New Year's resolutions are, for the most part, a terrible drag. But there is a certain pleasure to mapping out the year in stellar museum exhibitions, plotting the dream cross-country art road trip that may only ever come to fruition in your imagination.
The following 21 exhibitions constitute a motley and promising bunch, including legendary names like Edgar Degas, buzzy emerging artists like Pia Camil, barely known outsiders like Clarence and Grace Woolsey and everything in between. There's Abstract Expressionism, found photography, fashion, children's book illustration, assemblages and an immersive disco installation. And, yes, lots of feminist art.
Behold, 21 exhibitions throughout the country that should definitely be put on your New Year's to-do list.
1. "Agnes Martin"
Where: The Guggenheim
When: October 2016 - January 2017
Why: This will be the first comprehensive survey of minimalist artist Agnes Martin’s work since her death in 2004. Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, she developed a signature grid-pattern method consisting of horizontal and vertical lines hand drawn in pencil on large square canvases that, at first glance, seem to appear blank. While MoMA and other museums are paying homage to great male painters and sculptors, we’re excited to see Martin getting her due.
2. "Art at the Center: Guerrilla Girls"
Where: Walker Art Center
When: Jan. 21, 2016 - Dec. 31, 2016
Why: Since the 1980s, our favorite gorilla mask-wearing feminist art collective has been raising a much-needed ruckus over the gender and racial inequality in the art world. The Walker, which started collecting the Guerrilla Girls’ work early on, will be presenting 88 posters created by the anonymous female artists between 1985 (the year of the group’s founding) and 2012. But that’s not all -- in celebration of the Guerrilla Girls’ 30th anniversary, over 30 arts and cultural organizations in Minneapolis and surrounding cities will be collaborating with the collective for the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover, an eight-week period with more than 50 exhibitions, discussions, performances and special events.
3. "Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood"
When: Jan. 15, 2016 - April 3, 2016
Why: Since the 1990s, New York-based painter Lisa Yuskavage has created a signature crop of luscious portraits of scantily dressed women, their curvaceous figures so intensely sexualized they become almost monstrous. Breasts, buttocks and bellies bulge to alien proportions, as the subjects, at once eroticized and empowered, challenge the viewer not to blush. Frosting pinks, seafoam greens and aquamarine punctuate Yuskavage’s visual playground, conjuring a hallucinatory space somewhere between childhood curiosity and adult fantasy. The show, spanning 25 years of painting, features diptychs, triptychs, and “symbiotic portraits,” single panels filled with multiple, often entwined bodies. Dangerous and decadent, Yuskavage’s visions are as warped as the ones that appear in the deep caverns of the sexual imagination, never meant to reach the outside world.
4. "I See a Story: The Art of Eric Carle"
Where: The High Museum in Atlanta
When: April 2, 2016 - Jan. 8, 2017
Why: Eric Carle, who is now 86 years old, gave the world iconic children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Grouchy Ladybug. The High Museum’s retrospective of Carle’s 50-year career will include 80 of his signature collages from 15 of his most popular books. The show will give visitors an insider’s look at his process of painting white tissue papers, cutting and tearing the results into fantastical shapes we’re all familiar with today.
5. "Firelei Báez: Bloodlines"
Where: Pérez Art Museum Miami
When: Oct. 15, 2015 - March 6, 2016
Why: "Bloodlines," the exhibit of new works by New York-based artist Firelei Báez, is inspired by methods of resistance in black communities within the United States and the Caribbean. Her provocative exploration of historically decorative elements, textiles, hair designs and body ornaments enriches obscured narratives of the black experience, illustrating complex settings where skin tone is no longer a sufficient signifier of race.
6. Catherine Opie: "Portraits" and "O"
When: Jan. 23, 2016 - May 8, 2016 and Feb. 13, 2016–Sept. 5, 2016
Why: This year photographer Catherine Opie has two major exhibitions in LA. At The Hammer, Opie will show a series of 12 recent portraits, depicting contemporary creatives in a style reminiscent of the portraits of the Old Masters, the background cast in darkness with the main figures seemingly glowing from within. Capturing figures like author Jonathan Franzen and artist Glenn Ligon, Opie’s stark, shadowy portraits capture the artistic giants of our generation. Over at LACMA, a very different Opie series is on view. Titled “O,” the series chronicles the sexual habits in San Francisco that often remain out of view. Originally a response to Robert Mapplethorpe’s explicit “X,” an exploration into gay sadomasochism, Opie’s “O” is less about shock and more about suggestion. Her intimate photos come together as half-recalled memories or partially dissolved fantasies.
