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.
Both Zhang Hongtu’s political Pop of the 1980s and his recent canvases treat images of Mao Zedong, Chinese art, and Western painting like readymades, while somehow not surrendering to irony. The Queens-based Chinese artist’s first survey in the US will span more than sixty years of production. Early works include sketchy landscape studies and portraits of peasants that Zhang made as a student in Beijing and in service to Communist Party messaging, respectively. Not long after moving to New York in 1982, he began incorporating the once-omnipresent silhouette of Mao into a variety of mediaPing-Pong tables, Quaker Oats containers, a reproduction of The Last Supper, and so on. This brazen appropriation of China’s secular deity by a native reverberated in artistic circles and influenced a period of explicitly political artmaking. A catalogue boasting twelve texts by specialists in the field aims to contextualize Zhang’s remarkable practice and to affirm his legacy.
SculptureCenter’s Ruba Katrib has selected and commissioned sculpture, video, printmaking, and performance works from a strong cohort of eight artists for an exhibition whose curatorial premise is inspired by the Factory of the Eccentric Actor, founded in Petrograd in 1921. That group endeavored to employ biomechanical precisionin the way that circus clowns, magicians, and acrobats doto court the unexpected and produce illusion. Contemporary practitioners Sanya Kantarovsky, Adriana Lara, Ieva Misevičiūtė, Eduardo Navarro, Jeanine Oleson, Georgia Sagri, Zhou Tao, and Tori Wrånes similarly defy expectations with formally and conceptually reflexive works that delight and enlighten through off-kilter explorations of physical laws, media conditions, and social roles. A catalogue and a free program of new performances by four of the artists will accompany the show.
Anyone who has followed Anri Sala’s career will have noticed the key role acoustics play in his films and installations: modernist music, free jazz, punk rock, even just the sound of a lone snare drum. Often distorted through delays and echoes, a tune might at first be indecipherable: In Tlatelolco Clash, 2011, for instance, a recognizable version of the Clash’s hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go” emerges only toward the end. As in many of Sala’s works, the fractured music seems to echo the historical and political ruptures of the site where it is performedhere, a town square in Mexico City. With a catalogue comprising essays by Gioni and assistant curator Natalie Bell, as well as Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Tacita Dean, Mark Godfrey, Boris Groys, and Christine Macel, this major solo showthe artist’s first such outing in New Yorkwill explore the relationship between sound and site, music and architecture, in the artist’s work.
Los Angeles, 1981. Rat and Bear walk into a gallery speaking Schweizerdeutsch, looking for fame, money, purpose. Stumbling upon a dead body, they empty its pockets and walk off with the corpse. An unexpected opportunity arises, and they run with it. Robbing the dead and snatching bodies? It would be stupid of me to find a summation of more than thirty years’ work in this scene from Peter Fischli and the late David Weiss’s first film, The Point of Least Resistance. But the two artists have always seemed sympathetic to the uncreative thoughtdeploying it to brilliant effect, using forms others might have pronounced inert or worse: carved trompe l’oeil studio clutter, photos of gardens, a sculpture of a rock atop another rock. Often mistaken for being funny, their poker-faced works and laconic titlesEquilibres, Suddenly This Overview, Rock on Top of Another Rockcould be the answers to the universe or just a passing shrug. The Guggenheim’s spiraling ramp seems to have been waiting for the makers of The Way Things Go. Finally, this overview.
Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, El Museo del Barrio (in partnership with the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires) will revisit the Museum of Modern Art’s 1965 exhibition “The Responsive Eye,” with the stated ambition of presenting the history of Op art from a Latin American perspective. The show includes some seventy paintings, sculptures, and environments produced during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s by some fifty artists, including Julio Le Parc, Carlos Cruz-Diez, and Jesús Rafael Soto (who refused to participate in MoMA’s show) as well as several others whose “origins” are not South Americane.g., Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely. Yet many Latin American artists of the time strove to be universal, such that the necessity of a geographic perspective invites paradox. Surely the catalogue, with essays by the curator, MACBA director Aldo Rubino, Ariel Jimenez, Luiz Camillo Osorio, and Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, will engage this very issue.
In 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras became the message bearer for Edward Snowden, who contacted her to share documents revealing the NSA’s covert global-spying activities; their interaction formed the core of Poitras’s Oscar-winning documentary CITIZENFOUR. Poitras screened and discussed pre-Snowden research on US-government surveillance in the 2012 Whitney Biennial and returns this spring to mount her first solo museum exhibition, for which she will create a series of immersive spaces from a personal archive of materials related to her ongoing investigations of post-9/11 America. Poitras has long stressed the role of storytelling in her filmmaking, and this show promises a narrative experience for attendees, whose exploration of the space will be guided by distinctive architectural interventions. Not your typical exhibition catalogue, the accompanying publication, Astro Noise: A Survival Guide to Living Under Total Surveillance, will be a collection of original works from contributors including Hito Steyerl, Trevor Paglen, Ai Weiwei, Jill Magid, and Snowden himself, with a free version to be distributed at events internationally.