What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries Right Now
By John Vincler, Jillian Steinhauer, Max Lakin, Martha Schwendener and Travis Diehl
Oct. 13, 2022
Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Start on the Upper East Side to catch Issy Wood’s pleasingly discomfiting paintings at Michael Werner. Then head to Chelsea for Zoe Leonard’s photographs of the Rio Grande at Hauser & Wirth. And don’t miss Jennie Jieun Lee’s wildly colored ceramics at Martos in TriBeCa.
‘Voluntary Attempts to Overcome Necessary Obstacles’
Through Oct. 29. EFA Project Space, 323 West 39th Street, 2nd floor, Manhattan
The games in this group exhibition aren’t exactly typical. For one thing, the objective of most is not to win. In Pippin Barr’s “Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment” (2011), you can’t, no matter how you try; instead, you’re doomed to replay the punishments of mythical characters in comically lo-fi aesthetics. Even when there is a defined goal, it’s not necessarily logical: In Jeremy Couillard’s “Fuzz Dungeon” (2021), you’re a creature journeying through trippy spaces in search of a “sasquatch sex amulet,” whatever that is.
Curated by the artist Nicholas O’Brien, “Voluntary Attempts to Overcome Necessary Obstacles” gathers alternative and experimental games whose impetus is what you might find out while playing them (which you can do in the gallery). Angela Washko’s “Mother, Player: Chapter 1 (Demo)” (2022) casts you as a pregnant character making decisions during a pandemic. In Robert Yang’s “The Tearoom” (2017), you try to pick up men in a 1960s Ohio bathroom without getting caught by the police. The show’s oldest entry, “Escape From Woomera,” depicts you as an Iranian asylum seeker trying to escape an Australian detention center.
A modification of a first-person shooter game, “Escape From Woomera” looks clunky compared to more artfully designed recent works. But it was clearly a touchstone for games meant to make players think critically about the world — an idea that comes through even in the show’s more abstract contributions. If you start to play but don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, maybe that’s part of the point.