Coco Fusco in Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at Grey Art Gallery (September 10 through December 7) and Studio Museum in Harlem (Dec. 13)

Just in time for Performa 13, New York’s November-long arts biennial featuring all things performative, NYU’s Grey Art Gallery and the Studio Museum in Harlem co-present Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. At the top of the list of participating artists is Coco Fusco, winner of the Absolut Art Award 2013.

On view at Grey Art Gallery through December 7th – part one of the Radical Presence exhibition – is Fusco’s Sightings, a 2004 photography series that addresses the still-current topics of racial profiling, police tactics and vigilantism: inspired by the story of Angela Davis, a 70s political activist who spent months as a fugitive, resulting in “frenzied mis-identifications” made by the public, the police and the government. The exhibit also features Fusco’s video work a/k/a Mrs. George Gilbert, a video work incorporating the same anecdote and exploring the “radicalized fantasies” about Davis and other black radicals in the 60s and 70s.

For part II of the Radical Presence exhibition, housed at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Fusco will perform Observations of Predation in Humans: A Lecture by Dr. Zira, Animal Psychologist – the premise of which sees the female chimpanzee from the Planet of the Apes films “resume her life as a public intellectual,” presenting years of research on human aggression in the 21st century. 
- Jordan Nassar

Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey 
at the Brooklyn Museum (October 11, 2013 through March 9, 2014)

Brooklyn-based Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu has had a busy few years, exhibiting at museums and institutions the world over, from the Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montreal to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney to the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. Since October, the Brooklyn Museum has housed the first survey in the United States of Mutu’s work, exhibiting more than fifty of Mutu’s large-scale collages for a comprehensive look at the career of the skyrocketing artist.

Mutu’s work addresses a wide range of subject matter - from gender and race to war and colonialism, and perhaps most notedly, the black female body and its perception in society. Composed of traditional collage material – magazine cutouts, found material and paint – Mutu’s most recognizable works are provocative and awe-inspiring, most often depicting female figures that can only be described as blends of human, animal and machine. Staged in landscapes of pure (and sometimes dark) fantasy, Mutu’s works are both mesmerizing and unsettling.

Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey also includes sketchbook drawings that have never been publicly exhibited, giving insight into Mutu’s process and exposing the private processing of ideas manifested in her mammoth works. In addition, a selection of Mutu’s video work, as well as site-specific drawings and sculptural installations provide a further look into Mutu’s world. 
- Jordan Nassar

Mike Kelley at MoMA PS1 
(October 13, 2013 through February 2, 2014)

This October, MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York, has dedicated its entire facility to the largest exhibition of Mike Kelley’s work to date – three stories of every kind of the work that the prolific, and recently deceased, artist ever made. Unquestionably one of the most influential artists of our time, Mike Kelley’s work is both modernist and alternative, examining society and popular culture in an obsessive, yet poignant, manner.

At times whimsical, at times dark, at times academic, the exhibition includes over 200 works made over more than thirty years. With his paintings and works on paper representing the more somber and inquisitive parts of his body of work, Kelley’s perhaps most popular works are sculptural – made of stuffed animals (often sewn together), knitted blankets, and quilted fabrics.

The exhibition’s most striking characteristic is the unexpected variation between rooms – a shadowy beehive of rooms that explores the neon-lit heimat of Superman gives way to a brightly-lit convergence of suspended pastel-colored orbs of stuffed animals; an architectural installation of floor plans and statistics neighbors a room with a large carpet, mysterious shapes of objects under the carpet resulting in hills and valleys, and a visceral sense of unease. A large gallery with extensive video and projected works, arranged in an overwhelming flurry, traces his time-oriented creations, and a larger-than-life man made of glass-bottle shards towers above a color-coded landfill of refuse.

Kelley’s variation in medium, tone and subject matter speaks to his importance as a cultural commentator – and the exhibition at PS1 provides an all-encompassing entry into our world – through his eyes. 
- Jordan Nassar

Christopher Wool at the Guggenheim 
(October 25, 2013 through January 22, 2014)

Christopher Wool is a painter who began working when painting wasn’t cool. In the 80s, in New York, the popular art scene held painting as stuffy and old-fashioned, uninteresting to the avant-garde. Whether it’s in reaction to this, or in keeping with it, Wool starting painting about painting – trading paintbrush for paint-roller, he set out to examine what painting is, or perhaps, what it could be.

Installation view: Christopher Wool, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 25, 2013–January 22, 2014. Photo: Kristopher McKay © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

With a visual aesthetic that was born of the punk and No Wave culture of New York in the 70s, Wool was producing his breakthrough body of work by the late 80s - using rollers stamped with floral designs, or sometimes geometric patterns, he produced paintings in an innovative and startling manner. Removing gesture and “the artist’s hand” from painting, Wool’s work was revolutionary. When he began using letters – breaking down words, omitting letters and paint-rolling them in grids – Wool juxtaposed language and formalism, exposing the visual impact that structure and broken-patterns could have.

The retrospective features more than 90 paintings and works on paper, as well as photographic works, whirling up and up around the Guggenheim’s rotunda. Tracing Wool’s earlier paint-roller days, through his more recent explorations in alternative collage, erasing-and-redrawing, and most recent digital work, the exhibition proves to be comprehensive – an exciting collection for fans of Wool’s, and an in-depth introduction for those less acquainted with his work. 
- Jordan Nassar

Christopher Wool 
Trouble, 1989 
Enamel and acrylic on aluminum, 
182.9 x 121.9 cm 
© Christopher Wool

Isa Genzken: Retrospective 
November 23, 2013–March 10, 2014. The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor. The Agnes Gund Garden Lobby, first floor.MoMA, New York

This first major U.S. survey of German artist Isa Genzken spans some four decades of art-making that ranges from uncompromising to audacious. Genzken’s prominent 2007 Venice Biennale installation “Oil XI” fills the Museum’s ground-floor lobby with discarded luggage overseen by three ghostly NASA flight suits hanging overhead. On the sixth floor, the retrospective unfolds chronologically, starting with Genzken’s inventive explorations as a student of Gerhard Richter in late 1970s Dusseldorf, of precision in man-made engineering and natural forms. Here, a group of monumental floor-pieces, “Hyperbolos” and “Ellipsoids”, produced between 1976 and 1981, reflect her fascination with meticulous production and forms in space as these elongated, sleek, minimalist sculptures lightly touch the ground either solely at their center or their very tips.

Genzken’s sharp observations on the individual’s relation to urban environ- ments, and on architecture as sculptural surrounding, are further themes which thread throughout the exhibition. It’s bitingly explored in works like “Fuck the Bauhuas” (2000) and “New Buildings for Berlin” (2004), and can also be retraced to her early concrete sculptures, which evoke the ruins and drab landscapes that characterized post-war Germany. Genzken often criticized what she deemed a “missed opportunity” in the urban renewal of Berlin; her dangerous love affair with the city of New York produced a plethora of works both romanticizing and com- menting on the city’s unique mix of chaos and regulation.

The final space houses the chillingly moving series “Ground Zero” (2008). Here, Genzken suggests models for the reconstruction at Ground Zero, including a “Memorial Tower”, an “Osama Fashion Store”, and a nightclub named “Disco Soon”. Working across a variety of techniques including sculpture, painting, photogra- phy, collage, drawings, film, installations and assemblages, Genzken’s rare and radical artistic freedom lies at the core of her rich and influential practice, now duly introduced to a wider American audience.