Winter's top 20 art exhibitions

From major museum retros to one-person shows, here's what to keep your eye on.

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  • Photograph: Muse du Louvre/A. Dequier--M. Bard

    Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of Old Man and Boy

    "The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini"
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dec 21--Mar 18
    Donatello, Filippo Lippi and Botticelli are just a few of the Old Master superstars represented in this survey of 160 works from the first great age of European portraiture. The Renaissance witnessed the rebirth of the individual after 1,000 years of cultural dominance by the Church, so it's only natural that art would experience a resurgence in creating likenesses (last done with lan by the Romans). Little did anyone realize back then, however, that it would all eventually lead to Facebook.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Luhring Augustine

    Joel Sternfeld, Washington, D.C., August 1974 from "First Pictures"

    Joel Sternfeld, "First Pictures"
    Luhring Augustine, Jan 6--Feb 4
    Joel Sternfeld, a pioneer in the use of color photography as a fine art medium, first got on the map with "American Prospects," his look at the U.S. during the "malaise" era of Jimmy Carter at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. (Just before Ronald Reagan chased out the welfare queens and restored "morning" in America.) This exhibition looks back at Sternfeld's efforts from the previous decade. Like "American Prospects," the images in "First Pictures" constitute a poetic travelogue in which the photos serve as sentences in a story about the nation's spirit during a particular period in history.

  • Photograph: Courtesy David Zwirner; New York

    On KawaraJAN. 4, 1966, from "Today" series

    On Kawara, "Date Painting(s) in New York & 136 Other Cities"
    David Zwirner, Jan 6--Feb 11
    For nearly half a century now, time has been the subject of On Kawara's "Date" compositions, whose simplicity belie the discipline involved in making them. The artist always starts and finishes a piece in the same day, and the results are minimal in the extreme: Just the date painted usually in white against a dark color. The back of the canvas, meanwhile, is lined with the front page of the newspaper from whatever city he happens to be in at that moment. This show brings together the artist's work in a museum-quality career survey that sprawls through all three Zwirner spaces.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Gavin Brown's Enterprise

    Udomsak Krisanamis, Mulligan

    Udomsak Krisanamis
    Gavin Brown's Enterprise, Jan 7--Feb 25
    The artist, who immigrated to New York from Thailand in 1991, has been compared to Frank Stella, in the sense that his work also started out as deeply reductive black-and-white compositions: in Krisanamis's case, as collages of newsprint in which every letter or number (except any occurrence of O or zero) was redacted with a felt-tip marker. Over the ensuing 20 years, the artist has branched out to ever denser layered and chromatic abstractions rendered on all manner of surfaces, including rice noodles. His latest paintings continue in similar vein with grid-like markings in bold colors.

  • Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates; Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved; DACS 2011

    Damien Hirst, "Zinc Sulfate"

    Damien Hirst, "The Complete Spot Paintings 1986--2011"
    Gagosian Gallery, Jan 12--Feb 18
    Don't rub your eyes! You are actually seeing spots. As a warm-up to the Damien Hirst career retrospective at the Tate Modern in London this spring, Gagosian Gallery is devoting all of its locations worldwide---including its three New York galleries uptown and down---to a comprehensive survey of the ur-YBA's paintings of polka dots. Hirst himself has allowed that he only painted about five of the 300 or so compositions in the series, leaving the rest to assistants whose efforts he deemed superior to his own. Still, they're worth a lot of money, so maybe it's dollars signs you're seeing.

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures; New York

    Announcement for exhibition, John Miller, "Suburban Past Time" at Metro Pictures

    John Miller, "Suburban Past Time"
    Metro Pictures, Jan 19--Mar 10
    Since the early 1980s, this veteran artist---a CalArts colleague of Mike Kelly and Tony Oursler---has slyly deconstructed the pretensions of the art world and our consumerist society alike. For his latest show, Miller, an American who divides his time between New York and Berlin, offers an installation-cum-performance that tweaks our notions of public space. Images of grim German apartment blocks wallpaper a gallery space filled with filing cabinets and the sort of fiberglass approximations of nature---trees, rocks---used to disguise suburban pool equipment. This peculiar pocket park serves as a setting for two live performers who will spend the entirety of the show sitting, reading or simply lounging about just as office workers might on a never-ending lunch hour.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Marvelli Gallery; New York

    Craigie Horsfield, Circus, Plaa de Torros La Monumental, Gran Via de les...

