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Top five shows: Nov 21–27, 2013

The best of the week in art.

Photograph: Jens Ziehe/Photographie; courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz; Cologne/Berlin; © Isa Genzken

“Isa Genzken: Retrospective”
Museum of Modern Art, Sat 23–Mar 10
Born in 1948, Isa Genzken is one of the most prominent figures within the postwar generation of German artists, and among the most influential female artists working today. If New York art audiences are familiar with her output at all, it’s probably been via the works she has produced during past ten years or so, which have mainly consisted of surreal sculptural assemblages and installations that vividly aggregate painting, found objects (toys, strollers, suitcases, backpacks, dolls, wheelchairs, umbrellas and houseplants among them), images, fabrics, textiles and other materials, such as colored streamers, Mylar sheets and tinted Plexiglas. Her best-known work here is probably the gigantic rose she created for the New Museum’s facade. Prolific as she’s been in recent years, this production only scratches the surface of a four-decade career that has taken a sharply incisive, postfeminist perspective on our globalist society and the way culture functions within it.

Photograph: Steven Probert; © Christian Marclay; Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery; New York

Christian Marclay
Paula Cooper Gallery, Fri 22–Jan 18
Celebrated for his landmark video, The Clock, Marclay turns to painting in this lively follow-up, which continues his career-long investigation into art’s relationship to sound and music. Part AbEX, part Pop Art, the works on view feature cartoon onomatopoeias (plop!, plip!!, plaff!!) associated with stuff being thrown against something—like paint on canvas. Potfuls of pigment seemingly flung across the room serve as backgrounds for words silk-screened in comic-book fonts.

Photograph: Courtesy Venus Over Manhattan

“Calder Shadows”
Venus Over Manhattan, through Dec 21
The play of shadows cast on the walls by Alexander Calder’s various mobiles were always a significant, if understated, aspect of their design, one that the artist was keenly aware of, even if the effect was considered secondary by most viewers (if it was considered at all). Here, secondary becomes primary in this group of Calder sculptures, which are installed in the gallery’s darkened space, and lit dramatically with spotlights positioned on the floor. The result strangely evokes Weimar cinema, if not the spook house, and it looks undeniably cool.

Photograph: Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery

“Brancusi in New York 1913–2013”
Paul Kasmin Gallery, through Jan 11
This year marks the centennial of the 1913 Armory show, which introduced avant-garde art from Europe to the U.S. amid a storm of media coverage and controversy. One artist in the exhibition was Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957), a Romanian émigré to Paris who revolutionized sculpture by simplifying form and changing the relationship of the sculptural object to the space around it. Brancusi himself stated that America had made his reputation, and in fact, his work found an appreciative audience here—and was widely collected. With that in mind, the gallery offers this must-see presentation of five polished bronze versions of Brancusi’s most famous works, including Mademoiselle Pogany II, The Newborn and Fish.

Photograph: Courtesy of the artist; Metro Pictures; New York and Victoria Miro Gallery; London

Isaac Julien, Ten Thousand Waves
Museum of Modern Art, Mon 25–Feb 17
The noted filmmaker and installation artist presents an immersive nine-screen film installation for MoMA’s atrium, originally presented in Sydney, London and Miami Beach. The piece, filmed in China’s rural Guangxi Province and Shanghai, take its inspiration from the 2004 drowning of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers caught unawares by the incoming tide at Morecambe Bay in northwest England. Both the film and photos feature the actor Maggie Cheung as the Chinese goddess Mazu, protector of lost fishermen.