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U.S. Museum Exhibitions

The following guide to museum shows currently on view is compiled from Artforum’s three-times-yearly exhibition preview. Subscribe now to begin a year of Artforum—the world’s leading magazine of contemporary art. You’ll get all three big preview issues, featuring Artforum’s comprehensive advance roundups of the shows to see each season around the globe.

“Before Projection: Video Sculpture 1974–1995”

MIT LIST VISUAL ARTS CENTER
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
February 8 - April 15
Curated by Henriette Huldisch

In our current age of portable microscreens and flat-screen TVs, it is hard to recall the stubborn materiality of the midcentury television set. Yet before large-screen projection became enshrined in museum and gallery spaces, a generation of Conceptual artists seeking alternatives to both experimental cinema and Minimalist sculpture seized on the availability of inexpensive consumer video technology as a new frontier. These artists did not explore television exclusively as a window onto an ideological world but as a three-dimensional object that might be moved from the domestic space of the living room and reimagined as a sculptural form. Including the monitor-based work of a dozen international artists, MIT’s upcoming exhibition recovers a crucial period of experimentation in the evolution of this media art while highlighting the important role women played in the movement. Pioneering works by Shigeko Kubota, Nam June Paik, Dara Birnbaum, Takahiko Iimura, Adrian Piper, Mary Lucier, and others interrogate and reenvision the relationships between bodies and technology, gender and gesture, and the society of the spectacle and its spectators.

Ara Osterweil

Wallace Berman, untitled, 1958, gelatin silver print with transfer type mounted on board, sheet size 7 1/8 × 5 7/8”. © Estate of Wallace Berman and Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles.

“WILLIAM BLAKE AND THE AGE OF AQUARIUS”

BLOCK MUSEUM OF ART AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
EVANSTON, ILLINOIS
Through March 11
Curated by Stephen F. Eisenman

This erudite Summer of Love golden-anniversary exhibition places the Beat-generation muse, proto-hippie, politically radical poet-engraver, and generally unclassifiable William Blake in the context of twentieth-century American art and popular culture. Exuberance is beauty! Identifying Allen Ginsberg, Agnes Martin, Maurice Sendak, counterculture communards, and the Fugs (to name a few) as Blake’s successors, the show features more than fifty of Blake’s engravings, etchings, watercolors, and illustrations, as well as some 150 paintings, drawings, photographs, film clips, and LPs from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. The accompanying catalogue includes startling, if apt, pairings, putting Blake’s watercolor Jacob’s Dream, ca. 1789–1806, opposite a 1967 Victor Moscoso poster for the Doors. Similarly, Blake’s radiant The Dance of Albion, 1795, and his monstrous miniature The Ghost of a Flea, ca. 1819–20,  are juxtaposed, respectively, with two of Wallace Berman’s 1958 untitled portraits of Jay DeFeo and a still from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).

J. Hoberman

Louise Bourgeois, Nature Study (Velvet Eyes), 1984, marble, steel, 26 × 33 × 27". © The Easton Foundation; VAGA, NY.

LOUISE BOURGEOIS

MASSACHUSETTS MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART (MASS MOCA)
NORTH ADAMS, MASSACHUSETTS
Through May 28, 2027
Curated by Susan Cross

An event of singular importance is scheduled this spring at MASS MoCA—a decade-long installation of three monumental marbles by Louise Bourgeois, each weighing several tons and occupying a sprawling measure of floor space reinforced by steel supports, with an additional aluminum sculpture on five-year loan. One of the colossi on display, Untitled, 1991, comprises two marble slabs wedged together. The work incarnates a team of mythic personages, their heads rising above a stylized frieze of the sea, whose curling waves seemingly allude to Poseidon and riff on the Pergamon Altar, which depicts the battle of the giants against the Olympian deities. For Bourgeois, an artist who was uniquely committed to the psychoanalytic origins of her art, such figures dwell within both the realm of the gods and that of the unconscious. Might Untitled not be read as a parable of the battle Bourgeois herself fought against the Greenbergian Cubism-onward-to-abstraction paradigm of modernist art? Here, again, Bourgeois is seen sculpting the great contrarian alternative to that repressive, patriarchal sequence.

Robert Pincus-Witten

Peter Burr and Porpentine Charity Heartscape, Dirtscraper, 2018, three-channel interactive digital video, color, sound, indefinite duration. From “Declaration.”

“Declaration”

INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
April 21 - September 9
Curated by Stephanie Smith and Lisa Freiman with Amber Esseiva, Johanna Plummer, and Lauren Ross

The new ICA is about two miles from the onetime residence of Jefferson Davis in one direction, and one and a half miles from Monument Avenue in the other, where a number of statues honor traitors Robert E. Lee, J. E. B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and other sons of the Confederacy. (Richmond is blacker than the rest of Virginia, so space was also made in 1994 for a statue memorializing Arthur Ashe Jr.) The ICA aspires to be Richmond’s leading noncollecting venue, so the question of how a forward-looking institution might best take permanent root in such ground is not an idle concern. Its inaugural exhibition proposes an answer while speaking to “pressing social issues” with works by more than thirty artists, from Tania Bruguera and Titus Kaphar to Richmond locals Andrea Donnelly and Gwar. “Declaration” could easily have been named “Listening.” While there’s much in America to tear down and replace, there’s also something to be said for strategies like those of the Virginia creeper. None dare call this vine, native to the Southeast, invasive, even as it slowly but surely transforms everything it touches. It’s simply at home.

Gary Dauphin

Stuart A. Weiner, Soleri Sketching at His Desk, Cosanti, ca. 1960, gelatin silver print, sheet size 10 × 8". From “Repositioning Paolo Soleri: The City Is Nature.” © The Weiner Estate, Collection of the Cosanti Foundation.

“REPOSITIONING PAOLO SOLERI: THE CITY IS NATURE”

SCOTTSDALE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA
Through January 28
Curated by Claire C. Carter

 Like Arcosanti, the “urban laboratory” he constructed in the arid highlands of Arizona and ran for almost half a century, Paolo Soleri could be described as off the grid. His desert headquarters has now been a pilgrimage site for generations of countercultural-leaning architects, and his signature philosophy of “arcology”—which fused architecture with ecology in an effort to secure an environmentally sustainable future for humankind—could hardly seem more prescient. Yet Soleri never quite entered the mainstream; he receives little more than a footnote in most histories of postwar architecture, and his work has not been surveyed in America since 1971. This exhibition will end that long drought, presenting a comprehensive collection of models and drawings alongside experiments in a range of media, from silk screen to cast bronze, that highlight Soleri’s engagement with art and craft. The accompanying catalogue will offer fresh interpretations of his work by an appropriately interdisciplinary assemblage of scholars, artists, and critics.

Julian Rose