U.S. Museum Exhibitions

The following guide to museum shows currently on view is compiled from Artforum’s three-times-yearly exhibition preview. Subscribe now to begin a year of Artforum—the world’s leading magazine of contemporary art. You’ll get all three big preview issues, featuring Artforum’s comprehensive advance roundups of the shows to see each season around the globe.

“Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals”

HARVARD ART MUSEUMS
CAMBRIDGE, MA
Through July 26
Curated by Mary Schneider Enriquez

Art, science, collaborative innovation, the risks and responsibilities of patronage—you couldn’t invent subject matter more fitting for the inaugural exhibition of the Harvard Art Museums this fall following Renzo Piano’s extensive renovation. “Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals” will present a set of paintings commissioned by the university for its Holyoke Center penthouse dining room. In 1962, Rothko made six abstract panels, each almost nine feet high; five were hung. Reflecting his interest in creating a space rather than its decoration, he also consulted on the walls and fiberglass curtains for the room’s ample windows. Despite these measures, the paintings quickly deteriorated and by 1979 were banished to dark storage. All six will reemerge, alongside thirty-two studies from 1961–62 and with the benefit of some conservation magic: The Harvard Art Museums and MIT Media Lab developed software that creates “compensation images” for projection over the canvases to virtually (and fleetingly) restore their original color. Light, once a vandal of the works, now plays the hero.

Prudence Peiffer

Sadamasa Motonaga, Work, 1962, oil and synthetic resin on canvas, 67 3/4 × 90 1/4". From “Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga.” © Estate of Motonaga Sadamasa.

“Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga”

DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART
DALLAS
Through July 19
Curated by Gabriel Ritter and Koichi Kawasaki

The past few years have seen the Gutai group catapult to the forefront of the ever-expanding history of postwar art. But the specificities of its members’ respective practices remain undetermined, a situation this two-person exhibition, co-organized with the Japan Foundation, Tokyo, seeks to remedy in part. For both Shiraga and Motonaga, the element of chance was central. Best known for painting exuberantly with his feet, Shiraga regarded abstraction as a form of live theater. Motonaga poured vividly hued paints, which pooled or ran in currents across his canvases, thus capturing the unpredictability of fluids left to their own devices. Including nearly sixty paintings, drawings, photographs, films, sculptures, archival materials, and re-creations of installations that cover the full extent of the artists’ careers from the 1950s to the 2000s, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue seek to illuminate how both artists so gleefully crossed the boundaries of painting, performance, and documentation—all in the name of abstraction.

Joan Kee

Devo, University of Illinois, Chicago, October 16, 1981. From left: Jerry Casale, Bob Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh, Alan Myers. Photo: Paul Natkin.

“Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia"

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART DENVER (MCA DENVER)
DENVER
Through May 1
Curated by Adam Lerner

Every band I have ever known has had at least one artist in its entourage; somebody has to make the posters and the album covers. For Devo, an absurdist punk-rock band formed in 1972 whose members were influenced by the aesthetics of Russian Futurism, just about everyone in the group was an artist—including Mark Mothersbaugh. The artist’s first retrospective shows us—with works dating from the 1960s to the present, including photocollages, kinetic musical sculptures, 30,000 underground-comics-style works on paper, and even a double-ended car—that Mothersbaugh is not only a great film composer (note his collaborations with Wes Anderson) but a polymath artist. A publication with contributions by Lerner, Anderson, and Shepard Fairey, among others, will further explore the artist’s life and his oeuvre, which ranges from mail art to the music of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Travels to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, June 21–Aug. 30, 2015; Cincinnati Art Museum and Contemporary Arts Center, Oct. 7, 2015–Jan. 5, 2016.

Josiah McElheny

“Barbara Kasten: Stages”

ICA - INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, PHILADELPHIA
PHILADELPHIA
Through August 16
Curated by Alex Klein

A good survey exhibition is both thoughtful in its assessment of an artist’s contribution and timed to a moment in which the public is primed to consider it. “Barbara Kasten: Stages” promises to be both, as Kasten’s measured engagement with photographic, sculptural, and architectural ideas since the 1970s is an undeniable precedent and prompt for contemporary postdisciplinary art practices. Tracking the artist’s remarkable trajectory through Bauhausian pedagogy and fiber art in the ’60s, the California Light and Space movement in the ’70s, and postmodernism in the ’80s, and culminating with her stellar recent photographs and a site-specific video work, this exhibition animates and provides access to a protean four-decade-long practice. In the accompanying catalogue, the long-underrecognized artist remarks in conversation with artist Liz Deschenes—one of a generation of younger artists influenced by Kasten’s work—that she feels as if she has finally found her peers. A new round of conversations and exchanges is about to begin.

Charlotte Cotton

Spread from Andy Warhol’s A Gold Book, 1957, offset lithographic prints and hand coloring on paper, 14 1/2 × 23". © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

“Warhol by the Book”

WILLIAMS COLLEGE MUSEUM OF ART (WCMA)
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA
Through August 16
Curated by Matt Wrbican

Given the attention afforded every aspect of Andy Warhol’s diverse production and legacy, it is surprising that his engagement with books has taken so long to come to the fore. Like last year’s anthology Reading Andy Warhol: Author Illustrator Publisher, “Warhol by the Book” seeks to rectify this situation, bringing together some four hundred objects associated with more than eighty different books, from faux-naive self-published pre-Pop titles to the fascinatingly dark Andy Warhol’s Index (Book) of 1967, which encapsulates the look and ethos of the Silver Factory at its height. Highlights include the lesser-known 1968 print portfolio Flash—November 22, 1963, the prepublication designer’s dummy and mock-up for the Index (Book), and a diminutive but intriguing Marilyn Monroe Book Maquette, ca. 1968. With no planned catalogue, you will have to get yourself to Williamstown to see these books in person. Travels to the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Oct. 9, 2015– Jan. 10, 2016.

Branden W. Joseph

Conrad Bakker, Untitled Project: eBay [Ding], [1960s Herman Miller Eames Rosewood Lounge Chair and Ottoman,
Caramel Leather US $4,300.00]
, 2014
, oil on panel, 9 × 12". From “MetaModern.”

“Metamodern”

KRANNERT ART MUSEUM AND KINKEAD PAVILION
CHAMPAIGN, IL
Through March 28
Curated by Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox

Midcentury modernism might not be timeless, but it’s certainly current. Photo spreads of the open-plan offices of today’s media companies suggest that nothing says thriving start-up quite like molded-plastic Eames chairs. In the mostly recent sculpture, photography, and video works by the twenty artists in “MetaModern,” the iconic qualities of such high-design objects are highlighted and claims to functionality abandoned. Modes of homage range from William Cordova’s Brancusi-like column of lampshades to Conrad Bakker’s painted copies of photos from modernist furniture eBay listings to Barbara Visser’s postcards of tattered design classics displayed on rotating racks. But the stars of the show are Charles and Ray Eames, making multiple appearances by way of citation in these twenty-first-century riffs on modernist landmarks. Travels to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, AZ, May 30–Aug. 30; Orlando Museum of Art, Sept. 26–Dec. 6; and other venues.

Martha Buskirk