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 Analects, Confucius says that fifty is a watershed year in one’s life, a time when one becomes conscious of the “mandate of heaven,” or one’s position in the universe. This has apparently not been the case for the fifty-year-old Beijing-based artist Song Dong, who has titled his midcareer survey “I Don’t Know the Mandate of Heaven.” The exhibition presents major works made since the 1990s, including paintings, photographs, installations, ceramic sculptures, and videos, offering a chance to examine Song’s eclectic yet consistent approach to art and life. His use of quotidian items such as old furniture and domestic appliances appears by turns indifferent and sentimental, but his works’ real poetic power derives from their engagement with a core idea in Taoist philosophythe dialectic between the individual and the world.
Shortly before the start of World War II, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a passionate letter advocating peace over war. It began “Dear friend . . .” and was addressed to none other than Adolf Hitler himself. This historic epistle is projected on a screen of fog in Jitish Kallat’s immersive installation Covering Letter, 2012, which will feature among the roughly 140 works in this midcareer retrospective. Curated by Catherine David, “Here After Here” gathers together painting, photography, videos, and installations spanning twenty-five years. Organized nonchronologically, the exhibition promises to bring into focus the Mumbai-based artist’s long-standing investigation of speech, the self, urban life, and historythemes conveyed via burnt-adhesive alphabets, a rickshaw made of fiberglass animal bones, and images of rotis (Indian flatbreads) that seem to wax and wane like the moon.
In the painting Come Give Us a Speech, 2008, rows of pastel-clad figures sit waiting. Some gaze into space, others gossip, adjust their saris, scratch. Are they expecting the arrival of a sage, a superstaror N. S. Harsha himself? Unlike his impatient painted folk, Harsha’s fans need tarry no more: They can visit the largest assembly of the Indian artist’s work to date. Organized by Mami Kataoka, the Mori Art Museum’s chief curator, the extravaganza boasts more than seventy-five artworks from the past two decades. Visitors will meet old favorites (such as Nations, 2007, an installation of 192 sewing machines stitching the flags of various countries) and make new acquaintances (a figurative mural will be produced in situ). A catalogue accompanies the proceedings, though its contributors had yet to be revealed by press time.
Unlike many other Pictures-affiliated artists who use photography, James Welling established a deep and remarkably sincere commitment to his primary medium even as he undertook an extensive investigation of its long-standing intermediary role in other artistic practices: Abstract and representational painting and sculpture along with film, architecture, and, more recently, dance have all crucially informed the artist’s oeuvre. The twenty-plus bodies of work spanning more than forty years featured in this show will provide an unrivaled opportunity to consider Welling’s vision of the aesthetic and expressive possibilities of photography, as well as its multimedia entanglementssubjects the artist discusses in a lively conversation with art historian Hal Foster published in the accompanying catalogue. Travels to Kunstforum Wien, May 5–July 16.
Bringing together painting, handpainted slides, film, video, poetry, and sound, Aldo Tambellini created pulsating dark spaces centered on a multidimensional concept of “blackness.” At once a negation of light and visibility in art, an evocation of racial violence and civil rights struggles, and an imagination of the nonhuman sphere of astrophysics, the artist’s work plunges you into a realm where politics is as much a matter of sensation and affect as perception and knowledge. This career retrospectivefeaturing eighty-six works made between 1950 and 1980 alongside a commissioned installationoffers a unique opportunity to experience an exceptionally timely oeuvre that has too long been obscured from public view.
Set in a British-built heritage building on the sea, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is the leading international exhibition of contemporary art in India. This third edition runs for exactly 108 daysa sacred and vital number in Hindu philosophyand comprises a rich assortment of talks, film screenings, and poetry readings, alongside gallery-based artworks and public interventions in a range of media. Shetty is a renowned artist whose sculptural installations have memorably incorporated text, so it is no surprise that many of the biennial’s participants are celebrated for their facility with the written wordincluding Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, graphic novelist Orijit Sen from India, and Mexico-based painter and poet Valerie Mejer Caso. The show’s broadly global lineup is a fitting expression of the diverse heritage of this Indian port city.