A Weekend in New York City

John McLaughlin and Mark Rothko had this in common: “I want to communicate only to the extent that the painting will serve to induce or intensify the viewer’s natural desire for contemplation without the benefit of a guiding principle.” Both artists were active in the post-war period, but the art world has seen far less of abstractionist McLaughlin until now with a revival by Van Doren Waxter through seven paintings, “Marvelous Void,” a term conceived by a 15th century Japanese artist and Zen monk, whose work is interspersed with that of the 20th century painter.

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In his first exhibition since 2001 of Mike Kelley’s two and three dimensional works, Hauser & Wirth is presenting “Memory Ware,” an extraordinary presentation of the late artist’s exploration of his past through large panels of embedded buttons, chains, and keys embedded in clay or epoxy, and flat panels of personal objects presented in solitary fashion. It is a fascinating journey through a memorable life that ended in 2012.

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Joel Shapiro’s small and large scale sculpture at Dominque Levy Gallery is a colorful departure from his assertive bronze work; the vividly pigmented pieces appear to fly through the air, held there by cords, while the mightier works occupy space aggressively. In another section of the building, at Galerie Perrotin the artist Julio Le Parc provides the closing show for the gallery which will relocate to the Lower East Side in the spring. The Perez Art Museum in Miami will open a historical survey of Le Parc’s work on Friday, the 18th.

Although I’d gone to The Asia Society primarily to view the paintings of Zao Wou Ki, and found the show beautiful, I stayed to watch a genuinely engaging video of a gay (he made particular note of it himself) Buddhist monk explaining both Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Judith Beheading Holofernes” and Jeff Koon’s “Unitled” of two semi naked women interacting with a standing male figure. I sat down for a minute and ended staying for as long as it took to listen to the cheerful teacher speak to small children and a scattering of “grandmas” on his interpretation of the two works in moral terms. Why had it taken me so long to realize that different cultures will see paintings in ways totally distant from ours in the Western World? I was truly touched by the monk’s dialog on Buddhist teaching that adds still another layer to the complexity of understanding art. Art CAN make us better people in a way that had not impacted my thinking in such a manner before.