Art & About: Spring Preview
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If you had to pick one time of year that would give you the best overview—the fullest picture of the range of art today—you could hardly do better than spring in New York City. Three major events opening in March flesh out the basics. This year, the Whitney Biennial is structured so that three curators—one in performance art, one in contemporary art and one in painting, all from different cities—each have their own floor of the museum. The artists included in the show reflect an intriguing, eclectic roster for such an unusual arrangement, ranging from Norwegian provocateur Bjarne Melgaard to the late David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest; pieces from relative newcomers like Sara Greenberger Rafferty and Darren Bader mingle with longtime artists gaining renewed appreciation, among them weaving fabulist Sheila Hicks and Julie Ault, creator of heady, politically charged work (opens March 7).
The Biennial this year also coincides with Armory Arts Week, a weeklong series of fairs and events. The Art Dealers Association of America provides a greatest-hits look at the state of contemporary art today, gathering 72 of the most recognized galleries to take over the Park Avenue Armory from March 5–9. The biggest event of the week, though, is the Armory Show at Piers 92 and 94, where 200 galleries from 29 different countries will all be showcasing their prized works from the 20th and 21st century (March 6–9). The Armory Focus section this year is dedicated to artists from China, which is good preparation for Asia Week New York, an event that begins the following weekend with exhibitions on contemporary artist Nalini Malani at the Asia Society, world-class ceramics at the Korea Society and intimate photographs of Chinatown at the Museum of Chinese in America (March 14–22).
But if you're more into European modernism, Gauguin: Metamorphoses at the Museum of Modern Art traces the career of the turn-of-the-century artist from a period in France to the last 12 years of his life in the South Pacific; the exhibition features about 120 works on paper and 30 paintings (opens March 8). Gauguin's lush landscapes stand in stark contrast to the work at the Guggenheim’s Italian Futurism, 1909–1944, which opens February 21. More than 300 pieces from the influential art movement—notable for geometric, mostly abstract paintings influenced by the new mechanics of trains, planes and automobiles—will take over the museum, including rare murals on loan from a post office in Sicily.
Nearby, the Neue Galerie opens Degenerate Art on March 13, presenting a roundup of what few pieces remain from an infamous tour that traversed Hitler's Germany in 1937. Seen in this context, these presumed-lost examples from such classic modernist artists like Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Paul Klee bring the "monuments men" to life more than any film can. The truly degenerate may get a kick out of Andy Warhol's 13 Most Wanted Men and the 1964 World’s Fair, opening April 27 at the Queens Museum, which finally re-creates the one public piece that the New York City artist made but, due to its controversial subject matter, was painted over days later at the direction of the fair officials. (The show features prints that Warhol made after the destruction of the earlier versions.)
As the weather becomes more pleasant, outdoor public exhibitions begin to spring up as well. At Madison Square Park, the Brooklyn-based Chilean artist Iván Navarro has installed This Land Is Your Land, a series of three life-size water towers—a common sight throughout the five-borough skyline—all with neon-light installations inside them that, at night, appear like ghostly reflections (through April 13). Up at Central Park, the Public Art Fund is installing the latest in its arts series at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza, an unassuming stretch of 60th Street on the west side of Fifth Avenue. Clouds, by the Swiss prankster photographer Olaf Breuning, is a 35-foot-tall collection of cartoon-looking fluffy blue objects. It opens March 4.
The most ambitious public project this spring is Kara Walker's takeover of the Domino Sugar Factory on May 10, and the endeavor has an over-the-top title to match its scope. A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby bills itself as an homage to those who have worked in cane fields so that sugar could be such an accessible commodity worldwide. The 90,000-square-foot site, at one time the largest sugar refinery in the world—and now slated to be converted into luxury towers—provides an evocative backdrop for the artist's often controversial and racially charged installations.
For true New York–ophiles, the Museum of the City of New York is hosting the ongoing exhibition City as Canvas, a collection of more than 150 gems of graffiti on paper and canvas, done primarily in ink and aerosol, from early stylists both big—Keith Haring, Futura 2000—and small. And opening March 14 at the New-York Historical Society, Bill Cunningham: Façades will pay tribute to the series of pictures that Cunningham—who by now should be considered the City's in-house photographer—shot during an eight-year stretch, juxtaposing vintage fashion with NYC architecture from the same period.
Ladies and Gentlemen … The Beatles!
The New York Public Library
Through May 10
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' debut in NYC, this show displays photographs, posters, letters and musical instruments from 1964 to 1966, the high point of the country's obsession with the band after it arrived in the City.
Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties
The Brooklyn Museum
March 7–July 6
The political and racial upheaval of the 1960s is examined through the lens of pieces like the body paintings of David Hammons, the cartoonish figurative work of Philip Guston, and Barkley Hendricks' gold-leaf altarpieces—depicting his contemporaries with a reverential iconography à la the Virgin Mary.
Through March 29
If you missed the James Turrell retrospective at the Guggenheim last year, consider this an alternative view into the sublime. Wheeler, a newly rediscovered artist (by most of us, anyway), opens his second show at the gallery with a ground-floor environment that uses the perspective of an airplane pilot to re-create the horizon line inside the gallery.
Considering the Quake: Seismic Design on the Edge
AIA at the Center for Architecture
Through May 26
More than just an in-depth look at earthquake-resistant architectural engineering, this exhibition includes real-world examples of structural design in cities where seismic activity remains a threat. Among the buildings examined are the Taipei Performing Arts Center, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and the Hansha Reflection House in Nagoya, Japan.
Jim Campbell: Rhythms of Perception
Museum of the Moving Image
March 21–June 15
Jim Campbell is beloved for his low-resolution projections, and this show collects more than 20 large-scale sculptural installations by the artist, who has spent his 30-year career turning computers and custom electronics into sensual, visual pieces. Included here are low-resolution projections, grids of LEDs, suspended lightbulbs and a digital self-portrait.