• Hiroshi Sugimoto, Marina City, 2001, black-and-white photograph, 72 x 60".

    Hiroshi Sugimoto

    New Museum
    235 Bowery
    February 23–June 2

    The Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design
    1700 Lida Street
    October 18–December 21

    Eschewing the taut focus he used to seemingly resuscitate waxworks in his series of uncanny historical portraits, Hiroshi Sugimoto trained a loosened lens on familiar architectural landmarks, from Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame at Ronchamps to the MCA building itself, to offer a portentous glimpse of our surroundings, as the artist puts it, “after the end of the world.” This focused review of Sugimoto’s postapocalyptic sneak peeks was organized by Francesco Bonami, who contributed to the catalogue along with Marco de Michelis and John Yau. Maybe it’s true: The only things to survive the nuclear winter will be cockroaches . . . and Koolhaases.

  • Laura Owens, Untitled, 2001, acrylic and oil on canvas, 106 x 67 1/2".

    Laura Owens

    New Museum
    235 Bowery
    March 16–June 22

    A few years ago in these pages, Lane Relyea suggested that a new wave of Color Field painting was taking over the galleries. Substituting virtuality for Fried’s opticality, Relyea proposed that the dematerialized effulgence of the computer monitor was the impetus for yet another stab at pure painting, and he cited Los Angeles–based painter Laura Owens as the pervasive influence. But while Owens’s work certainly plays on the conventions of Color Field, she draws from a wide range of source materials, including embroidery and Asian landscape painting, frequently commingling vaporous washes of color with frankly goofy representational elements. Curated by Paul Schimmel, this show comprises some twenty works and features a catalogue with essays by Schimmel and CalArts dean Thomas Lawson.

  • Robert Whitman, Window, 1963, mixed
    media, 8 x 10 x 4'.

    Robert Whitman

    Dia Center for the Arts
    542 West 22nd Street
    March 5–June 15

    Robert Whitman is freshest in museumgoers’ minds for his film of a woman projected into a running shower in the Whitney’s traveling “Into the Light” exhibition. His first major retrospective gives a fuller view of the artist, who helped found Experiments in Art and Technology with Robert Rauschenberg during the ’60s. Works with lasers, film, and performance appear alongside more traditional pieces, including Whitman’s suite of “Dante Drawings.” Accompanying publications are similarly multifaceted: A catalogue includes essays by David Joselit and curator Lynne Cooke on Whitman’s multimedia and theatrical work, while George Baker and Ben Portis provide treatments of his drawings and films. A DVD by nonprofit organization Artpix features interviews and performance footage.

  • Eyebeam Museum of Art and Technology, street view (computer rendering),
    New York, 2001.

    Diller + Scofidio

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort Street
    March 1–June 1

    For twenty-five years now, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio have labored to import the possibilities of art into architecture. The pair’s deliberate attempts—performance pieces, video, installations, exhibitions, and even a few buildings—have earned them an award from the James Beard Foundation, an Obie, and, in 1999 (cha-ching!), a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, a first for architects. With “Scanning: The Aberrant Architectures of Diller + Scofidio,” these critical darlings are getting their much deserved retrospective, cocurated by Aaron Betsky and K. Michael Hays. It contains new work, old work, and interpretations of distant work, including their celebrated Blur building in Switzerland, which cloaks itself in a shroud of fog.

  • Resting Stag, 1916-17.

    Elie Nadelman

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort Street
    March 27–July 20

    If there were ever an artist whose work is tuxedo urbanity disguised as bib-overalls folkiness, it’s Elie Nadelman (1882–1946). “Sophistication and primitivism collide,” says the press notice accompanying this two-hundred-work show curated by the Whitney’s Barbara Haskell. Primitivism, ha! There isn’t a scintilla of it in Nadelman’s deceptively simplified figures sculpted with right-on classical economy in wood, bronze, and plaster. Oh, sure, he went in for “vernacular” subject matter (there’s a rooster-weather-vane, Uncle Sam–penny-bank vibe to his art), but he was nothing if not coolly cerebral. “I employ no other line than the curve, which possesses freshness and force,” he said. “I compose these curves so as to bring them in accord or in opposition to one another.”

  • Public Things, 2000.

