This month’s selection of exhibitions are a varied lot. From geometric pleasantries to lascivious bacchanalia, SIXTY’s resident art critic Rob Goyanes has selected a little something for everyone. Perusing the art world’s three major nodes—New York, Miami, and L.A.—Goyanes provides what he thinks are the choicest art shows for you to visit. Herewith, a few of the best shows in January.
NEW YORK CITY: Bruce Nauman at MoMA and PS1
One of Bruce Nauman’s best known works—an early one, made after he graduated school—is a video of the artist pacing around in his workspace. “If I was an artist and I was in the studio,” the well-worn revelation went, “then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art.”
Since the mid- to late-’60s, Nauman’s shadow has loomed large over the art world—though Nauman himself is hard to pinpoint in the work. A giant exhibition is on currently view at MoMA and MoMA PS1, the largest of any to date. Called Disappearing Acts, the retrospective focuses on Nauman’s attempts to withdraw himself and focus on concepts like movement, surveillance, presence, and speech.
“One Hundred Live and Die” is a piece that, ironically enough, gets a lot of Instagram attention. The neon sculpture has 100 phrases, such as “Kiss and Die” and “Play and Live” in the same formula, which blink on and off at different intervals. Like so much of his work, which ranges far and wide in medium, it suggests the limits of language. Rather than taking a picture of it and experiencing the limits of the image, I recommend getting lost in the ceaseless binary till it starts blossoming. Running through February 18, 2019.
NEW YORK CITY: Mariam Ghani + Erin Ellen Kelly at Ryan Lee Gallery
You might remember learning about the Shakers in your American history class in high school. A Christian sect who arrived to the U.S. in the late-1700s, they sought to create a utopian society based on communal ways, celibacy, and racial and gender equality. Though a couple of those pillars remain desirable to large segments of our society, there are only two practicing Shakers left today.
The artists Mariam Ghani and Erin Ellen Kelly have a collaborative endeavor where they evoke the memory and history of a place through movement. Titled When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved, the video installation on view at Ryan Lee Gallery was created through their visits to the Shaker village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky. The village conveys the all-encompassing vision of Shaker theology, from architecture to agriculture to craftsmanship.
Between them, Ghani and Kelly have accolades ranging from showings at documenta to trainings with renowned Butoh masters. Today, Pleasant Hill is more theme-park-for-historical-reenactment than utopian society, but the artists’ research and body movement are likely to capture the great nuance of this pacifist, highly endangered way of life. Running January 10 through February 16, 2018.
MIAMI: AFRICOBRA at MOCA
It’s been 50 years since the artists comprising AFRICOBRA convened a meeting in Chicago’s South Side. 1968, a momentous year for so many reasons, marked the start of a group that would politicize art and bring greater attention to black visual culture and aesthetics. In 1971, they completed their most well-known and still-standing work, “Wall of Respect,” which includes murals of MLK, Malcolm X, Aretha Franklin, Harriet Tubman, and others.
Presenting works by the collective—pieces made by its members in the late-’60s and ’70s as well as their more recent work—MOCA North Miami is staging a critical exhibition titled AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People. Using figuration, posters, sculpture, and other mediums, AFRICOBRA focused directly on the experience of African Americans in vivid fashion.
With pieces by Sherman Beck, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Jeff Donaldson, and several others, the show illuminates the breadth of the group’s work. There’s Nelson Steven’s mix of geometric abstraction and black figures, as well as Wadsworth Jarrell’s brightly colored collages. AFRICOBRA was the fulcrum for a radical black aesthetic, and this is a great opportunity to learn about some crucial history. Running through April 7, 2019.
MIAMI: Aramis Gutierrez at Tile Blush
Disclaimer: this exhibition blurb is sorta NSFW. Though the exhibition title Twilight, Verdant Romps & Wading Pools may only provide a poetic hint, do understand that this art show consists primarily of—you didn’t guess it—paintings of orgies. These works are not for the prudish, but nor are they for those with bad taste.
They’re by Aramis Gutierrez, the artist behind the artist/designer-run gallery Tile Blush. And in true Gutierrezian style, the paintings are lushly rendered with an impressionistic elegance. Even though they include sex scenes in hot tubs and under tropical canopies, there’s a poise, even a melancholy to the works. If I had to identify a genre, I’d say they’re Softcore Renaissance.
The figures populating these lewd canvases? Members of Miami’s very own culturati, fellow painters, sculptors, DJs and designers, who posed for Gutierrez’ large-scale paintings. And the fact that they don’t use random nude models seems an important choice, like maybe they reflect upon the cliquish, gossipy tendencies of art scenes everywhere. Running through January 26, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Math Bass at the Hammer
I think a couple of good descriptors for Math Bass’s work include “tasty” and “satisfying.” The palatable palettes and clean geometries always bring me a certain type of joy, the kind that comes from a well-balanced dish, or the contentment of a cleaned room. When you see Bass’s work, you’ll likely want to slow down and really look, though you may not be immediately sure why.
There’s a few paintings currently on view at the Hammer. When I say a few paintings, don’t be underwhelmed: these works are monumental, spanning floor to ceiling, a scale that does justice to Bass’s mastery of shape and form even though she usually works against such magnitudes. They combine the artist’s interest in signs (as in Baudrillard, not stop signs) and design as communication.
A giant chic leg leads you down a staircase. An alligator speaks. There are symbological matchsticks and leaves and quote marks. There’s a mathematical order and a cuteness to these paintings. And though these may seem like simple renditions, there’s a conceptual rigor and intentionality that make these works about something beyond the things they represent. Running through March 17, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Fred Eversley at David Kordansky Gallery
The Light and Space movement—formed on the West Coast in the 1960s and ’70s—produced artists such as James Turrell and Doug Wheeler. Rather than the same-old recognizable (white) names though, L.A.’s David Kordansky Gallery is having a welcome show for one of its lesser-known stalwarts: Fred Eversley.
Eversley, who’s lived on Venice Beach for five decades, has had a storied career despite his relative obscurity in the mainstream mind. An aerospace engineer whose first solo show was at the Whitney in 1970, Eversley applied the physics concepts of energy, gravity, time, and light into his works. The show at Kordansky, titled Chromospheres, includes his continuing exploration of parabolic lenses that produce captivating optics and variegated scenes.
These lenses don’t just produce mere oohs and ahhs, they push viewers to reckon with the very mutable nature of seeing itself: you realize that things like position can alter reality. Using advanced techniques with liquid resin and pigments, Eversley creates far-out objects that quite literally bend space-time. These works will push your ideas of color, and of the universe itself. Running January 12 through March 2, 2019.
Header photo courtesy of @jenndiazzz via Instagram