Gallery  October 9, 2020  Paul Laster

5 Must-See New York Shows by Women Artists

Courtesy Shin Gallery, New York

Installation view of Gail Goldsmith: Pieces from Lifetime at Shin Gallery.

From the art neighborhoods of the Lower East Side to Chelsea, women artists have kicked off New York’s fall cultural season with some of the best exhibitions in the city. Ranging from Gail Goldsmith’s surreal ceramics at Shin Gallery and Cindy Sherman’s photographs of androgynous characters at Metro Pictures to GaHee Park’s voyeuristic views of relationships at Perrotin, we’ve rounded up five must-see solo shows by artists who should be on every art lovers’ list.

Courtesy Shin Gallery, New York

Gail Goldsmith, Creole, 1992.

Gail Goldsmith: Pieces from Lifetime
Shin Gallery
September 10 – October 18, 2020

Inspired by people, animals, and children’s toys, 86-year-old Gail Goldsmith has been creating fantastic figurative and abstract sculptures from unglazed clay for decades, yet she has remained under the greater art world’s radar for most of that time. Many of her supporters thought that the Goldsmith’s 2011 retrospective at the New York Studio School would finally bring her the attention that she deserved, but it didn’t. Now, however, might be a better time, as the revisionist moment for seasoned women artists is ripe. 

Rediscovered by gallerist Hong Gyu Shin when he saw some eye-catching sculptures in the window of her Chinatown studio while passing by it last year, the artist’s current solo show recreates the raw, poetic sensibility that the dealer found when he first entered her domain. Featuring artwork that dates back some fifty years, the exhibition displays Goldsmith’s inventive use of stoneware clay and assemblage for creating fascinating, psychological pieces. Placing human heads cast in clay atop the slab-constructed bodies of beasts and pressing the patterns of fabrics and found objects into clay-fashioned aprons and armor, Goldsmith visualizes a world that has its origin in the depths of her memory and imagination.

Courtesy Shin Gallery, New York

Installation view of Gail Goldsmith: Pieces from Lifetime at Shin Gallery.

“It’s the clay itself that suggests the forms,” she said in a 2011 interview with the Block Island Times. “It becomes a dialogue between me and the clay.” And that dialogue is evident in two pieces titled Creole—one that depicts a duck with a bow around its neck and the other with an identical body that surreally possesses the head of an aged man—and in the untitled clay composite of a woman’s head on the body of a dog. Some of the quirkier assemblages in the show include Grandmother, which has the clay head of a woman on a doll’s body in a toy baby stroller; a doll’s head and torso attached to the lower half of a child’s body formed from clay; and a pair of clay boots with bicycle handlebars stuck in them and a dismembered clay head of a man strangely squeezed between the bars—pieces that let you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 2019.

Cindy Sherman
Metro Pictures
September 26 – October 31, 2020

Exhibiting compelling work since the outset of her artistic career, Cindy Sherman returns to Metro Pictures for her nineteenth solo show at the esteemed gallery with a colorful new body of work that has the art and fashion worlds abuzz. Presenting ten large color photographs of androgynous male characters stylishly staged in digitally manipulated, atmospheric settings, Sherman takes viewers on a virtual tour with her gender-bending subjects through the English countryside, the forests of Bavaria, and the streets and neighboring areas of Shanghai. 

“Whenever I’ve consciously tried to do men, I felt like it was hard to look ambiguous as a man,” Sherman told Vanity Fair in a recent discussion about the series. “One of the issues keeping me from doing it was having decent and convincing wigs, and the other was clothing.” Although we’re not sure where she found the incredibly convincing wigs, we do know that Stella McCartney, who said in the same Vanity Fair article that she was “a massive—to say the least, huge—fan” of the artist, provided the fashions. Primarily dressed in clothing by the designer, who gave the artist complete access to her archive without any business purpose, the photos beguilingly blur the line between art, acting, and social commentary.

Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Installation view of Cindy Sherman at Courtesy Metro Pictures, 2020.

In the painting-size picture Untitled #602, Sherman assumes the role of a preppy, scholarly chap wearing an overcoat, pants, and T-shirt with a Cindy Sherman photo printed on it as he pensively stands at the fork of a garden path. In another image, Untitled #615, she sits on a stool dressed like a soldier in a khaki shirt and cowboy patterned outfit while her bodily image digitally reverberates in front of an equally surreal, mountainous scene. And in Untitled #618, Sherman plays a nerdy androgynous couple who suspiciously confront the camera in a lakeside setting that looks like it’s straight out of a Hitchcock film—causing one to reflect on the spectacular, cinematic mood of all of the artist’s work.

Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

Billie Zangewa, Everyday Miracle, 2020.

Billie Zangewa: Wings of Change
Lehmann Maupin
October 1 – November 7, 2020

A rising star in the European art scene, even though she’s actually been showing her work on the African continent for some twenty-five years, Billie Zangewa makes her American solo show debut with a succinct selection of intimate fabric collages, which are stitched together from fragments of raw silk. Best known for her figurative works depicting domestic scenes, the Malawi-born, South Africa-based artist presents seven new works that capture life in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on her own photographs, Heart of the Home portrays the artist homeschooling her son at the kitchen table through intricately collaged details; An Angel at My Bedside shows the artist at sleep while spirits are presumably watching over and keeping her safe, and Fresh Start finds her in the shower, where’s she getting ready for a new day with a new lease on life.

Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein. Courtesy Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London

Installation view Billie Zangewa: Wings of Change at Lehmann Maupin.

“I’m addressing different aspects of the isolation experience through the lens of the daily obligations that I’ve had to take on and adapt to, like homeschooling and cleaning the house,” Zangewa stated in an Artnet News interview referencing the show. “During lockdown, the usual mundane tasks did feel somehow strange, the threat of an invisible enemy ever-present. There are themes of newfound appreciation, joy, and loss.”

The loss that she references was the death of a dear friend, who is remembered in the piece Free Spirit, which shows him joyfully dancing in the clouds. Unable to attend his funeral because of the lockdown, the artist found a meaningful way to commemorate his essence in art.

Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy the artist and Perrotin

GaHee Park, Voyeur, 2020.

GaHee Park: Betrayal (Sweet Blood)
September 12 – October 17, 2020

An emerging artist who makes fascinating, erotic paintings in a flat, naïve art style, GaHee Park was born in Korea, where she grew up in a conservative religious home. Interested in art but seeing little opportunity to have an artistic career as a woman artist in her homeland, she moved to Philadelphia to study at Tyler School of Art, where she got her BFA and found the freedom to express her formerly suppressed self. 

“I had no choices growing up,” Park shared in a recent Ocula Magazine interview. “I had to go to church every Sunday, I played the organ at 6 am every day, and attended bible readings frequently. But at the same time, in my textbook and notes, I was drawing some sexual images, what one would deem as forbidden stuff. It was a way of rebelling and asserting myself, I guess.”

Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy the artist and Perrotin

Installation view of GaHee Park: Betrayal (Sweet Blood) at Perrotin New York, 2020.

Living and working in Brooklyn since earning her MFA from Hunter College in 2015, Park has continued to perfect her voyeuristic, intimate paintings in one-person and group exhibitions in New York—hitting her mark of making more complex compositions in a 2018 solo show at Taymour Grahne in London. Initially exhibiting with Perrotin’s outpost in Seoul in 2019, she makes an impressive New York debut with the gallery by showing new paintings on the first floor and drawings, which give insight into her evolving creative process, on the floor above.

The painting Shadow Kiss captures nude lovers embracing on a bed with metaphoric symbols, such as a phallic-shaped anthurium flower, a pierced cherry, and a pillow patterned with kisses, adding to the playfulness of the scene. Likewise, Invitation suggestively shows a dark-haired, nude damsel pulling back a curtain and the tight abs of a waiting man reflected in a nearby mirror. And Voyeur depicts a finger with a red nail penetrating a hole in a wall and an eye peering through from behind at a sensuous still life with a snail and a conch embracing on a leaf, while drawings related to the painting show variations on the same theme, which exposes a mind that’s as active as the pencil and the brush.

Photo: Thomas Barratt © Luchita Hurtado. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Luchita Hurtado, Untitled, c. 1990s.

Luchita Hurtado: Together Forever
Hauser & Wirth
September 10 – October 31, 2020

A remarkable artist who had an eighty-year career prior to her passing in August of this year, Luchita Hurtado was known for her bold paintings and drawings, which embraced both figurative art and abstraction, but recognition for her work came late in life. Emigrating to New York from Venezuela when she was eight years old, she studied art as a young adult and became part of a group of international artists, including Isamu Noguchi, who were active in the city during WWII. Making art in the creative shadows of her second and third husbands, the artists Wolfgang Paalen and Lee Mullican, Hurtado lived and worked in lively artistic circles—from Mexico to California to Europe and then back to California—as she continually made work, but rarely had it shown. 

Rediscovered by chance, when archivists were reviewing Mullican’s flat files years after his death, Hurtado became an overnight success with a show of her early works in Los Angeles in 2016. Three years later, she was being celebrated on the world stage, with a retrospective in London and a spot on Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2019. “I married Lee Mullican and had two boys, John and Matt,” Hurtado stated in a video for PBS’ Art21. “It takes a great deal of energy having the life of a parent and having the life of an artist—working and trying to make ends meet. My real painting, I had to do at night.”

Photo: Thomas Barratt © Luchita Hurtado. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Installation view of Luchita Hurtado: Together Forever at Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street.

Works in the show reflect on being a mother, with several recent paintings and drawings portraying the artist giving birth in both nature and abstract realms, while drawings from the 1970s and 1990s depict more traditional studies of the artist as mirrored likenesses and shadow figures. The painting Untitled (Birthing) presents a reclining nude figure in rippling water with a baby’s head appearing from between her legs and Two Limbs illustrates a similar scenario in a green field with a tree standing tall in the distance.

The untitled self-portraits from the ‘70s and ‘90s are rendered in ink, charcoal, and paint on paper. Forceful yet sublime, they convey a woman in motion—coming and going, playing many roles—but one who’s always seeing herself and the world around her through inspired eyes.

About the Author

Paul Laster

Paul Laster is a writer, editor, curator, advisor, artist, and lecturer. New York Desk Editor for ArtAsiaPacific, Laster is also a Contributing Editor at Raw Vision and Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art and a contributing writer for Art & Object, OculaGalerie, ArtsySculptureTime Out New YorkConceptual Fine Arts, and Two Coats of Paint. Formerly the Founding Editor of Artkrush, he began The Daily Beast’s art section and was Art Editor at Russell Simmons’ OneWorld Magazine. Laster has also been the Curatorial Advisor for Intersect Art & Design and an Adjunct Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, now MoMA PS1.

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