From a MacArthur "genius" unmasking the world's shadow government to a fiery painter of uncensored shock art, here are the names you'll need to know this month.
Complementing a critically acclaimed Glenn Ligon exhibition in its Bushwick space (on view through April 17), Luhring Augustine will host two concurrent shows by the American artist in their Chelsea location starting this month. The first, “What We Said The Last Time,” is a group of prints depicting pages from the social critic and novelist James Baldwin’s 1953 essay “Stranger in the Village,” the inspiration behind Ligon’s “Stranger” series. The prints highlight paint splatters and oil stick smudges, accumulated over years of use in Ligon’s studio. The second show, “Entanglements,” gathers works by Bruce Nauman, Adrian Piper, and others, curated by Ligon as part of his exploration of how an artist’s studio speaks back to the political and social contexts of its time.
One of America’s preeminent ceramic artists, Betty Woodman has been a key figure in the medium’s ongoing reevaluation since she first began working with clay in 1950. The intervening decades have found her exploring deeply art-historical terrain, reckoning with abstraction and symbolism, and bridging the art/craft divide. The Institute of Contemporary Art, London is now hosting Woodman's first solo show in the UK, which features her recent forays into painting and mixed-media installations—evidence that even at 85, she is still searching for new ways to express herself.
BERND & HILLA BECHER
Jack Shainman, Feb. 4—Mar. 12
It’s not easy to make photographs that become iconic, and it’s harder still if your chosen subjects are storage silos, coal mines, and industrial warehouses. Of course, this is exactly what Bernd and Hilla Becher have done over the course of their long collaborative career, creating what they call “typologies” by organizing carefully-composed shots of similar structures into grids for comparison and contemplation. This month, selected works by the pair will be shown alongside pieces by El Anatsui and Maya Lin at Jack Shainman’s 20th Street location.
Proyectos Monclova, Feb. 2—Mar. 11
A Minimalist pioneer nurtured by the Dia Art Foundation alongside Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, Fred Sandback (1943-2003) is famous for his delicate constructions in wire and yarn. Less well-known is the fact that these works were inspired, in part, by Sandback's experiences building guitars and other stringed instruments as a youth in Bronxville, New York. A selection of his taut installations will be on view in the Mexico City gallery Proyectos Monclova, in a show that coincides with Material and Zona Maco and promises an antidote to fair fatigue.
Michael Werner, Feb. 26—Apr. 23
In 1975, the British Pop artist Allen Jones (best known for his infamous Hatstand, Table, and Chair sculptures that render female mannequins as erotic furniture) was commissioned to paint the poster image for Barbet Schroeder’s controversial film Maîtresse, which tells the story of the obsessive love affair between a would-be burglar and a professional dominatrix. The artist’s upcoming show at Michael Werner will be the painting’s gallery debut, where it will be shown alongside seven other works composed since 2008 and inspired by Jones’s ongoing interest in the formal qualities of his earlier commercial work.
Mary Boone, through Feb. 27
Since the 1960s, Judith Bernstein has been making aggressively phallic, clamorously energetic paintings and drawings that send up both male chauvinism and the military-industrial complex. Her latest show “Dicks of Death,” curated by Piper Marshall, pairs her 1970s “Screw Drawings” and other early efforts with recent work that’s just as explicit in its politics. (The show’s title refers to U.S. Marines shorthand for an unsavory hot-dog meal, but read into it what you will.)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Feb. 5 – May 1
It’s not often that an artist making her solo museum debut is also an Academy Award recipient and Pulitzer prizewinner, but the usual rules and categories don’t apply to Laura Poitras (of CITIZENFOUR). In this much-anticipated show, the investigative journalist, filmmaker, and Edward Snowden collaborator showcases her research in “immersive environments” that combine film footage, architectural interventions, primary documents, and data visualization.
Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Feb. 6 – June 5
A maker of vibrant and intellectual abstract paintings that pushed forward the color theories of Albers and Kandinsky, Alma Thomas (1891-1978) is finally being recognized as a pivotal member of the Washington, D.C. mid-century arts scene. The African-American artist’s self-titled retrospective, co-organized by the Tang museum at Skidmore College and the Studio Museum in Harlem, caps off a year of renewed attention from, among others, the Obamas (one of her paintings was chosen for the White House’s Old Family Dining Room).
High Museum of Art, Feb. 28 – May 29
The Brazilian artist Vik Muniz combines a ubiquitous and ultra-accessible medium (photography) with some unorthodox ones (including tomato sauce, diamonds, chocolate syrup, dust, and garbage). Typically, photography is the final stage in his often messy and collaborative process. Muniz’s full-dress retrospective, which kicks off an international tour at the High Museum in Atlanta this month, includes new large-scale works composed of thousands of found, arranged, and re-photographed anonymous snapshots.
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, through Mar. 26
With a background that includes studies of ancient Greek literature and a stint at famed theater director Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, the Istanbul-born Köken Ergun brings both classical humanism and experimental approaches to his film and video work. His first solo show in Russia focuses on a new video installation called Young Turks, a documentary-style exploration of modern Turkish identity; it follows students at Turkish international schools as they prepare for a competition called the “Turkish Olympics.”