Big Sixties Color at The Guggenheim

Detail of 1964 Trans Shift acrylic by Kenneth Noland

If you need a pop of color, head over to the Guggenheim and spend some time inside The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting, on display through March 15.

The Sixties were a time when painting was going through a big shift, and the exhibition will take you back to a time when up-and-coming painters were going big, seeing what lay beyond expressionist brushwork, and taking a cool, cool approach to color.

Helen Frankenthaler’s 1963 Canal

Although the world knew that Jackson Pollack was splattering oil paint across canvas on the floor of his East Hampton studio, other abstractionists in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and art hot spots around the world were trying radical approaches to painting, too – exploring the expressive and expansive use of color.

Acrylic paints were new on the scene, and could be applied thick or thinned out like watercolor. Canvas was often laid out without primer, allowing the paint to soak into the canvas or blend in watercolor-like ways.

Helen Frankenthaler was the inspirational innovator in this regard, saturating her canvases with big washes of color. Although she began as a gestural painter, her big experiment was to work directly on the floor and spread paint around to eliminate any gestural marks. The results are spectacular.

1959 Saraband poured acrylic work by Morris Louis

Morris Louis, for example, experimented further by pouring paint on the unprimed canvas and letting gravity do the work of spreading it in different ways.

His 1959 work in the Guggenheim exhibition is a perfect example of his innovation ­– the “new” medium of acrylic washes, monumentally sized work, and a grand veil of color.

Getting close to this giant canvas lets you appreciate that this was not a sloppy or haphazard approach. It was masterful manipulation of chance on a large scale.

Detail freehand work in 1971 Wheelbarrow by Gene Davis

Other big canvases in the show exemplify other process experiments of the time: Jules Olitski used spray-paint techniques to eliminate gesture while giving the canvas bits of texture.  Getting close to his 1970 canvas lets you see the tiny, grainy splatters and the straight-line color bars he places at the edge; step back, and colors blend into a subtle, uninterrupted haze.

The gigantic Gene Davis canvas appears to be uniform pinstripes, but closer inspection allows you to appreciate the fact that he painted each tiny vertical mark freehand. The marks aren’t “gestural” but the full work is a monument to a hand-crafted, exacting process.

The curators also give us a chance to enjoy works by artists that we haven’t seen in a while ­– the saturated, thick geometric marks by Japan’s Toshinobu Onosato and the mesmerizing, oscillating presence of color created by Wojcietch Fangor, a Polish artist that the Guggenheim honored with an exhibition in 1970.

Oscillating 1969 M 37 oil by Wojcietch Fangor

See some of our favorite works in our Flickr album, and listen to the audio tracks about Sixties color painting and Helen Frankenthaler.

The Guggenheim is in the process of changing its primary exhibition on the ramp (farewell, Countryside!), so the museum discounting its admission price for this terrific color show and other shows in its smaller galleries.

Be sure to see Marking Time: Process in Minimal Abstraction, also open through March 15, which includes works by Agnes Martin and other kindred spirits. For fun, here’s a link to our album from Agnes’s 2016-2017 Guggenheim retrospective.

And if you want to read (and see) more color artistry in the collection of The Whitney and how NYC influences were being adapted by the new generation of contemporary Native American artists, read our review of the 2019 show at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe here.

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Contemporary Crafts, William Blake, Lost Cities, and Tiffany Lamps

2018 furniture by Christopher Kurtz

With so many stuck inside during the deep freeze, why not tune into an ever-growing list of great virtual NYC museum events this week – meet curators that keep their finger on the pulse of great contemporary design, see works by William Blake and hear musical interpretations, find out why four civilizations were lost to history, and hear about the woman behind iconic Tiffany lamps.

There’s so much more coming out of our museums right now, so check the week’s listings on our virtual events page. Some highlights:

Glenn Adamson at MAD this week. Photo © Monacelli Press

Today (February 15) at 6pm and Wednesday (February 17) at 2pm, reserve a seat (virtually) at MAD Museum to hear Glenn Adamson speak about his downtown gallery exhibition at R & Company that showcases masterpieces of modern design and how it was inspired by the historic 1969 exhibition that introduced crafts as fine art in America. It’s a great chance to see what’s new in the context of art history.

On Wednesday (February 17) at 3pm, take a trip to the Morgan Library to see books and prints by visionary William Blake and new classical compositions inspired by it in Exuberance is Beauty: William Blake, the Viol, and the Book.

