Three Shows on Influential Groundbreakers
May is a beautiful month for many reasons, not least of which is Mother’s Day, when many of us celebrate the most important woman in our lives. Of course, women are no longer valued mainly for motherhood (thank goodness) and are, in fact, receiving more recognition than ever for creative endeavors. This month we highlight exhibitions on two artists and one revered poet, each of whom produced groundbreaking work in her own distinctive way.
Why Pictures Now at MoMA
Louise Lawler: Why Pictures Now at MoMA is the rfist American survey of the innovative artist’s four decades of work. A member of the Pictures Generation, a group including Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince that emerged during the late 1970s, Lawler is mainly renowned for photographing other artists’ work, focusing on how it’s made and where it’s displayed.
This show features images of artworks in collectors’ homes, museums, and auction houses, set in a sequence of mural-sized, “adjusted to t” images. The latter, a Lawler specialty, consists of works that have been reformatted (often stretched or expanded) to t the location of their display. This strategy of restaging existing content underscores the relational aspect of her art and the idea that pictures can experience a second life. Lawler’s infamous 1972 sound piece Birdcalls— in which the names of well-known male artists were turned into bird-like squawks and twitters—is installed in MoMA’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, a reminder of her work’s feminist undercurrents. (Through 7/30, 11 W. 53rd St.)
Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms at The Met Breuer
One of the most influential female artists of the late 20th century, Lygia Pape is the subject of a major retrospective (the first ever in the U.S.) at the Met Breuer. A key figure in the development of Brazilian modern art, Pape combined abstract geometric forms with explorations of body, time, and space. Her work transformed the nature of the art object in the late 1950s and early 1960s, continued through four more decades, and encompassed sculpture, prints, painting, photography, performance and lm.
Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms features some of her most notable works, including select series of her 1950s woodcuts Tecelares, her “living sculpture” Divisor (1968), a participatory work that has been staged in Madrid and Hong Kong, among other cities; photographic series of urban life in Rio de Janeiro Espaços imantados (Magnetized Spaces) (c. 1982 and 1995) and Favela da Maré (1974–76); sculptures and installations including Ttéia (1976–2004) and Amazoninos (1989–1992); plus experimental books and films. This expansive overview is a fitting tribute to an unparalleled artist. (Through 7/23, 945 Madison Ave.)
I’m Nobody! Who are you? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson at The Morgan Library & Museum
The popular image of Emily Dickinson portrays a sensitive, reclusive homebody, but the beloved 19th- century poet was in fact a social animal, especially in her younger years. Even when she eventually retreated into seclusion, Dickinson kept up a lively correspondence with friends and colleagues. The Morgan Library and Museum exhibition I’m Nobody! Who are you? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson —its title taken from her popular poem— is the most ambitious exhibition on Dickinson to date, gathering nearly 100 rarely displayed items, including manuscripts and letters.
Organized in conjunction with Amherst College, the show presents evidence of deep friendships and relationships with mentors and editors, a facet of her life that is not always acknowledged. In addition to 24 poems in various draft states, there are hand-cut silhouettes, photographs, illustrations, and other items that reflect the intellectual and cultural environment in which Dickinson lived and worked. (Through 5/28, 225 Madison Ave.)