The summer’s must-see exhibitions on the East Coast
A diverse roster of shows explores subjects ranging from nature and psychoanalysis to pop culture and politics
Two companion exhibitions spotlighting the award-winning musical, In the Heights, are given pride of place in the very neighborhood where it all began: Washington Heights. With In the Heights: From University to Silver Screen, the Hispanic Society’s newly inaugurated East Building Gallery presents more than 50 images spanning the show’s history.
The story, which revolves around a tight-knit, largely Dominican community, was recently adapted into a Warner Brothers major motion picture with music and lyrics by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda who himself is a Washington Heights resident. Movie posters announcing the film are on view nearby in In the Heights at Boricua College: the Magic of a Neighborhood. With archival photographs from the early years of Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance’s (NoMAA) annual Uptown Arts Stroll/Paseo de las artes also on display, exhibition visitors can learn about the area’s vibrant arts scene.
Although Louise Bourgeois may be best known for her large-scale spider sculptures, none can be found at the Jewish Museum’s spring exhibition, Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter. Rather, exhibition-goers will be privy to a much deeper look into the artist’s psyche through other revolutionary works and writings. Having undergone psychoanalytic treatment from 1952 to 1985, Bourgeois engaged with psychoanalytic theory and the teachings of Sigmund Freud throughout her career.
The exhibition situates more than 50 artworks, including The Destruction of the Father (1974) and Passage Dangereux (1997), the largest of the artist’s Cell installations, with rarely seen records Bourgeois wrote about her psychoanalysis experience and how it informed her art. The exploration of sexuality and symbols in Bourgeois’ oeuvre shed new light on the artist who believed artmaking granted access to the unconscious.
One of America’s most important cultural benefactors and collectors, Jayne Wrightsman was a woman of exquisite taste. While Christie’s sold her collection of fine and decorative art in 2020, Wrightsman gifted her collection of 18th-century French manuscripts and bindings, which she began assembling in the late 1960s, to the Morgan Library & Museum in honour of her friend and Morgan board member, Annette de la Renta.
Bound for Versailles allows visitors to view one of the finest private collections of 18th-century French bindings and books with subjects including politics, religion, court entertainments, music, and military strategy. Elaborately embellished with armorial bearings and hierarchal symbols, these bindings were on view in her apartment alongside other art forms of the period. Wrightsman appreciated the significance of bookbinding during the Ancient Régime, and there is even one belonging to Marie-Antoinette in her collection.
The Clark, Williamstown
Until 31 October 2021
For those who cannot make it to Versailles to see a blockbuster Lalanne exhibition, admirers of the artist-couple’s work will find an exceptional show in the Berkshires. Flora and fauna abound in Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne: Nature Transformed, the first American art museum exhibition dedicated to Les Lalanne in over 40 years, and the first museum exhibition since the death of Claude in 2019.
The indoor-outdoor exhibition brings together Claude and François-Xavier’s fantastical sculpture and furniture through nature, their most significant influence. The couple built on the legacy of Salvador Dalí and other Surrealists, but with a distinctly decorative touch. So special to their oeuvre was the ability to combine whimsy and function — only under their hand could a copper rhinoceros transform into a desk and a porcelain, brass, and steel grasshopper into a bar.
For the perfect day-trip from New York City, venture north to Storm King Art Center, where in addition to permanent displays of outdoor sculpture, visitors can see Rashid Johnson: The Crisis. On loan for the 2021 season from the artist and Hauser & Wirth, The Crisis is a gridded, 16-foot-tall yellow steel sculpture titled after Harold Cruse’s 1967 study, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.
Identity, both personal and shared, is crucial to Johnson’s oeuvre, and with this work, he references not only the Civil Rights movement, but also current events. Like his famed Anxious Men series, The Crisis taps into an emotional state of fear and vulnerability. The sculpture will be activated throughout Storm King’s 2021 season with performances of Johnson’s 2019 ballet also exploring anxiety, The Hikers, which he conceived with choreographer Claudia Schreier in Aspen.
Dedicated to exhibiting and preserving LGBTQ+ art, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art presents Omniscient, a two-part exhibition mapping queer cultural identity in today’s rapidly evolving social landscape. More than 40 intergenerational, international artists offer their reinterpretation of existing cultural images to reclaim their history and distinct expression.
The show reconsiders queer identity in TV, film, advertising, and beyond, as well as how the proliferation of social media is influencing the LGBTQ+ community. ‘The entire world is grappling with the shifting set of scrims through which a digital image culture presents the world to us, but queer publics have an image dilemma all our own,’ writes the exhibition’s curator, Avram Finkelstein. ‘What can queerness possibly look like now, amidst a rapidly accelerating torrent of images, and what sorts of documentation will we deploy to represent our presence in this current moment of flux?’
This summer a new site-specific, yearlong installation by artist Maren Hassinger debuted at Dia Bridgehampton, New York, which also famously houses the Dan Flavin Art Institute. The works on view span five decades, including the time Hassinger lived in East Hampton and taught at Stony Brook Southampton on Long Island during the 1990s.
The installation on the first floor features a forest-like series of diaphanous hanging fabric panels printed with imagery of the artist’s 1991 outdoor installation, Circle of Bushes. Outdoors on Dia Bridgehampton’s back lawn is a new bush sculpture — Hassinger’s first in several years — which with its lengths of galvanized steel rope, resembles a bundle of twigs. Part of her practice since the 1970s, Hassinger’s wire sculptures capture the tension of nature versus people and industry, an overarching theme of her work.