Walker Evans: Decade by Decade
Cincinnati Art Museum, through Sept. 5
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Taking in Walker Evans’ entire career, this remarkable show “brilliantly reveals why he is among the canon of great 20th-century photographers,” said Christopher A. Yates in the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch. Evans’ most famous photographs, taken during the Great Depression, “highlight the plight of individuals in forgotten corners of America.” Yet many of the strongest images in this exhibition come from later decades, during which he chronicled the rise of consumer culture in America and captured countless “stark depictions” of aging architecture across the country.
The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme
Getty Center, through Sept. 12
You can call Jean-Léon Gérôme’s art campy, dated, retrograde, or even racist—but don’t call it unimaginative, said Jori Finkel in the Los Angeles Times. In the late 19th century, the French painter became famous for his “exquisitely decorated scenes of the Near East,” which helped shape Western views of the Arab world. His visions of enslaved women and violent men have been criticized for spreading racist clichés. This exhibition provides a chance to look again at an artist who, though he “embodied some common prejudices” of the time, was a technical master with a genuine curiosity about unfamiliar cultures.
Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense
Museum of Modern Art, through Aug. 30
Sculptor Lee Bontecou sometimes seems to have a “fascination with the extraterrestrial,” said Robert Shuster in The Village Voice. The menacing, odd-looking forms in her drawings and pastels look like nothing so much as sci-fi aliens. Yet the sculptures in this small exhibition suggest her inspirations are more earthly—the spindly, organic forms seen in plant life. “The exhibit’s centerpiece,” a large hanging mobile that incorporates piano wire, gold mesh, and porcelain, is a burst of aesthetic energy “as elegant as an arrangement of flowers.”
Neue Galerie, through Aug. 30
Otto Dix’s paintings from the 1920s have an “ebullient daring” and a willingness to embrace the seedy side of Weimar-era Berlin, said Sanford Schwartz in The New York Review of Books. Delineating “facial and bodily features like some combination of political cartoonist and illustrator of scary children’s books,” he created portraits of male professionals and women from the demimonde that together portray a sophisticated but frighteningly unstable society. This unprecedented exhibition of his paintings features much that’s “wonderful (or at least eye-opening),” but there’s too much repetitive late work and too few of the energetic early experiments with which he formed his mature style.
Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay
De Young Museum, through Sept. 6
These masterworks from France’s museum of 19th-century art rarely travel, said Kenneth Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle. So this might be your best chance in a long while to study the origins of the impressionist movement as well as “the multiple paths along which it evolved.” The exhibition begins with the old-guard, academic-style paintings of artists such as Adolphe-William Bouguereau, then follows “the arc of artistic change” from the plein-air studies of Camille Pissarro to the revolutionary innovations of artists such as Claude Monet. One surprise: Impressionism’s immediate predecessors were by no means as “creatively bankrupt” as you might think.
Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Power
Hirshhorn Museum, through Sept. 12
Yves Klein “was convinced from the outset he was bound for greatness,” said Pepe Karmel in Art in America. He was right: Before dying in 1962, at the tragically young age of 34, the French artist made important and influential examples of conceptual, minimalist, and performance art. The works that seem most likely to endure, however, are his luminescent monochrome paintings—especially those created in the searing, brilliant shade he trademarked as International Klein Blue. “The seductive intensity of their colors and textures can be experienced fully only firsthand.”
Picasso Looks at Degas
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, through Sept. 12
The relationship between the art of Pablo Picasso and that of his older contemporary Edgar Degas has “never seriously” been explored before, said Sebastian Smee in The Boston Globe. Yet for several years in the early 1900s they both shared the streets of Paris, creating paintings inspired by the “rolling spectacle of popular and erotic entertainments.” While Degas viewed his middle-class subjects with a “quality of detachment,” Picasso fully identified with the downtrodden, bohemian, and dissolute. Picasso’s deep regard for his elder still shows through in the Spaniard’s own late-career treatments of bathers and ballet dancers—favorite subjects of Degas.
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