January 21 - February 10
The rising price of admissions in New York City got you down? You can check out some big-time Big Apple institutions January 21 to February 10 during Must-See Week, when tickets to many cultural stalwarts go BOGO, offering two-for-one discounts. Among the participating attractions are the 9/11 Tribute Museum, the Bronx Zoo, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper Hewitt, the Empire State Building Observatory, the Intrepid, the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue, the Museum of Chinese in America, MoMA, the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Botanical Garden, the New York City Ballet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Rink at Rockefeller Center, the UN, and more. While you can get some tickets in advance, others require in-person vouchers.
Who: Richard Pettibone and Glenn Fuhrman
What: Artist talk
Where: The FLAG Art Foundation, 545 West 25th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves., ninth floor, 212-206-0220
When: Thursday, January 17, free with RSVP, 6:00
Why: Eighty-one-year-old American Pop and Appropriation artist Richard Pettibone will be at FLAG in Chelsea on January 17 for an artist talk with gallery founder Glenn Fuhrman, focusing on Pettibone’s exhibit “Endless Variation,” which runs through Saturday. The show features work from throughout Pettibone’s career, from 1964 to 2018, including his miniature versions of iconic masterpieces by such artists as Marcel Duchamp, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol; his “combine” collages; his re-creations of Warhol’s soup cans; and a series of self-portraits. Admission is free with advance RSVP.
235 Bowery at Prince St.
Tuesday through Sunday through January 20, $12-$18
I fondly recall being blown away in 2004 by “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida: Angus Fairhurst, Damien Hirst & Sarah Lucas” at the Tate Britain, a terrific survey of three key Young British Artists who began making their mark in the late 1980s. I had previously been introduced to their work, and that of many other YBAs, in the Brooklyn Museum’s 1999 “Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection,” which became (in)famous when New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to close it, offended because Chris Ofili’s “Holy Virgin Mary” contained elephant dung. Giuliani is also unlikely to be a fan of “Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel,” the New Museum’s revelatory first American retrospective of the work of the London-born artist who boldly tells it like it is through photography, sculpture, video, collage, and installation.
The show at the New Museum, on view through January 20, highlights Lucas’s DIY aesthetic, her sly sense of humor, and her innate instincts to take on the status quo — particularly the patriarchy, traditional notions of domesticity, and misogyny — repurposing such found materials as furniture, cigarettes, tabloid articles, clothing, and cars along with numerous photos of herself, always shot by someone else, usually her partner at the time. But despite the apparent socioeconomic observations and art-historical references in her work, she is not merely trying to score political or artistic points as some kind of artivist. “I don’t think I make things for a specific type of public,” she tells New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni in the catalog interview “It’s Raining Stones.” She continues, “I like to be as broad as possible. I’m not anti-intellectual or anything; I just think things can operate on different levels. I want to make works that anybody can relate to, not only the people from the art world, but also the ordinary man or woman on the street, from the particular class I came from.” Lucas left home at sixteen, spent time as a squatter, and eventually went to art school, but not as fulfillment of some lifelong bourgeois dream. Spread across three floors and the lobby, the retrospective celebrates her uniquely rowdy oeuvre, which can be as poignant and powerful as it is hysterical and in-your-face.
Facing the elevator on the fourth floor is “Divine,” a giant photograph, turned into wallpaper, of a tough-looking Lucas wearing boots, jeans, a T-shirt, and leather jacket, sitting on steps that seem to come from nowhere, her legs spread-eagled. She is staring down at us, asserting her laid-back authority. On the adjoining wall to her left is “Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy,” a large depiction of Jesus, covered neatly in cigarettes, on a red-painted cross; to Lucas’s right is “Chicken Knickers,” a photograph of the artist from above her knees to below her chest, wearing a raw chicken over her underwear. On the floor are “This Jaguar’s Going to Heaven,” a burned car sliced in two, and “Priapos” (the God of Fertility) and “Eros” (the God of Love), a pair of huge concrete phalluses balancing on crushed cars. Lucas is joyfully equating sex and mortality, specifically male death, since the Jaguar can be considered a prestige purchase of wealthy men, while also aligning the artist as a godlike figure. But she brings it all back down to earth in a far corner, where her deliciously wicked Sausage Film shows her carefully slicing and eating a sausage served to her by her partner at the time, artist Gary Hume. Like her photo on the second floor, “Eating a Banana,” in which she is doing just that, Lucas has tons of fun deconstructing male signifiers while taking possession of the gaze, the artist knowingly looking directly at the viewer.
