“Group Sex” at Ed. Varie Gallery (Photo: Steve Pierce)

The COVID era has familiarized us with two unwelcome feelings: anxiety and monotony. A good art show, like dinner with friends, has the power to dispel both. Luckily, around the Lower East Side this April, gallerists have slated a number of wonderfully ambitious and provocative exhibitions, guaranteed to invigorate even the most sluggish-feeling New Yorker. The shows listed below require no appointment, are free to attend, and present a great opportunity to witness springtime bloom across the city. Just don’t forget to bring a mask.

“Nature Morte” at The Hole

The Show: Sixty artists will be included in this multidisciplinary show, presenting works that approach the still life genre through the lens of climate change. The result will be a panoramic commentary on the state of environmental decay. The show is titled after the French appellation for “still life” — “Nature Morte,” which translates, appropriately, to “dead nature.”

The Gallery: The Hole is a spacious 3,800-square-foot storefront space located at 312 Bowery. Its popularity has expanded beyond the local art crowd thanks to the relentlessly entertaining curation of Kathy Grayson, who opened the gallery in 2010.  

When to go: “Nature Morte” opens on April 8 and runs through May 9. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12-7pm. 


Left: Esteban Ocampo-Giraldo’s “Mañas” (Photo: Steve Pierce)

“Group Sex” at Ed. Varie Gallery

The Show: “Group Sex” is the inaugural show at Ed. Varie gallery’s new location, which is sharing the space with Full Tank Moto Cafe. The show’s title is a cheeky reference to NYC’s pandemic guidelines for group sex  — “Pick larger, more open, ventilated spaces…” — and will feature the work of 11 young artists. Some engage overtly with the theme of sexuality — Esteban Ocampo-Giraldo’s Mañas, an oil painting, is a standout — while others are more subtle. 

The Gallery: Ed. Varie’s primary location is in the East Village, where it has functioned as a multipurpose space, bookstore, and gallery since 2009. Its second location, where “Group Sex” will run, is located at 49 Monroe Street on the Lower East Side.  

When to go: The space is open Thursday through Sunday, 7am-6pm. The show runs through April 18. 


“Closed Game” at Lyles & King Gallery

The Show: To create the arresting images for his show at Lyles & King, “Closed Game,” the painter Farley Aguilar referenced 20th-century photographs and mugshots that document charged moments of political and social import. Wielding a vivid polychrome palate, Aguilar renders subjects such as the Scottsboro Boys and Samuel J. Battle, New York City’s first Black police officer, with a striking humanity that seems to destabilize the racist infrastructures that surrounded them.  

The Gallery: Lyles & King exists in what used to be a restaurant space. The gallery’s director, Isaac Lyles, and his wife, Alexandra King-Lyles, converted the erstwhile dining patio into a sculpture garden. The quiet enclave, at 21 Catherine Street, is tucked away from the bustling neighborhood. 

When to go: The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 12-6pm. The show runs through April 25. 


“Take a Minute: A Show of Resilience” at Thomas Nickles Project

The Show: Artist Dionny Matos created Wave — a four-panel, 6’ x 12’ representation of a stormy sea — by injecting sheets of bubble wrap with acrylic paint. An opposing wall features a series of photographs depicting single-use plastics, once used by the artist, painted and posed in geometric forms. Both projects are masterful examples of “upcycling.” 

The Gallery: Couple Kristen Thomas and John Nickles opened the Thomas Nickles Project, a gallery specializing in Cuban art, last August. The bright, welcoming space is located at 47 Orchard Street, near the heart of the Lower East Side. 

When to go: “Take a Minute: A Show of Resilience” runs through April 18, and can be seen Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-6pm. 


“Echoes” at Ulterior Gallery

The Show: Each hour, beginning at 1pm, artist Zai Nomura’s multimedia sculpture, Echoes, whirrs to life, printing a portrait onto the surface of a tall container of water that wavers and dissipates in about 30 minutes. It’s the centerpiece of his first solo exhibition, which engages with themes of loss, rebirth, and ephemerality.  

The Gallery: Ulterior, located at 172 Attorney Street, is a small hole-in-the-wall space, recently established by Japanese gallerist Takako Tanabe. It features international contemporary and early-career artists. 

When to go: “Echoes” runs until April 17. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, 12-6pm.