For the annual Art in America Guide, published in print in January, the editors of A.i.A. highlight significant and intriguing museum exhibitions throughout the year. Below is a list of noteworthy shows opening in January (or that remain on view after opening late last year).
Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina
Featuring the work of enslaved African American potters from the 19th-century—along with contemporary artistic responses— “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina” features some 50 objects from the pre–Civil War center of stoneware production, from massive storage jars to spirited face jugs. Organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Boston MFA, the show also includes work by contemporary Black artists that resonates with that of the Edgefield artisans, including Simone Leigh, Adebunmi Gbadebo, Woody De Othello, Theaster Gates, and Robert Pruitt.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, through Feb. 5, 2023; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mar. 4– July 9, 2023; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Aug. 26, 2023–Jan. 7, 2024; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Feb. 16–May 12, 2024
Nina Chanel Abney
“Big Butch Energy” presents new paintings by Nina Chanel Abney, whose vivid large-scale canvases use heavily stylized graphic forms to communicate complex narratives about, for example, gender perception and performance. This series focuses on Black masculine women, while also looking at deeper issues in the culture of Greek student life, including the ongoing challenges and tension that arise from navigating an overwhelming desire for social belonging.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, through Mar. 12, 2023
Subtitled “Enfant Terrible in Vienna,” this show surveys some 150 paintings and drawings spanning the seven-decade career of radical Austrian artist and writer Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980). Famed for his wildly innovative plays, his wounds from World War I, his alleged mental instability, his restless travels, and his obsessive love for Alma Mahler (memorialized in a life-size doll, which he publicly destroyed), the hyperactive polymath was a key figure in the Expressionist movement, along with such artists as Egon Schiele, Emil Nolde, and Ernest Ludwig Kirchner. In the 1930s, the Nazis cited Kokoschka’s emotionally wrought landscapes and portraits as key examples of “degenerate art.”
Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, through Feb. 12, 2023; Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, Mar. 17–Sept. 3, 2023
Minerva Cuevas’s socially engaged practice has involved a range of strategies and mediums to lay bare the complex economic and political structures of contemporary life. The Mexico City artist has enacted mini-sabotages of capitalism as part of her nonprofit Mejor Vida Corp/Better Life Corporation; she has also performed guerrilla rebranding campaigns to comment provocatively on the tension between such matters as world starvation and capitalistic excess. For Museo Jumex, she has created a site-specific installation that fills the first-floor gallery. It revolves around “200 mammoths, almost 25 camels, [and] five horses” made using cartonería, a Mexican technique similar to papier-mâché. The work references the thousands of fossilized mammoths found in 2020 during the construction of Mexico City’s new Felipe Ángeles International Airport.
Museo Jumex, Mexico City, through Feb. 26, 2023
Spirit in the Dark: Religion in Black Music, Activism, and Popular Culture
The myriad ways that religion has intermingled with the communal activities that surround Black culture are the focus of an exhibition that combines objects from the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—for example, a King James Bible owned by Little Richard and handwritten notes from James Baldwin—with archival offerings from Ebony, Jet, and Black World magazines. The names of the musicians featured in “Spirit in the Dark: Religion in Black Music, Activism, and Popular Culture” have been showcased on many a marquee: Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, and illustrious others. An eclectic cast of Black cultural figures represented in the show includes Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Reverend Ike, and Jesse Jackson.
National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., through November 2023
Femme Fatale: Gaze—Power—Gender
Throughout mythology, literature, cinema, and popular culture, iconic figures representing a potentially lethal form of female sexuality have played havoc with masculine desires and fears. “Femme Fatale: Gaze—Power—Gender” brings together some 140 works created in diverse media since the late 19th century by artists ranging from Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Gustave Moreau to VALIE EXPORT and Zandile Tshabalala. Depictions of Circe, the Sirens, Medea, Salome, and Judith commingle with publicity shots of Hollywood stars in a show that examines how cultural shifts—includinng the New Woman ideal, feminism, and the #MeToo movement—have affected these purportedly “timeless” images.
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, through Apr. 10, 2023
The Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) on the outskirts of Marrakesh has turned over the entirety of its gallery space to Joël Andrianomearisoa. He is using the space to explore traditional Moroccan techniques—wickerwork, metalwork, ceramics, and embroidery—that he learned during a residency, working alongside artisans to create personal interpretations of Morocco’s artistic heritage. Titled “Our Land Just Like a Dream,” the exhibition will also include a selection of works from MACAAL’s collection and on-site collaborations with contemporary artists.
Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakesh, through July 16, 2023
Kidlat Tahimik: Indio-Genius
Often regarded as the father of Filipino indie-cinema, the 80-year-old filmmaker and artist Kidlat Tahimik has had an outsize effect on filmmaking in his home country. After earning a master’s degree at the Wharton School of Business, he returned to the Philippines and began making films about indigenous struggle in a neocolonial state. He went on to create art objects using materials he found in nature, and even designed and built the Ili-Likha Artists Village in the Philippines. “INDIO-GENIUS: 500 Years of War on Culture (1521–2021)” includes films shot with his signature bamboo camera and imaginative artworks made with organic matter and found objects, all inspired by a flowing, intuitive method of working that he calls “kapa-kapa,” named after a flowering plant native to the Philippines.
National Museum of the Philippines, Manila, through March 2023
Beyond the Light: Identity and Place in Nineteenth-Century Danish Art
Geopolitical disaster sometimes gives rise, paradoxically, to cultural resurgence. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark was reduced from a major power to a peripheral nation. Yet, as attested by “Beyond the Light: Identity and Place in Nineteenth-Century Danish Art,” it also grew rich in literature, music, philosophy, architecture, and the visual arts. Featured here are nearly 100 paintings and drawings, many troubled by a Romantic ambivalence toward history and rootedness, by Danish Golden Age artists such as Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, Constantin Hansen, Johan Thomas Lundbye, and Heinrich Gustav Ferdinand Holm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jan. 26–Apr. 16, 2023; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, May 23–Aug. 20, 2023
Trinh T. Minh-ha
“Traveling in the Dark” features a selection of film, images, music, and text by Trinh T. Minh-ha, who since the 1980s has produced radical feature-length films that, while centering on real-life communities, skewer ethnographic content that essentially “others” its subjects. Spread across four floors of the museum, the exhibition is the culmination of a three-year collaboration between the Rockbund Art Museum and the artist, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. Her films are often set in transit: a long, dreamy ride on a night train, for example, or a race down a multilayered spaceway through the fourth dimension, with sporadic stops in Japan.
Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, through Feb. 5, 2023
The Peruvian Amazon Rainforest
This major group show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Lima, brings together artworks that respond to or are informed by the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. “Rivers can exist without water but not without shores”—the title inspired by a quote in a César Calvo novel—features works in a variety of mediums by more than 60 artists, including many members of indigenous Peruvian tribes. The exhibition seeks to push back against stereotypical visions of the rainforest as a place outside of civilization stuck in a vegetal, Edenic past—visions that rationalized the ravaging of its resources—and offers new perspectives based on the indigenous knowledge of people who live with and around it.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Lima, through Apr. 30, 2023
The Yugoslav-born, London-based artist Jasmina Cibic explores different relationships between culture and political power, using art and architecture to scrutinize notions of soft power, nation-building, and the deployment of political agendas and ideologies. Her films and installations are striking and elegant but also reveal dark backstories. In her Slovenia Pavilion presentation at the 2013 Venice Biennale, chic wallpaper featuring a beetle print turned out to depict an insect named Anophthalmus hitleri by a Nazi-supporting scientist. Cibic frequently films in stunning modernist buildings that play home to political proceedings; her resulting works show how seductive architecture can turn “statecraft into stagecraft,” as Cibic herself frequently puts it. Her 2021 film The Gift, filmed largely in Oscar Niemeyer’s French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris, is on view here, in addition to a new site-specific work, Charm Offensive, that looks at the history of botanical naming conventions as acts of colonization and political coding.
Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand, through Feb. 12, 2023
Titled “The Private Universe of James Castle,” this selection of some 90 drawings demonstrates how James Castle, a self-taught artist who grew up in rural Idaho unable to hear or speak, used his visual acuity, innate graphic skills, and whatever materials he could secure—including charcoal from burnt matchsticks, scrap paper, and spit—to engage passionately with both the natural world and the built environment. Many of the images— farmyards with rough-hewn barns and fences, deserted roads with sagging power lines, rustic unpeopled interiors—convey a haunting sense of uninterpretable presences.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, through Sept. 17, 2023
I have not loved (enough or worked)
Can you prove the existence of love or wrangle it into vision like an atom under a microscope? It’s an impossible task, but the artists in this show try in different ways. Under the title “I have not loved (enough or worked),” the exhibition assembles video, photography, painting, and sculpture by such artists as Hai-Hsin Huang, Daisuke Kosugi, and Pixy Liao. Their works tell tales of love and its inevitables: loss, longing, and loneliness. As they do in life in general, visitors navigate all sorts of encounters for uncertain rewards.
