There are only a couple more days to enjoy Iceberg, a cool immersive and interactive installation on Broadway in the Garment District. ATOMIC3 and Appareil Architecture constructed the musical piece, which consists of a series of connected metal arches that emit blue and red light and the sounds of water dripping as people make their way through it; the more visitors in the work, and the faster they move, the more the lights change and the louder the sounds get, resulting in a warmer atmosphere. Created in collaboration with sound designer Jean-Sébastien Côté and interactive system designer Philippe Jean for a Montreal festival in 2012, Iceberg might look like a chic, Instagram-friendly tunnel, but it is also a reminder of the melting, calving polar ice caps and the damaging man-made effects of global climate change.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Met Fifth Ave.
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Daily through February 24, $12-$25
EmptyMet: VIP access February 23, 9:00 am, $50 (includes catalog)
The Met’s “Jewelry: The Body Transformed,” which closes on Sunday, is a treasure trove of luxurious objects dating back more than three thousand years, from necklaces, pendants, and earrings to armbands, combs, and parure, from headdresses, breastplates, and bracelets to brooches, yashmaks, and daggers, divided into five themes: “The Divine Body,” “The Regal Body,” “The Transcendent Body,” “The Alluring Body,” and “The Resplendent Body.” But the biggest mystery you will take away from the gorgeous exhibition is, where are the missing toes? Two pairs of gold sandals from the Tomb of the Three Foreign Wives of Thutmose III, circa 1479-1425 BCE in Thebes, have only nine toe stalls each, the former without the right big toe, the latter sans the right little one. Was the Egyptian pharaoh, who ruled from the age of two to fifty-six, some kind of foot fetishist? And which two of the wives, Menwi, Merti, or Menhet, are a digit short? It’s more than a bit disconcerting, but you’ll probably get over it as you wander through the many other vitrines holding glittering items likely to catch your fancy. But then again, it may haunt you to your dying day.
MoMA, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Daily through February 18, $14-$25
22-25 Jackson Ave. at 46th Ave.
Thursday - Monday through February 25, suggested admission $10
Jazz trumpet legend Miles Davis said, “Don’t play what’s there. Play what’s not there.” That approach applies to the wide-ranging exhibition “Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts,” which will disappear from MoMA PS1 on February 25 and MoMA’s main Midtown location on February 18. For six decades, the Indiana-born artist has been creating painting, drawing, sculpture, video, sound, and installation that addresses both the artist and the viewer directly, examining physical and psychological presence and absence. At PS1, Mapping the Studio is a multichannel installation consisting of speeded-up shots of Nauman’s workspace, taken by surveillance cameras overnight; occasionally, a mouse runs past, headlights shine from outside, or other movement is noticed, but it passes by so fast you won’t necessarily know what you’ve seen. In the hall, Naumann has a detailed chart of what happens when, but it is so expansive as to be overwhelming in and of itself. In Two Fans Corridor, visitors are encouraged to stand in an empty space surrounded by three walls as fans on either side, behind the right and left walls, blow air toward no one while adding a sound element. One person at a time can walk through Double Steel Cage Piece, a prisonlike construction with narrow alleys that can cause claustrophobia even though you can see the outside; meanwhile, audible from the previous room is Get Out of My Head, Get Out of This Room, making it seem like a disembodied voice is yelling those words at the person making their way through the cage. For Untitled (Wall-Floor Positions), a dancer arrives at predetermined times and performs on the floor and against the wall, but most of the time there is nobody there. You might not know what to make of Lighted Performance Box unless you look at the ceiling, where light is projected; you can’t go in the box, and there is no “performance.”
Corridor Installation (Nick Wilder Installation) is a series of narrow passages, some of which you can walk down, and some of which you cannot; Nauman adds cameras and monitors, but what you see on the monitors does not mesh with your actual experience. In the painting Beating with a Baseball Bat, a shadowy figure has his arms lifted above his head as if to inflict violence, but there is no bat in his hands. In My Last Name Exaggerated Fourteen Times Vertically, Nauman employs neon tubing to make his name unreadable, as if erasing himself. Wax Impressions of the Knees of Five Famous Artists is made of fiberglass and polyester resin, not wax, and the impressions were not made by the five artists identified nearby. And A Cast of the Space under My Chair is a concrete sculpture of empty space from a nonexistent chair.
