Art Happenings when, where, and why
Must-see galleries and exhibitions this summer.
With their loud entrance and lingering exit, NYC summers are intense but they often fade into a mosaic of memories: walks down steely hot pavement, city streets bursting with light, pleasant evenings spent in soft, green shadowy gardens sipping a cool drink.
This summer the art scene in the city has come alive, charged with energy and fresh ideas. It’s a time to reflect, stimulate the senses, deepen your sense of history and wonder, explore the never-ending urban skyline, meditate on the purity of white. Or, sip on wine with new friends as you gallery-hop on narrow cobbled streets in Chelsea.
Resist the impulse to escape the urban bustle and explore these treasures this summer’s art world has to offer.
Half Gallery, 78th and Madison, NEW YORK, NY 10075
Half Gallery occupies three floors of a stately brownstone on an unassuming manicured Upper East Side block. To access the gallery, ascend steep winding narrow stairs with artwork on all levels. At the top, find a beautiful breezy rooftop. Founded by Bill Powers, this gallery works with a handful of talented contemporary emerging painters.
Boston to Brooklyn
June 7th – July 21st, 2017
A dozen new oil paintings depict this artist’s recent travels from Boston to Brooklyn, and are presented concurrently in a group exhibition, Talking Pictures, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They capture his journey back home and include renditions of Boston’s Copley Square, the coastline of Cape Ann (made famous by Edward Hopper’s paintings) and rural New York (Pink Olana).
Whether in a view of ferries crossing at dusk or of himself taking walks under faint New York stars, the artist looks for new vantage points in familiar surroundings. Most of all, he reflects on how our notion of “home” shifts throughout life and how our personal histories intersect with cultural icons.
George Billis Gallery, 525 W. 26th Street
The George Billis Gallery has established itself as a powerhouse Chelsea gallery representing emerging and established contemporary artists, both national and international. Established in 1997, this was the 12th gallery to open in Chelsea and soon expanded to a second location. In 2004, George Billis opened in Culver City and became a trendsetter in the burgeoning Los Angeles art scene.
Cityscapes – A Group Show
June 27 – July 22, 2017
This group exhibition features the works of a dozen or more artists in their interpretation of and perspectives on the urban landscape. With different mediums, and in different styles, the artists present images like rainy Chelsea street corners, and landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. The dozen or more emerging artists include Christopher Burk, Kenneth Templeton, Andrew Woodward, Brad Aldridge and Elizabeth O’Reilly, whose work draws some inspiration from Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal.
Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street New York, NY
A female artist had a vision in the early eighties: providing the opportunity for talented artists to gain recognition in the elitist international art word. Now owned by the eldest son of the original owner and run by a team of women, this gallery represents many talented male and female artists from around the world who might not have had a voice. With evocative, visually stimulating, beautiful treasures to boast, this gallery had made a name for itself has recently participated at Art Expo, ICFF and will be participating at the Shanghai Art Fair in November.
July 5 – 25, 2017
The nine artists in this exhibition approach a common theme in distinct ways: every canvas is a portal to a different world. Included are seductive alternative universes fashioned from acrylic, stone, ceramic or mixed media, in abstract, surreal, and classic styles.
Nora Pineda’s Grasshopper
There are psychologically tense scenes of people, depictions of endless plains, merry seas, and beautiful gardens made more contemporary by using exaggerated colors. The art here includes works that reinterpret Gilded Age portraiture or channel anxiety-charged surreal landscapes, and all succeed in breaking down barriers and stimulating new ideas.
Enigmatic Visions: Beauty in the Details
July 28 – August 17, 2017
The 11 artists represented by this gallery come from all parts of the globe, but share a common interest in attention to small details.
Zoom into the small and simple with works that feature empty spaces, close looks at single objects (still-life style), an austere series of black and white photos of flower blossoms, and intensely focused images of the body in motion. That, or enter into a psychological space that depiction a single figure or an isolated group of people.
Marc Straus, 299 Grand Street, Lower East Side
The White Heat
June 3 – July 30th
As a meditation on white and purity, this exhibition of paintings and sculptures is the united vision of artists from around the globe, inspired by the Emily Dickinson poem whose opening reads “Dare you see a soul at the white heat?”
