Art & About: Spring Preview

Arts & Entertainment

by James Gaddy, 02/18/2014

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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. 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 (through May 25). 

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 (through June 8). Gauguin's lush landscapes stand in stark contrast to the work at the Guggenheim’s Italian Futurism, 1909–1944 (through September 1). 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—take over the museum, including rare murals on loan from a post office in Sicily.

Nearby, the Neue Galerie opened Degenerate Art in March (runs through June 30), 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 runs through August 24.

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 through June 15 at the New-York Historical Society, Bill Cunningham: Façades pays 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.

BRIEFLY NOTED

Are Your Motives Pure? Raymond Pettibon Surfers 1987–2012
Venus Over Manhattan
April 3–May 17
There are no Black Flag album covers at this show, no Gumbys, no J. Edgar Hoovers or homicidal teenage punks. In this exhibition, Pettibon's paintings keep a DIY-inspired ethos intact while raising the figure of the lone surfer to the level of an American icon, on par with the cowboy or the frontiersman. The 40-plus works are often funny, mostly colorful and pretty much always an earnest appreciation of the balance between young men and the sea.

Chicago in LA: Judy Chicago's Early Work, 1963–74
Brooklyn Museum
April 4–September 28
This is your chance to get a fuller look at the work of artist Judy Chicago, whose classic feminist manifesto, The Dinner Party, is already on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum. In all, there are 60 pieces that span the years leading up to her most famous work, from brightly colored high-gloss minimalist canvasses to photographs documenting the bursts of colored smoke she used in her early performances.

Robert Longo: Strike the Sun and Gang of Cosmos
Friedrich Petzel Gallery and Metro Pictures 
April 10–May 10 (Strike the Sun), April 10–May 23 (Gang of Cosmos)
It's only every few years that you get a one-man show from a "Pictures Generation" artist on the level of the Brooklyn-born, Long Island–raised Longo, and this month, you get two. His newest works take over both Petzel Gallery and Metro Pictures: Strike the Sun features an overwhelming seven-panel image of the US Capitol lining the wall, while the other, Gang of Cosmos, hangs 12 charcoal-drawing reproductions he made of famous abstract expressionist paintings.

Doug Wheeler
David Zwirner
Through April 5
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.

Martin Kippenberger: Raft of the Medusa
Skarstedt  
Through April 26
Another artist looks backward, beyond abstract expressionism, this month. And although it's been possible to see certain pieces of Martin Kippenberger's 1990s painting series—in which he imagines himself as each character in the famous neoclassical 1819 painting The Raft of the Medusa—the whole thing is collected here, a total that reflects the artist's typically obsessive-bordering-on-manic output: 16 paintings, 19 drawings, 14 lithographs, 9 photographs, and a 8-by-15-foot woven rug bearing a blueprint of the raft.

Friedrich Kunath: The Temptation to Exist (May Contain Nuts)
Andrea Rosen Gallery
Through April 26
This is the German-born, Los Angeles–based artist's first full show at the gallery in four years, but with titles like I was thinking about what a friend had said, I was hoping it was a lie, you know that the leading proponent of "sad optimism" is still bringing his A-game. Token Kunath-isms are intact, as are the artist's trademark surrealist in-jokes.

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.

GCC: Achievements in Retrospective
MoMA PS1
Through May 25
A good choice for politics buffs, this deadpan "retrospective" charts the work of a multinational collective of nine artists—most based in Kuwait City—that uses the English-Arabic translations found at global summits as fodder for a show that's part World Economic Forum, part off-kilter video art project.

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
Through 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.

Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties
The Brooklyn Museum
Through 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.

related venues/(9)

  1. 1
    Whitney Museum of American Art
    945 Madison Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10021
  2. 2
    Park Avenue Armory
    643 Park Ave
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10065
  3. 3
    Asia Society and Museum
    725 Park Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10021
  1. 4
    Museum of Chinese in America
    215 Centre St.
    Manhattan – multiple locations
    NY 10013
  2. 5
    The Museum of Modern Art - MoMA
    11 W. 53rd St.
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10019
  3. 6
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    1071 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10128
  1. 7
    Neue Galerie New York
    1048 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10028
  2. 8
    Queens Museum
    New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
    Queens – Flushing
    NY 11368
  3. 9
    Museum of the City of New York
    1220 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – East Harlem/El Barrio
    NY 10029

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