Best art in New York: Critics' picks
Both MoMA and its Queens satellite devote space to this unpacking of the work of Bruce Nauman in the biggest retrospective of his career. A Conceptual Art pioneer who led the development of practices such as performance, video and installation art during the 1960s and ’70s, Nauman emphasized process over product, pushing the boundaries of the artist’s role while aggressively interrogating the human condition with pieces that were noted for their piquant psychological insights.
The Whitney draws from its own collection for this survey of conceptual, video and computer-based artworks governed by pre-programmed rules or codes. Among the issues explored in the show is how technological changed over the past 50 years has transformed image culture and the role of artists within it.
Context is often key to the reception of an artist’s work. Which is why I’m supremely confident that during this #MeToo era—the very week, in fact, that the battle has been joined over elevating an alleged sexual predator to the Supreme Court—the opening of Sarah Lucas’s New Museum retrospective will find her hailed as a sort of Saint George(tte) running her lance through the scaly hide of the patriarchy. Though Lucas isn’t well known on this side of the pond (this long-overdue career survey is her first in the U.S.), the British artist has established a considerable reputation for pugnacious work that seizes prerogatives usually reserved for men, flipping the script on gender norms and what constitutes socially acceptable behavior for women. Her sculptures, photographs and videos take deep dives into sordidness (dismembered phalluses, filthy toilets and U.K. tabloids are among the notable motifs) with a badass swagger that finds expression in works about cigarettes, alcohol and car wrecks. If you believe the hype, Lucas subverts abusive male behavior by channeling it—which, I suppose, is true enough, though I’d submit that she’s still something of an unreliable standard-bearer for feminism. Much of what she does seems to provoke for the sake of provocation, but, in that respect, she’s hardly alone among the Young British Artists (YBAs) with whom she emerged in late-’80s, early-’90s London. Making in-your-face art was part of the brand, and indubitably, Lucas delivers there
One of greatest painters of 16th-century Venice, Tintoretto was known for working fast while employing a bold form of brushwork that was atypical for the era. Though Tintoretto’s reputation rested upon his vast, religious scenes, this show—drawn on public and private collections, as well as the Met's own holdings—focuses on studies and portraits.
Given the exclamation point in the title, it would seem that the Met is very excited, indeed, about its survey of Armenian art and culture spanning the 4th to 17th centuries. And why not? The show presents some 140 rarely-seen treasures (including gilded reliquaries, illuminated manuscripts, textiles and liturgical objects) to tell the story of Armenia’s embrace of Christianity, and it’s central role in shaping Armenian identity.
For much of his career the veteran African-American artist Jack Whitten (1939–2018) was somewhat under appreciated by the art world, even though he had major shows at the Whitney (1974), the Studio Museum in Harlem (1983) and the New Museum (1993). A moment of “re-discovery” about a dozen years finally put him on the map as an artist to contend with, as appreciation grew for his over-all abstracted paintings that touched on themes from race to cosmology. This show introduces viewers to his sculptures, a heretofore, little-known aspect of his practice notable for its frequent references to African art.
Even paranoiacs have real enemies, and sometimes those paranoiacs are artists, too. The truth is out there in this show featuring works that us through the conspiratorial looking glass.
MoMA reaches into its deep store of works by the Modernist master who altered the course of 20th-century sculptue by upending the relationship between sculptural object and base. Many of the artist's greatest hits—Bird in Space, Endless Column, Mlle Pogany—are included.
This is the first retrospective of the Congolese sculptor who created fantastical, futuristic architectural models and cityscapes out of found materials like colored paper, tinfoil, commercial packaging, plastic, soda cans and bottle caps. (Think Canto Bight meets Outsider Art). Kingelez (1948–2015) laid out utopian visions that stood in stark contrast to the unruly urban realities of Kinshasa, the artist’s home town and capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo—a mega-conurbanation with estimated population of more than 11 million, making it the third largest city in Africa. Along with objects, the exhibit features a virtual reality experience that “flies” viewers through one of his imaginary cities.
Due mainly to the forceful leadership of President Josef Broz Tito, Yugoslavia carved out a unique position for itself during the Cold War as a non-aligned nation that evaded the orbits of both the United States and the Soviet Union—no mean feat, given the state of postwar Europe. Understandably, Yugoslavian architecture of the period reflected the country’s precarious place between Capitalism and Communism by creating its own, sometimes eccentric, take on mid-century modernism with buildings that ranged from the rationalism of the International style to irrational, almost sci-fi, examples of Brutalism. Using photos, drawings, models and films, this overview delves into a little-known facet of 20th-century architecture.
Corse is one of the few women associated with the California Light and Space movement, a Left Coast school of Minimalism that, as it name suggests, focused on the transient qualities of light and its effects on perception. Corse, for the most part, chose painting as her medium, most familiarly with geometric abstractions limned in pigments mixed with glass microspheres—the same material used to make reflective highway signs. This survey brings together the artist’s key bodies of work for the first time.
As a warm-up to its retrospective this fall of the French painter Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), the Met presents this trove of his works on paper, which was recently gifted to the museum. Culled from the artist’s notebooks, the collection includes watercolors, graphite sketches and renderings in pen and ink. With subjects ranging from Orientalist scenes, to copies of the Old Master compositions to anatomical studies, the show is a testament to the centrality of drawing to Delacroix’s art.
As with her previous NYC outings, Marguerite Humeau’s current installation at the New Museum, Birth Canal, reveals an artist whose work is something of a head scratcher: A sculptural amalgam of abstraction and representation, science and art that suggests nothing less than a visit to the Natural History Museum after a bracing dose of acid. Whether this means a good trip or a bad one I’ll leave up to the viewer, though, for my tastes, the results are elegant enough, even if they strain a bit too mightily to make obscurity a virtue. Indeed, the ambiguity of Humeau’s efforts (which, according to the New Mu, “center on the origins of humankind and related histories of language, love, spirituality and war”) would seem at odds with the deep research she purportedly engages in before starting a project. More pertinent, perhaps, is her style, a clinical mixture of Surrealism and Baroque, in which forms appear to both melt and flutter like curtains in a breeze. Usually, these objects are anchored to armatures whose schematic geometries pin them in place like lab specimens. (You wonder sometimes whether Humeau dons a white coat before heading into her studio.) Humeau also presents her sculptures as ensembles within a mise en scène of walls and platforms painted in matching colors—a tick reprised here with the added bonus of having the space plunged into darkness. In this chthonic environment, spotlights pick out works displayed on gray, tiered podiums that curve, or jut out at sharp