Art In Bloom

From unfinished to forged in metal  these are the exhibits to see this month

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June is a great time to be in New York, as the city glides into the first days of summer and things slow down just a bit. As tempting as it is to spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying the weather, there are fabulous things going on inside the city’s museums, as these three excellent shows demonstrate.

One of the inaugural exhibitions at The Met Breuer – the venerable museum’s modern and contemporary art outpost – is the innovative Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. The show, which addresses the question of when a work of art is finished, includes 197 works, dating from the Renaissance to the present, almost half drawn from the Met’s own collection. The exhibition features works that are literally unfinished and those that only look unfinished. Among the former is a beautiful portrait by Alice Neel of a young man who never returned for a second sitting because he went off to Vietnam. Some of history’s greatest artists explored the concept of non finito (intentionally unfinished), including Titian, Rembrandt, and Cézanne. Modern and contemporary artists have put their own spin on the idea, blurring the distinction between making and unmaking. Looking at these paintings, we can imagine the artist still making changes. “The viewer’s imagination is necessary to complete these works,” notes The Met’s Andrea Bayer, Jayne Wrightsman Curator, European Painting. (Through 9/4, 945 Madison Ave. at 75th St.)

Human Interest: Portraits from The Whitney’s Collection is a major retrospective of human portraiture drawn exclusively from the Whitney’s own holdings. The genre has been a mainstay for the museum, which has long supported the figurative tradition, as championed by its founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. The exhibition, which comprises over 300 works by approximately 200 artists and spans more than 100 years, is divided into two sections, with pieces from the past 60 years on floor 6, and works from the early 20th century on floor 7. Together they encompass diverse and often unconventional methods of representing the individual, including the outright rejection of a subject’s external likeness. Photography, which has played a major role in democratizing what was once a rarified luxury item, is well represented in the show. Iconic works from Alexander Calder, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Alice Neel, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol are on view, as well as new acquisitions by Urs Fischer, Barkley L. Hendricks, Deana Lawson, and Paul McCarthy. (Through 2/12/17, 99 Gansevoort St.)

Though renowned metalsmith Harry Bertoia is mainly known for his woven metal furniture and large bronze and copper sculptures, his earliest work was with jewelry. Bent, Cast & Forged: The Jewelry of Harry Bertoia, at the Museum of Art and Design, explores his early days as an artist and jewelry designer, dating back to his 1930s high school years in Detroit. Of the hundreds of jewelry pieces he created, most date from his years at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the early 1940s. Though he first began designing silver-plated tableware while a student there, wartime rationing forced him to work on a smaller scale, and he began making jewelry from melted down scraps of metal. In addition to various brooches, necklaces and other pieces, the exhibition features several of the designer’s original monotype prints made by trial and error (he never formally studied printmaking). The uniquely beautiful objects on display show how Bertoia explored form, dimension and material, establishing him as a pioneer of the American Studio Jewelry movement. (Through 9/25, Two Columbus Circle at 58th St.)