One has to sympathize with New York gallerists this week: with the Whitney Biennial opening, little attention is being paid to events elsewhere in the city. That's a shame because there is an impressive selection of shows opening, from a museum-ready look at the birth of color photography to new exhibitions from promising young names. Here are five events that deserve to cut through the Biennial media frenzy.
Pioneers of Color: Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston,” at Edwynn Houk Gallery, 745 Fifth Avenue, through April 24, opening February 25, 6–8 p.m.
In an age when museums fete iconoclasts like Marina Abramovic and Tino Seghal within their sacred walls, it’s hard to imagine a time — only a few decades ago — when color photography was verboten. When MoMA finally condescended to show color photography for the first time in its landmark 1976 William Eggleston show, the museum felt obliged to state in its press release that “[u]nlike most of their predecessors whose color work has been either formless or too pretty, a new generation of young photographers has begun to use color in a confident spirit of freedom and naturalness.” (It was only the second single-artist color photography show in its history.) Now Edwynn Houk Gallery revisits that generation’s leading triumvirate — Eggleston, Joel Meyerowitz, and Stephen Shore — who captured 1970s America in what may be the nation’s definitive medium. The show is curated by Kevin Moore, whose “Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980,” opened at the Cincinnati Art Museum earlier this month, continuing the trend of commercial galleries doing the heavy-lifting of museums.
Nari Ward, “LIVESupport,” at Lehmann Maupin, 540 West 26th Street, through April 17, opening February 25, 6–8 p.m.
Nari Ward has built an impressive exhibition record over the past decade, with appearances ranging from an eerie, cage-like installation in Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden in 2000 and a star turn at Documenta XI to a show-stealing group of enormous, diamond-shaped sculptures in the Battle Ground Baptist Church at Prospect.1 in New Orleans. In his debut at Lehmann Maupin, Ward seems to be taking a typically ambitious approach. His full-scale ambulance, Sick Smoke, painted white and still bearing functional lights, greeted Chelsea denizens walking to work on West 26th Street Monday morning, as it was towed gingerly into the gallery. Inside, expect similarly disquieting assemblages, like wheelchairs outfitted with church pews and a Chase Bank sign detourned with ink, shells, and combs, and titled AfroChase.
Anya Kielar, “FACE,” at Rachel Uffner Gallery, 47 Orchard Street, through April 4, opening February 25, 6–8 p.m.
Since graduating in 2005 from Columbias MFA program, Kielar has been one of New York’s most dependable revelations, providing fresh revisions of discarded avant-garde ideas in a quick succession of shows. In her “sprayograms,” for instance, she replaced Man Rays spare photographic prints of commonplace objects (which he dubbed Rayograms) with wild, floating faces and hands in psychedelic, acrylic blue. It was hard to pay attention to much else once one spotted one of the works at the "White Columns Annual" last year. The new, board-mounted assemblages in her first show with Rachel Uffer channel Louise Nevelsons eccentric, barely-there signification, though she’s coated her works with a thin layer of cool sand and bright paint that could recall the graininess of some Yves Klein paintings. Can she surprise again? Let’s hope; her absence from the Whitney Biennial is a criminal omission.
Lucas Ajemanian and Julien Bismuth, “Les Tristes, Invisible–Exports, 14A Orchard Street, through March 28, opening February 26, 6–8 p.m.
Knowledge, as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield once pointed out, is a tricky thing. In any given situation, there are the things we know we know—in this case, that fledgling pranksters Julien Bismuth and Lucas Ajemian, who produced a winning show at Foxy Production in 2008, have announced their latest exhibition will involve “objects, performances, and filming” and incorporate “newspaper, glue, water, wire mesh, a mime, newsprint and ink” and a variety of other items. There are also the things we know we don’t know: the plot and the actors for the proposed film, titled Les Tristes, which will be shot around Invisible-Exports' neighborhood. (Interested parties are invited to contact the gallery to audition to appear in the film.) And, finally, there are the things we don’t know we don’t know, which are, one might say, the realm of art.
Marina Abramovic book signing and David Balliano performance, But I Wasn’t Young Anymore, at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 22–25 Jackson Avenue, Queens; signing, February 27, 3–4 p.m., performance 12–6 p.m.
The legendary performance artist has promised to sit inside her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art for its entire duration, more than 700 hours, stretching from March 14 to May 31. This leaves little time for the perfunctory obligations of a major museum show, like interviews and book signings, so Abramovic is starting early, signing copies of her MoMA exhibition's monograph at the museum’s sister institution, P.S.1. The book is a delight, recounting her career with an impressive selection of documentary photographs and intimate details, and it includes a lucid essay by Arthur Danto connecting her often-harrowing performances to the iconography of suffering in religious art. If Abramovic’s famously charismatic presence isn’t enough of a draw, the young performer David Balliano will stage a new piece within the former schoolhouse throughout the afternoon.