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Three to see: New York

From artistic mischief to some serious questions of culture

by Victoria Stapley-Brown  |  25 May 2017
Three to see: New York
Shirin Neshat, Roja (2016, video still) (© Shirin Neshat, Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels)
There is something for everyone at the National Academy Museum’s exhibition Creative Mischief (until 13 June), the sixth annual show with this cheeky title. It includes works in a variety of media by more than 130 international artists, faculty, alumni and students of the academy. The works are all “daring, playful and poetic”, says the school’s dean and the curator of the show, Maurizio Pellegrin, in a release. They range from Anthony Panzera’s scroll series in sanguine chalk, in which swags of drapery playfully hide or reveal nude women, to Helen Esberg’s non-figurative jute and embroidery thread weavings. An otherwise hodge-podge show is instead corralled into thematic groups, such as “The Urban Dream,” “The Spirit” and “Illusion and Form”. The museum is also showing a concurrent exhibition of works by children, Little Mischief (until 31 May).

An elegant dance between realism and abstraction features in Luxembourg and Dayan’s exhibition Figures Toward Abstraction: Sculptures 1910-40 (until 1 July). Works by artists such as Jean Tingueley and Alberto Giacometti are included in this show driven by a collaboration between the gallerist Daniella Luxembourg and the architect Daniel Liebeskind, who says: “Sculpture itself is actually pure architecture”—form, without bothersome necessities like plumbing. All of the works are shown in the round and often appear figurative from some angles but dissolve into abstraction from others (see, for instance, how the face and hairdo in Henri Matisse’s 1930 sculpture Le Tiaré become lumps and planes from some directions). The most commanding sculpture in the exhibition, Rudolf Belling’s large and highly abstract 1919 depiction of three intertwined figures, Dreiklang (Triad), is given its own space. The work was shown in the Nazi’s Degenerate Art Exhibition of 1937, demonstrating abstraction’s provocative power.

What is the identity of a person straddling two cultures? What does it mean to be an Iranian in the US? The Iranian, New York-based artist Shirin Neshat takes on these uncertain feelings in her solo show of new works, Dreamers, at Gladstone Gallery (until 17 June). The film Roja (2016), shown in its own dark space, will leave you as disoriented as its eponymous Iranian protagonist, who struggles to find her place as she tries to connect with American culture. The film’s settings express this confusion: it was shot in places in the US that resemble the Middle East in architecture or geography. Those familiar with Neshat’s photography will be surprised by the series The Dreamers, which swap her typical images of calligraphy drawn on bodies and faces for large-scale, blurry photographs of white Americans with bare shoulders and faces.

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