Taking a brief detour from showing Abstract Expressionism, Anita Shapolsky Gallery is proud to present Past and Present Perfect, an exhibition that foregrounds art canon, and highlights historically-informed experimentation with paper, paint, wood, iron, glass, wheat paste and found objects.

Reacting to a widespread lack of proficiency in art history. Past and Present Perfect assembles four artists who study their predecessors and integrate this knowledge into their practice.

On the gallery's first floor, Russell Connor's solo show presents selections from his Masters in Pieces series, paintings that playfully juxtapose famous artists, their subjects and iconic paintings from the Western art canon. He explains, "I often look for characters who are gazing intently at something, then I consider what else they might be staring at that would make a surprising story." Pretending that the Girl with a Pearl Earring is a docent looking over her shoulder and leading us allows Connor to "cast her in the role of international museum guide, and enjoy time travel through art." His paintings "ask only for some familiarity with the most popular masters and offer fantasy alternatives to the narratives of art history." He laments, "We have been inundated with classes and reproductions since WWII but still cannot tell a Manet from a Goya," and it's in this breach that Connor finds his playground, a playful arena of re-contextualized masterworks, and democratized art history.

Mark Gibian's sculptures Contraposto, Venus, and Corona conjure art historical memes; respectively, the relaxation of the human stance in Greek sculpture, the female figure as symbol of bounty, and the sun related to royalty or divinity. Gibian's organic forms of twisted steel, cast bronze and slumped glass openly reveal their manner of support, recalling the interplay between surface and form inherent in Antoni Gaudi's architecture and Martin Puryear's sculptures.

Michael Dominick paints with molten iron on paper, carefully keying material to process like Richard Serra, blurring the line between sculpture and painting. Dominick states, "I think of Yves Klein making his fire paintings a lot. And David Smith in Voltri, Italy, having the best time of his life. I think of Pollock too. I think of the guys in the steel mills punching in and out, putting in their eight hours and never considering that someone would want to paint with that liquid fire.

" Best known as a street artist, Swoon pastes screen-printed and paper cutout portraits on found wood and urban buildings. The portraits trace their roots back to Indonesian fabric design and German or Japanese woodblock prints. A composite of carpenter's finials and a woman's face in found wood, Swoon's Ice Queen pays homage to Louise Nevelson.

Forget your unread copy of Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition. Follow each artist's trajectory in Past and Present Perfect backwards from a specific piece to historic masters. Regardless of the current complexity of the art world, art history is alive, present, and the best weapon for clarity.