To make his “Quilt Paintings” in 2007 and 2008, New York–based artist Mike Cloud sewed constellations of new children’s clothes (sometimes with the tags still attached) to canvas, then added painted words and images. Stuffed with foam or stretched over starbursts of stretcher bars, these exuberant works combine bold T-shirt graphics with brushy renderings of rabbits and snowmen, and cheerful colors with ambiguous connotations.
In one of these boldly composed color photographs by Elle Pérez—whose interest is in “the erotics of underground communities and the possibilities inherent to marginal spaces and identities”—the subject leans into the camera, his lower body wrapped in a towel, his hair wet, his smile enigmatic, and his torso bearing the scars of top surgery. Elsewhere, bodies both desired and desiring are fragmented, obscured, or simply implied, as in a still life of a stretched-out elastic chest binder drying on a hanger.
Form and meaning converge in Kay Rosen’s word-based art, which of late has become more overtly political. This exhibition shows her corralling letterforms and language into protest signs for our times. Referring to the Republicans’ decades-long battle for tax cuts for the rich, the wall painting Trickle Down (2016–2018) starts with “TRICK” on one line, with the rest of the phrase stacked below it; elsewhere, the title of the mural-sized White House v. America (2018) is shortened to a giant “WHvAM.”
Despite being one of the most significant Latin American artists of the twentieth century, Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1973) is not well known in the United States. The first exhibition of her work in a US museum, this show focuses on the 1920s, when the young Brazilian artist returned to São Paulo after studying in Europe and being exposed to art movements like Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism. Along with other avant-garde artists and writers, including her husband, the poet Oswald de Andrade, do Amaral promoted modernism in Brazil and helped create an art scene that drew on contemporary European developments while honoring indigenous Brazilian culture and style.
This exhibition is a vivid reminder that the decade marking the end of the Weimar Republic not only fostered hyperinflation, unemployment, foreign profiteering, nativism, kitsch art, militarism, and anti-Semitism—culminating in the triumph of the Nazi Party and the launch of World War II—but also sustained a highly cosmopolitan, often Expressionistic avant-garde. Featuring work by more than a score of artists like Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Oskar Kokoschka, and August Sander, the show is curated by Olaf Peters, who also organized the Neue Galerie’s 2014 “Degenerate Art” exhibition, examining the derisive treatment to which Hitler’s regime subjected progressive artists from 1937 onward.
An iconic representation of the American landscape, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, After a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow (1836) is Thomas Cole’s masterpiece, a monumental evocation of the tension between wilderness and civilization. This focused exhibition establishes an international context for Cole’s quintessentially American artwork, comparing it to paintings and prints by English artists including J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. In addition to offering a selection of Cole’s paintings, prints, and watercolors from the first half of the nineteenth century, the show assesses his influence through comparisons to the later work of Asher B. Durand and Frederic E. Church.
Subtle, unsettling investigations into the ways in which objects can be transformed by context—and the construction of the context itself—are the hallmarks of Carissa Rodriguez’s photos, paintings, videos, and installations. The New York–based artist has shown infrequently in her home city, where her only previous solo was a quiet affair in a midtown art advisory in 2013. Rodriguez’s exhibition in the spacious main gallery of SculptureCenter extends her inquiry into appropriation with new video and photographic works exploring the legal and scientific frameworks in which information—whether biological or artificial—is copied.
“Ian Cooper: Saved”
At Downstairs Projects, founded by artists Ruby Sky Stiler and Daniel Gordon, Ian Cooper offers beautifully made, cartoonish sculptures of giant pieces of paper and pencils, with a focus on visibility, masculinity, and—perhaps—redemption.
By appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal”
The scientific illustrations of Spanish neuroanatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934), known as the father of neuroscience, are so accurate that they are still used in textbooks, but with their bold compositions, subtle tonalities, and expressive verve, they are also artworks of extraordinary power and beauty. In this exhibition of 80 of Cajal’s notebook drawings, depictions of brain cells and their parts conjure root systems, sea creatures, and flood plains seen from space, while diagrams showing how information travels from sense organs to the brain, featuring staccato dashes, whooshing lines, and ranks of smartly executed little ovals, evoke schools of fish or wind on water. The contemporary micrographs in an ancillary exhibition, though more colorful than Cajal’s delicate ink and pencil renderings, don’t convey the same sense of exuberant, purposeful life.
