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.

Kathryn Andrews, Coming to America (Filet-O-Fish), 2013, stainless steel, paint, found object, film props, 104 1/4 × 54 × 43".

“Kathryn Andrews: Run for President”

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART | CHICAGO
CHICAGO
Through May 8
Curated by Julie Rodrigues Widholm

While Chicago is the birthplace of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the adopted hometown of POTUS no. 44 Barack Obama, the title of LA-based Kathryn Andrews’s first solo museum show in the US refers to a presidential campaign by—surprise!—Bozo the Clown. Fifteen seductive yet chilling sculptures, made since 2011, many of which amend certified movie props (among other political footballs thrown from the collective unconscious), will be appointed to a wild exhibition narrative for which Bozo’s largely forgotten 1984 bid serves as a backdrop. No clown rides alone, and the red-nosed candidate will be joined by an ensemble that includes Richard Nixon, Mr. T, Nancy Reagan, McDonald’s Captain Crook (who pirates Filet-O-Fish sandwiches), and Sammy Davis Jr. A catalogue with contributions by pundits Widholm, Kristine Stiles, and Hamza Walker (in conversation with Andrews) thickens the plot.

Michael Ned Holte

“Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago”

SMART MUSEUM OF ART, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
CHICAGO
Through June 12
Curated by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey

Although the term Chicago Imagist has become a familiar catchall for several generations of Windy City figurative artists, the movement’s intricate history deserves closer study. What better place to start than with the first generation, whom art historian Franz Schulze memorably described as the Monster Roster—artists closer to expressionism and (as this show’s subtitle would have it) existentialism than were the later Hairy Who? The beastly bevy includes names that remain famous (Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, H. C. Westermann) and cult favorites who ought to be better known (June Leaf, Irving Petlin), as well as others who have fallen into obscurity (among them Cosmo Campoli and George Cohen). The curators and their collaborators offer a welcome chance to revisit the creative ferment of Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s through a selection of more than sixty works by fifteen artists.

Barry Schwabsky

Gordon Parks, Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1952, gelatin silver print, 13 1/4 × 10 1/4".

“Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem”

THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
CHICAGO
May 21 - August 28
Curated by Michal Raz-Russo

“Invisible Man” traces the artistic collaborations between photographer Gordon Parks and novelist Ralph Ellison (an avid recreational photographer who utilized photographic metaphors in his writing) via forty-five photographs; numerous related objects, including archival manuscripts; and an insightful catalogue. The show foregrounds their unpublished pictorial essay from 1948, “Harlem Is Nowhere,” which frames images of the neighborhood as both “document and symbol.” This collaboration focused on Harlem’s free, nonsegregated mental health clinic, which Ellison described as “a three-color camera capable of overlaying multiple dimensions of experience.” Also included is Parks’s photographic essay for Life, “A Man Becomes Invisible,” 1952, a striking series of surrealistic images that matched the emotional tenor of Ellison’s Invisible Man, published that same year. Illuminating both the parallels and divergences between Parks’s and Ellison’s work, this show promises a new perspective on the pair’s joint use of photography during the civil rights movement, a period of heightened attention to the rhetoric of images.

Solveig Nelson

Kerry James Marshall, Black Artist (Studio View), 2002, ink-jet print, 50 1/2 × 63".

“Kerry James Marshall: Mastry”

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART | CHICAGO
CHICAGO
Through September 4
Curated by Dieter Roelstraete, Helen Molesworth, and Ian Alteveer

Kerry James Marshall’s art has long been read against the backdrop of the civil rights struggles of African Americans. Working within a self-imposed program of never painting a white figure, the sixty-year-old artist has spent decades offering a much-needed corrective to blind spots in Western pictorial traditions, while simultaneously representing histories too often left untold. The current climate of Black Lives Matter activism provides a devastating new lens through which to survey the Chicago-based artist’s work. Encompassing thirty-five years of Marshall’s oeuvre, and accompanied by a catalogue featuring essays by the exhibition’s curators, LA MoCA curator Lanka Tattersall, and poet and literary historian Elizabeth Alexander, “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” could hardly be more urgent. It is one of few upcoming exhibitions that promise to make waves beyond the art world. Travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Oct. 25, 2016–Jan. 30, 2017; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Feb. 26–June 17, 2017.

Jordan Kantor

“The Propeller Group”

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART | CHICAGO
CHICAGO
June 4 - November 13
Curated by Naomi Beckwith

The time-traveling sleuths behind the artist collective the Propeller Group will stage an exhibition whose inspiration, as chronicled in the accompanying catalogue, is a ceremony for reincarnation. The show will incorporate seven of the Ho Chi Minh City–based collective’s most critical forays into the ritualistic realm of death and birth—embracing film, installation, and sculpture—showcasing how these social-media-harnessing artists, obsessed with ersatz historic narratives and political spin, respond to the complex historic and current sociopolitical landscape of Vietnam. The group is fascinated with the contemporary maladies of a nation caught in the prism between communist ideology and neoliberal desire. Following their showcase at the Venice Biennale and solo presentation of The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music, 2014, at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, both in 2015, this first museum show is a must-see. Travels to the Phoenix Art Museum, Feb. 15–May 14, 2017; Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, June 3–Oct. 7, 2017.

Zoe Butt

Made In L.A. 2016: “a, the, though, only”

HAMMER MUSEUM
LOS ANGELES
June 12 - August 28
Curated by Aram Moshayedi and Hamza Walker

The third edition of the Hammer’s self-described locals-only biennial (although some participants lived in Los Angeles only briefly) arrives otherwise themeless, save for its cryptically beautiful subtitle—a, the, though, only—provided by the poet Aram Saroyan.While the show includes radically fewer artists than previous iterations (a mere twenty-six), it nevertheless showcases a broad range of practices, with musical scores by Wadada Leo Smith, choreography by Adam Linder, films by Arthur Jafa and Laida Lertxundi, public-access activism by Labor Link TV, Web-based work by Guthrie Lonergan, fashion design by Eckhaus Latta (who were interestingly also included in last year’s Greater New York at MoMA PS1), and text by Saroyan, who contributed an image and poem for the show’s catalogue, alongside more traditional media from painter Rebecca Morris and sculptor Kelly Akashi. The true flavor of any show can perhaps be savored only upon tasting, so it’s hard to speculate as to whether this one will shed light on what it means to make art in Los Angeles and why that might even be special. Perhaps this lacuna is the very point.

Andrew Berardini