“Lisa Beck,” Feature Inc., New York, NY. Through June 28. Roberta Smith: Lisa Beck’s new black-and-white paintings are among the best she has ever made. With their clusters of visionary orbs, shimmering reflections and radiating starbursts, they suggest modernist fireworks displays and fuse aspects of the work of the transcendental painter Agnes Pelton, the drawings of Lee Bontecou and the black-and-white 1980s stripe paintings of Ross Bleckner…. A weakness is that parts of Ms. Beck’s surfaces seem a bit brittle and superficial, and painted with insufficient conviction. But this may reflect an attempt to keep painting at arm’s length to conjure images that are thin, weightless and perfunctory and, in this, also subtly linked to photography. Two smaller paintings depart from the usual combination of spheres and straight lines….Although much simpler and perhaps less accomplished than the other paintings here, these are the most intriguing. They make you wonder what Ms. Beck will do next.
“Kim Dorland: Super! Natural!,” Freight + Volume, New York, NY. Through Thursday. Roberta Smith: In the landscapes in Kim Dorland’s second New York gallery show, both painting and nature are defiled, but bright, electric color keeps things from getting too ugly. Like many painters today, Mr. Dorland operates in the gap between legible imagery and paint’s luscious, even oppressive materiality. His exaggeration of the medium has precedents in the work of artists as diverse as Eugene Leroy, Leon Kossoff and Joe Zucker….Although smoothness is not absent from these works, paint is mostly slathered on and built up into relieflike surfaces, especially with pine trees. There are sometimes additions of fake fur or butterfly decals….Like his use of color, Mr. Dorland’s paint handling often has a surprising delicacy and control. It offsets the mindless, overwrought machismo that his work both exudes and parodies.
“Gary Hume: Yardwork,”Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, NY. Through June 27 Roberta Smith: In this exhibition, at least, Gary Hume is at his best when painting the motifs he came up with nearly 30 years ago: big, semiabstract images of doors. They punned on the Greenbergian ideal of flatness by depicting things that really are flat, à la Jasper Johns. In addition, like many of the doors they depicted, the paintings had shiny enamel surfaces that are a Hume staple….The other paintings — similarly reduced and shiny silhouettes of young girls, birds and roses — seem much more tentative and arbitrary. Their liverish colors are intriguing, but they mainly function here as extras, forming a backdrop for the show’s two stars.
“Saul Becker: Vistas and Vacant Lots,” Horton & Company, New York, NY. Through July 11.
Ken Johnson: In his eerily calm seascapes, Saul Becker envisions what seems a time after humans have departed for further, metaphysical shores. Mr. Becker, who lives in Brooklyn, paints with meticulous attention to detail, and he renders subtleties of space and atmosphere in a palette of grays and blues reminiscent of Whistler’s. While calling to mind seascapes by 19th-century American Luminists, his near-Photorealist pictures convey an infectious, distinctly contemporary mood of existential perplexity.
“Richard Woods: The Nature Show,” Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York, NY. Through July 15 Ken Johnson: What’s in a name? In the case of Richard Woods, a British artist who has exhibited extensively in Europe, it looks like destiny. Mr. Woods has created a gently transporting installation in which all the walls of the gallery are covered by paneling imprinted with the exaggerated patterns of grainy wooden boards. Except for a central column covered in brightly colored strips, the patterning is black and white, and it was made by means of woodblock printing and high-gloss house paint…. The most obvious point of Mr. Woods’s installation would be about how modern people use artificial means and materials to simulate natural things for the home and otherwise. Think of Formica, for example, the signature material used by Richard Artschwager, who, along with the master of colored tape, Jim Lambie, may be cited as a primary member of Mr. Woods’s extended artistic family.But while Mr. Woods may be construed as a Pop artist, you get the feeling that his intentions are not merely satirical….”