They provide us with sustenance, shelter, the very oxygen we breathe. Yet man’s relationship with Earth’s flora remains a complex one—as 33 artists discuss in A Discourse on Plants, a mulitmedia exhibit of works ranging from resin-covered sculptures to real trees. If artist Shen Shaomin depicts human dominance (and cruelty) with a bonsai bound and literally choked by a wire cable, nature has the upper hand in Daniel Traub’s photos of empty city lots overrun with weeds. Yet serene scenes exist, too, as exemplified by Scott McFarland’s photographed vista of “Cheltenham Badlands, Olde Base Line Rd., Caledon, Ontario” (above, 2012)—actually, a composite of images taken over several seasons in the same precise spot.
» RH Gallery, 137 Duane St., 646.490.6355, thru May 31
Mix 'n' Match
Louis Comfort Tiffany was famed for the integrated nature of his iconic stained-glass lamps: a tree-trunk base that “blossomed” into, say, a wisteria-patterned shade. That’s why this table model (left, ca. 1900) is a bit of a beautiful anomaly: a bronze and Favrile glass candelabra (one of his rarer designs) topped by a field of red tulips. Perhaps the combo was a custom order. Back in the Belle Époque day, one could browse Tiffany’s showroom, select a base and match it with any shade. Tiffany was an artist, but also a businessman—and he knew the (wealthy) customer was always right.
» Macklowe Gallery, 667 Madison Ave., 212.644.6400
Let other artists play with abstraction. In Man at Work, painter César Galicia uses oils, acrylics and pure inks to create hyperrealistic still lifes, so rich in detail that—despite their documentarylike depiction, posed against a wall on a wood or metal shelf—they conjure a wealth of associations and memories. One glimpse of “New York Taxi Meters” (right, 2012), for example, will instantly transport Manhattanites of a certain age back into a mechanical past.
» Forum Gallery, 730 Fifth Ave., 212.355.4545, thru May 31
Benny Andrews: There Must Be a Heaven encapsulates the range of styles practiced by the artist (1930-2006). Spanning five decades, some of the 36 paintings and collages offer stark, simple scenes out of his sharecropper childhood; others make grim social statements; and still others are cheerfully surreal, such as a view of a “Baptist Heaven (Human Spirit Series)” (left, 2000), complete with cornfields, pillowy clouds and banjos.
» Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 100 11th Ave., 212.247.0082, thru May 18