Spring Arts Preview: Top 10 Gallery Shows

  • Spring is less than a week away, and it is shaping up to be a very fine one in New York’s galleries. Plenty of esteemed giants are on tap in the coming months (Paul McCarthy at Park Avenue Armory and both Hauser & Wirth locations, Wolfgang Tillmans at Andrea Rosen), and so too are exciting debuts from young artists, like Justin Matherly at Paula Cooper Gallery and Sara VanDerBeek at Metro Pictures.

    Click the slide show at left to take a look at 10 hotly anticipated shows.

  • This year marks the 20th anniversary of Elizabeth Peyton’s career-defining New York show, in a Chelsea Hotel room rented by a scrappy young artist-art dealer named Gavin Brown. That setting is a perfect metaphor for her mature work: intimate, domestically scaled paintings of people—both friends and the famous—at ease, lounging or relaxing. This is Ms. Peyton’s first gallery show in the city since 2008, when she had her New Museum retrospective.

    Elizabeth Peyton, Michelle Obama, 2008. (Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's Enterprise)

  • The German painter Blinky Palermo died young, only 33, in 1977, but in his short life he managed to produce some of postwar art’s wittiest, most urbane abstractions—monochromes made of sewn fabric and bright fields of color on aluminum sheets. They offer a confident but laid-back sophistication. It’s been almost two years since the Dia Art Foundation and Bard College co-hosted a strong retrospective upstate. New York, where Palermo lived in the mid 1970s, should never go so long without him. Remedying this situation, Zwirner will present late works on paper.

    (Courtesy David Zwirner)

  • With luxurious paintings bearing gothic and macabre imagery, Mathieu Malouf has outclassed other ambitious artists in group shows over the past few years. Burying mushrooms, spider webs and transistors in irresistible flavors of resin or latex (a wave of delicious mint, a galaxy of hallucinogenic purples), he conjures the hard-won grit—and glamor—of midcareer German Michaela Eichwald and the relentless, seemingly effortless inventiveness of the late Sigmar Polke. Humor lurks, horribly. Brace yourself.

    Mathieu Malouf, Landscape and Instinct, 2012. (Courtesy the artist and Real Fine Arts)

  • Three years after her quiet, modest show of just a handful of spare photographs at the Whitney and a full seven years after her last solo gallery effort in New York, at D’Amelio Terras, the photographer Sara VanDerBeek will have her first show with Metro Pictures. Ms. VanDerBeek’s images often show sculptural assemblages that she makes in her studio or scenes she comes across in museums or on the street, but they transcend documentation. Carefully posed in shadow and light, the objects she pictures attain all the nuance of a human being; the photos are portraits—elegies, almost—of now-passed moments in a long, slow creative effort.

    Sara VanDerBeek, Roman Women, 2013. (Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures)

  • When historians are trying to piece together how people felt—or at least hoped to feel, at their best moments—in this mad era, Wolfgang Tillmans’s much-imitated photos will provide vital clues. His shots of offhand moments—a cup of coffee shot from above, a jet engine spied out a plane window—embody so much dignity and grace that, when arrayed across walls, as is his style, and paired with intimate portraits, it can be hard to keep it together. Even his abstract images, frequently rendered sans camera through darkroom magic, radiate an enigmatic pathos.

    Wolfgang Tillmans, Schneckenstilleben, 2004. (Courtesy the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery)

  • May is looking like a wild, crowded month, with the second Frieze New York fair and the countless high-profile gallery exhibitions concurrent with it, but Paul McCarthy is almost certain to be crowned one of the season’s kings. At the Park Avenue Armory, the master of every kind of debased grotesquerie will show some sort of fantastical wonderland involving Grimm fairytales. (The show may be “challenging and unsuitable for children,” organizers are already warning.) Meanwhile, Hauser & Wirth will let the dark master of the collective unconscious tackle both of their New York spaces. Expect mayhem.

    Paul McCarthy, White Snow Dwarf (Bashful), 2011. (Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth)

  • This will be Julie Mehretu’s first gallery show of paintings in 11 years and judging by works that have popped up in the intervening time, at the Guggenheim, Documenta 13 and the new Goldman Sachs headquarters, a lot has been changing in her practice. Her intricate, often-febrile tangles of shapes, lines and architectural renderings have grown more intricate, layered, nuanced. (Hard to believe, given the awe-inspiring precision of her early work.) The subject here, loosely speaking, is the Arab Spring, with under drawings that show buildings in Cairo, Tripoli and elsewhere.

    Julie Mehretu, Bayreuth, 2010. (Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery)

  • After five years mounting museum shows around the world, British painter Cecily Brown is back with a gallery show in the town she calls home. Though she once famously quipped that she is interested in the “cheap and nasty,” recent group show appearances have seen her wandering well beyond the large meaty, fleshy, bloody naked bodies that made her famous. She’s working small these days, tight bravura brushstrokes coalescing into abstract fields in which hints of reality always manage to sneak through. What does she have up her sleeve this time?

    Cecily Brown, Shadow Burn, 2005–06. (Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery)