From New York to Nepal, Art that Transcends

Don’t miss these major museums showcasing unique niches of art

From three very different genres come three very different art exhibitions, each enlightening in its own way – from the high spirituality of Nepal to the vernacular of prewar America. With each of these exhibitions closing at the end of the month, be sure to catch them before they’re gone.

Although one of the premier modernist artists, Marc Chagall’s middle ages are surprisingly often overlooked. But no more; The Jewish Museum’s Chagall: Love, War, and Exile is the first U.S. exhibit to explore the art Chagall created during the turbulent period between the rise of fascism during the 1930s through 1948. During this time, Chagall’s life was spent in exile, first fleeing from Russia to Paris; Paris to New York at the beckoning of MoMA director Alfred Barr; the City to upstate, following the death of his wife and adoption of a new lover. Similarly searching, the 31 paintings and 22 works on paper – in addition to poems, letters, photos and other memorabilia – are biographically inspired by everything from religious persecution to his childhood during the Bolshevik Revolution to the passion of newfound love; stylistically by classical French tradition, cubism and surrealism. The exhibition takes a positive approach to this troubled time during the artist’s life, though the powerful imagery of Jesus on the cross – symbolizing the persecution of WWII – undoubtedly elicits a staggering emotional response. (Through Feb. 2, 5th Ave. at 92nd St.)

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Masterpieces of Tibetan and Nepalese Art: Recent Acquisitions showcases the best of the collection of Jack and Muriel Zimmerman, art collectors who have acquired some of the most seminal works in this art genre. The small but powerful exhibition centers around five of their recent sculptures acquisitions, regarded as some of the most important art objects from the eleventh through seventeenth centuries in the Himalayan region. These, along with a myriad of paintings, depict Hindu and Buddhist deities, meant to help religious followers visualize the gods to whom they pray during sessions of worship. In these spiritual traditions, the role of the viewer is equally as important as the artist, many of whom purposefully kept themselves unknown, transforming the viewing process itself into an act of piety. Historically, the art gives a visual education about how the Indian origins of both of these religions spread and manifested in different parts of the Asian continent. Aesthetically, it’s beautifully peaceful, despite its oft-gilded opulence. Don’t be surprised to leave feeling in a state of grace. (Through Feb. 2, 82nd St. at 5th Ave.)

In 1938, MoMA displayed its first ever solo photography exhibition featuring the work of American photographer Walker Evans, which was accompanied with the release of a book of seminal works from Evans’ career. This year marks the 75th anniversary of that exhibition, which the museum is commemorating with a reprise appropriately titled Walker Evans American Photographs, complete with 60 prints of photos from the original exhibition and book. The photos capture prewar Eastern America from a disarmingly objective standpoint. Evans’ artistic vision is strictly documentarian in his straightforward photographs, which the exhibition divides into two sections: individuals and artifacts. Faces of teenagers, factory workers, and everyday rural men and women comprise the former; churches, Main streets, houses and storefronts comprise the latter. Rather than creating a narrative with these images, the effect here is more a realist’s search for truth in everyday life – something certainly as applicable now as it was then. (Through Jan. 26, 53rd St. near 6th Ave.)