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 DION: MISADVENTURES OF A 21ST-CENTURY NATURALIST”

ICA - INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, BOSTON
BOSTON
Through January 1, 2018
Curated by Ruth Erickson with Jessica Hong and Kathrinne Duffy

Although the title of Dion’s first major US museum survey might imply a certain waywardness, in fact few artists can match the concentrated single-mindedness of his intrepid, polymorphously curious three-decade-long practice. Yes, Dion’s hands-on critiques of the protocols of cultural institutions—assays of the ideologies that shape collection and display, just as they shape our larger senses of history, value, and meaning—are often framed within a wry mode of address that would seem to subordinate the artist to the eclecticisms of his “specimens.” But Dion’s default mode is a sense of wonder at the realms of both nature and culture, and any “misadventures” onto which his works might lead are carefully designed to emphasize the wild variety of the world’s often overlooked astonishments. In addition to a new interactive sculpture-cum-salon titled The Time Chamber, this exhibition presents a wide range of Dion’s sculptures, installations, photographs, drawings, and ephemera and is accompanied by an extensive catalogue.

Jeffrey Kastner

Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporu (The Man Who Eats Man), 1928, oil on canvas, 33 1/2 × 28 1/2". © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos.

“TARSILA DO AMARAL: INVENTING MODERN ART IN BRAZIL”

THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
CHICAGO
Through January 7, 2018
Curated by James Rondeau, Stephanie D’Allesandro, and Luis Pérez-Oramas

Designed to introduce North American audiences to Tarsila do Amaral, a leading Brazilian post-Cubist painter, this show features Abaporu, 1928, a sweeping, Picassoesque depiction of a man seated beside a cactus, which helped spark Brazil’s influential Anthropophagist movement. Inspired by Amaral’s work, Oswald de Andrade penned the “Manifesto Antropófago” (Cannibalist Manifesto) that same year, invoking the indigenous ritual of eating the enemy’s flesh as a metaphor for the country’s transformative appropriation of Euro-American culture. (In the Tupi-Guarani language, abaporu means “the man who eats man.”) In addition to a thorough exploration of Amaral’s contributions to this key national-cultural project, the exhibition and its catalogue are poised to reveal other aspects of the artist’s practice, from her early work in Paris to her bracing depictions of the working class. Travels to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Feb. 6–June 3, 2018

Kaira M. Cabañas

“MICHAEL RAKOWITZ: BACKSTROKE OF THE WEST”

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, CHICAGO (MCA CHICAGO)
CHICAGO
Through March 4, 2018
Curated by Omar Kholeif

It seems almost inconceivable that Michael Rakowitz is only now receiving his first major museum show in the United States. Born in New York, based in Chicago, and obsessively drawn to the complexities of his own ancestry as the grandson of Iraqi Jews pushed out of Baghdad in the 1940s, Rakowitz has worked with remarkable clarity and consistency for more than twenty years. Named for a botched translation on a pirated Chinese copy of a Star Wars film, “Backstroke of the West” includes roughly a dozen projects dating from the late ’90s to the present, including drawings, sculptures, and documentation of Rakowitz’s many long-term projects marked by heartbreakingly beautiful gestures of replica and return. With a catalogue featuring texts by curator Omar Kholeif, writer Shumon Basar, and scholar Ella Shohat, the show offers a critical record of the artist’s compassion as he navigates across numerous lines of conflict.  

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Dara Friedman, Government Cut Freestyle, 1998, 16 mm transferred to digital video, color, silent, 9 minutes 20 seconds.

“DARA FRIEDMAN: PERFECT STRANGER”

PÉREZ ART MUSEUM MIAMI (PAMM)
MIAMI
Through March 4, 2018
Curated by René Morales

In one of her earliest films, Friedman slowly and systematically trashes a room, shattering plates, smashing chairs, and stomping dresser drawers. The Super 8 footage of Total, 1997, was printed in reverse, however, so what we see instead is a lurching, mystical return to order. As in many of the films to follow, from the two-channel 16-mm Bim Bam, 1999, to the cacophonous multiscreen Dichter (Poet, 2017), Friedman uses structural film techniques—looping, flicker effects, color fields, and asynchronicity of image and sound—to highly emotive ends. Though her films have gotten bigger and bolder—fifty-five singers perform in the forty-eight-minute-long Musical, 2007–2008, and sixty-six in Dancer, 2011, for example—her interests in intimacy, affection, and magic have remained. With two dozen works and an accompanying catalogue, the first midcareer survey of this Miami-based artist offers a welcome chance to track the movements of her evocative, empathic oeuvre over the past twenty years. 

Rachel Churner

Pascale Marthine Tayou, Masque délavé (Faded Mask) (detail), 2015, mixed media on twenty-five wooden masks, dimensions variable.

“PASCALE MARTHINE TAYOU: BEAUTIFUL”

THE BASS
MIAMI
Through April 2, 2018
Curated by Silvia Karman Cubiñá and Leilani Lynch

Tayou possesses one of the quirkiest and most irreverent artistic sensibilities around: Having abandoned the study of law for art, he revels in contradiction, mysticism, and delphic aphorism, all of which he cloaks in riotous color and sparkly lights. In this show—organized in close collaboration with the artist himself—Tayou will present a range of assemblages from the past decade, including his signature crystal doll sculptures, “Poupées Pascale,” 2007–17, and his chalk mosaics, “Fresques de craies,” 2015–16. He will ruffle the permanent collection and build a wall of neon WELCOME signs in more than seventy languages. They will all be “beautiful,” even as—and because—they participate in Tayou’s genteel efforts to decolonize the museum. Is this “welcome” a nod to the colonial encounter that produced modernism and its museums? And by beautiful does Tayou (following philosopher and critic Elaine Scarry) also mean fair, as in just? You decide, remembering that Tayou’s tongue is happiest in his cheek.

Leora Maltz-Leca

Jay DeFeo, untitled, 1987, Xerox, 11 × 73⁄8". From “Mechanisms.”

“MECHANISMS”

CCA WATTIS INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
SAN FRANCISCO
Through February 24, 2018
Curated by Anthony Huberman

“Mechanisms” situates itself in a tradition of machinic shows, most famously Pontus Hultén’s 1968–69 encyclopedic presentation “The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age.” But where Hultén filled MoMA's galleries with hardware—ranging from a race car to Robert Rauschenberg’s metal assemblage Oracle, 1962–65—and emphasized the items’ autonomy as objects, the roughly one hundred sculptures, photographs, videos, paintings, and site-specific installations Huberman has selected for “Mechanisms,” by artists including Aaron Flint Jamison and Park McArthur, demonstrate how all sorts of things, from animal traps to data-analysis software, structure their environments. For Huberman, mechanisms still take command, but indirectly. While Hultén’s catalogue had a tin-and-steel cover fabricated by a Swedish beer-can manufacturer, one can’t help but wonder whether the “Mechanisms” monograph, which features an essay by Huberman, will reach a wider audience on paper or somewhere up in the cloud. Travels to the Secession, Vienna, summer 2018. 

Alex Kitnick