“Thornton Dial: Mr. Dial’s America”
A foretaste of the Met’s upcoming show of the work of self-taught artist Thornton Dial and his peers, including Nellie Mae Rowe and Lonnie Holley, all from the American South, this well-chosen exhibition draws from Dial’s output of the last two decades. In his politically inflected sculptural assemblages and relief paintings—dense accretions of paint, wood, cloth, metal, carpeting, bones, and found objects that he began making in the 1980s—Dial, who died in 2016 at age 87, focused on social issues, particularly the African American struggle. In the eight magisterial works here, he addresses such subjects as the O.J. Simpson trial, the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11, and—in a sparkling relief painting featuring a real frying pan and other cooking utensils—the ordinary pleasure of a shared meal.
In this show of new drawings and paintings, Russian-born artist Ebecho Muslimova’s recurring character Fatebe finds herself, once again, awkwardly positioned. But whether she’s straddling a pile of toilet paper rolls, entangled in a folding drying rack, or speeding down a hill in a wheelbarrow, she is never less than superbly self-assured.
“Jamian Juliano-Villani: Ten Pound Hand”
Obstreperous representational painter Jamian Juliano-Villani combines found images—mined from the Internet, art-history books, cartoons, album covers, advertising, and old magazines—to produce hyperreal, psychologically charged scenes. Featuring individual characters in alien circumstances, the ten new canvases in her second solo show at JTT are faster reads than those from the recent past, but no less haunting for that. The body of a baby excavated from Pompeii floats in an empty school hallway; a fish drinks Coca-Cola as Los Angeles burns; a green, froglike creature perches on a white-painted metal ladder, blithely out of place.
“The Shadow Archive: An Investigation into Vernacular Portrait Photography”
The question of agency underpins this exhibition, the first in a projected series of five devoted to vernacular photography in the Walther Collection. Among the discrete groups of images on view, a trove of color photographs from the 1980s of anonymous migrant workers, its original purpose unknown, reduces them to the numbers they hold up to the camera. Elsewhere, Johannesburg-based photographer Santu Mofokeng’s slide show of late-19th- and early 20th-century studio portraits of middle-class black South Africans has intertitles that provide biographical information on some of the sitters, while also speculating on what their real-life experiences might have been.
“Richard Serra: Sculpture and Drawings”
Even quiet works by Richard Serra, arguably the greatest abstract sculptor alive today, have a resounding physical presence. Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure (2017) consists of four enormous, unpainted, forged-steel cylinders, each of a different height and diameter but all the same weight—an impressive 82 tons—installed in a white-painted gallery (whose floors are reinforced to accommodate Serra’s sculptures). The cylinders are rough-surfaced, resembling bark or stone and evoking nature at her most austere.
“Michaelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer”
This once-in-a-lifetime show featuring works that rarely travel offers US audiences a nuanced perspective on the achievements of High Renaissance polymath Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564). At the heart of the exhibition are more than 150 drawings, works that exemplify why the Florentine artist was regarded in his time as a master of disegno. Three marble sculptures, an architectural model, and a virtuosic painting that Michelangelo produced as a teenage prodigy round out this survey commemorating an artist known among his contemporaries as “the divine one.”
Stephen Shore’s career comes full circle with his exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1961, when Shore was a mere fourteen years old, MoMA photography department director Edward Steichen purchased three of his works for the collection (the enterprising teenager had called him up to arrange a meeting). Now, the museum is presenting hundreds of Shore’s photographs in a survey that includes his early black-and-white prints as well as his famous 1970s color images chronicling America’s grand natural expanses and sunbaked parking lots, its flat Main Street facades and ordinary characters. A more recent series brings the artist’s distinctive aesthetic to bear on places such as Israel and Ukraine.
