Spring Arts Guide Picks: Art

Palermo: Works on Paper 1976-1977

April 25–June 29

As noms d'artiste go, he had a ringer. Born Peter Schwarze, the adopted Peter Heisterkamp was rechristened Blinky Palermo by his teacher Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Beuys, it seems, found the physical resemblance between the promising young student and an American gangster too good to pass up. The nickname stuck—an auspicious beginning for a moody, brilliant figure who would eventually be seen as the James Dean of 1970s European painting. Talented, handsome, and hard-partying, he died at age 33 under mysterious circumstances in an exotic locale (the Maldives) in 1977. Palermo's short career constituted a kind of Cold War détente between Beuys's romantic utopianism and the clear-eyed materialism of fellow students Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke. An upcoming exhibition of works on paper from a single year of Palermo's three-year sojourn in New York (he lived downtown between 1973 and 1976) captures some of that balancing act. Held at David Zwirner's new West 20th Street location, the exhibition is also Palermo's first in NYC in 26 years. Featuring rarely seen works from private collections and MOMA's vaults, the show presents full-bore Palermo—abstraction that is colorful, restless, and intense. David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, davidzwirner.com

Fred Wilson: Local Color

March 28–June 30

From a celebrated artist whose chosen medium is museology comes a 20-year-old installation made up of age-old African and Caribbean artifacts as well as common objects the artist snapped up on the sidewalks of 125th Street. Titled "Local Color" and originally staged at the Studio Museum in 1993, Wilson's Bobby Womack–meets-orthodox-curator museum display asks questions about what kinds of materials are preserved by history, how they're presented, and, ultimately, whom they represent. The Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 125th Street, studiomuseum.org

Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store

April 14–August 5

From the department of art meets life come two key historical installations by one of New York's pioneering Pop artists, Claes Oldenburg. Consisting of cardboard and burlap cutouts of cars, street signs, and urban motifs, which Oldenburg then graffitied, The Street—originally exhibited in 1960 in the basement of Judson Church in the Village—was followed in 1961 by The Store, a functional shop that sold plaster versions of common thrift-store objects like cigarettes, dresses, and hamburgers. Despite their canonical nature, MOMA's restaging of these historical gems still manages to dissolve the distinction between everyday items and museum treasures. Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org

Velázquez's Portrait of Francesco I d'Este

April 16–July 14

On loan for the first time from Galleria Estense in Modena (temporarily closed since May 2012 because of damage from a devastating earthquake), Velázquez's portrait of a 16th-century Modenese duke makes clear why the Spanish master is considered by many to be the greatest painter who ever lived. Shown in armor, wearing a red sash, and with smoky peepers turned directly toward the viewer, Velázquez's subject radiates cockiness, sensuality, and world-beating charazzma. The perfect likeness of a Hollywood leading man for an age of plague, war, and pestilence. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, metmuseum.org

Better Homes

April 22–July 22

A group show of contemporary sculpture that examines the changing idea of "home" in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Featured artists include a vibrant roster of established and emerging artists, including Jonathas de Andrade, Neïl Beloufa, Keith Edmier, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Robert Gober, and Kirsten Pieroth. Expect elegant, ironical, and DIY meditations on how interior space has been redefined and redecorated, as well as its evolving impact on people's identity. SculptureCenter, 44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, Queens, sculpture-center.org

Valerie Hegarty: Alternative Histories

May 17–December 1

The second in a series of shows that invite contemporary artists to activate the museum's period rooms, Valerie Hegarty's exhibition invades several antebellum parlors like Tecumseh Sherman vanquishing Savannah. Featuring a Native American–patterned rug sprouting grass, roots, and flowers, and 19th-century still-life paintings with fruit bursting from their frames, Hegarty's movie set–like installations also prove trenchant meditations on memory, mortality, and the weird memorializing function of museums. Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, brooklynmuseum.org

 
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