James M. Mannas Jr.’s 1964 No Way Out, Harlem, NYC

At 7pm, meet James M. Mannas Jr., one of the celebrated artists of the Whitney’s acclaimed exhibition, Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. He and the panel will screen and discuss King is Dead, a documentary he shot in Harlem about the reactions of people in his community to the 1968 assassination. His photographs of this are unforgettable, so don’t miss this chance to learn more about how he captured a moment of historic importance.

Calling all archaeology and history fans! At 8pm, join a discussion with journalist Annalee Newitz at the New York Public Library on her book, Four Lost Cities. She’ll fill you in on the rise and fall of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, Pompeii, Angkor Wat, and the mysterious Cahokia in our own Midwest – a deep dive into the lessons to be learned about urban life.

Designed by Clara Driscoll, the head of Tiffany’s Women’s Glass Cutting Department

On Thursday (February 18), do you know about Clara Driscoll, the woman behind the Tiffany lamps?  If not, join the New-York Historical Society’s history happy hour at 6pm to find out one of the most amazing stories showcased in their stunning galleries of Tiffany lamps.

Do you want to ride a subway car deep into the ocean to see what’s there?  Did you even know that old MTA subway cars are providing homes for sea life off the coast of South Carolina? Join the New York Transit Museum on Wednesday at 6:30pm to hear about what it took to turn the cars into an artificial ocean reef.

Some museums are doubling up on programs this week, so if you’re looking to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, Fraunces Tavern is offering two opportunities – Wednesday at 7pm with the Morris-Jumel Mansion to hear about New York’s impact on him and Thursday at 6:30pm on his “final battle” to build a capital city.

There’s a lot more history, art, and get-togethers, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

Fragonard is moving to Madison Avenue as part of Frick Madison.

This week, the Frick Collection announced March 18 as its official opening on Madison at the Breuer. While Mr. Frick’s Fifth Avenue mansion is being refreshed and renovations happen, the curators are reinstalling their classics in the former Whitney Museum building (and former Met Breuer) for the next two years. Here’s the news about what’s planned. Tickets on sale this week.

There were long lines of members at the opening preview for the Met’s new show, Goya’s Graphic Imagination. If you want to get a peek inside, join the virtual opening online this Thursday (February 18) at 7pm.

Tameca Cole’s collage at MoMA PS1’s Marking Time: The Age of Mass Incarceration

Despite the weather, MoMA PS1 had a steady stream of visitors to see the acclaimed show presenting works by incarcerated artists, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration. It’s a major show that The New York Times cited as one of the best of the year.  If you want to meet one of the artists, join MoMA PS1 on Thursday (February 18) at Noon in their program, “Chosen Family: Marking Time.”

MoMA PS1 is open five days a week, and its expanded book store is now so large that you should think of it as a destination all on its own. (And in case you were wondering…as of this weekend, the corner diner is open and serving inside.)

MoMA Drawings Show How to Reboot

Detail of Chryssa’s 1959 Drawing for Stock Page

How do you start over when life is disrupted, everything is rearranged, and the world seems upside down? How do artists respond? A quiet show at MoMA lays out the answers in 80 works in its post-WWII exploration, Degree Zero: Drawing at Midcentury, on view through June 5.

Drawn from the museum’s archive of works on paper, the show illuminates the ways artists were seeking new means of expression following the traumatic years of the world war – turning to contemplative traditions of Asian culture, channeling under-the-surface emotions through abstraction, embracing chance in the process, and trying processes that no one had tried before.

Kline’s 1952 ink and oil drawing on cut-and-pasted paper

Visitors always seem to be taking the time to study each work and consider the ways each artist responded during a time of profound disruption, change, and promise. The works in the show, from across disciplines and continents, provide a contemplative window into the expressive ideas germinating between 1948 and 1961.

One of the first stories told by the beautiful, light abstract washes in the first gallery focuses on calligraphy-based experiments by post-war Japanese artists and their American counterparts. You’ll encounter beautiful, spiritual work by avant-garde Japanese artists that pay tribute to their culture’s calligraphic tradition.

Osawa Gakyu’s 1953 The Deep Pool, featured in MoMA’s 1954 avant-garde Japanese calligraphy show

In occupied Japan, students were prohibited practicing traditional calligraphy, so the surviving artists, such as Osawa Gakyu, took it underground, producing 100% abstract work inspired by the brushwork and style of the ancient tradition. Since New York artists were gaining global attention with their spiritual and expressive abstraction, the Japanese artists wondered if putting a modern spin on traditional techniques could gain them an international audience.

1956 ink and watercolor made by Pierre Alechinsky during his trip to Japan

They formed groups like Bokujinkai (People of the Ink) and began publishing a journal, Bokubi (Beauty of Ink). They found an eager international readership among forward-looking European and American artists who felt it was the right time to incorporate cross-cultural influences into their art.

