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15 Art Exhibitions to View in N.Y.C. This Weekend

[Read about the events that our other critics have chosen for the week ahead.]

‘MORONI: THE RICHES OF RENAISSANCE PORTRAITURE’ at the Frick Collection (through June 2). Moroni, among the best of underappreciated Renaissance painters, brought a new level of naturalism to his subjects, who included lavishly dressed aristocrats but also scholars and tradesmen. (See his depiction of an extraordinarily handsome, sensitive and contemporary-looking tailor.) We seem to be looking at real people as they existed, unidealized, meticulously observed and psychologically present, especially in their direct appraising gazes. A thrilling show. (Smith)
212-288-0700, frick.org

‘RADICALISM IN THE WILDERNESS: JAPANESE ARTISTS IN THE GLOBAL 1960S’ at Japan Society (through June 9). This sturdy addition to our story of the global 1960s, organized by the respected art historian Reiko Tomii, introduces American audiences to three bold positions in Japanese art — by one solo figure and two collectives who all worked far from the lights of Tokyo. Yutaka Matsuzawa, a Conceptualist with a Buddhist streak working in a forest near Nagano, made posters and mail art that aimed to imagine a world of total nothingness. The group GUN, in agrarian Niigata, produced breathtaking land art by filling pesticide sprayers with pigment and spewing color across fresh snow. And the Play, a collective in the Kansai region, sailed together on barges or built tree houses on hillsides to rediscover freedoms beyond social boundaries. The lesson: It’s not just the opposition of East and West that needs rethinking, but that of the metropolis and the sticks. (Farago)
212-715-1258, japansociety.org

‘SCENES FROM THE COLLECTION’ at the Jewish Museum (ongoing). After a surgical renovation to its grand pile on Fifth Avenue, the Jewish Museum has reopened its third-floor galleries with a rethought, refreshed display of its permanent collection, which intermingles 4,000 years of Judaica with modern and contemporary art by Jews and gentiles alike — Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman and the excellent young Nigerian draftswoman Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze. The works are shown in a nimble, nonchronological suite of galleries, and some of its century-spanning juxtapositions are bracing; others feel reductive, even dilettantish. But always, the Jewish Museum conceives of art and religion as interlocking elements of a story of civilization, commendably open to new influences and new interpretations. (Farago)
212-423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org

‘T. REX: THE ULTIMATE PREDATOR’ at the American Museum of Natural History (through Aug. 9, 2020). Everyone’s favorite 18,000-pound prehistoric killer gets the star treatment in this eye-opening exhibition, which presents the latest scientific research on T. rex and also introduces many other tyrannosaurs, some discovered only this century in China and Mongolia. T. rex evolved mainly during the Cretaceous period to have keen eyes, spindly arms and massive conical teeth, which could bear down on prey with the force of a U-Haul truck; the dinosaur could even swallow whole bones, as affirmed here by a kid-friendly display of fossilized excrement. The show mixes 66-million-year-old teeth with the latest 3-D prints of dino bones, and also presents new models of T. rex as a baby, a juvenile and a full-grown annihilator. Turns out this most savage beast was covered with — believe it! — a soft coat of beige or white feathers. (Farago)
212-769-5100, amnh.org

‘THE WORLD BETWEEN EMPIRES: ART AND IDENTITY IN THE ANCIENT MIDDLE EAST’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through June 23). The Met excels at epic-scale archaeological exhibitions, and this is a prime example. It brings together work made between 100 B.C. and A.D. 250 in what we now know as Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. In the ancient world, all were in the sphere of two competing superpowers — Rome to the west and Parthia to the east — and though imperial influence was strong, it was far from all-determining. Each of the subject territories selectively grafted it onto local traditions to create distinctive new grass-roots cultural blends. Equally important, the show addresses the fate of art from the past in a politically fraught present. (Cotter)
212-535-7710, metmuseum.org

‘BETYE SAAR: KEEPIN’ IT CLEAN’ at the New-York Historical Society (through May 27). Saar has been making important and influential work for nearly 60 years. Yet no big New York museum has given her a full retrospective, or even a significant one-person show, since a 1975 solo at the Whitney Museum of American Art. As this exhibition demonstrates, the institutional oversight is baffling, as her primary themes — racial justice and feminism (her 1972 breakthrough piece, “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” merges the two by transforming the racist stereotype of the smiling black mammy into an armed freedom fighter) — are exactly attuned to the present. (Cotter)
212-873-3400, nyhistory.org

‘NARI WARD: WE THE PEOPLE’ at the New Museum (through May 26). The persistent and liberating message in Ward’s sculpture and room-size installations is that art can be made from virtually anything. In this midcareer retrospective, anything means old carpets, plastic bags, bottles, zippers, bed springs, keys and furniture. Although the exhibition includes a number of large installations, Ward is best as a creator of curious and discrete sculptures, ones that remind us that our world is filled with potentially magical objects. We enter museums expecting to be transformed, but if we shift our perspective and look around us, we’ll see that everyday life is really just art waiting to happen. (Martha Schwendener)
212-219-1222, newmuseum.org


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