Spring Guide: The season in art exhibitions

Richard Serra Credit: Richard Serra
Richard Serra’ 1967 “To Life,” made of vulcanized rubber
Credit: Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society

Art galleries have to stake a balance between the old and the new: celebrate (or unearth) the past while revealing fresh work. As ever this season brings forth a mix of both.

In 1966, after working on it for eight years, the late artist Jay De Feo threw in the towel on “The Rose,” a gargantuan painting that had grown to 12 feet and a ton in weight, crammed inside her apartment. A rent increase forced her to move, and the avant-garde filmmaker Bruce Conner (“A Movie”) was there to film the deconstruction. Today, “The Rose” is interred at the Whitney. Meanwhile, Conner’s short film — called “The White Rose” — will briefly be available on a constant loop from April 25 to May 12 in the Whitney’s ongoing De Feo retrospective.

In addition to being one of the world’s preeminent minimalist sculptors, Richard Serra has also dabbled in filmmaking. A number of his films will be available in the program “Richard Serra: Early Work” (April 12-June 15) at David Zwirner, which focuses on works from 1966, the year of his first solo show, to 1971. At this point, his obsession with steel and nontraditional materials — neon, lead, vulcanized rubber — was first piqued, as was an interest in playing with gravity. Lehmann Maupin will also feature a series of work by Billy Childish (Mar. 28-Apr. 27), the English renaissance man whose work focuses, in part, on the sexual abuse he experienced as a child.

Among the upcoming exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum is one on John Singer Sargent, best known for his portraits of the Edwardian era, who was also a prolific practitioner of watercolors. “John Singer Sargent Watercolors” (April 5-July 8) offers 38 of these, most of them collected by the Brooklyn Museum during his 1909 debut exhibition in NYC, and many of those not seen for decades. There will also be a survey of the paintings of Ted Stamm, the New York artist who died in 1984, at the Marianne Boesky Gallery (through April 27). The time range spans from 1973 to 1981, and includes work that aims for the spontaneity of his conceptual works.

The Museum of Modern Art will turn to a more modern artist, Mateo López. From 2008 to 2010, López travelled through his native Colombia, a country torn between guerillas, cartels and rebels, drawing all that he saw. “A Trip From Here to There” (March 15-July 30) collects the results from his nomadic wandering.

The Hugh Boss Prize has gone to luminaries like Matthew Barney. Last year it went to Danh Vo, whose sculptures and collections of objects comment on displacement, a feeling he experienced when his family fled Vietnam for Denmark. Vo gets a solo show at the Guggenheim, allowing his work to travel and be placed in a different context.


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