15 New York Shows You Need to See This February

From the chocolate sculptures of Congolese plantation workers to mythical cast bronze sculptures by Wangechi Mutu, these 15 shows at New York art galleries and institutions this February challenge us to rethink art-historical narratives and expose us to fresh work by both lesser-known and widely celebrated artists.



Katharina Grosse at Gagosian Gallery

Jan. 19–Mar. 11 • 555 West 24th Street

  • ©Katharina Grosse. Photography by Rob McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian.

    ©Katharina Grosse. Photography by Rob McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian.

Though the acclaimed German artist has been prominently featured at major institutions worldwide for the past decade—recently her installations have been shown at the 56th Venice Biennale, the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, and MoMA PS1’s summer exhibition in the Rockaways—she’s only now being shown in her first solo gallery exhibition in New York. Grosse’s show includes large-scale paintings created over the past year, done in her signature brilliant palette and spray-painted technique, as well as a monumental sculpture.



Pieter Hugo at Yossi Milo Gallery

Jan. 26–Mar. 11 • 245 Tenth Ave

  • Pieter Hugo, from the series “1994,” Portrait #7, Rwanda, 2014. © Pieter Hugo, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

    Pieter Hugo, from the series “1994,” Portrait #7, Rwanda, 2014. © Pieter Hugo, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

The South African artist shows his recent series “1994,” which documents children born after that year—a year which saw the Rwandan genocide and the end of apartheid in South Africa. Long interested in the generations of young people growing up in the two countries, Hugo chose to portray his subjects in natural landscapes, often dressed in whimsical attire, reflecting on the idealistic narratives of their upbringing.



Marisa Merz at The Met Breuer

Jan. 24–May 7 • 945 Madison Avenue

  • Marisa Merz, Untitled, undated. Photo by Renato Ghiazza, courtesy of Archivio Merz, the artist, and Fondazione Merz.

    Marisa Merz, Untitled, undated. Photo by Renato Ghiazza, courtesy of Archivio Merz, the artist, and Fondazione Merz.

The first large-scale retrospective of Merz’s work in the U.S., “The Sky Is a Great Place” looks at the Italian artist’s influential and expansive five-decade-long career. While Merz is often referred to as the only woman to figure prominently in the Arte Povera movement, this exhibition furthers her narrative, serving to prove her formidable talent and imaginative approach to subject matter and material.



“Self-Interned, 1942: Noguchi in Poston War Relocation Center” at The Noguchi Museum

Jan. 18, 2017–Jan. 7, 2018 • 9-01 33rd Road, Long Island City

  • Installation view of “Self Interned.” Photo by Nicholas Knight. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS.

    Installation view of “Self Interned.” Photo by Nicholas Knight. © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS.

How Noguchi’s Seven Months in a Japanese Internment Camp Inspired His Art

This show explores the seven-month period in 1942 that Noguchi spent at Poston War Relocation Center, an internment camp in Arizona, where Japanese and Japanese-American citizens of the Western United States were sent after Pearl Harbor. Eager to contribute to this oppressed community, Noguchi, who was a New York resident at the time, chose to be interned voluntarily. The show brings together work from before, during, and after this time.



“Selections by Larry Ossei-Mensah” at Elizabeth Dee

Jan. 21–Feb. 25 • 2033/2037 Fifth Avenue

  • Kenny Rivero, The Fire Next Time, 2016. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Dee Gallery.

    Kenny Rivero, The Fire Next Time, 2016. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Dee Gallery.

The first exhibition in the gallery’s new initiative to give exposure to emerging artists, this show helmed by independent curator Ossei-Mensah brings together the works of four artists based in Harlem and the South Bronx: Derek Fordjour, Emily Henretta, Lucia Hierro, and Kenny Rivero. With experimental and innovative approaches in common, the artists address various themes—from personal experience to topics like the environment—and work in mediums including sculpture, works on paper, and collage.



Cynthia Daignault at The FLAG Art Foundation

Jan. 19–May 13 • 545 West 25th Street, 10th Floor

  • Installation view of “Cynthia Daignault: There is nothing I could say that I haven’t thought before” at the FLAG Art Foundation, 2017. Photo by Object Studies.

    Installation view of “Cynthia Daignault: There is nothing I could say that I haven’t thought before” at the FLAG Art Foundation, 2017. Photo by Object Studies.

For her series “There is nothing I could say that I haven’t thought before,” Daignault reached out to dozens of fellow artists to request that they share a JPEG of one of their artworks for her to reproduce in a painting. She now shows the group of 36 paintings, which faithfully portray the works of artists from Jeff Koons to Sara Cwynar, while playing with ideas of appropriation, collaboration, agency, and exchange.



Beatriz Santiago Muñoz at El Museo del Barrio

Jan. 11–Apr. 20 • 1230 Fifth Avenue

  • Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Marché Salomon, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Galería Agustina Ferreyra.

    Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Marché Salomon, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Galería Agustina Ferreyra.

The esteemed Puerto Rican filmmaker and video artist shows her exhibition “A Universe of Fragile Mirrors” in New York, following its exhibition at the Pérez Art Museum Miami last year. The films on view are Santiago Muñoz’s own portrayal of post-colonial realities among communities in the Caribbean, with a focus on people and public sites in Puerto Rico and Haiti.



Wangechi Mutu at Gladstone Gallery

Jan. 27–Mar. 25 • 530 West 21st Street

  • Installation view of Wangechi Mutu at Galdstone Gallery, courtesy of the gallery.

