The Art Show at the Armory: Blue-Chip Brands Show Their Best

Trust me, even if you’ve been looking at art for a long, long time (or even longer than that), you will see work at the Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory you have not seen before, by artists you may never have heard of. This is not because the Art Show, organized by the Art Dealers Association of America to benefit Henry Street Settlement,” is dedicated to showing the young and hip. Quite the opposite, ADAA represents blue-chip galleries that show high-quality work. But it has a terrific roundup of art by lesser-known artists, many dead or left out of art history for all the ordinary reasons (gender, geographical location or the idiosyncrasies of their work at a given moment). And despite the density, the fair is very manageable compared with other mega-fairs in New York.

Other strains running through the 72 exhibitors at ADAA this year, the fair’s 32nd edition, are a focus on geometric abstraction and craft and a high percentage of female artists — 19 exhibitions are dedicated to them. With an enormous backlog of women, artists of color and people working in unusual media, fairs like this one are yet another place to play catch-up. Below are some highlights, divided into categories with lots of slippage and overlap.

Surrealism started in the 1920s as a notorious boys’ club, but later generations of women working in this dreamy idiom stole the show. This is particularly true of Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, best friends living as expatriates in Mexico City in the 1950s whose works are on view at Gallery Wendi Norris (D29). Alongside gorgeously weird paintings of women, birds and cats — as well as mythical and imaginary creatures — is a Varo sculpture made from fish, chicken and turkey bones after a dinner with artists. An accompanying scroll with text proposes a clever alternative evolutionary route for homo sapiens, with an umbrella appearing at an archaeological dig, disrupting Darwin’s narrative. Jonathan Boos (A4) has a slightly tamer show titled “Psychological Realism” which includes paintings from the 1940s and ’50s by the American artists George Tooker and Alton Pickens that would not look out of place in a contemporary hipster-oriented gallery on the Lower East Side. Hirschl & Adler Galleries (B4) has a roundup of radical artists — among them Honoré Sharrer, a wonderfully talented painter who was a communist who had to move to Canada during the Red Scare and who made paintings that look like American Gothic stories come to life. Finally, Galerie Lelong & Co. (A8) has a standout presentation of paintings by Ficre Ghebreyesus (1962-2012), an artist born in Eritrea who was married to the poet Elizabeth Alexander. Mixing sources from jazz to Islamic architecture to Coptic Christian iconography and Eritrean folk art, Mr. Ghebreyesus processed everything he saw as a refugee and a global citizen into a kind of ecstatic surrealism. This is the first solo exhibition of his work in New York and the first time I’d seen it. He died of a heart attack a few days after his 50th birthday, leaving behind 882 paintings, a handful of which are on view here.


The Art Show

Feb. 27 through March 1 at the Park Avenue Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, Manhattan; artdealers.org.

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