Art & About: Winter 2014–2015

Arts & Entertainment

by James Gaddy, 11/25/2014

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On December 12, after $91 million, nearly three years of renovations and a name change, the newly christened Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum reopens on the Upper East Side in the renovated Carnegie mansion. It kicks off with 10 new exhibitions, including a show of more than 350 objects from the museum's permanent collection, ranging from old toast racks and Rolodexes to complex, contemporary 3-D printed objects. Other floors on the new property help tell the museum's history, such as the legacy of the Hewitt sisters, who founded the collection in 1897, while New York City–based artist Maira Kalman pairs up the museum's objects—a 1926 Lobmeyr glass, the restored gold pocket watch of President Abraham Lincoln and a 1966 Ingo Maurer bulb—with a few of her personal items and illustrations.

Two curious portraits emerge over the winter months. Through February 22 at the New-York Historical Society, Vanity Fair photographer Annie Leibovitz—perhaps best known for her picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono taken the day he was killed in the City—turns away from her celebrity-focused portraiture with Pilgrimage, a show of 70 photographs taken over a recent two-year stretch, and instead depicts living rooms, bedrooms and landscapes like Niagara Falls. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, through March 15, Madame Cezanne groups together the second-most-painted model in Paul Cézanne's paintings: his wife, Hortense Fiquet. (His favorite animate subject was himself.) Over 20 years, the artist commonly thought of as the bridge from Monet to Picasso would paint 29 known portraits of his wife, and 24 of them are here—including Madame Cezanne in the Conservatory and Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress, from the Met's own collection.

Long before Chinatown became synonymous with fake Rolexes and Louis Vuitton bags, the knockoff had a long and uneasy history with high fashion. Faking It, a look at the history of authorized and unauthorized copying, illustrates the sometimes indistinguishable difference between the two. The exhibition, on display from December 2 through April 25 at FIT's Fashion and Textile History Gallery, opens with two identical suits from 1966, one from Coco Chanel and another a licensed copy, before continuing with dresses by Charles Frederick Worth (1903), Madeleine Vionnet (1925) and Christian Dior's famous 1947 collection, and moving through bags from Gucci, Chanel, Louboutin and others. Stick around to watch the video that outlines how to spot a counterfeit.

Opening at the Brooklyn Museum on February 20, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic will give an overview of the artist's 14-year career with 60 paintings and sculptures, a healthy sample of his works that place contemporary black subjects in poses that mimic those of European aristocrats in Old Masters paintings. He uses a process he calls "street casting," where he asks people to sit for portraits and reproduce a pose from any painting found in a book in his studio.

Two winter-long group shows are worth noting. MoMA PS1's Zero Tolerance, named for the 1990s policy in New York City that enforced a tough stance against crime, brings together more than 20 artists, from Belgian-based installation and performance artist Francis Alÿs to more conceptual artists such as Joseph Beuys and Yoko Ono, for a wide-ranging exhibition about freedom of expression (through March 8). At the Museum of Modern Art, The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World surveys the state of painting through the work of Matt Connors, Josh Smith, Mary Weatherford and many others (December 14–April 5).
But the big groups shows begin in earnest as March approaches. On February 25, art-fair season in the City kicks off with the spectacle of the New Museum's triennial, Surround Audience, an assemblage of works from 51 artists and collectives organized by video-art celebrity Ryan Trecartin. From March 5 to 8, Armory Arts Week will be centered on Piers 92 and 94, where more than 200 galleries will exhibit their collections of 20th- and 21st-century art. This year there will be a special focus on artists from the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, organized by curator Omar Kholeif, and a commission from Lawrence Abu Hamdan.
The first week of March contains a wide-ranging list of options for culture vultures of all stripes and types: blue-chip seekers can search out the Art Dealer's Association of America's Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory on the Upper East Side; European-style works by emerging artists can be found at Volta NY on Pier 90, right near the main Armory show; and the open-plan Independent show has more of a studio-visit vibe down in Chelsea's Center 548. From March 13 to 21, Asia Week New York celebrates the Far East, with exhibitions up and down Fifth Avenue featuring everything from Korean folding screens to Chinese bronzes.

Briefly Noted
John Waters: Beverly Hills John 
Marianne Boesky Gallery
January 9–February 14
For his third solo exhibition at the Chelsea gallery, the Hairspray and Female Trouble director will be presenting photographs, sculptures and a sure-to-be-talked-about new video. That film, titled Kiddie Flamingos, shows young children reading an expurgated, family-friendly version of his masterpiece of filth, Pink Flamingos. We're certain it will be just as strange and wonderful as it sounds—and probably needs to be seen to be believed. The cult filmmaker's previous shows have drawn on his history in the film industry, incorporating in-jokes and vocabulary of movie culture but always filtered through his eccentric brand of campy humor. 

Tyson Reeder
Canada Gallery
January 9–February 15
This artist's brightly colored scenes have been compared to Francis Picabia's, thanks to their mix of surrealist and Dada influences. But there's a much more pronounced mischievous quality in Reeder's work, which ranges from playful landscapes on Miami Beach (made outdoors with quick-drying materials) to naively drawn portraits that seem inspired by Paul Klee.

