Looking Forward to Spring Exhibitions

People power and influential artists at New York museums

| 09 Feb 2021 | 12:55

We’re all looking forward to a season of renewal, and this spring, New York’s museum exhibitions offer interest, excitement and chances for reflection.

Julie Mehretu, March 25 — August 8, The Whitney Museum of American Art

Why was Mehretu included among Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020? See for yourself as The Whitney presents over 70 works spanning two decades of work by the Ethiopian-American painter. Her canvases and drawings are energetic, expansive and enigmatic. “I think of my abstract mark-making as a type of sign lexicon, signifier, or language,” Mehretu said. Go and listen.


Goya’s Graphic Imagination, February 12 – May 2

Alice Neel: People Come First, March 22 – August 1

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

It’s a people power moment at The Met. Francisco Goya was the court painter to Spanish royalty in the late 1700s. But many artists and critics think of him as an even greater draftsman. Some 100 prints and drawings in this exhibition present both his mastery of form and how he used art to question and challenge social and political realities.

Alice Neel, a self-confessed “collector of souls” painted her family, neighbors, friends, lovers, and colleagues in stunning, touching, raw, honest and beautiful ways. She’s been called “America’s van Gogh” and the greatest portraitist of the 20th Century. Some 100 paintings, drawings and watercolors will be presented in her first New York museum retrospective in over 20 years.


Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities, June 18 – September 26, The Morgan Library

Sikander is known for taking on today’s realities via traditional Indo-Persian forms of art. Her exquisite miniature paintings reflect thoughts on feminism, environmentalism, identity, class and more. The exhibition features works that cover 15 years of the artist’s output and journey.


Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, February 17 – June 6, The New Museum

Conceived by the late curator Okwui Enwezor, the exhibition brings together 37 intergenerational Black artists working in different media to address racism, politics, and as the title states, grief and grievance. See how contemporary American artists like Mark Bradford, Julie Mehretu, Rashid Johnson, Kerry James Marshall, and others confront recent racial violence through video, painting, sculpture, installation, photography, sound, and performance art made in the last decade.


Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life, March 11 – Sept. 6, MoMA PS1, Long Island City

Sometimes, you just need joy. Niki de Saint Phalle tends to deliver, whether her work is focused on feminism, HIV/AIDS, the Tarot, or climate change. The artist, who died in 2002, has never been the sole feature of a major New York exhibition before. Bright and colorful, Fem and Pop, Niki de Saint Phalle evades firm categories, but delights audiences.


But Still, It Turns - Photography from the World, February 4 – May 9, ICP Museum

In photographs and videos, a picture of the world at the moment. It’s been done before, but it’s never been a time like this before. Look for images of how people gather, separate, struggle and celebrate from artists as varied as the world, itself. “That there is no story is the story,” say the exhibition organizers.


Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water, Through April 11, The Shed

Artist, author, filmmaker, teacher and activist, Howardena Pindell is one of the great New York artists just beginning to get (some of) the attention she deserves. A Black woman who grew up during the civil rights era, Pindell was a founding member of the feminist artist-run A.I.R. Gallery, and creator of caustic critiques and complex, layered, and often sumptuously beautiful abstract constructions. Her works embody action, outrage, critical thinking and depths of grace. The exhibition includes film, installation, sculptures, and paintings.


Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter, May 7 – Sept. 21, The Jewish Museum

“Tell your own story and you will be interesting,” Louise Bourgeois once said. She spent her life being interesting, creating complex works of art that tap into imagination, the spirit and the unconscious. This is the first exhibition to consider her paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations and writing through the lens of her responses to Freudian psychoanalysis.


The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting, through March 14, The Guggenheim

Until spring blossoms break out, get a color fix from the Guggenheim’s exploration of color field and minimalist paintings from the ‘60s. Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Alma Thomas, Jules Olitski and others fill white walls with ebullient artistic outbursts.


The Nature of Color, through August 8, American Museum of Natural History

Once you’ve been fully immersed in the glory, passion and power of art, find how it all works at the Museum of Natural History’s immersive exhibition on color. The physical, chemical, natural and cultural aspects of the full spectrum are explored. Some of the planned interactive aspects – games and screens – have had to be removed, but there are lots of lights, prisms and experiments for young and curious visitors. Bring your rods and cones and get ready for a colorful experience.


We Do Not Dream Alone, Asia Society Triennial, Through June 27 at venues across New York City

Expect surprises across the city through the end of June as the inaugural edition of the Asia Society Triennial presents 40 contemporary artists and collectives from 21 countries at the Asia Society museum as well as Lincoln Center, The New York Historical Society, the Park Avenue mall at 70th Street, and Times Square. With a title borrowed from Yoko Ono, it’s a festival of art, theater, dance, music, and film – much of it newly commissioned – from and about Asia and the Asian diaspora.