Ilka Scobie trawls through the best art exhibitions New York currently has to offer. Scobie is a New York poet and art critic. Her publications include books, Any Island (Soncino Press) There for the Taking (For Zoas Press) Journals: Long Shot, New Observations, Phatitude, Poetry in Performance.
Jasper Johns Mind/Mirror at Whitney Museum and Philadelphia Museum of Art
Seminal master of modern art Jasper Johns is the subject of a simultaneous and comprehensive retrospective, divided between NY’s Whitney and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
All the iconic images are featured – the prescient Flags and Maps series, target paintings, prints, “things the mind already knows.” A veritable kaleidoscope of Johns’ works presents multiple viewpoints of the same ideas, ambitiously created in every media. The influence of Johns is momentous – from Abstract Expressionism to the inclusion of text, to Pop and beyond. The inclusion of works created during the Covid epidemic speaks eloquently of the 91 year-old artist’s indomitable energy. Cosmic, dark and mysterious, these works eloquently echo and explore the pandemic. A not to be missed blockbuster.
Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror Whitney Museum Until 13 February 2022 And Philadelphia Museum of Art February 13, 2022
Gillian Wearing: Wearing Masks at the Guggenheim
In her first North American survey show, British artist Gillian Wearing’s profound examination of self and use of masks in multiple contexts feels amazingly prescient. Now that masks are ubiquitous, Wearing’s use of masks explores identities in social context and explores masks as a subversive and seductive metaphor. Divided into series, the artist questions how family both defines and constricts. Wearing’s family portraits present the artist as her biological mother, brother, and as a young child. Another room centres on the artist’s spiritual family, a pantheon of photographers and artists, from Julia Margaret Cameron to Robert Mapplethorpe. The one consistent feature in the varied works are the artist’s actual eyes, piercingly peering at the viewer from the multiple characters she has meticulously created. A wallpaper installation with multiple images of the artist ageing is the fascinating backdrop of another gallery. I loved the gargantuan #D printed charm bracelet, with the artist dangling head, as well as the enigmatic Lockdown watercolour self-portraits.
Guggenheim Museum NY Until 4 April 2022
TRIENNIAL AT NEW MUSEUM – Soft Water Hard Stone
A massive contemporary survey takes over three floors and spills out into the lobby. Taken from a Brazilian proverb, transformation as a metaphor equates pressure with change. Over forty artists from twenty-three countries are represented. Echoes of Covid and the surrounding instability can be found in many of the works. Evgeny Antufiev creates shamanistic objects, ranging from hand-stitched masks to ritualistic objects, like goblets and crowns, all set against a collaged wallpaper of godlike figures. Cynthia Daignult. Survivor trees, witness trees from pre-Confederate days are rendered in gorgeous black and white paintings—magnificent exploration of nature and memory. Nikola Pottinger is a Jamaican artist who works with discarded materials creating her own paper. The three wall reliefs are all titled in patois and are a brilliant transformation of recycled materials. I loved the mysterious and textural abstraction of “Mek Moon Meditation.”
New Museum – Until 23 January 2022
Stanley Whitney TwentyTwenty at Lisson
The recently completed gestural and gridded abstractions continue the artist’s five-decade mastery. I first saw and loved Whitney’s work when it was included in a late nineties show at Art in General, “Crossing the Line” curated by Madeline Weinrib and Denyse Thomasos. That was also my introduction to the wonderful work of Marina Adams, Whitney’s wife.
Whitney’s series, “Monk and Munch”, can be viewed as modern mandalas for these fraught times. Always a brilliant colourist, the syncopated elegance of Stanley Whitney is on full display in this gorgeous show. In December, Whitney’s stained glass commission for the Baltimore Museum of Art will be shown, and a series of Italian paintings (where the artist has a house) will be presented at the upcoming 2022 Venice Biennale for the Buffalo Art Museum.
Lisson NY until 18 December
Olga de Amaral at Lisson
Braiding, weaving, and wrapping, the Colombian artist Olga de Amaral has spent a lifetime expanding the boundaries of textile art. This show is a superb introduction to her alchemical process. Viewers will be entranced by her sculptural screens made of horsehair and hand-spun wool or my own favourites “stones of gold” weightless gilded hangings that are both ponderous and poetic.
Lisson NY Until 18 December
Rene Ricard at Vito Schnabel – Growing Up in America
I was always honoured to read poetry w. Rene Ricard, a seminal and transgressive figure in the New York art and literary world. Poetry imbues this sampling of Ricard’s distinctive image and text works. These “poem paintings” might have windswept landscapes, romanticized figures or thrifted prints or photographs, then heavily transfigured with paints and pigments. Gems like “(Untitled)Elizabeth Barrett Browning” shows a child in full communion drag, replicating an old Portuguese communion photo. The wistful boy in “Eros” garbed in innocent white, holds a weapon, creating the possibility of love portrayed as incipient violence.
Also on view are hand-knotted rugs that are a collaboration between Rene and Madeline Weinrib. These originated as poems Rene playfully scrawled in a catalogue of Weinrib’s textile work. These woollen and silk treasures were completed just weeks after Rene’s death.
Vito Schnabel – Until 18 December
Alex Katz Gladstone Gallery
This untitled show needs no name, as the unstoppable nonagenarian Katz is a much revered and active NYC artistic eminence. I recently saw Alex at his son Vincent Katz’s terrific poetry reading at St. Marks Poetry Project. That same boundless energy that has Alex attending openings, readings and walking the Soho streets also imbues the recent work on view here. Simplified potent brushstrokes capture the geometry and light of trees and nature. Katz only gets better. A concurrent Katz show is also at the lower east side gallery, Tramps.
Gladstone Gallery Until 18 December