If you haven’t been to the Shed yet, the entertainment hub at Hudson Yards, this Saturday offers you a pretty good reason to finally head over. From 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, admission to the two current art exhibits, “Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates” and “Manual Override,” which usually require $10 tickets each, is free. There will also be several special programs as well as food trucks in the McCourt, a photo booth on level six, and music and dance. There will be tours of the wide-ranging Agnes Denes retrospective, which consists of more than 150 works from throughout the career of the eighty-eight-year-old Budapest-born American artist (including newly commissioned pieces), at 2:30 with artists Bahar Behbahani, Tattfoo Tan, Avram Finkelstein, Moko Fukuyama, and Janani Balasubramanian and astrophysicist Dr. Natalie Gosnell, at 3:15 with curatorial assistant Adeze Wilford, at 3:45 with senior curator Emma Enderby, and at 5:00 with John Hatfield and artist Torkwase Dyson. “Manual Override” brings together the work of Morehshin Allahyari, Simon Fujiwara, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sondra Perry, and Martine Syms, which combines social and ethical issues with cutting-edge technology. In addition, DJ Synchro will be spinning in the lobby from 2:00 to 4:00, DJ April Hunt from 4:00 to 6:00, and DJ Bembona from 6:00 to 8:00; Dance Battle: It’s Showtime NYC! vs. the D.R.E.A.M. Ring will get under way in the lobby at 2:15 and 4:30; the two dance teams will be hosting workshops around the building at 3:00 and in the Tisch Skylights at 5:00 and 5:15; and Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter J Hoard will perform in the Tisch Skylights at 5:30.
Museum of Arts & Design
2 Columbus Circle at 58th St. & Eighth Ave.
Saturday, January 11, $30, 4:00
In conjunction with its current exhibition “The World of Anna Sui,” the Museum of Arts & Design is hosting a series of related events. Next up is “Anna’s Music and Muses,” in which the Detroit-born fashion icon will sit down on January 11 with British musician and supermodel Karen Elson to discuss inspiration and collaboration. Sui, who won the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 at the age of forty-five, following in the footsteps of Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent among other fashion legends, told CBS that year, “I think whenever people talk about the ‘Anna Sui woman,’ they’re talking about someone that’s probably kind of more downtown, and there’s always like this ambiguity: Is she a good girl, or a bad girl?” Forty-year-old Elson, who hails from Greater Manchester, has released two albums, The Ghost Who Walks and Double Roses, is an ambassador for Save the Children, and has two children with former husband Jack White. “The World of Anna Sui” continues through February 23; on January 9, the series “Sui Screens,” featuring films that influenced Sui collections, will present 2006’s Marie Antoinette, followed by a Q&A with director Sofia Coppola, and will conclude February 20 with Ken Russell’s 1971 The Boy Friend, starring Twiggy.
The Frick Collection
1 East 70th St. at Fifth Ave.
Through January 5, $12-$22
The Frick’s seventh collaboration with Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum might not be a large-scale blockbuster, but that doesn’t make it any less of a must-see. “Manet: Three Paintings from the Norton Simon Museum,” which ends January 4, features three canvases hung side by side in the Frick’s glorious, intimate Oval Room that show off the vast skills of French modernist Édouard Manet. The 1864 still-life Fish and Shrimp reveals Manet’s masterly brushwork, the paint at times almost sculptural; the salmon appears to slither on a chest, its tail flapping. “A painter can say all he wants to say with fruit or flowers or even a cloud,” Manet related to artist Charles Toché. Manet says plenty here with seafood. To the far left is a small portrait of Manet’s wife, pianist Suzanne Leenhoff, who posed for him often. Painted around 1876, Madame Manet shows Leenhoff, who was the family’s music teacher before marrying Édouard, looking slightly away, her dress slightly darker than the shadowy gray background. Tiny parts of the canvas peek through, but the work is not unfinished; it has a sketchy quality despite many layers of paint, lending a mysterious air to the subject.
In between those two canvases, rising above the fireplace, is The Ragpicker, Manet’s bold and provocative portrait of a bushy-bearded older man in tattered clothing, grapsing a cane, refuse in the foreground. Painted between 1865 and 1871 and possibly reworked in 1876-77 — Manet was a constant reviser — it was the final piece in the artist’s “4 Philosophers” series, focusing on beggars and men on the margins of society. Inspired by Diego Velázquez’s style and Manet’s friend Charles Baudelaire’s poem “The Ragpicker’s Wine,” the work, at more than six feet tall, elevates the subject’s importance in a way generally reserved for the wealthy and powerful, yet another reason why the Salon, the arbiter of Parisian artistic success, was not always fond of Manet, who did not gain critical acclaim until after his death in 1883 at the age of fifty-one. While at the Frick, be sure not to miss “Bertoldo di Giovanni: The Renaissance of Sculpture in Medici Florence,” which includes the dazzling bronze sculptures Battle, Lamentation over the Dead Christ, and Crucifixion by the Florentine artist (ca. 1440–91).
MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, sixth floor
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through January 4, $14-$25 (sixteen and under free)
The new MoMA is all about making the most of its collection via diversity, which is just what it does with “Surrounds: 11 Installations,” ten key twenty-first-century architectural works, and one from 1998, that have never been displayed at the museum before. The show includes work by living artists from America, Cuba, Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, and the Netherlands, taking up all of the sixth floor. Inspired by her love of nature as a child, Sheila Hicks’s Pillar of Inquiry / Supple Column, which is outside the gallery space, is composed of lushly colored thick strands of acrylic fiber that pour down through the ceiling of MoMA’s top floor, evoking a kind of rainbow beanstalk reaching into the heavens. Hito Steyerl compares climate change to the 2008 financial crisis in Liquidity Inc. in telling the story of former financial analyst Jacob Wood, who became a mixed-martial-arts fighter; viewers sit on torn judo mats, which Steyerl describes as a storm-ravaged raft, while watching DIY-style news reports that are hijacked by masked anarchists. Arthur Jafa’s APEX features eight-plus minutes of 841 fast-moving images focusing on black culture, from Tupac and Miles Davis to Mickey Mouse and Mick Jagger, set to electronic club beats.
Sou Fujimoto’s Architecture Is Everywhere comprises dozens of miniature constructions made of common objects on small plinths with tiny little white figures on them. Twigs with a woman sitting on a bench and a man standing nearby are accompanied by the statement “The forest is always to me the archetype of architecture.” Screws with figures relaxing on top of them are joined by the words “Different heights are in fact different worlds. A new set of relationships between people.” Visitors contribute to Rivane Neuenschwander’s Work of Days merely by walking through a room of transparent adhesive contact sheets from her studio that collect dust from each of us. Press the button to start Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s The Killing Machine, a kinetic sculpture, based in part on Franz Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony,” that transforms a dentist visit into an execution, with multiple television screens and a disco ball but no apparent victim.
Every hour on the hour between eleven and four, two boy sopranos enter Allora & Calzadilla’s Fault Lines and perform beautiful choral music composed by Guarionex Morales-Matos with confrontational words taken from major literary sources as the singers make their way through a room filled with stone sculptures. The exhibition, which also includes works by Sadie Benning, Mark Manders, and Dayanita Singh, concludes with Sarah Sze’s crowd-pleasing Triple Point (Pendulum), a delicate large-scale intimate circular environment of hundreds of objects, from books, rocks, photographs, and styrofoam cups to water bottles, cracker boxes, lamps, and levels. A tenuously attached pendulum swings from above, in danger of bringing the whole thing down like a wrecking ball, but it never quite makes contact with any of the detritus, which also evokes Sze’s studio. There’s an inviting opening at one side, but viewers know not to step inside this intricately created world, the title of which refers to water’s ability to exist in three states: ice, liquid, and steam. “Surrounds: 11 Installations” bodes well for what the new MoMA has in store.
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Through January 5 (adults $25, eighteen and under free
Atop his official website, Jason Moran identifies himself simply as “Musician.” As his retrospective at the Whitney reveals, he is much more than that. Born in Houston in January 1975, jazz pianist and composer Moran released his debut album, Soundtrack to Human Motion, twenty years ago and has expanded his horizons significantly since then. In addition to recording such discs as Facing Left, Same Mother, Artist in Residence, Bangs, and Looks of a Lot, many with his group, the Bandwagon, consisting of bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, he collaborates with a bevy of visual artists, creates large-scale installations, and makes eye-catching drawings.
The show, simply titled “Jason Moran,” is an eye-opening exploration of a multitalented artist, one of the most surprisingly delightful exhibits of the year. Upon entering the eighth floor, you encounter Moran’s “Run,” an ongoing series of works in which Moran tapes a sheet of paper, often a vintage player piano roll, over his piano, caps his fingers in charcoal and dry pigment of different colors, and plays the keyboard, resulting in horizontal abstract images that he gives such titles as Black and Blue Gravity and Two Wings 2. Screening on a loop in the far corner is Glenn Ligon’s The Death of Tom, what was supposed to be a re-creation of the final scene from Edison/Porter’s 1903 silent movie Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in which white actors played the main characters in blackface, but it turned into something very different because Ligon improperly loaded the film, resulting in what he called “blurry, fluttery, burnt-out black-and-white images, all light and shadows.” Moran improvised the score based on Bert Williams and Alex Rogers’s 1905 song “Nobody,” a hit for the black vaudeville team of Williams and George Walker, who fought racism on the road and stereotypes in their live performances. The Death of Tom might not have been the film Ligon set out to make, but it still takes on the same ideas.
