• “The American Century: Art & Culture 1950–2000”

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort Street
    September 26, 1999–February 13, 2000

    If you thought the Whitney bit off more than it could chew with Part I (1900–1950) of its encyclopedic survey “The American Century,” wait till you see Part II. Instead of cozily sized, determinedly modernist paintings selected by one curator, the second act, chosen by a squadron led by now former Whitneyite Lisa Phillips, includes everything from a barnful of canvases by the AbExers short-shrifted in Part I to the last word in installation. In this post-“triumph” segment the artwork is complemented with sites that explore “American cultural, social and political developments from 1950 through the 1990s.” In other words, fifty years of gargantuan art “contextualized” by the propinquity of toaster ovens and Simpsons reruns.

  • Francesco Clemente

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York
    1071 Fifth Avenue
    October 8, 1999–January 9, 2000

    The problem with expressionism ’80s-style—German, New York Neo, or Transavantgarde—is that the all-or-nothing bravado that it hinged on progressively looks like . . . well, kindness dictates we cut these macho dudes some slack. Of course Francesco Clemente was never mas macho, and with the epoch-claiming clamor all but a bad memory, chief curator Lisa Dennison’s 200-work retrospective should afford pleasure enough to forgive the orientalism and the angst. Clemente is one of those “natural” talents (which I guess by now means simply that his pictorial inventiveness can be acknowledged pre any “judgments re: ends”). As for judgments re: ends? Decide yourself, when the artist’s luxuriant, surreal inventions metamorphose their way up the Guggenheim spiral this fall.

  • “MoMA 2000: Modern Starts”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art
    11 West 53rd Street
    October 7, 1999–March 14, 2000

    “Modern Starts” is the first of three Y2K exhibitions re-presenting the history of modern art as told by MoMA’s collection. Based on a historicist premise (1880–1920), the show’s structure nonetheless deflects history’s arrow: Curator John Elderfield et al. divide the works not chronologically but thematically, into “People,” “Places,” and “Things.” Perverse, one might ask, to emphasize representational themes at a time when the medium itself was getting the upper hand? If the modernist narratives so bound up with MoMA’s history emerge from this revitalizing rearrangement more stirred than shaken, Elderfield’s look at the opening chapter should nevertheless offer up myriad local charms and surprises. After all, he’s got plenty to work with.

  • Cildo Meireles

    New Museum
    235 Bowery
    November 19, 1999–March 5, 2000

    Brazilian Conceptual pioneer Cildo Meireles produced an art that taps into and circulates through the “ideological circuits” of daily life (in 1970, for example, he printed slogans on cruzeiro notes). Since the ’80s he has focused on room-scale environments that disorient and refocus everyday perception. His first New York retrospective, curated by the New Museum’s Dan Cameron and Gerardo Mosquera, brings together seven installations, including one specifically made for the show, and thirteen sculptures. The catalogue boasts essays by Cameron and Paulo Herkenhoff, who recently signed on at MoMA.

  • “Thomas Schütte: In Media Res”

    Dia Center for the Arts
    542 West 22nd Street
    September 16, 1999–February 1, 2000

    For ignorant Americans, a loose translation: in the thick of it. Having tackled the theater and memory in two previous Dia installations, Thomas Schütte’s closing act in this tripartite retrospective addresses the body, the stuff of life (and art). To partner his familiar Michelin men, the artist here sends out female figures cast in metal, along with two large ceramic heads recalling gargoyles, free-form ceramic vessels, and lots of work on paper. Recently, Schütte has returned to traditional sculptural genres, if only to depart again from them. A real presence in Germany, his art is a little less effable than some might like; but that looseness is precisely what intrigues Schütte admirers.