Maika Pollack

On View

‘What Is a Photograph?’ at the International Center of Photography and ‘A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio’ at the Museum of Modern Art

'What Is a Photograph?' at the International Center of Photography. (Courtesy ICP)

The curator of this exhibition, Carol Squiers, turned to work by 21 artists to investigate the ontological reality of a photograph. Does a photograph represent the world? Is it an investigation of light-sensitive chemistry? Does it deal with landscape or with time?

The title of the show poses a good question. Unfortunately, the works chosen to investigate this question, which date from the 1970s to the present, are, simply put, not very strong. What’s worse, while many of them are cartoonishly bad, a few are magical and get it just right. The resulting exhibition is maddeningly close to being good, but it is hobbled by some serious and almost headache-inducing failures that can only be blamed on a lack of curatorial judgment. Read More

On View

‘Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

'Rue de Constantine (Fourth Arrondissement),'
1866. (Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Walking around Greenwich Village, Williamsburg or even Crown Heights, you would be forgiven for feeling that the vertiginous pace of urban transformation in New York is unprecedented. But Paris during the era of Napoleon III was even more dramatically transformed through the vast eminent domain project known as Haussmannization, and Charles Marville, an enigmatic photographer, was charged with documenting those changes. A long-awaited show at the Met, curated by the National Gallery’s Sarah Kennel, is devoted to the legacy of one of the least-studied of 19th-century French photographers. The results are stunning. Read More

On View

‘Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video’ at the Guggenheim

'Untitled (Woman and daughter with makeup)' (1990) by Weems. (© Carrie Mae Weems/The Art Institute of Chicago, courtesy the Guggenheim)

Last week, in a feat of inept timing, a magazine published, on Martin Luther King Day, a photograph of the pert Russian art collector Dasha Zhukova posed on a Bjarne Melgaard chair crafted to resemble a voluptuous and supine black woman.

It so happens that later in the week the Guggenheim opened a retrospective of the work of Carrie Mae Weems. The exhibition, curated by Kathryn Delmez, surveys the MacArthur Grant-winning artist’s 30-year career, over which she has contributed considerable thought to the place of the black, female body in American life and art. Read More

On View

‘Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New’ at the Museum of Modern Art

187.96Luna Imaging, Inc.800-452-LUNA (5862)

Two years ago, when the late Ileana Sonnabend’s family donated Robert Rauschenberg’s famous artwork Canyon (1959) to the Museum of Modern Art, a condition of the gift was that the museum put on a show about the legendary art dealer, who died in 2007. Curator Ann Temkin has now fulfilled that promise, and the exhibition she has assembled will remind you how audiences experienced new art in the second half of the 20th century—and how sharply this contrasts with art’s reception today. Read More

The Year Observed

The 10 Best Museum Exhibitions of 2013

13 Photos

4. ‘Photography and the American Civil War’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

10. [Tie] ‘Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800′ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A show about trade, slavery and colonialism told through decadent textiles. The wars were bloody, the use of raw material and sheer craft stunning. Embroideries about colonial brutality, cotton Toile prints depicting Hawaiian massacres of pirates, and garments and wall hangings that embody literally tens of thousands of hours of labor. A sumptuous prehistory to global capitalism: People treated humans as objects and gave objects the status of people. Read More

On View

‘Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting From the Mauritshuis’ at the Frick Collection

'Girl with a Pearl Earring'  (c. 1665) by Johannes Vermeer. (Courtesy the Frick)

Walk into the Oval Room at the Frick to experience the shock of the uncanny—Girl With a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer’s 1665 painting, is that familiar. You know this face, the blond girl’s bird-like bone structure raked with luminous light. She doesn’t look divine so much as she does like a graceful mortal: an early capitalist Madonna  in shot-silk garment and yellow-and-blue turban. This painting, which has not been lent out by the Royal Picture Gallery, Mauritshuis, the Hague, in almost 30 years, is now on display along with 14 other works from the Dutch Golden Age of painting while the Royal Picture Gallery is closed for renovation and expansion. Read More

On View

‘Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art’ at the Grey Art Gallery and the Studio Museum in Harlem

'Superman 51' (1977) by Papo Colo.

A joke, credited in the “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” catalog to the young artist Simon Fujiwara, might summarize how one feels after a recent week packed with Performa-related events: “How many performance artists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” “I don’t know. I left halfway through.”

Two shows, one at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the other at Grey Art gallery at NYU, both stem from a single “Radical Presence” exhibition, curated by Valerie Cassel Oliver for the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston. Together, they showcase black performance art spanning three generations—from the Fluxus and Conceptual projects of the early 1960s to contemporary art. Even for audiences exhausted in the wake of Performa, both shows merit a close look. Read More

On View

‘Isa Genzken: Retrospective’ at the Museum of Modern Art

'Hospital “Ground Zero”' (2008) by Genzken. (Courtesy the Museum of Modern Art)

Isa Genzken’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, organized by a royal flush of curators (MoMA’s Sabine Breitwieser and Laura Hoptman, the MCA Chicago’s Michael Darling and the Dallas Museum of Art’s Jeffrey Grove, with Stephanie Weber) is one of the best major shows the museum has put on in a long time. Sculptors especially will find much of interest in Ms. Genzken’s approach to materials, and those curious about German postwar art have a lot to celebrate in the show, which puts on view many works never before seen in the U.S.

Like the work of a pop star skilled at self-reinvention, Ms. Genzken’s career is a bit of a hat trick. A thoughtful post-minimal sculptor in the late 1970s, she morphs momentarily into a painter only to become, in recent years, a political installation artist. With shows entitled things like “Fuck the Bauhaus, New Buildings for New York” (2000) and artworks that deal with terrorism and oil dependency, she is always topical. Read More

On View

‘Jason Rhoades, Four Roads’ at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

Installation view of 'My Madinah: In pursuit of my ermitage...' (2004/2013) by Jason Rhoades. (Courtesy ICA Phildelphia)

Jason Rhoades died seven years ago at age 41, but the influence of his energetic, sprawling installations and black humor on younger artists like Dawn Kasper, Justin Lowe and Ryan Trecartin give him senior-figure status in contemporary art. Rhoades is currently the subject of a posthumous solo exhibition at the ICA in Philadelphia curated by Ingrid Schaffner. Presenting four painstakingly reconstructed installations spanning the years 1993–2004, “Jason Rhoades, Four Roads” is the first major American museum exhibition of the West Coast artist. Despite the bad pun of the title, the show is well worth a trip to Philly. Read More