In 1954, MoMA showcased avant-garde Japanese calligraphy in a special exhibition that brought wider recognition to the reinvention happening overseas.

1957 drawing by Kenzo Okada, done seven years after his move to The Village

Some artists, like France’s Pierre Alechinsky, were up front in his enthusiasm for avant-garde calligraphy and traveled to Japan to study. Others, like Franz Kline, eagerly absorbed exciting techniques from the new movement, but kept his enthusiasm quiet to avoid stirring up still-simmering anti-Japanese sentiments. Chryssa simply applied calligraphic strokes to the grid-like columns of newspaper stock listings.

MoMA also shows that influences were a two-way street, citing Kenzo Okada, who ultimately decided to move from Tokyo to Greenwich Village in 1950, give up realist painting, immerse himself in the AE scene, and set up a long, successful career in America. The show features one of his acclaimed abstract works.

1957 oil on paper by inspired abstractionist Joan Mitchell

The show also features works on paper by emerging abstractionists known for their hard-edge style, such as Ellsworth Kelly, Latin American modernist Willys de Castro, and Hungarian artist Vera Molnar.

In the latter half of the show, there’s an emphasis on joyous marks, color and process – a trio of crayon scribble drawings by Cy Twombly, gestural drawings (like mini-paintings) by Jackson Pollack and Joan Mitchell, and intense pastels by Beaufort Delaney. There are lots of examples of how visual artists used humble, small-scale materials to channel complex feelings onto a page. Often the results look just as epic as their big canvases elsewhere in the museum.

1953-54 Tomb by Sari Dienes, a gravestone rubbing with a flag

The process section of the exhibition features music notations by chance-master John Cage, but also showcases highly engaging work by artists who aren’t as well known today. Sari Dienes loomed large in the downtown experimental (Black Mountain/Fluxus) art scene of the Fifties and Sixties, and the presence of her large gravestone rubbing with flag explains directly why Rauchenberg and Johns felt they had learned from a master in their found-object forays through Lower Manhattan.

Experimental processes abound in the final gallery, evidence that artists everywhere were searching for new means of expression, letting chance take its course, and trying to usher in a new era of art making. Otto Piene’s dramatic drawing looks like he made tire track across the paper, but he actually created it by holding his paper over a candle flame and letting the soot make the marks.

Otto Piene’s 1959 drawing made by holding paper above a candle flame and letting the soot make its mark

Otto’s also the artist that founded Dusseldorf’s Zero group in 1958, stating “Zero is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new.”

Thanks to curator Samantha Friedman for taking his inspiration and creating such a satisfying, revealing show that’s perfect for making the transition from 2020 to 2021.

See our favorite works on our Flickr album and walk through the show with the curator here.

Walking into the Countryside and its Future at The Guggenheim

An innovative, continuous exploration about rural areas along the futuristic ramps

Want to go for a trip around the world? Visit out-of-the-way places? Meet interesting people?

There’s no better trip than hanging out with Rem Koolhaas and his think tank, AMO, in their all-encompassing exhibition, Countryside, The Future, on display at The Guggenheim through February 15.

It’s a colorful, engaging, data-driven, and provocative show that began as a response to the fact that population projections show indicate that in the not-too-distant future only 20 percent of people will live in the countryside.

1909 photo of three peasant women in Kirilov, Russia

Rem, Samir Bantal of AMO, and their university collaborators believe that many of the most important, exciting, and radical innovations are happening outside cities, and this is their way of taking you there.

You’ll zip into the past, zoom into current village experiments, watch videos, and meet robots as you swirl your way up the Guggenheim’s ramps.

Listen to famed architect Rem Koolhaas explain the context for the project and research that make up this extraordinary experience:

As this promo notes, this exhibition opened just a few days before New York City and all the museum shut down to mitigate the pandemic. The team did not foresee the impact that the pandemic would have, but the exhibition could not be more of the moment.

1,000 Koolhaas questions about the countryside and society

In the audio guide, the curators say that you can view the exhibit like a buffet (just snacking on this and that) or dive in and read/see everything.  When we experienced Countryside, everyone was digging in, reading, watching, absorbing, and interacting with everything.

View part of the exhibition in our Flickr album.

The show begins with Rem’s 1,000 questions about the world and the future. He makes it clear that he and the team are not there to provide answers – that’s up to you.

How “countryside” has been equated with leisure since Roman times

There’s a walk through history on the next level by way of fun floor-to-ceiling collages filled with Romans from murals, Chinese people from scrolls, quotes, and fun facts – all to drive home the fact that for 2,000 years, major urban sophisticates have seized upon the idea that city people need to visit the country for peace, quiet, contemplation, leisure pursuits, and artistic inspiration.

