Opening This Week

Gothic Spirit: Medieval Art from Europe – Luhring Augustine

The show Gothic Spirit: Medieval Art from Europe, a collaboration between local gallery Luhring Augustine and Sam Fogg (based in London), presents selections of architectural elements, sculpture, painting, and stained glass of the European Middle Ages. It’s not often you’ll find these privately held items outside of a specialist gallery or museum setting, making this show a surprise in Chelsea’s relentlessly contemporary scene. Oddly enough, the contrast between these pieces of medieval art and the modern rooms isn’t as jarring as you might think. Although art from this era is usually displayed in dim light and deep shadows, the bright, blank walls of a modern gallery emphasize the makers’ hands in the works and forcing visitors out of sentimental reverence, instead seeing these superb objects as statements of skill, craft, and faith.

In addition, on Saturday, January 25 there is a one day conference: Restoring the Past: Destruction, Restoration, and Preservation of Medieval Art and Architecture, with conservationists, scholars, and collectors. The meeting (held at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street) is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Reserve a spot at rsvp@luhringaugustine.com.

On view January 25 – March 7

Luhring Augustine, 531 West 24th Street, Hours: Tue – Sat: 10-6, Admission: Free

Painting the Japanese Blues: Introducing Issei Nishimura – Cavin-Morris Gallery

Painting the Japanese Blues: Introducing Issei Nishimura is a collection of dynamic pieces, figurative and abstract, inspired by blues music and reflecting that genre’s complex emotional landscape. The artist (formerly a musician) has gone from interpreting notes on a page to translating sound into imagery. Using crayon, ink, and acrylic paints on a variety of surfaces, Nishimura’s line and color choices veer from delicate shapes to heavily overpainted textures that seem to slide off the paperboard. His style is instantly recognizable, just like the music he loves so much.

On view January 9 – February 15

Cavin-Morris Gallery, 210 Eleventh Avenue (between 24th and 25th Streets), Suite 201, Hours: Tue – Fri: 10-6, Sat: 11-6, Admission: Free

Marie Duval: Laughter in the First Age of Leisure – Society of Illustrators

How do you come up with an idea? Most people start by observing the world around them, noting what’s available or missing from a given situation. After that, thought and inspiration take over, hopefully ending with a solution or invention. Marie Duval followed this formula to perfection: her observations of life working in London’s music halls helped flesh out the character of Ally Sloper, a comic creation she drew for a Victorian humor magazine. His working-class roots combined with a resourceful (but not always legal) attitude to life, delighted and entertained English audiences for decades, becoming a national icon. (Sloper’s DNA can still be found in everything from W.C. Fields’ performance style to the 1970’s UK tv show ‘Steptoe and Son’.) Duval did the character’s artwork and storylines for several years, receiving some credit for the work but not much else. In later decades, her pioneering methods in the field of comic strips were ignored or simply unknown but now in Marie Duval: Laughter in the First Age of Leisure, modern audiences can view this innovator whose techniques broke new ground in the graphic arts. (The exhibition, along with The Marie Duval Archive, was produced by the University of Chester and Central Saint Martins, in partnership with Guildhall Library and with the support of the British Library and the London Library, made possible by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK.)

On view January 7 – March 4

Society of Illustrators, 128 East 63rd Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues), Hours: Tue: 10-8, Wed: 10-5, Thur: 10-8, Fri: 10-5, Sat: 11-5, Admission: Adults: $15, Seniors (over 65 yrs of age): $10, Students (full-time undergraduate and below with valid ID): $10, Children (10 yrs and younger, accompanied by an adult): Free, Members: Free. On Tuesdays between 5pm-8pm, admission is free (may change due to schedule, check website for more info)

Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection – Grolier Club

Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, focuses on women’s labor: for themselves or others, and documented through books, journals, letters, photographs, and other ephemera. Some highlights include several items from women-run printing presses in different centuries (including one from 1478, only 28 years after the Gutenberg press became commercially viable), a letter written by Artemesia Gentileschi to her patron Cassiano Dal Pozzo, a signed copy of Phillis Wheatley’s book of poems published in 1773, the account book of a seamstress running her small business in 1845, an autograph book with Lizzie Borden’s signature, and many documents from Emma Goldman, the noted 20th century activist. Baskin has said, “I didn’t know these things existed until I found them”, and she’s not alone. Open any general history book and you may find a mention here or there of a woman’s contribution, but more likely, you won’t. As more writers and scholars discover this collection (now housed at Duke University), we should start to see a change in historical narrative, where women’s labor is acknowledged and credited as part of the overall story of humanity. Until then, the rest of us will visit this exhibit to learn and be inspired by the women of the past, toiling in a multitude of professions, leaving their work and words behind for future generations.

