow drifts? Foamy pounding surf? Perhaps the view from an entirely different perspective: above the clouds.

As for sculpture, the three trompe l’oeil treatments of rope (cast stainless steel, alkyd paint) may be too deadpan, even for Celmins. A large stone and its painted bronze twin reprise, but less perfectly than earlier works like this; I appreciated being able to see the difference. And if you search a bit, you’ll find that “Snow (Coat)” has a twin of its own, deeper in the show. Eyes wide open, please.

Through April 13. David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, Manhattan; 212-517-8677,

Huma Bhabha’s first show of sculpture at David Zwirner, “Welcome … to the one who came,” consists of seven sculptures — four figures and three heads —all radiating ruination. Sparsely installed in the two spaces on the gallery’s ground floor, they show Bhabha decisively expanding both the means and expression of her work, although it should be said that our troubled times all but rise to meet her efforts. They seem implicitly antiwar, and, in their compressed forms, the inverse of Thomas Hirschhorn’s equally excellent “Fake It, Fake It — Till you Fake It,” a sprawling excess of violence, destruction and advanced technology recently seen at Gladstone.

Rummaging through dead civilizations, Bhabha, who was born in Pakistan in 1962 and came to the United States in 1981, conjures ravaged idols that we know on sight. They have the four-sided rigidity of both enthroned Egyptian pharaohs and Transformers action figures. Bhabha achieves this effect by defining limbs and torsos with deep incisions but rarely in the round. (They can bring to mind Brancusi.)

Two of the heads resemble hollow helmets of skin with torn openings for eyes; they show Bhabha sculpting in clay and then casting for the first time in iron, for a raw, fiery surface. The immense head of the peg-legged giant titled “Even Stones Have Eyes,” has been slashed and gouged with a special viciousness, evoking one of Phillip Guston’s monstrous skulls. Would that this heroic horror could unseat William Tecumseh Sherman at Grand Army Plaza.

Through April 8. MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens; (718) 784-2086,

In 1968, the Studio Museum in Harlem initiated a yearly residency program that provided a stipend and studio space for making new art, with, as the museum’s website notes, “priority given to artists working in nontraditional materials.” This year’s cohort of three young participants handily meets that formal criterion, as seen in their lively topping-off show, hosted by MoMA PS1 while the Studio Museum’s new building is under construction.

Two of the artists create imaginative worlds from found materials. The first thing you see in a gallery of work by the Haitian-born Jeffrey Meris is a large suspended sculpture, “To the Rising Sun,” made from dozens of outward-bristling crutches held together with C-clamps. The solar reference makes descriptive sense, though the piece also suggests a giant coronavirus. Apocalyptic, trending Afrofuturist, is the vibe here, in the presence of two silicone-cast human bodies that seem to be melting, and a monumental collage called “Imperial Strike” that catches a terrestrial Big Bang in progress.

A second alternative universe, this one a kind of magical garden of paintings and sculptures assembled by Devin N. Morris, is more recognizably earthly, with its images of landscapes and people. But it’s formally even more unorthodox, combining standard art materials (watercolor, pastel, oil paint) with scraps salvaged from Harlem’s streets: dice, mirror shards, electrical cords’ wires, bamboo reeds, silk flowers, nail polish bottles and fentanyl test strips. Morris turns all of this into a kind of walk-through urban Eden of grit and delicacy.

The installation by Charisse Pearlina Weston feels more like a straightforward sculpture display, but this work too has its twists and contortions. Weston’s primary medium is clear blown glass, often slumped, collapsed or broken, and, in some cases etched with barely readable images and words. While staying abstract it clearly alludes to authoritarian tactics including “broken-window policing.” And the work here — organized by Yelena Keller, an assistant curator at the Studio Museum, and Jody Graf, an assistant curator at MoMA PS1 — along with her 2022 solo at the Queens Museum, establishes her a remarkable talent, and one fully arrived. HOLLAND COTTER

Through March 30. Galerie Lelong, 528 West 26th Street, Manhattan; (212) 315-0470,

The painter Sarah Grilo (1917-2007) was born in Buenos Aires and spent most of her life in Europe. But a Guggenheim fellowship brought her to New York City in 1962, and an eight-year stay here transformed her art, as demonstrated in this fine survey of little-seen paintings — “The New York Years, 1962–70” — organized by Karen Grimson.

Grilo arrived here as a purely abstract painter and stayed one for a while, as the 1963 “Green Painting,” with its brushy blocks of emerald and aquamarine, attests. But the United States, racially divided and headed toward war in Asia, was in a manic mood, and New York was New York, always jacked to the max. Those environmental factors, along with an art world in which Pop was huge and abstraction in retreat, shook up her work.

Her paint application began to get lighter and looser but wired. And she began to add a new element: language, in the form of headlines cut from news magazines. These words and phrases — “Our heroes,” “Win, it’s great for your ego” — filter up from tangles of paint. In 2017 Grilo had a memorable moment with the inclusion of a painting in the Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction.” The work is on view in the museum’s permanent collection galleries, and it’s great to have a context for it in this fuller sampling at Lelong. HOLLAND COTTER

See the February gallery shows here.

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