The history walk continues by exploring Marie Antoinette’s decision to create a rural “hamlet” on the Versailles grounds, the desire of Sixties Hippies to create communes in the country, and the emergence of today’s rural “wellness” spas and retreats.

Qatar’s solution to achieving national food security after the June 2017 border closure

The story continues by presenting details about efforts by famous political leaders to “redesign” their countries rural regions on a large scale – Jefferson’s adaptation of the 640-acre grid for developing the West, how the Soviets scaled up collective farming, FDR’s “shelterbelt” policy to minimize soil erosion in the Thirties, and the agricultural emphasis in Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

The most startling story is how Qatar, which imported the majority of its food, did years of research into ways it could be self-sustaining. When the Saudis jammed Qatar’s border in 2017, the country already had a plan. Within 36 hours, it airlifted in 4,000 cows and milking machines, a move that immediately (and successfully) started its domestic dairy industry.

Chinese service that lets city dwellers select apples from trees

The exhibition takes you to villages in China where interesting things are happening – a dying farming town that transformed itself into a “wellness” tourist destination, and an apple-growing region that uses livestreaming on mobile phones to let city-dwellers pick out the specific apples that the villager will pick and ship to them overnight.

The exhibition includes mini-galleries on the move to “preserve” nature, presenting facts and posing land-use questions related to mountain gorilla habitats in Central Africa, permafrost melts that are exposing mammoth fossils, and American billionaires buying and preserving Patagonian land.

Humanoid PALRO robot from Fujisoft in action

The top floor is alive with roaming robots powered by Roombas, who invite you to enter mini-theaters to see worlds beneath the ocean, developments of industrial facilities run completely by robots, and vast expanses of industrial-level agriculture. You’ll even meet PALRO, Fujisoft’s humanoid robot who hangs out with seniors in Japan, and Prospero, a little robot farmer that’s designed to work in swarm teams.

Hear all about the research and collaborations behind the exhibition and how the exhibition design brings it all to life:

To take a leisurely stroll through the future, listen to the audio guide.

For the full report, purchase the book (a steal at $12).

About Fashion and Time at The Met

An 1885 American walking dress with 1986 Yamamoto overcoat

What day is it? What year is it? If we’re going forward in time, should we be moving counterclockwise?

As ten months of pandemic disruption sink in, there’s no better exhibition in New York to experience than the Metropolitan’s Costume Institute extravaganza, About Time: Fashion and Duration, on view through February 7.

Curator Andrew Bolton had the task of organizing a show in honor of the Met’s 150th anniversary, but wanted to take an exhibition approach that wasn’t simply a “greatest hits” showcase.  He wondered what would it be like to mount a show that lets visitors see, feel, and experience how fashion sometimes folds back on itself – like time in Virginia Woolf novels.

Queen Alexandra’s 1902 riding jacket with 2018 Vuitton ensemble by Ghesquière

Stepping into the first gallery, sixty black dresses are arranged like minutes on a clock. The exhibition begins with an example from 1870, the year that the Met was founded, and progresses in time from there.  At each point, you see an ensemble from that year, paired with a designer look from a different year that echoes it – bustles, princess lines, gigot sleeves, tailored jackets, flourishes of 18th-century aristocratic opulence.

It’s all in the Met’s gallery guide.

The inspiration for the first room is a grandfather clock – warm wood colors, a constantly swinging pendulum, and the monotonous, even tick. As you slowly work around the room, the time is even, rhythmic, and set – just like the pace of fashion from 1870 to 1950.

1895 dinner dress by Mrs. Arnold with Rei Kawakubo’s deconstructed 2004 ensemble

The 19th century garments are solid black, with masterful tailoring, swags, trims, and embellishments. In a tribute to the home town, two were created in Brooklyn: the 1885 silk satin dinner dress by Mrs. Arnold (paired with Rei Kawakubo’s equally elaborate but deconstructed 2004 ensemble) and an 1897 riding habit from Brooklyn’s acclaimed department store, Frederick Loeser & Co. (paired with a 1968 equestrian-style suit by Victor Joris).

Some of our other favorite pairings in this room are the 1912 artistic dinner dress with its leather pannier clone by Rick Owens, the 1928 alphabet flapper dress paired with Galliano’s 1997 spider-web frock, and the 1947 Christian Dior “New Look” jacket paired with Watanabe’s 2011 experimental motorcycle jacket.