On view December 11, 2019 – February 8, 2020

Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, Hours: Mon – Sat: 10-5, Admission: Free

Ans Westra: Urban Drift – Anastasia Photo

There’s an old saying that the onlooker sees most of the game – that is, outsiders observe more clearly what is happening to a group than the group itself. Photographers seem particularly suited to this way of thinking: look at the work of Vivian Maier or Robert Frank and you’ll see that their status as outsiders (by profession or being an immigrant) gave them an eye for compelling (situations) images, without any manipulation of the subjects. It’s the same in the new show Ans Westra: Urban Drift. Westra came to New Zealand at the age of 21 and became interested in the Maori population of the nation. She documented the changes in Maori communities for 60 years, with her work now archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (part of the National Library of New Zealand), Wellington. Westra’s photographs have a consistency informed by neutral observation. Her goal was to record events as honestly as possible, regardless of others’ opinions on her subjects. The results were realistic and non-condescending images of a culture working through rapidly changing circumstances, something rare in 20th century photography. In this era of mass photography and image manipulation, it’s worth noting that any photograph that stands the test of time is probably one that shows an honest moment with no agenda or subtext attached – just like the work of Ans Westra.

On view December 5, 2019 – February 22, 2020

Anastasia Photo, 143 Ludlow Street, Hours: Tue – Sat: 10-6, Admission: Free

Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe – The Metropolitan Museum of Art

We tend to think that our own time as one of amazing discoveries in science and technology, with applications and implications for lives around the world. What we don’t remember is that just about every single person throughout time has thought that about their own era. If you don’t believe it, ask someone over the age of 40 how they used VHS tapes, someone over the age of 60 what seeing the Moon landing was like, or someone over the age of 80 about the first time they saw a TV set and almost always they’ll mention how thrilled they were by the technology that created that moment. The same amazement following new discoveries was felt by the nobility of Europe in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, inspiring their collections of objects exploring and explaining natural phenomena, all created with the collective knowledge and talent of artisans, craftsmen, and scholars. Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe showcases the rapid development of scientific method and its applications in exploration, commerce, political power and even entertainment of the time. The variety of items on view give visitors a glimpse into a world not unlike our own, fascinated by beautifully made tools as well as unusual and exotic objects from the four corners of the world.

On view November 25, 2019 – March 1, 2020

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, Hours: Sun – Thurs: 10-5:30, Fri – Sat: 10-9, Admission: Out of state visitors: Adults: $25, Seniors: $17, Students not from NY, NJ, or CT: $12, Children under 12 years: Free, Members: Free. These admission tickets are good for three consecutive days and permit entry to The Met Breuer, The Met, and The Met Cloisters.

NYS residents (must show proof, see website for details): Pay what you wish, Students from NY, NJ, CT (must show current student id): Pay what you wish. These admission tickets are good for same day only and permit entry to The Met Breuer, The Met, and The Met Cloisters.

A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and the Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate – ISAW Gallery

The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) presents a fresh view of the legendary Ishtar Gate, one of eight entrances to the ancient city of Babylon. This gate and the processional walkway leading into the city’s center were used in religious celebrations that coincided with marking the New Year, thanking the god Marduk for his protection, affirming the power of the king, and expressing gratitude for the harvest and fertile lands. A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and the Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate focuses on the building materials used: their meaning and significance when transformed into bricks, objects of worship or protection, or combined in specific ways to strengthen their magical properties. The power of the gate and walkway did not just come from being dedicated to gods but also because they were constructed with the right materials to create a force field to attract and manifest the energy of these supernatural beings. Items on view include bricks and tiles (with several drawings showing how they were utilized on site), along with objects for daily use, all showcasing the talents and skills of the artisans who lived in ancient Babylon. As an additional feature to the exhibit, there is a free gallery tour every Friday evening at 6pm, and several lectures scheduled through the fall. More details can be found here

