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.
Between 1900 and 1960, an estimated five million African Americans migrated from Southern states to urban centers in the North, a process accelerated in 1915 by the wartime industrial boom. In a series of sixty tempera panels created in 1940–41, Jacob Lawrence captured in striking color and form the experience of these individuals on the move. The paintings, usually split between MoMA and the Phillips Collection in Washington, DCthe show’s organizers, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culturewill be reunited this spring for the first time in two decades. Scholar Henry Louis Gates has argued that the Great Migration caused the emergence of a new culture, and Lawrence’s images bear witness to the massive social, political, and demographic transformations of the period. Seeing the paintings alongside contemporaneous responses in painting, photography, literature, and music will highlight Lawrence’s series as a trenchant reformulation of historical accounting in the modern period.
In 1960, Yoko Ono was part of a groundbreaking downtown scene in which artists of all stripes had begun writing short text-based scores using post-Cagean strategies of the “experimental” or “indeterminate” to open the work of art to unforeseen possibilities. While most used this approach to transcend painting, Ono’s twist at her debut at AG GalleryGeorge Maciunas’s short-lived pre-Fluxus spacewas to deploy “paintings” shot through with poetry, performance, and ambient, incidental media. Her now-infamous Painting to Be Stepped On, 1960, will be among the 125 film-, audio-, object-, and paper-based works brought together at MoMA, as will video documentation of her landmark Cut-Piece, 1965, an extraordinary engendering of the violence of spectatorship without boundaries. This overview, which contextualizes Ono’s “instruction pieces,” should allow for a further questioning of the limits and scope of 1960s innovation, including Fluxus’s antagonistic, if preemptive, relation to Conceptual art.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously quipped that a first-rate intelligence is marked by the ability to hold two opposed ideas simultaneously and still function. By this measure, Albert Oehlen clearly ranks among the most intelligent artists working today. Over the course of more than thirty years, Oehlen has assaulted traditional ideas of painterly subjectivity and taste while producing works of almost classical formal balance and (dare it be said) beauty. “Home and Garden” (to be accompanied by a catalogue featuring essays by Gioni, Mark Godfrey, and Anne Pontégnie, as well as an interview with the artist) uses the conceit of oppositions between interior and exterior to frame the artist’s ongoing dialectical approach. Amassing two floors’ worth of works from the early 1980s to the present, this show gives its subject his long-overdue New York museum debut and promises a healthy dose of Oehlen’s particularand influentialbrand of painterly intelligence.
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.
This spring, MoMA will host the first large-scale exhibition to grant international visibility to the photographs of Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola. The transatlantic journey of these creative partners (and, at one point, spouses) demonstrates that before the paralysis of Europe during World War II, avant-gardes emerged simultaneously in various metropolises of the world, eradicating the notion of periphery. Stern and Coppola left a Bauhaus closed by the Nazis to land eventually in Buenos Aires, where they hosted Argentina’s “first” exhibition of modernist photography and ran a commercial studio. Stern, in particular, conceived of feminist images that echoed the era’s widespread disenchantment with patriarchal societies. On view will be 250 original photographs and photomontages, 40 typographic works, 26 photobooks and periodicals, and four 16-mm films (many of which have never been exhibited), while the catalogue provides new translations of the artists’ writings, as well as essays from the curators and scholar Jodi Roberts.
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.