Dior’s 1947 “New Look” with Watanabe’s 2011 motorcycle jacket

The second room is a shocker – mirrors everywhere, blinding white, undulating pathways, a fractured sense of time, and fashions morphing at breakneck speed – minis, maxis, minimalism, glitter, punk, pleats, unconventional materials, technology, and 3-D printing. (And it’s no surprise that so many pairings include visionary works by Charles James!)

The displays follow the same convention – sequential years paired with a “disrupter” dress or ensemble – but the impact is enormously disorienting, since the “twin” piece could be from the past or future and the mirrored walls and ceiling turn the experience into something like Kusama’s “infinity” room.

“Shattered” gallery – evoking fashion’s accelerated pace

When you enter, it takes a few minutes to figure out where to go, how to move through the sequence, and find the continuing storyline of the exhibition. Is there another room in the exhibition that you missed? Did you just jump to the Seventies and Eighties and miss the Sixties? Is the “next garment” to the right or the left? What year are you in?

[The gallery security guards confirmed that this occurs all day long with visitors!]

To sort it out, take a look at this video – a sequential walk through fashion time punctuated by some out-of-time disrupters (or peruse some pairings on the web):

Some of our favorite pairings in the second room are the zipper twins from Gernreich (1968) and Alaia (2003), the red-edged jersey pairing of Stephen Burrows (1975) and Xuly.bet (1993), and Patrick Kelly’s simple pearl heart dress (1988) with Olivier Rousteing’s Versailles-inspired dress for Balmain lavished with pearls, crystals, and beads (2012).

2012 Iris van Herpen PVC dress with 1951 ball gown by Charles James

Check out more of our favorites in our Flickr album.

And congratulations for including an unexpected (and deserving) multi-part display – Donna Karen’s “Five Easy Pieces” mix-and-match knit separates (1985) with the totally chic, revolutionary, coordinated wool knit separates invented by the ready-to-wear sportswear founder herself, Claire McCardell (1934). Wow!

When you finish walking through this gallery, you’re left wondering if fashion ever truly changes ­– the last pair features a 2018 coat with a 3-D printed understructure alongside a strangely similar coat from 1889.  What just happened?

Sustainability – 2020 Viktor & Rolf’s dress of leftover samples

The exhibition finale is fitting – a small chapel where visitors can meditate on “slow fashion,” sustainability, and a return to basics before they exit to the gift shop.  It features a suspended (or ascending) figure clad in one of Viktor & Rolf’s sweet dresses made of leftover off-white fabric swatches.

When the Met chose the theme for the show and designed it to debut with the celebrity-filled First Monday in May event, no one envisioned that the doors would be sealed shut until August. Or that the exhibition would so perfectly mirror the sensation of endless time, interruption of cycles, and fashion disruption/rethinking happening right now.

Join the Met’s fashion collection curator, Andrew Bolton, for a tour:

MAD History of Modern Art Jewelry

45 stories about modern art jewelry, such as Greenwich Village designer Arthur Smith

Sleek, modern, space-age, intricate, architectural, political, satirical, and comic – all descriptions of the array of modern-art jewelry selected by the Museum of Arts and Design exhibition, 45 Stories in Jewelry: 1947 to Now, on display on the second floor.

The second-floor space features a tour through modern-art jewelry’s evolution from a craft pioneered by studio artists like Art Scott and Alexander Calder to its current status as a respected and valued sector of today’s international art market.

MAD has shown art jewelry since it was founded in 1956, and its full collection now numbers 930 pieces. After redesigning its art jewelry exhibition area, MAD decided to mount a show to honor the extraordinary scope of its collection and place selected artworks into the broader context of art history.

1966 sterling silver body ornament by Arlene Fisch

Two rings of white cases offer visitors opportunities to peer into each story, see a spectacular or provocative piece, and read about its designer and context.

In every visit to this show, we saw jewelry lovers fully engaged, pouring over every detail of the craftsmanship.

The first case that drew our attention was a Constructivist pin by Margaret De Patta, a passionate California artist became immersed in modernism through her New York art studies in the Twenties, but really hit her stride in the Forties after training with Moholy-Nagy in Chicago. (This spectacular pin is prominently depicted on the museum’s timeline of modern art jewelry.)

John Paul Miller’s 1969 molten gold Armored Polyp

The museum highlights the stories of Forties artists working in studios, like Art Scott, who created body-conscious pieces for the jazz artists and modern dance innovators who visited his Greenwich Village studio.

Another early innovator honored in the exhibition is John Paul Miller, who created stunning gold pieces using ancient, forgotten techniques discovered in his archeological research.

