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.
In the Beatnik decade, before Pop art went big and the contemporary market we know today began to take shape, artist-operated exhibition spaces in New York served as integral counterparts to the city’s uptown galleries. Artists could show and be seen at Tenth Street cooperatives (funded by members’ dues), including the Tanager, Hansa, and Brata galleries, and at off–Tenth Street spots such as the Judson Gallery and the studio lofts of Red Grooms and Yoko Ono. These spaces bore the collective and improvisatory spirit of the Happenings they hosted, but were also effective launch pads for many successful solo careers. “Inventing Downtown” will represent fourteen such venues with more than two hundred items: documentary photographs, ephemera, and artworks in all media. In addition to an essay by the curator, the catalogue will excerpt previously unpublished interviews with some twenty-seven of the featured artists, from Claes Oldenburg to Lester Johnson, Robert Morris, and Simone Forti.
Raymond Pettibon is coming to the New Museum. His first New York museum survey, featuring more than seven hundred of his drawings from the 1960s to the present, in addition to early zines, artist’s books, and video collaborations with his artist and musician peers, will be complemented by a star-studded catalogue, with contributions from Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Frances Stark, and Lynne Tillman, among others. Pettibon started his journey in late ’70s Los Angeles, where, instead of following the mainstream art-world itinerary, he became a preeminent figure in the early punk scene (playing in the nascent Black Flag) and then serving as chief designer for SST Records. A philosopher-artist and divine comedian beholden to no one, Pettibon galvanized youth rebellion with his pen-and-ink power chords. On second thought, it’s more like the New Museum is coming to him. Travels to the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, the Netherlands, June 1–Oct. 30.
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 voicesabsent 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.
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.
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 formswhether 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 representedfrom painting to sculpture, printmaking, installation, and documentationshould guarantee a rich spectrum of praxes and an abundance of surprising juxtapositions.
At the Renaissance Society, veteran sculptor Robert Grosvenor will show a large, makeshift work from 1989–90. Made from banal materialsstacked concrete blocks, Plexiglas, and painted steelthe 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.