On View

‘Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties’ at the Brooklyn Museum

Emma Amos, 'Three Figures,' 1966. (© Emma Amos / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo by Becket Logan)

“We didn’t want a dream, we wanted a revolution,” the sculptor Mark di Suvero says in the catalog for this utterly captivating exhibition. “The art establishment ignored us. Pop art was just starting up. We were against capitalism.”

“Witness” thrusts you back into the world he is discussing in that passage, the 1960s of civil-rights struggles and political violence. Expertly marshaling its art (by names big and still too small), documentary photography, fashion and music, the show channels a time when the stakes were enormous—life and death—and when artists were digging in, serving as committed spectators and activists, testing what could be represented and how. Read More

On View

‘LaToya Ruby Frazier: A Haunted Capital’ at the Brooklyn Museum

'Grandma Ruby and Me,' 2005. (© LaToya Ruby Frazier/Brooklyn Museum)

Taken collectively, the black-and-white photographs that LaToya Ruby Frazier has been making over the past 10 years, pictures of her family and their social circle, form an unflinching portrait of life in Braddock, Pa., a city battered by economic depression and environmental degradation. Appearing in small numbers in the New Museum’s 2009 Triennial and the Whitney Museum’s 2012 Biennial, these photos looked out of place in their unfashionable emotional immediacy, which makes “A Haunted Capital,” her first solo museum show in New York, organized by Eugenie Tsai, a welcome opportunity to consider a large, strong selection of them on their own terms. Read More

On View

‘John Singer Sargent Watercolors’ at the Brooklyn Museum

Corfu- Lights and Shadows

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


Two Rembrandts Make a Trip to Brooklyn Museum

'Self-Portrait with Shaded Eyes' (1634). (Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

The riches continue to flow for Rembrant lovers in New York. Last year, London’s Kenwood House loaned its remarkable self-portrait by the master painter to the Met. Now the Brooklyn Museum has announced that two works by Rembrant that are currently in a private collection in New York will go on view there on March 18. They’ll be paired with four other Dutch works from the 17th century that reside in the same collection. Read More


Trash Talk: The Department of Sanitation’s Artist in Residence Is a Real Survivor

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, right, talking with Brooklyn Museum employee Peggy Johnson. (Photo: Carole DeBeer, courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

Last week, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who is the first and, to date, only artist in residence in the history of the New York City Department of Sanitation (a title she has held since 1977), was speaking at the Brooklyn Museum’s daily staff roll call. She told the museum’s crew of maintenance workers—among them window washers, security guards and floor sweepers—that even though their work can seem boring and repetitive, what they do is “the first kind of culture.”

The Observer met with her at the museum later that day. “Here’s the museum with all this stuff,” she recalled telling the workers, “and then there’s what you do. You are culture, and your work is culture. And the endless hours that will never be done, that’s what enables us to be in an institution like this. Mopping up the garbage from yesterday. It’s safe. And the things in here are taken care of. That’s culture. What I’ve been trying to do all these years is take those things that have been behind the scenes, downstairs, things no one will talk about it, and pull them into the zone of things to look at. I’m not just saying, ‘Oh, you poor things, you’re having such a hard time, here’s a chance to let it all hang out.’ I’m saying these are important subjects.” Read More


Brooklyn Museum Buys José Campeche Painting

The painting. (Courtesy Brooklyn Museum)

Last November, the Brooklyn Museum sold off from its collection a 1887 painting by Vasili Vasilievich Vereshchagin called Crucifixion by the Romans at Christie’s London for £1.72 million ($2.67 million). Today it announced that it used some of those funds to acquire a portrait, Doña María de los Dolores Gutiérrez del Mazo y Pérez, that Puerto Rican painter José Campeche painted around 1796. Read More


Origin Stories: ‘Materializing ‘‘Six Years”: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art’ and Mickalene Thomas at the Brooklyn Museum; Rosemarie Trockel and Judith Bernstein at the New Museum

8 Photos

Mickalene Thomas, Din Une Tres Belle Negresse 2, 2012

A century and a half ago, Gustave Courbet painted a close-up, spread-eagled view of a woman’s genitals and called it The Origin of the World. It is one sign of the extent to which women artists have taken ownership of such male-created images that no fewer than three major New York museum exhibitions of works by mid- and late-career women artists feature variations on Courbet’s erotic classic. In the past year, both this newspaper and The Economist have reported on the lingering inequities between women’s work and men’s on the art market. That may still be true, but, at least in New York, museums are doing their part—and that may eventually set things straight. Read More