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.
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.
This American survey of Picasso’s sculpture, the first in almost fifty years (since the 1967 MoMA show), will be unforgettable. With roughly 150 works, many from the Musée National Picasso–Paris, the chief lender and coorganizer, the exhibition will trace Picasso’s continual upending of the medium. The curators have decided to stay out of the way, allowing the story to unfold in chronological chapters corresponding to distinct periods when the painter threw himself into three-dimensional work. Sculpture, which suggests carving, is too tame a word for all the stuff that poured out of the playground known as Picasso; it is even hard to believe that it all came from a single artist. One highlight will be the first-ever reunion of the six ripped-open “Glass of Absinthe” bronzes of 1914, each embellished differently, mixing casting and assemblage, patina and painting, humor and monumentality, in a combined act of revolution. But there will be many others.
Black modernity, in its many splendors, is the focus of “The Freedom Principle.” The fifty-years-young Chicago music collective AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) grounds the exhibition in the rowdy and riotous 1960s jazz insurgency sparked by Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, and the AACM’s own world-renowned modernists: Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, George Lewis, Wadada Leo Smith, and flagship group the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The AACM’s ethos of independence and intrepid exploration has infused the work of two subsequent generations of Afrocentric modernists and futurists. Sharing space with a plethora of artifacts, including original printed materials and photographs from the AACM archive, are works by renowned fellow travelers AfriCOBRA, as well as by more contemporary conceptualist-Maroon operatives such as Terry Adkins, Cauleen Smith, Renée Green, and Nick Cave.
This exhibition reevaluates the vital yet understudied practice of Noah Purifoy (1917–2004), an artist and activist whose melding of collage and community outreach would influence numerous succeeding practitioners. Born in Alabama, Purifoy moved in 1950 to Southern California, where he would execute his signature 1966 exhibition “66 Signs of Neon,” whose works Purifoy and others crafted from the debris of the previous year’s Watts rebellion, and the sprawling constellation of assemblages (1989–2004) that comprise his Joshua Tree Outdoor Desert Art Museum. “Junk Dada” will feature a selection of modes from Purifoy’s diverse oeuvre, from collages to sculptures to installations, and promises to assert his importance within histories of the found object. The accompanying catalogue will include an interview with Purifoy; essays by colleagues, critics, and historians; and a never-before-published portfolio of the artist’s photography.
For his new project at CCA Wattis, Sam Lewitt will attach ten heaters designed for use in mobile-communication systems to the gallery’s track lighting, parasitically siphoning electricity to generate thermal rather than luminous energy. As in his previous work repurposing high-tech materials (his contribution to the 2012 Whitney Biennial employed ferromagnetic liquid, used in everything from hard drives to military aircraft), Lewitt here wittily underscores the degree to which physical environmentsand, by extension, contemporary neoliberal cultural and economic systemsare simultaneously strictly regulated yet highly flexible. Accompanied by texts (in a font designed by the artist), digital sensors, and a thermal camera to capture the infrared signatures of the heaters and of the bodies moving among them, the installation also reflects on the ways in which environmental conditions are registeredas both phenomenological experience and measurable data.
Since its founding in 1966, the Los Angeles print studio Gemini G.E.L. has enabled a vast and illustrious roster of artists to innovate their practices through interactions with master printmakers. On the eve of Gemini’s fiftieth anniversary, the National Gallery offers the unique opportunity to view seventeen series in their entiretyencompassing some 130 works made between 1967 and 2014and will feature artists associated with the 1960s prints-and-multiples boom, such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Claes Oldenburg alongside California locals John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Bruce Nauman, and Vija Celmins. With an impressive range of techniques and materials represented (lithograph, screen print, etching, drypoint, aquatint, mezzotint, and photogravure), this exhibition will argue for renewed scholarly attention to “multiple originals,” not as superfluous to an artist’s core practice but as a crucial mode of working through formal and technical problemsone with the potential for major breakthroughs.