Cotton Comes to Harlem

Piranesi as Designer
September 14–January 20
Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, 2 E 91st, 212-849-8400

You probably already know his labyrinthine views of "Imaginary Prisons," filled with shafts of Spielbergian light and zigzagging shadows, but Piranesi (1720–1778) only managed such convincing drama through solid compositional skills that resonate with architects and designers to this day. Promising a "major reassessment of Piranesi as a radical design reformer," the show will include comparisons of his work with antique pieces such as an 1802 Settee in the Egyptian Taste, made of gilded and ebonized beech and viridescent silk, and the architectural plans of such modern heavy hitters as Peter Eisenman (represented by his rendering for the Cardinals' stadium in Arizona).

Dara Friedman: Musical
September 17–October 5
Between Grand Central to Central Park South and Broadway to Park Avenue

Jacob Lawrence: “Migration Series”
The Phillips Collection
Jacob Lawrence: “Migration Series”

You're walking along some leafy block just off Park Avenue (you don't live there, of course—just passing through to the Modern), and suddenly the doorman of a tony apartment building steps from under the awning and bursts into song. Later—maybe on your trip back to the No. 6 train—a young girl begins serenading passersby. What's up? Well, since Gotham is the greatest back lot ever, Friedman, a Miami-based video artist, has orchestrated nearly 100 spontaneous performances intended to "turn the volume up on the song that's going on in your head as you're walking down the street." Do we have to tip her crooning cabbies extra?

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Molle Babbe at "the age of rembrandt" at the Met
Metropolitan Museum of Art
"The Age of Rembrandt"
September 18–January 6
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., 212-535-7710

The masters are all here: Rembrandt! Vermeer! Hals! Plus lesser-known artists representing the 228 Dutch paintings in the Met's collection, begun in 1871, when an American publishing magnate acquired a bumper crop of European canvases during the upheavals of the Franco-Prussian War. (Wars are always a good time to snatch up masterpieces at fire-sale prices.) In addition to the marquee names celebrating Rembrandt's 400th birthday (technically, last year), there will be paintings by their imitators—an unforgiving portrait of a stout woman done in the "style of Franz Hals" was described by Henry James as "a miracle of ugliness"—and one of only two known paintings by Margareta Haverman, a luminous and maniacally detailed still life of flowers.

Land Grab
November 7–December 22
up2 Apex Art, 291 Church St., 212-431-5270

Gentrification is the scourge of art. When brokers start eyeing that ratty outer-borough studio warren, can luxury lofts (and artists' migration to Peekskill) be far behind? This show promises artworks that will "explicitly concern themselves with the claiming and naming of space," while considering the ethics of squatting and how "the possession, habitation or designation of a site alters the place itself." The international roster, including Romanian Dan Perjovshci (witty cartoons) and Icelander Katrin Sigurdardottir (topographical constructions), will perhaps give us locals solace—we're not the only ones just workin' for the rent.

"Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road"
November 9–March 16
The New York Public Library, Fifth Ave. and 42nd St., 212-930-0830

This broad exhibit features the Beat icon's "scroll" manuscript of On the Road—60 feet (or roughly half of the entire work) unrolled in specially built glass cases. Ephemera and relics include a pair of crutches Kerouac kept after he'd been injured playing football for Columbia, and a lantern from his days as a railroad brakeman, plus manuscripts and drawings by such usual suspects as William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Topping it off: a selection of lurid paperbacks representing publishers' attempts to cash in on the "Beatnik" wave, and detailed fantasy-baseball materials that Kerouac created as a kid and played with throughout his life.

Ron Klein
December 13–January 5
Howard Scott, 529 W 20th, 646-486-7004

Sponges, sea shells, twisted twigs, and pine cones only hint at the organic cornucopia that Klein pins to the wall in these rhythmically cascading assemblages. The 11-foot-high Monk's Rhyme pairs the double helix of a thickly barbed vine with two large seed pods gathered from equatorial rainforests; these hard-shelled, banana-shaped scoops are filled with wax that has settled at steep angles, as if it had cooled in mid-pour. Klein leavens these natural shapes with springs, steel stars, fan belts, and other industrial bric-a-brac to create elegant deadfalls from some hybrid jungle.

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