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, through Apr. 23, 2023
The PELMAMA Collection
In memory of Fernand F. Haenggi (1934–2022), the Pretoria Art Museum features a selection of 30 works donated to the museum by his PELMAMA (Pelindaba Museums of African and Modern Art) Permanent Art Collection. Haenggi was a well-known art dealer in South Africa between 1961 and 1993, and played an important role in the Johannesburg art scene. In 1978 Haenggi also established a foundation to collect and promote Black artists. The PELMAMA collection was divided among South African museums before Haenggi moved to Switzerland.
Pretoria Art Museum, South Africa, through Apr. 23, 2023
Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today
The pivotal decade of the 1990s ushered in profound global socioeconomic and political changes that were reflected in the art world, which became more concerned with casting light on previously “marginal” artists and communities, including those of the Caribbean. Using the weather as a metaphor and the region as a bellwether for our rapidly changing times, “Forecast Form: Art in the Caribbean Diaspora, 1990s–Today” looks at how those changes affected art in and from the diaspora. Among the 36 artists in the show are Ebony G. Patterson, Lorraine O’Grady, Cosmo Whyte, and Teresita Fernández.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, through Apr. 23, 2023; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Oct. 5, 2023–Feb. 24, 2024
African Modernism in America
This exhibition examines the many complex connections between modern African artists and American patrons, artists, and cultural organizations amid the struggle for civil rights in the US, decolonization in Africa, and the Cold War. Established in 1921, the Harmon Foundation was a major supporter of African and African American artists, and in 1961 organized the landmark exhibition “African Modernism in America.” When the Foundation closed in 1967, its collection was distributed among major US museums, as well as Fisk University in Nashville. This exhibition of more than 70 works by 50 artists draws primarily from Fisk’s holdings. It explores the Harmon Foundation’s activities and the transcontinental network of artists, galleries, journals, and educational programs that promoted postcolonial art. In addition, a new commissioned work by Nigeria-based sculptor Ndidi Dike will examine collecting practices that she uncovered during her research in the archives of Fisk and the Harmon Foundation.
Fisk University Galleries, Nashville, through Feb. 11, 2023; Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, Mar. 10–Aug. 6, 2023; Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., Oct. 7, 2023–Jan. 7, 2024; Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Feb. 10–May 19, 2024
Billed as the first in-depth survey of Simone Forti on the West Coast, this show sets its sights on an era-defining figure who came of age at a time when the lines between dance (her primary mode of expression) and other art forms began to blur. Beginning in the 1950s, Forti moved in the orbits of Fluxus, “Happenings,” and the experimental performance-art scene with expansive choreographer peers like Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown. She also worked in multiple other mediums that will come to bear in this show focused chiefly on her dance career but that also includes works on paper, videos, holograms, and performance ephemera and documentation.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Jan. 15–Apr. 2, 2023
Modern Finnish Ryijy Textiles from the Tuomas Sopanen Collection
Ryijy tapestries were developed as folk art in Finland in the 19th century, when they were full of geometric shapes, animals, and recurring motifs, like the tree of life. Often resembling Color Field paintings, the modern ryijy going on view at the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan, date from the 1950s to later times. All of them come from the collection of Tuomas Sopanen, a botanist and retired professor who owns the largest private collection of ryijy rugs in Finland, some 500 examples spanning 200 years.
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Jan. 28–Apr. 16, 2023
When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting
This exhibition’s ambitious framework is backed by extensive conversations that the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa undertook in a series of webinars hosted by the University of Cape Town exploring topics from the “Black queering of the canon” to a “global hierarchy of Blackness.” A project of the museum’s chief curator Koyo Kouoh, “When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting” outlines those and many other developments, tensions, and politics of figurative painting by artists from Africa and its diaspora since 1920. It is important that the 200-plus works here not only foreground well-known proponents of self-representation and documentarians of Black histories such as Amoako Boafo, Jacob Lawrence, Cassi Namoda, and Mickalene Thomas; they also trace the impact of larger groups and movements, from the British Black Arts Movement to the Federated Union of Black Artists founded in Johannesburg.
