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.
Despite Walther’s studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the early 1960s, a hotbed of European artistic talent that bred classmates such as Gerhard Richter; despite his subsequent four-year immersion in New York City, similar to stays that propelled fellow Germans such as Hanne Darboven to statewide institutional recognition; and despite his participation in seminal shows, including the Museum of Modern Art’s “Spaces” in 1969 and Harald Szeemann’s Documenta 5 in 1972, North America has still been slow to recognize Walther’s significance for the expansion of painting, for the convergence of art and design, and for time-, performance-, and (especially) participation-based art. This surveywhich follows Walther’s presentation at Dia:Beacon six years ago and will include historic video documentation of the activation of his sculpturesmay prove a game changer, at last.
Six sprawling symbolic “houses” inspired by those of black gay ball culture, including one dedicated to house music legend Frankie Knuckles and one to Muddy Waters; reprinted archival materials from the 1900 Paris Expo’s “Exhibit of American Negroes” in a two-step with correspondence from contemporary figures of note; new works from the artist himself, including a DJ booth, a shrine, and the video House Heads Liberation Training, 2016. With all of the above, Gates heads northeast from his home base on Chicago’s South Side to mount a show that extends his investigations into the ways in which black creativity might occupy physical and institutional space. Spanning an entire floor of the AGO, the installation updates the Paris Expo’s rigid proofs of African American humanityblack-crafted patents, black-authored books, dignified portraiture of and by black figuresusing more kinetic and acoustic evidence. Its riskier enterprise, though, beyond contemporizing a bygone world’s fair, may be its attempt to gauge the distance between free black asses and minds, working from Gates’s Chicago musical icons to larger, enduring issues of self-determination and survival.
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.
In the 1980s, underground stylist, designer, and art director Judy Blame collaborated with icons of the London club scenes from Leigh Bowery to Boy George, contributing to their queering of heteronormative identities and playing a key role in a subculture that expanded punk’s attack on Thatcherism into a broader subversion. It will be interesting to see how the works in the ICA’s survey of Blame’s oeuvreDIY jewelry designs, neo-Dada collages, editorials, sketches, and clothing, all documented in an accompanying limited-edition zinewill resonate in today’s climate of neoliberal crisis, which has intensified significantly since the ’80s. The exhibition title, “Never Again”which could be read as nostalgic, defiant, cynical, or outright nihilisticleaves the possibilities wide-open.
In the 1981 self-portrait from which Bhupen Khakhar’s retrospective takes its title, we see the artist standing nude at a balcony and gazing out over a town in which various scenes from an Aesop fable are taking place. Shortly after its execution, the artist acknowledged that the work represented his coming out as gay. At this show, more than seventy of Khakhar’s paintings, ceramics, and works on paper will present honest appraisals of self and society: Portraits of down-at-heel tradesmen from the ’70s will jostle with the artist’s uncompromising representations of sexuality in a time and place where it was deemed taboo, while late self-portraits will document Khakhar’s battle with cancer, which ended with his death in 2003. You can’t please all, but Tate Modern’s tributewhose catalogue will feature an essay by veteran art historian Geeta Kapurwill show how this artist made a virtue of not even trying. Travels to the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, Berlin, Nov. 18–Mar. 5, 2017.