On view November 6, 2019 – May 24, 2020

ISAW Gallery, 15 East 84th Street (between Fifth and Madison Avenues), Hours: Wed – Thur: 11-6, Fri: 11-8, Sat – Sun: 11-6, Admission: Free

Pat Passlof: The Brush is the Finger of the Brain – The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation

The mini survey of Pat Passlof: The Brush is the Finger of the Brain showcases over 50 years of work from the noted Abstract Expressionist, one of the earliest members of the movement. One of Passlof’s many strengths as an abstract artist is how she continually changed her work while maintaining complete control over color and paint application. By varying the gesture of her brush and hand, each piece offers a new conversation between artist and viewer on what abstraction is or where it might go next. Another aspect of her genius as an artist s her lack of fear about changing or questioning her work. As far as Passlof was concerned, pushing against limits (self-imposed or otherwise) was the only way to make good art – and every piece here demonstrates that belief.

On view October 11, 2019 – April 11, 2020

The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation, 87 Eldridge Street, Hours: Thur – Sun: 11-6, Admission: Free

Crash Paints “Henry Chalfant” on wall on the West Side of Manhattan and Canal St. 1980 © 2018 Henry Chalfant / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Eric Firestone Gallery, New York.

Henry Chalfant: Art vs Transit, 1977-1987 – The Bronx Museum of the Arts

If you ask anyone who lived in 1970s New York City if they were aware of a new art form taking place right in front of them, without a doubt 99 out of 100 people would have said no. And then there’s Henry Chalfant, who said yes, and I’m documenting it to see where it’s going. In Henry Chalfant: Art vs Transit, 1977-1987, the sculptor-turned-photographer took thousands of pictures capturing the graffiti movement as it happened, preserving the images of this most fluid and temporary art form. It’s part nostalgia trip, part documentation of a New York City that once was so very different.

On view: September 25, 2019 – March 8, 2020

The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, Hours: Wed-Thur: 11-6, Fri: 11-8, Sat-Sun: 11-6, Admission: Free

Martín Ramírez (1895, Tepatitlán de Morelos, Mexico–1963, Auburn, CA) Untitled 1960–1963.
Gouache, graphite, and black pencil on paper 32 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. Collection of Audrey B. Heckler
© Estate of Martín Ramírez Photography © Visko Hatfield, courtesy of the Foundation to Promote Self Taught Art and Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.

Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler – American Museum of Folk Art

To be an art collector, it helps to have a defined focus of what works you want and being open to ideas outside your preconceived notions. But to be a connoisseur is to constantly expand your knowledge to embrace new information, each year understanding more about your subject. Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler showcases a connoisseur’s love for self-taught art, a genre most people find difficult to embrace. The selection of pieces from America and Europe are a wide range of artists, subjects, and media which will impress visitors, regardless of their familiarity with the category. Using an approach that examines the art through various contexts and source material, the exhibit gives deeper meaning to the works and helps viewers understand Ms. Heckler’s fascination with the genre.

On view: September 17, 2019 – January 26, 2020

American Folk Art Museum, 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), Hours: Tues – Thur: 11:30-7, Fri: 12-7:30, Sat: 11:30-7, Sun: 12-6, Admission: Free

Vera Neumann, Meadow Fern, c. 1973. Watercolor on paper, 30 x 30 inches. Courtesy Susan Seid.

Vera Paints a Scarf – Museum of Arts and Design

This survey exhibit of Vera Neumann’s career as artist, designer and businesswoman continues the innovative programming to be found at the Museum of Arts and Design. Using original works on paper as well as commercial products ranging from home goods to clothing, the museum shows visitors how this American entrepreneur helped create a new category of business: the lifestyle brand.

On view August 8, 2019 – January 26, 2020

Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, Hours: Tue-Wed and Fri-Sun: 10-6, Thur: 10-9, General Admission: $16, Seniors: $14, Students: $12, Members: Free, Children aged 18 and under: Free (accompanied by an adult), Persons with disabilities and their caregivers (must show ID): Free. On Thursdays from 6 pm to 9 pm: admission is pay-what-you-wish