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Selecting the best of New York City’s arts scene

It’s the first formal artistic thing most of us do: someone puts a piece of paper in front of us, props up a crayon, marker, or pencil in our hand, then starts us off by sliding the hand and object on the paper. After that, we’re on our own, scribbling and shaping lines to represent people, places, and things, making real and imaginary worlds collide, and generally enjoying ourselves. And then it ends, or rather, we gradually find other outlets for our imagination, or just let it all fade away. But artists don’t stop drawing, continuing to shape and refine the marks on the page, making a style for themselves, learning to tell the truth about what they see and feel about the world at large. At Matthew Marks Gallery (featured in this week’s ‘Gallery Shows’ section), the show One hundred drawings demonstrates this aspect of the creative life well, using images hung in chronological order, from Degas’ 1860 study for Alexander and Bucephalus to Johns’ 2019 reworking of a sketch from over thirty years ago. It’s a great reminder that no matter how famous an artist may be, s/he/they still begin work the way they did as a child: with a piece of paper and something to make a mark.

Another artist who made a mark, figuratively and literally, was the 19th century’s Marie Duval. Her groundbreaking work in British graphic design was achieved through her efforts in co-creating Ally Sloper, one of the earliest (if not the first) serial comic characters in publishing. Duval’s husband Charles Ross invented the character for his humor magazine ‘Judy’, but Duval improved on the initial artwork, wrote the storylines, and standardized Sloper’s personality. For all her innovation, Marie Duval was removed from the history of comics by the early 20th century, only to be rediscovered and fully credited in the last few decades. The Society of Illustrators’ latest exhibit Marie Duval: Laughter in the First Age of Leisure, traces the history of the artist and her time, placing her efforts in the context of humorous graphic works and later comic strips. More details about the show are in the ‘Opening This Week’ section.

After reading about these shows, take a moment to look over our updated section ‘Late Winter Preview 2020’. You’ll find information on exhibits in museums large and small, as well as details on the many art fairs being held in the city from January to April. The fairs are the best way to discover new work, learn from experts in the field, and see some of the latest trends in the art market.

We also have a review of Stretching the Canvas: Eight Decades of Native Painting at the National Museum of the American Indian, located at Bowling Green in downtown Manhattan. This exhibit is very different from the usual ethnographic or historical displays at the museum, focusing on fine art paintings made by people of Native descent. The show couldn’t be timelier, with its discussion of issues ranging from art vs craft, treatment of Native peoples by the federal government and other institutions, and what commercial opportunities have been available to these artists in the past and today. Admission to the NMAI is free so we encourage everyone to visit this groundbreaking show, on view until late fall 2020.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our January series #31DaysofArt on Twitter (@artsgazing). There are so many art-based activities here in NYC, from free admission to some museums on certain days to classes in every artistic medium possible, 31 days isn’t enough for it all (but these choices are some of the best!). At the end of the month, we’ll be posting all our suggestions as a future reference for our readers.