NICE PLACES FOR A LANDING
Summer isn’t for catching up, merely a time for falling behind at a slightly slower rate. And the art world obliges, with a shift in pace from overwhelming to merely frenetic.
The National Gallery of Art, which soldiers on with most of its East Building still closed for renovations, opens two significant exhibitions — both likely to be popular draws — just a week past the summer solstice. And on July 1, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History reopens the main floor of its east wing, after a floor-to-rafters renovation of some of its prime exhibition space. Farther afield, in Philadelphia, there’s an important exhibition devoted to the major Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel opening later this month, which makes a nice way station on the way to New York (where art never stops).
Gustave Caillebotte’s “Paris Street, Rainy Day” is such a show-stopper, and so essential to any visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it lives, that it leaves an outsize impression of Caillebotte’s talent, oeuvre and representation in American galleries. As the curators of a major Caillebotte exhibition at the National Gallery of Art note, most of the painter’s work is in private hands, with only a few of his paintings held by the major East Coast museums, and many of his about 500 works are not particularly interesting. But the ones that are interesting are often spectacular.
The new NGA exhibition brings together almost 60 of the painter’s best works, including the recently restored “Paris Street, Rainy Day” and “On the Pont de l’Europe,” another masterpiece, along with interior views, portraits, nudes and works made in the lush Parisian exurbs.
The Caillebotte show opens the same day as another National Gallery exhibition, “Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael.” Billed as the first major show devoted to the Utrecht painter, the exhibition surveys the deliciously disorienting work of the mannerist, who was given to painting wonderfully overstuffed images, often with super-heated mythological themes. Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye and Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael June 28Oct. 4 at the National Gallery of Art, Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 2027374215. www.nga.gov.
The National Portrait Gallery shines a spotlight on Dolores Huerta, one of the country’s most important and effective labor activists. The exhibition “One Life: Dolores Huerta” focuses on the period 1962-75, when Huerta joined forces with Cesar Chavez to agitate for greater labor protections and union representation for California agricultural workers. Given the recent, heated discussion over a sweeping new trade pact— the Trans-Pacific Partnership — and ongoing debate over the impact of previous trade deals on immigration, wages and environmental degradation, this exhibition is a timely use of visual culture to explore issues central to survival of the workers who put food on our tables.
One Life: Dolores Huerta July 3May 15,
Artist Lara Baladi is of Egyptian and Lebanese descent. This summer, the Sackler Gallery installs one of her most dramatic works — “Oum el Dounia (The Mother of the World)” — a large-scale photographic tapestry that uses a dizzying range of color and imagery to capture a surreal, fractured landscape of sand, sky, Egyptian iconography and a wild phantasmagoria of modern myth and imagery. From her base in Cairo, Baladi has been witness to the dramatic and often unsettling changes in Egypt since the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The exhibition will include examples of her efforts to document and archive those events in Tahrir Square, the site of so much hope, and so much futility and despair.
Perspectives: Lara Baladi Aug. 29June 5, 2016, at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. 2026331000. asia.si.edu.
Another large-scale photographic project, by photographer Zoe Leonard, is among the highlights of the New York summer scene. Leonard’s “Analogue,” at the Museum of Modern Art, is a monumental survey of the large and small of commercial life in the modern city. Compiled over more than a decade, using an almost antediluvian Roloflex camera, the photographic installation consists of 412 images. The museum, which acquired the work in 2013, is showing it for the first time this summer.
Zoe Leonard: Analogue June 27Aug. 30 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53 St., New York. 2127089400. www.moma.org.
It’s hard to imagine today, but the impressionist movement was, in the beginning, mostly shut out of official Parisian art circles. The artists didn’t linger long in the wilderness, however, and many associated with the label quickly went their own way. Helping the pioneers to respectability were figures such as Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922), who championed Renoir, Manet, Monet, Pissarro and Degas, and provided them with much-needed economic support. An exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art focuses on Durand-Ruel, his patronage, business acumen, artistic taste and lasting influence.
Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting June 24Sept. 13 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., Philadelphia. 2157638100. www.philamuseum.org.