June 29, 2022 | The New York Times
Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Start on the Lower East Side with Nicholas Galanin’s arresting installations at Peter Blum and Ani Liu’s take on parents’ “invisible labor” at Cuchifritos Gallery. Then head to TriBeCa to see John Riepenhoff’s “Skies” series at Broadway Gallery. And don’t miss the group show at Sean Kelly, “NXTHVN: Undercurrents,” at Hudson Yards.
“I would stand up for that flag,” an artist commented on a social media post featuring a photo of Nicholas Galanin’s “White Flag” (2022), a sculpture with a polar bear rug mounted on a rough wooden staff. At a time when flags representing nations and political causes feel particularly fraught, “White Flag,” in Galanin’s exhibition “It Flows Through” at Peter Blum, feels poignant.
Galanin, an Alaska-based artist whose work often refers to his Tlingit and Unangax heritage, frequently draws on the nonhuman world. In addition to “White Flag,” which nods to both surrender and spiritual power — but also the threat against this endangered species — there is “Infinite Weight” (2022), which features a taxidermied wolf mounted upside down on the ceiling and a video loop of a live wolf. “Anax Yaa Nadéin (it is flowing through it)” (2022) is a wall installation of found baskets with eyes and nose-holes cut into them to resemble the balaclavas of activists, terrorists or freedom fighters — or perhaps spirits or shamans. Many of the works here use the ready-made tactics of artists like David Hammons or Jimmie Durham, which turn found objects into sharp critiques of colonialism and racism.
Galanin can be overly didactic: In addition to his sculptures, prints and photographs, he has written texts to explain the works. He doesn’t need to do this. Viewers are smart enough to draw their own conclusions and his objects, which rest on the X factor of unexpected interventions and juxtapositions, are vastly more powerful and persuasive. MARTHA SCHWENDENER