November is on its way, which means the new year is right around the corner. To close out 2022, we are showcasing five unique art shows from around the world. These exhibitions present each artists' distinctive response to their place and time in history, illustrated in a particularly immersive manner.
LUCIO FONTANA SCULPTURE
Hauser & Wirth, NYC, USA
3 November 2022 – 4 February 2023
"I do not want to make a painting; I want to open up space, create a new dimension, tie in the cosmos, as it endlessly expands beyond the confining plane of the picture."
Mostly known for slashing canvases, Lucio Fontana began his career in his father's workshop, which specialized in producing graveyard sculptures. The artist cut his teeth on tombstones before he was classically trained in sculpture at the Academia di Brera in Milan. Following his education, he returned to Argentina, setting up his own studio and working with materials such as bronze and clay.
While it wasn't until his 50s that he started to work on canvas, Fontana's legacy is often associated with his iconic series, Tagli (cuts). However, at the core of his artistic evolution and philosophy is the sculptural sensibility with which he approaches all forms of media. From punctured canvases to orbiting fluorescent installation pieces, Fontana created his form that transcended the traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture.
This Fall, Hauser & Wirth will stage Fontana's sculptures in their gallery on the Upper East Side of NYC — an exhibit of lesser-known pieces by one of the foremost 20th-century abstract artists. On view will be a selection of works in terracotta, clay, concrete, and metal, as well as a group of related drawings. Like the b-side of a famous album, Fontana's sculptures aren't as commercially accessible as his beloved paintings (think abstract human forms covered in tar). However, like a "deep cut," Fontana's sculptures give us an alternate lens into the artist's philosophy and an understanding of how his iconic paintings came into being as a result of his background in sculpture.
Guggenheim Museum, NYC, USA
21 October 2022 – 20 February 2023
Few artists are at the top of their game at age 95. Alex Katz is an exception. On view at The Guggenheim from October 21st through February 20th is an epic career show spanning eight decades of an artist's vibrant life in New York City. The show features portraits, social scenes, and landscapes that have cemented Katz as an NYC art world fixture of the past, the present, and the future. The exhibition title, Gathering, is an homage to his friend James Schuyler's 1951 poem "Salute," but can also be interpreted in a broader context - a gathering of subjects and visual experiences captured over a lifetime.
From sketches of subway riders and central park bikers to portraits of waitresses and strangers on the streets of SoHo, Katz is a true New York painter (and coincidentally happens to be a next-door neighbor of Matte Projects). His portraits document an evolving community of creatives with whom he surrounds himself, from painters such as Robert Rauschenberg to dancers and choreographers like Bill T. Jones. Community is at the center of Katz's world, and The Guggenheim's iconic rotunda is the perfect stage for his work. This architectural structure forces its visitors to interact with and observe one another.
While commonly known for his highly stylized portraits that feel almost adjacent to pop art due to their flat surfaces, bright colors (Katz loves orange), and clean lines - the exhibition offers a comprehensive view of the artist's stylistic evolution. Taking inspiration from Abstract Expressionists like Pollock - who ran the art world at the time of Katz's come up - and commercial sources such as Hollywood, fashion, and advertising, the artist developed his style, self-described as "artificial realistic painting." His work has a plain quality, but what lies beneath the surface is a fascinating question: where is the line between style and content, or does it even exist?
ALICE NEEL: UN REGARD ENGAGÉ
The Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
5 October 2022 – 16 January 2023
Alice Neel is one of the greatest American portraitists of the last century. Like the human condition - which she became an expert at observing and portraying - Neel's work is often full of contradictions. Her portraits are soft and hard, funny (at times), and heartbreakingly sad, shallow, and deep. Her subjects range from strangers on the streets of Harlem, where she lived and worked, to civil rights leaders and art world luminaries. Neel was committed to figuration when abstraction was en vogue, and she stayed a communist when others jumped ship. What's the common thread? An unwavering psychic honesty with which she views the world and portrays her subjects. Even her "chicest" sitters (i.e., Andy Warhol), were depicted with brutal honesty and complexity.
