Top five shows: Feb 6–12, 2014

The best of the week in art

Photograph: Jens Ziehe

“Pawel Althamer: The Neighbors”
New Museum of Contemporary Art, Wed 12–Apr 13
This Polish artist is known for performance pieces (such as his contribution to the New Mu’s 2009 “Skin Fruit” exhibition, consisting of a live Jesus on the cross) and figurative sculptures—which have run the gamut from a large inflatable of a naked man, resembling a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon with an erection, to wraithlike ensembles of what appear to be life casts of faces resting atop “bodies” of unraveling bandages (Althamer uses friends, family members and neighbors as subjects). This show includes a reprise of his work, Draftsmen’s Congress, a large whitewashed space in which visitors are invited to scribble on the walls and floors. Also on tap: a band of street musicians playing live on the sidewalk just outside the New Mu throughout the run of the show, with their tunes piped into the third-floor gallery.

Photograph: © ARS

“Re-View: Onnasch Collection”
Hauser & Wirth, Fri 7–Apr 12
This exhibition—organized by Paul Schimmel, former curator of Los Angeles’s MOCA and currently a partner with Hauser & Wirth in a new L.A. gallery venture—ups the game for other museum-quality shows with this focused survey of the postwar art holdings of Reinhard Onnasch. The proprietor of a Soho gallery in the early 1970s, Onnasch has amassed a collection of 1,000 works, which Schimmel has combed for this exhibit. Spanning the years 1950 to 1974 and covering the gamut of the era’s styles (Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, Pop Art, Fluxus and Minimalism), the show brings together some of the signature names—Newman, Still, Louis, Twombly, Oldenburg, Kienholz and Serra, among others—from art history.

Photograph: Jonathan Muzikar

“A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio”
Museum of Modern Art, Sat 8–Oct 5
Photography embraces many genres, both outdoors and in. But some of the most radical experiments in the medium have been created by artists operating within the confines of the studio—using it not only as a physical place in which to take pictures (or create them using cameraless techniques like the photogram), but also as a conceptual framework that, in many cases, dictates content. MoMA rounds up numerous examples in this fascinating survey, spanning from the invention of the photograph to the present. 

Photograph: Courtesy Team Gallery

David Ratcliff, “Klan Paintings”
Team Gallery, through Mar 2
Visitors expecting something like Philip Guston’s famed depictions of the self-appointed guardians of America’s racial purity may be surprised by Ratcliff’s treatment of the subject. Instead of sinister-looking hooded figures and burning crosses, Ratcliff has silk-screened blown-up images on canvas of various official Klan documents—receipts, order forms for robes and pamphlets. It’s the banality of evil writ large as paperwork.

Photograph: © David Benjamin Sherry

“What Is a Photograph?”
International Center of Photography, through May 4
This ode to envelope-pushing showcases the work of 21 international artists who have twisted accepted notions of light, color, composition, materiality and subject. And what are the results of all this tinkering? Let’s just say they’re way trippier than anything you’ve “liked” on Instagram.