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.

Aliza Nisenbaum, La Talaverita, Sunday Morning NY Times, 2016, oil on linen, 68 × 88". From the Whitney Biennial.

Whitney Biennial 2017

WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
NEW YORK
March 17 - June 11
Curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks

Following a three-year hiatus to accommodate the museum’s move downtown, the Whitney Biennial makes its Gansevoort Street debut this March. As the republic falls before our very eyes, one hopes that this divisive survey of American art will react against, and not just reflect, the current state of affairs. This year’s roster of sixty-three artists and collectives is thankfully diverse in perspectives and refreshingly full of emerging and underrecognized voices—absent are the many elder statesmen often gratuitously included in these affairs. The catalogue will include a conversation with, as well as essays by, the curators; supplementary texts by Negar Azimi and Gean Moreno; and an edited transcript of a filmmaker roundtable moderated by Aily Nash. With its key themes—“the formation of self and the individual’s place in a turbulent society”—this latest iteration of the Whitney’s signature show will, one hopes, be taking some pages from Elisabeth Sussman’s playbook for the storied 1993 Biennial. The timing couldn’t be better.

Beau Rutland

Louise Lawler, Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber, Inc. NYC (adjusted to fit), 1982/2016, adhesive vinyl, dimensions variable.

“Louise Lawler: Why Pictures Now”

MOMA - THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
NEW YORK
April 30 - July 30
Curated by Roxana Marcoci with Kelly Sidley

The success of Louise Lawler’s highly anticipated first New York museum survey hangs on the question of how this immensely influential artist will negotiate the demands of a retrospective, which all but necessitates the repackaging of the artist’s work into an “authoritative” reading. For principled refusal fuels every aspect of Lawler’s exacting practice, which is marked by the artist’s reservation with respect to doing what’s deemed proper for a successful career, and reticence, if masked by nonchalance, in response to the demand for a signature artistic identity. Yet another, more pressing question emerges: In what fraught ambiguities will the dark thread that has run through her practice of recent years, centered on the imbricated triad of patriarchy, capitalism, and war, manifest today? Lawler’s re-presentation of a multifarious oeuvre, stretching over some four decades, contains the potential to reshape the discourse that will govern its reception in our increasingly fraught times. Douglas Crimp, Rosalyn Deutsche, Diedrich Diederichsen, and five additional essayists contribute to a comprehensive catalogue.

Lynne Cooke

“We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85”

BROOKLYN MUSEUM
NEW YORK
April 21 - September 17
Curated by Catherine Morris with Rujeko Hockley

The title “We Wanted a Revolution” might seem to imply a wistful retrospection on the two decades that witnessed the rise of second-wave feminism and the Black Power movement in the US. Yet the 130-some puissant artworks gathered for this show promise an incisive exploration of black female radicality in variegated forms—whether the mixed-media assemblages of Betye Saar or Faith Ringgold’s silk screens of the people’s flag or a costume from Lorraine O’Grady’s 1980 performance Mlle Bourgeoise Noire. The exhibition will offer a rare opportunity to view works by Beverly Buchanan, Barbara Chase-Riboud, and Janet Henry, whose names have come to the fore in the past few years but remain lesser known than those of their heavy-hitter counterparts. The diversity of media represented—from painting to sculpture, printmaking, installation, and documentation—should guarantee a rich spectrum of praxes and an abundance of surprising juxtapositions.

Andrianna Campbell

Xaviera Simmons, Index Two, Composition Three, 2012, color photograph, 50 × 40". From “The Artist’s Museum.”

“The Artist’s Museum”

ICA - INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, BOSTON
BOSTON
Through March 26
Curated by Dan Byers

It’s hardly surprising that the art museum, with its deeply ingrained protocols of accumulation and display, has frequently been the subject of artistic (and curatorial) interrogation. Such institutional ambitions would seem to lie on the side of practices Walter Benjamin famously aligned with the impulses of “the collector”—one who “brings together what belongs together” and who “by keeping in mind their affinities and their succession in time . . . can eventually furnish information” about those things. But artists whose programs are based on strategic accretions of objects of art, science, or natural history more often than not fall under Benjamin’s rubric of “allegorists,” gatherers who dislodge “things from their context” and rely on their own insights to “illuminate their meaning.” “The Artist’s Museum” explores such procedures of artistic illumination via thirty-odd works by figures such as Carol Bove, Rachel Harrison, Goshka Macuga, Christian Marclay, Xaviera Simmons, and Sara VanDerBeek; a substantial catalogue with essays by the curator, Claire Bishop, Lynne Cooke, and Ingrid Schaffner accompanies the exhibition.

Jeffrey Kastner

Basim Magdy, An Apology to a Love Story That Crashed into a Whale (detail), 2016, sixty-four C-prints on metallic paper, each 18 7/8 × 28 3/8".

“Basim Magdy: The stars were aligned for a century of new beginnings”

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, CHICAGO (MCA CHICAGO)
CHICAGO
Through March 19
Curated by Omar Kholeif

Rainbows, prisms, and a bouquet of tulips with playful faces drawn on their petals. Industrial wastelands and barren cityscapes. Soldiers, superheroes, skeletons, and a giant squid paired with a rocket. Basim Magdy’s first-ever US museum survey offers an introduction to the Egyptian artist’s sprawling, cheerfully sinister visual vocabulary via thirty-six works from the past decade, including drawings, paintings, films, photographs, and installations that reveal a perpetual remixing of tragicomic iconography. Magdy’s materials (gouache, spray paint, pen, Super 8 film dyed with household chemicals) are seductive and nostalgic. But his use of text—axioms, aphorisms, and witticisms that are superimposed on photos and films—is by turns bracingly critical and wry. In the accompanying catalogue, Kholeif and four other curators parse the various tensions (“word/picture,” “past/future,” “digital/analog,” “hope/disaster”) at play in Magdy’s oeuvre.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Robert Grosvenor

THE RENAISSANCE SOCIETY
CHICAGO
February 11 - April 9
Curated by Solveig Øvstebø

At the Renaissance Society, veteran sculptor Robert Grosvenor will show a large, makeshift work from 1989–90. Made from banal materials—stacked concrete blocks, Plexiglas, and painted steel—the austere Untitled has a pronounced interior volume, a space that, because of its low top, cannot be entered. Appreciate this ungainly work from a distance or else feel thwarted because it cannot be breached. Visitors to Grosvenor’s shows never know whether they are going to find something graceful, massive, off-putting, or witty; a sculpture hung from the ceiling, spreading horizontally across the floor, or with parts perched on poles. During his more than five-decade-long career, the artist has never adopted a signature style, just a mantra: Expect the unexpected.

Phyllis Tuchman