    Living Inside the Grid

    New Museum
    235 Bowery
    February 28–June 15

    Is there any setting more appropriate than Manhattan for a look at how artists newly enchanted by the intersection of their own practice and that of the urban planner are reconsidering that ubiquitous modernist template, the grid? This exhibition, organized by senior curator Dan Cameron, ropes in painting, sculpture, video, digital work, and newly commissioned installations by twenty-three international artists, including Paul Noble, Tomoko Takahashi, Danica Phelps, the Danish collective N55, and the late Mark Lombardi. The grid has long been symbolic shorthand for both the possibilities and the restrictions of new technology. Cameron’s show plots our shifting coordinates within it—and suggests some alternative routes.

  • James Van Der Zee, Billiard Room, n.d., black-and-white photograph, 11 x 14". From “The Challenge of the Modern.”

    The Challenge of the Modern: African-American Artists 1925–1945

    The Studio Museum in Harlem
    429 West 127th St
    January 23–March 30

    Despite the rich traditions of African-American art, its best-known rubric probably remains the Harlem Renaissance of the ’20s and ’30s. “The Challenge of the Modern” should broaden our view of those years. “I wanted to look at African Americans’ contribution to the vanguard,” says museum director Lowery Sims, who leads the show’s five-curator team. The continuities with African and folk art, the migration to northern cities, the spiritual resonances with both the black church and the modernist, AbEx strain of religiosity—“The show is ambitious,” says Sims. “I hope people argue with it; but if they think about what African Americans are doing a little more, that in itself will be exciting.”

  • Adolf Wölfli Der Zion-Wasser-Fall (The waterfall in Zion), 1914, pencil and colored pencil on newsprint, 39 1/2 x 28 1/4".

    Adolf Wölfli

    American Folk Art Museum
    2 Lincoln Square Columbus Avenue at 66th Street
    February 25–May 18

    There’s a requisite scene in monsters-from-outer-space movies in which frantic folks desperately trying to cope with the terrifying extraterrestrials suddenly confront the alien Big Mama, the ur-being ten times more frightening than her minions. Turn from the outsider-art fantasies of the Chicago recluse Henry Darger to those of the schizophrenic Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli (1864–1930) and there’s a similar exponential increase in weirdness—not to mention beauty, profundity, and just plain greatness. We’re talking twenty-five thousand pages of autobiography, prescriptions for a new world order, poetry, and songs. Then, of course, there are Wölfli’s inimitable drawings, which swirl and glow like illuminated manuscripts . . . from Mars.

  • Mask, 1958.

    Ellsworth Kelly

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort Street
    August 10–November 3

    Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego | Downtown
    1100 and 1001 Kettner Boulevard
    January 19–April 13

    Following the artist’s massive 1996 Guggenheim retrospective, Ellsworth Kelly’s oeuvre has been sliced and diced into ever-finer morsels, from his early drawings to his relief paintings and Spectrums. Now comes an exhibition organized by curator Toby Kamps around Red Blue Green, 1963, a major canvas in the museum’s collection. The show and its catalogue, with essays by Kamps, Roberta Bernstein, Sarah Rich, and Dave Hickey, focus on a group of fourteen large-scale paintings as well as source materials from 1958 to 1965, a period when Kelly further blurred the line between figure and ground and embraced color combinations that packed a knockout optical punch.

  • Black Circle, 1915.

    Kasimir Malevich

    Unter den Linden 5
    January 18–April 27

    The Menil Collection
    1533 Sul Ross Street
    October 3–January 11

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York
    1071 Fifth Avenue
    June 1–September 7

    The Guggenheim’s delayed survey of the career of Kasimir Malevich, curated by Matthew Drutt (late of the Guggenheim and now with the Menil Collection, Houston), is probably the most revealing show to date of the wizard of the Russian avant-garde. Some 120 paintings, drawings, and objects, from breakthrough works like Black Square and Black Cross to the portraits of the ’30s, illustrate the evolution, achievements, and disintegration of the founder of Suprematism. If some of Malevich’s sociopolitical aspirations for his Soviet-period abstraction seem headily ambitious, there’s no doubting his intellectual rigor and pervasive influence. New archival research should give the multiauthor catalogue a long shelf life.