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.

“Picasso Sculpture”

MOMA - THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
NEW YORK
Through February 7
Curated by Ann Temkin and Anne Umland with Virginie Perdrisot

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.

Harry Cooper

Frank Stella

WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
NEW YORK
Through February 7
Curated by Michael Auping with Adam D. Weinberg

No artist of his generation has been remotely as productive and creative as Frank Stella, a distinction to be celebrated by a large retrospective exhibition at the Whitney this fall and winter. Michael Auping, chief curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, will assemble some 120 works—paintings, reliefs, maquettes, sculptures, and drawings—the earliest items dating from 1958, the marvelous exploratory year leading up to the “Black Paintings” of 1959, and the most recent, K.459, from 2012, a gray sculpture that, depending on how it is described, comes off the wall to the floor, or begins on the floor, and makes contact with the wall. The catalogue, a serious production, includes essays by Auping, Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg, and critic Jordan Kantor. Auping’s remark that “at the end of the day, the ‘Black Paintings’ are as much Rothko as Johns” is a particularly valuable insight. Travels to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX, Apr. 17–Sept. 4, 2016.

Michael Fried

Zhang Hongtu

QUEENS MUSEUM
NEW YORK
Through February 28
Curated by Luchia Meihua Lee

Both Zhang Hongtu’s political Pop of the 1980s and his recent canvases treat images of Mao Zedong, Chinese art, and Western painting like readymades, while somehow not surrendering to irony. The Queens-based Chinese artist’s first survey in the US will span more than sixty years of production. Early works include sketchy landscape studies and portraits of peasants that Zhang made as a student in Beijing and in service to Communist Party messaging, respectively. Not long after moving to New York in 1982, he began incorporating the once-omnipresent silhouette of Mao into a variety of media—Ping-Pong tables, Quaker Oats containers, a reproduction of The Last Supper, and so on. This brazen appropriation of China’s secular deity by a native reverberated in artistic circles and influenced a period of explicitly political artmaking. A catalogue boasting twelve texts by specialists in the field aims to contextualize Zhang’s remarkable practice and to affirm his legacy.

Herb Tam

“The Eccentrics”

SCULPTURECENTER
NEW YORK
Through April 4
Curated by Ruba Katrib

SculptureCenter’s Ruba Katrib has selected and commissioned sculpture, video, printmaking, and performance works from a strong cohort of eight artists for an exhibition whose curatorial premise is inspired by the Factory of the Eccentric Actor, founded in Petrograd in 1921. That group endeavored to employ biomechanical precision—in the way that circus clowns, magicians, and acrobats do—to court the unexpected and produce illusion. Contemporary practitioners Sanya Kantarovsky, Adriana Lara, Ieva Misevičiūtė, Eduardo Navarro, Jeanine Oleson, Georgia Sagri, Zhou Tao, and Tori Wrånes similarly defy expectations with formally and conceptually reflexive works that delight and enlighten through off-kilter explorations of physical laws, media conditions, and social roles. A catalogue and a free program of new performances by four of the artists will accompany the show.

Kristin Romberg

Anri Sala, Ravel Ravel, 2013, two-channel HD video, sixteen-channel sound installation, color, 20 minutes 45 seconds.

“Anri Sala: Answer Me”

NEW MUSEUM
NEW YORK
Through April 10
Curated by Massimiliano Gioni

Anyone who has followed Anri Sala’s career will have noticed the key role acoustics play in his films and installations: modernist music, free jazz, punk rock, even just the sound of a lone snare drum. Often distorted through delays and echoes, a tune might at first be indecipherable: In Tlatelolco Clash, 2011, for instance, a recognizable version of the Clash’s hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go” emerges only toward the end. As in many of Sala’s works, the fractured music seems to echo the historical and political ruptures of the site where it is performed—here, a town square in Mexico City. With a catalogue comprising essays by Gioni and assistant curator Natalie Bell, as well as Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Tacita Dean, Mark Godfrey, Boris Groys, and Christine Macel, this major solo show—the artist’s first such outing in New York—will explore the relationship between sound and site, music and architecture, in the artist’s work.

Daniel Birnbaum

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Untitled (detail), 1994–2013, 164 hand-carved polyurethane objects, paint, dimensions variable.

“Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better”

SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM | NEW YORK
NEW YORK
Through April 20
Curated by Nancy Spector and Nat Trotman

Los Angeles, 1981. Rat and Bear walk into a gallery speaking Schweizerdeutsch, looking for fame, money, purpose. Stumbling upon a dead body, they empty its pockets and walk off with the corpse. An unexpected opportunity arises, and they run with it. Robbing the dead and snatching bodies? It would be stupid of me to find a summation of more than thirty years’ work in this scene from Peter Fischli and the late David Weiss’s first film, The Point of Least Resistance. But the two artists have always seemed sympathetic to the uncreative thought—deploying it to brilliant effect, using forms others might have pronounced inert or worse: carved trompe l’oeil studio clutter, photos of gardens, a sculpture of a rock atop another rock. Often mistaken for being funny, their poker-faced works and laconic titles—Equilibres, Suddenly This Overview, Rock on Top of Another Rock—could be the answers to the universe or just a passing shrug. The Guggenheim’s spiraling ramp seems to have been waiting for the makers of The Way Things Go. Finally, this overview.

Wade Guyton