By Scott Indrisek
Ron Nagle at Matthew Marks Gallery, through October 24 (523 West 24th Street)
This 76-year-old San Francisco artist showcases irresistible assemblages of glazed ceramic, polyurethane, and resin charged with a funky bodily comedy and blessed with pun-happy titles (“Urinetrouble,” “Mutha Fakir”). Each tiny sculpture gets the breathing room it deserves — some on plinths, many tucked inside recessed dioramas. They’re as delectable as ice-cream sandwiches or pastel macarons; it’s hard to avoid food references, perhaps because Nagle’s creations resemble the molecular-gastronomy of some fictitious ex–Memphis Group member. They have a quasi-narrative bent toward lighthearted distress: fluids overflowing, puncture wounds oozing, everything saturated with gloop and goop. A single piece, like “Banabing,” 2013, crams an awesome variety into a simple composition: finish-fetish sheen mixed with finger-pressed clay and a chunky rectangular form that appears to be mottled with concrete dust.
Keegan Mchargue at Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, through October 10 (536 West 24th Street)
It’s not a long trip from Nagle’s universe to McHargue’s. The latter’s ultraflat compositions can resemble cut-paper collages, their perspectives flattened. Imagine a sinister children’s book drafted by the Hairy Who and populated by pig prostitutes; half-man, half-horse painters; and poodles whose floating turds resemble naïve abstract sculptures.
Matthew Brannon at Casey Kaplan Gallery, through October 24 (121 West 27th Street)
Brannon’s series of new works — mainly using a letterpress, serigraph, or silkscreen technique — purports to “explore emotional registers within the context of the Vietnam/American War.” That mission, however, is obscured, or at least softened, by the nostalgic pull of Brannon’s aesthetic. Most of the pieces are forms of still life in which various objects and products seemingly suspended in midair. Brand names dominate — Chesterfield, Western Union, Heinz, Sno Sheen — with the occasional outlier item provoking a joke: a bottle of Liquid Paper, for instance, beneath a diploma from the New York Psychoanalytic Society, as if poking fun at Freud’s mistakes. The pall of war is mostly lost amid the clutter of domesticity and consumer goods, which is, perhaps, the point. A hint of the wider world, though, pops up in “Ready or Not,” 2015, in which a folded Order to Report for Armed Forces Physical Examination sits alongside a box of corn flakes, a novelty greeting card displaying Snoopy as Joe Cool, and a shuttlecock.
Radames “Juni” Figueroa and Daniele Genadry at Taymour Grahne Gallery, through November 5 (157 Hudson Street)
San Juan, Puerto Rico–based Figueroa has been on the ascendant since his inclusion in this year’s Whitney Biennial. Here he shows a series of what he terms “tropical readymades”: basketballs and footballs gutted and turned into vases for various flowers paired with small colored-pencil depictions of the same sculptures. Three panels of artificial-rock-crud embedded with Medalla Light bottle caps and other detritus hang nearby, as if sections of a parking lot had been meticulously excised in the aftermath of a party. An entire wall is given over to an installation of cheeky signs hand-scrawled to resemble the pleas of a semispoiled artist begging for charity in Puerto Rico’s bankrupt-island sun. Upstairs, Genadry presents mountain landscapes in diverse formats — on Mylar, as a 25-panel fractured painting resting on the floor — done in a photo-reliant style that recalls Luc Tuymans with a pastel edge.
Ettore Sottsass at Friedman Benda, through October 17 (515 West 26th Street)
Staged as an elaborate domestic tableau — shades of the ultimate bachelor pad! — this exhibition surveys furniture, ceramics, photographs, and artworks made between 1955 and 1969. Many of the works display the signature whimsy that Sottsass carried over into the design work of Memphis Group, which he founded in 1981. Everything looks strangely fresh, perhaps because the Italian artist’s offbeat sensibilities have since trickled down into the popular imagination (if not straight into the aisles of Urban Outfitters and other predators). Some of the best pieces are understated, like a painted-wood magazine rack with undulating curves, which the gallery has stocked with vintage copies of Playboy and Life. A lacquered-wood room divider and squat, colorful umbrella stand are likewise quietly chic. These functional pieces are complemented by a series of black-and-white photographs of car grills, trailers, and a nun riding a trolley in San Francisco. Side note: Fanatical followers of the designer should check out a new biography, “Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of Things,” due out later this month from Phaidon.
ALSO WORTH SEEING: Barnaby Furnas’s stunning variations on a single theme at Marianne Boesky Gallery, through October 10; Wolfgang Tillmans’s dense and vital show at David Zwirner, through October 24; and Stanya Kahn at Marlborough Chelsea, through October 17, the centerpiece of which is her hilariously strange postapocalyptic film, “Don’t Go Back to Sleep.”