The following guide to museum shows currently on view is compiled from Artforum’s three-times-yearly exhibition preview. Subscribe now to begin a year of Artforum—the world’s leading magazine of contemporary art. You’ll get all three big preview issues, featuring Artforum’s comprehensive advance roundups of the shows to see each season around the globe.
Since the 1970s, Thomas Ruff has been developing the argument that whatever a photograph depicts, its true subject is ultimately photography itself. To this end, the Art Gallery of Ontario will present some fifty large-scale works by this well-known figure of the Düsseldorf School. The pieces, culled from Ruff’s various series from the ’90s to the present, trace the artist’s investigations into the very nature of imagemaking through his manipulation of found or appropriated archival images. Accompanying Ruff’s works will be items drawn from the artist’s own collection of photographic materials, ranging from Arthur Siegel photograms to a selection of Lucien Waléry’s Art Deco nudes to medical electrocardiograms taken in 1909. Such inclusions will reveal Ruff’s evocative dialogue with the material history of his medium.
Why do we still talk about the Internet in terms of driving a car? Networks, data, circuits: These are all non-spaces, incommensurable with the physical experience of distances or roads or freeways, yet we insist on using the most literal spatial termsremember the Infobahn?to describe them. I’m banking on “Electronic Superhighway” to rise above its Nam June Paik–derived title and kick into reverse gear, posing a new model for understanding the past fifty years of art, telecommunications, and information. The show begins with the digital present and works backward to the founding of the singular organization Experiments in Art and Technology in 1966, spanning more than seventy artists who have variously grappled with the aporias of the computational age.
There was a time during the 1970s when a number of American artists sought to align themselves with the distinctly British variant of Conceptual art. These were the days of Art & Language in New York, a congregation that ballooned to several dozen members before dissolving in some acrimonyafter which British Conceptualism dropped into something of a memory hole, even in the home country. “Conceptual Art in Britain” will provide an opportunity to relive this moment with hundreds of archival documents and seventy-odd works by uncompromising British practitioners like Michael Baldwin and Terry Atkinson, whose version of a participatory ethos asked viewers to match their own engagement across a stringent philosophical curriculum. By way of leavening that rigor, the warmth and wit of no less cerebral artistssuch as Michael Craig-Martin and Keith Arnattwill provide the complementary dimension of a vital time in art, much in need of recollection.
A renegade Cubist in 1920s Paris, Fernand Léger arrived early at the notion of a rapprochement between painting and architecture. In 1933, he traveled to Greece as a delegate to the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne; in 1936, he collaborated on a theoretical “Suspended House” with American architect Paul Nelson; and during the ’50s, he joined with Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand to advocate a “synthesis of the arts,” seeking to integrate modernism with mass media. These histories will be the subject of “Painting in Space,” a survey organized by the Museum Ludwig on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, which will chart Léger’s many collaborations with architects from the early ’20s until his death in 1955. Anchored by the jubilant mural Les plongeurs (The Divers), 1942, and showcasing architectural plans, textiles, and archival material, this exhibition promises to illuminate a critical yet underappreciated dimension of Léger’s modernism.
The status of the photograph as an artwork, and the status of the artwork as a photograph, are today widely recognized issuesbut when James Casebere began making stage-set-like maquettes as the subjects for photographs in the mid-1970s, he was producing a new kind of fusion and a new kind of fiction. And if the related work of his contemporary Cindy Sherman opened onto yet another arena of aesthetics, in her case performance, Casebere’s pulled in architecture. Enwezor’s retrospective will include fifty works from all periods of the artist’s career, notebooks and Polaroids that should illuminate his process, and four large site-specific works made for the occasion.
Paul Klee’s complex oeuvre, in all its disparate media, inspires continual reassessment. Using Friedrich Schlegel’s notion of romantic irony as an organizational device, Lampe traverses Klee’s careerfrom his rarely considered early reversed glass paintings to his iconic Angelus Novus, which will be displayed on this occasion for the first time in France, to his later work made in the shadow of Nazi Germany. At each step, Klee’s aesthetic whimsy is shown to be entwined with a self-consciously quixotic effort to reveal the transcendental realm beyond the visible world. With nearly 250 paintings, works on paper, and sculptures on display, the exhibition and catalogue invite us to reconsider one of the most individualistic artists of the twentieth century.