Part I of this two-part Summer Museum Preview was in our May 20th issue. It featured a selection of exhibitions at a number of Manhattan institutions, including The Whitney, The Met, The Morgan, The Frick, The Rubin Museum of Art, The Museum of Biblical Art, MoMA, and The New-York Historical Society. In terms of borough-related reach, Part II is a bit more expansive, but my operative disclaimer from Part I remains the same: I’m shooting for relative thoroughness, at best, because our fine town is so full of great art and interesting exhibitions—no matter the season—that aiming for exhaustiveness is a fool’s errand. That said, I am fond of walking on my hands, and I’m a decent juggler, and I rather enjoy the feeling of accomplishment attained by running errands… Anyway, read up, mark your calendars, enjoy!
Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks
through August 23rd
Fervidly productive, to say the least, and fueled by a creative drive that seemed only to manifest itself in modes of highly energetic, ostensibly unfiltered expression, Jean-Michel Basquiat made art anywhere and everywhere, and he incorporated textual elements into his work with a mix of flair, conviction and apparent insouciance—to convey messages, on the one hand, but also to exploit the very forms of letters and words as so many more potential lines, shapes, colors and accents. Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks digs into a trove of relatively obscure source material for the artist’s anything-but-obscure output, furnishing viewers with a variably legible compendium of his inputs, processes, thoughts, and occasionally literary flourishes. The catalogue is a particularly relevant takeaway for this show, but if it’s a strain on your wallet, keep an eye out for Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Notebooks, which will be released by Princeton University Press later this month.
through June 21st
Many policies pertaining to travel and commerce between the United States and Cuba have yet to be hashed out by the powers that be, as we all know. But cultural exchanges of various sorts—e.g. in the visual arts, music, dance and sports—have been pursued with much greater frequency and sense of broader-reaching potential in recent years. One excellent example is Wild Noise, an ambitiously scaled project that entails not only an extensive series of exchanges of artworks and curatorial initiatives over the coming months and years—under the twain auspices of the Bronx Museum and El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes—but also exchanges of educational programs and artists themselves. If you can get to Habana soon, you can see the initial iteration of all that; the Bronx end of the exchange isn’t coming until next year. For now, though, you can still check out some Cuban art in Cuba Libre!, the Bronx Museum’s current showcasing of works from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection.
The Studio Museum in Harlem
through June 28th
This very wittily titled show does a lot to live up to its name. Naturally, the “style” here referred to as “salon” pertains to, on the one hand, hanging copious amounts of artwork on walls, which is one aspect of the exhibition. But in this clever show, the works themselves, entailing either material or subjective uses of hair and nails, are also conceptually stylized, so to speak, for their more quotidian relevance to hair and nail salons. A fun enough pun, but serious discourses arise out of the constituent works, from identity and gender concerns to issues involving social mores, politics and particularized economics. Does the museum itself, herein, become a critical salon (within a salon) of our questionable methods of polishing (or manicuring, or embellishing) culture? A lot of meaning and meaningful questions are woven into the mix. Pun, sure, intended.
Fine Arts & The Flat Side of the Knife
through August 31st
With seven separate exhibitions up through the summer, as well as a busy calendar of music and performance events outdoors every weekend—the latter, a series called Warm Up 2015, runs from June 27th to September 5th—PS1 gives you plenty of reasons to visit their grounds in the next few months. Among the exhibitions, one of the highlights is particularly interesting for how interesting it isn’t, in a way—or for how patently flat, in terms of mood as well as dimension, it aims to be. As you might’ve guessed, the show pertains in various ways to the existential void, or whatever, of the Internet, but it manifests its allure/non-allure via relatively large sculptures and lots of watercolors. A likely subject, let’s say, treated in a rather unlikely way—such is the hook in Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys: Fine Arts. Interesting in a very different way, and thus highly functional as an aesthetic counterpoint to Fine Arts, is Samara Golden’s labyrinthine, allegedly “six-dimensional” installation in The Flat Side of the Knife. One show might make you feel lost, the other all-too found. But which show makes you feel which way?
American Museum of Natural History
through September 13th
The Museum’s holdings of folios and rare books amount to approximately 14,000 volumes, and some of them are around six hundred years old. So the folks at the American Museum of Natural History have plenty of material to consult when it comes to selecting scientific renderings and related imagery for large-scale reproductions. Anyway, if perusing woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer alongside illustrations by Audubon sounds like your kind of thing, then this is undoubtedly your kind of show. Check out the exhibit’s source of inspiration, Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History’s Library, to whet your whistle. The book’s editor, Tom Baione, is also the show’s curator.
Museum of Sex
Splendor in the Grass
opens June 25th
Conceived and realized for MoSex by the Dutch designers at Studio Droog, this potentially very date-friendly exhibit—which for me was immediately compelling because its lovely title is extracted from a line from my favorite Wordsworth poem—aims to get all up into and atop your senses. How so? By way of an “erotic campground” (obviously!) involving tents, logs, campfires and other outdoorsy items so as to stimulate and arouse you au naturel, more or less—and to coax you into exploring more deeply some of your perhaps lesser-explored modes of sexuality. Mosquitoes and wild animals not included. Wait, why not?
Robert Seydel: The Eye in Matter
July 17th–September 27th
Like Basquiat, Seydel was far from shy about allowing text to factor into his spheres of visual creativity. Yet while the former tended to limit his use to words or bits of phrases, the latter deployed deeply involved storylines and multiple personas that feed off of and into his visuals. This is acutely apparent in Seydel’s magnum opus, Book of Ruth, a volume in which he traces the routes of inspiration and self-actualization of a fictional other, Queens resident Ruth Greisman, via notebook entries brimming with verse, prose, drawings, and collages intended to convey something along the lines of a “Queens of the mind.” The Eye in Matter will draw from this book’s original pages and be fleshed out by a great many other collages and archival materials. Also like Basquiat, Seydel died quite young and unexpectedly. Yet unlike Basquiat’s work, Seydel’s was rarely exhibited while he was alive. This show should ensure that it reaches many more eyes and minds.
through September 9th
In assembling the works and supplementary materials for this special exhibition pertaining to the many mediums, methods and methodologies of storytelling in contemporary art, the show’s curators went a respectable step beyond the necessary by involving writers, too, and asking them to craft verbal responses, in prose or poetry, to exhibited objects of their choice. This is a wonderfully neat way to tie together the many works in this abundantly multimedia spread—one that would already be wonderfully neat enough without the additional literary tethers. But it’s safe to say that in a show like Storylines, the longer the operative narrative thread, the merrier. On that note, it might not be a bad idea to bring your reading glasses.
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