    Installation view of Wangechi Mutu at Galdstone Gallery, courtesy of the gallery.

Titled “Ndoro Na Miti,” which means “mud and trees” in Gikuyu, Mutu’s new show is created in part with dirt and plant life culled from around her Brooklyn studio. Works on view build upon the artist’s investigations into representations of self, and speak to the interactions between humans and nature. Highlights include a large-scale bronze sculpture of nguva, a mermaid-like figure from East African folklore.



“Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change” at ICP Museum

Jan. 27–May 7 • 250 Bowery

  • Sheila Pree Bright, #1960Now: Art + Intersection [still], 2015. © Sheila Pree Bright.

    Sheila Pree Bright, #1960Now: Art + Intersection [still], 2015. © Sheila Pree Bright.

When Images Incite Hate

Focused on six major issues of recent years that have been widely represented via visual culture, this show explores how photographs have captured “#BlackLivesMatter, gender fluidity, climate change, terrorist propaganda, the right-wing fringe and the 2016 election, and the refugee crisis.” The works featured—like footage from social media feeds referencing the shooting of Michael Brown or a YouTube video of a splitting glacier—draw attention to the way that images can incite political and social dialogue and action.



“Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s” at The Whitney Museum of American Art

Jan. 27–May 14 • 99 Gansevoort Street

  • Work from “Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s” at The Whitney. Image courtesy of The Whitney.

    Work from “Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s” at The Whitney. Image courtesy of The Whitney.

The Whitney has dug into its collection of American art from the ’80s to represent the prominent role that painting played during that era, as a medium for experimentation as well as communication. With a particular focus on New York’s legendary downtown scene of the ’80s, with works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, the show represents the salient social and political issues of that time, as well as the ways artists were using abstraction and appropriation.



Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise at SculptureCenter

Jan. 29–Mar. 27 • 44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City

  • Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise, How my Grandfather survived (by Cedrick Tamasala), 2015. Courtesy of KOW, Berlin

    Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise, How my Grandfather survived (by Cedrick Tamasala), 2015. Courtesy of KOW, Berlin

  • Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise, Poisonous Miracle (by Thomas Leba). Courtesy of KOW, Berlin.

    Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise, Poisonous Miracle (by Thomas Leba). Courtesy of KOW, Berlin.

A Congo-based art league made up of plantation workers-turned-artists, Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) is given their first show in the U.S. this winter. The exhibition features new and recent sculptures made from chocolate, as well as drawings. Reflecting on the meager wages that plantation workers receive in the Congo, CATPC’s artistic output surfaces discussions of economic inequality and unethical practices of major international corporations.



Danny Lyon at Gavin Brown’s enterprise

Jan. 18–Feb. 5 • 291 Grand Street, Third Floor

  • Installation view of Danny Lyon at Gavin Brown’s enterprise. Photo courtesy of the gallery.

    Installation view of Danny Lyon at Gavin Brown’s enterprise. Photo courtesy of the gallery.

Though it closes February 5th, this show of photographs and a film by the acclaimed Lyon, best known for documenting the civil rights movement, should not be missed. At the core of the exhibition is a filmed conversation between the artist and civil rights activist and leader Julian Bond. The pair first met in 1963, when Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Lyon became the organization’s staff photographer; they stayed in touch ever since. The film, recorded in 2014, is showing in public for the first time, and over the course of a half hour features the pair as they discuss recent history, like Occupy Wall Street and the activities of Edward Snowden, as well as their personal lives.



Bjarne Melgaard at Red Bull Arts New York

Feb. 16–Apr. 9 • 220 West 18th Street

  • Muppet in collaboration with Jim Henson Company and Babk Radboy, 2016. © Bjarne Melgaard. Image courtesy of Red Bull Arts New York.

    Muppet in collaboration with Jim Henson Company and Babk Radboy, 2016. © Bjarne Melgaard. Image courtesy of Red Bull Arts New York.

Billed as “a multi-level psychopathological department store,” Melgaard’s show promises to envelop viewers in his signature irreverent, controversial style, and his newly formed fashion label. The show entails an event where visitors will be able to take Melgaard’s personal designer clothing for free, a muppet collaboration with Jim Henson Company, and over 100 mannequins dressed in the artist’s new streetwear line.



Jack Whitten at Hauser & Wirth

Jan. 26–Apr. 8 • 548 West 22nd Street

  • Installation view of “Jack Whitten” at Hauser & Wirth, New York, 2017. © Jack Whitten. Photo by Timothy Doyon, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

    Installation view of “Jack Whitten” at Hauser & Wirth, New York, 2017. © Jack Whitten. Photo by Timothy Doyon, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

The gallery’s first show with the powerhouse American abstract painter will span recent series from 2015 into the present. Since his breakthrough work of the 1970s, which emphasized the autonomy of paint as an object itself, Whitten has pursued an inventive, exploratory approach. His most recent work investigates ideas related to astrophysics, space, and time.



Richard Mosse at Jack Shainman Gallery

Feb. 2–Mar. 11 • 513 West 20th Street

  • Richard Mosse, Helliniko, 2016. ©Richard Mosse, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

    Richard Mosse, Helliniko, 2016. ©Richard Mosse, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Known for his infrared photographs of the soldiers and landscapes of Eastern Congo, the Irish photographer debuts a new series “Heat Maps,” which documents the refugee crisis. After using a military-grade camera that detects thermal radiation (a camera primarily designed to be used for surveillance at borders and combat zones) Mosse constructed panoramic images made from shots of refugee camps and routes in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.


—Casey Lesser