By Dorothy Spears
Historical surveys are a popular mainstay among gallery owners. And now success appears to have multiple fathers, at least if Picasso and a group of European avant-gardists known as the Zero Group are any indication.
In Picasso’s honor, two ambitious surveys, organized by competing galleries, are opening this week.
“Picasso & the Camera,” the most recent in a succession of richly researched surveys curated by Picasso’s biographer John Richardson, includes some 225 photographs, as well as seven home movies made by Picasso, which have never before been seen in the United States. Organized in partnership with Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Picasso’s grandson, the exhibit, opening on Tuesday at the Gagosian Gallery, explores how Picasso employed photography “to study light and the way it fragmented and fractured on different surfaces,” during the emergence of his cubist language, according to Valentina Castellani, a gallery director, and one of the exhibit’s organizers. It also examines the camera’s pivotal role in recording the development of artworks, and in shaping the artist’s public persona. “Picasso was very aware of the image he wanted to convey,” Ms. Castellani said.
Among the exhibits’ many highlights are photographic works Picasso produced with other artists, including Brassai and his mistress Dora Maar. Intimate portraits snapped by friends Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton and Man Ray, and an array of paintings, drawings and sculptures suggest further parallels between the camera and his art. Picasso’s home movies are projected in a discreet central room, while two newsreels run on flat screens on walls of the main gallery. One features a brief clip of Picasso at a bullfight. Arranged like chapters in an unfolding narrative, the display is an apparent attempt to recreate history in the making. (Picasso & the Camera” will remain on view at the Gagosian Gallery, 522 West 21st Street, through Jan. 3).
Intimate images tend to attract a broad public. And opening Friday at two Pace Gallery locations, “Picasso & Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style” highlights portraits Picasso painted of his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, with whom he spent his last two decades. Organized in collaboration with her daughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, the show includes nearly 140 paintings, sculptures and drawings borrowed from museums and private collections worldwide, as well as works on loan from the Picasso family and the estate of Roque, a number of which are being presented publicly for the first time.
In painting Roque, Picasso would sometimes channel the compositions of other masters, among them Delacroix, Manet and Velázquez. “What you really see is that the relationship with Jacqueline is totally different than other relationships. He never distorts her to a grotesque, as he does other people,” said Arne Glimcher, the owner of Pace and the show’s organizer. The exhibit claims as perhaps its biggest coup a loan of 25 portraits that Picasso offered to Roque as personal gifts. Among these is a fanciful image of Roque dressed as a bride, even though, according to Mr. Glimcher, “They didn’t have that kind of a wedding.”
“Picasso & Jacqueline” is the sixth Picasso survey organized by Pace. The last one was in 2007. (“Picasso & Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style” runs at Pace galleries on 32 East 57th Street and 534 West 25th Street through Jan. 10.)
The art world’s continued fascination with Minimalism has led to a focus on its antecedents around New York this fall. Of particular interest is a coterie of European artists known as the Zero Group that originated in the 1950s in Düsseldorf, Germany, and forged a spirited response to the devastation caused by World War II. As an overview of the group’s prodigious and genre-bending output, “Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-60s,”at the Guggenheim Museum through Jan. 7, offers a logical starting point. For further instruction, however, a cluster of related gallery shows present specific aspects of the radical avant-garde movement.
“Heinz Mack: From Zero to Today, 1955-2014,” at the Sperone Westwater Gallery, 257 Bowery, through Dec. 13, presents a career survey of the group’s co-founder. The exhibit features shimmering reliefs composed of an array of unusual materials, such as synthetic resin, aluminum strips and sawdust. Rarely seen photographs from the 1960s and more recent geometric paintings are included.
A related show, “Local History: Enrico Castellani, Donald Judd, Frank Stella,” hinges on the relationship between Mr. Castellani, a prominent member of the Italian branch of Zero, and heavyweight American Minimalists. The exhibit, whose title refers to a 1964 review by Judd praising the art of the other two artists, runs in two locations at the Dominique Lévy Gallery. Curated by Linda Norden, an art historian, and Peter Ballantine, an authority on Judd, “Local History” features works from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s that underscore the three artists’ shared obsession with the fine line between painting and sculpture. (“Local History” opens on Thursday at Dominique Lévy, 909 Madison Avenue, where it will remain on view through Jan. 3. The exhibit runs at the Dominique Lévy Gallery at 22 Old Bond Street in London, through Jan. 24.)
David Leiber, a director at the David Zwirner Gallery, organized a watershed reassessment of the Zero Group in 2008 at the Sperone Westwater Gallery, when he was its director. He attributed the recent spate of interest in the group to a 2010 auction of the Lenz collection at Sotheby’s in London. The Lenz’s “were the biggest collectors of Zero,” Mr. Leiber said in an interview, adding that the sale of their Zero holdings drew substantial prices across the board. “That market spark was a wake-up call,” he said.
