17 Art Exhibitions to View in N.Y.C. This Weekend

17 Art Exhibitions to View in N.Y.C. This Weekend

‘THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALVIN BALTROP’ at the Bronx Museum of the Arts (through Feb. 9). New York City is a gateway for new talent. It’s also an archive of art careers past. Some come to light only after artists have departed, as is the case with Baltrop, an American photographer who was unknown to the mainstream art world when he died in 2004 at 55, and who now has a bright monument of a retrospective at this Bronx museum. That he was black, gay and working class accounts in part for his invisibility, but so does the subject matter he chose: a string of derelict Hudson River shipping piers that, in the 1970s and ’80s, became a preserve for gay sex and communion. In assiduously recording both the architecture of the piers and the amorous action they housed, Baltrop created a monument to the city itself at the time when it was both falling apart and radiating liberationist energy. (Cotter)
718-681-6000, bronxmuseum.org

‘NATURE: COOPER HEWITT MUSEUM DESIGN TRIENNIAL’ at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (through Jan. 20). Plastics transformed the material world after World War II. Today, they pollute our oceans. A better future will be made with … algae. Or bacteria. That’s the dominant theme of this sweeping exhibition. On display here at the Smithsonian’s temple to the culture of design are objects you might once have expected only at a science museum: Proteins found in silkworms are repurposed as surgical screws and optical lenses. Electrically active bacteria power a light fixture. The triennial displays some 60 projects and products from around the world that define a reconciliation of biosphere and technosphere, as Koert van Mensvoort, a Dutch artist and philosopher, puts it in the show’s excellent catalog. “Nature” provides us with a post-consumption future, in which the urgency of restoring ecological function trumps the allure of the latest gadget. (James S. Russell)
212-849-2950, cooperhewitt.org

[Read about the events that our other critics have chosen for the week ahead.]

THE NEW MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (ongoing). Of course we’ve got quibbles about this or that gallery — but the new MoMA, a third larger than before, feels fresher and more urgent than at any time since it last closed in 2002. The best news: This is a museum that once again puts its collection first. If you want to see everything, budget a solid four or five hours — and you’ll still be moving fast past many works. I suggest starting on the east side of the museum. (Look for the suspended helicopter.) Take the escalators or elevators to the fifth floor, where the chronological display of the collection (1880-1940) begins. The galleries are numbered, so you can work counterclockwise, moving from the older building into the new wing and back. If you enjoy a more sequential approach, you can do it again on the fourth floor (for postwar art, 1945-75 or so) and the second floor (for contemporary art, from the late 1970s to the present). But if you’re more adventurous, head west from the ticket desk, hit the design gallery and projects gallery, then hop on the new “blade” staircase by Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Gensler. This way will plunge you into the middle of the timeline. (Farago)
212-708-9400, moma.org

THE NEW MUSEUM OF MODERN ART: THE COLLECTIONS (ongoing). MoMA celebrates its latest expansion by not only extending the permanent collection, but also reshaping its version of modernist art history to include many more women, artists of color and non-Westerners. Some works have been newly conserved (note the brightened colors of Henri Rousseau’s “The Sleeping Gypsy”). Others have been put on view for the first time in years. The collection is also less permanent in that one-third of its galleries will be installed every six months, starting in February. Adding to the festivities, all other exhibitions at the Modern are drawn from its collection. “Surrounds: 11 Installations” puts on view 11 sprawling, never-before-exhibited artworks that vary in interest and probably won’t be seen again any time soon (to Jan. 4). “Member: Pope.L, 1978-2001” examines the groundbreaking early performances of an interdisciplinary artist whose avant-garde street cred remains intact 40 years on (through Feb. 1). “Sur Moderno: Journeys of Abstraction, the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift” presents a selection of South American postwar art so substantial that it could reorient the museum’s focus (through March 14). For the latest iteration of MoMA’s well-known “Artist’s Choice” series, the painter Amy Sillman has selected “The Shape of Shape,” filling a large gallery with an astounding array of carefully juxtaposed works from across the collection (through April 12). “Taking a Thread for a Walk” (through April 19) looks at the role of weaving in modern art beyond textiles. And don’t forget the six artists’ commissions. (Smith)
212-708-9400, moma.org

‘OCEAN WONDERS: SHARKS!’ at the New York Aquarium (ongoing). For years, the aquarium’s 14-acre campus hunkered behind a wall, turning its back to the beach. When aquarium officials last year finally got around to completing the long-promised building that houses this shark exhibition, maybe the biggest move, architecturally speaking, was breaking through that wall. The overall effect makes the aquarium more of a visible, welcoming presence along the boardwalk. Inside, “Ocean Wonders” features 115 species sharing 784,000 gallons of water. It stresses timely eco-consciousness, introducing visitors to shark habitats, explaining how critical sharks are to the ocean’s food chains and ecologies, debunking myths about the danger sharks pose to people while documenting the threats people pose to sharks via overfishing and pollution. The narrow, snaking layout suggests an underwater landscape carved by water. Past the exit, an outdoor ramp inclines visitors toward the roof of the building, where the Atlantic Ocean suddenly spreads out below. You can see Luna Park in one direction, Brighton Beach in the other. The architectural point becomes clear: Sharks aren’t just movie stars and aquarium attractions. They’re also our neighbors — as much a part of Coney Island as the roller coasters and summer dreams. (Michael Kimmelman)
718-265-3474, nyaquarium.com

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