Shana Beth Mason recommends five exhibitions to see in New York between Frieze NY and Art Basel.
If you’ve already trekked to one of the five major global art events in the first months of 2015 (The Armory Show, Art Basel Hong Kong, the Venice Biennale, the opening of the new Whitney Museum, or Frieze NY), then the last thing you’d probably be excited about is more art-going. That said; experiencing contemporary art in a gallery environment is still head-and-shoulders over an art fair setting or braving crowds during an institution’s (temporary or permanent) opening days. Here are five reasons to stay devoted to contemporary art in New York at the peak of art-fair season.
Deborah Kass: America’s Most Wanted (1998–99) at Sargent’s Daughters
May 20–June 28, 2015
What happens when contemporary curators are cast in roles previously inhabited (in real life) by criminals? In 1998, Deborah Kass photographed a series of prominent curators over the course of a year, in the manner of police mugshots. On their placards, they are anonymous save for the police precinct of the city where they worked (or “caught”), a coded number (which, according to Kass, spells out the name of the institution that employed them), and the date when they began their work (or their “arrest”). Apart from a feminist, incredibly current iteration of Andy Warhol’s “Most Wanted” series shown at the World’s Fair for the New York State Pavilion in 1964, Kass brightens the spotlight on art curators as charismatic, mysterious figures just as Warhol viewed his criminals with awe and curiosity. What’s more, the black-and-white newsprint surfaces add a heightened level of “public interest”, just as a local newspaper continues to print the “public’s interest” in criminals and their activities.
Larissa Bates at Monya Rowe Gallery
May 30– June 28, 2015
For her solo show, entitled Mama Lengua: Mother Tongue at Monya Rowe’s Lower East Side space, emerging artist Larissa Bates showcases a series of small works that frequently intertwine appearances of traditional folk arts and the “finish-fetish” modernism of contemporary art, proper. Bates combines the use of golf leafing (associated most directly with religious iconography), tiny pearls, and rich layers of paint to build a conflicted picture of neocolonial and postcolonial values. What becomes of both conquered and conqueror after the dust settles? Even Bates wouldn’t venture an assumption.
Yayoi Kusama: Give Me Love at David Zwirner
May 9– June 13, 2015
Viewers come to expect psychedelic madness and wonder with Yayoi Kusama’s dotted paintings, pumpkins, mushrooms, and whole rooms. For the first time in the US, alongside paintings from her My Eternal Soul-series and several spotted pumpkin sculptures, David Zwirner presents an immersive Kusama installation called The Obliteration Room. The room is modeled after a mid-20th century, suburban-America interior cast entirely in white; over each and every surface, visitors are invited to place vivid, circular stickers to transform the space into a pulsating, almost hallucinatory environment where perceptions of depth, height, volume, and color are totally compromised. With this rousing exhibition, Kusama’s reputation for creating participatory, highly interactive artworks is taken to an even greater peak.
Hwang Young-Sung: Painting Beyond the Grid at Shchukin Gallery
May 27–July 24, 2015
Curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Felrath are no strangers to the draw of contemporary art from the Korean Peninsula: proof of that intimate familiarity was on display at a dazzling show of monochrome paintings from the Dansaekhwa movement last year in Chelsea. This time around, they bring together works from Gwangju-born artist Hwang Young-Sung: elements from his recognized body of mathematical grids populated by pictograms and strange symbols may be seen, as well as more off-kilter, experimental compositions. Despite Young-Sung’s noted use of calculated, pre-planned compositions, there are elements of whim, chance, and spontaneity in these canvases reflecting a sort of muted joyfulness in his interactions with the world around him. This is Sung’s first solo exhibition in the United States.
Yoan Capote: Collective Unconscious at Jack Shainman Gallery
May 28– July 10, 2015
Speaking of craft: when handcuffs are stacked to make a spinal column, when topographic features are the undersides of coat hangers, and when traditional silver gelatin prints become biological curiosities held in glass beakers, you know that the lines between art and life have, indeed, conflated. Yoan Capote’s solo show, Collective Unconscious, at Jack Shainman Gallery is an exemplar of both physical skill and intellectual prowess, presenting difficult social, political, and cross-cultural issues in visually accessible modes. Apart from being one of four artists representing Cuba at the 54th Venice Biennale, Capote’s professional accomplishments include was the recipient of an International Fellowship Grant from the Guggenheim Foundation in 2006, a Pollock-Krasner Grant that the same year, and a UNESCO Prize in 2000.