For his first curatorial endeavor at Zwirner, Mr. Leiber has brought his passion and expertise to a solo show devoted to Jan Schoonhoven, the leader of the Nul group in Holland (Nul means zero in Dutch). Like Mr. Mack, Schoonhoven was fascinated by lyrical plays of light on a variety of materials, Mr. Leiber said, adding that Schoonhoven, a longtime postal clerk who died in 1994, “was a real intellectual, and a poet.” From castoff cardboard boxes protecting appliances and televisions, Schoonhoven fashioned shallow, gridlike reliefs that conjure architectural details of his native Delft in the Netherlands.
Like the stained-glass windows of Delft, Mr. Leiber said, “his wall reliefs come alive when light hits them.” (“Jan Schoonhoven” will be on view at David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, from Jan. 8 through Feb. 21.)
Not all major gallery exposures this fall mine the past. Of those presenting recent work, a two-gallery exhibit of sculptures by the West African artist El Anatsui reveals a more of-the-moment fascination with unusual materials. It also results from a purposeful collaboration between the gallerists Jack Shainman and Sukanya Rajaratnam.
Ms. Rajaratnam, a partner at the Mnuchin Gallery, recalled her first encounter with El Anatusi’s sly critique of Africa’s liquor industry, composed of discarded liquor bottle tops, at the 2007 Venice Biennale. There was “all of this history in addition to astounding beauty,” she said. After seeing Mr. Anatsui’s exhibition, “Gravity and Grace,” at the Brooklyn Museum last year and his enormous sculptural installation for the High Line in Chelsea, Ms. Rajaratnam said she approached Mr. Shainman, Mr. Anatsui’s New York dealer, about a joint show.
The Mnuchin Gallery occupies a converted mansion on the Upper East Side. Its program, which focuses on secondary market sales of postwar art, rarely includes living artists. Yet Ms. Rajaratnam said she saw stylistic echoes between Mnuchin’s more typical fare — Abstract Expressionist and Color Field paintings — and Mr. Anatsui’s glinting, meticulously crafted metal sculptures. Mr. Anatsui also “has a strong market,” she added.
His new sculptures are made of metal bottle caps and — a recent medium — printing plates. “It’s like, having neglected a certain property of the material, and now being aware of it, I’m trying to explore that,” Mr. Anatsui said, speaking from Germany, during a recent Skype interview. (“El Anatsui”will be on view at Jack Shainman, 524 West 24th Street in Chelsea, through Nov. 15, and at the Mnuchin Gallery, 45 East 78 Street, from Tuesday through Dec. 13.)
Multigallery exhibits tend to assume center stage in an art world consumed by an insatiable appetite for ambitious installations and splashy statements. But a number of discreet solo shows in the coming months are also worthy of note.
In the case of Marina Abramovic, a show at the Sean Kelly Gallery is likely to resolve a certain mounting curiosity about her current trajectory. Ms. Abramovic, a New York-based Serbian artist, became an international star when live performances featuring naked dancers accompanied her 2010 retrospective “The Artist is Present” at the Museum of Modern Art. With her first New York exposure in four years, Ms. Abramovic is asking the public to play a more active role in her performances.
Visitors to Ms. Abramovic’s show, which runs through Dec. 6, are asked to abandon their cellphones, electronic devices, cameras and bags — their individual selves, essentially — and place them in lockers. They are then invited to participate in an impromptu performance. Those suffering from cold feet have the option of watching the proceedings from an adjacent viewing area. Others may find themselves engaging in one of the interactive workshops conducted by Ms. Abramovic several times each week. Her high jinks are known to draw crowds, so a warning: Entrance to the gallery is on a first-come, first-served basis. “You won’t be able to book it. It won’t be restricted. It will be very egalitarian,” said Mr. Kelly. (“Marina Abramovic” runs at Sean Kelly, 475 10th Avenue, through Dec. 6.)
Marianne Vitale’s torched bridgelike sculptures of a couple of years ago were described by Karen Rosenberg, a critic for The New York Times, as “potent evocations of an American rural culture in disarray.” For a solo show at the Zach Feuer Gallery, opening on Nov. 11, Ms. Vitale will present large sculptures, made of decommissioned steel from a railroad track facility in Pennsylvania that relate to her installation on the High Line running through March. Monochromatic wall hangings will combine repurposed roofing material and chalk. The flat works relate to music, but there is “something optically reptilian about the surface skin,” Ms. Vitale wrote by email. (“Marianne Vitale” will run until Dec. 19 at Zach Feuer, 548 West 22nd Street.)
Anyone weary of the vast white-box spaces of Chelsea may want to visit the refreshingly human-scale Lower East Side, where a show of recent work by Robert Moskowitz at the Kerry Schuss Gallery presents a potential beacon. Mr. Moskowitz’s paintings have been compared to assemblages by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, fellow veterans of the Leo Castelli Gallery. The coming exhibit of red and black canvases features teapot and cross motifs. It coincides with a display of Mr. Moskowitz’s historic, ’60s-era window-shade paintings and drawings, at the Independent Projects art fair. (“Robert Moskowitz” runs from Nov. 2 through Dec. 21 at the Kerry Schuss Gallery, 34 Orchard Street. The window-shade works will be on view at Mr. Schuss’s booth, Independent Projects, 548 West 22nd Street, Nov. 6 through 11.)