On View

‘Blues for Smoke’ at the Whitney Museum

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Jack Whitten, Black Table Setting (Homage to Duke Ellington), 1974

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


From Brush and Palette to Printer and Cartridge: ‘Picasso Black and White’ at the Guggenheim, ‘Wade Guyton OS’ at the Whitney

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Pablo Picasso, Head of a Woman (Dora), 1941 (cast 1958)

IN ADDITION to being the most celebrated artist of the 20th century, Picasso is also the most difficult to pin down. So it is not surprising that an austere exhibition of his paintings, sculptures and drawings, ostensibly all in black and white, actually yields smudges of color: jade, olive, lemon-meringue yellow, midnight blue. Less surprising is the fact that the pieces on view—some 118 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, including 38 being shown for the first time in the United States and five displayed for the first time in public—are full of his signature muscular shapes. The show’s curator, Carmen Giménez, brought Richard Serra to the Guggenheim Bilbao in 1999, and her taste for the sculptural is evident in this exhibition. Read More


Spot On: Between Louis Vuitton and the Internet, Yayoi Kusama Is Everywhere

(Courtesy the Whitney Museum)

It should be impossible to make a dull exhibition of work by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, a feisty 83-year-old whose scale-defying work—”infinity net” paintings, polka-dot installations, happenings, as well as dabblings in media, fashion and commerce—might play equally well in a closet and an arena. Yet the Whitney Museum has managed to put on a tepid retrospective: a dutiful and limited presentation of an artist who is larger than life. Read More