16 Art Exhibitions to View in N.Y.C. This Weekend


‘BETYE SAAR: KEEPIN’ IT CLEAN’ at the New-York Historical Society (through May 27). Saar has been making important and influential work for nearly 60 years. Yet no big New York museum has given her a full retrospective, or even a significant one-person show, since a 1975 solo at the Whitney Museum of American Art. As this exhibition demonstrates, the institutional oversight is baffling, as her primary themes — racial justice and feminism (her 1972 breakthrough piece, “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” merges the two by transforming the racist stereotype of the smiling black mammy into an armed freedom fighter) — are exactly attuned to the present. (Cotter)
212-873-3400, nyhistory.org

‘STERLING RUBY: CERAMICS’ at the Museum of Art and Design (through March 17). Adept at most art mediums, this artist is at his best in ceramics, especially in the outsize, awkwardly hand-built, resplendently glazed baskets, ashtrays and plates and the objects that verge on sculpture in this show. These works actively incorporate accident and aspects of the ready-made, have precedents in the large-scale ceramics of Peter Voulkos and Viola Frey, but may be closest in spirit to the Neo-Expressionism of Julian Schnabel — rehabilitated, of course. (Smith)
212-299-7777, madmuseum.org

‘SCENES FROM THE COLLECTION’ at the Jewish Museum. After a surgical renovation to its grand pile on Fifth Avenue, the Jewish Museum has reopened its third-floor galleries with a rethought, refreshed display of its permanent collection, which intermingles 4,000 years of Judaica with modern and contemporary art by Jews and gentiles alike — Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman and the excellent young Nigerian draftswoman Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze. The works are shown in a nimble, nonchronological suite of galleries, and some of its century-spanning juxtapositions are bracing; others feel reductive, even dilettantish. But always, the Jewish Museum conceives of art and religion as interlocking elements of a story of civilization, commendably open to new influences and new interpretations. (Farago)
212-423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org

‘ANDY WARHOL — FROM A TO B AND BACK AGAIN’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art (through March 31). Although this is the artist’s first full American retrospective in 31 years, he’s been so much with us — in museums, galleries, auctions — as to make him, like wallpaper, like the atmosphere, only half-noticed. The Whitney show restores him to a full, commanding view, but does so in a carefully shaped and edited way, with an emphasis on very early and late work. Despite the show’s monumentalizing size, it’s a human-scale Warhol we see. Largely absent is the artist-entrepreneur who is taken as a prophet of our market-addled present. What we have instead is Warhol for whom art, whatever else it was, was an expression of personal hopes and fears. (Cotter)
212-570-3600, whitney.org

‘LILIANA PORTER: OTHER SITUATIONS’ at El Museo del Barrio (through Jan. 27). This exquisite survey of 35 objects, installations and video by this Argentinian-born American artist covers nearly half a century, but feels unanchored by time and gravity. In pieces from the early 1970s, Porter adds spare pencil lines to a photographs of her own face as if to challenge optical perception: Which is more real, the artist or the artist’s mark? Later, she began assembling and photographing groups of toys and figurines found in flea markets and antiques shops to tease out political puzzles. And despite a witty use of miniaturist scale, cruelty and loss run through the work. In the 2009 video “Matinee,” tabletop statuettes live tragic lives: A ceramic child is suddenly beheaded by a hammer. (Cotter)
212-831-7272, elmuseo.org

‘RUBBISH AND DREAMS: THE GENDERQUEER PERFORMANCE ART OF STEPHEN VARBLE’ at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (through Jan. 27). The 1970s, when New York City’s budget tanked and trash piled up in the streets, was a golden age of downtown performance art. And no artist shone brighter, or better commanded the street as a stage, or made more transformative use of trash, than Varble (1946-84), whose elaborately costumed guerrilla appearances in galleries, museums and luxury boutiques took aim at an early version of the gentrifying, monetizing art industry we know today. Then, within a few years, he was gone from the scene and erased from the historical record, to which he has now been, at long last, restored by this archival show. (Cotter)
212-431-2609, leslielohman.org

‘SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER’ at the Brooklyn Museum (through Feb. 3). It will be a happy day when racial harmony rules in the land. But that day’s not arriving any time soon. Who could have guessed in the 1960s when civil rights became law that a new century would bring white supremacy tiki-torching out of the closet and turn the idea that black lives matter, so beyond obvious, into a battle cry? Actually, African-Americans were able to see such things coming. No citizens know the national narrative, and its implacable racism, better. And no artists have responded to that history-that-won’t-go-away more powerfully than black artists have. More than 60 of them appear in this big, beautiful, passionate show of art that functioned as seismic detector, political persuader and defensive weapon. (Cotter)
718-638-8000, brooklynmuseum.org

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