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.

“Marvelous Objects: Surrealist Sculpture from Paris to New York”

HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN
WASHINGTON, DC
Through February 15
Curated by Valerie Fletcher

This comprehensive survey will include more than one hundred works of Surrealist sculpture by some twenty artists based throughout Europe and the US in addition to an unanticipated selection of Man Ray’s rayographs, shots of “La Poupťe” by Hans Bellmer, and transgendering photographs by Claude Cahun. So extensive an overview necessarily includes automatic, biomorphic works such as Jean Arp’s Shirt Front and Fork, 1922, and Henry Moore’s Stringed Figure, No. 1, 1937, as well as parallel efforts by Noguchi and Calder. This biomorphism counters Surrealism’s equally marked strain of free association as revealed by DalŪ’s Lobster Telephone, 1936, even as David Smith’s Saw Head and Chain Head, both 1933, illuminate the germ of an incubating Abstract Expressionism. Last, inviolate mutism is emblematic in Duchamp’s found objects. Small wonder that Surrealism’s iconoclastic and poetic sprawl retains its appeal.

Robert Pincus-Witten

Agnieszka Polska, I Am the Mouth II, 2014, HD video, color, sound, 5 minutes 45 seconds. From “Suspended Animation.”

“Suspended Animation”

HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN
WASHINGTON, DC
Through March 12, 2017
Curated by Gianni Jetzer

Animated film has come a long way since J. Stuart Blackton’s pioneering Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906), with its crude sequences of goofy chalkboard drawings. An evolving palette of digital animation technologies—motion capture, ever more detailed 3-D visualization—shapes not only mainstream culture but, increasingly, the work of artists (and the oft-unsung technicians to whom they outsource their production). “Suspended Animation” brings together Ed Atkins, Antoine Catala, Ian Cheng, Josh Kline, Helen Marten, and Agnieszka Polska, an international hexad whose practices are differentiated enough to suggest not only computer animation’s pervasiveness but also its flexibility—witness Atkins’s emotive avatars adrift in an uncanny valley, Cheng’s simulations mutating in real time, Polska’s fluent digital-psychedelic effects, and Marten’s loquacious skeuomorphic crossbreeds. In spite of these individual approaches, expect a shared responsiveness to the digital age’s manifold crises, from the specter of surveillance to the collapse of distinctions between virtual and physical realities.

Martin Herbert

Tala Madani, The Gift, 2015, oil on linen, 20 ◊ 17 1/8".

“Tala Madani: First Light”

CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM ST. LOUIS
SAINT LOUIS
Through April 3
Curated by Kelly Shindler and Henriette Huldisch

Cock-dragging baby-men leer with amusing hubris and dazed melancholy in the paintings and stop-motion animations of Tala Madani. In this exhibition of works from the past two years, the Tehran-born, Los Angeles–based artist’s cast of rotund fellows prance and lactate in a sinister, metaphysical darkness cut sparely with light. A grim, corporeal humor bubbles through while Madani’s (mostly) bald subjects suffer odd torments; in one oil painting, The X, 2015, a figure clad in a black thong grins submissively as disembodied hands stretch his limbs outward. Opening at cam with nine paintings and an animation, the exhibition will expand when it travels to the co-organizing MIT List Visual Arts Center, gaining eight additional paintings from Madani’s series “Smiley Has No Nose,” 2015, and “Abstract Pussy,” 2013–, and a second animated video. Travels to the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA, May 20–July 17.

Andrew Berardini

Andrea BŁttner

WALKER ART CENTER
MINNEAPOLIS
Through April 10
Curated by Fionn Mead

Weakness is Andrea BŁttner’s strength. For a decade, the Stuttgart-born artist has coaxed often-minor media—inexpert video, casual photography, glass painting, wallpaper, even low-slung planters of live moss—into speaking of humility, poverty, shame, and (the refusal of) judgment. Whether woodcut-printing the text piece I want to let the work fall down, 2005; inviting cloistered Carmelite nuns to film their homespun creative activity (Little Works, 2007); illustrating a 2014 edition of Kant’s Critique of Judgment with sublunary, seemingly chance-determined images that cause adjudication to misfire; or repeatedly confessing her artistic influences, BŁttner skews from ego. The upshots, her first US solo exhibition will no doubt demonstrate, are numerous, from a catechization of art’s liaison with thrusting neoliberalism to a call for a reconsideration of belief—and its corollary, meekness—that feels quietly radical.

Martin Herbert

Yuri Ancarani, Il capo (The Boss), 2010, 35 mm transferred to HD video, color, sound, 15 minutes. From the series “La malattia del ferro (The Malady of Iron),” 2010–12. From “Architecture of Life.”

“Architecture of Life”

BERKELEY ART MUSEUM AND PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE (BAMPFA)
BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA
Through May 29
Curated by Lawrence Rinder

BAM/PFA celebrates the opening of its new building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with this epic presentation of more than 250 artifacts that sit at the nexus of art, architecture, and life itself. Encompassing a heterogeneous array of objects drawn from the history of music, science, craft, religion, and experimental design, among other cultural practices, the show and its multiauthored catalogue speak to architecture’s varied connections to “forms of life.” Viewed in the context of DS+R’s remarkable structure, for which the New York–based firm sliced through an old printing plant and fused it to a dramatically foreign form, the exhibition promises to remind us that architecture not only operates to regulate spaces, bodies, and psyches in the service of cultural norms but, like art—and, one hopes, this show—can open up new, critical prospects for encountering the contemporary milieu.

Felicity Scott

“Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia”

HARVARD ART MUSEUMS
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
Through September 18
Curated by Stephen Gilchrist

"Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia,” held at the Asia Society in New York in 1988, was a key exhibition in demonstrating that Aboriginal art was not “primitive” but modern. This show goes one step further in arguing that Aboriginal art is not modern but contemporary. “Everywhen,” a neologism adopted from anthropologist William Stanner, is a way of taking the Dreaming—the cultural and spiritual worldview of Aborigines—out of the past and placing it in the present. The show includes Pintupi artists such as Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, the Anmatyerr Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Sydney photographer Christian Thompson, Brisbane Conceptualist Vernon Ah Kee, and other native Australians. If New Yorker David Smith once made a work called Australia in response to Aboriginal art, and Texan Forrest Bess actually wanted to become an Aborigine, what Gilchrist seeks to prove is that Aboriginal art is not just “everywhen” but belongs everywhere.

Rex Butler