While the holiday crowds rush to MoMA to see the outstanding “Abstract Expressionist New York,” which continues through April 25, there are several free shows in the Midtown area that are ending this week and are more than worthy of a bigger audience. The eighteen works that comprise “Judith Godwin: Paintings, 1954-2002,” at Spanierman Modern (53 East 58th St.) through December 30, are easily deserving of their own room in the expansive MoMA exhibit, alongside canvases by such contemporaries and colleagues of Godwin’s as Franz Kline (whose Greenwich Village brownstone she bought in 1963), Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. “The act of painting is for me, as a woman, an act of freedom, and a realization that an image generated by the female experience can be a powerful expression for all humanity,” Godwin said in 1978, but there is no need to view her magnificent works specifically as those of a woman. Godwin’s bold brushstrokes and innate color sense, ranging from the yellows and golds of 1978’s “Tropic Zone” to the dark reds of 1979’s “Infidel,” from the vast, central white of 1977’s “Crusade” to the blues and reds that dominate 1954’s “Echoes, No. 2” and 1981’s “Harlem” and the black, brown, and cream of 1960’s stunning “Black Cloud,” result in powerful, emotional oils that both surprise and delight. Don’t miss this marvelous show, one of the best of the year.
In November 2009, New York native Taryn Simon spent five days photographing items that were confiscated at John F. Kennedy International Airport, cataloging more than a thousand of the photos in “Contraband,” on view through December 31 in the glassed-in lobby gallery that is home to the Lever House Art Collection (390 Park Ave. at 53rd St.). Simon divides the contraband items into such categories as “Illegal,” “Prohibited,” and “Counterfeit,” including images of such obviously problematic goods as drugs, weapons, a dead falcon, pirated DVDs, and fake designer handbags and currency as well as various kinds of food and drink, cow manure, insect larvae, and even Russian matryoshka dolls. The photographs offer fascinating insight not only into the occasional stupidity of both travelers and Customs officials but also a telling peek into consumerism and desire run rampant. The location enhances the exhibit, as it can be viewed from the outside, as if everything inside has been taken away and stored, or from the inside, as the busy holiday traffic passes by ritzy Park Ave.
The days after Christmas are followed by trips to stores to return unwanted items and purchase new things with gift cards, but it’s going to take a wealthy friend or relative to help you obtain one of the limited-edition scarves designed by artist Daniel Buren for Hermès (691 Madison Ave. at 62nd St.). French conceptual artist Daniel Buren, who in the past several years has designed uniforms for MoMA employees and covered the interior of the Guggenheim in aluminum foil, has now teamed up with the French luxury store to create a series of 365 silk scarves, combining photographs from his vast collection with his trademark colored stripes. Several dozen of the pieces can be seen through December 31 in the gallery on the top floor of the Madison Ave. Hermès store, where savvy shoppers can also purchase one of the unique items for about $7,000; each scarf comes with a deluxe book, PHOTOS-SOUVENIRS AU CARRE, part of Hermès’s carré d’artiste project, which began in 2008 with Josef Albers’s “Homage to the Square.”