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End of Summer Museum Round-up: Part 1

A. E. Colas, Contributing Writer, August 21, 2017

As we edge toward the end of summer we often find ourselves wanting to get that last bit of pleasure and enjoyment out of season. August can be one of those times of year when you just don’t want to have to do much of anything. You’ve been to the big name shows at the big name museums and although you enjoyed them all, it’s time to slow down, see something a little more interesting, maybe something off the beaten path and get some new ideas. ZEALnyc knows exactly what you need: a smaller museum with a tight focus on a subject or idea. In the first of this two part series, we’ll be highlighting six of New York’s best specialty arts institutions—places where you can see shows that the big museums just can’t match for quality and enjoyment.

Jacob Lawrence: ‘The Architect;’ (1959); Egg tempera on Masonite, 13 5/8 × 17 1/2 in.; courtesy of The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Hathinas.

The Studio Museum in Harlem (144 West 125th Street) is presenting some excellent shows this summer. Rico Gatson: Icons 2007-2017 (until August 27) takes famous images of noted African-Americans and by applying a variety of markings to them, changes the mood and intent of the originals. Jamal Shabazz: Crossing 125th (until August 27) is a collection of 25 years of street photography centered on the Harlem community in all its beauty and complexity. Their Own Harlems (until January 7, 2018) is a show honoring the 100th anniversary of Jacob Lawrence’s birth. This group exhibit displays a variety of viewpoints regarding the urban experience of African-Americans, not just in Harlem but in locations throughout the United States. It’s a great chance to see some fine works from the museum’s permanent holdings. If you want to see what the future of photography will look like, stop at Impressions: Expanding the Walls 2017 (until August 27), the Studio Museum’s program for young artists enrolled in high school or equivalent programs. This eight month photography residency gives these teenagers access to intensive teaching by professionals, using the work of James VanDerZee, the noted African-American photographer as a starting point. For more information about all the exhibits click here.

The Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street) has a wide ranging group of exhibits. A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York 1945-1960 (until September 4), is a beautiful show of photographs and journal entries chronicling Webb’s curiosity and delight in the variety of people and places. AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism (until October 22) discusses how artists and activists grappled with the start of the crisis, continuing on to today’s commitment to education, medical research and community support. It’s the kind of show MCNY does so well, weaving social and artistic issues into an exhibit that informs and educates in equal measures. Then to cheer yourself up, check out Rhythm & Power: Salsa in New York (until November 26). Learn how salsa isn’t just a dance: it is cultural history and identity, the merging of Latin and Afro-Caribbean cultures, a business, an art form, and a method to promote activism. For details about these and other ongoing exhibits click here.

Florine Stettheimer: ‘Family Portrait II’ (1933); Oil on canvas 46º x 64? in. (117.4 x 164 cm); Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Miss Ettie Stettheimer, 1956.

The Jewish Museum (1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street) focuses on the work and influence of Florine Stettheimer, a painter, designer and poet. If you grew up in 1970s – 90s New York City and ever visited the Museum of the City of New York’s toy collection gallery, you already know the name: her sister designed and furnished an elaborate dollhouse that was the star of the exhibit space. It had original paintings and sculptures by family friends in the modernist art world, as well as luxuriously dressed dolls and beautiful objects. Even now, you can see the house and of course, pretend that you’re small enough to enter that enchanting world. (For the length of the Jewish Museum exhibit you’ll get free same day entry to the Museum of the City of New York by showing your ticket at the MCNY admissions desk.) Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry (until September 24) is a survey of this artist deeply influenced by the avant-garde artistic movements of the early 20th century. Through her paintings, designs for theater productions, and poetry, Stettheimer examined and critiqued the world around her, while also redefining what it meant to be a woman artist in the modern age. To explore more click here.

The Cooper Hewitt (2 East 91st Street) has a gorgeous exhibit called Jeweled Splendors of the Art Deco Era: The Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection (until August 27). These small masterpieces are some of the finest creations of European and American jewelers, ranging from cigarette cases to mystery clocks. The design and skills involved in these items elevate them from utilitarian objects to artistic statements. After seeing that show, take a look at what current designers are doing in Making | Breaking: New Arrivals (until October 29). These items are newly acquired by the museum and all are thought-provoking takes on current ideas and challenges in design. For all the details click here.

The Amazing Spider-Man #97, unpublished cover, ‘In the Grip of the Goblin!;’ written by Stan Lee, penciled by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia, Lettered by Sam Rosen, June 1971; courtesy of the Society of Illustrators, from the collection of Mike Burkey.

The Society of Illustrators (128 East 63rd Street) is featuring shows related to popular culture. The Art of Spider-Man (until August 26) is a full survey of the super hero’s creation, from his first appearance in 1962 to the present day. There are original finished drawings as well as background on the artists, the evolution of the Marvel Comics look, its influence on other characters and the industry as a whole. The other exhibit at the Society is The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature (until August 26). These fantastically detailed images were used to great effect by Shasta Publishers, one of the earliest publishing houses to collect and organize writings in the genres of sci-fi and fantasy. Their illustrated book covers were a step up from the usual pulp images, stimulating the imaginations of readers. To learn more click here.

Foo/Skou: ‘Birdprint’ (2014); photo by Maria Marqvard/Courtesy of artists.

The Museum of Arts and Design (2 Columbus Circle) gives the visitor audio (and mental) overload with their exhibit Sonic Arcade: Shaping Space with Sound (August 22, 2017 through February 11, 2018). The show examines how sound can be felt, seen, and even be a substance by using a variety of solo and curated installations. It’s a fascinating idea that has sparked the imagination of these artists, designers, and performers — you’ll be thinking about this show for a long time to come. To find out more click here.


Check back next week for End of Summer Museum Round-Up: Part 2.


Cover: Florine Stettheimer: ‘Beauty Contest: To the Memory of P.T. Barnum’ (1924); Oil on canvas, 50 x 60Ω in. (127 x 152.4 cm); Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, Gift of Ettie Stettheimer, 1947.


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