    Craigie Horsfield
    Marvelli Gallery, Jan 19--Feb 25
    Although this British photographer lives and works part time in New York, he's somewhat under-known to American audiences outside of a hard-core circle of photo aficionados. That's too bad, because throughout his 40-year career, he's consistently produced a wide variety of images---portraits of acquaintances, anonymous crowds and beasties at the zoo---that are as spectacular as their subjects are ordinary. He often waits for years and even decades to pass between taking a picture and printing it, giving the result a patina of memory. Here, a series of colossal photo-tapestries depicts the center ring of a circus in which horses prance on hind legs and tigers sit in cages, awaiting their moment to perform.

  • Photograph: Weegee/International Center of Photography/Getty Images; courtesy International Center of Photography

    Weegee, Anthony Esposito, Accused "Cop Killer," January 16, 1941

    "Weegee: Murder Is My Business"
    International Center of Photography, Jan 20--Sept 2
    Tabloid culture and film noir are both indebted to the photographs of Weegee (1899--1968), one of the medium's iconic names. Born Arthur Fellig in Austria, Weegee started out as a freelance press photographer on the Lower East Side, covering the police beat. But his knack for self-promotion and images of lurid crime scenes and other sensationalist subjects, usually taken at night with a flash, set him apart. His photos became part of New York City's mythic self-image, collected by institutions like the Museum of Modern Art and embraced by Hollywood. This show covers Weegee in his prime, during the crucial years 1935 to 1946, as Gotham emerged from the Great Depression and plunged into the Second World War.

  • Photograph: Courtesy The Pace Gallery; 2011 Jean Dubuffet/ Artists Rights Society (ARS); New York/ ADAGP; Paris

    Jean Dubuffet, Epanouissement

    "Jean Dubuffet: The Last Two Years"
    The Pace Gallery, Jan 20--Mar 10
    Suddenly it seems like galleries on the Lower East Side are awash with young painters influenced by postwar European art and such movements as the CoBrA group, Art Informel and Art Brut. As one of the leading figures of the period, Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) had a direct or tangential relationship with all of the above, forging a style that bridged primitive figuration and expressionistic abstraction. Although American art in the 1950s and '60s---AbEx, Pop Art, Minimalism---overshadowed much of what was going on in Europe, Dubuffet managed to establish an international reputation for himself. This sampling of colorful abstractions painted near the end of his life shows why.

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Untitled; New York. 2011; Henry Taylor

    Henry Taylor. The Long Jump by Carol Lewis

    Henry Taylor
    MoMA PS1, Jan 29--Apr 9
    At first glance, the figurative canvases that Henry Taylor is best known for---of sports figures, or street people in his native Los Angeles---seem almost naive or folk-arty. But the 52-year-old African-American painter is no outsider: He attended CalArts, though he more or less deflected the school's conceptualist slant, developing a formula for his paintings that is part Pop Art wry and part Grandma Moses sincere. He's also created installations made from the detritus found in his neighborhood. This midcareer roundup gives East Coasters a concentrated dose the artist's unique vision.

  • Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art; New York. Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

    Eugne Atget, Luxembourg

    Eugne Atget: "Documents pour artistes"
    Museum of Modern Art, Feb 6--Apr 9
    Atget (1857--1927) is one of the towering figures in the history of photography, a status at odds with his own modest ambitions: His intent was merely to create generic images that other artists could use as studies for their own work (hence, the show title, taken from the sign that hung outside his studio). Of course, Atget's photos were anything but generic, though their subjects were quotidian: street scenes, Parisian courtyards, mannequins in storefront windows, all captured with the uncanny essence that defines his oeuvre. This survey, divided into six sections, draws on the Modern's unrivaled Atget holdings to examine the breadth of his career.

  • Photograph: The National Gallery; London Photo: The National Gallery; London / Art Resource; NY

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Umbrellas

    "Renoir, Impressionism and Full-Length Painting"
    The Frick Collection, Feb 7--May 13
    Nine iconic Renoirs borrowed from collections in France, the U.K. and the United States are brought together for this first-ever survey devoted to the artist's use of the full-length figurative format. The large vertical canvases on view are among the greatest masterpieces of Impressionism, and they include the Frick's own La Promenade (1875--76), which depicts a bourgeois lady ushering her twin girls along a path in a park. Like the other paintings in the exhibit, La Promenade demonstrates Renoir's use of a treatment reserved previously for royals, to show ordinary people going about their day.

  • Photograph: LaToya Ruby Frazier; courtesy of the artist

    Abigail DeVille, What Happens to a Dream Deferred...Supernova

    "The Ungovernables"
    New Museum of Contemporary Art, Feb 15--Apr 22
    Like its inaugural "Younger than Jesus" survey, this second edition of the New Mu's Triennial features a crop of emerging artists born after the mid-1970s who are dealing with globalism and the continuing cultural fallout from the 1960s. The roster is made up of 34 artists, artist groups and temporary collectives, totaling 50 participants in all.

