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.

Gwenneth Boelens, Liar’s cloth (guileless note) (detail), 2015, diptych, C-print on aluminum, each panel 92 3/8 × 72".

“Gwenneth Boelens: At Odds”

MIT LIST VISUAL ARTS CENTER
CAMBRIDGE, MA
February 17 - April 16
Curated by Henriette Huldisch

This winter, the List presents the first solo museum exhibition of Dutch artist Gwenneth Boelens. The ten pieces on display—largely photograms the artist made in the past two years using chromogenic materials—range from the small and delicate to the large and unwieldy, creating a series of encounters in which photography is experienced as the result of the artist’s actions. Also present are sculptural elements in the form of an umbrella frame, yellow acoustic fabric wrapped around an aluminum rod, and a textile work adapted from a book about West African weaving. Like all of her work from the past fifteen years, this installation speaks to the contemporary idea of photography as a translation of subjects and memories into fragmentary compressions. Boelens’s practice is a timely statement on the possibilities of reanimating protophotographic impulses to trace, indent, and impress, and on the currencies of translation, versioning, and rendering.

Charlotte Cotton

Two self-adhesive name tags from Paul Ramírez Jonas’s Hello I Am, Hello I Was (detail), 2012.

“Paul Ramírez Jonas: Atlas, Plural, Monumental”

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON
HOUSTON
April 29 - August 6
Curated by Dean Daderko

An artist for whom audience participation is at the very conceptual—and ethical—core of his practice, Paul Ramírez Jonas creates work that is not simply for civic spaces but also interrogates how such spaces and the publics they serve are constituted. Over the past decade, the artist’s engagement with the mechanics of sociospatial interaction has become increasingly physicalized—whether involving the distribution of keys that offer individuals access to (alternately) a single tiny park or a city’s worth of museums and other culturally notable sites, or the creation of sculptures that formally mimic grand monuments but whose true function is broadly egalitarian, intended to support conversation. This midcareer retrospective features a selection of Ramírez Jonas’s work from the past twenty-five years, including site-specific interventions here represented by artifacts and didactic materials, and is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by the artist, Daderko, Bill Arning, Claire Barliant, and Shannon Jackson.

Jeffrey Kastner

Agnes Martin, The Book, 1959, gouache and ink on paper mounted on canvas, 24 × 17 7/8". From “Between Land and Sea: Artists of the Coenties Slip.” © Agnes Martin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

“Between Land and Sea: Artists of the Coenties Slip”

THE MENIL COLLECTION
HOUSTON
April 14 - August 6
Curated by Michelle White

The ghosts of Herman Melville and Walt Whitman haunt Coenties Slip, an inlet near the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan, where for a period of time in the 1950s and ’60s a community of artists, filmmakers, and writers lived—sometimes illegally, without heat or water—and worked in ramshackle warehouses (Ellsworth Kelly would drop in on Agnes Martin to eat her homemade muffins and talk art). The Menil’s compact exhibition of twenty-seven works by Chryssa, Robert Indiana, Kelly, Martin, Lenore Tawney, and Jack Youngerman will reflect the artists’ range—from Martin’s pared-down abstractions to a large-scale linen-and-silk weaving by Tawney—and rapport. While these renowned figures have enjoyed numerous solo exhibitions, the last show that focused on the group as a whole was at Pace Gallery in New York in 1993. Martin spoke of the slip as existing somehow outside the city, in nature. “Between Land and Sea” celebrates this place apart—a fertile if humble ground for modernism.

Prudence Peiffer

“Artists and Books”

BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART
BALTIMORE
March 12 - June 26
Curated by Rena Hoisington

Until the middle of the twentieth century, very few artists made their own books—and even now, only a handful think in the book format. However, numerous lavish or modest, limited- or trade-editioned books have been produced in collaboration with major artists. Many of the works in this exhibition represent the exquisitely constructed livre d’artiste first fostered by dealer-publishers in the early twentieth century; standing apart on conceptual and material grounds, and distanced from the deluxe portfolio traditions of printmaking, fine-press production, and the craft-driven arts of the book, are works by foundational figures such as Ilia Zdanevich (Iliazd), Ed Ruscha, Dieter Roth, and Fernand Léger. These artists brought conceptual engagement to their projects, thinking in terms of sequence, openings, framing, and the cultural semiotics of technology specific to the form of the book. The distinction between an artist-driven work and a publisher-initiated one remains vital in understanding the works in this field, and this exhibition, which includes important examples of both, should make clear where the greater interest lies—and where most museums’ print collections fall short.

Johanna Drucker

Deana Lawson, Living Room, Brownsville, Brooklyn, 2015, ink-jet print on board, 35 × 45".

Deana Lawson

CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM ST. LOUIS
SAINT LOUIS
January 27 - April 16
Curated by Kelly Shindler

Deana Lawson once described her inspirations as ranging from leather-bound family albums and lace curtains to acrylic nails and the A train. Her large-format photographs—mostly of strangers, many paired and in various stages of undress—are classically composed and lavishly detailed. Some of Lawson’s subjects hail from her Brooklyn neighborhood, but an interest in family, community, and the African diaspora has taken the artist to the American South, Haiti, Jamaica, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia. Lawson’s portraits (several of which will be concurrently on view in this year’s Whitney Biennial) are frequently characterized as “intimate.” Yet the particular access Lawson is granted does not exist solely where skin grazes skin or in the cramped quarters of a family’s studio apartment. Rather, the familiarity and affinity can be innate, even historical, persisting in the psyches of those separated by space and time but linked by collective knowledge and memory.

Isabel Flower

Paul Sietsema, Empire, 2002, 16 mm, color and black-and-white, silent, 24 minutes. From “Question the Wall Itself.”

“Question the Wall Itself”

WALKER ART CENTER
MINNEAPOLIS
Through May 21
Curated by Fionn Meade and Jordan Carter

This twenty-three-artist, pointedly internationalist exhibition pivots around the notion of esprit décor, an idea posited by the curator’s designated muse, Marcel Broodthaers. The term encapsulated a politically critical engagement with interior space—yet today’s “wall,” as the show’s room-size installations and smaller sculptures, paintings, photographs, and video works affirm, is a projective surface for anything from barbed commentary on globalization’s tilted playing field to melancholic cultural nostalgia. Alongside work by the razor-witted Belgian, expect to encounter Lucy McKenzie’s disjointed sculptural evocations of Adolf Loos’s architecture (Loos House, 2013), Nick Mauss’s painted-mirror room dividers inspired by the cryptic visions of modernist painter Florine Stettheimer (F. S. Interval II, 2014), Paul Sietsema’s filmic epic employing modeled domestic spaces connoting American and European imperialism (Empire, 2002), and Walid Raad’s incised, freestanding stretches of museum wall space, which consider the flattening effects of the Middle East’s nascent institutions on the art they house (Letters to the Reader, 2014). These walls, once questioned, talk.

Martin Herbert