Our guide to new art shows — and some that will be closing soon.
‘RICHARD GERSTL’ at the Neue Galerie (through Sept. 25). The work of this young turn-of-the-century Viennese painter, who committed suicide in 1908 after a scandalous affair with the wife of his friend and mentor, the modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg, finally receives its first solo exhibition in an American museum. The velocity of his six-year career astounds, as do his experimentations with paint handling and abstraction. (Roberta Smith)
‘THE JIM HENSON EXHIBITION’ at the Museum of the Moving Image (continuing). The rainbow connection has been established in Astoria, where this museum has opened a new permanent wing devoted to the career of America’s great puppeteer, who was born in Mississippi in 1936 and died, too young, in 1990. Henson began presenting the short TV program “Sam and Friends” before he was out of his teens; one of its characters, the soft-faced Kermit, was crafted from his mother’s old coat and would not mature into a frog for more than a decade. The influence of early variety television, with its succession of skits and songs, runs through “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show,” though Henson also spent the late ’60s crafting peace-and-love documentaries and prototyping a psychedelic nightclub. Young visitors will delight in seeing Big Bird, Elmo, Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef; adults can dig deep into sketches and storyboards, and rediscover some old friends. (Jason Farago)
‘HENRY JAMES AND AMERICAN PAINTING’ at the Morgan Library & Museum (through Sept. 10). Henry James started out as a painter; wrote for years as an art critic; and produced, in painterly prose, novels that had artists as leading characters. This Morgan show, an interdisciplinary ensemble of painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and manuscripts, has James as a kind of multiport power plug at its center, connected to artists he knew, admired and used as models, John Singer Sargent notable among them. (Holland Cotter)
‘HÉLIO OITICICA: TO ORGANIZE DELIRIUM’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art (through Oct. 1). A leading force in Brazilian modernism, Hélio Oiticica (1937-80) began as an abstract painter and moved on to create art-meets-life installations, one of which, “Tropicalia,” replete with banana plants and live parrots, gave its name to a revolutionary cultural movement. Brazil’s right-wing politics brought Oiticica as a refugee to New York City, where he explored the city’s gay culture and the drug trade, before returning home for his last few years. The Whitney retrospective covers all of this, with an emphasis on the artist’s hitherto understudied New York sojourn. (Cotter)
‘HANSEL & GRETEL’ at the Park Avenue Armory (closes on Aug. 6). This meh bit of installation art, cooked up by a world-famous artist (Ai Weiwei) and two equally prominent architects (Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron), has “How much did this cost?” written all over it. Visitors to the exhibition can experience cutting-edge surveillance as a fun-house selfie orgy. For a more sobering view of the effects of such advances (already in use), consult the history of surveillance available on the show’s iPads. (Smith)
‘LOUISE LAWLER: WHY PICTURES NOW’ at the Museum of Modern Art (closes on July 30). One of the great light-heavyweights of the 1980s Pictures Generation, an artist of stealth, wit and elegant understatement, adept at playing the art world against itself, receives her due in a beautiful show of mostly her own design. With images sometimes near billboard size, it contrasts her uncanny gift for photographing artworks in their natural habitats (galleries, museums, collectors’ homes, auctions) and her equal talent for graphic design and carefully worded aphorisms. (Smith)
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