Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction
an exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zürich, June 3–September 25, 2016; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, November 20, 2016–March 19, 2017
Picabia’s chief contributions to the Dada spirit were drawings and paintings of machines, or elements in engines, which stood in part, in Dada’s upside-down thinking, as new ways of looking at people. But after the movement’s demise in the mid-1920s, Picabia continued to make art, and it was these later works that, beginning to be seen more widely during the 1970s, mostly in Europe, called out for attention.
an exhibition at the Craig F. Starr Gallery, New York City, September 9–October 29, 2016
For some twenty-five years, Charles LeDray has been surprising and delighting, and sometimes mystifying, the audience for contemporary art. Now fifty-six, LeDray is a kind of realist sculptor whose pieces—in part because his subjects are familiar but not what we would expect in a gallery setting, and in equal measure because he works with such small, essentially miniaturist sizes—have the power of making almost every object he handles seem new to our eyes.
an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, June 10–September 25, 2016; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., November 20, 2016–March 5, 2017; the de Young, San Francisco, April 1–August 6, 2017; and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, September 16, 2017–January 8, 2018
If there is a message in the Whitney’s large gathering of the work of Stuart Davis, it may be simply that time hasn’t dented the power of the painter’s work. While some of the pictures breathe merely a period air, a great many continue to give pleasure, and, as an added attraction—as the artist with his love for everyday turns of phrase might have said—it isn’t easy to say why.
an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, February 5–April 27, 2016; and the Museo Jumex, Mexico City, June 9–September 17, 2016
Delightful and funny aren’t words one regularly associates with contemporary art, but they certainly fit aspects of the work of Peter Fischli and David Weiss. At least, I heard a fair amount of giggling at the Guggenheim Museum’s beautifully laid-out retrospective of the Swiss collaborative team. Not that they were …
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters,” is the first ever exhibition about Piero’s devotional works. They are small-size paintings created for bedrooms or set-apart areas in the home. In spirit they take us to much the same austere and bare-bones realm as his more public pictures. Yet they present more directly and pleasurably the qualities that make Piero such a special figure, even by the heady standards of the fifteenth century, when so many Italian and Flemish artists, were finding one personal way after another to portray the actual, corporeal world they lived in.
Over the years, Kiefer’s work, continually summoning up Bible stories, wartime legends, and mystical awarenesses, has become woozily grandiloquent. He is an extraordinary showman, however. His pictures, where model ships or women’s frocks are often placed atop images of endless fields, the sea, or forests, can have a phenomenal physical presence. He is a master transformer of materials. From the first he made lead, steel, straw, glass, or crumbly clumps of cement with rebar sticking out bespeak fragility and delicacy.
This summer, the Neue Galerie in New York is offering the first large-scale American exhibition of the gleefully provocative German painter Otto Dix (1891–1969)—providing a rare opportunity, as New York Review contributor Sanford Schwartz says, “to appreciate an artist who could almost be our contemporary.” Here are a selection of images from the show, together with comments taken from Schwartz’s piece on Dix, which will appear in the Review‘s August 19 issue. The exhibition closes August 30. (Images provided by Neue Galerie New York.)
New Yorkers currently have two large exhibitions with which to take the pulse of contemporary art, and neither shows the patient feeling altogether well. At the Whitney Biennial, this time around presenting many videos along with paintings, installations, and artists’ collaboratives performing music, the spirit is retiring, docile, and a little like spending an afternoon at some lackluster shows in Chelsea.