Through April 17. Marian Goodman Gallery, 24 West 57th Street, Manhattan; (212) 977-7160, mariangoodman.com.
Of all the Italian Arte Povera (impoverished art) artists, Giuseppe Penone, 74, may have produced the richest, most accessible and most consistently moving body of work. The thought occurs in his enthralling show of pieces from the mid-2010s at Marian Goodman Gallery. The credit of course is not all his. From the start, Penone’s work has been an elaborate collaboration with nature — especially trees and their various processes of incremental growth, which he likens to artistic ones.
First, an immersive woodsy greenness emanates from six large paintings inspired by Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” The scenes of dense, overgrown foliage are painted entirely with the artist’s fingertips. The neo-pointillist, neo-Rococo fluffiness has a wonderful molecular energy at once funny, accurate and seductive. Hanging at the center of each canvas is a small clump of fired clay from different parts of the United States. Each gives us the artist’s hand again, this time squeezing the clay in his fist, with the imprints of fingers especially legible.
As the show proceeds, you’ll encounter fingertip drawings of plants collaged with the frottage rubbings of single leaves, and a sculpture and a large wall piece using the fired, fist-squeezed clay. In addition, two small tree trunks carved in white marble hemorrhage streams of bronze formed, it seems, entirely with the thumbs. Nature is literally bleeding for human sins.
After the paintings, the show’s tour de force is “Artemide,” a bronze column made from two casts of one half of an evergreen trunk almost 11 feet high. One cast shows the trunk’s rough bark exterior, pocked with the stubs of branches. The other cast shows it shorn of bark. A smoother, slimmer inner layer with matching stubs, this version brims with intimations of the human body. The distance between natural fact and artistic allegory shrinks. The piece is a stunningly apt evocation for Artemis, the goddess of, among other things, chastity, young girls, women and childbirth. ROBERTA SMITH
Through April 24. Luhring Augustine, 531 West 24th Street, Manhattan; 212-206-9100, luhringaugustine.com.
Art centered on the land or environment and working in collectives are two practices that emerged from the tumult of the 1960s. The group known as Boyle Family embraced both of these, as you can see in their hulking “earthprobes” mounted on the walls in “Nothing is more radical than the facts” at Luhring Augustine. The 11 works here were made from 1969 to 1990 by the British artists Mark Boyle and his wife, Joan Hills, and their two children, Sebastian and Georgia Boyle.
Rather that creating colossal works in a far-flung locale, like Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” (1970) or Nancy Holt’s “Sun Tunnels” (1973-76) — both in remote areas of Utah — Boyle Family made objects to be shown in galleries. The square and rectangular works represent parcels of land from various parts of the world, often chosen through random methods, like throwing darts onto a map. Here you can see recreations of a “Tidal Sand Study, Camber” (2003-05), a striated “Study of a Potato Field” (1987) or the urban gutter in “Study From the Westminster Series With Glass Pavement Light” (1987) made primarily with resin and fiberglass and a few samples of the site, like a pebble or an aluminum beverage container.
The point and the payoff? Gazing at a small patch of re-created land in a gallery makes you aware of all the places you pass everyday, ignoring subtleties and idiosyncrasies. Like all good art, the “earthprobes” make you focus. They also shift your thinking, coaxing you to leave the gallery with a refreshed understanding and concern for environments elsewhere in the world. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Through April 24. Derek Eller Gallery, 300 Broome Street, Manhattan; 212-206-6411, derekeller.com.
In an unusually personal publicity release for her show “There’s the Air,” the painter Clare Grill, who was born in Chicago and now lives and works in Queens, writes about miscarriages, grief and the significance of naming. A friend suggests that naming a baby the artist has lost will help her let it go; her paintings only get their terse, one-word titles when they’re finished.
Grill may work on a given piece for years, adding paint and scraping it away again in an improvised journey toward a sort of monochrome interrupted by a rain of contrasting marks. The marks themselves can vary widely, from simple brush strokes to forms that look like twigs, roman letters, or balls of incandescent gas. In “Vein,” six broad strokes of color float like flower petals or a deconstructed Chinese character against a ground of nocturnal bluish-black. Grill works on her paintings horizontally, and in the muted purple “Trumpet,” she incorporated a shadow that happened to cross the canvas into the composition. All nine paintings in the show have a gauzy depth of surface that made me think of dust motes floating in a column of light.
“These paintings aren’t about grief or loss or anything really,” she writes, “but they’ve been made in it and with it.” She’s talking about her own losses and about the lost year we’ve all just had, but she could also be talking about the creative process. Every painting that gets a name is shadowed by countless others that didn’t. WILL HEINRICH