by Susan Cox
Some great exhibits are opening and now is the time to shake off winter and get out of your studio and see some art. If you missed Art Fair Week in NYC, there are still lots of opportunities to see art, be inspired, challenged, angered or just pleased. I’ve been holed up in my studio for the last several cold months. Last week I walked outside and felt the approach of spring. The smells, the sounds, the quality of the light all made me need to see some art. Luckily I had planned time out of my studio and in some exhibitions.
I’ve been looking forward to the opening of Met Breuer since the new Whitney opened. I should probably say at this point that I used to be an architect, and really, once an architect, always an architect so I was interested in seeing how the building evolved. I have never loved the Breuer building but I admire its bold statement. It is a brutal building and stands its ground. The Met has refreshed the building but not changed it in any fundamental way. The galleries somehow feel more spacious though, and the exhibits are well presented.
The first two exhibits in the new Met Breuer are “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible” and “Nasreen Mohamedi”. Reviews by more knowledgeable people than me have been written so I’m going to just give my impressions. The idea behind “Unfinished” intrigued me so I was looking forward to the presentation. There were, to my mind, two parts to the exhibition: before and after about 1900. I was particularly interested in the latter period when the decision to leave a work unfinished seemed more decisive and therefore more powerful. For example, Alice Neel left the painting “James Hunter Black Draftee” appear unfinished, but it stands as an emotive and powerful statement of a man about to go to war leaving a question as to how his life will finish. “Harlequin” by Picasso lives on so many levels by being only partially painted in addition to reminding me what an incredible drawing talent Picasso had.
The most interesting aspect of this exhibition to me was the ability to see into the artist’s process in the sketching and marking on the canvas. This was particularly true for the older works that were unfinished by accident. You could follow the development of any idea in the sketching on the canvas.
Also on exhibit at the Met Breuer is the first US retrospective of Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi’s work. I loved this exhibit for several reasons: presenting a woman artist in a solo exhibit in the Breuer’s inaugural exhibitions is a big deal, and second, I love her drawing. Her works in pencil and ink on paper were architectural, poetic, and astonishingly deep and beautiful. I was drawn into her work. For me it was unexpected to find a female Indian artist working in a long investigation abstraction. I will go back and spend more time with her drawings.
I encourage you to go one morning to the Met Breuer. Whether you like the shows or not, like the building or not, there are challenges and ideas worth thinking about.
“She: Deconstructing Female Identity” opened on March 13, 2016 at ArtsWestchester in White Plains, NY. If you have never been to ArtsWestchester, it is a wonderful exhibition space. Housed in a 1920’s neo-classical bank building, the main gallery is a double height space with enormous windows along one side and a mezzanine connecting to additional exhibition spaces, and a large bank vault/gallery on the main floor.
Curated by Kathleen Reckling, the gallery curator at ArtsWestchester, there are 11 women artists represented: Nancy Davidson, Rebecca Mushtare, Marcy Freedman, Barbara Segal, Nicole Awai, Debbie Han, Mari Ogihara, Valerie Piraino, Kathy Ruttenberg, Laurel Garcia Colvin, and Tricia Wright.
I loved this exhibition. From the idea of “blonde bombshell”, references to the Virgin Mary, motherhood, clothing, beauty, nature, women’s sphere in public/private, and the history of feminism, this exhibit attempts to encompass women’s place in the world and at home right now. The artists cover a range of age, background, ethnicity, and intent. I found this to be a well thought out and exciting and thought provoking show. In the catalogue Kathleen Reckling quotes New York Times columnist Charles Blow, and I will quote him also because it perfectly encapsulates the intent: “Life is an endless negotiation with ourselves and with the world about who we are-the truest truth of who we are-and whether we have the mettle to simply be us, all of us, as we are backlash notwithstanding.”
These are just a couple of the interesting exhibits close by. You might also consider The Cooper Hewitt with a Pixar exhibit, and their Design Triennial, Storm King reopens April 6, or Dia Beacon’s exhibit of Robert Irwin to suggest a few.
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