The first artist to be given a midcareer survey at the Whitney Museum’s downtown location, Laura Owens is a remarkably chameleonlike painter. Over the past twenty years, she has employed a diverse array of techniques and vocabularies, ranging from the cheerily clumsy figuration of folk painting to imitations of digital image editing (an interest that has also extended to the incorporation of digitally printed wallpaper and conversational text elements into her canvases). These striking effects can overshadow another crucial aspect of Owens’s work—her attention to how the site of a painting’s display determines her decisions about size and color. The Whitney show rectifies this oversight in Owens’s reception by reconstructing the environments of her early exhibitions.
“Transformer: Native Art in Light and Sound”
In this group exhibition, audio-visual works by ten artists translate ancient worldviews into new media. Stephen Foster, of the Haida Nation in the Pacific Northwest, contributes Raven Brings the Light (2011), an interactive installation that retells the myth of a childlike trickster who breaks the grip of darkness on the world. Julie Nagam, a Winnipeg-based artist and art historian of the Anishinaabe Nation, presents a new video installation titled our future is in the land, if we listen to it that carries a powerful message of environmental preservation and sovereignty.
“Wiener Werkstätte 1903–1932: The Luxury of Beauty”
Although decorative objects by Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) designers are part of the Neue Galerie’s permanent collection, the jewel box museum has never before presented a large-scale exhibition of this early twentieth century collective’s elegant, stylized work. The current show includes some two hundred objects—from furniture, ceramics, and metalwork to drawings, graphic design, and wallpaper—by more than a dozen workshop member/artists, including co-founders Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser.
“Judith Bernstein: Cabinet of Horrors”
If only Judith Bernstein’s exhibition title merely evoked the sort of fun old-timey carnival sideshow it hints at rather than accurately describing a current political reality—the staff of ghoulish characters that Donald Trump has appointed as his official advisers. Bernstein’s show presents new large-scale drawings and paintings on paper with text elements that turn Trump’s derogatory language against its speaker, as well as five drawings from 1995—centering on the words “liberty,” “justice,” “equality,” “evil,” and “fear”—that seem to question shifting American values. As the show’s title reminds us, Bernstein, known for her crude images of dicks, can be something of a portraitist.
Cathy Wilkes renders infants, mothers, and grannies in papier-mâché and drapes them in found textiles. Arranged in domestic scenes stocked with old toys, towels, and clotheslines, her uncanny characters transmute the humdrum tasks of caretaking into mysterious rituals. Born in Belfast in 1966, Wilkes trained at the Glasgow School of Art and began exhibiting in the 1990s with peers like Susan Philipsz, Richard Wright, and Martin Boyce, though her mannikin-filled tableaux are unlike anything else from that milieu. The solo exhibition at MoMA PS1—her first institutional outing in New York—is organized in conjunction with the Maria Lassnig Prize, of which Wilkes is the first recipient.
French artist François Morellet (1926–2016) was an important figure in the development of postwar abstract art, pioneering the use of nontraditional materials such as neon lights, adhesive tape, and metal rods. This two-venue survey comprises a large number of the artist’s early geometric paintings, as well as examples of his systematically patterned neon works. Trames 3°-87°-93°-183° (1971/2017), a red-and-blue grid that Morellet originally painted on the exterior walls of a building in Paris, is re-created on the facade of Dia’s six-story building in Chelsea.
“Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983”
This exhibition commemorates the eponymous basement-level nightspot in a Polish church on St. Marks Place, once a hub of creative ferment in downtown New York. Club 57’s original performance curator, Ann Magnuson, serves as guest organizer along with MoMA staff curators Ron Magliozzi and Sophie Cavoulacos. Featuring performance documentation and a robust program of artist-made films, the show also includes paintings, prints, zines, and ephemera.
“Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.”
