January is around the time when the winter doldrums begin to set in and the bone-chilling cold is in full swing. What better way to lift your spirits than a tour around Manhattan to see what galleries have on view? Below, we round up the top five art shows in New York this winter that are taking the art world by storm.
Arthur Jafa: Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death
Gavin Brown’s Enterprise
429 West 127th Street
November 12, 2016–January 28, 2017
A renowned filmmaker known for his work as the cinematographer on Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and director of photography on Solange Knowles’s video “Don’t Touch My Hair,” Arthur Jafa boasts a variety of projects. This time, for his first solo exhibition, Jafa wanted to create a film that captured the outrage, joy, despair, and triumph of life as a black American: Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death. Consisting of footage sutured together to create a sort of cinematic collage, the seven-minute video is layered over Kanye West’s song “Ultralight Beam” and ultimately pays homage to the music and stories of the 1970s. Clips are culled from a wide range of sources, including silent films, protests, sports coverage, music videos, Hollywood blockbusters, the artist’s home movies, and YouTube. No matter your political leanings or station in life, this film is moving.
Jennifer Rubell: “Housewife”
179 East Broadway
January 18–February 26, 2017
Descended from a family of renowned collectors (who established the Rubell Family Collection in Miami), Jennifer Rubell is an artist in her own right. She is best known for installations that challenge people to interact directly with her art. Past works include Portrait of the Artist, which consisted of a 3-D scan of Rubell’s pregnant belly that viewers could climb into, and Devotion, in which a recently engaged couple handed out slices of buttered bread. At Sargent’s Daughters, Rubell asks visitors to take on the role of a traditional housewife. In Pedestal, viewers are invited to step into a pair of red patent leather heels and grab hold of a vacuum cleaner. In Threshold, the viewer plays the part of a groom carrying his bride across the doorstep. The exhibition revisits traditional notions of femininity and reveals them to be taboo, and perhaps even a bit salacious, in the way that pornography used to be before the dawn of the Internet.
Aline Kominsky-Crumb & R. Crumb: “Drawn Together”
525 West 19th Street
January 12–February 18, 2017
You are sure to recognize the work of Aline Kominsky-Crumb and R. Crumb from countless album covers, magazines, and comic books—you might not have known, however, that they were married. The two renowned cartoonists met in 1972, when they were both already established in the underground comics scene in San Francisco, and have collaborated ever since. The exhibition, which encompasses the past four decades of their work, paints a portrait of an artistic couple—from their early days dating in the bohemian Bay Area to their lives as ex-patriots in the South of France—and also highlights their roles as both parents and grandparents in recent years. Honest and confessional in nature, the work will appeal not only to fans of their comics, but also to anyone who has loved someone else over the long term.
“Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965″
Grey Art Gallery—NYU
100 Washington Square East
January 10–April 1, 2017
It is often said that New York has become too expensive for artists. The exhibition “Inventing Downtown” captures a time, from 1952 to 1965, when that certainly was not the case. In fact, back in those days, artists could not only afford apartments and studios, but could also open their own galleries. They had to do so if they wanted their work to be shown. At the time, the blue-chip galleries on 57th Street were mostly interested in showing European painters. Well-known artists such as Louise Nevelson, Alex Katz, and James Rosenquist, and lesser-known artists like Sari Dienes, responded by opening their own galleries below 14th Street, where they formed a thriving community. This exhibit showcases the work of 200 such artists and illustrates the history of the 14 galleries that represented them—the names of the galleries may no longer mean much to the
art-world layman, but the show effectively captures the spirit of a time when an artist could not just live, but actually thrive, in New York City.
Jim Torok: “The New Age of Uncertainty”
155 Suffolk Street
January 7–February 12, 2017
Making reference to the age of uncertainty, the period of economic and social instability between the First and Second World Wars, “The New Age of Uncertainty,” an exhibition of paintings by Brooklyn artist Jim Torok, captures the anxieties of our current era. Paintings emblazoned with phrases such as “I Am Not Afraid” and “Do Not Panic”—as well as a comic strip titled “It Should Have Been Bernie”—seize on the fear that many people have felt in recent months after the election of the first-ever reality television star to the office of president. A series of portraits also included in the exhibition, which features Torok’s friends and acquaintances, serves as an antidote to that fear. Varied in gender, race, and age, these individuals exude a sense of goodness; they are solid reminders that hope remains if only because faces such as these are taking the world so seriously and doing so with such dignity.