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Selecting the best of New York City’s arts scene

We’re all guilty of taking shortcuts when we talk about artists. We say, so and so is photography, so and so is performance art. We never consider that people are complex, and artists in particular, may want their works in other media to receive equal attention. That’s the case for Man Ray, whose fame seems to rest solely on his photography work, both artistic and commercial along with his connections to the avant-garde of the 1920s and ‘30s. But in Enigma & Desire: Man Ray Paintings at Di Donna Galleries, another aspect of Ray’s oeuvre is on display, with rarely seen canvases from private collections and museums as well as meticulous scholarship provided by Andrew Straus of the Man Ray Expertise Committee and Dr. Ara Merjian of NYU. The works reflect his interests and talent in expressing Dada and Surrealist ideas, making this show fascinating and memorable.

In our last column we discussed an exhibit featuring Ana Mendieta’s work created while on an officially sanctioned visit to Cuba. This week we highlight the Alexander Gray Gallery show of her good friend Melvin Edwards, who traveled with Mendieta on that 1981 trip. (As a side note, after Mendieta’s death in 1985 Edwards created a sculpture in her honor, now in the Carnegie Museum of Art.) In Melvin Edwards: Painted Sculpture welded steel cut in colorful abstract shapes, arranged with a superb balance of positive-negative space create an effect of dynamic energy. There are also works on paper reflecting these ideas, using sculptural elements as a kind of stencil but still within the framework of abstraction. More information on this exhibit and the Man Ray show is in the ‘Opening This Week’ section.

Sir Don McCullin is a photojournalist whose work in war zones has given us memorable images of conflicts in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Northern Ireland. His eye for detail in everything from the battlefield to street fighting captures the moment that tells the story. It’s a skill honed by decades of practice and the results are on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery’s show Don McCullin. These photographs may be hard to look at but there’s no doubt that seeing them is a necessary reminder about the cost of war. To learn more about the exhibit, go to the ‘Gallery Shows’ section.