Stories from the Fifties show how an entire generation of American designers was influenced by Danish design, particularly the sleek work of master silversmith Henning Koppel, whose work was featured internationally through the Georg Jensen brand.

Charles Laloma’s 1968 inlaid silver bracelet and 1960 bracelet with inner turquoise inlay

Art works from the Sixties include the way-out sterling body ornament by Arlene Fisch, space-age jewelry by Danish designers Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum, and modernist Hopi jewelry design Charles Laloma, a ground-breaking Native American artist.

Stories in the exhibition from subsequent decades show how designers used their work to tell stories, make clever social comments, turn recycled materials into wearable art, display technical virtuosity, make magic, and create conceptual wonders.

Gésine Hackenberg’s earthenware 2008 Kitchen Necklace

The timeline in the exhibition details how art jewelry grew in popularity, entered museum collections, and began being shown at international art fairs.

Take a look at some of our favorites in the exhibition in our Flickr album and be sure to visit MAD in person.

Meet the 45 Stories committee members, who selected which works in MAD’s collection that embody key developments in the evolution of the art form:

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Stars, Cocktails, and Social Discourse

It’s a packed week with over 35 virtual events planned by New York City museums, featuring evenings with celebrities, conversations about society, the future of museums, and even an escape game. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

Scandals recounted in the Tenement Museum’s Tuesday YouTube Live book talk

Tomorrow afternoon (January 12) at 6:30pm, the Fraunces Tavern Museum again collaborates with the Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center to explore the role apples played in food, drink, and the economy of colonial and revolutionary America in the continuing “Tavern Tastings” series.

At 7pm, the Tenement Museum hosts Tyler Anbinder, to talk about his book, Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum.

Mystical transformation with St. Francis and the Morgan Library on Wednesday

 At 8pm, travel to the mountains of Arizona with the Newark Museum, whose planetarium experts host an evening of stargazing with Steward Observatory’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter.

On Wednesday (January 13) at 2pm, train fans can take a rare trip deep into the Transit Museum archives.

At 5pm, art fans can travel back to the 15th century with the Frick Collection to explore Bellini’s painting St. Francis in the Desert.

At 6:30pm, the Center for Brooklyn History (formerly Brooklyn Historical Society) hosts a discussion and book talk “The Authoritarian’s Playbook,” which links 20th century history with the events of the last week.

AMNH’s Neil deGrasse Tyson will summarize 2020’s important space news on Wednesday. R. Mickens/© AMNH

At 7pm, you’ll have to choose between three equally compelling events:

  • The astronomical year-in-review with Neil de Grasse Tyson at AMNH
  • A talk with David Byrne and Maira Kalman about their new American Utopia book at the Museum of the City of New York
  • The “standing ovation” meet-up at Poster House featuring an array of posters of the world’s most celebrated theatrical performers and five cocktails to match.

    MCNY hosts collaborators David Byrne and Maira Kalman on Wednesday. Photos: Jody Rogac, Cyndi Stivers

On Thursday (January 14) at noon, visit the Salman Toor painting exhibition at the Whitney, and at 3pm, see (and hear about) nature paintings in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

At 6pm, enjoy a delicious trip to Naples with the Museum of Food and Drink, and dip into the Poster House archives at 6:30pm. At 7pm, join the escape game at the Newark Museum’s historic Ballantine House.

Brian Clarke’s stained glass panels at MAD

There’s more on Friday and Saturday, so register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

On Saturday at 2pm, be sure to join MAD to meet acclaimed architectural artist Brian Clarke, whose work is on display for the next month. Don’t pass up this chance to encounter a legend and hear about the entire scope of his incredible international body of work.

And a reminder for Sunday (January 17): at 1pm, take a tour of the incredible costume exhibition at the Metropolitan, About Time: Fashion and Duration. Even if you’re in New York, it’s not easy to snag a ticket to this show, so the virtual visit is the next best thing.

Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

At MoMA, 1923 Gum department store lightbulb ad by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky’s ad agency

Museum Updates

We visited MoMA this past week for last looks at the Felix Feneon, textile, and Judd exhibitions. The galleries were full of visitors looking at the Parisian posters, African carvings, Seurat and Matisse paintings, Anni’s loom, and Judd’s super-slick sculptures.

As hard as it is to say good-bye to these three terrific shows, we encourage you all to visit the latest at MoMA – Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented.

About Time: Fashion and Duration tour on Sunday

Lots of Russian avant-garde, typography and collage running wild, and branding in the early 20th century that you’ve never seen quite like this.  The extensive exhibition uses many works from the little-seen Berman collection, so you’ll be in for some surprises when you see it.

