4Columns returns with a new issue on September 6. Until then, peruse our fifth summer missive: a hallucinatory flight of the imagination out of the squalid realities of late-summer New York City and into four transportive (and climate-controlled) art exhibitions.
August in New York can feel like an apocalyptic landscape made up of baking asphalt, steaming train platforms, and cat-sized rats casually strolling the sidewalks or getting a bite to eat. Fortunately, for those who long to escape (or for those intrepid visitors who chose to come here at the end of the summer of their own accord), museums provide relief: some shade, some air conditioning, and, especially this summer, some thrilling exhibitions.
This is the last weekend to visit the Queens Museum’s Mundos Alternos, in which more than sixty artworks take the genre of science fiction as fuel for jet packing to planes of experience estranged from accepted reality. It’s a show with a serious subject, aiming at nothing less than a revolution of consciousness; but it’s also funny, absurd, and exhilarating, writes Ania Szremski, featuring an optically aroused “coconaut” stranded on the moon, a giant corncob spaceship helmed by masked snails, and a proposition for a hydrogen-powered city floating thousands of miles above ground, liberated from the tyranny of soil. Full review here.
What is “camp”? Judging by the Met Gala this past May, which inaugurated the Costume Institute’s current exhibition, Camp: Notes on Fashion, few know for sure—nor, it seems, does the exhibition itself. “With a shrug and a wink, the show seems to say that under the right circumstances, anything can be camp,” writes Daniel Penny. The exhibit makes excellent use of the Met’s rich collection of clothes, while also drawing on a bevy of paintings, illustrations, furniture, music, and video, allowing viewers to trace a route through fashion history from London mollies, French courtiers, and the beau ideal all the way to a cacophonous, lavishly costumed present. Full review here.
The Jewish Museum’s tribute to singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen isn’t a traditional, biography- and archive-heavy remembrance of a famous personage; instead, it’s devoted to the imagination of ten artists and two collectives, each responding to Cohen’s large and complex body of work. “The result is surprising and surprisingly coherent, less comprehensive but also less moribund than a straight retrospective,” writes FT in their 4Columns review. The show reflects Cohen’s solipsistic darkness, FT writes, but also glimmers with redemption and celebration. Full review here.
Curator Shanay Jhaveri’s retrospective of Mrinalini Mukherjee at the Met Breuer does an admirable job of redressing American ignorance of this internationally esteemed, wildly inventive sculptor, writes Kaelen Wilson-Goldie. Mukherjee’s sculptures, made of hemp ropes knotted in a fashion of the artist’s own design, were distinctive not only for their texture and shapes, but also for the sheer force of their colors, their deeply sensuous formal language. The Met Breuer’s presentation of Mukherjee’s work “is a triumph of curatorial precision bordering on restraint,” says Wilson-Goldie, “and it is gorgeously paired to an assertive and elegant exhibition design.” Full review here.