Following last year's exhibition at the Met, the Centre Pompidou shows an expansive selection of Neel's portraits centered around her political and social activism. Neel was a first-wave feminist, but unlike her contemporaries, she was acutely aware of intersectional oppression issues, particularly the importance of class solidarity. The exhibition is divided into two parts - one on her depictions of class struggle, while the other highlights gender. The former includes her earliest paintings from when she lived in Cuba in the 1920s, followed by later works depicting immigrant women and workers in East Harlem. The latter contains portraits of female and transgender subjects, calling attention to the distinctly 'female gaze' with which she portrayed her sitters.
Throughout her career, Neel went against the grain of the dominant art world and social trends, and as a result, her work was largely overlooked. From aesthetics - an undeniable "painter's painter" - to politics, Neel was a truth-seeker and uncompromising in her vision. Today, she's celebrated for what she stood by; this survey at the Pompidou further cements her well-earned place within the canon of art history.
RASHID JOHNSON: SODADE
Hauser & Wirth, Menorca, Spain
19 June 2022 – 13 November 2023
Hauser & Wirth's Menorca outpost is showing a collection of works by American painter Rashid Johnson, Sodade. The exhibition title - a Creole word derived form the Portuguese "Saudade"- is also the title of a Cape Verdean song from the 1950s. The ballad, popularized by Cesaria Evora, tells a story of homesickness and the hope of rebuilding community. It's a symbol representing the erasure of Creole languages by colonization. In borrowing it, Johnson engages with a history of involuntary displacement - from the transatlantic slave trade to the contemporary worldwide refugee crises.
The exhibition includes paintings and four sculptures produced over the past two years, with a thematic focus on water, harkening back to the theme of displacement. The clay-cast bronze sculptures evoke images of rowboats which are echoed in his crescent-shaped oil paintings, inspired by Johnson's life on Long Island. The seascape paintings are covered in white and blue oil paint, which Johnson wipes away and scratches to create boat-like shapes. The effect suggests a feeling of isolation at sea - a vastness achieved through scale and imagery that is repeated. The bronze cast sculptures feature random objects buried under the surface, from VHS tapes to books - a playful yet somber detail alluding to the loss of culture as a result of forced migration.
A departure from the chaos of Johnson's iconic Anxious Men series, Sodade shows us another side of the artist. While continuing to explore diasporic narratives through diverse techniques and materials, the collection has a softer vibe compared to many of Johnson's previous work. On view through November 13th, if you find yourself in Menorca over the next couple of weeks, check it out.
MONET – MITCHELL
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France
10 May 2022 – 27 February 2023
This Fall, the Fondation Louis Vuitton presents a jaw-droppingly stunning exhibition of works by Claude Monet and Joan Mitchell - a conversation between two painters across oceans, decades, and artistic movements. The show is both striking and subtle at once - a visual feast of vibrant colors and a quiet dialogue underscoring the connections between two unlikely artists. Many art historians have connected the dots between Impressionism and the origins of Abstract Expressionism. Still, we rarely see two iconic painters of each respective period side by side. The exhibition took almost four years to produce, and it's a "Master Class" in curation.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Monet and Mitchell shared an obsession with color, scale, short brushstrokes, landscapes, and Northern France. In 1959, Mitchell left the United States and settled in Vetheuil, the village in which Monet lived from 1878 to 1881. The town heavily inspired Monet - in this period, he became the landscape painter we all know and love. The artist went against the Realists and was focused on capturing the sensations and emotions evoked by his surroundings. Similarly, it was in Vetheuil that Mitchell's landscape paintings took off - the scale was larger, the colors were bolder, the lines were blurrier, and the paintings came alive. Mitchell famously said: "I carry my landscapes with me." In the same way, Monet was anchored by the emotion and sensory experience of the landscape.
The exhibition is the latest example of the Foundation's initiative committed to forming links between periods throughout art history, and it does an incredible job in doing so. On view through the end of February 2023, Monet-Mitchell is an unusually beautiful show of two different artist's unique responses to a shared landscape.