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.
Bringing together some fifty images created between the mid-1920s and 1940 by both signal and marginalized figures such as Constantin Brancusi, Ilse Bing, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Jaroslav Rössler, and Lucia Moholy, curator Anne Havinga inherits the burden and potential of any exhibition devoted to photography from the interwar period, namely the challenge of tracking the medium through the realms of art, advertising, and journalism, as well as of encompassing the era’s diverse movements and eclectic caldron of styles. Havinga’s exhibition is sure to provide a complex picture of European avant-garde photography in search of its own essence and in hot pursuit of painting, cinema, and other validating modes of cultural productionin short, as an art form torn between the avant-garde and what the late Miriam Hansen called vernacular modernism.
William J. O’Brien’s feverish material explorations regularly succumb to restrained, taxonomical displays when entering the public arena. At Chicago’s Renaissance Society in 2011, O’Brien installed a tiered arrangement of modestly scaled ceramic objects. Last winter, he hung grids of felt compositions and framed oil pastel and inkwash works on paper at Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York. For this survey exhibition at the MCA, to be complemented by the first major catalogue devoted to the artist’s work, roughly one hundred of O’Brien’s abundant artifacts will be “organized like a poem,” with stanza-like groupings convening disparate objects including textiles, paintings, colored-pencil abstractions, ceramics, and glitter-coated assemblages. One of the show’s earlier pieces is a 2008 line drawing that depicts a nude clown with a conspicuous erection, riding a camel-like circus animalan allegorical figure that, in its Calder-esque clarity and simplicity of means, should stand out as an anomaly in O’Brien’s vast field of work shaped by intuitive, romantic energies.
Conceptual artist Christopher Williams’s first museum retrospective, featuring his trademark photographs, films, and videos from the last thirty-five years, is sure to be a nontraditional survey: Williams has conceived all three incarnations of this traveling exhibition as works in their own right, each fitted with site-specific interventions that will reflect on the architecture of that venue. An extensive publicationmore artists’ book than catalogueaccompanies the project, containing essays by Godfrey, Marcoci, and Witkovsky along with a wide selection of source material: lists, budgets, contracts, and manifestos authored by Daniel Buren, Morgan Fisher, and Scritti Politti, among many others. Characteristic of all Williams’s output, this book analyzes the parameters and conditions of its own production. Travels to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Aug. 2–Nov. 2; Whitechapel Gallery, London, Apr.–June 2015.
While appropriation and institutional critiquetwo of the dominant artistic strategies of the late 1970s to early 1990sare both invariably traced back to their roots in Conceptual art, scholarship has rarely investigated the intersections of these practices or the shared aesthetic, political, and theoretical engagements of the artists we divide between them. “Take It or Leave It” wants to rethink the way we have historicized the period, arguing that the two categories and their practitioners are in fact inextricably linked. With some 120 works by thirty-five artistsfrom Judith Barry to David Wojnarowicz, Tom Burr to Fred Wilsonthis exhibition will not only revise our received histories of the past four decades (as discussed in catalogue essays by Ellegood, Burton, George Baker, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Gavin Butt, and Darby English) but will also respond to recent curatorial takes on the critical and appropriative practices of the era.
In the age of digital convergence, film is increasingly becoming a touchstone for new media and video artno longer as antipode to these media (themselves divergent), but as constructed archetype for all moving images. Whereas earlier surveys have posited film as metaphor or have emphasized sampling and mimicry, the Hirshhorn’s two-part endeavor focuses on cinema’s cognitive effects. The first installment (Feb. 14–May 11) explores the ways time-based media transport us to dreamlike states; the second (June 19–Sept. 7), their ability to construct new realities. Forty works made between 1963 and 2006 will be contributed by nearly as many artists. The roster suggests we can expect everything from the sumptuous qualities of celluloid (Tacita Dean) to interpellation into the cinematic apparatus (Anthony McCall) to surreal projected video (Paul Chan).
“The little pencil is a magic box,” Lee Bontecou has said. For proof, just consult the Menil Collection’s retrospective of more than seventy of the artist’s works on paper from the past five and a half decades. Bontecou’s drawings (made not just with pencil but with soot and pastel, too) conjure all manner of super- and subnatural forms. Some are preparatory, detailing the fine seams, eerie contours, or affecting shadows with which her sculptures in metal and muslin cast their spells; other works stand on their own as pure vehicles of imagination, through which the artist divines hidden connections between gas mask and gardenia. In the catalogue, Menil curator Michelle White fits the drawings within Bontecou’s social context and larger oeuvre, while Joan Banach pores over the artist’s ledger sketches and critic Dore Ashton meditates on Bontecou’s enduring importance. Travels to the Princeton University Art Museum, NJ, June 28–Sept. 21.