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Art Break: Exploring the Premise of ‘What If?’ At Galleries All Around Town

By A. E. Colas, Contributing Writer, October 9, 2017

Have you ever thought to yourself, “What if?” As in: What if I walk down a different street today? What if I get off a stop earlier or later on the train? What if I say good morning to that cute person I always see in the elevator? This week Art Break highlights people who said and then acted on the idea of what if.

Our downtown pick shows Alfred H. Barr and Philip Johnson saying what if we try following the idea of removing ornament from objects and focused on form alone? In Chelsea the Arte Povera movement demonstrates how 20th century Italian artists said what if we use simple materials to create works that go against the trends of abstract painting, minimalism and technology? Midtown’s offering has photographers using the idea of what if to explore and distort the world we know using Surrealist principles. Finally, the Uptown pick of the teachers and students of Black Mountain College gives the best example of what if. Josef and Anni Albers were artists who taught at the college, Ruth Asawa and Ray Johnson were their students. The courses with their emphasis on design and exchange of ideas provided a framework for all four artists to explore the ‘what if’ in their work.

All listings are free of charge, except the Downtown pick of the Grey Art Gallery, which suggests a donation of $5.

Art Break Downtown:

Where: Grey Art Gallery, 100 Washington Square East

When: September 6 through December 9, Tue: 11-6, Wed 11-8, Thur – Fri: 11-6, Sat: 11-5

Who: Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr and Philip Johnson

What: An examination of how modern design was introduced to America

Why: Learn how much of the world around you was developed by these two men of the arts

Art Break Chelsea:

Where: Hauser & Wirth, 548 West 22nd Street

When: Now through October 28, Tues-Sat: 10-6

Who: Arte Povera curated by Ingvild Goetz

What: An examination of the 20th century Italian art movement

Why: Radical works from 50 years ago still have the power to provoke discussion

Art Break Midtown (up to 59th Street, East or West):

Where: Throckmorton Fine Art, 145 East 57th Street, 3rd Floor

When: Now through December 2, Tues – Sat: 11-5

Who: Surrealismo: Ojos de México/Surrealism: Eyes of Mexico

What: Influence of the surrealist movement on Mexican photography

Why: Classic images that influenced generations of photographers

Art Break Above 60th Street (East or West):

Where: David Zwirner, 34 East 69th Street

When: Now through October 21, Tue – Sat: 10-6

Who: Josef and Anni and Ruth and Ray

What: Four artists who attended or taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina

Why: A progressive institution that gave artists the focus and space to become great

BONUS TIP: Check out David Zwirner’s Chelsea location at 537 West 20th Street to see more of Ruth Asawa’s work after her time at Black Mountain College through October 21.


Cover: Josef Albers: Leaf Study III, c. 1940; leaves and colored paper; 18 x 18 5/8 inches (45.7 x 47.3 cm); © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation; courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London.



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