Although its virtual events are still happening, the Museum of the City of New York has announced a temporarily closure on Fifth Avenue for some emergency construction work.

Online Museum Events – Virtual Trips to the Sixties, the 20th Century Limited, and the Arctic

Poster by Bonnie McLean for Fillmore Auditorium July 1967. Courtesy: Bahr Gallery

New York City museums are kicking off the first week of the New Year with a look at music and transportation history, far-away places (on Earth and beyond), and artist hang-outs. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

Tomorrow afternoon (January 5) there are two fun historical programs: at 4pm, you can take one last look at the New-York Historical Society’s great rock-and-roll extravaganza (which ended yesterday!), Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution. If you did not get to see the exhibition, don’t miss this … psychedelic posters, the story of the Fillmore East and West, how Bill’s artists got booked for Woodstock, how The Last Waltz concert happened, and lots of photos of the legendary stars he promoted.

The streamlined 1947 lounge car for the 20th Century Limited.

At 5:30pm, you go back a little further in time. Join New York Transit Museum educator Joe Hartman to hear the incredible story of the legendary 20th Century Limited luxury train that ferried celebrities between New York’s Grand Central and Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station in high style for decades. Learn all about how red-carpet obsessions were born.

On Wednesday (January 6) at 7pm, hang out with a few hundred science geeks at the monthly SciCafe at the American Museum of Natural History. This month’s topic is Arctic Dragonflies with museum curator Jessica Ware, who will explain how these little guys keep from freezing. The Q&A is always fascinating with this group, so stick around for that part of the program, too!

Reproduction of Orozco’s 1930 Prometheus mural at The Whitney

On Thursday, (January 7), delve into great art: at Noon, the Whitney presents a look at the three Mexican muralists – Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros – whose passion and techniques inspired a generation of socially conscious artists of the Thirties and Forties. Find out more about their work in the United States and hear how Pollack, Benton, Noguchi, Lawrence, and many others learned at the feet of the masters in this talk about the blockbuster Vida Americana exhibition.

Jesse Wine, 11:10 am / 15.10.1983 / 75 Heath Lane / Chester / United Kingdom / CH3 5SY, 2020, installation view

At 7pm, take a trip to the Sculpture Center to meet Jesse Wine, see highlights of his solo show in Long Island City, and hear about his past work and inspirations.

Many more programs are on the schedule, so register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule. Many of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

How Textiles Became Modern at MoMA

1977 Águila Beige (Brown Eagle) by Spanish artist Aurèlia Muñoz

Dramatic fiber sculptures welcome visitors at the entry to MoMA’s modern textile history exhibition, Taking a Thread for a Walk, on view on the third floor through January 10.

When the show initially opened back in 2019, visitors were greeted by Magdalena Abakanowicz’s imposing Yellow Abakan textile sculpture; today, it’s the wall-size Red Marca by Aurèlia Muñoz in its place. Inside the main gallery, Aurèlia’s Brown Eagle spreads out to fill the entire corner. But these fiber sculptures are really the finale to the exhibition’s story.

Yarn, prints, and fabric in Vuillard’s 1896 painting of his mother at home

Your journey through 20th century textile art is fleshed out using MoMA’s unparalleled collection of modern paintings, furniture, posters, film, and ephemera. Every time we’ve visited the exhibition, we’ve observed museum goers who are fully engaged, taking in every detail of the big story told by quiet works – how textile craft transitioned from small-time “women’s work” to statements within the big-time worlds of fine arts, commercial furniture, and interior design.

The first thing you hear upon entering is the clacking sound of a working loom. The sound draws you right toward an actual loom. Nearby, there are fourth-century Coptic textile fragments that were the first textiles to enter MoMA’s collection and a delicate sculpture by Ed Rossbach that echoes weaving’s ancient origins.

1952 loom used by Anni Albers in Connecticut

The pristine loom was used by Anni Albers, who revolutionized how American artists began thinking about, making, and innovating with textiles. In a way, Anni’s educational philosophy is the “thread” that connects nearly every other section in the show – teach students to execute the basics but push them to experiment in unconventional ways.

Using fiber and weaving to “learn by doing” extends back to the 1850s and the beliefs of German early-childhood educator Friedrich Froebel, who suggested that parents and teachers use “playthings” – balls of yarn and colorful weaving slats to spur kids’ creativity. His ideas caught on, with toy manufacturers offering commercial creativity kits. MoMA has 1898 versions from Boston in the show.

Vienna: corner of 1905 tablecloth by Josef Hoffman and Berthold Löffler

Around the same time, the British Arts & Crafts movement and rampant industrialization inspired continental innovators to create new schools and interdisciplinary movements that elevated textile design in the design and art-school hierarchy.

