New Yorkers and tourists alike know that the city has a special energy in the final weeks of the year—a rare calm and slowness after the holiday rush. Perhaps you’ve finally caught a moment to head to a museum, or are looking for something to do with family. As always, the city has plenty of offerings, so we’ve picked our favorites below. The shows range from art to architecture, from ancient statues to cutting edge installations. Check the links to pieces from our sister magazine, Art in America, if you want to bone up before your visit.
“Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A local history of stoneware production blooms into a larger examination of agency and artistry among enslaved people in “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina.” Standouts include the fifteen vessels signed by “Dave,” a Black potter who was forced to work at several factories over the course of his life in the 1800s. Though literacy was largely forbidden for those enslaved, Dave had been taught to read and write (likely by one enslaver who wanted him to read the Bible). He wrote about his circumstances on many of his vessels: one storage jar reads, “I wonder where is all my relation,” alluding to the forced separation of African American families as their kin were bought and sold during that period.
On view until Feb. 5
Read more about the show in Nicholas T Rinehart’s review for Art in America.
“She Who Wrote: Enheduanna and Women of Mesopotamia, ca. 3400–2000 B.C.” at the Morgan Library
This show centers around history’s first known author—a woman named Enheduanna. The most remarkable object is a set of cuneiform tablets bearing a hymn addressed to the goddess Ishtar. It contains the earliest known usage of the first-person plural—of “I”—in writing. Remarkably, Enheduanna uses it when describing her experience of sexual assault in a plea to the maker and destroyer of life for protection and revenge. The exhibition also includes objects that detail the lives of Mesopotamian women, who held roles as priestesses, merchants, and scribes. It’s a powerful feminist rewriting of society’s beginnings.
On view until Jan. 16
Read more about the remarkable show in Emily Watlington’s review for Art in America.
“Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces” at the Museum of Modern Art
Only recently have the world’s biggest institutions begun to acknowledge the vast impact of Just Above Midtown, the scrappy, short-lived New York art space founded by Linda Goode Bryant in 1974. Better late than never, though, and this Museum of Modern Art survey about the thrumming community Goode Bryant fostered is the fitting tribute the gallery has long deserved. With an emphasis on Black art with an experimental edge, Just Above Midtown often gets talked about for showing artists like David Hammons and Lorraine O’Grady early on. Curated by Thomas (T.) Jean Lax with Lilia Rocio Taboada, Marielle Ingram, and Goode Bryant herself, the MoMA show paints a fuller picture, showing work by underappreciated treasures by artists like Janet Olivia Henry and Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds. Just Above Midtown’s spirit could not be contained—the gallery staged performances, concerts, and other less classifiable events in addition to exhibitions—but this remarkable show manages to capture some of its energy.
On view until Feb. 18
While you’re at MoMA, be sure to check out a retrospective of the Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim, best known for her iconic fur teacup, and another of the eclectic photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. Read Emily Watlington’s Oppenheim profile, or Anthony Hawley’s Tillmans review before you go.
“Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: Autonomous Drive” at MoMA PS1
Frieda Toranzo Jaeger makes paintings that often borrow Christian altarpiece formats. Then, she embroiders right on top of them, a gesture meant as a way of superimposing an Indigenous technique onto a Western one, thereby undermining the preciousness of the latter. Toranzo Jaeger’s practice centers around imagining a future, which she sees as a decolonial act, noting that many Indigenous perspectives are often focused on preservation and the past. But it’s important for the Mexican painter to imagine a kind of future she wants to be in, and her vision is ripe with queer bacchanals equal parts sumptuous and humorous. If you, like many others, enjoy making fun of Elon Musk, you’re in for a treat with this show, which abounds with paintings of wrecked Teslas.
On view until March 13
Toranzo Jaeger participated in a recent roundtable on Christian imagery in contemporary painting for Art in America’s religion issue.
“Theaster Gates: Young Lords and Their Traces” at the New Museum
Theaster Gates’s sculptures may often appear to be little more than found objects offered up within gallery spaces, where they can be seen anew. These minimalist gestures unfold maximal meanings, however, as viewers are brought face to face with physical evidence of the tragedies and triumphs of Black history. Right now, Gates’s works are being given almost the whole of the New Museum, in one of his biggest museum presentations to date, and the show offers a look at his work in a variety of mediums, from abstract painting to pottery. Some of the smallest objects here shine brightest, like a bell that bell hooks gave to the artist, or the paint-splattered boot once worn by Sam Gilliam, who died earlier this year.
On view until Feb. 5
“Charisse Pearlina Weston: of [a] tomorrow: lighter than air, stronger than whiskey, cheaper than dust” at the Queens Museum
In her impressive institutional solo debut, the Houston-born artist explores the racial and political histories embedded in glass, the material with which she sculpts. The entrance to the exhibition may appear blocked, but this is by design. In her largest sculpture to date, she suspended a 15-by-20-foot grid of smoky glass panes at a pitched angle. The obstruction references an unrealized nonviolent direct action that the Brooklyn chapter of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) proposed for the opening of the 1964–65 World’s Fair, on whose grounds the museum is now located. The protesters, demanding action on job discrimination, housing conditions, school segregation, and police brutality, asked drivers to intentionally stall their cars on roads leading to the fairgrounds. Take a detour around the blockade to revel in Weston’s elegant sculptures, which challenge ideas about “transparency” that glass is often thought to embody.
On view until March 5
Read more about Weston in Chris Murtha’s profile for Art in America.
“In Praise of Caves: Organic Architecture Projects from Mexico by Carlos Lazo, Mathias Goeritz, Juan O’Gorman, and Javier Senosiain” at The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum
Visitors to “In Praise of Caves” might google, in wondrous disbelief, the names of the modernist projects on view to check if they were ever executed, and if so, whether they can still be visited. All set or constructed in Mexico, the cave-based structures range from an experimental housing development built into the side of a canyon designed by a little-known architect and public official named Carlos Lazo, to an “organic architecture theme park” created by Javier Senosiain Aguilar, where curving tunnels and walkways are decorated with mosaics to resemble massive rainbow snakes. Fantastical models and futuristic drawings convey the experience of navigating these sites, whose creators, according to curator Dakin Hart, understood caves as a “traditional technology worthy of modern development.” Most captivating is the castle-like home Juan O’Gorman erected within a dormant volcano, complete with turrets and winding staircases.
On view until Feb. 26