Fine Arts

A splendid trio of shows illustrates NYC’s diverse cultural scene

Museums-June

Few cities can boast the sheer variety offered by New York’s cultural institutions, and this month is an especially good example of “something for everyone.” Your choice: the reunion of a master’s painted flowers, iconic posters by celebrated designers, or a local artist’s bold depiction of female power. Even better, why not check out all three of these thoroughly worthwhile exhibits?

You don’t have to be outdoors to enjoy the blooms of springtime, as proven by the lovely Van Gogh: Irises and Roses exhibit at the Met. This quartet of painted bouquets — Irises from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, Roses from D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, and their counterparts from the Met’s own collection — were conceived by Van Gogh to mark his last week at the asylum at Saint-Rémy in Provence, where he’d resided since the previous May. The exhibit, which brings the four works together for the first time, corresponds with both the seasonal blooming of the flowers the artist noticed in the asylum’s overgrown garden and the 125th anniversary of letters to his brother announcing that he was working on these “large bouquets.” Van Gogh completed these works quickly before moving to Auvers, leaving them behind to dry; he died just a month after they arrived at his final home. As they have faded considerably due to their light-sensitive pigments, the exhibit includes color reconstructions and other findings based on extensive research. (Through 8/16, 1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.)

An exciting new exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, How Posters Work not only displays nearly 125 works both iconic and lesser-known, classic and avant-garde, but delves into the mind of the designer and the principles employed to engage us. Each of the show’s 14 sections represents a theme, such as “overwhelm the eye,” “cut and paste,” and “amplify.” Richard Avedon’s trippy 1967 John Lennon poster, for instance, illustrates “make eye contact,” while Frederick Siebel’s powerful “Someone Talked” (1942), showing a single sailor reaching out to the viewer right before drowning, is a classic example of “tell a story.” The exhibit shows exactly how posters have delighted us with their bold graphics and influenced us with their messages, whether selling a product, promoting a lifestyle, or making a political argument. It’s the perfect mix of engaging and educational. (Through 11/15, 2 E. 91st St. at Fifth Ave.)

Chitra Ganesh: Eyes of Time is a striking new installation in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art’s Herstory Gallery at the Brooklyn Museum. This wall mural and multi-media exhibit by the Brooklyn-based Ganesh explores ideas of femininity, empowerment, and multiplicity using mythology, literature, and popular culture. In addition to a 15-foot tall depiction of the fierce, multi-limbed Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction and rebirth, as the mural’s central figure, there are several antique clock gears symbolizing the circular nature of time. Among items borrowed from the museum’s permanent collection are figurines of ancient goddesses from Egypt and India, kitschy fantasy art, and Relate to Your Heritage, a 1971 psychedelic screenprint by Barbara Jones-Hogu, representing ancient and contemporary notions of femininity. Also featured is one of Ganesh’s early works, Tales of Amnesia, a zine inspired by Indian comic books. Not coincidentally Kali is one of the place settings included in Judy Chicago’s monumental installation and feminist art icon The Dinner Party, the centerpiece of the Sackler Gallery. (Through 7/12, 200 Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn)

(Photo Credit: Matt Flynn)