U.S. Museum Exhibitions

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.

“Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television”

THE JEWISH MUSEUM
NEW YORK
Through September 20
Curated by Maurice Berger

Kennedy-era FCC chairman Newton Minow wasn’t referencing T. S. Eliot when he called commercial television a “vast wasteland”—or was he? The mixed-media exhibition (and accompanying catalogue) “Revolution of the Eye” argues that, particularly in its formative years, network TV was a modernist form. The show draws on some 260 art objects, artifacts, and clips from the late 1940s through the mid-’70s; artists range from ex-Dadaists (Duchamp, Man Ray) and Pop stars (Lichtenstein, Warhol) to the great vulgar modernist Ernie Kovacs, with guest appearances by Dalí and de Kooning. Sampled TV includes Op-inflected Kodak commercials, the pop surrealism of The Twilight Zone, the pop Pop Batman, and Winky Dink and You, the original interactive TV show that inspired countless children to draw on their TVs and George Landow to make underground movies. Travels to the Nova Southeastern University Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Oct. 17, 2015–Sept. 28, 2016, and other venues.

J. Hoberman

Zanele Muholi, Collen Mfazwe, August House, Johannesburg, 2012, gelatin silver print, 34 × 24".

“Zanele Muholi: Isibinelo/Evidence”

BROOKLYN MUSEUM
NEW YORK
Through November 1
Curated by Catherine J. Morris and Eugenie Tsai

As South Africans commemorated twenty years of postapartheid democracy last year, Johannesburg-based photographer Zanele Muholi was documenting the violence that persists against the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities. The series “Faces and Phases,” 2006–14, for example, like much of the work of this self-described “visual activist,” measures the distance between the liberties enshrined in South Africa’s lauded constitution and the sexual violence and hate crimes that continue to be committed against local women, especially black lesbians. Following on the heels of Muholi’s recent showings at the 2013 Venice Biennale and Documenta 13 in 2012, this exhibition draws together nearly ninety of her photographs, videos, and installations since 2007 under the theme of isibinelo, a Zulu word suggesting evidence to behold or an example to witness.

Leora Maltz-Leca

Gordon Parks, Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas, 1950, gelatin silver print, 14 × 11". © The Gordon Parks Foundation.

“Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott”

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON
BOSTON
Through September 13
Curated by Karen Haas

Even before photojournalist, director, and author Gordon Parks was “Gordon Parks,” his biographical arc—youthful escape from the black quotidian followed by loving, professional return—seemed as much his subject as whatever might be before his lens. Parks was born in segregated Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912; in 1950, he went home as Life magazine’s first black photographer to capture the adult circumstances of his elementary school classmates. His document of the pre–Brown v. Board moment wasn’t published (Life covered General MacArthur’s 1951 canning by Truman instead), but curator Karen Haas has recovered it in the form of forty-one select prints and a more expansive book introduced by renowned author Isabel Wilkerson. Most striking may be the reminder of how painfully unsettled Parks’s physical and psychic geographies remain for us. Fort Scott sits just southeast of Topeka, site of the “board” in Brown v. and only “4 h 40 minutes without traffic,” Google Maps assures us, from Ferguson, Missouri.

Gary Dauphin

Doris Salcedo

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART | CHICAGO
CHICAGO
Through May 24
Curated by Madeleine Grynsztejn and Julie Rodrigues Widholm

Doris Salcedo has spent much of the past thirty years exploring how the banal trappings of domestic life might bear the traces and traumas of those who lived amid them. Although the resulting sculptures address the cycles of political violence that have scarred her native Colombia, they are never dependent on the knowledge of specific events, operating instead by means of an unsettling embodiment of absence. This first retrospective of Salcedo’s career brings together a comprehensive selection of her sculptural production since the late 1980s alongside her newest works, which trade in the heavy solidity of concrete-filled armoires and chairs for the fragility of rose petals and raw silk. The exhibition will be accompanied by a new film documenting Salcedo’s site-specific installations and a catalogue with contributions by the artist, Elizabeth Adan, Katherine Brinson, and Helen Molesworth. Travels to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, June 26–Oct. 14.

Megan Sullivan

Gabriel Sierra

THE RENAISSANCE SOCIETY
CHICAGO
Through June 28
Curated by Solveig Øvstebø

Gabriel Sierra’s first solo show in a US institution finds the Colombian artist reflecting on the life of natural and built spaces. Does the experience of walking on grass, earth, or straw change when these materials are transposed into the gallery environment? Does the exhibition space—not only its defined architecture but also the lighting and the positioning of objects—inform our perception of these materials? Do we experience differently the surfaces of synthetic substances, whose skins artificially bind their disparate innards, and those of their natural counterparts, where inside and outside are inextricably interwoven? A series of small rooms, produced for the occasion, reconsiders natural and man-made construction in art and design. The show and attendant catalogue strike up a dialogue between materials and explore the relationship between rooms we move through and those we move within.

Chus Martínez

“Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography”

J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM
LOS ANGELES
Through September 6
Curated by Virginia Heckert

Exactly what photography is at this point is an open question. Proliferating digital technologies and omnipresent smartphone cameras have made photographic imaging ridiculously easy, costless, and ubiquitous—a flow of experiences rather than staccato decisive moments. Reflecting on the fundamental nature of the medium, a host of contemporary artist-photographers have been experimenting with the medium’s obsolescing materials and practices. Some expose outdated papers, some scratch or waterlog their prints, and some reject the photographic apparatus wholesale—generating controversy while challenging notions of what defines a photograph. This timely exhibition and catalogue showcase seven key artists in this surging debate: Matthew Brandt, Marco Breuer, John Chiara, Chris McCaw, Lisa Oppenheim, Alison Rossiter, and James Welling, alongside process-focused predecessors including Man Ray, and Henry Holmes Smith. Whether the present generation is reinventing photography or merely picking over its still-warm corpse remains to be seen.

Brian Wallis