These days, we seem to think of those days. There are movie remakes, revivals on Broadway, and popular television characters back in the city. Several spring exhibitions are focusing on earlier eras, the passing of time, and a way to tap into timelessness. There are plenty of opportunities to unwind and find a bit of nostalgia or a refreshing new outlook, but don’t forget the times we’re in. Check protocols before you go.
The Whitney Biennial, “Quiet as It’s Kept,” through Sept. 5, 2022
When is a Biennial not quite a Biennial? When it took three years to arrive. It’s skipped years before, but as always, this year’s Whitney Biennial is a look at today’s artists and this moment. Curators Adrienne Edwards and David Breslin sent feelers, studied trends, and visited studios. The result is “Quiet as It’s Kept,” a survey of American art today, with works from creators from across the country as well as some artists from Mexico and First Nations artists in Canada. Rather than a unifying theme, look for painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation, written word, film, sound and more, expressing thoughts on abstraction, personal narratives, boundaries and borders, lives and loss. It’s all about now, and, as the sign of the times, several Biennial programs including talks with artists will be available online.
The American Folk Art Museum, “Multitudes,” through September 5, 2022
Celebrating its 60th year, The American Folk Art Museum presents “Multitudes,” an exhibition of hundreds of items spanning hundreds of years. Many come from times that meant that if you wanted art, you needed to be the artist yourself. Self-taught and community-based based makers crafted monuments, memorials, decorative and artfully functional objects in stone, on paper, or in fiber that became cherished works. See fanciful weather vanes, embroidered mourning pictures, complexly geometric or inventively abstract quilts, rustic wood carvings and pencil drawings. And there’s the recently discovered “Martha and Mary,” by William Edmondson, considered by some “a Holy Grail of American Folk Art.” Each work represents a voice that could not and would not be silent.
The Jewish Museum “New York: 1962 – 1964,” July 22 - January 8, 2023
Maybe you were here. Maybe you wish you were. Maybe you’re just curious. The Jewish Museum highlights some 150 works made during a madly, modly, fruitful period in the New York art world. The exhibition spotlights three years sixty years ago, when former director Alan Solomon opened the museum’s doors to the “New Art” that was redefining American culture. Artists like Faith Ringgold, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Yayoi Kusama, Jasper Johns, and Diane Arbus voiced responses to the civil rights movement, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and assassinations, as well as television, feminism, consumerism, and a baby boom that changed and challenged America’s vision of itself. Pop Art, Minimalism, political works and Conceptual Art fill the museum with a timeless 60s vibe.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” May 5 – Sept. 7, 2022
For a longer look, check out The Met’s Costume Institute’s spring offering. It starts with a trip back in time, via the American Wing’s period rooms. Look for patchwork quilts amidst Shaker furniture and 20th century styles contrasting with modern design. Witness centuries unfurling as the exhibition winds through the museum to the Anna Wintour Costume Center where some 100 vignettes highlight bold, cutting-edge men’s and women’s fashions from the 1940s through the 2020s. A section devoted to fashion and “Nostalgia” feels particularly timely.
The Rubin Museum, “The Mandala Lab” through 2031
Sometimes, stepping out of time entirely holds the answer. The Rubin Museum’s Mandala Lab is designed to guide audiences to a still and peaceful point. Practices and meditations that have been used for centuries are brought together with today’s technology and contemporary artists. All five senses are invoked in an interactive display. Sights and sounds from creators like Laurie Anderson, Sanford Biggers, Tenzin Tsetan Choklay, and Peter Gabriel are designed to guide an inner experience that might last as long as a museum visit or a lifetime. Along with pathways to patience, empathy, and self-awareness, the museum also offers a special exhibition, “Healing Practices: Stories from Himalayan Americans,” through January, 2023.