On the third floor, “One Thousand Eggs: For Women” is a long wall onto which, last September 13, a select group of women threw eggs, taking back their reproductive rights and control of their bodies. In the same room is a collection of Lucas’s “NUDS” sculptures, twisted, sometimes erotic shapes made either of tights, fluff, and wire or bronze on pedestals. “They happened very naturally, all different,” Lucas explains on the label about making them with her current boyfriend, Julian Simmons. “Slightly lewd in their nakedness. We named them ‘cuddle friends,’ after ourselves. Something about their babylike quality got me thinking about my relationship with my mum. That’s where ‘nuds’ came from. She called being naked ‘in the nuddy.’ She also called sadists ‘saddists.’ Not sure about the spelling, but ‘sad’ is the important bit. True, I think.”
In another room on the third floor, painted yellow, is a series of plaster sculptures of the bottom half of women’s bodies sitting on a chair, lying on a table, or kneeling over a toilet, a cigarette placed in a key part, with such names as “Yoko,” “Michele,” and “Sadie.” A black bronze feline, “Tit-Cat Up,” stands atop “Washing Machine Fried Egg (Electrolux),” a washing machine painted so its front looks like an egg yolk. And in the video Egg Massage, Lucas cracks eggs over Simmons’s naked body and rubs them into him, emphasizing man’s inability to conceive. She doesn’t necessarily set out to be so direct. In a wall label, Lucas explains, “It’s happened time and time again that some random spur-of-the-moment idea or juxtaposition has proved more fruitful than laborious projects I may have been working on — although it has to be said that these spontaneous notions could have been a reaction to, and relief from, the labor or high-mindedness I was engaged in. Conclusion: earnestness and hard work are to be regarded with suspicion.”
The second floor is chock full of objects that are as engaging as they are unsubtle. “The Old Couple” consists of two wooden chairs, one with an erect phallus on it, the other false teeth. The titular piece, “Au Naturel,” is a cruddy mattress with melons, oranges, a cucumber, and a bucket on it, forming male and female sexual organs. In the R-print “Got a Salmon on #3,” Lucas is photographed with a huge salmon over her left shoulder, not about to swim upstream to spawn. (Lucas does not have children.) Lucas created “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” for the Freud Museum, using a mattress, a hanger, a concrete coffin, lightbulbs, a bucket, and a neon tube, offering a psychiatric look at sex and death. There are also skulls; phalluses made out of cigarettes and beer cans; and several toilets and photos of toilets, inside of one featuring the question “Is suicide genetic?” The centerpiece is “Bunny Gets Snookered,” a collection of eight of her soft bunny sculptures on chairs on and around a pool table, each bunny — a twist on the Playboy bunny? — the color of one of the snooker balls, playing off the double meaning of “getting snookered” in regard here to a predominantly male sport.
In her exhibition catalog essay “No Excuses,” writer and scholar Maggie Nelson notes, “I so value this New Museum retrospective, as it sidesteps the narrative of the mellowing of an angry, feral soul — that ‘calming down’ many inexplicably wish on our most crackling messengers — and instead allows us the time and space to look at the expanse of what Lucas has been doing from the start: making objects that ‘look fucking good’ out of a shape-shifting devotion to questions of anatomy, presence, ambivalence, rudeness, and humor.” I so value this retrospective as well, a seriocomic exploration of the gender and power dynamic, objectification, and traditional representation by an artist who is finally getting her due here in America.
The men, women, and children in Jane Dickson’s subway mural “Revelers” have been celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Times Square subway station nonstop for ten years, with no appearance of ever slowing down. The Murano glass mosaic depicts dozens of partyers in all kinds of colors, dancing, kissing, shaking noisemakers, blowing into horns, wearing silly hats, and checking their watches to see how far away midnight is. Actually, a few do look plum-tuckered out.
