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.
“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 The show foregrounds their unpublished pictorial essay from 1948, “Harlem Is Nowhere,” which frames images of the neighborhood as both “document and symbol.”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.
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.
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 birthembracing film, installation, and sculptureshowcasing 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.
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 subtitlea, the, though, onlyprovided 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.
Sometimes the most obvious choice is also the best, right? Los Angeles’s sparkling new museum will launch its special exhibitions program with a career-spanning survey of photographs and a movie, Office Killer (1997) by Cindy Sherman. Sherman! Hollywood! Broad! It feels perfect. If there were an Academy Award for best acting in a photograph, she’d win. The Broads have collected Sherman’s work for three decades, and for the run of this showthe first presentation of the artist’s work in LA in nineteen yearseveryone who lines up to say “cheese” in Yayoi Kusama’s twinkle-lit Infinity Mirrored Room can step inside the adjacent ground-floor galleries for a selfie master class. To experience the enduring power of Sherman’s eccentric, original, and unending exploration of self-identificationas filtered through the American dreams, values, and popular media tropes that this city has both incubated and come to representwell, I’m excited.
Since the early 2000s, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz has made videos that interweave social engagement and speculative fiction. The artist works with nonprofessional actors from diverse backgrounds to collectively investigate economic, ecological, and political challenges within the Caribbean. Projects such as Archivo, 2001, involve the reenactment of personal and political crises, as if history could be altered or ameliorated. Others, such as the Creative Capital–funded Verano de mujeres (Summer of Women), 2015, make imaginative use of documentary footage of marginalized women to tease out possible solutionshowever outlandishto troubling social injustices within Santiago Muñoz’s native Puerto Rico. This survey will feature approximately ten works made between 2010 and 2015, including Marché Salomon, 2015, which presents a conversation between two Haitian meat vendors that drifts between observations of their surroundings and musings about their wares’ potentially divine properties.