Nauman also plays with opposites in Seven Virtues / Seven Vices, seven limestone blocks in which one vice and one virtue (for example, “Envy” and “Hope”) are spelled out in classical type over each other, making it difficult to read either. A black man and a white woman interchangeably say the same hundred phrases, including “I am a good boy” and “You are a good boy,” in Good Boy Bad Boy, which blurs distinctions between race and gender. Clown Torture is a room of television sets that show clowns being tortured, instead of the clowns doing the torturing. Leaping Foxes, made for this exhibition, is a group of skinless polyurethane animals hanging from the ceiling, stagnant in death. Nauman’s own body figures prominently throughout the exhibition. Contrapposto Split refers to one of his most famous series, in which he walks in a classical pose, but here he does so in 3-D, his body impossibly cut in half, the top out of sync with the bottom, something that is evident in a number of other old and recent videos projected on long walls.
“Disappearing Acts” is spread throughout three floors of MoMA PS1; back in Manhattan, it takes up the sixth floor with several large-scale installations that continue the theme of what’s there and what’s not there. “Nauman's work teaches us that making and thinking about art involve all parts of the brain and body. As we move through his environments or stand in front of a drawing such as Make Me Think Me, ideas surface about what it means to be alert — to be in the world,” MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry writes in his foreword to the catalog. (You can read a free fifty-five-page sample from the catalog here.) “Challenging the ways in which conventions become codified, his work erases all forms of certainty, mandating that we craft our own meanings rather than accede to more familiar rules. The lessons learned from Bruce’s penetrating intelligence become more and more necessary every day, and I am confident that the importance of his work will be clear as long as people find meaning in art.” In a May 1973 article in Interview, Nauman said, “I thought I might have to give up art, but I couldn’t think of anything else to do.” Thank goodness for Lowry, and for us, that Nauman did not give up art but forged ahead, pushing boundaries every step of the way. Going Around the Corner Piece is a huge cube you cannot go into, but you can walk around it, watching yourself appear and disappear on four black-and-white monitors placed on the floor. Audio-Video Underground Chamber shows what seems to be live footage of an empty room. You have to sign up in advance to be given the key to Kassel Corridor: Elliptical Space and be the one person every hour allowed to unlock the door and enter the extremely narrow area between two curved walls.
In Days, disembodied voices call out the days of the week from two rows of microphones; as you make your way through the room, you lose track of time and space. The neon sculpture One Hundred Live and Die flashes such phrases as “Cry and Live,” “Rage and Die,” “Laugh and Live,” “Kiss and Die,” “Live and Live,” and “Die and Die” in multiple colors. And Model for Trench and Four Buried Passages alters one’s understanding of what a model is, in this case a giant circular construction of plaster, fiberglass, and wire that calls out with emptiness. But there’s nothing empty about “Disappearing Acts,” an exciting retrospective filled with importance and meaning of your own choosing, in addition to plenty of fun. (There will be a closing party at MoMA PS1 on February 22, from 8:00 to midnight, with the galleries open late, DJ sets in the VW Dome, screenings of the documentary The Bruce Nauman Story, cocktails, and more.)
Who: Rochelle Feinstein and Didier William
What: Book launch and discussion
Where: AIM: Artist in the Marketplace, the Block Gallery, 80 White St., second floor
When: Monday, February 11, free with advance RSVP, 6:00
Why: Bronx native Rochelle Feinstein will celebrate the launch of her new book, Pls. Reply (Ugly Duckling Presse / Bronx Museum of the Arts / Stellar Projects, March 1, $22), with a special event at AIM’s new space in the Block Gallery on February 11. The trade paperback is a collection of her writings along with sixteen full-color book plates, edited by Antonio Sergio Bessa, and comes out in conjunction with her current exhibition at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, “Rochelle Feinstein: Image of an Image,” which continues through March 3 and was curated by Bessa. At the Block Gallery, the seventy-one-year-old Feinstein, a tenured Yale professor, will talk with Haitian visual artist and AIM alumnus Didier William; beer and wine will be served, and Pls. Reply will be available at a discount.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, February 2, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum honors Black History Month in the February edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Winard Harper, YahZarah (“I’m Taking You Back”), and Toshi Reagon with violinist Juliette Jones and bassist, guitarist, and vocalist Ganessa James; curator tours of “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” and “Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room” with Ashley James; a Learning Lesson discussion with artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed inspired by Octavia Butler’s idea of “primitive hypertext”; pop-up gallery talks of “Soul of a Nation” with teen apprentices; a screening of Mr. Soul (Melissa Haizlip & Samuel D. Pollard, 2018), introduced by the directors; a hands-on workshop in which participants can create wearable activist patches inspired by the messages of the Guerrilla Girls and AfriCOBRA; an artist talk featuring Shani Jamila’s new podcast, Lineage, with photographers Ming Smith and Russell Fredrick of the Kamoinge collective; “Soul of a Nation”–inspired poetry with Karisma Price, Naomi Extra, and Stephanie Jean of Cave Canem; an “Archives as Raw History” tour with archivist Molly Seegers; and Black Gotham Experience’s immersive Magnetic Resonance, consisting of a photo studio by Kamau Ware with styling by Charles Johnson, video collage by Kearaha Bryant, and music by GoodWill, P.U.D.G.E., and Rimarkable. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” “Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room,” “One: Do Ho Suh,” “Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection,” “Something to Say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, Deborah Kass, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Hank Willis Thomas,” “Rob Wynne: FLOAT,” “Infinite Blue,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” “Kwang Young Chun: Aggregations,” and more.
