Art & About: Spring Preview

Arts & Entertainment

by James Gaddy, 02/17/2014

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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 September 1), 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. 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: Facades 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

Ragnar Kjartansson: Me, My Mother, My Father, and I
New Museum

May 7–June 29
Family ties play a significant role in this show. The Icelandic artist's first museum show in New York City keeps his penchant for long-form performance endurance tests intact courtesy of a musical score, composed by former Sigur Ros member Kjartan Sveinsson, that will be played by 10 musicians during the length of the show. But as the title suggests, there are also cameos from his mother, who appears with Kjartansson in an ongoing video series, and his father, who also collaborated with his son on a series of drawings of the sea.

Frieze New York 
Randall's Island

May 9–12

For the third year, the British-based art fair Frieze will set up shop on Randall's Island, hosting more than 190 galleries from all over the world, ranging from multimillion-dollar City stalwarts like Gagosian and Marian Goodman to downtown nonprofits like Artists Space and White Columns. Despite its reputation as a playground for the moneyed art-buying elite, the event can still hold pleasures for those who make the effort to trek out. The "Projects" part of the programming, organized by High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani, features a playground of a different sort: NYC provocateur Darren Bader will make a pamphlet consisting of proposals for imaginary (and often very funny) works on the island, while Argentine artist Eduardo Basualdo will install a soccer field bounded by goals covered in glass, rendering them useless. If you're feeling adventurous, skip the officially sanctioned ferry ride and take Marie Lorenz's alternative—a makeshift rowboat—that turns the trip over the East River into a performance all its own.

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.

Robert Longo: Strike the Sun and Gang of Cosmos
Friedrich Petzel Gallery and Metro Pictures
Through May 10 (Strike the Sun), through 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.

Are Your Motives Pure? Raymond Pettibon Surfers 1987–2012
Venus Over Manhattan
Through 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.

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.

Michael Scott & John Chamberlain: A Conversation
Sandra Gering Gallery
Through May 31

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this inspired pairing is worth a monthlong conversation. The gallery has placed Asarabaca, a 1973 piece by John Chamberlain, who's known for his delicate yet muscular sculptures of crushed automobile parts, with recently completed monochrome and striped enamel aluminum paintings by the New York City–based artist Michael Scott. Though both use metal as a material starting point, their close proximity here highlights their differences as well, creating a dialogue that lives up to the promise of the show's title.

Matt Connors: Machines
Canada Gallery

Through June 1
Although he's sometimes grouped in as a so-called painter's painter, the up-and-coming New York City–based artist Matt Connors produces abstract pieces that draw on influences from fields of design, literature, music and, yes, painting, but the trick is that they never feel like inside jokes to a select few. His new series is often obsessed with framing devices within the four corners of the canvas itself, but his gorgeously deliberate process creates a surface depth that tweaks expectations, which should likely appeal to both art history buffs and casual fans alike. 


Oscar Murillo: A Mercantile Novel
David Zwirner

Through June 14

In a sure treat for those with a sweet tooth, the Colombian artist Oscar Murillo has created a functioning replica of the Colombina candy factory where his mother worked when he was a child. After the pieces of candy are made, they'll be given away for free to guests—but the artist asks that those who take a piece then give it away, so that the candy is dispersed throughout the five boroughs. Participants are encouraged to share the experience on a social-media account that's been set up for the occasion: @mercantilenovel, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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.

Pierre Soulages
Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin

Through June 27

Two galleries with French connections come together at their shared space inside a New York City landmark building to celebrate a historic exhibition: 14 new paintings from 94-year-old Pierre Soulages, who currently holds the unofficial title of most important living artist in France. The show will pair the new works alongside his seminal paintings from the 1950s and '60s—he's one of the last remaining connections to the vibrant community of abstract expressionists in NYC after World War II. His most recent series continues to illustrate his ability to turn simple black-and-white constructions into fantastic canvases.

Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties
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.

Chicago in LA: Judy Chicago's Early Work, 1963–74
Brooklyn Museum
Through 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.

related venues/(9)

  1. 1
    Whitney Museum of American Art (closed pending relocation)
    99 Gansevoort St.
    Manhattan – Meatpacking District
    NY 10014
  2. 2
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    1071 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10128
  3. 3
    Neue Galerie New York
    1048 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10028
  1. 4
    Queens Museum
    New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
    Queens – Flushing
    NY 11368
  2. 5
    Museum of the City of New York
    1220 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – East Harlem/El Barrio
    NY 10029
  3. 6
    Brooklyn Museum
    200 Eastern Parkway
    Brooklyn – Prospect Heights
    NY 11238
  1. 7
    New Museum
    235 Bowery
    Manhattan – Lower East Side
    NY 10002
  2. 8
    Museum of the Moving Image
    35th Ave. at 37th St.
    Queens – Astoria
    NY 11106
  3. 9
    MoMA PS1
    22-25 Jackson Ave.
    Queens – Long Island City
    NY 11101

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