Art and About in December

Arts & Entertainment

by James Gaddy

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This month celebrates the simple joy of looking, and it's nowhere more evident than Nan Goldin's Scopophilia, at Matthew Marks Gallery through December 23. The show's title, which literally means "love of looking," pairs more than 400 works from the artist's career with her lush, bracing photographs of masterpieces from the Louvre. Desire and love are also at the white-hot heart of the Brooklyn Museum's controversial show Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture , which collects more than 100 works across painting, photography, film and installation to illustrate how gender and sexuality have played crucial roles in modern and contemporary art. With Thomas Eakins' 1891 portrait of Walt Whitman serving as a sort of éminence grise, the show also includes AA Bronson's harrowing photograph of Felix Partz, with whom he lived and worked for 25 years; Berenice Abbott's portrait of lesbian writer Janet Flanner wearing a hat that features two masks; and Félix González-Torres' installation of candy, named after his deceased lover, which becomes a bittersweet act of communion. 

Portraiture is a theme running through several other shows this month. Through December 17, Marianne Boesky hosts The Masked Portrait Part II, a follow-up to the gallery's 2008 look at post-war Japanese contemporary art. The Museum of Biblical Art's The Book of Life explores how family Bibles—a repository of personal mementos, many with births and deaths of kin listed like official records—became a fixture in American homes, from their earliest appearance in the 1790s to the end of the 19th century. And through December 21, Leila Heller hosts The Mask & The Mirror, featuring self-portraits curated by Middle Eastern artist Shirin Neshat. The show includes 17 artists from the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan along with heavyweights like Matthew Barney, Marina Abramović, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.

On December 13, the beautiful Upper East Side mansion–turned–art museum known as The Frick Collection opens the new Portico Gallery for Decorative Arts and Sculpture , which encloses the portico in the Fifth Avenue Garden to house its growing collection of sculpture. The New-York Historical Society opened its transformed space on November 11 following a three-year, $70 million renovation, and an exhibition that opened with it, Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn, adds valuable context to the 18th-century revolutions in America, France and Haiti. And at The Museum of Modern Art, the revolutionary spirit continues with the "portable murals" of Diego Rivera, which were made in 1931 and 1932 at The Museum of Modern Art and address themes of social inequality in both his native Mexico and in New York.

Two exhibitions this month, however, take a more long-term view of social change. In Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City, a collaboration between The Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park, artists Natalie Jeremijenko, Mary Miss, Rirkrit Tiravanija and George Trakas construct scenarios that would allow the museum and its creative community to coexist alongside the industrial and residential aspects of the changing neighborhood. Meanwhile Design with the Other 90%: Cities, currently being shown at the United Nations Headquarters, collects 60 projects, proposals and solutions—ranging from ingenious cell phone chargers in Tanzania to floating community lifeboats in Bangladesh—that address the rise of slums and other informal settlements in emerging and developing communities.

And just in time for the holidays and snowy weather, The Jewish Museum hosts the first major exhibition in the United States for beloved Brooklyn-born illustrator and children's book author Ezra Jack Keats. The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats gives an inside look at the works of Keats, including The Snowy Day, published in 1962 at the peak of America's civil rights movement and the first modern full-color picture book whose main character was African-American. And if you can make it to the Klez for Kids Concert at the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue on Christmas Day, it's one of our favorite annual Christmas traditions. Singing and dancing are highly encouraged, but it's OK if you just want to watch.

Briefly Noted
Calder 1941  
The Pace Gallery (32 E. 57th St.)
Through December 23
This tightly focused show holds 15 works created by artist Alexander Calder in 1941, a year that has been identified as one of the most important in the artist's career.

Ayala Serfaty: In Vein
Cristina Grajales Gallery
Through December 23
A fantastic collection of lighting fixtures that look like soft cocoons, sofas upholstered in fabric resembling rust-colored stone, and handmade felt chairs. 

Jim Hodges  
Gladstone Gallery (both locations)
Through December 23
This two-gallery show goes in a lot of different directions, all of them good: giant stones painted with reflective colors, a room dripping paint and a disco ball half-submerged in a pool carved out of the gallery floor.

Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through January 2
This exhibition presents some 200 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints from the collection of photographer and art collector Alfred Stieglitz, including works by Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, Vasily Kandinsky and Marsden Hartley.

Andreas Gursky  
Gagosian Gallery (522 W. 21st St.)
Through December 17
Two recent series—Bangkok (2011) and Oceans (2010)—are shown in tandem. The former takes the mirrored surface of the Chao Phraya River as its subject matter, while the latter uses satellite imagery to create fantastic cartographic images that are determined by compositional principles rather than topography.

Terry Richardson: Mom Dad 
Half Gallery
Through December 4
The renowned fashion photographer exhibits a series of sometimes funny, almost always affecting pictures of his mother and late father (himself an enfant terrible of the fashion photography world) in an attempt to bring together his parents, who divorced when he was 4 years old. Thumbs up.


related venues/(7)

  1. 1
    Matthew Marks Gallery
    523 W. 24th St.
    Manhattan – Chelsea
    NY 10011
  2. 2
    Brooklyn Museum
    200 Eastern Parkway
    Brooklyn – Prospect Heights
    NY 11238
  3. 3
    The New-York Historical Society
    170 Central Park West
    Manhattan – Upper West Side
    NY 10024
  1. 4
    The Museum of Modern Art - MoMA
    11 W. 53rd St.
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10019
  2. 5
    The Noguchi Museum
    9 - 01 33rd Rd. @ Vernon Blvd.
    Queens – Long Island City
    NY 11106
  3. 6
    United Nations
    First Ave. at 47th St.
    Manhattan – Midtown East
    NY 10017
  1. 7
    The Jewish Museum
    1109 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10128

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