Post image for Matthew Metzger’s Sweet Peace

We live in terrible times. I need not explain that assertion. And while I do not subscribe to the reading of art as always and/or necessarily “therapeutic”, it would be silly of me to not acknowledge that art can be therapeutic, even healing. To wit, Matthew Metzger’s exhibition The Shade of a Line is the Xanax in my tea.

Metzger is a Chicago-based painter whose work tilts back and forth between neo-Minimalism and neo-Color Field. I normally have nothing good to say about Minimalist work, as I find such works have nothing to say (and, yes, that is reductive, but so is the style). However, in Metzger’s case, the paintings vibrate with buried colors and dreamy pools of semi-occluded light. They teem with an interior life that reminds me of staring into precious stones, of the first hues of the morning, of being less than lucid. Put plainly, Metzger’s paintings are pretty. Let us give thanks for prettiness in an ugly world.

Post image for With Art As My Witness: Carrie Mae Weems at Jack Shainman Gallery

I often hear the platitude that art thrives when artists are forced into action by life or death necessity. But, what might this new politically engaged art actually do to combat racism, xenophobia, misogyny and a host of other threats that have already appeared well before Trump’s inauguration?

Carrie Mae Weems’s two current exhibitions, on view at both Jack Shainman galleries, seem to offer an answer: art can act as a witness. In the dual shows, Weems shines a light on violence, institutional silence, judicial ignorance and black underrepresentation. This is seen most vividly her gut-wrenching take on the killings of unarmed black men and women by police in the 24th street space. Not all the pieces in Weems’s shows force viewers to witness these crimes, but those that do drag these issues into view for a Chelsea art audience, rendering a passive and apolitical viewing experience almost impossible.