Opening This Week

Refashioning: CFGNY and Wataru Tominaga – Japan Society

The innovative nature of contemporary fashion is on full display in Refashioning: CFGNY and Wataru Tominaga (November 18, 2022 – February 19, 2023), featuring two design firms that use garments, accessories, textile-based works, sculptures, and video to explore the perceptions and realities of human identity, whether self-chosen or imposed by others.

The collective of Tin Nguyen, Daniel Chew, Kirsten Kilponen, and Ten Izu that make up CFGNY examine and deconstruct a wide variety of source material for their creations, which pose such questions as who defines Asian-ness and for what purposes, as well as how these imposed labels influence people’s perceptions of themselves and others.

Clashing colors and patterns combined with gender-fluid garments are hallmarks of Wataru Tominaga’s work, along with an aesthetic that prioritizes examination of national, cultural, and personal identities through various media and art forms. The display system used in the exhibition for his creations was designed by Chen Chen & Kai Williams and conceived to present the selected pieces in a neutral setting, without resorting to a traditional mannequin display format.

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street (near First Avenue), Hours: Wed – Sun: 12-7, Admission: Adults: $12, Senior Adults: $10, Students w/ ID: $10, Persons with disabilities: Free, Children 16 years and under: Free. From 12pm-1pm on Wednesdays through Fridays, only members may enter, after that time the general public may enter. On Fridays between 6-9pm, admission is free but tickets should be reserved in advance on the website. To reserve tickets, click here

Full vaccination plus booster (if eligible) is required to enter the building. Please be prepared to show proof of vaccination when requested. Masks are required at all times & masks with vents/bandanas are not permitted. A mask will be provided if you do not have one. Capacity for entry is strictly limited via timed ticketing and social distancing is required. Please be advised that children must be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult. Children aged 5 to 11 must show proof of full vaccination (both doses, with second dose received at least 14 days prior to visiting the Japan Society). Children under the age of 5 will be admitted with no testing required. More information about entry requirements may be found here

Barbara Earl Thomas: Make A Joyful Noise – Claire Oliver Gallery

The artworks in Barbara Earl Thomas: Make A Joyful Noise (November 11, 2022 – January 7, 2023) are made with three elements (a cutting blade, paper, and color) to create an intricate visual language describing aspects of Black experience and history. Thomas’ many other roles as educator, lecturer, and writer inform her practice, linking her work to such legendary artists as Elizabeth Catlett and Faith Ringgold; with all three women’s creative vision centered on the Black experience, both historical and personal. These nine portraits on view, some as large as three by four feet, show adults and children engaging in the healing, life-affirming qualities of the arts, which have been so important during times of hardship, war, and the recent pandemic. The result is a contemporary art that taps into universal themes while explicitly linking to a specific community and its complex past.

Claire Oliver Gallery, 2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd (near 132nd Street), Hours: Tue – Sat: 11-6, Admission: Free

Ursula von Rydingsvard, OBUDOWAĆ, 2020-21 Cedar 138 x 148 x 28 in (350.5 x 375.9 x 71.1 cm) © Ursula von Rydingsvard Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co. Photo: Joshua Simpson

Ursula von Rydingsvard: LUBA – Galerie Lelong & Co

The new works in Ursula von Rydingsvard: LUBA (October 27 – December 17, 2022) feature large-scale wood sculptures with textured exteriors created by carving through the layered material while preserving the structural integrity of the overall piece and hung on the wall or balanced on the floor. The gallery’s effective lighting produces a chiaroscuro effect in these heavily worked surfaces, calling to mind such natural formations as ocean waves or mountain caves. What’s even more astonishing is that von Rydingsvard works directly on the wood, with no preparatory design sketches involved. Her technical skills, along with her studio team’s, are more than equal to any reaction by the material involved and allow for the creation of astonishing visual effects within the pieces. In addition to these sculptures, the show features drawings from the last two years and a new work cast in bronze from a wood model, an unusual choice by the artist, but perhaps an indication of a future direction in her oeuvre.


Alex Katz: Gathering – Guggenheim Museum

The retrospective Alex Katz: Gathering (October 21, 2022 – February 20, 2023) presents over 70 years of drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures from the artist known for his figurative style in portraying family, friends, and landscapes. Although often criticized for his painting technique in removing extraneous detail from his subjects and applying paint in smooth, flat blocks of color, Katz’s works are intensely focused images that try to capture a moment: anything from an emotion shared between people to a second of light as it illuminates a landscape. In a sense, he removes detail to force the viewer to slow down, not to make a snap judgement, but truly examine what is in front of them. It’s the reverse of what people expect, and its why Katz’s work continues to stand the test of time.

Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue at 88th Street, Hours: Sun – Mon: 11-6, Tue: CLOSED, Wed – Fri: 11-6, Sat: 11-8, Admission: Adults: $25, Students and Seniors 65+ (both with ID): $18, Visitors with disabilities: $18 (accompanying caregivers receive free admission), Children under 12 years of age: Free, Members: Free. On Saturdays from 6-8 pm, admission is pay-what-you-wish. PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT FACIAL MASKS ARE STRONGLY RECOMMENDED WHILE VISITING THE MUSEUM, REGARDLESS OF VISITOR VACCINATION STATUS.

She Who Wrote: Enheduanna and Women of Mesopotamia 3400 – 2000 BC – The Morgan Library & Museum

In She Who Wrote: Enheduanna and Women of Mesopotamia 3400 – 2000 BC (October 14, 2022 – February 19, 2023), The Morgan presents a unique collection of artifacts, combined with recent scholarship, that illustrates the wide assortment of roles available to women from religion to ruling and child-rearing to commerce. Much of what we know comes from documents written in cuneiform on clay tablets: everything from bills of sale to poetry and hymns, but new interpretations of this information present a more complex view of the era. Many of the objects on view demonstrate the high regard Mesopotamian society had for women, showing not just images of women as signifiers of fertility and motherhood, but their work in agriculture, pottery-making, and textile manufacture, as well as the roles they filled in the political and religious spheres throughout the region.

The centerpiece of the show features the poetry and hymns of Enheduanna, which were crucial to the religious beliefs of Ancient Mesopotamia. Appointed as High Priestess by her father, King Sargon, Enheduanna consolidated the features of Sumerian and Akkadian gods to strengthen his spiritual claims to the throne, aiding his work in conquering the many city-states of the Mesopotamia region and creating the first multi-national empire in the world. Her role as administrator of the main temple complex gave her a level of political power nearly equal to the king, while her writings were recited and copied for use in both religious and secular settings. She was the first author to place her name within her work, mining her life for subject matter while also praising the deities for their blessings and interventions when misfortune struck. Enheduanna’s writings can be considered the template for many other religions’ hymns and poetry, giving her an immortality greater than the gods she worshipped.

The Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, Hours: Tue – Thur: 10:30-5, Fri: 10:30-7, Sat – Sun: 10:30-5, Admission: General admission: $22, Seniors (65 years and older): $14, Students (with valid id): $13, Disabled visitors: $13 (accompanying caregivers enter for free), Children (18 years and younger): Free, Members: Free. Tickets may be purchased in advance here, walk-ins are welcome.


Building the Book from the Ancient World to the Present Day: Five Decades of Rare Book School & the Book Arts Press and Aubrey Beardsley, 150 Years Young – The Grolier Club

In the latest show from The Grolier Club, Building the Book from the Ancient World to the Present Day: Five Decades of Rare Book School & the Book Arts Press (September 28 – December 23, 2022), visitors will see a magnificent range of written and printed material spanning thousands of years from many countries and cultures held by the Rare Book School, an independent educational organization located on the campus of the University of Virginia. RBS, founded in 1983, specializes in the study of the history of books, printing, and related subjects, offering courses for antiquarian booksellers, archivists, book binders, collectors, conservators, educators, specialty librarians, and researchers.

Although various forms of texts such as hymns, law codes, poetry, stories, and historical records go back as far as 2250 BCE, the book as we recognize it today took shape sometime in the late 800s, first in China, then with other countries developing the format to suit their interests and needs. The exhibition examines all aspects of books: materials, printing and/or transcribing of words, and design, as well as how their readers used and valued these objects. Some highlights of this diverse collection include an Egyptian papyrus fragment recording wheat yields and harvest dates, a miniature almanac in a wooden case designed to look like a Viennese bread roll, and edited printing plates from Lola Ridge’s Modernist poetry book, ‘The Ghetto and Other Poems’ from 1918.

In the second floor gallery, the club showcases Aubrey Beardsley, 150 Years Young (September 8 – November 12, 2022), with a group of 70 items from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection in the University of Delaware Library, Museums, and Press, ranging from letters to original illustrations from the tragically short career of this English artist. Known for drawings that were famously provocative while being visually appealing to both the Art Nouveau and Aestheticism movements, Beardsley’s work made him a favorite with magazine and book publishers, while shocking the sensibilities of the Victorian era public. Sadly, his images fell out of favor with the change in artistic tastes around 1895, although he continued working and publishing until his death in 1898. Rediscovered and lauded in the 1960s, Beardsley’s art continues to undergo periodic revivals, shocking and delighting new generations with his frank portrayals of human sexuality, proving every time that no matter how sophisticated we think we are, he’s way ahead of us.


Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered – American Folk Art Museum

The latest show from the American Folk Art Museum, Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered (September 23, 2022 – January 29, 2023), takes a fresh approach to the noted self-taught painter, whose career benefited from a unique combination of curatorial interest and the Surrealist art movement.

The exhibit begins with Hirshfield’s early life as an immigrant, learning a trade, then eventually owning his own business manufacturing footwear and orthopedic products (recreated samples of his patented slipper models on view, made by artist Liz Blahd, demonstrate a good sense of design and form). Hirshfield took up painting after retiring, eventually completing 78 works before his death in 1946. His first pictures were seen by Sidney Janis, a collector and member of MoMA’s advisory committee, who promoted the artist in both museum and gallery shows for years, even persuading Peggy Guggenheim to hold a posthumous show in 1947.

Known for a certain intensity in his examination of subject matter, Hirshfield’s images of animals, landscapes, and women are strangely compelling despite their factual inaccuracies. He achieved this by mixing scale, pattern, and color, using layers of paint carefully applied, which imparted a tactile aspect to the outlined shapes while ignoring perspective and depth. Animals have exaggerated rounded bodies, trees shrink into the landscape while flowers become gigantic, and human forms have a distorted scale. The effect is slightly dreamlike, with familiar subjects altered just enough to tease the mind into questioning what it’s seeing.

That could be why Surrealists André Breton and Marcel Duchamp included Hirshfield’s painting Girl with Pigeons in the 1942 landmark art show First Papers of Surrealism, accepting him as a modern artist, not a ‘folk’ or ‘primitive’ one, shocking many who did not believe that a self-taught artist had any place with professionals. AFAM rightly gives a great deal of attention to this notable inclusion by the Surrealists, as it was a genuine breakthrough to place a folk artist within the art history canon. Sadly, this understanding was lost rather quickly after Hirshfield’s death: as a result, no critic, collector, or curator would attempt a similar connection between self-taught artists and the larger world for many decades afterwards. Even now, such multi-definitions are rare, making the story of Morris Hirshfield told by curator Richard Meyer, curatorial advisor Susan Davidson, and coordinating curator Valérie Rousseau that much more valuable.

American Folk Art Museum, 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), Hours: Tue – Sun: 11:30-6, Admission: Free. The museum requests that all visitors make a free reservation BEFORE arriving, details are here. PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT FACIAL MASKS ARE STRONGLY RECOMMENDED WHILE VISITING THE MUSEUM, REGARDLESS OF VISITOR VACCINATION STATUS.

Miho Hatori, Do Whales Dream of Electric Human? (video still), 2022. Video installation. Courtesy the artist.

Who Speaks for the Oceans? – Mishkin Gallery

Looking back, it’s difficult to imagine the impact of the first commercially available recording of whale song in 1970. It was discussed all around the world: at dinner tables, grade schools, college campuses, businesses, by scientific and political groups. What were these giant animals saying to each other while swimming in the ocean’s depths? Were they expressing emotions or even thoughts? Could humans ever understand these sounds, recognize individuals by their tone or song pattern? Then other questions began: what have people done to the oceans over the centuries? The claims of ownership over areas marked only by measuring the positions of the stars, the overfishing and hunting of fish and animals for human consumption, polluting the waters with industrial waste – all these acts of conquest, domination, and destruction against individuals, lands, and water began to be accounted for and reassessed in a new light. The new exhibit at Baruch College’s Mishkin Gallery, Who Speaks for the Oceans? (September 1 – December 9, 2022), examines these issues through the work of an international, multi-generational group of artists using a wide variety of mediums and techniques. The result is a deeply felt and imaginative response to human history, nature’s response, and a possible way forward that nurtures a partnership between both.

Mishkin Gallery, 135 East 22nd Street, Hours: Mon – Fri: 11-6 (gallery follows the academic calendar of Baruch College, if the school is closed, so is the gallery. Click here for more information.), Admission: Free. PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT PROOF OF VACCINATION & PHOTO ID IS REQUIRED FOR ENTRY TO GALLERY. VISITORS MUST SIGN IN AT FRONT DESK FOR CONTACT TRACING. FACE MASKS MUST BE WORN IN THE BUILDING AND EXHIBITION SPACES.