If you find yourself in New York and “want to be a part of it,” as Frank Sinatra iconically once sang, look no further than the art exhibitions on view at some of New York’s top institutions this month. The shows on view range from the historical to the inventive, with questions that both celebrate humanity and prod our current reality. Held in conjunction with two weeks worth of art fairs, including Independent and Frieze New York, below is a list of must-see museum exhibitions currently on view across the city.
Juan de Pareja at Metropolitan Museum of Art
Seeking to upend colonial narratives, the exhibition “Juan de Pareja, Afro-Hispanic Painter,” on view through July 16, highlights the life and work of the Afro-Hispanic artist, who was active during Spain’s Golden Age. Perhaps most recognized as the sitter for a 1650 portrait by Diego Velázquez, Pareja was an enslaved laborer for Velázquez for two decades. The show features not only Pareja’s rarely seen works, but also includes portraits of Black and Morisco (Muslims forced to convert to Catholicism) subjects painted by Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. “The exhibition takes care to contextualize Pareja’s art,” writes Maria H. Loh in a review for Art in America. However, “it is ultimately [historian Arturo Alfonso] Schomburg’s portrait of Pareja that shines as the true heart of the story told here.”
Aliza Nisenbaum at the Queens Museum
Vibrantly colored, large-scale canvases of historically marginalized people characterize Aliza Nisenbaum’s paintings, which are on view in the exhibition “Aliza Nisenbaum: Queens, Lindo y Querido” through September 10. At the center of the show is a mosaic work made by the Queens–based artist for LaGuardia Airport’s renovated Delta Terminal that highlights the daily work of pilots, flight attendants, security guards, grounds crew, janitors, and others at the airport. Also featured is art created by volunteer teachers at English-Spanish workshops hosted by the artist. As part of Nisenbaum’s residency at the museum, additional bilingual workshops will also be held as a continuation of her engagement with the local community.
Josh Kline at the Whitney Museum of American Art
“It’s all immersive, creepy, and totally unlike the traditional mid-career survey,” writes Alex Greenberger in ARTnews’s review of Josh Kline’s Whitney exhibition. Those who believe we are living through the apocalypse will find kinship among Kline’s “Project for a New American Century,” which is on view through August 13. Bringing together more than a decade of Kline’s work, the exhibition includes installations and videos that speak to the immediacy of today’s socio-political issues such as climate change, technology, the pandemic, and the decline of American democracy. Often highlighting the working class, Greenberger continues, “Kline’s freakish surrealism is unsubtle in a way that can be jarring. It is unsparing; it cuts through the politesse that typically abounds in conceptual art.”
Gego at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Gertrud Goldschmidt, known as Gego, fled Nazi persecution in 1939 and immigrated to Venezuela, where she became one of the foremost postwar artists in the country and a leading figure of both geometric abstraction and kinetic art. A survey of Gego’s work from the early 1950s through the early 1990s brings together more than 120 examples of her intricate line studies in architecture, design, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, textiles, and site-specific installations. Highlights include several examples of her well-known suspended wire sculptures. “Gego: Measuring Infinity” is on view through September 10.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith at the Whitney Museum of America Art
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith has pushed the boundaries of Native American art since the 1970s with her expansive practice, activism, and advocacy. Her show “Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map” is the first retrospective for an Indigenous artist that the Whitney Museum has ever organized. It brings together five decades of Smith’s drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures—including her iconic painting Memory Map (2000). In an interview with Art in America, Quick-to-See Smith said she wanted the exhibition to be “a celebration that would go beyond me, like ripples in the stream. I hope that it will open the door so that other Native artists can have exhibitions there and elsewhere.” The show is on view through August 13.
Ellsworth Kelly at the Museum of Modern Art
A centennial celebration in honor of abstract artist Ellsworth Kelly’s 100th birthday features a selection of paintings and works on paper. Kelly’s daily observations—from the shadow cast on a staircase to the contour of a flower—served as the inspiration for his works, which distilled the mundane and complex into inventive, yet deceptively simple forms, lines, and colors. Highlights include a piece made for the lobby of Philadelphia’s Transportation building, titled Sculpture for a Large Wall (1956–57), with 104 quadrilateral aluminum panels that can be positioned upright or at an angle, alongside some of the artist’s sketches. “Ellsworth Kelly: A Centennial Celebration” is on view through June 11.