Who: Ralph Lemon, Pope.L, Adrienne Edwards
What: Dance, response, and discussion
Where: The Museum of Modern Art, Theater 2, 11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves., 212-708-9400
When: Monday, January 28, 7:00
Why: In conjunction with the exhibition “Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts” at MoMA and MoMA PS1, the museum’s Modern Mondays program on January 28 will begin with Minnesota-raised dancer, choreographer, and writer Ralph Lemon offering a meditation on the multidisciplinary artist’s “Wall/Floor Positions,” which is performed daily at MoMA by various dancers. Newark-born visual artist and 2017 Bucksbaum Award winner William Pope.L, who is creating an installation for the Whitney for the fall, will then offer his response to the piece, followed by a discussion with Lemon and Pope.L, moderated by Whitney curator Adrienne Edwards. The wide-ranging Nauman exhibition continues at MoMA through February 25.
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Through March 10, $18-$25
Performances January 26, February 16, and March 2, free with museum admission
In 2011, artist and automotive enthusiast Kevin Beasley went to his family’s Virginia farm and was surprised to see that it was planted with cotton for the first time. The Yale MFA candidate picked some of the cotton and brought it home with him, wanting to incorporate the material into his work. Searching on eBay, Beasley found a 2200-pound cotton gin motor for sale in Maplesville, Alabama, where it had been in use from 1940 to 1973, overlapping with the heart of the civil rights movement; Selma, where the march to Montgomery began in 1965, is only thirty miles away from Maplesville. Beasley, now based in Brooklyn with a studio in Astoria, then combined the personal with the political and the historical to create the powerful exhibition “View of a Landscape,” continuing at the Whitney through March 10. The centerpiece of the show is the cotton gin motor, which Beasley transported from Alabama following the route of the Great Migration. At the Whitney, the motor is encased in a soundproof glass and steel vitrine in a room by itself, as if not only on display but on trial. Beasley has attached multiple audio wires to the motor, turning it into a musical instrument; the wires connect to modular synthesizers and processors in the next room, emitting electronic sounds throughout the day, evoking Robert Morris’s 1961 “Box with the Sound of Its Own Making.”
The installation is supplemented with a trio of slab sculptures, eight-hundred-pound eight-by-ten-feet freestanding walls made of articles related to Beasley, his family, and slavery, focusing on race, labor, and ancestry. Titled “The Reunion,” “Campus,” and “The Acquisition,” they are like excavations dug out of the soil, composed of polyurethane resin, raw cotton, garbage bags, clothing, du-rags, music equipment, and elements from Beasley’s time at Yale, from his cap and gown to harlequin masks. Eli Whitney, who invented the cotton gin in 1793, was also a Yale grad; the Eli Whitney Students Program currently helps those who have taken five or more years off from school. In addition, Yale itself was named after slave trader Elihu Yale, and Eli Whitney is related to Harry Payne Whitney, who married Gertrude Vanderbilt, the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1931. The installation is a deep dig, no stone left unturned as Beasley puts it all together into a cohesive unit
On January 12, Beasley, who was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2013-14, played the first of four concerts using the cotton gin motor, manipulating the many wires hooked up to several synthesizers in the listening room. He was joined by multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and vocalist Taja Cheek for two hours of compelling noise. Wearing a Frederick Douglass sweatshirt and a serious mien, Beasley alternated sounds, from the industrial roar of the motor to space-age riffs, not smiling until the show was over. I sat on the large woofer near the center, which made it feel like I was experiencing it in Sensurround, the bass reverberating through my body. If it’s not completely packed, you should walk around, as different sounds are emitted from the various speakers. Recognizable words occasionally came through as well, including “Freedom” and “I’m here.” There will also be concerts (free with museum admission) on January 26 at 6:00, 7:00, and 8:00 with Eli Keszler, February 16 at 6:00 with Beasley, and March 2 at 6:00, 7:00, and 8:00 with Jlin. The line started about an hour before showtime, so get ready. And Beasley will be in conversation with Daphne Brooks and Jace Clayton on February 1 at 6:30 ($10).