From a superhero of American art who is dropping five megaton artworks on Chelsea to a new photographer making his debut at one of the city's most exciting galleries, these are the artists to watch this month.
Tate Modern, May 4 - August 21
With a roving eye and a subtle, almost Minimalist sensibility, the Lebanese-Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum is a prime example of what a contemporary post-medium approach can be. Her works in video, performance, and sculpture are understated yet powerful strikes at world-shaking issues like imperialism and identity, and they’ve earned her a Turner Prize nomination as well as spots in the collections of museums like the Pompidou, MoMA, and MOCA. Now, in her first major survey show in her adopted home of London (where she’s lived since the 1970s), the Tate Modern is presenting a range of her works for public consumption, a long-overdue exhibition that’s sure to get the critics talking.
Team Bungalow, May 15 - June 26
The young digital artist Tabor Robak has made a real splash in recent years with his large-scale video pieces, which borrow as much from desktop screensavers and smartphone games like Candycrush as they do the storied history of art. Often arranged on large screens in unusual configurations, Robak’s works have earned him glowing reviews in the New York Times as well as spots in group shows at places like P.S.1—not too shabby for a 29-year-old with only two solo shows under his belt. For third, held in Team Gallery’s Venice, CA location, he’s moving away from his typical looped compositions in favor of infinitely generating visual simulations (a la Ian Cheng), adding painterly touches to what has to this point have been consummately slick productions.
Jablonka Galerie, May 1 - October 31
The American painter Ross Bleckner brings his large-scale oil paintings to Hürth, Germany’s Böhm Chapel under the auspices of Jablonka Galerie this month, an appropriate setting for the artist’s impressive, meditative works. While his paintings often feature loose grids of circles, stripes, or birds, the impetus behind his painting is often dark, with a focus on loss, death, and memory, especially in relation to the AIDS crisis that has influenced his work for the past two decades. For art lovers sticking around the Cologne area post-fair, be sure to stop by the neighboring city of Hürth for this unique, solemn show.
Creative Time and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, May 7 - June 12
Performances by Duke Riley are reliably controversial events—this is, after all, the artist who was arrested when his hand-built submarine got too close to the Queen Mary 2, and who more recently staged a messy naval battle in the reflecting pool at Flushing-Meadows Corona Park. His latest project, "Fly By Night," builds on an earlier piece in which he trained homing pigeons to smuggle cigars from Havana to Key West. No contraband is involved, however, in Riley's Creative Time work, in which the birds will emerge from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and circle the river at sunset with small LED light bands attached to their legs.
Lisson Gallery, New York, May 3 - June 11
It's a big year for Carmen Herrera, an abstract geometric painter who was born in Havana in 1915, has worked in New York since the mid-20th-century, and now, at 100 years old, is being honored with a Whitney Museum survey (this coming fall) and the inaugural exhibition in Lisson Gallery's new Chelsea branch (opening during Frieze Week). Lisson's show spotlights Herrera's most recent paintings (yes, she's still going strong as a centenarian), which are characteristically restrained but, to those taking the long view of her career, carry hints of perspectival and chromatic intrigue.
Hauser & Wirth, New York, through July 29
Last fall, Hauser & Wirth took over the Guston estate from the closing McKee gallery (whose founders had worked with the artist since the 1970s). Now, the mega-gallery is mounting its first show of the beloved artist's-artist, and it's an appropriately big production: titled "Philip Guston: Painter, 1957-1967," the exhibition explores a pivotal decade during which Guston started to break with the New York School by introducing forms to his abstract vocabulary. Organized by Paul Schimmel, it includes 36 paintings and 53 drawings, many of them exhibited in the artist's 1966 survey at the Jewish Museum (a touchstone for this show).
Deitch Projects, May 5 - June 6
Perhaps you have looked askance at the work of Tom Sachs, taking his obsessive, proto-maker approach crafting guns, NADA landers, cameras, and other gadgets from recycled street materials as boyish antics fit for the quirkily endearing protagonist of a Spike Jonze movie. You may shift this opinion a bit if you read Jeffrey Deitch’s press release for Sachs’s new solo show at his reincarnated Grand Street gallery (in which the seen-it-all dealer tantalizingly hints that memoirs are in the works). From presenting Deitch with a “perfectly measured line of cocaine” in a lumpen tea ceremony at his studio—the Japanese tradition that has inspired the artist’s new show at the Noguchi Museum—to his stunt that got Mary Boone arrested on weapons charges, Sachs comes off as untethered in an appealing way. This new show is definitely worth a look.
Higher Pictures, May 7 - June 18
When the excellent photography gallery Higher Pictures debuts a new talent you should sit up and take note, and that certainly seems to be the case with the young lensman Curran Hatleberg. A Yale MFA grad who has been crisscrossing the United States for the past 10 years in the road-trip vein of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Larry Clark, and so many others, Hatleberg finally dug in for half a year in California’s Humboldt County in 2014, getting to know the inhabitant of this famous drug-trafficking haven and chronicling them against the backdrop of the area’s coolly pristine natural beauty. The recipient of numerous photography awards, including a 2015 Magnum Emergency Fund grant, he also has a monograph coming out the fall, from TBW Books.
Gagosian, May 7 - July 29
Richard Serra, the man of steel, really is something of a superhero among artists—he works bigger, aims higher, and thinks harder (he's a philosopher, too) than most of his peers. Not many people, after all, have his guts when it comes to tackling the sublime. Now, just as one of his giant Sequence structures is being unveiled as the first showstopper visitors see at the new SFMoMA, Serra is also dropping—THUD!—five new artworks in Chelsea, across two Gagosian galleries. One, titled NJ-1, like a highway, will take up the entire 21st Street space, and promises to be a doozy. Amazingly, it’s the 30th show the artist has had with Gagosian. Let’s see if he has any new tricks up his sleeve.