New York Fall Exhibition Highlights: Ilan Averbuch, Pacifico Silano, Matthew Pillsbury
October 05, 2017 by Emma Drew
blurry people with river background

The current crop of alumni exhibitions on view brings politics to the fore allusively, through artistic intervention and imagination. The pressing question here, for the three artists highlighted below, is, in its most basic form, how to live together. Their observations, if not answers, are thought through in stone sculptures and drawings, archival pigment prints and photo-collages.

Collection of ceramic sculptures
Installation view of “The Lily Pond,” an exhibition of work by Ilan Averbuch now on view at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery. Image via

“The Lily Pond,” an exhibition of work by Ilan Averbuch (BFA 1982 Fine Arts), revolves around a collection of sculptures, curious, craftsman-like feats atop circular granite slabs that appear to float, like massive lily pads, throughout the gallery (and in reality are supported by clusters of metal legs). Made out of stone and weathered, rust-colored steel, the pieces have an ancient, tawny feel. The objects and structures themselves—simple tools and clever architectures—remain nonspecifically old and of mysterious, or mythological, origin—Etruscan or Atlantean? As with archaeology, Averbuch’s findings seek to connect us with a past; two works, a barrel-shaped sculpture and its drawn plans, refer to a cuneiform-inscribed clay cylinder from 539 BCE Mesopotamia that is the first known declaration of human rights. They also speak to potential fates: The Ark, After Paris, a hut in a boat on precarious pylons, evokes the consequences of leaving recent climate accords (and also conjures up the shallow Trojan prince who provoked war, destruction and ultimately his own demise), bringing to mind ancient floods and not-so-distant futures. On view at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, 520 West 27th Street, through October 21.

art gallery
Installation view of “John John,” an exhibition of work by Pacifico Silano now on view at the Rubber Factory. Image courtesy Rubber Factory/Artsy.

New works by Pacifico Silano (MFA 2012 Photography, Video and Related Media) from his series “John John” provide a new view of the very familiar face and persona of John F. Kennedy, Jr. By dissecting, reproducing and collaging images of the country’s “favorite son,” sourced from tabloids and news coverage, Silano scrutinizes our attachment to JFK, Jr., and his celebrity. The American public’s obsession with following the young Kennedy’s life once seemed innocuous enough—and Silano’s slogan-filled prints (Hot Hunk, Prince Charming) and cheeky titles (Heartbreaker), as well as several bare-chested magazine photos, feel like campy fun—but now, as we approach the 20th anniversary of his death, the less savory aspects of the public’s fixation are readily apparent. “John John” reveals little more about the man himself but digs into what it is that we want, and think we deserve, from our public figures. On view at Rubber Factory, 29C Ludlow Street, through November 15.

Photo of sunset over lake and eight people in foreground negatively exposed with mirror of four of them in center.
Matthew Pillsbury, Edgewater Beach #8, Cleveland (detail), 2017, archival pigment ink print. Image via Benrubi Gallery.

Matthew Pillsbury (MFA 2004 Photography, Video and Related Media) often works with long exposures, using the relative stillness of places and things compared to his human subjects to create photographs that twitch and flutter and hover, ghost-like, between solidity and transience. In “Sanctuary,” this technique is applied to crowds of people, gathered in New York City, at the Women’s March on Washington or on the beach; in each scene colors pop and individuals are transformed by the shadow-like blur of motion and anonymity. For this series, such fusion at the site of the communal is the point. Pillsbury has spoken of the new role cities must play as a line of defense against government incursions on certain rights—expression, assembly—and of the redefined importance of shared public spaces; his photos reflect both the coming together and agitation of the times. On view at Benrubi Gallery, 521 West 26th Street, through November 22.