The Washington Post Sunday
Shows share a common thread: Ambition
Buzzed-about exhibitions from across the country include works by Jasper Johns, J.M.W. Turner, Man Ray and Alma Thomas
Museum exhibitions usually require at least two and sometimes as many as 10 years to organize. Securing loans of artworks, which may be spread far and wide, is a complicated business, requiring a deft diplomatic touch. Most exhibitions harness new research and have accompanying publications. And then there’s sponsorships, insurance, marketing and other logistics. So you can imagine the chaos caused by the pandemic.
After a year of upheaval like none I can recall, it’s miraculous that so many museums have been able to proceed with major exhibitions this fall. Most of the standout shows are monographic (that’s to say, they focus on a single artist). Some of the artists are household names. A few are less familiar. But the common thread is ambition. Acclaimed artists. Serious ideas. And, we hope, some major revelations.
Philip Guston, 1969-1979
Four of the world’s leading museums last year postponed an exhibition about Philip Guston (1913-1980) that had been set to open at the National Gallery of Art. While we wait for (ironically) “Philip Guston Now,” Hauser and Wirth, the mega-dealer which manages Guston’s estate, has organized a show focused on the decade of Guston’s career, from 1969 on, that (with apologies to his earlier styles) really matters. This is when he switched from abstraction to a style of figurative art engaged both with brute politics and the existential comedy and influenced by underground comics. The show, at Hauser & Wirth’s West 22nd Street Gallery in New York, will feature 18 key works, some of them from private collections and never previously exhibited. Sept. 9-Oct. 30 at Hauser & Wirth, New York. hauserwirth.com.
Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You
A major exhibition devoted to the artist whose critical take on advertising, propaganda and our saturated media environment (think “Your body is a battleground” and “I shop, therefore I am”) has made her style — red-and-white typography against blackand-white photography — familiar even to people who haven’t heard of her. Sept. 19-Jan. 24 at the Art Institute of Chicago. artic.edu.
Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror
Not your average retrospective. A rare collaboration between two powerhouse museums means that Jasper Johns’s seven-decade career will be addressed simultaneously in New York and Philadelphia. Johns is one of the most influential — but also one of the most enigmatic — of all postwar artists, and this major exhibit, featuring 500 works, many of them from his personal collection and previously unseen, will likely be the last Johns retrospective during his lifetime. Sept. 29-Feb. 13 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. whitney.org and philamuseum.org.
A Modern Influence: Henri Matisse, Etta Cone and Baltimore
For 43 years, Henri Matisse was friends with Baltimore’s Etta Cone, who, together with her sister Claribel, acquired more than 700 works by the French master. They gave them to the Baltimore Museum of Art, and this show — 150 works displayed for the most part by acquisition date — celebrates that gift. Oct. 3-Jan. 2 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. artbma.org.
Turner’s Modern World
Organized by Tate Britain, with important loans from the British Isles and several major U.S. museums, this show reveals the great 19th-century painter and watercolorist engaging with a world in the midst of a rapid transformation wrought by industrialization and social upheaval. Oct. 17-Feb. 6 at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. kimbellart.org.
Holbein: Capturing Character in the Renaissance
The Renaissance portraits of Hans Holbein the Younger are small miracles of observation and intensity, and they have become central to our shared vision of that period in British and Swiss history. This major show, featuring paintings and drawings, is a collaboration with the Morgan Library and Museum in New York and is billed as the first major presentation of Holbein’s art in the United States. Oct. 19-Jan. 9 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. getty.edu/museum.
Jeff Wall became internationally famous in the 1990s, by which time he had already been making large-scale, carefully staged photographs, often displayed in backlit lightboxes and alluding to famous art works, for two decades. There hasn’t been a major display of the Canadian artist’s work in the United States since a midcareer survey in 2007. Glenstone is presenting 30 works from across five decades in this significant monographic exhibition. Opening Oct. 31 at Glenstone Museum, Potomac. glenstone.org.
Man Ray: The Paris Years
Although he was American, Man Ray is indelibly associated with Paris. This show will focus on the photographs taken by the great Surrealist in that city between 1921 and 1940, a period when Paris was the center of the international avant-garde, and Ray set about documenting it. Oct. 30-Feb. 21, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. vmfa.museum.
Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful
A major retrospective tracing the career arc of Alma Thomas (1891-1978), a D.C. resident who was the first Black woman to be given a show by the Whitney Museum of American Art. (She was 81 at the time.) A celebrated teacher as well as an artist, Thomas was nationally renowned and had a major
Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources
Fifteen paintings and drawings by Van Gogh will be displayed alongside more than 100 works by the artists who inspired him. This exhibition, a collaboration with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, will try to unlock some of the secrets of the Dutchman’s creativity. It will feature works by his contemporaries Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet, by earlier French artists such as Eugène Delacroix and Honoré Daumier and by the Japanese woodblock artists Hokusai and Hiroshige. Nov. 12-Feb. 6, at the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. columbusmuseum.org.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction
Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943) was an extraordinary artist who experimented across media. Long known as one half of a formidable artistic duo whose other half was
Hans Arp (he also went by Jean Arp), she began as a teacher of applied arts, participated in the Dada movement, and went on to make textiles, sculptures, murals, stainedglass windows and furniture. She also designed buildings and their interiors. TauberArp believed abstraction was connected to everyday living, and this show, her first in the United States in nearly 40 years, will present an overview of her considerable achievements. Nov. 21-March 12, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. moma.org.
Ray Johnson c/o
To some, he was “New York’s most famous unknown artist” — which is another way to say Ray Johnson (1927-1995) was a classic “artists’ artist.” A conceptualist on the fringes of the Fluxus movement, he made collages, “mail art” (collaborative art in the form of correspondence) and performance art. This show at the Art Institute of Chicago — the most significant Johnson show in more than 20 years — will focus on his devotion to collaborations with the likes of archivist Bill Wilson, publisher Dick Higgins, computer scientist Toby Spiselman and artists Karl Wirsum and Robert Warner. Nov. 26-March 21, at the Art Institute of Chicago. artic.edu.