Newnesses in NYC Museums: Spring 2015

01/14/2015 6:49 PM |


Innovation is the theme for this issue of The L Magazine, our first of 2015. With that in mind, we thought it would be fitting to highlight some forthcoming museum exhibitions related to various sorts of newnesses past and present—from revelatory to reinvigorated, from innovative to renovative, from the never-before-seen to the now-reconsidered. Open up your journals and calendars—new ones, perhaps, or your same old apps—and mark them up accordingly.


Image courtesy The New Museum.

2015 Triennial: Surround Audience
The New Museum

The New Museum is clearly an institution that traffics heavily in newness, and their Triennial exhibitions are must-see shows par excellence, even if much of what you see might not strike you as particularly excellent. In a way, that’s not the point. Assembled under the conceit of being “predictive” of the future of art rather than “retrospective”—although “broadly reflective of the immediate now” might be the most sincere way to express their operative parameters—these now much anticipated exhibitions, of which Surround Audience is the third, tend to encompass all imaginable mediums, and then some, and to showcase enough artists and artworks to dazzle and bore, delight and disappoint, excite and depress most any viewer. To feel indifferent about the Triennial, in other words, is about as likely as feeling indifferent while riding a roller coaster. What’s more, while the publicity materials will provide you with plenty of information about the exhibition’s somewhat-less-than-novel intentions to depart from social-media-related thematics to convey how thoroughly we are now “surrounded by a culture replete with impressions of life, be they visual, written, or construed through data,” it’s still fair to say that you’ll have little idea what you’re in for. And that, perhaps, is the point. (Opens February 25th. More information here. In the meantime, Chris Ofili’s much praised show is still up.)


Russian Modernism
Neue Galerie

Though the works in this show will seem tame compared to those you’ll encounter at The New Museum, they nonetheless provide ample testimony to groundbreaking, indeed “radical” tendencies of yore—e.g. those coming to the fore in Europe about a century ago. Tracing the influences of French Fauvism on Russo-German artist groups like Die Brücke and the Blaue Reiter, Russian Modernism also aims to underscore the particularly Russian aspects of Expressionism. The Neue Galerie is superbly equipped to point out such distinctions with thoroughgoing care. (This exhibition was originally scheduled to open on February 19th, but it has been moved to May 14th to accommodate an extended run of the current Egon Schiele show, which will remain on view through April 2oth. More information here.)

Image courtesy Museum of the City of New York.

Everything is Design: The Work of Paul Rand
Museum of the City of New York

Design that doesn’t consistently reincorporate innovation of the forms of visual communication, especially within advertising, is tantamount to a stifled, even castrated version of the same. Visit Everything is Design to get a comprehensive glimpse of this Brooklyn-born designer’s efforts to continually broaden advertising’s sources of cyclical recyclings, from art movements rooted in painting to advancements in computer technologies. Expect to overhear references to Mad Men when you visit. (Opens February 25th. More information here. In the meantime, check out Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao’s beguilingly transfixing, temporally layered photographs of New York City.)


After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India, 1947/1997
Queens Museum

Billed as the first truly extensive exhibition of Indian Modernism to be mounted in the US, After Midnight seeks to point both to and away from two watershed moments in 20th-century Indian history: Indian independence, in 1947; and the nation’s fifty-year anniversary in 1997, around which time a rapidly globalizing economy and a variety of socio-political developments began to significantly reshape the subcontinent. For the show’s curator, Mumbai-based Arshiya Lokhandwala, as important as such moments are in Indian nationhood, they furnish more of a backdrop to Indian art of the era rather than primary subject matter. In other words, Indian Modernism and contemporary Indian art should not be tethered, at least not exclusively, to “stereotypical nationalist presentations of India.” Lokhandwala is coming to this with a historical-revisionist’s axe to grind. Expect to the show to be sharp. (Opens March 1st. More information here. In the meantime, check out Anonymous, a survey of contemporary Tibetan art.)

Stephen Somerstein, young civil rights marchers with American flags march in Montgomery, 1965. Courtesy of the photographer.

Freedom Journey 1965: Photographs of the Selma to Montgomery March
New-York Historical Society

Fifty-year-old photographs of a most momentous five-day march—taken by a then-student and journalist at City College, Stephen Somerstein, who threw himself and his cameras directly into the event’s midst—might not seem like the trappings of an exhibit full of newness, but that would be assuming that these photographs had seen much light in the past half century. Well, they haven’t. Before 2010, few of the over 400 photographs Somerstein took during that 54-mile march were ever seen at all. What’s more, the photographer himself—a career physicist who in the meantime worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Lockheed Martin—has only recently shifted his focus back to photography. Freedom Journey 1965 provides a revisited history, if not a revised one—and one that remains deeply relevant and resonant today. (Opens January 16th. More information here.)


Countdown to Zero
American Museum of Natural History

No, although it really does sound like one, this exhibit not a remix of the Guggenheim’s recent ZERO show, yet the “zero” to which one is counting down here might also be called “tomorrow.” This zero, though, is “zero cases”—of malaria, polio, guinea worm, river blindness, and other ostensibly eradicable diseases that continue to kill millions. In this show, innovation truly is all about getting rid of the old—for good, and for good. (Open now, through July 12th. More information here. As for other current shows… Well, it’s the American Museum of Natural History, a venue of inexhaustible intrigue, so just go anyway—whether it’s your first or umpteenth visit.)

Zuccone, by Donatello. Image courtesy Museum of Biblical Art.

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello
Museum of Biblical Art

This institution might seem an unlikely venue for exhibitions related to innovation or newness, yet what was the Renaissance, after all, if not a period quite completely defined by celebrations and accelerations of the same? Justifications aside—one could go on for a good long time—we have been itching to share news of this show since hearing about it many months ago, as it promises to be a most special one. Bringing together works by Donatello, Luca della Robbia, Brunelleschi, Nanni di Banco, and other artists and architects who essentially collaborated—directly and otherwise, perhaps a bit like a grand Florentine arts collective—on outfitting Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence’s Duomo, with finalizing structural accoutrements and sculptural embellishments, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello will read like a real-life pop-up textbook of which Renaissance aficionados outside Italy might never have dreamed. That, by the way, might well be true, since most of the pieces have never left the Bel Paese. As such, this aspect, too, is something new—for Italy, for our fine city, for the very fortunate Museum of Biblical Art, for those ever-extending annals we tend to ascribe to history. (Opens February 20th. It would be wise to get tickets in advance. More information here.)

Follow Paul D’Agostino on Twitter @postuccio