Art Uncharted

Three of spring’s major exhibitions explore the obscure

Spring is a time when newness never feels more appropriate. Creatively, the following three museums present visitors with artists and genres largely unexplored: modern sculpture at the New Museum, a photography retrospective at MoMA and a highly influential (and overlooked) modern European art movement at the Guggenheim. Come with an open mind, leave with a mind opened.

Since the early 1990s, Pawel Althamer has distinguished himself as one of the premier contemporary sculptors in the world. Hailing from Warsaw, Poland, he has stunned audiences and critics at major art fairs such as the Berlin and Venice Biennials, and at his current exhibit at the New Museum, Pawel Althamer: Neighbors, updated versions of some of his major creations to date pose for praise. As the name connotes, the cohesive emphasis here is on community. Althamer studied classic Greek sculpture, which comes into play in sculptures of himself, his family and citizens that are both beautiful and sinister, calling into question the environments we live in and how they shape our outer and inner lives. Thoughtfully, the surrounding community of the Bowery is incorporated, as well. Music from street musicians playing in the lobby is piped into the display floors upstairs, and in one room, “Draftsmen’s Congress” provides paint, chalk and white walls for visitors to create part of the exhibit themselves. Bring a gently used men’s coat to be donated to the Bowery Mission, and entry is free. (Through April 20, Bowery at Prince St.)

 

At the Guggenheim, Italian Futurism is a major first as the premier overview of Italian Futurism to ever be presented in the U.S. More than 300 works come together to give a comprehensive look at the movement that began in 1909 and lasted until the end of World War II, shocking and changing the art world in the three-decade interim. The exhibit took four years to put together, pulling works from both major European museums as well as private collections, and components cover the full realm of art genres: fashion, film, advertising, poetry, theater, painting, sculpture…the list goes on. If you thought you knew what avant-garde meant, prepare to be challenged. Italian Futurism was one of Europe’s most important 20th-century movements, but when put all together in one place, it seems more futuristic than ever. (Through September 1, 5th Ave. at 89th St.)

Robert Heinecken: Object Matter at the MoMA is the first retrospective of the artist’s work since he died in 2006, which is a bit surprising, considering the vast expanse and influence of his work. He described himself as a “para-photographer” because his work never exactly fell into the definition of photography, per se, often taking forms of collages, photo-based paintings, installations and sculptures. Before establishing the graduate photography program at UCLA in 1964, he came into his artistic own in L.A. during the 60s, which is highly evident in his work, which meshes his own images with pictures from magazines, books, TV, pornography and the like to call into question the relationship between mass media and culture-at-large. More than 150 works from his career (many of which have never shown in New York before) amass here, questioning the boundaries of photography in ways that are sometimes shocking, often funny and always thought provoking. (Through June 22, 53rd nr. 6th Ave.)