Opening This Week

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: Wed – 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.

Diane Arbus A very young baby, N.Y.C. [Anderson Hays Cooper] 1968 © The Estate of Diane Arbus

.cataclysm.: The 1972 Diane Arbus Retrospective Revisited – David Zwirner

The latest show from David Zwirner performs a dual role, revisiting a groundbreaking exhibition of photographs and examining its impact on photography and art history. .cataclysm.: The 1972 Diane Arbus Retrospective Revisited (September 14 – October 22, 2022) assembles the 113 photographs of the original MoMA show along with commentary for and against her subject matter and presentation from a historical/contemporary viewpoint. At that time, some felt her photographs were exploitative, others thought them honest, and all agreed that no one could remain neutral after seeing them. Today, people see these images more as records of ordinary people, especially those often ignored, marginalized, or shunned by most of society which removes the shock value, but replaces it with empathy and compassion, redefining the impact of the photographs, without altering their meaning. It’s a result that no one, including Arbus, would have predicted fifty years ago, that with just one museum exhibit, her innovative work would change art history, photography, and in a way, the national conversation on the nature of our society.


Sakari Kannosto: Children of the Flood – HB381

Sakari Kannosto: Children of the Flood (September 9 – October 27, 2022) is a wildly inventive imagining of a world consumed and ruled by water, where humans adapt and evolve to live with the preexisting marine life. However, these are not threatening monsters of B-movies but more benevolent creatures, creating a community that embraces human-hybrids, animals, and fish. Elements of creation myths from across the world, archetypes and symbols from older to modern cultures, and Western art motifs all meld together in these stoneware figures, creating a visual language open to many interpretations, along with a surprising humor and tenderness.


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.

David Lamelas, At Sunrise, 2015. Pastel and pencil on paper, 20 x 14 1/8 in. (51 x 36 cm). © the artist. Courtesy the artist, Sprüth Magers, and Jan Mot. Photo: Arturo Sánchez.

Eros Rising: Visions of the Erotic in Latin American Art – Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA)

Although many would claim that sex is the engine that drives most if not all of humanity, it’s eroticism that acts as the gasoline. It fuels the mechanics of the act, embellishing the moment, and giving it context in a person’s mind. In the latest show from ISLAA, Eros Rising: Visions of the Erotic in Latin American Art (June 16 – September 30, 2022), curated by Mariano López Seoane and Bernardo Mosqueira, present this ambiguous topic as the perfect subject matter for artists. The various arguments, put forward in the accessible yet scholarly pamphlet that accompanies the exhibit, explore some interpretations offered by Latin American artists of different generations and identities, touching on the philosophical and emotional thinking behind their works, while acknowledging that the subject is so multifaceted, no one could hope to itemize it all.  

ISLAA, 50 East 78th Street, Hours: Tue: 2-5, Wed – Fri: 2-7, Admission: Free. Walk-ins are welcomed but to book a visit time in advance, please click here PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT FACIAL MASKS ARE REQUIRED TO BE WORN WHILE VISITING THE GALLERY, REGARDLESS OF VISITOR VACCINATION STATUS.

Dior + Balenciaga: The Kings of Couture and Their Legacies – The Museum at FIT

In all the hoopla surrounding the world of couture, it’s easy to forget the labor that goes into each piece of clothing. Sketches, fabric choices, the trial and error of the muslin sample, then a final garment crafted by experienced technicians: all these steps must be done with imagination and skill. The Museum at FIT’s new show Dior + Balenciaga: The Kings of Couture and Their Legacies  (June 1 – November 6, 2022), is a concise exhibition on the unique qualities of these legendary 20th century designers and their work in this exacting profession.

Using clothes from the museum’s extensive collection, curator Patricia Mears, deputy director of MFIT, demonstrates the nuances of garment construction from Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga, similarities and differences in their collections, as well as the influence of each man’s craft and aesthetic on successors to their companies and the haute couture industry as a whole. Muslin reproductions, videos, and digital patterns by assistant professor Tetuso Tamanaha provide clear explanations on how certain garments were made and how they would appear on a moving body. The result of their work is an engaging combination of connoisseurship and masterclass, expressed with detail and precision worthy of their subjects.

The Museum at FIT, 227 West 27th Street (at 7th Avenue), Hours: Wed – Fri: 12-8, Sat – Sun: 10-5, Admission: Free. PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT FACE MASKS MUST BE WORN IN THE BUILDING AND EXHIBTION SPACES. Proof of vaccination is no longer required for entry.