Dickson was an inspired choice to design the work. Born in Chicago, she came to New York City in 1978, a few years after college, and moved into the Times Square area, where she got a job operating the Spectacolor billboard. She also took photographs and made paintings of the neighborhood and its denizens, which has been re-created in the HBO series The Deuce; Dickson used to hang out in the real bar that James Franco’s character runs in the show and was friends with the bartender who Margarita Levieva’s character (Abby) is based on. The artist shares her story in the new book Jane Dickson in Times Square (Anthology Editions, October 2018, $50).
Dickson quickly became part of the New York art world, joining the influential Colab collective, going to late-night clubs, and meeting Mimi Gross, Nan Goldin, Kathy Acker, Peter Hujar, Kiki Smith, David Wojnarowicz, Jenny Holzer, Fab 5 Freddy (who wrote the afterword for her book), and her soon-to-be husband, Charlie Ahearn. Dickson and Ahearn, the writer-director-producer of the genre-defining hip-hop graffiti flick Wild Style, even raised two children in their apartment on Forty-Third St. and Eighth Ave. These days, most of us wouldn’t go anywhere near Times Square on December 31, but the rest of the year you can catch these revelers having a lot more fun in the subway than the rest of us.
New York City native Peter Halley casts Lever House in a soft, soothing yellow glow in his site-specific installation, “New York, New York,” on view through the end of the year. “I grew up in Midtown, just a few blocks from Lever House,” he said in a statement. “It was constructed the year before I was born, so it was always part of the landscape of my childhood. The lobby is a classic Mies van der Rohe glass box. It provided an irresistible opportunity to create a postmodern intervention within this paradigmatic modernist space.”
A Neo‐Conceptualist who was a key part of the downtown arts scene in the 1980s and later founded INDEX magazine, Halley surrounds a central architectural structure with Day-Glo paintings that incorporate his love of geometric patterns he calls “prisons,” “cells,” and “conduits,” relating to technological and social connections.
Inside the structure is a series of rooms that change color with shifting lighting effects, revealing walls of cartoon explosions and dreamlike, diagrammed latticework, as if the spectator has entered deep into Halley’s paintings — and his mind. One experiences both confinement and escape in the work, shielded from the outside world until you have to again face the madness that is Midtown Manhattan.
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through January 1, $25
“If you succeed in building a model, you visualize what is living inside you so that the outside world can adapt it, study it, discover it, see it,” Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez says in a promotional video for the dazzling exhibition “Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams,” continuing at MoMA through January 1. The deservedly popular show consists of buildings, plazas, and urban areas that sprung from Kingelez’s vast imagination, using paper, paperboard, plastic, and such found materials as soda cans and bottlecaps, that practically beg visitors to study them, discover them, see them. And as playful and colorful as they are, with an infectious, childlike quality, they also comment on economic inequality, the importance of community, and a government’s responsibility to its citizenry. Kingelez, who was born in Kinshasa in 1948 and passed away in 2015, built an urban utopia that included such fantastical architectural structures as “Kinshasa la Belle,” “U.N.” “Miss Hotel Brussels,” “The Scientific Center of Hospitalisation the SIDA,” and “Palais d’Hirochima,” reimagining urban renewal and the social contract while referencing the AIDS crisis, international diplomacy, tourism, and nuclear war. Most impressive are several large areas that resemble gigantic game boards, such as “Ville Fantôme,” “Ville de Sète 3009,” and “Kimbembele Ihunga,” but they are more than just massive toys or maquettes for the future. “Without a model, you are nowhere. A nation that can’t make models is a nation that doesn’t understand things, a nation that doesn’t live,” Kingelez said.
