NEW YORK — To see great art in New York City this holiday season, take a festive walk along the Upper East Side’s museum mile. The neighborhood currently hosts a number of must-see exhibitions.
Begin at the Guggenheim Museum, at Fifth Avenue and 89th Street, with the tour-de-force “Picasso: Black and White” (through Jan. 23).
Like fellow Spaniards Diego Velazquez and Francisco Goya before him, Pablo Picasso had a lifelong love affair with black, white and gray, pushing tones to metaphoric extremes to create form.
An odalisque, like a gathering storm, is bruised greenish- plum while two lovers are incised in burnished smoke. One portrait glints like gilded silver. Marie-Therese Walter seems churned out of butter.
Next, travel down Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for “Bernini: Sculpting in Clay” (through Jan. 6) and “Matisse: In Search of True Painting” (through Mar. 17).
These are monumental shows, one of works by a Modernist master and the other of small terracotta studies – preparatory drawings in clay – by a Baroque tempest. The exhibits complement each other, and seeing them together puts the focus on each artist’s unique creative process.
Then head to L&M Arts for “Calder: The Complete Bronzes” (through Feb. 9). Just off Madison Avenue on 78th Street, this beautiful townhouse offers an intimate, two-floor show of Alexander Calder’s small bronze sculptures and many of the original plasters.
Ring the bell for admittance. Inside, primitive and playful elephants, acrobats, abstract snakes, vines, fingers and flowers enliven the galleries with their erotic balancing acts and menacing tendrils.
At the Whitney Museum of American Art, check out the “Richard Artschwager!” retrospective. His paintings are frivolous photorealism, while his sculptures – highly crafted useless furniture in wood and Formica – conjure 1970 kitchens, yet touch on Kafkaesque conundrums.
Don’t miss “Sinister Pop” and “Dark and Deadpan: Pop in TV and the Movies” (both through Mar. 31).
Their wildly diverse subjects and objects are jazzy, raw, psychedelic, humorous, documentary and political.
They include Lee Bontecou’s sculpted, threatening orifices, Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn,” Nancy Grossman’s S&M “Head 1968,” Claes Oldenburg’s giant, floppy cigarette butts and wonderful contextual photographs by William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Bill Owens and Weegee.
Working in dialogue, the artworks here create a sense of the zeitgeist that brought civil rights to the South, man to the moon and Nixon to China.
Together, these two strong exhibitions make for the most cohesive grouping of Pop Art I’ve ever seen.