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What to See at NYC Museums This Spring

February 16, 2018 - by Evan Levy
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This spring, New York museums are offering a mix of the crowd pleaser (think: Impressionists) and the edgy—sometimes under the same roof. So while spring may spring outside, it’s also a good time to stay indoors and see what’s new.

While it’s always fun to revisit favorite artists and works of art, one of the pleasures of museum special exhibitions is the chance to acquaint oneself with the work of formerly unknown artists. Case in point: Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil (at MoMA, February 11-June 3, 2018.) The first exhibition in the US to focus on Amaral’s works looks primarily at her output in the 1920s, her role in an international community, and her contribution to the emergence of modernism in Brazil. Abaporu, a 1928 painting, shows an isolated figure with a cactus, and became the totem of a movement celebrating Brazilian culture rising from the symbolic cannibalism of outside influences. The exhibit includes more than 100 works of art, encompassing paintings, drawings, sketches, photos and historical documents. It’s a chance to discover “Modernism” in a new context.

Also at MoMA: Being: New Photography 2018 (March 18-August 19, 2018). This newest edition of MoMA’s “New Photography” series focuses on notions of “personhood and subjectivity.” It questions ideas of portraiture, and looks at, among other things, masks and other surrogates as replacements for the body. Interestingly, the exhibit includes some straightforward representations of the body; other works may not show the human body at all. The work in the exhibit has been made since 2016; it’s the first time all the artists represented are having their work shown at MoMA.

The 2018: Triennial: Songs of Sabotage at the New Museum focuses on emerging artists—more than 30 arts from 19 countries. It asks the question: how can both individuals and collectives look at the connection of images and culture to the forces that structure society? The show offers not just a perusal, but also a call to action though the exhibit.

David Bowie Station to Station Tour JOhn Robert Rowlands

David Bowie as The Thin White Duke on the Station to Station Tour, 1976. Photo by John Robert Rowlands.

David Bowie is (March 2-July 15, 2018, at the Brooklyn Museum) looks at the creative process of the musician. On tour for the last five years, this exhibit represents its final stop. Containing approximately 400 objects, most drawn from the artist’s personal archives, the exhibit includes costumes (such as one from “Ziggy Stardust”), handwritten lyric sheets (including those from ”Fame”), original album art, photos and videos. Through the viewing process, viewers will gain more of an insight into the performer whose transformations helped shape not just music, but the way in which we perceive social norms.

Parks Sig Image

Up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence (March 12-July 29, 2018) focuses on the horticultural boom that reshaped the French landscape in the 19th century. Boulevards became tree lined, parks flourished, and artists from Matisse to Corot documented the change. The exhibition is drawn largely from the Met’s own collection. Fun Fact: New York’s very own Central Park grew and flourished during this same period. (Not a coincidence.)

At the The Met Breuer, the Metropolitan Museum outpost that houses contemporary art, Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (March 21-July 22) shows works from 14th- century Europe though the present—more than 700 years. The exhibit, which focuses on the human body and its various depictions through the medium of sculpture, looks to answer such questions as: how completely should sculpture resembles the human body? What are ways to do this? The exhibit incudes work by well-known artists such as Rodin and Donatello, juxtaposed with lesser-known works.

Over at The Whitney, Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables is sure to be a hit. (March 2-June 19, 2018). The iconic painting of a farmer holding a pitchfork, standing next to his wife, is among the most recognized works of American art, and the one with which Wood is most closely associated. This exhibit, however, also looks at more complex representations of his work. Wood’s art shows, on the surface, a reassuring world of solid American values, meant to reassure viewers during the Depression. The underlying issues, however, are often more subtle and complex.

Pockets to Purses

Looking for some fashion inspiration? At the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Pockets to Purses: Fashion & Function (March 6-31), has been organized by graduate students in FIT's Fashion and Textile Studies program. Focusing on both men’s and women’s clothing, the exhibit shows examples of, yes, pockets and purses from the 18th century to the present. Must see’s: a 1930s Cartier clutch, a Bonnie Cashin raincoat, and an Hermès Kelly bag. It’s true—you can have your raincoat, and wear it, too.

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