What to See in New York Art Galleries Right Now
Through March 2. Salon 94 Bowery, 243 Bowery, Manhattan; 212-979-0001, salon94.com.
The Pintupi artist Yukultji Napangati lives and works in Western Australia’s Gibson Desert, and you can see it in her paintings. Each of the 10 untitled canvases in her first solo show at Salon 94 is covered with a dense network of wavy lines reminiscent of topographical maps.
Alternating at first between a deep, earthy red and a brown that’s almost black, Ms. Napangati painstakingly covers the red stripes with tiny, overlapping dots that range from pale, sandy yellow to bright orange. Often she alternates the color of the dots, too, using lighter and darker shades in groups of five or six to create patterns that could pass for grassy plains or for those same grassy plains on fire. The close-set lines even produce an optical glare very much like a desert mirage.
That said, what really evokes the earth in Ms. Napangati’s paintings is the relentless way she applies her ancient colors and motifs. Unlike in a figurative painting with its foreground, background and empty spaces, or even an Op Art design that glides confidently across its gessoed surface like a figure skater on ice, every one of Ms. Napangati’s marks seems equally hard won. It’s as if they are creating their own ground as they move across the canvas, and any pause would leave artist and viewer alike falling into the abyss. WILL HEINRICH