Summer Culture Preview

Sizzling Color, Paula Modersohn-Becker, a Gilded Age Master

Though far from the most renowned today, the Jewish Museum may have been the single most important art institution in New York during the nineteen-sixties, arguably the single most important decade in New York art history; had it never existed, the careers of umpteen major sculptors and painters wouldn’t have been the same. “Overflow, Afterglow: New Work in Chromatic Figuration” (opening May 23) gathers paintings, sculptures, and installations by seven artists, most of them under forty, and continues the museum’s honorable tradition of making worthy, unfamiliar names more familiar. “Chromatic” is putting it mildly—the colors pop and sizzle, and anyone who visits in the hopes of escaping the summer temperatures will find a different kind of heat waiting inside.

If the Jewish Museum leaves you thirsty for more lush brightness, the Brazilian multidisciplinary artist Tadáskía brings enough for everybody with the MOMA exhibition “Projects: Tadáskía,” presented in collaboration with the Studio Museum in Harlem (May 24). The centerpiece, holding court in the museum’s street-level galleries all summer, is a sixty-one-part free-form drawing, titled “ave preta mística mystical black bird,” which relays a tale of mythic, triumphant journeying—a fitting theme for the artist’s first solo show in the U.S.

A second artist getting her first major museum show in the U.S. is the German Expressionist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, who died in 1907, at the age of thirty-one. Though perhaps best known for her correspondences with her friend Rainer Maria Rilke, she produced more than seven hundred paintings, the most astonishing of which are her nude self-portraits, often thought to be the first created by a female artist. That some of these images depict her pregnant adds a melancholy subtext she couldn’t have intended: it was a postpartum embolism that ended her life. A year earlier, she told Rilke, “I am Me, and hope to become that more and more,” a mini-manifesto that inspired the name of the exhibition “Paula Modersohn-Becker: Ich Bin Ich” (June 6), at the Neue Galerie.

Is it possible for a creative figure whose works are beloved and synonymous with the superlative to be underappreciated? With “Collecting Inspiration: Edward C. Moore at Tiffany & Co.” (June 9), the Met fêtes a Gilded Age master who helped make the world’s most famous jewelry firm what it remains today. More than a hundred and eighty pieces from Moore’s personal collection, ranging from Japanese lacquerware to Venetian glass, along with seventy pieces from Tiffany, where he served as chief designer for more than two decades, present a thorough case for Moore as an essential craftsman and a great artist.

Later that month, a different collector by the name of Moore assists the Morgan Library & Museum with its centennial celebrations. “Far and Away: Drawings from the Clement C. Moore Collection” (June 28) comprises around seventy-five works by Rembrandt, Peter Lely, Hendrick Goltzius, and others—great news if you care about art and even better news if you love the Dutch Old Masters. Moore was named after his ancestor, the author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas”; this summer, at the Morgan, Christmas comes early.

If Christmas in summer isn’t climate confusion enough, pay a visit to the eighth floor of the Whitney Museum, where, on June 29, the 1972 installation “Survival Piece #5: Portable Orchard,” created by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, makes its museum début. Eighteen live trees occupy the space, their peacefulness a reproof to the growing emergency beyond them. Sometimes the past makes us think, Now we know better, and other times—hot on the heels of what was probably the hottest spring on record, for instance—it makes us realize that we haven’t learned much at all.—Jackson Arn


“Summer for the City,” a Virginia Woolf Ballet

In summer, if you’re lucky, dance can include fresh air, beautiful views, even fireflies. For the third year in a row, Lincoln Center will be transformed into an outdoor urban playground, complete with a giant disco ball, as part of “Summer for the City” (June 12-Aug. 10). Classes, silent-disco dancing (with music provided via headphones), and themed dance parties, from swing to mambo, animate the center’s grounds—as do more formal performances. During “India Week” (July 10-14), the British dancer-choreographer Aakash Odedra—trained in kathak and bharata natyam—and the Chinese dancer-choreographer Hu Shenyuan bring their collaboration, “Samsara” (July 11-12), to the Rose Theatre at Jazz at Lincoln Center. In this tale of discovery, based on a sixteenth-century Chinese novel recounting the travels of a Buddhist monk, Odedra’s lithe, quick-footed dancing meets Hu’s liquid, shape-shifting style.

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