Curators Sarah Suzuki and Hillary Reder organize the show with plenty of room to wander around the installations, as well as adding ceiling mirrors to better experience the remarkable details on several of the bigger works. In a back room, “Ville Fantôme” comes alive in a large-scale, sophisticated virtual reality experience that allows the viewer to navigate through one of Kingelez’s creations as if life-size. The exhibition, the first American retrospective of his work, also features a soundtrack selected by Carsten Höller and Kristian Sjöblom, with songs by Franco & Le T.P.O.K. Jazz, Docteur Nico & l’African Fiesta Sukisa, Pepe Ndombe & L’Orchestre Afrizam, M’Pongo Love, and Ndombe Opetum, Pepe Ndombe & Zing Zong Personnel, among others, bringing music into these inviting spaces. In search of a “better, more peaceful world,” Kingelez described himself as “a designer, an architect, a sculptor, engineer, artist.” He might have saved “artist” for last, but he is finally being recognized for his bold, imaginative artistic expression. On December 10, MoMA will host “An Evening with Bogosi Sekhukhuni,” with the South African artist presenting video works dealing with technology and the diaspora, followed by a conversation with Sekhukhuni, poet manuel arturo abreu and MoMA curatorial fellow Hanna Girma. On December 5 (11:30), 12 (1:30), and 19 (11:30), Angela Garcia will lead the Gallery Sessions tour “Bodys Isek Kingelez’s Extreme Maquettes”; on December 15 and 31 (1:30), Maya Jeffereis will lead “Drawing in Bodys Isek Kingelez”; and on December 22 (11:30) and 27 (1:30), Petra Pankow will lead “Bodys Isek Kingelez’s Urban Dreamscapes.”
Tuesday - Sunday through December 30, $30-$50
The front cover of Michael Leigh’s 1963 paperback, The Velvet Underground, declares, “Here is an incredible book. It will shock and amaze you. But as a documentary on the sexual corruption of our age, it is a must for every thinking adult.” Fittingly, one of the most influential bands in music history took its name from that tome, one of many facts one can learn at “The Velvet Underground Experience,” a pop-up exhibit continuing in Greenwich Village through December 30. From 1964 to 1970, the Velvet Underground released four studio albums that ultimately helped change the face of rock and roll and thoroughly situated music amid the avant-garde art world. The exhibition consists of hundreds of photographs (by Fred W. McDarrah, Stephen Shore, Nat Finkelstein, Billy Name, and others), archival footage, six new short nonfiction films, and biographical stations dedicated to each band member — Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, Angus MacLise, Nico, Doug Yule, and Walter Powers — in addition to others who played a role in the band’s development, including Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick, Danny Williams, Gerard Malanga, Candy Darling, Piero Heliczer, Jonas Mekas, Barbara Rubin, La Monte Young, and Allen Ginsberg. Allan Rothschild’s twelve-minute film goes back and forth between the childhoods of Reed and Cale, revealing fascinating similarities and differences (for example, they were born merely a week apart in March 1942), and Reed’s younger sister, Merrill Reed Weiner, shares intimate details about her brother’s psychological issues. Véronique Jacquinet’s ten-minute work traces the rise of Christa Päffgen, better known as Nico.
Curated by Christian Fevret, and Carole Mirabello and designed by Matali Crasset, the exhibition is centered by a tentlike structure where visitors can lie down on silver mattresses and watch projections of rare, short films surrounding the band’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, aka the Banana Album, and the live show known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Warhol’s screen tests of the band run continuously on one wall. Tony C. Janelli and Robert Pietri’s animated short, The Velvet Underground Played at My High School, is a fun film about the band’s first gig at Summit High School in New Jersey in December 1965 (opening for the Myddle Class), which did not exactly go over so well, save for its impact on one fifteen-year-old student. Downstairs is a look at what Greenwich Village was like in the 1960s and 1970s, with clips of Nico, Cale, and Reed’s acoustic reunion show in 1972 in Le Bataclan, a split-screen tribute to Rubin by Mekas, and experimental works from the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, including Rubin’s X-rated art-porn favorite, Christmas on Earth. (There is also a lower level where talks are held on Tuesday nights and concerts on Thursday evenings.) And of course, there’s the music, with multiple versions of such songs as “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Venus in Furs,” “Femme Fatale,” “Heroin,” and “Sweet Jane” (from the group’s four main albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico, White Light/White Heat, The Velvet Underground, and Loaded) echoing through the space. “The Velvet Underground Experience” is not an exhaustive study of the band, and it does have a lot of peripheral material in the New York City section, probably because the show was originally presented in Paris, but it is still a treat for VU devotees and those curious about a seminal moment in the history of music.