7. "Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty"
Where: Museum of Modern Art
When: March 26, 2016 - July 24, 2016
Why: We all know Edgar Degas for his work as a painter of the ballet, but this MoMA show will focus on the artist’s role as printmaker. The show will include 120 rarely seen monotypes and around 50 related paintings, drawings, pastels, sketchbooks and prints. For any Degas fan, this exhibition is a treat.
8. "Nothing Personal: Zoe Leonard, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson"
Where: Art Institute of Chicago
When: Jan. 23, 2016 – May 1, 2016
Why: The ironically titled show explores personality, personhood, and what it means to be, or not be, able to be your own person. The three American artists in the show -- Zoe Leonard, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson -- have been individually exploring the personal in their artwork, but by bringing them together, the exhibit creates a fascinating dialogue spanning across decades, media and identities. Sherman’s "Untitled Film Stills" alone are a must-see — the 69 black-and-white photographs are a major contribution to contemporary art.
9. "Lise Haller Baggesen: Mothernism"
Where: The Contemporary Austin
When: Feb. 13, 2016 - May 22, 2016
Why: Danish artist Baggesen, now based in Chicago, centers her newest exhibition around her desire to “locate the ‘mother-shaped’ hole in contemporary art discourse.” And thus, “Mothernism” was born, a multimedia, glittery snarl of disco, sci-fi and feminism. Taking cues from David Bowie and Donna Sommers, Baggesen creates a disco den with purple carpet, shimmering disco balls, Color Field paintings, political banners and a Dutch therapy technique from the 1970s. The artist likens entering the space to entering a painting, thereby challenging the traditional understanding of experiencing artwork as primarily visual. "If Punk is dad,” Baggesen writes, “Disco is your eternal mother, into whose pulsating bosom you can always return … "
10. "Rodney McMillian: The Black Show"
When: Feb. 3, 2016 - Aug. 14, 2016
Why: Colombian born, Los Angeles-based artist Rodney McMillian creates sculptures, paintings, room-sized constructions, videos and performances that explore class, economic status, culture, race, gender and history in the U.S, sometimes using sci-fi imagery to mine the unraveling of social justice in our country. For Philly residents and tourists, this is a must-see.
11. "Women of Abstract Expressionism"
Where: Denver Art Museum
When: June 12, 2016 - Sept. 25, 2016
Why: Abstract expressionism is typically associated with the masculine energy of male action painters, but this groundbreaking exhibition will celebrate the often unknown female artists of the post-World War II art movement. From Elaine de Kooning to Helen Frankenthaler, this will be the first full-scale presentation of works by these 12 artists. Krasner and de Kooning, both women who lived in the shadow of their husbands’ artistic success, will finally be placed in a context independent of their male counterparts.
12. "Maude Schuyler Clay: Mississippi History"
Where: Ogden Museum, New Orleans
When: Oct. 1, 2016 - Jan. 15, 2017
Why: For 25 years, fifth generation Mississipian Maude Schuyler Clay photographed her family and friends in the city she called home. After receiving her first camera in 1975, Clay embarked on “The Mississippians,” a photography project dedicated to Julia Margaret Cameron, a 19th-century artist known for her sepia-tinged fanciful portraits that foreshadowed Cindy Sherman and a selfie-crazed generation. Clay’s images, airy and drenched with light, document her Mississippi friends and family, creating a subjective history that otherwise would have never been documented.
13. "Pia Camil: A Pot for a Latch"
Where: New Museum, New York
When: Jan. 13, 2016 - April 17, 2016
Why: Mexico City native Pia Camil made headlines when she doled out handmade ponchos at New York’s Frieze art fair earlier this year. Now, she’s getting her own solo show at the New Museum. Her paintings, sculptures, performances and installations expose, as the New Museum points out, “the inherent problems as well as the latent possibilities within urban ruin, exploring what she refers to as the ‘aesthetization of failure.’” The title of the exhibition refers to the potlatch: a ceremonial gift-giving festival practiced by the Native American peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast, for whom it was a central system of wealth redistribution. In a similar fashion, Camil is inviting museum goers to bring their own unique items to the museum to exchange for one of her own, turning the Lobby Gallery into a makeshift “shop.”
