For the annual Art in America Guide, published in print in January, the editors of A.i.A. highlight significant and intriguing museum exhibitions throughout the year. Below is a list of noteworthy shows opening in February.
Ming Smith: Feeling the Future
Ming Smith has been working in New York’s Harlem neighborhood since the 1970s, documenting Black life in works that transform images from photographic documents into elements of emotive expression. Her images are often developed or processed using such experimental techniques as hand-tinting, superimposition, and long exposures that blur the boundaries between her subjects and their surroundings. Her work is the subject of two important exhibitions this year. A focused show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art—curated by Studio Museum in Harlem director Thelma Golden and MoMA associate curator Oluremi C. Onabanjo—will be on view in MoMA’s free street-level galleries. In Houston, “Ming Smith: Feeling the Future” spans the artist’s career and includes some of her best-known portraits, including a lithe and regal Grace Jones at Studio 54 and the matronly, watchful Amen Corner Sisters.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Feb. 4–May 29, 2023; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, May 19–Oct. 1, 2023
Amalia Mesa-Bains: Archaeology of Memory
Amalia Mesa-Bains’s groundbreaking practice as a founding mother of Chicanx art has revolutionized installation art for more than six decades, particularly through her elevation of the home altar to the realm of fine art, all the while creating important scholarship for Chicanx artists at a time when most mainstream institutions ignored or outright disdained them. Her first career retrospective, titled “Archaeology of Memory,” presents 10 large-scale installations, as well as related prints and books, including her important “Venus Envy” series created over decades and displayed here in its entirety for the first time.
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA, Feb. 4–July 23, 2023
Farah Al Qasimi: Star Machine
Prodding at our contemporary image-obsessed culture, Farah Al Qasimi creates color-saturated photographs that capture mundane moments among friends, family, and strangers in lavishly stylized settings in New York and Dubai. By obscuring the identities of young women, in particular, she offers a destabilizing glance into youth culture while highlighting privacy concerns in the public sphere. Al Qasimi’s first solo exhibition in Australia, titled “Star Machine,” features 23 photographs and video works from the past five years.
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Feb. 4–July 30, 2023
Sharjah Biennial 15
Initially conceived by late renowned curator Okwui Enwezor, this year’s edition of the Sharjah Biennial, titled “Thinking Historically in the Present,” was curated by Sharjah Art Foundation founder and director Hoor Al Qasimi, along with an international curatorial team. For the biennial’s 30th anniversary, 30 artists, including Wangechi Mutu, John Akomfrah, and Kerry James Marshall, were commissioned to make new works. The show will feature 150 artists from 70 countries, with artworks to be displayed at 16 sites throughout the emirate, including historic buildings, a vegetable market, a power station, and a former kindergarten. In a press statement, Al Qasimi said, “Okwui saw Sharjah Biennial’s 30-year anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on the role that biennials serve in the ecosystem of contemporary art.” The gesture emphasizes Enwezor’s and Al Qasimi’s critical commitment to investing in institutional support for contemporary art outside the West.
Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 7–June 11, 2023
Despite being the national museum of the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum has never held a survey exhibition of works by Johannes Vermeer, until this show, billed to be the largest retrospective exhibition of famously scarce and rarely traveled paintings by the Dutch master since a 1996 survey at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Organized in cooperation with the Mauritshuis, the Rijksmuseum show will consider Vermeer’s artistic choices and creative process. It will include the museum’s four Vermeer paintings, the Mauritshuis’s three (Girl with a Pearl Earring among them), and loans from the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, and others.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Feb. 10–June 4, 2023
Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982
The nascent era of the personal computer and its impact are surveyed in “Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982,” an exhibition that mines the years leading up to the advent of revolutionary computer technology. It features works by artists, musicians, filmmakers, and other arts practitioners who used computers directly or employed algorithms and other systems in their production. From gridded paintings on steel plates by Jennifer Bartlett to makeshift metal boxes to assemblages by Ed Kienholz, the show examines the period from which digital art would eventually arise.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Feb. 12–July 2, 2023
I’ll Be Your Mirror: Art and the Digital Screen
Since the mid-20th century, our world has been viewed on—and, therefore, shaped by—screens. “I’ll Be Your Mirror: Art and the Digital Screen” traces how artists have responded to the distribution of images and ideas, beginning in 1969 with the must-watch event of the century, the Apollo moon landing. A significant portion of the museum will be dedicated to the exhibition, which will include watershed works that touch on themes of surveillance, digital abstraction, and the ironic isolation of our hyper-connected age. Pioneers Andy Warhol and Nam June Paik lead a diverse roster of artists that includes Hito Steyerl, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Arthur Jafa, and others.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Feb. 12–Apr. 30, 2023
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Considered the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, Pieter Bruegel the Elder is best known for his paintings and prints of landscapes and peasant scenes, all of which required considerable drawing skills. Bruegel’s works on paper are the focus of this exhibition, which surveys the great variety of drawing subjects in the 16th century. The exhibition presents some 90 works by Bruegel from the Albertina Museum’s collection. Also featured are works by such peers as Jan de Beer, Maarten van Heemskerck, and Hendrick Goltzius. Focusing on themes that still resonate today, the show looks at how artists depicted their radically changing world that was being reshape by the Reformation, expanding colonial trade, and increasing urbanization.
