Prominent Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Has a New Art Project Coming to NY

A photo of famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Photo credit: J Morc / Shutterstock

“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” is an idiom that only takes a little bit of thought to understand. The idea is that knowing where to draw a boundary makes it easy to keep relationships friendly. It is also the title of Ai Weiwei’s large-scale public art project, coming to New York City this autumn.

The Chinese artist intends to build more than 100 fences and fence-like installations scattered all over the city. There will be ten major installations and many smaller works. The fences will be in varied, architectural shapes, with many kinds of doors to allow visitors to interact with them.

“This is the most ambitious that we’ve undertaken since I’ve been here,” said Nicholas Baume in an interview with the New York Times. Baume is the director of the Public Art Fund, which is backing the exhibition as part of their year-long 40th anniversary celebration.

Mr. Ai has said that this work, while superficially appearing to be a blatant statement for reinforcing borders in today’s political environment, is in fact the opposite. In recalling the many countries who have recently closed their borders, it asks viewers to be mindful of whose purpose walls serve. He calls it a reaction to “a retreat from the essential attitude of openness” in America today. The Robert Frost poem from which he borrowed the installation’s title is, after all, a story of neighbors who are friends, who are freely welcome to cross the “good fences.”

Mr. Ai’s other recent artwork supports this interpretation. He is a political creator, with exhibitions like “Laundromat,” made of the abandoned items of a refugee camp, and “Hansel and Gretel,” also in New York City, which critiques the encroaching of surveillance culture and the sacrifices of privacy.

“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” will open in multiple boroughs on October 12th. An end date has not yet been announced.

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Effects of the Travel Ban Are Still Felt in the Art World

A map of the United States with barbed wire all around it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The New York art scene has made it a point in recent times to showcase the ways in which the Middle East and the Muslim world have contributed to the global cultural wealth. With the Museum of Modern Art replacing their permanent galleries with art from countries affected by Mr. Trump’s travel ban, like Jordan and Iran, it’s clear that the city’s curators want their opinions to be known.

Even with the travel ban being blocked as unconstitutional several times over by court orders now, its ugly ripples continue to spread. One such ripple is seen in the Aipad Photography Show, which opened Thursday, March 30th and runs through Sunday, April 2nd. One empty booth, near the entrance, will bear only a single piece of white paper.

“Due to the recent travel ban and the uncertainty of international travel from countries identified in the ban, Ag Galerie, Tehran, is unable to participate in the Photography Show this year.”

Ag Galerie is Iranian-owned and represents over a dozen photographers from that country. Collectively, they would have been the first presence from Iran in Aipad, which lauds itself as “the longest-running and foremost exhibition dedicated to the photographic medium.” More than 115 galleries from five continents will be there. But not Ag Galerie.

The owners of the gallery felt that the risk to themselves and their collection is too high to brave U.S. customs and immigration.

Aipad’s president, Catherine Edelman, is more than willing to leave the booth empty to make its quiet statement.

“It’s a quiet way of acknowledging what’s going on,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s important for the art world to acknowledge the immigration ban and the effect it’s having on the arts.”

That white note, however, does not make half the statement that Ag Galerie’s collection could have done, particularly the works of photographer Bahman Jalili, who documented the Iran-Iraq war in crisp, unforgiving black-and-white.

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Carole Feuerman’s Realistic Artwork on Display at One Exchange Plaza

A realistic sculpture of a female swimmer created by artist Carole Feuerman.

A sculpture by world renowned artist Carole Feuerman.
Photo credit: lev radin / Shutterstock

The lobby inside the One Exchange Plaza on Broadway is one of New York City’s newest art spaces. Currently on display is Carole Feuerman’s hyperrealistic sculptures. They bring a strange, soft humanity to the gallery. The display is titled PERCEPTION | In the Eye of the Beholder.

