Our guide to new art shows — and some that will be closing soon.
‘MYSTICAL SYMBOLISM: THE SALON DE LA ROSE+CROIX IN PARIS, 1892-1897’ at the Guggenheim Museum (through Oct. 4). This brilliantly tasteless exhibition, complete with carmine walls and blue velvet settees, plunges viewers into a spiritualist — and, let’s say it, tawdry — Parisian collective of the last decade of the 19th century. Around the time Cézanne and van Gogh were down in Provence analyzing apples and mountains, the artists of the Salon de la Rose+Croix painted lovesick Orpheuses, busty femmes fatales and virginal shepherdesses, all in the service of the salon’s dubious mystic founder, Joséphin Péladan, an author with a taste for high drama and white robes. Most of the artists here are little exhibited today. Much of their work is sordid; some is simply gross. But it’s all weirdly compelling, and a reminder of the hunger even we alleged moderns still nurse for worlds beyond this one. (Jason Farago)
‘TALKING PICTURES: CAMERA-PHONE CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN ARTISTS’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through Dec. 17). One of the wisest, savviest museum exhibitions of the summer may not have much actual art in it, but it circles the subject like a satellite around a planet. Using prints, slide shows, books and iPads, it presents image-only camera-phone exchanges between 12 pairs of artists and is full of flashes of wit, poetry, even genius. Observers will find occasional momentous events, both personal and presidential. (Roberta Smith)
‘LOUISE LAWLER: WHY PICTURES NOW’ at the Museum of Modern Art (closes on July 30). One of the great light-heavyweights of the 1980s Pictures Generation, an artist of stealth, wit and elegant understatement, adept at playing the art world against itself, receives her due in a beautiful show of mostly her own design. With images sometimes near billboard size, it contrasts her uncanny gift for photographing artworks in their natural habitats (galleries, museums, collectors’ homes, auctions) and her equal talent for graphic design and carefully worded aphorisms. (Smith)
‘GEORGIA O’KEEFFE: LIVING MODERN’ at the Brooklyn Museum (closes on July 23). Given that most artists are to some extent dandies, it would be wrong to view this fascinating show through an exclusively feminist lens. But it does demonstrate the powerful, carefully cultivated aesthetic and inborn independence that connects the art, wardrobe, living spaces and public persona of America’s first celebrity artist. In and around her art, she redefined gender and style. (Smith)
‘LYGIA PAPE: A MULTITUDE OF FORMS’ at the Met Breuer (closes on July 23). In the early 1950s Lygia Pape, Rio de Janeiro’s most restless artist, created mazelike drawings and solid-colored reliefs — but in 1959, she and her colleagues Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica established the Neo-Concrete Movement, which took a dreamier, more interactive approach to abstraction. (At this exhibition you can fiddle with a replica of the colored blocks and rings of her “Livro da Criação,” or “Book of Creation,” from 1959-60.) After a junta overthrew Brazil’s democratic government in 1964, Pape turned to public interventions and communal actions, above all her social sculpture “Divisor” (1968), which required dozens of volunteers to march together with their heads poking out of a single sheet. The presentation here is a bit wonky, and Pape’s incisive films from the 1970s are shortchanged. But after the polarizing impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, and with much of the rest of Brazil’s political class ensnared in a far-reaching corruption scandal, this show offers an exceedingly relevant model for how to make art in dark times. (Farago)
‘IRVING PENN: CENTENNIAL’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (closes on July 30). In this crystalline exhibition, nearly every gallery exhales its own delicious breath, offering up concentrated views of Penn’s innovative still-life and fashion work for Vogue, including “Girl Drinking (Mary Jane Russell), New York, 1949” (above, a gelatin silver print from 2000); his portraits of cultural luminaries and tradesmen, as well as of indigenous Peruvians; his nearly abstract close-ups of voluptuous nudes; and his colossal cigarette butts, with their tragicomic evocations of Roman columns, tombstones and even corpses. Also on display: his perfectionism, curious eye and innate classicizing style. (Smith)