If you are visiting New York in the summer months, you may have already been told that the art world goes to sleep, hibernating during the long, humid days of July and August. While it’s generally true that there are fewer gallery shows to see on a given day, the art world is still very much awake. If anything, air-conditioned exhibitions can be the best places to spend hot summer days. And the art isn’t bad either.
Here are my picks for gallery and museum shows to visit in the muggy, New York summer:
1. Taryn Simon, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII at the Museum of Modern Art
After travelling through a series of European museums, this body of work has finally landed in the United States. It is, without question, one of the most moving, affective, and thorough art projects I’ve seen in a long time. Simon, a photographer known for her formal presentation and elaborate research into the worlds of the “unseen,” does not disappoint in these MoMA galleries. Following eighteen “chapters” made over a four-year period, Simon systematically documents members of specific families, or “bloodlines,” whose history has been fraught with conflict or dispossession. Her subjects include genocide victims in Bosnia, the “living dead” in India, and children in a Ukrainian orphanage. The exhibition runs through September 3, 2012. For more information, visit moma.org. And check out this great slideshow if you can’t make it to NYC.
Installation Shot, People Who Work Here, David Zwirner Gallery, New York.
2. People Who Work Here at David Zwirner Gallery
The title of this group show is to be taken quite literally: each of the seventeen artists in this exhibition are, in fact, full time employees of the gallery. To boot, the show is being curated by Rawson Projects, a small Brooklyn-based gallery that is run by another two members of the Zwirner staff. It’s a homegrown operation. It’s rare to see a gallery celebrate and champion the art of their own workers, and in the case of a blockbuster gallery like Zwirner, it’s practically unheard of. The exhibition runs through August 10, 2012. more information, visit davidzwirner.com.
John Houck, Aggregate (detail).
3. John Houck, To Understand Photography, You Must First Understand Photography at KANSAS
This is Houck’s first solo show in New York, and his work, which is subtle and peculiar, doesn’t disappoint. Houck’s gridded, folded photographs explore the illusionistic properties of photography, flat surfaces, and digital technologies. Through the most composed means possible, Houck’s work is about the breakdown of systems of vision and visual organization. The show runs through August 4, 2012. For more information, visit kansasgallery.com.
Ellsworth Kelly, Sunflower, 1957.
4. Ellsworth Kelly, Plant Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
If you are scratching your head, let me address your confusion: Yes, that Ellsworth Kelly. If you aren’t familiar with his work, Kelly is one of the great minimal, color-field abstractionists alive today; he is not known for representational work of any kind. However, throughout his life he has made figurative work, and it comes as a lovely surprise. This vast exhibition showcases approximately eighty plant drawings made by Kelly over the course of six decades. The minimalist, graphite and ink contour drawings are full of muted and thoughtful elegance. The exhibition runs through September 3, 2012. For more information, visit metmuseum.org.
5. Ernesto Burgos, The Tone Was a Synthesis of All the Voices They Had Ever Heard at Kate Werble Gallery.
In his first solo show at Kate Werble’s West Soho space, Burgos destroys a series of reclaimed sofas. Turned lengthwise on their sides, ripped open, painted over, and grouped densely together, the group appears like an erect, apocalyptic forest. It’s a strange show, at once cerebral and hot-blooded. The show runs through August 10, 2012. For more information, visit katewerblegallery.com.
Ben Alper, Erasure #44, 2011.
6. Young Curators, New Ideas at Meulensteen Gallery
In this annual, juried show, the curators — rather than the artists — are the real stars. In this round, there are thirteen curators and twenty-nine artists on show, creating a feeling of controlled, exciting mania. There was a lot of stand out work, and stand out curating. In fact, it was perhaps most interesting to parse out one from the other, and contemplate how the two kinds of creative, productive vision bleed into one another. In particular, Legacy Russell was a standout curator, as was the collective Court Square. The exhibition runs through August 24, 2012. For more information, visit meulensteen.com.
Rineke Dijkstra, Hilton Head Island, S.C., USA, June 24, 1992; Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris.
7. Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum
In case you missed it was in San Francisco at the SFMOMA, catch this seminal retrospective in New York. Dikstra is the master at capturing something profoundly strange, awkward, and confrontational in the process of transition. The exhibition runs through October 8, 2012. For more information, visitguggenheim.org.
8: Honorable mentions: Annette Messager at Marian Goodman Gallery; Ghosts in the Machine at The New Museum; Everyday Abstract, Abstract Everyday at James Cohan Gallery, Lara Favaretto: Just Knocked Out at PS1, and Carnal Knowledge at Leslie Tonkanow Artworks.