Albertina Museum, Vienna, Feb. 14–May 29, 2023
Whitfield Lovell: Passages
“Passages” is the first comprehensive survey of works by Whitfield Lovell, known for evocative videos and installations that speak to African American history and issues of identity, memory, and America’s collective heritage. Many of his pieces incorporate drawings on paper or salvaged wood that are based on photographs of Black subjects taken between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement. He combines those with found objects—American flags, enamel brooches, silk flowers, medicine bottles, soil—to create tableaux that suggest the personalities and life experiences of the people represented.
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Feb. 15–May 21, 2023; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, June 17–Sept. 10, 2023; Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock, Oct. 13, 2023–Jan. 14, 2024; Cincinnati Art Museum, Mar. 1–May 26, 2024; The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, June 29–Sept, 22, 2024; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Oct. 26, 2024–Jan. 19, 2025
Swiss artist Miriam Cahn knows that her surreal and darkly funny paintings elicit disgust in many viewers. In her 28-work presentation in the 2022 Venice Biennale alone, she depicted rape, nude bodies flailing in voids, and lumpy people getting punched in the face. Now in her 70s, Cahn has been painting such subjects for the past few decades, fearlessly taking up figuration—as well as sexism, racism, and other insidious forms of hatred—during times when doing so has often been seen as unfashionable. Gradually, her star has risen in Europe, with sizable shows held at influential institutions in Munich, Toronto, and the Swiss city of Bern in just the past few years. In 2023 she will get yet another major survey, this one at the most important contemporary art museum in Paris, the Palais de Tokyo.
Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Feb. 16–May 14, 2023
Being an art handler, dishwasher, nanny, rehabber, furniture maker, or waiter might seem like the antithesis of the artistic ideal, but such employment has provided a surprising degree of inspiration to countless postwar artists. The approximately 75 works assembled in “Day Jobs” represent virtually every imaginable medium and approach, contributed by a panoply of successful artists ranging from veterans Tishan Hsu, Larry Bell, and Howardena Pindell to Mark Bradford, Jeffrey Gibson, and Jay Lynn Gomez.
Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Feb. 19–July 23, 2023
Martin Wong—Malicious Mischief
Not fully appreciated until after his death, Martin Wong became known for works documenting the people and street culture of his Lower East Side neighborhood in meticulously rendered paintings rife with graffiti, criminality, and drugs, but also a sense of community among immigrants and gay residents. “Martin Wong—Malicious Mischief” will be the first-ever European presentation of his oeuvre, starting in 1968 with snapshots from San Francisco’s Chinatown, where he grew up, and including his iconic urbanscapes of 1980s New York, and the last works he created before he died of AIDS in San Francisco in 1999.
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Feb. 25–May 15, 2023
Action/Abstraction Redefined: Modern Native Art, 1945–1975
Featuring 52 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by 32 artists, “Action/Abstraction Redefined: Modern Native Art, 1945–1975” is the first major traveling exhibition to analyze innovation and experimentation among modern Native American artists. It showcases how they challenged stereotypes of Native Americans in works that combine influences from their own cultural heritage with styles including Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, and hard-edge painting. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, the exhibition features work by such artists as T.C. Cannon, George Morrison, and Fritz Scholder.
Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA, Feb. 26–May 28, 2023; St. Louis Art Museum, June 24–Sept. 4, 2023; Schingoethe Center (Aurora University), Aurora, IL, Oct. 2, 2023–Jan. 7, 2024; Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock, Feb. 24–May 12, 2024