MoMA displays a beautiful tablecloth by Hoffman and Loeffler that exemplifies the design direction Hoffman and colleagues took with the Wiener Werkstätte.  Fabric designs by Elena Izcue are nearby, showing how pre-Columbian textiles served as inspiration for artists and students exploring an “American” design direction.

An entire wall is devoted to the ground-breaking work by Anni Albers and others from the textile workshop at the Bauhaus, led by innovator Gunta Stölzl, who encouraged interdisciplinary students to experiment by incorporating unusual materials, proportions, and colors.

Bauhaus Weaving Workshop: 1923-1924 work by Benita Koch-Otte

A short black-and-white film that takes you inside the workshop is projected next to a dramatic large-scale woven modernist statement by Benita Koch-Otte.

The back wall tells the story of 20th-century textile production and commercialization – a Soviet children’s book to explain how cotton is grown and turned into mass-market fabric, and commercial brochures, posters, and catalogues created by graphic artists who founded branding agencies to help European manufacturers market stylish rugs, draperies, and furniture to buyers.

1964 wall hanging woven by Delores Dembus Bitterman, an Albers student at Yale

Like Anni Albers, many design innovators fled Europe in the Thirties, worked as educators in the United States, and influenced the next generation of textile modernists through Cranbrook, the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and Black Mountain College.

MoMA shows plenty of expressive wall-sized works, fabric-covered modern furniture, and textile room dividers used to stunning effect by architects and interior designers in commercial spaces and open-plan homes in the Fifties and Sixties. A Seventies poster promoting furniture by Knoll reminds you that Brazilian and other Latin American designers were fully on board, too.

Stretch fabric: Bruno Manari’s 1964 hanging lamp and Pierre Paulin’s 1967 Tongue chair

Finally, the story comes back to where it began – liberation for textile artists in the Sixties and Seventies, like Sheila Hicks and others, to create large-scale sculptural work.

Walk through the exhibition with MoMA on its website and look at our favorites in our Flickr album.

To get an idea of how one contemporary master thinks about creating with textiles, here is a short video with Sheila Hicks, featuring her Pillar of Inquiry installation last year for MoMA’s reopening:

No Monolith but Judd’s Works at MoMA Deliver the Power

1968 stainless steel and Plexiglass tower (Froehlich Collection)

For anyone lamenting the disappearance of the Monolith and yearning to experience its minimalist magic, walk through MoMA’s Donald Judd retrospective before January 3 to understand how big, gleaming, super-sleek objects create such electrifying force fields.

Initially, journalists speculated that the Utah Monolith was the work of West Coast artist John McCracken. It wasn’t, but Judd was one of McCracken’s art-world heroes – a master who reveled in pure shape, pure color, and (when he wanted to) pure transparency. Judd also built repeating rectangles (seemingly not created by human hands) in remote western landscapes (Marpha, Texas).

On MoMA’s top floor, you’ll encounter wide, open spaces with spare, clean hard-edged objects inhabiting four galleries.

1964 construction of orange pebbled Plexiglass and hot-rolled steel. Private collection.

In the first room, you’ll see cadmium-red shapes from the early Sixties that Judd made in his Soho studio. The idea was to remove any gestures or evidence of craft in the work – just present the pure painted shape.

But to get the perfection he craved, Judd went one step further – engaging industrial fabricators to create large-scale works from his meticulous drawings. Industrial materials like aluminum, iron, and Plexiglass are transformed into magical rectangles, epic towers, and airy channels. See our favorites in our Flickr album.

In each gallery, visitors are invited to circumnavigate and explore the monumental works. One orange box seems to glow; another has a transparent surface that lets you peer inside. An enticing series of blue and silver boxes seem to let you peek through to an entirely different dimension.

1969 “channel” of aluminum and Plexiglass units (Saint Louis Art Museum)

Towers emerge from walls in each room – neat stacks of monumental rectangles, separated by exact amounts of space. It’s quite a sensation to approach one, look up, and feel its commanding presence. One silver tower seems to be emitting yellow light. A copper tower gleams a little from a subtle spotlight.

Judd wanted it this way – no interpretation. Just you and the large, beautiful, perfect form, as this short video demonstrates:

MoMA cautions visitors to remain at least six feet away from each of the works, but most admirers are cautious and reverent, taking it all in and giving everything its space.

Here, curator Ann Temkin talks about Judd’s work and the joy of bringing such a monumental exhibition to New York:

Take a trip through the installation on MoMA’s website here, and hear artists describe their experience of the show here.