1. Provenance, Amie Siegel — Metropolitan Museum of Art
In the first portion of Siegel’s three-part installation, a film captures the journey of several pieces of furniture by Pierre Jeanneret originally designed for a Le Corbusier designed building in Chandigarh, India. Moving backwards in time from the furniture’s real time locations in private collections in New York, London and Antwerp, we follow the pieces through various stages of their trip from Chandigarh, including auction, restoration and shipment. The second part of the installation captures the sale of Siegel’s video at Christie’s, effectively developing its own provenance. Finally, a printer’s proof of the Christie’s auction catalogue is encased in acrylic and put on display. Siegel’s installation is a gentle and nuanced reminder of the relative nature of value; the capability of inanimate objects to journey through time and space; and why we are all just custodians in the world of collecting.
2. Ha Chonghyun — Blum & Poe
Blue & Poe were early advocates of Tansaekhwa, also known as the Korean Monochrome Movement, which has been gaining momentum in Western markets. One of the leading figures in the movement, this survey includes nearly ten works made between 1977-2009 by Ha Chonghyun—making it the artist’s first solo exhibition with Blum & Poe, as well as his first solo presentation in North America. Ha creates his textured monochromes by using a palette knife to push oil from the backside of the canvas through to the surface. This results in an intricate patterned picture plane that feels rather fragile—like an interesting topographical design that we know will disappear with the next rainfall or crashing wave. Poetic fleetiness aside, there is no question of the beauty and art historical importance of Ha’s work in Tansaekhwa.
We might think about postcolonial scholar Homi Bhabha’s observation that “in-betweenness is a fundamental condition of our times” as another way to understand artists whose work refuses categorization. In-between, atemporal, atypical—through these concepts MoMA offers a loose but helpful framework in which to understand the concerns and definitions of contemporary painting practices. The exhibition features 17 artists whose style of painting refuses to be arrested to a particular moment or movement. The Forever Now includes work by Richard Aldrich, Joe Bradley, Kerstin Bratsch, Matt Connors, Michaela Eichwald, Nicole Eisenman, Mark Grotjahn, Charline von Heyl, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Dianna Molzan, Oscar Murillo, Amy Sillman and Mary Weatherford. This is the first survey dedicated to contemporary painting at MoMA since 1958!
4. ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s — Guggenheim
The Guggenheim has done it again; like the museum’s Gutai and futurism exhibitions, this large-scale survey of the ZERO movement in the United States is the first of its kind. Founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene and joined in 1961 by Gunther Uecker in Dusseldorf, the ZERO movement grew to include an international network of artists in Paris, Japan, Milan, Antwerp, Sao Paulo and Amsterdam—including artists such as Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Yayoi Kusama, Piero Manzoni, Almir Mavignier, Jan Schoonhoven, and Jesús Rafael Soto. Interested in exploring the transformative power of art, ZERO artists aspired to redefine art in the aftermath of WWII and to do this they felt a desire to reset the clock, to start over in a “zone of pure silence.” Moving away from the gestural sentimentality of Abstract Expressionism, ZERO looked to explore new definitions of painting from using the purity of the monochrome to the geometry of seriality. Movement, space and light were also utilized to inform a number of aesthetic and conceptual concerns.
5. Night and Day, Chris Ofili — New Museum
The first major survey of the British-born, Trinidad-based artist Chris Ofili at the New Museum allows us to see how much more the artist has to offer than his reputation for using unusual media—Ofili made headlines in the 1990s for incorporating elephant dung into his paintings. The exhibit begins with a room devoted to these works, including the notorious Holy Virgin Mary from 1996 that Mayor Giuliani attempted to censor from the Brooklyn Museum’s Sensation exhibit in 1999. Other highlights include a section devoted to works originally exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2003 when the artist represented England and The Blue Rider series is elegantly installed in an environment conceived by Ofili, not unlike the Rothko Chapel in Houston or Rothko Room at Tate Modern. Here the lighting and monumental scale evoke hushed voices and reverence as your eyes work to uncover the imagery submerged in midnight blue and purple hues. Last, works from The Metamorphoses series are included, where the artist looked to Ovid’s collection of ancient myths for subject matter.