Huang Yong Ping’s 1993 installation Theater of the World—an octagonal enclosure holding hundreds of battling reptiles and insects—provided the subtitle for this exhibition, though the work was removed from the show before it opened after protests by animal-rights activists. Covering the period between the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the global financial crisis in 2008 (or, in Chinese terms, between Tiananmen Square and the Beijing Olympics), the exhibition includes approximately 150 works by some seventy-five artists and collectives, among them Xu Bing, Big Tail Elephant Group, Cai Guo-Qiang, Cao Fei, Zhang Xiaogang, and the New Measurement Group. The survey eschews the “greatest hits” approach to closely examine the social and artistic forces that, sometimes wrenchingly, opened China to the contemporary world. A program of twenty documentary films accompanies the exhibition.
“Items: Is Fashion Modern?”
In this ambitious undertaking, ” Museum of Modern Art curator Paola Antonelli portrays the historical roots and potential futures of garments and accessories that have had a significant impact on Western dress since the early twentieth century. Picking up ideas explored in the museum’s only previous exhibition to focus on fashion (“Are Clothes Modern?,” 1944–45), she identifies more than a hundred such influential items—ranging from Levi’s 501s to the keffiyeh, from the bikini to the dashiki—and represents them in three forms: archetypes (or historical precedents), stereotypes (the modern versions), and prototypes (new commissions that envision prospective incarnations).
“Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon”
Exhibitions that challenge conventional notions of gender have been fundamental to the New Museum’s program since the institution’s founding forty years ago. In the uncompromising tradition of trenchant shows such as “Difference” (1984–85) and “Bad Girls” (1994), “Trigger” examines the tension between fluid definitions of gender in contemporary culture and deeply rooted power structures defined by race and class. Organized by a team led by Johanna Burton, the museum’s director of education and public engagement, the show features films, paintings, sculptures, installations, and performances by some forty artists, including stalwarts like Nayland Blake and Vaginal Davis as well as younger figures such as Tschabalala Self and Sable Elyse Smith.
“Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950–1980”
Beneath the banal facade of post–World War II life was an undercurrent of madness and delirium that artists throughout Europe, Latin America, and the United States tapped for inspiration. That’s the thesis of this survey of more than a hundred works by sixty-two artists. Yayoi Kusama’s search for the infinite, Robert Smithson’s fascination with entropy, and Ana Mendieta’s revitalization of ritual are presented as manifestations of a shared artistic belief that irrationality could offer a sane response to uncertain political and social contexts.
Ruby Sky Stiler and Daniel Gordon on three shows in New York
“We were alternately uplifted and a little nauseated.”
MOCA LA director Philippe Verne on Cathy Wilkes at MoMA/P.S.1
”I love the way Wilkes pushes sculpture and installation in a very subjective direction that for me is both totally seductive and extremely dark.”
Critic and curator Joseph Wolin on two New York shows [Published 2017/12/08]
“On view at the same time as the New Museum’s show “Trigger: Gender As a Tool and a Weapon,” are a couple of exhibitions I’d recommend seeing by artists who, like those in “Trigger,” are expanding the concept of gender.”
Artist and poet Jibade-Khalil Huffman on two NY shows he’d like to spend more time with [Published 2017/09/13]
“I’m always on board with not understanding.”
Warhol scholar Neil Printz on four shows around New York and the question of context [Published 2017/09/06]
“Context is the people you know, but it’s also, maybe, the people you want to know.”
Mary Heilmann on Irving Penn at the Metropolitan Museum of Art [Published 2017/07/17]
An abstract painter tells us what fashion’s got to do with it.
Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms
David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night
Scenes from the Collection (650 works from antiquities to contemporary art highlighting the collection)
Transformer: Native Art in Light and Sound
Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic
European Drawings from the Permanent Collection 1800–1945
Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away
Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s
Zoe Leonard: Survey
Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence
Landscapes After Ruskin: Redefining the Sublime
NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy, 1932–1960
Among the fascinating aspects of Teresita Fernández’s probing, landscape-themed exhibition, titled “Fire (America),” was her use of natural materials: clay, fire, charcoal, and paper.
Laced with deadpan humor, Frank Heath’s sculptures and videos convey an obsession with archiving banalities.
Carmen Neely titled the eight paintings in her first New York solo show after phrases she had recently heard (“Just gotta caress it a little,” “Don’t just hope it!,” “A good fortune can ruin your life”), often in her own conversations.