Feuerman’s sculptures are breathtaking to see. Most of her sculptures are from her “swimmers” collection, which are life-size sculptures and paintings of women in their bathing suits. Each one is so realistic that they depict even the tiniest of details such as water droplets on the skin and wet eyelashes. Some sculptures even show side-boob and skin folds. If the artist were to sneak a live model among the set, it would be difficult to tell which she was.

Each sculpture is juxtaposed against the cartoonish shape of inflatable pool toys. The pool toys even have plastic gloss, making them appear even more lifelike. It is with good reason that Feuerman is called “the reigning doyenne of super-realism” by those in the field. In the ’70s, she was one of three leaders in a movement towards photo-real sculptures.

Also featured are her paintings and prints. Many of these serve as the inspiration behind her large sculptures. Just like her sculptures, she paints with the finest of detail.

PERCEPTION was made possible for One Exchange Plaza by Chashama, a nonprofit foundation that collaborates with property owners to make business spaces into art galleries. Chashama currently manages over 120 artist studios, six galleries, five curated office lobbies, two performance halls, and provides affordable housing to artists in need.

Due to its popularity, PERCEPTION has been extended until April 23rd. The closing reception is still set for April 17th, which was originally intended to be the final day.

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Eerie Sci-Fi Sculptures Coming to Manhattan’s City Hall Park

A picture of City Hall Park.

City Hall Park in Manhattan.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Katja Novitskova is an Estonian artist whose art has shown in a dozen countries since her first solo show in Berlin in the mid-2000s. Only 33, she’s young to be given a massive stage like City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan, but her art is world-scale and deserves the platform.

In the grassy, arboreal park, the exhibition will set man-sized images of Earth’s stranger creatures on planet-like plates of dyed and sculpted aluminum alongside the footpaths, each work between six and eight feet across. Squid, hydras, round worms and the like, digitally embossed on the plates, will feature in the show, which is called “Earth Potential.”

Novitskova, who is primarily a digital artist, wants to demonstrate the relationship between today’s culture of omnipresent digital imagery and the environment, specifically how the technology available in all of our pockets has affected the ways we look at the natural world.

The subtext under the images is that all of the animals that Novitskova has chosen to feature are creatures being studied for biotech research. The brains of roundworms have been digitized for research reasons, for example. Squids are studied for their brains, geckos for their legs and their unusual skin. Hydra may hold the secrets to self-replicating nanotech.

“Earth Potential” is being brought to the park this summer, from June 22 to November 9, by New York City’s Public Art Fund, under the curatorship of Emma Enderby.

“From the micro to the macro, Novitskova brings to life a world that was once invisible but now, due to advances in satellite cameras and electronic microscopes, can be pictured in great detail,” Enderby had to say in a public statement. “These images are also of living forms that are used in the scientific community to synthetically change the future of our planet. With this, Novitskova invites the viewer to reflect on the ways in which we see our world and how we perceive the potential of the Earth.”

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Last Chance to See the Ray Hamilton Exhibit

A clock that is minutes away from reaching 12:00. The words "closing soon" are written on the clock.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Currently at the Kerry Schuss Gallery is a very special exhibition. Many retrospectives cover decades, but this one is only six years long. It is a sensitive, sweet coverage of the artist’s recovery from a serious stroke in 1990, and the work he created from that point up until his death in 1996.

A navy veteran from South Carolina, Hamilton was taking art classes through a nonprofit called Healing Arts Initiative (or H.A.I) as he relearned his body. With pens, pencils, and paint on large sheets of cheap paper, he traced objects of his life over and over. You can see how he struggled to keep a pen steady, or where he practiced writing his own name in huge, wandering letters.

There’s nothing childlike in his art, despite the deceptively remedial subject choices. When he draws his hands and paints them clumsily in blue with red blogs for nails, the right hand is twisted, just like his. When he draws shoes or feet, they are always staggered slightly, like those of a man who walks with effort. Windows are high on the page, as they would be seen by someone who spent more time in a chair than standing. A single clock, drawn with particular care, seems to be full of tense waiting. A knotted fist and a cane, both colored in with furious blue hatching in ball-point pen, are surrounded by seemingly manic lists of numbers. Costs? Days? There’s no knowing.

