In 1998, the Asia Society brought the first major shipment of Chinese contemporary art to New York City. Some of the artists came, too: They had no money, were exhibiting in one another’s Beijing apartments and dodging post-Tiananmen censors. A few years later, China’s art market exploded; artists (a few) were living like emperors; and a wily government was veering between cracking down on art and promoting it. “Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World” at the Guggenheim Museum will tell the tale. (Oct. 6-Jan. 7)
A group show I’m especially looking forward to is “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” at the New Museum (Sept. 27-Jan. 21). Queer — sexual identity beyond body parts and bed partners — is here, and here to stay, and has made ambiguous the new logical. The show will be in the estimable hands of the New Museum curator Johanna Burton, and the 40 artists are a hot crew.
I’m also putting money on a smaller show, “Speech/Acts,” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (Sept. 13-Dec. 23), which takes contemporary black poetry as both its theme and its material. That’s dynamite matter to work with, and there will be six terrific artists — Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Steffani Jemison, Tony Lewis, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Kameelah Janan Rasheed and Martine Syms — on the job.
Finally, in the group-show department, Los Angeles has some competition from “Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp,” the fourth iteration of an exhibition that stretches over all of New Orleans, and this year dovetails with the city’s 300th anniversary celebrations. The director, Trevor Schoonmaker, collaborating with seven artist-curators, has assembled an international roster to infiltrate a city that is already an extraordinary work of environmental art. (Nov. 18–Feb. 25)
The season is particularly rich in contemporary solo shows, starting with. “Tarsila Do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil” at the Art Institute of Chicago. Born in 1886, Tarsila (as everyone called her) was a Brazilian painter of impressive gifts. She regularly traveled a São Paulo-Paris axis, claimed Fernand Léger and the poet Oswald de Andrade as friends, and, by mixing European modernism and Brazilian indigenous culture, made a new kind of art. Her North America reputation until now has been scant. This is about to change. (Oct. 8-Jan. 7)
Among other overdue museum solos I’m looking forward to: “Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting” at MoMA PS1 (Oct. 22-March 11). Ms. Schneemann’s career has been long and influential, and is still very much in progress. She began as a gestural painter and became a performer painting with her body in space. And she has always kept the work personal, which has been a problem for academic critics, with their notorious fear of intimacy. Yet intimacy is what makes her art feel vital now.
Howardena Pindell, born in 1943, has been a painter from the start but one of exceptional stylistic variety. Her early abstract pictures, their surfaces sprinkled with glitter and caked with punched-out, confetti-like paper dots, were some of the most beautiful paintings of the 1970s. After a traumatizing auto accident in 1979, the work turned figurative, intensely focused on autobiography and African-American politics. For followers of her career, the changes have been fascinating, as should be evident in her first major retrospective, “Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. (Feb. 24-May 20)
This fall will offer the last chance to catch “Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist,” the superb touring retrospective of the painter who has put her Cherokee identity at the center of her art, and made that identity specific and capacious. The last stop on its tour is the Montclair Art Museum (Feb. 3–June 17). And it will be the first chance to see “Patty Chang: The Wandering Lake, 2009-2017” at the Queens Museum, a multipart, multimedia project by one of the most daring American performance artists, now a filmmaker, around. (Sept. 17-Feb. 18)
It so happens that the most of the interesting solo museums shows of the season are by women, with one exception, the David Wojnarowicz retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art next summer. Gay, and working-class by upbringing, Wojnarowicz was caught up in the culture wars of the 1980s. He died of AIDS-related causes in 1992 and went down fighting. An inventive self-taught artist and a ferocious writer, his political anger was unsleeping. You know what he would have thought of the present American moment. His retrospective couldn’t be better timed, nor could it be better named: “David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night.”
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