14. "Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective"
Where: de Young, San Francisco
When: March 12, 2016 - May 30, 2016
Why: Curated by André Leon Talley, former American editor-at-large for Vogue, the world premiere retrospective will celebrate the life and career of the influential designer with more than 130 pieces produced over five decades. Expect to swoon over the lush florals, elaborate ball gowns and glam red carpet ensembles.
15. "Caparena: The Clarence and Grace Woolsey Figures"
Where: Intuit, Chicago
When: Jan. 15, 2016 - March 27, 2016
Why: For the uninitiated, “Caparena” or “arena of caps,” is the word Clarence and Grace Woolsey used to describe their bottle-cap creatures. Clarence, a former rodeo rider, wed Grace at the age of 18, and the two became farmhands. In their spare time, the two began creating sculptures from leftover bottle caps, making humans and animals and windmills and architectural forms of various sizes, some referencing fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The little cap-clad extraterrestrials were not discovered until 1993, after both Clarence and Grace had passed away, when they were found in Grace’s brother’s barn. 200 of them sold at auction for only $57. Today, the sculptures are recognized as folk art gems, secret manifestations of a couple’s creativity and love.
16. "Alex Da Corte: Free Roses"
Where: Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts
When: From March 26, 2016
Why: Mass MOCA describes Alex Da Corte’s work as “provocative, puzzling, and visually seductive.” He is known for blending the theory of abstraction with the banality of tchotchkes and household items, amounting to acid-colored mashups that will soon take over the museum’s second floor. The centerpiece of the exhibition was created for the museum’s 100-foot long, 30-foot tall gallery. It is the sixth installment in a series of works based on Arthur Rimbaud's poem “A Season in Hell,” in which the 19th-century poet's angst-ridden words are used to reflect Da Corte’s own suburban upbringing.
17. "Dance: American Art, 1830-1960"
Where: Detroit Institute of Arts
When: March 20, 2016 - June 12, 2016
Why: You’ll want to bust a move after visiting this multimedia exhibition of artworks and videos celebrating dance as central to American life and culture. "Dance" brings together 19th-century painters such as John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, and Mary Cassatt; the superstars of the Harlem Renaissance including Aaron Douglas, William Johnson and James Van Der Zee; and the artists who shaped the aesthetics of modern dance including Isamu Noguchi, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol.
18. "Physical: Sex and the Body in the 1980s"
When: March 20, 2016 – July 31, 2016
Why: Nan Goldin, Andres Serrano, Peter Hujar and Kiki Smith are just some of the iconic artists who explored the relationship between the body and art in the 1980s. Dealing with the rise of feminism, transgressive sexuality, the language of advertising, the crisis of AIDS and the politics of the debilitated body, artists explored the image of the body in sickness and in health. Robert Mapplethorpe hovers at the center of the show; although his work is not included, many of the exhibiting artists were close friends with Mapplethorpe and worked in dialogue with his graphic depictions of the sexual male body.
19. "An Anonymous Art: American Snapshots from the Peter J. Cohen Gift"
Where: Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
When: April 15, 2016 - Sept. 04, 2016
Why: “Amateur snapshots are the ‘folk art’ of photography.” So begins the exhibition description of this survey of amateur and anonymous snapshots taken before the end of analog photography’s reign. Walking through this show will be like spying on a distant family’s photo album, tipsy snapshots and all.
20. "Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt"
Where: Cleveland Museum of Art
When: April 3, 2016 - July 31, 2016
Why: In the art game, it helps to have a cheerleader encouraging you to continue. Through "Converging Lines," we get to see firsthand a celebration of the close friendship between two of the most significant American artists of the postwar era. While Eva Hesse’s and Sol LeWitt’s artistic processes diverged in innumerable ways, this exhibition highlights the crucial influence they had on each other’s art and lives. Their close bond was also evident in their extensive correspondence over the course of their friendship, which lasted more than a decade.
21. "Betye Saar: Still Tickin'"
Where: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona
When: Jan. 30, 2016 - May 1, 2016
Why: Betye Saar is an assemblage artist, scavenging and collaging found objects to seduce viewers into a state of rebellion. The black artist, of African, Irish and American Indian descent, used her work to dismantle negative stereotypes about blacks, women, and black women in the 1970s, often incorporating figures like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom into her conglomerations. The traveling retrospective, titled “Still Tickin’,” honors the 90-year-old artist’s lifetime dedication to recycling, creativity and political upheaval.
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