“The art world should be understood as a complex ecology with many microclimates and some macro ones,” said the curator Okwui Enwezor, who died in March. He could have been describing the geography of New York City galleries. In the 1970s, the climates were macro and few (the Upper East Side, SoHo). In the 1980s, they were joined by the East Village; in the 1990s, by Chelsea; and in the 2000s, by the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. And there are spillovers everywhere. Today, it can be hard to tag a gallery by district, as I learned when visiting a handful that straddle either side of Canal Street, a cross-island axis that runs from SoHo to Chinatown, without claiming full allegiance to either.
1. 56 Henry, ‘LaKela Brown: Surface Possessions’
This small storefront gallery, in Chinatown, is a distance from Canal Street, but well worth a walk for the local debut of the artist LaKela Brown. The look of her mostly white plaster reliefs is austere. The subject, ornamental bling associated with 1990s hip-hop, is the opposite: door-knocker earrings, rope neck chains and gold teeth. All are artifacts of the pop culture Ms. Brown grew up with in Detroit, her home city. Although the show’s title, “Surface Possessions,” hints at a critical remove from that culture, the work itself, exquisitely done, feels like an honoring gesture. Lining the gallery walls, the reliefs might have been lifted from an ancient royal tomb. Through June 16 at 56 Henry Street; 518-966-2622, 56henry.nyc.
2. apexart, ‘Dire Jank’
For 25 years, the nonprofit apexart has been inviting curators from across the globe to produce thematic group shows in its small space. Many of the curators have been artists, as is the case with Porpentine Charity Heartscape, the digital game designer who assembled the current show, “Dire Jank.” Keeping her checklist short, she has surrounded her own work with that of just three fellow gamers, all but one transgender. The exception, an artist who calls himself Thecatamites (Stephen Murphy), takes a sardonic look at old-school games in a click-heavy conquest narrative that goes nowhere, very slowly. Tabitha Nikolai, self-described as a “trashgender gutter elf” from Salt Lake City, offers a tour through a luxury mansion that houses a Borgesian library, a sexology institute, and opens up onto vistas of cosmic space. Devi McCallion, the rock star of the bunch, delivers a despairing, pulsating plea for environmental awareness in a music video. As for Ms. Heartscape’s work, centered on the risks of queerness, it’s startlingly soul-baring. Where most conventional games are about predation and its thrills, hers are about the evils of predation. I should mention that in the gallery I found the interactive pieces glitch-prone. (Maybe they’re meant to be? After all, jank is gaming talk for, among things, low quality.) But when I reran the show on my laptop everything worked like a charm. Through May 18 at 291 Church Street; 212-431-5270, apexart.org.
3. Alexander and Bonin, ‘Tandem: Gabriel Abrantes and Belén Uriel’
Alexander and Bonin is one of a handful of galleries that recently jumped Chelsea for TriBeCa. (Bortolami, Andrew Kreps and Kaufmann Repetto are others; more are on the way.) With the move, the gallery has gained airy duplex quarters, and filled them ambitiously. On the main floor there’s a large, intriguing photography show called “Exposures,” which uses little-seen work by some house artists to tease the line between documentary and creative nonfiction. Downstairs is the first of what will be five two-artist shows selected by the Lisbon-based curator Luiza Teixeira de Freitas. For the initial offering she’s paired cast-glass sculptures of everyday objects by Belén Uriel with a very funny seven-minute film by the young American-born artist Gabriel Abrantes about the imagined origins of Brancusi’s phallic 1916 sculpture “Princess X.” (Mr. Abrantes’s zany feature-length “Diamantino,” a collaboration with Daniel Schmidt, was a hit at Cannes last year.) Through April 27 at 47 Walker Street; 212-367-7474, alexanderandbonin.com.
4. Sapar Contemporary, ‘Ming Fay: Beyond Nature’
You get a foretaste of Chinatown in TriBeCa with the exhibition “Ming Fay: Beyond Nature” at Sapar Contemporary. Mr. Fay, who was born in Shanghai in 1943 and came to the United States in 1961, specializes in super-realist sculptures of vegetal forms — fruit, nuts, seedpods — modeled on what he finds in Chinatown’s street markets. What he adds is scale: everything in his botanical universe measures in feet, not inches — sweet peppers the size of satellites, maple seeds as big as drones. He magnifies other forms too: seashells, bird skulls (and shrinks a few in the case of some unexceptional bronze human figures). The show, organized by Alexandra Chang, looks like a glimpse into a wonderland in which Mr. Fay seems to say, nature really is. Through June 1 at 9 North Moore Street; saparcontemporary.com.
5. Bridget Donahue, ‘Jessi Reaves: II’
In her second solo show at Bridget Donahue, Jessi Reaves complicates the kind of work that made her a standout in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Her medium is assemblage; her material is recycled furniture; her method is to puzzle that furniture together, intact or cut up, into sculptures. The joining is ingenious; the look bulky but agile. What’s most distinctive, though, is the complex mood the work generates. There’s nostalgia built into the domestic middlebrow furniture Ms. Reaves chooses; violence implied in the way she strips it of practical use; and something like solicitude in the way she gives trashed things a funky new purpose. Through May 12 at 99 Bowery, second floor; 646-896-1368, bridgetdonahue.nyc.
6. Front Room Gallery, ‘Sasha Bezzubov: Albedo Zone’
In his 2001-7 photographic series “Things Fall Apart,” Sasha Bezzubov chronicled the effects of natural disasters — hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami — on landscapes in Asia and the United States. The series that followed, titled “Albedo Zone” and now on view at Front Room, refers to a scientific theory about climate change that has triggered such disasters. Ideally, the theory says, the earth’s surface reflects, rather than absorbs, sunlight, with ice being a protective reflector and water, an absorber. At present, global melting, caused by human carelessness, has thrown the balance dangerously off, a reality Mr. Bezzubov documents in black-and-white images of water and ice shot in Alaska. From a distance, the large-format photographs look abstract. Once you know the story behind them, they take on a very specific urgency. Through May 5 at 48 Hester Street; 718-782-2556, frontroomles.com.
7. Fierman, ‘Circus of Books’
Even smaller than 56 Henry, this storefront is packed to the ceiling with another cultural homage, this one to an excellent big group show. It’s organized by the artist Rachel Mason, whose parents until recently ran two adult bookshops in Los Angeles. Both were called “Circus of Books” and both served, since the pre-Stonewall 1960s, as unofficial social centers for the local gay community. The show evokes that community with work by nearly 60 artists, most gay, some well known (Ron Athey, Kathe Burkhart, Vaginal Davis, Tom of Finland), others (Chivas Clem, Scott Hug, Jimmy Wright) on and off the radar. Stacks of vintage porn magazines add a sex shop vibe, but it’s the art, installed salon-style, that holds the eye and kicks off still-important communal conversations in art and social history. Through May 6 at 127 Henry Street; 917-593-4086, fierman.nyc.
Some other exhibitions to visit while you’re in the area: Alan Sturm (through May 26) at Situations Gallery, 127 Henry Street, situations.us; Diamond Stingly (May 4-June 16) at Queer Thoughts, 373 Broadway, queerthoughts.com; Azza El Siddique (through June 2) at Helena Anrather, 28 Elizabeth Street, helenaanrather.com; Wendy Red Star (April 28-June 2) at Sargent’s Daughters, 179 East Broadway, sargentsdaughters.com; Katarzyna Kozyra (through June 1) at Postmasters Gallery, 54 Franklin Street, postmastersart.com.