February. There are few times of the year as appealing as this to hunker down and hit the galleries. These exhibitions, selected by SIXTY’s resident art critic Rob Goyanes, are sure to cure any winter malaise. Herewith, a few of the choicest shows happening this month, from mystical modernist paintings to saturated 1970s landscapes.
NEW YORK CITY: Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim
Swedish painter Hilma af Klint was making abstract work many years before Kandinsky, or any of the other male painters who are considered abstraction’s progenitors. When she died, her will said that her work should not be shown for 20 years. When it did come to light, it shattered art’s narrative about itself, though not everyone knew it.
A hotly-anticipated exhibition at the Guggenheim contains over 170 works by the artist and shows how this relatively unknown woman was making revolutionary gestures. Towering spirals, contemplative squares, and other colorful geometries populate these works. Also present in them is this mystical, spiritual quality—pyramids and other esoteric/reverent shapes.
There’s some serious art world buzz about this show: Not because this is the slick young painter fresh off their MFA, and not because the content is shocking and controversial. Klint was a woman just making work at the turn of the 20th century. That she wanted to keep the work hidden makes you wonder: Did she in fact know she would obliterate perceptions? Through April 23, 2019.
NEW YORK CITY: Samaritans at Eva Presenhuber
There’s a strange show at NoHo gallery Eva Presenhuber — strange because of the seemingly random mix of artists and works in the show. Upon closer inspection, however, you realize that all the artists have had some connection to each other, whether in real life or due to influence. Most of the pieces, which are curated by Dan Nadel, also share a similar sort of psychedelic-pop vibe.
There’s lipstick that pops and snarling cats in Ellen Berkenblit’s paintings; Carrol Dunham’s signature play-fighting figures naked amidst natural scenery; a violet fingerpainting by Mike Kelley. Though disparate, Nadel makes clear that the through-line of the works are concepts like myth, figuration as artistic mode, and idolatry.
A sculpture by Huma Bhabha sits distinct from many of the other more colorful works. Made from cork and styrofoam, it’s topped by a vaguely human head, totemic and unsettling. There are several currents running through this show, most of them creepy, though not terrifying. My suggestion is to take your time with this one, and really settle into the strangeness. Through March 3, 2019.
MIAMI: Terence Price II at ArtCenter/South Florida
The exquisitely titled Dancing in the Absence of Pain is an indication of the emotional acuity resonating in Terence Price II’s work. The exhibition, at ArtCenter/South Florida on South Beach, is the artist’s first solo show. Though the photographer-filmmaker is young, this is a significant body of work.
The images were taken in Price’s neighborhood of Carol City in Miami. Shots of domestic space and street space, from kitchens to sidewalks, reveal an intimacy of both the people in the images and of Price himself. They depict a tight register of everyday black life, the joys and mundane things, riding bikes and hanging with friends. There’s an aura to them that’s hard to pinpoint, and even harder to deny.
What’s for sure is that these photos capture something so real that it makes you question the whole art-as-artifice thing. At a time when many younger artists—the ones getting more attention—are pursuing post-internet and conceptual and/or performative work, Price’s show is a reminder that art can be utterly and indispensably real. Through March 31, 2019.
MIAMI: Judy Chicago at Nina Johnson
If you’re unfamiliar with Judy Chicago’s Atmospheres series, imagine this: plumes of purple, red, and green fog, wistfully dispersing across deserts, forests, and streets. Amongst the fog are women, whose skin is painted similar, unworldly colors. Chicago, a pioneering feminist artist whose career spans over 60 years, has photo prints of this series on view at Nina Johnson.
The starkly arresting works were conceived not only with aesthetics in mind, but politics too. Protesting the dominance of men in the art world and world itself, these works break out of the studio and institution and tell you to see things differently. The use of fog as medium results in some incredible visuals that are equal parts danger zone and fantastic idyll.
With alien-looking figures, much is left to the imagination. Chemical attack? Hippie intervention? Ecological mishap? Chicago was making a statement about the world, the way it’s structured according to the hard edges of patriarchy. The clouds climb into the air and dissipate in the wind, full of poetry and power. Through March 2, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Rauschenberg at LACMA
A huge figure who precipitated and then pushed the Pop art movement, Robert Rauschenberg is best known for his “combines,” wild combinations of many materials that dashed expectations regarding painting, sculpture, and practices in between. Born in Texas, and primarily working between New York and Florida, the artist also had a strong relationship to Los Angeles.
A show at LACMA is exploring Rauschenberg’s connection to the city. Southern California was the place where he first decided to become an artist, while stationed there during World War II. In the 1960s and 70s, he worked with print workshops Gemini G.E.L. and Styria Studio. It was there that he started to challenge the norms of printmaking.
The often gargantuan works really push one’s understanding of printing, even for contemporary viewers. The question of simply how he made these things looms large, but the mixing of material (both physical and conceptual) is what preoccupies. Throughout the exhibition, L.A.’s landscape and ethos rings out, and are like little time capsules. Through February 10, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Cristine Brache and Brad Phillips at Anat Ebgi
Cristine Brache and Brad Phillips are many things, but they are also wife and husband. They are both artists and writers, and though they have distinct flairs and preferences, their work sutures similar themes: the line between nonfiction and fiction, between self and other, irony and sincerity. A dual exhibition of their work is on view at Anat Ebgi and I am very jealous that you may go see it and I will most likely not.
The show is titled Epithalamiums, which are poems written for brides. The elegiac sensibilities of both artists come together in a collection of objects that deal with language: the words and phrases that we utter to each other in the hope of healing, communicating, or other sublime impossibilities.
Though some of the work might come off as cheeky, or making fun of corny stock expressions, there is a significant chance that there is a doubled intention at play. When lovers speak to each other, especially in moments of vulnerability, it’s then that they realize how language can so often fail us. But also that it’s all we have. Through March 2, 2019.
Header image: Judy Chicago, Smoke Bodies, 1972; from Women and Smoke, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Nina Johnson Gallery