If you’re turned off by the bombast of infinitely escalating auction prices and big-tent contemporary fairs, take refuge in the elegant first American retrospective of Jack Goldstein. Organized by Orange County Museum of Art guest curator Philipp Kaiser, and in New York by Jewish Museum Assistant curator Joanna Montoya, the show is the gloomy B-side to the relentless pop staccato of blockbuster contemporary art. Yet artists today owe much to this cult figure. Read More
It’s too easy to make fun of the Met’s new “Punk: Chaos to Couture” show. There was the chipper press preview at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning bustling with well-groomed junior fashion editors in leather pants and Walter Steiger heels, the facsimile of CBGB’s bathroom circa 1975, complete with graffitied urinals and cigarette butts, and Anne Hathaway and Miley Cyrus playing platinum punk Barbies at the Costume Institute gala—mockable incongruities served up on a silver platter. Read More
The Elizabeth Peyton of the Palazzo Barbaro set, the painter John Singer Sargent had a way with white. From voluminous Bedouin robes to frothing Alpine streams, the sun-bleached marble steps of Santa Maria della Salute to the spotless cashmere shawl on a bloodless Boston socialite, the painter’s whites are perhaps the most socially nuanced in the history of watercolor. A show of nearly a hundred of his expert late watercolors (and a few middling oil paintings), mostly painted between 1901 and 1912, is well worth a visit. Read More
‘Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store 1960–1962’ and ‘Mouse Museum/Ray Gun Wing’ at the Museum of Modern Art
One tends to associate Claes Oldenburg with large public art sculptures: flaccid sausages, comical bicycles and tumescent lipstick tubes stuck into the landscape. But it’s the tiny and the provisional that stand out in the four projects currently on display at MoMA in the largest-ever presentation of his early work, an excerpt from a traveling Oldenburg survey. Little pieces like Fried Egg in Pan (1961) and Tartines (1964) show off a pleasing equivalence of paint and materiality. The plaster “egg” fills the pan. There are “real” glass display cases filled with pies made of burlap soaked in plaster and painted in brightly colored enamel (Assorted Pies in a Case, 1962), which presage both Wayne Thiebaud and, later, Gina Beavers. Read More
Twelve historical glasses from Bohemia, England, New York and the Netherlands ring a table as if set for a toast. Each comes from a different century: the fifth, the 18th, the 19th, the 21st. These are the kinds of objects Barbara Bloom calls “ambassadors.” By placing them in proximity to one another, she creates dialogues across time and place.
Taking a page from Fred Wilson—and another from W. G. Sebald—Ms. Bloom has selected hundreds of objects from the Jewish Museum’s permanent collection that speak to aspects of Jewish life—cups, ketubahs, amulets, Torah reading pointers—and framed them with quotations from figures as diverse as Leonard Cohen, Lou Andreas-Salomé (the first female psychoanalyst), Zola, Nietzsche, Woody Allen and Sigmund Freud. The installation transforms each arrangement of objects and texts into a conversation around a specific theme: luck, libraries, windows. The effect is an essayistic meditation on Jewish identity. Read More
A show at the Society of Illustrators traces, through comics, letters and objects culled from his estate, the eccentric career of cartoonist and editor Harvey Kurtzman and the lowbrow pleasures of his art. The Brooklyn-born former World War II recruit built an empire sending up the establishment. He worked on shoestring budgets, which he augmented with buckets of cheap bad taste. His Mad magazine, which flourished during the 1950s, was a wind-up of the American counterculture. Kurtzman later found the most Rococo expression of his splashy, cheap style in Little Annie Fanny, the lavishly illustrated comic he drew for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy. Read More
‘Audubon’s Aviary: Part I of the Complete Flock’ at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library
Just as people-watching can feel like a zoological activity, it’s impossible not to extrapolate human traits from John James Audubon’s gorgeous watercolors of birds.
In this exhibition, curated by Roberta J.M. Olson, the first in a three-part series displaying the museum’s Audubon holdings, there are nesting barn swallows, an impassive barn owl holding a dead chipmunk, a red-eyed vireo craning his neck for a tiny spider. There’s a crow in a honey locust tree eating a tiny crab, cuckoos in magnolia trees, more crows in a black walnut, pretty groups of yellow-breasted chat moles, an elegant Cooper’s hawk attacking a rabbit, two peregrine falcons tearing apart wood ducks, a fish hawk clutching a shiny trout. There are a chestnut-sided warbler and red-tailed hawks. These nearly life-size depictions of birds are hung salon-style. In their flocks and clusters, they take up every inch of exhibition space. Birdsong plays in the galleries, and the audio guide features the calls associated with each species. There are some 175 different species of birds to see here—a third of what Audubon illustrated for his massive tome, The Birds of America (1827-38). Read More
An economical sketch of a messy room and the disgusting couple who inhabit it, all loose flesh and hard liquor. A drawing of a muscle-shirted strongman with a knife in his pants pocket surrounded by syringes, revolvers, thorny roses and bottles of booze. A painting of two identical, bob-haired, blade-thin girls in coffee-colored lingerie and French manicures masturbating under the even glare of an overhead light, a man’s watch on a pillow hinting at a threesome. If this sounds like the contents of a Bushwick studio circa now, guess again. These are works on paper by George Grosz from 1915 and a painting by Christian Schad from 1928. Read More
This multifarious show, with a title from a 1960 Jaki Byard album, makes a nuanced case for “blues” as an American expressive idiom. It also offers a new understanding of identity politics in art: not as a reductive set of categories illustrated visually, but rather with artwork as the locus of resistance to oppressive power structures. Some of the work in this exhibition, which traveled from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (where it was curated by Bennett Simpson) and was overseen at the Whitney by Chrissie Iles, deals expressly with the notion of the blues. David Hammons’s Chasing the Blue Train (1989), is a room-sized installation in which toy trains circle between piles of coal and among wooden shapes that evoke the tops of grand pianos. Other works, like Martin Kippenburger’s Martin, Into the Corner, You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself (1992), in which a dummy standing in for the artist faces the wall, make a viewer wonder if the theme of blues will hang together. Rachel Harrison’s colorful drawings of women—Dora Maar and Amy Winehouse among them—raise the same question. Read More
Italian painter Piero della Francesca died the year Columbus sailed for America, but he’s only now having his first solo show in the United States. The Frick Collection has four of his paintings, more than any museum outside of Europe, and guest curator Nathaniel Silver borrowed three more. Seven paintings might not sound like a lot, but however small, these are weighty works featuring toothless virgin martyrs, pageboy-bobbed angels and saints in jewel-encrusted robes—there’s a lot to see here. Depending on how you slice it, there are five saints, a Madonna and Child, and a Crucifixion; three large (four feet tall) paintings and four smaller ones (each about a foot square); six American pictures and one borrowed from Portugal; six pictures from the same altarpiece and one standalone painting. Taken together, they suggest that the artist was more than a textbook intermediary between Gothic and Renaissance painting, or even between new American money and old European culture; his works deliver us to a moment when painting was as serious as science, as mystical as religion, and above all as philosophical as any book. Read More