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.
To commemorate the centenary of Alberto Burri’s birth, the Guggenheim is organizing the most comprehensive US retrospective of the late Italian artist’s work yet. When Burri’s abstract compositions of torn and soiled burlap sacks were first exhibited in Italy during the 1950s, they were treated largely with disdain. Their abject materiality was an affront to a society still recovering from the devastations of war. Although their reception across the Atlantic was initially more positive, in recent decades the artist’s work has been framed as a mere precursor to later developments such as Arte Povera and even deaccessioned by American museums. By tracing Burri’s entire career, including his work in a broad range of mediatextiles, wood, iron, plastic, and fiberboardthe exhibition and accompanying catalogue should restore the artist’s work to the prominence it deserves.
Jim Shaw recently explained to me that “creativity sometimes comes out of moments of crisis”and when that moment is the apocalypse, the imagination gets wilder and more intense. “The End Is Here,” Shaw’s first comprehensive New York museum show, will foreground the Los Angeles–based artist’s longtime fascination with American cultural mythologies, marginal political histories, secondhand curiosities, and good old-fashioned religious fanaticism. Installed across three museum floors and accompanied by a substantial catalogue, the exhibition will include early drawings from the late 1980s and early ’90s; sculptures from Shaw’s notable “Dream Objects” series, 1994–; theatrical environmental installations; selections from a vast collection of found thrift-store paintings; and a presentation of didactic ephemera from homespun religions (think proselytizing pamphlets invoking hellfire). While flaunting Shaw’s technical acuity, the selected works will also reveal the artist’s talents as a soothsayer, visionary, critic, and historian.
The heart of Walid Raad’s first major museum survey in the US is neither a sly series of photographs nor a lo-fi video slipping between fact and fiction, but rather a theatrical stage set, built into MoMA’s vast atrium. There, Raad is scheduled to perform Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: Walkthrough, 2013, more than seventy times in total. Originally commissioned for Documenta 13, Walkthrough is the linchpin of a long-term project that explores the institutions and infrastructures of contemporary art in the Arab world. Raad’s first was, of course, the Atlas Group, the imagined foundation that investigated history and memory in Lebanon. The strength of this smartly contextualizing exhibition lies in stitching these two bodies of works together so that the seams bind the continuities in Raad’s practice while allowing for the departures and diversions that its tangle of art and politics inevitably takes. Travels to the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Feb. 24–May 30, 2016; Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Oct. 13, 2016–Jan. 14, 2017.
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.
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 workspaintings, reliefs, maquettes, sculptures, and drawingsthe 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.
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 mediaPing-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.