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa, through Sept. 3, 2023
As part of its acclaimed “Histories” series of programming (in this case focused on Brazilian history), the Museu de Arte de São Paulo presents the first major retrospective of Judith Lauand, one of Brazil’s most important Concrete artists, who turned 100 in 2022. The only female member of the influential Grupo Ruptura, Lauand created a rigorous body of work that explored the relationships between line, shape, color, and the picture plane. Curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Fernando Oliva, the exhibition also looks at underknown aspects of the artist’s oeuvre, including her shifts to figuration and back to abstraction, as well as the political nature of her work as it responded to the effects of Brazilian dictatorship, the Vietnam War, feminism, and other social matters. It features 124 works as well as related documents from her archive.
Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil, through Apr. 2, 2023
Adrián Villar Rojas
The best way to assert yourself as a pioneering artist might be to invent a new world to work in, as Argentine-Peruvian artist Adrián Villar Rojas has attempted with his “Time Engine” software. After creating simulated environments, he places virtual sculptures that “age” for hundreds to thousands of years, and then translates the results into physical works. Five of these faux artifacts will inaugurate a new space similarly defined by its anachronism: a former fuel bunker used during World War II that is part of a new complex that almost doubles the amount of exhibition space at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Rojas has responded to politically charged sites before, including the former home of Leon Trotsky during his exile on a Turkish island. These latest efforts, featuring elements resembling oversize barnacles, dinosaur bones, car parts, and things that can’t be named, give the artist’s signature apocalyptic style broader implications.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, through July 2023
Isaac Julien x 2
Two exhibitions this year focus on the work of British film and video artist Isaac Julien, who is known for multiscreen installations that address issues of race, class, sexuality, and history. Showing at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Lessons of the Hour—Frederick Douglass weaves together some of the American abolitionist’s best-known writings with filmed reenactments and contemporary protest footage that make Douglass’s lasting relevance undeniable. In London, at Tate Britain, the largest survey of Julien’s work in the UK to date will span the 1980s to the present.
Virgina MFA, Richmond, through July 9, 2023; Tate Britain, London, Apr. 26–Aug. 20, 2023
Languid brushstrokes, moody washes, and vibrant palettes punctuated by dot patterns characterize the evocative canvases of painter Matthew Wong, who died in 2019 at age 35. With historical references ranging from the Fauvists to 17th-century Qing period ink painters to contemporary artists, Wong created scenes rife with nostalgia and grief. His first museum retrospective includes more than 50 vivid paintings and ink drawings produced during his brief but prolific career. A conservation study examining several oils on canvas that were painted over earlier works offers further insight into Wong’s practice.
Dallas Museum of Art, through Feb. 19, 2023
Gertrud Goldschmidt, known as Gego, fled Nazi persecution in 1939 and immigrated to Venezuela, where she became one of the region’s foremost postwar artists and a leading figure of both geometric abstraction and kinetic art. A survey of Gego’s work from the early 1950s through the early 1990s brings together more than 120 examples of her intricate line studies in architecture, design, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, textiles, and site-specific installations. Highlights include 18 pieces from her best-known series, among them her suspended wire sculptures.
Museo Jumex, Mexico City, through Feb. 5, 2023; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Mar. 31–Sept. 12, 2023
Walter De Maria: Boxes for Meaningless Work
To navigate Walter De Maria’s first museum survey, “Boxes for Meaningless Work,” one might need to understand what he meant by “meaningless”: he wanted to make art that invited arbitrary, sometimes humorous actions that lacked any productive outcome but could lead to larger considerations. This tension between the pointless and the philosophical comes through in lesser-known works such as Mile Long Drawing (1968), in which two white chalk lines stretch into the desert horizon, as much as in his permanent installation The New York Earth Room (1977), a gallery empty save for its raised floor of dirt—both of which are represented here through documentation. Also on view are earlier pieces inviting viewers to perform or imagine open-ended situations, from the self-explanatory wooden container Walk Around the Box (1961) to the equally plain but wonderfully enigmatic cube In This Box is Contained the Spirit of a Young Man’s Heart (1964).
Menil Collection, Houston, through Apr. 23, 2023
German conceptual artist Rosemarie Trockel is perhaps best known for her machine-knitted “paintings” that incorporate conventional textile patterns like houndstooth and checks, political symbols such as the hammer and sickle, and brand logos like the Playboy bunny, a number of which were on view in the main exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale. Working in a variety of mediums, Trockel has long been interested in power structures in patriarchal society, as well as the relationship between gender and violence. This retrospective highlights more than 400 videos, ceramics, collages, and drawings spanning Trockel’s career, from the 1970s through the present, and includes new works made for the show.
Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, through June 18, 2023