The only writings we have by Ray Hamilton are the things in the background of his artworks—lists and places and the occasional far-off date. Mostly his own name, scrawled or printed in a painstakingly stylized print or somewhere in-between, unmistakably the marks of a man trying to affirm for himself that he is who he always has been: Ray Hamilton.

Ray Hamilton: Drawings began in January and will continue through March 12th. Kerry Schuss Gallery is located at 34 Orchard Street, Manhattan. See it before it’s gone.

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Todd Webb’s ‘A City Seen’ Coming to Museum of the City of New York

A photo of the New York City skyline.

Photo credit: ThinAir / Shutterstock

Todd Webb (1905–2000) arrived in New York in 1946, armed with a camera and the training of a Navy photographer. By then, he’d already worked with other photography greats like Ansel Adams and Harry Callahan. But Webb ultimately made a name for himself with the images he took of the American military in the South Pacific Theater.

In New York, what he saw and fell in love with was the everyday life of the people who surrounded him. His first major show, I See a City, happened in that year with the aid of Beaumont NewHall and Grace Mayer in the Museum of the City of New York.

His photography of New York was that of a man exploring at street level. Walking, finding beauty in anything he sees. He loved the small, crowded shops of Third Avenue. The elevated trains, the street markets and food vendors and the busy ant-like life of the sidewalk commuter.

On April 20th, over 70 years after that first exhibition, the Museum of the City of New York will once again host Webb’s vision. His second solo exhibition in the same halls, A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York, 1945-1960 will be a retrospective of more than 100 prints from that 15 years of the photographer’s wanderings, highlighted by excerpts of writings both by Webb and his artistic contemporaries.

Alongside his original prints, made using large format film and a tripod for which he became known, there will be new prints made by artist John Hill using negatives from the era; most by Walker Evans, but some by Webb as well.

Concurrently to this exhibition, The Curator Gallery in Chelsea will be hosting Down Any Street, another collection of Webb’s photographs from the same time period.

A City Seen begins April 20th and will go until September 4th of this year. The museum operates on a “suggested admission” system, which is $18 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and free for ages 19 and under.

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A Review of “Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work”

An illustration by Raymond Pettibon of a naked woman carrying a bloody ax.

Artwork by Raymond Pettibon.
Image courtesy of jlggb at Flickr Creative Commons.

Holland Cotter of the New York Times describes Raymond Pettibon’s art as having a “prickly, manic feel.” He also calls it “a steady indictment of American culture… over the past 60 years.” Anyone who visits the “Raymond Pettbon: A Pen of All Work” exhibit at the New Museum in Manhattan may very well agree with him.

The collection is as much a through-a-lens view on American history as it is an artist’s retrospective. In pen, ink, and paint, hundreds of portraits and comics spread across three floors of the New Museum, most illuminated by the artist’s pointed titles, comments, and captions. There is a collection of historical monsters: Hitler, Stalin, Lenin. There are also sketched summaries of the Vietnam War, of Korea, of Iraq.

Going farther back along the path of retrospective, viewers can see the birth of themes that Pettibon would track for his whole career. In grade school, back when Raymond Pettibon was Raymond Ginn, he drew surfers and soldiers, landscapes and Olympic athletes.

Recently, while in his 50s, he annotated those early sketchings. One, particularly poignant, was done in crayon: a picture of Nazi fighter planes. Now it sports a Proust quote that elevates the idea of a child drawing war machines and dreaming of his own battles:

“They are innocent enough as long as they are regarded as mere toys.”

It is a phrase that could be applied to much more of his artwork. Much of it can be interpreted as silly and aimless, unless one steps closer to read his spidery penciled comments.

Today, Pettibon continues to make pithy comments and observations about the world on his Twitter feed, though he produces art as he always has. This likely won’t be his final retrospective.

“Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work” will run at the New Museum through April 9, 2017. Information can be found at newmuseum.org or by calling (212) 219-1222.

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