What to See in Art Galleries Right Now

Through June 15. Luhring Augustine, 531 West 24th Street, Manhattan; 212-206-9100, luhringaugustine.com.

Specters and screwballs, bozos and boogeymen, populate the canvases of this Russian-born American artist, whose wily new exhibition, “On Them” — his first in New York in five years — is the best I’ve seen by a young painter this year. Mr. Kantarovsky paints disconcerting, darkly funny scenes of lovers, mourners, children and freaks, and intensifies their eccentricity through unexpected contrasts of oil paint with drippy watercolor. His figures are pinched and elongated, like Mannerist cartoons, and often limned with thick, confident outlines. Many have downcast eyes, though one mother, wearing Marian blue and cradling a nude man in some parody Pietà, looks skyward with the big, googly peepers of Cookie Monster.

Kai Althoff is a clear influence, though Mr. Kantarovsky has a stronger command of pattern and line than that dandyish German painter. So is Edvard Munch, whose 1895 self-portrait with a skeletal forearm seems to have inspired a small, engrossing painting here that depicts a mauve-skinned nun framed by a quartet of bones. (Its title identifies the sickly subject as Miss Clavel, the matron of the “Madeline” books.) Yet Mr. Kantarovsky’s desolate humor, springing from Kafka and Soviet literature as much as American comics, is what gives these fantastic paintings their aesthetic and moral heft. In “Baba,” two women in A-line skirts walk past a sooty, half-thawed snowman, its top ball studded with cigarette butts and wearing a human moue. It knows the melting of its frosty body — so amusing, so pathetic — is also the way of all flesh. JASON FARAGO

Through June 16. James Cohan, 291 Grand Street, Manhattan; 212-714-9500, jamescohan.com.

Tino Sehgal’s work can adopt the worst patterns of participatory art in which the visitor is virtually taken hostage. That was my feeling regarding Mr. Sehgal’s 2010 show, “This Progress,” at the Guggenheim Museum, which ensnared you in conversations rife with hit-and-run profundity, delivered at warp speed via trained performers Mr. Sehgal calls “interpreters.” His current work at Marian Goodman, “Yet Untitled,” which debuted at the Venice Biennale in 2013, can be approached more cautiously and freely.

To experience “Yet Untitled,” you enter a room lined with moody gray-blue carpeting designed by the French artist Pierre Huyghe that has surrealist slanted silhouettes of windows in early evening woven into it. A handful of interpreters sit on the carpet, singing quietly, making beat-box noises or dancing slowly in place. You are here, but not needed; the interpreters are like trees in the forest who communicate with one another, whether you’re present or not.

Given this gentler format, you can sit on the carpet and watch for as long as you like, considering bits of pop culture, gestures and movements presented in abstract form. This simple but curious work of Mr. Sehgal’s, with fewer performers, less swagger and no real title, is one of his most intimate. It is also appropriate for this noisy moment, when contemplation rather than intrusion feels like a more generous way to engage your audience. MARTHA SCHWENDENER


Through June 8. P.P.O.W., 535 West 22nd Street, Manhattan; 212-647-1044, ppowgallery.com.

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