Amalia Ulman
James Fuentes Gallery
January 11–February 8
Is she the ultimate social-media performance artist, one who posts pictures of her (or someone else's) plastic surgery on Instagram? Or someone who is poking fun at selfie culture, all while constructing elaborate installations of pregnancy clinics as a comment on the state of health care for women? Or both? Decide for yourself at the newest installment of this controversial artist's work.

Tony Cragg: Walks of Life
Madison Square Park
Through February 8
The Scotland-born, Germany-based artist has created three elegant bronze sculptures that stand in three different sections of the park. At 18 feet high they're impossible to miss, but walk over to them and you'll see that the massive pieces are surprisingly light on their feet.

Mamma Andersson: Behind the Curtain
David Zwirner
Through February 14
The Stockholm artist is better known in Europe, but this is her third solo show at the ever-expanding Chelsea gallery, where the canvases seem filled with a peculiar Nordic light and pastoral interior scenes. They are never not beautiful and can approach a slightly sentimental perspective, like an innocuous room accented with palm trees. Others hang with a moody sense of dread, like Peeping Tom, which depicts a barren, snowy landscape empty save for a track of footprints.

Proper Nouns
Rachel Uffner
Through February 22
This exhibition is as close as contemporary art gets to slapstick. Curator Wyatt Kahn brings together five artists who have steadily built a following with playful art-fueled hijinks—from morbid trickster Jamie Isenstein to Lucas Blalock, who toys with the boundaries of digital photography, and Zachary Leener's cartoony ceramic sculptures. The Paul McCarthy parody video, Painter, is sui generis.

Paula Hayes: Gazing Globes
Madison Square Park
Opening February 19
Call it "Almost Frozen." On the west gravel section of Madison Square Park, 18 snow-globe-like sculptures are filled with the technology of not-so-distant yesteryears: vacuum tubes, batteries and discarded computer parts on a bed of finely ground-up compact discs. Set atop elegant pedestals ranging from 2 to 4 feet tall, the crystal balls give the park a picturesque winter vibe, as if it's December all over again.

Everything Is Design: The Work of Paul Rand 
Museum of the City of New York
Opening February 25
The revered Rand was responsible for some of the most enduring trademarks of the 20th century—think of the blue-striped IBM logo, the black dot used by broadcasting giant ABC or the box-with-a-bow that defined UPS for decades. But the Brooklyn native was also a gifted painter, writer, professor and design evangelist who treated his commercial jobs as works of art.

Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey
Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery
Through March 14
Seen in New York City for the first time since they were created in 1977, this series of 20 collages and watercolors by African-American artist Romare Bearden is based on Homer's epic poem The Odyssey. Bearden's vividly illustrated version, however, connects the ancient Greek tale with contemporary African-American culture, and the pieces are done in a way that draws on the vibrant colors of Henri Matisse while also prefiguring the urgent social commentary of Kara Walker. In total, the exhibition includes roughly 50 works that reflect the artist's longstanding interest in classical themes.

Freedom Journey 1965: Photographs of the Selma to Montgomery March by Stephen Somerstein
New-York Historical Society
Through April 19
For much of his life, Stephen Somerstein was a physicist who worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. But before he began his career in science, as a 24-year-old City College student, he traveled to Selma, Alabama, in March of 1965 and took more than 400 photographs, documenting what has become one of the most potent moments of the civil rights movement. Timed to the 50th anniversary of the 54-mile trek, these newly released photographs include folk singer Joan Baez, Martin Luther King and scenes that the budding scientist captured along the way. Now retired, Somerstein has taken up his photography once again.

Philip Taaffe
Luhring Augustine
Through April 26
The spacious Brooklyn outpost of the venerable Chelsea gallery serves as an inspired landing spot for the local artist's growing canvases, and these—up to 20 feet long—are some of the biggest of his career. But the New York artist is still defiantly old school, as he still (at least pretty much) creates the richly layered, tapestry-like paintings by hand, using as little technology as possible. For fans of throwback large-format painting.

related venues/(9)

  1. 1
    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
    2 E. 91st St.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10128
  2. 2
    The New-York Historical Society
    170 Central Park West
    Manhattan – Upper West Side
    NY 10024
  3. 3
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10028
  1. 4
    Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)
    Seventh Ave. at 27th St.
    Manhattan – Chelsea
    NY 10001
  2. 5
    Brooklyn Museum
    200 Eastern Parkway
    Brooklyn – Prospect Heights
    NY 11238
  3. 6
    MoMA PS1
    22-25 Jackson Ave.
    Queens – Long Island City
    NY 11101
  1. 7
    The Museum of Modern Art - MoMA
    11 W. 53rd St.
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10019
  2. 8
    New Museum
    235 Bowery
    Manhattan – Lower East Side
    NY 10002
  3. 9
    Cheim & Read
    547 W 25th St
    Manhattan – Chelsea
    NY 10001

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