The main room of the exhibit is a beaut, featuring a trio of sculptural installations inspired by the stages of historic New York City jazz clubs, Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, Midtown’s Three Deuces, and the Lower East Side’s Slugs’ Saloon. Three large screens show behind-the-scenes footage and/or full short films from ten of Moran’s collaborations, with such artists as Joan Jonas, Carrie Mae Weems, Adam Pendleton, Julie Mehretu, Ryan Trecartin, Lizzie Fitch, and Theaster Gates. In Lorna Simpson’s three-channel Chess, on two screens the artist plays chess in a mirrored room that makes it look like there are five of her; she’s dressed as a man in one, a woman in the other. Meanwhile, on the third screen, Moran plays the piano in a similarly mirrored space, improvising one of Brahms’s fifty-one exercises for piano. The black-and-white keyboard mimics the black-and-white chess sets as both Moran and Simpson display expert finger control.
Kara Walker’s National Archives Microfilm M999 Roll 34: Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands: Six Miles from Springfield on the Franklin Road is a thirteen-plus-minute full-color video using her trademark cut-paper silhouettes like shadow puppets to tell the story of brutal violence perpetrated against an African American family during the Reconstruction era. (On October 12, Moran and Walker teamed up for the New York premiere of her Katastwóf Karavan, in which he played a steam-powered calliope housed in Walker’s old-fashioned circus wagon adorned with cut-steel silhouettes depicting powerful slave scenes.) In between some of the videos are interludes in which improvisations by Moran emit from a player piano on the “Three Deuces” stage. On January 3 and 4, Tiger Trio, consisting of pianist Myra Melford, bassist Joëlle Léandre, and flutist Nicole Mitchell, will perform at the Whitney as part of the “Jazz on a High Floor in the Afternoon” program.
Finally, around a corner, Stan Douglas’s Luanda-Kinshasa brings together Jason Moran and a group of other musicians in a fictitious recording session in a reconstruction of Columbia’s 30th Street Studio, known as the Church, where between 1949 and 1981 such artists as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Vladimir Horowitz, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, and Miles Davis made albums. Inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s Rolling Stones concert film Sympathy for the Devil, Douglas films the band over two days in a 1970s-style setting, improvising as if this is a follow-up to Miles Davis’s 1971 album Live-Evil, part of which was recorded at the Church. Douglas himself improvises through the editing process, ending up with a six-hour jam session. Be sure to allow plenty of time to experience “Jason Moran,” an artistic jam session you won’t soon forget.
Bodypainting world champion and visual artist Trina Merry returns to the Oculus for a new project that is near and dear to her heart. Under the soaring white arcs of the shopping and transportation center, the Seattle-born, New York City–based artist has previously painted people’s bodies so they blend in with their surroundings as part of her international “Urban Camouflage” series. From December 12 to 15 at the Oculus, Merry is presenting “This Is Pain,” an immersive installation that details the compelling stories of eight men and women suffering from near-crippling chronic pain. Merry has built a vertebrae-like structure with eight large-scale video monitors that face inside and eight more that face outside, showing encounters in which the subjects talk about their injuries/illnesses, describe their terrible pain, and get their bodies painted by Merry, who is inspired by their tales, making each person an artwork as unique as themselves and as specific as their stories.
Merry became interested in chronic pain after being struck by lightning, leaving her with “crippling and continuous aches and pains throughout my body as well as a heightened sensitivity to electricity,” she explains in her artist statement. “I escaped to Yosemite to seek respite, and it is there that I was led to painting as a means of recovery. . . . My hope is that this exhibit can help generate understanding and compassion and show the world what living with chronic pain is really like.” She turned to bodypainting at the suggestion of her friend Amanda Palmer.
Merry, who was influenced by Yves Klein, Yayoi Kusama, and Verushka and studied with Robert Wilson and Marina Abramovic at Watermill, modeled the white structure to evoke a spinal column — the spinal cord is a major bundle of nerve fibers where severe pain can originate due to neurological damage — and to sit alongside the Oculus, Santiago Calatrava’s massive transportation hub entrance that resembles a bird in flight or a skeletal rib cage. Of course, it is also by Ground Zero, where so much physical, psychological, and emotional pain has occurred on and after 9/11/2001. Pushed past their comfort zones by Merry, the eight brave people who discuss their health situations and, in most cases, bare their bodies as they’re painted are Patricia from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, who was injured doing yoga and feels burning pain that feel like electric lightning bolts; Cathy from LA, who believes in mind over matter; Cindi from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, whose pain feels like cactus splinters and who works with the American Chronic Pain Association; Tom from LA, a military veteran whose pain feels to him as if he’s wrestling a tiger on fire; Shannon from Austin, a wife and mother who indulges in simple acts of kindness and compassion to combat her pain (“My pain is like a tornado. It comes in and wreaks havoc on my entire body.”); Trish from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, who has battled joint pain for more than thirty years (“My pain manifests as fire in my knees.”); Al from Littleton, Colorado, who has had nearly two dozen surgeries, including twelve spinal fusions, to fight off pain that he says feels like hot lava; and Tony and Emmy winner Kristin (Chenoweth) from LA, who suffered an accident while on-set six years ago and has experienced kaleidoscopic, disorienting pain ever since, although she refuses to let it keep her offstage or off-camera. Sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, “This Is Pain” also gives people the opportunity to post their own stories here in the hope of bringing more understanding to a very real problem.