  • Photograph: Collection of Stephen Flavin

    Dan Flavin, my studio

    "Dan Flavin: Drawing"
    The Morgan Library & Museum, Feb 17--July 1
    One of the founding fathers of 1960s Minimal Art, Flavin is best known for sculptural installations of fluorescent lights. But drawing was always a key aspect of his practice, not only as way to map out his projects, but also as a sideline in which he rendered such un-Minimalistic subject matter as sailboats (though admittedly with an extremely reductive economy of line). This show brings together his drawings, along with items from his personal collection of works on paper by artists of the 19th-century Hudson River School, with whom he felt an artistic affinity.

  • Photograph: 2011 Cindy Sherman; courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures; New York

    Cindy Sherman, Untitled #463

    Cindy Sherman
    Museum of Modern Art
    , Feb 26--June 11
    By now, Cindy Sherman has become part of a small coterie of artists whose works are instantly recognizable by nearly everyone. Starting in the mid-1970s, she hit upon a formula in which the simple child's game of dressing up became a way of interrogating everything from feminism to Hollywood to aging. The results have been some of the most important and influential works of art created in the last 40 years. On view here are such iconic series as Sherman's "Untitled Film Stills," as well as her self-portraits as subjects from Old Master paintings.

  • Photograph: David Heald John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS); New York; courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; New York

    "John Chamberlain: Choices"
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Feb 24--May 13
    The sculptor who transformed crushed cars into art is given the retro treatment with this survey of 100 works, dating from the early 1960s to the present. Chamberlain's approach is often cited as a three-dimensional analog to Abstract Expressionism, but it also prefigured Pop and Process Art.

  • Photograph: Sheldan Collins; courtesy the Whitney Museum of American Art

    Installation view of the 2010 Whitney Biennial

    Whitney Biennial 2012
    Whitney Museum of American Art, Mar 1--May 27
    Once known as the show everyone loves to hate, the Biennial has had to contend with such competing contemporary-art showcases as MoMA PS1's "Greater New York" and the New Museum Triennial in recent years. This glut of next-big-thing surveys has made it harder to get excited over the Whitney show than in years past, when there was no other game like it in town. This is not necessarily a bad thing, judging from the 2010 Biennial, which proved to be unusually focused and thought-out. Here's hoping the same can be said of this year's model.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Roberts & Tilton Gallery; Los Angeles

    Kehinde Wiley, Benediter Brkou (The World Stage: Israel)

    Kehinde Wiley, "The World Stage: Israel"
    The Jewish Museum, Mar 9--July 29
    Wiley's bling-alicious mix of hip-hop attitude and Old Master portraiture has always been infectious; here, he brings it to bear on a multicultural array of young Israelis posing against richly colorful, Judaica-inspired backdrops.

  • Photograph: Keith Haring Foundation

    Keith Haring, Untitled

    "Keith Haring: 1978--1982"
    Brooklyn Museum, Mar 16--July 8
    Haring's energetic street art was a ubiquitous fixture in late-'70s, early-'80s New York, cropping up in subway stations, and on buildings in Soho and the East Village. He went on to art-world fame and fortune before his untimely death from AIDS in 1990; this survey brings back the artist's early career with works on paper, rare videos and archival objects.

  • Photograph: Collection of Susan Turner and Scott Purdin; George and Betty Woodman

    Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island

    Francesca Woodman
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Mar 16--June 13
    Like Cindy Sherman, Woodman began to make art in the mid-1970s, using herself as the subject for photos with a conceptual edge. But there the comparison ends. While Sherman's work was all about archly staged artifice and pop-culture's intrusion into daily life, Woodman's created a spontaneous theater of self-drama that was as dreamlike as it was real. The artist photographed herself naked within rooms that somehow seemed neglected or abandoned, using long exposures to blur her movements. This show is the first major survey in 25 years of the artist's career, which was cut short by suicide in 1981.

Photograph: Muse du Louvre/A. Dequier--M. Bard

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of Old Man and Boy

"The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini"
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dec 21--Mar 18
Donatello, Filippo Lippi and Botticelli are just a few of the Old Master superstars represented in this survey of 160 works from the first great age of European portraiture. The Renaissance witnessed the rebirth of the individual after 1,000 years of cultural dominance by the Church, so it's only natural that art would experience a resurgence in creating likenesses (last done with lan by the Romans). Little did anyone realize back then, however, that it would all eventually lead to Facebook.

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