These artists call on Dickinson’s intensity along with other inspirations: Botticelli’s Primavera, the piercing light of Goya’s lantern in The Third of May, Robert Rauschenberg’s revolutionary White paintings, Jasper John’s White Flag.
The most famous name here is Damien, who is not only famous for his art but also for the prizes – and prices – they command. One of his most noteworthy was his collection of paintings auctioned at Sotheby’s for $ 198 million.
His 2008 work, Remembrance, is an exhibition centerpiece, a perfect grid of white spots on a white background with sides of the canvas lined with gold lead. Other artists in this exhibit include New York-based Spanish painter Antonio Santin, who turns to a monochromatic palette to distill a kind of truth, and Liliane Tomasko, whose vibrant, abstract, fabric-inspired paintings are sensuous compositions of swooping lines and voluminous veils of brilliant color.
Liliane Tomasko’s Pale Fire
For The White Heat, Tomasko envelops her previous palette with white, allowing some color to peep in, much like the world beyond a window seen through translucent white curtains.
Antonio Santin’s Clusterduck-marmalade
Woodward Gallery, 132A Eldridge Street, LES
The Woodward Gallery has been a landmark in the lower east side art scene for more than 20 years, representing almost every important modern and contemporary art movement, from abstract expressionism to minimalist, conceptual, and street art.
In recent years, they are partial to outsider artists who not only cross genres – straight out of rock and post-punk bands or Hollywood movies – but invite you to participate in their experience. Fittingly, the summer exhibit is visible 24/7 from street-level gallery windows.
Val Kilmer’s “Valholla”
May 20 – July 22, 2017
Consider this the fine arts debut for an actor best known for characters he plays in popular movies, including Batman Forever. In addition to this first show, Val Kilmer also trucks his one-man play Citizen Twain, inspired by his interest in Mark Twain, to sold-out theaters across the country.
The colorful mixture of pop and abstraction includes paintings and sculptures inspired by metaphysical meditations, Val Kilmer’s love of New York, and reflections on the artist’s sense of identity.
David Zwirner Gallery, 24 Grafton Street, London
David Zwirner has earned a deserved reputation for being at the forefront of the contemporary art world. It’s well worth the trip to London to check out this landmark art gallery, visit a thriving art community and see a wonderful exhibit, though another one of his galleries is an established Chelsea landmark. The artists they represent invariably find their way into the most respected art journals. Zwirner also participates in the most exclusive art fairs, including Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach, and Frieze Art Fair.
June 7 – July 28
Also represented by David Zwirner, this exciting artist is travelling from New York to London to display her most recent, never-before-seen work. The exhibit is situated in Mayfair, a fashionable section of London renowned for its fine art, and well worth the trip. Known for her seamless blend of pop culture imagery, mythology, color theory and psychology, Yuskavage has developed a unique genre of portraiture casting half-naked women in erotic, sometimes vulgar, sometimes angelic poses within surreal landscapes or dramatic interior lighting.
Her work has found a temporary home in many prominent museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Lisa Yuskavage’s Wine and Cheese
Museum of Modern Art
Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends
May 21, 2017 – September 17, 2017
Floor Four, Collection Galleries
This important exhibition features more than 250 works documenting the prolific years of an American artist from the early 1950s to the late 1960s, an artist who has shaped much of the contemporary art world: Robert Rauschenberg.
Aside from showcasing his collaboration and friendship with dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, the influences of avant-garde artist John Cage and, of course, Andy Warhol, the exhibition explores how the artist challenged conventions at the time by boldly incorporating elements of everyday life into his art and inventing new, interdisciplinary forms of artistic practice that influence present-day artists. Of particular interest are Rauschenberg’s Combines and silk-screen paintings, including Charlene (1954), the last and largest from a series of paintings called the Red Paintings. The latter incorporates mirrors, part of a man’s undershirt, an umbrella, comic strips, and a light that flashes on and off.
Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose-Croix in Paris, 1892-1897
June 30 – October 4, 2017
To the untrained eye, it may be difficult to understand this otherworldly presentation. The focus is on the abstruse, mystical inspirations of late 19th century Symbolist art, including Rosicrucian influences, and includes little-known artists who assembled in elite Parisian salons, the work of painters and sculptors from a cross-section of Europe. Mythical and visionary themes, often drawn from literature, predominate in images of femme fatales, androgynous creatures, and chimeras, along with attenuated figures and anti-naturalist forms. The salon may have been just as integral to this vision as the art and mysticism inspiring it. This exhibit captures that passion, accompanied by the musical work of Erik Satie to emphasize the important role composers played in the movement.
If you’re up for a little bit of fun, the Guggenheim extends hours on Tuesday to 9 pm to host a weekly conversation series called “The Summer of Know.” Along with these chats, the museum will present films, discussions, and performances with added refreshments and specialty cocktails to keep you feeling just fine.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Irving Penn: Centennial
April 24 – July 30, 2017
To commemorate this artist’s centennial, this major retrospective of photographs includes both masterpieces and prints that were never shown before. Penn is known for his work as a fashion photographer and more than six decades of work at Vogue, however this exhibition is the most comprehensive collection of his work to date.
As his photos demonstrate, Penn is also a skilled portraitist; his rigorous compositions, minimal backgrounds, and diffused lighting were both innovative and influential in his time. Included are amazing Vogue covers that chronicle decades of high fashion. But the intense and artful portraits of Marlene Dietrich, Elsa Schiaparelli, Marcel Duchamp, Picasso, Salvador Dali, Stravinsky, Audrey Hepburn, and Nicole Kidman also artfully depict decades of artistic, fashion, intellectual, and cultural giants.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between
May 4 – September 4, 2017
Kawakubo is an enfant terrible of contemporary fashion who has led the avant-garde to new frontiers with influence from her native Japan and beyond. At the same time, her ideas have also reflected the more mainstream. The Costume Institute presents some of her designs, examining what they call Kawakubo’s fascination with “the space between boundaries.”
The work of this fashion designer and artist challenges conventional notions of beauty, good taste, and what’s “fashionable,” unsettling the social hierarchy, and blurring the line between masculine and feminine. For example, Kawakubo designed a dress to resemble a “witch:” misshapen with extravagant layers of billowing cloth in bold colors. Her commentary explains why a “witch” can be viewed as a kind of pioneer whose ideas and behavior were different from those around them. Her fashion line is aptly named. Despite her anti-fashion fashion riffs, her opening party attracted A-list celebrities and top names like Gisele Bundchen, Pharrell Williams, Tom Brady, Anna Wintour and even Caroline Kennedy.
The Museum of Art and Design
Counterculture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture
March 2 – August 20, 2017
A common theme this summer is the groundbreaking work of those who challenged the status quo and conventional values. It’s in keeping with that spirit that MODA presents some of the best work of 1960s fashion artists and craftsmen, along with their ideology.
The works here reflect the philosophy of the counterculture generation who rejected ideals of the American Dream rooted in consumerism and conformity, the traditional nuclear family, and the political establishment invested in maintaining the status quo.
Included in this exhibit are the velvet nomad vintage clothing designs of Alexandra Jacopetti Hart, the kaleidoscopic crochets of SF-based designer Birgitta Bjerke, whose fashions made their way to Paris runways and the backs of the Who and Grateful Dead, and SF-designer Kaisik Wong whose Eastern and mystical inspirations echo through remarkable creations that were worn by Tina Turner, Elton John and in part inspired Salvador Dali’s “Ray” series which is also included in this exhibition.
But if your tastes run to the more conventional, in spite of it all, or acquiring, and you just have to get away, there may just be time to visit the Market Art & Design art fair on Bridgehampton (July 6 – 9) (the Hampton’s). This is a carefully curated presentation by 65 top art galleries who represent dealers and designers from around the world.
Lisa Stahl, a native New Yorker, has authored many articles that graced the cover pages of magazines and websites. She’s the author of two distance-learning courses on fashion and has contributed substantial research and content on politics and foreign policy to three books by a political analyst and adviser to Hillary Clinton. Lisa’s achievements include an MA in English with honors from Columbia University. She also studied piano at Juilliard.