Spring's Blockbuster Museum Shows

Howard Halle, Time Out New York contributor


Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Last year, fashion mavens mourned the suicide of Alexander McQueen, whose outré outfits burned up the runways. Now the Met’s Costume Institute is bestowing the ultimate honor on the designer: a full retrospective of his 19 years as an haute couture innovator and maverick, one who looked to 19th-century Romanticism and the exaggerated silhouettes of the 1950s for inspiration. The show will include at least five of his seminal collections, from the first one he crafted right after graduating from school in 1992 to his final runway presentation, mounted in Paris just weeks after his death. May 4–July 31. Suggested donation $20, seniors $15, students $10, members and children under 12 free.

“Canal St. Cross-Section” (2009-2010) by Alan Wolfson. Courtesy of the artist; private collection, England. Photo: Les Bernstien.

Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities
Museum of Arts and Design
When it comes to shows at the Museum of Arts & Design, you can always expect a certain wow factor, and Otherwordly should be no exception. The curators have rounded up more than 25 contemporary artists who create miniature models or dioramas depicting realms of the imagination. In Beauty Shop, for example, Lori Nix has fashioned a tiny ruined beauty parlor, complete with a ripped-up linoleum floor and a sink pulled from the wall; it looks like something straight out of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, post-Katrina. For The Golden-Age Microbrewery, the Chadwicks (the collaborative team of sculptor Jimbo Blachly and literary prof Lytle Shaw) have conjured an Elizabethan pub that’s as literally micro as the title suggests. And for Consolidated Life, David Lawrey and Jaki Middleton constructed a midtown office fit for the cast of Mad Men—if they were about two inches tall. These and other Lilliputian wonders are on view, a reminder that it’s a small world after all. June 7–Sept 18.

Photo: Matthew Septimus

Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever 
Picture a YouTube video of an old ABC After-School Special. Now imagine that the cast and crew are made up for a Juggalo fest while on a potent cocktail of meth and LSD. That’s not so different from the work of Ryan Trecartin, the video wunderkind who first broke out in the art world five years ago at the tender age of 25. Now pushing 30, Trecartin shows no signs of letting up: His work is no less frenetic or surreal, and still features freakish, babbling tweens and young people exhibiting a tenuous hold on reality—stand-ins for all of us trying to make sense of our socially networked, global-capitalist society. At PS1, seven of his movies filmed in Miami between 2008 and 2010 are being shown together for the first time in New York. Grouped into a trilogy (Trill-ogy Comp) and a quartet (Re’Search Wait’S), the works are described as “nonsequential,” so expect plenty in the way of cognitive dissonance. June 19–Sept 1. Mon, Thu–Sun noon–6pm. Suggested donation $10, seniors and students $5.

“Young Couple (Junges Paar)” (1913), by Emil Nolde. © 2007 MoMA, N.Y.

German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse
Museum of Modern Art
This spring is shaping up to be a big one for surveys of early-20th-century modernism. Not only is the Guggenheim presenting its epic The Great Upheaval (on now through June 1), but MoMA itself recently opened a Picasso exhibition devoted to the artist’s famous Guitar sculptures. The Graphic Impulse focuses on the role that printmaking played in the work of notable artists associated with the German Expressionist movement of the 1910s and 1920s, including Oskar Kokoschka, Vasily Kandinsky, Emil Nolde and Max Beckman. Mediums such as woodcuts and engravings had a long tradition in Germany. But the dramatic quality of line produced by gouged wood blocks or acid-bitten plates seemed especially suited to the aims of these artists, whose focus on such themes as urban alienation and uncompromising sexuality reflected the political and social turmoil of the time. March 27–July 11. Film tickets free with museum admission; screenings-only admission $10, seniors $8, students $6, children under 17 free.

“Various Self Playing Bowling Games (aka Beat the Champ)” detail,(2011). Photo: Eliot Wyman. Courtesy, Barbican Art Gallery, London

Cory Arcangel: Pro-Tools 
Whitney Museum of American Art
You might describe Arcangel as an Internet-age existentialist, a sort of “I play Xbox therefore I am” type who hacks old 8-bit Nintendo game cartridges to showcase his own version of a first-person shooter called I Shot Andy Warhol, and uses basic Photoshop color-gradient moves to create trippy digital abstractions printed as large photos. His work, which also includes performances and video installations, is about technology as an extension of the human body—but also as a power that has limits. At the Whitney, highlights will include a projection-video bowling alley, made with backgrounds from bowling video games, as well as a golf game that invites viewer participation. No need to bring your own clubs. May 26–Sept 11.

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