10 U.S. Art Exhibitions Heat Up Winter’s Cultural Calendar

The weather may be cooling down, but the art world is just heating up, with a slate of exciting exhibitions scheduled to debut across the United States

10 U.S. Art Exhibitions Heat Up Winter’s Cultural Calendar

Native American artist Wendy Red Star uses her biting humor to confront romanticized visions of indigenous people in her winter show at the Newark Museum.

Courtesy of Wendy Red Star

This winter, U.S. museums are revving up for an especially rich assortment of solo shows, ranging from modern art greats like Jasper Johns and Robert Mapplethorpe to innovative contemporary creators such as Wendy Red Star and Elizabeth Price. Other notable exhibitions will explore topics like the artistic history of Sri Lanka and the legacy of a lost 1950s mural, while the opening of a luminous new gallery space in West Palm Beach is worth marking your calendar for, too. Here are 10 U.S. art exhibitions and events to get out and about for this winter:


The Jasper Johns exhibition at Houston’s new Menil Drawing Institute will feature such works as “Untitled” (1984).

Courtesy of Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns

November 3, 2018–January 27, 2019; Menil Drawing Institute, Houston
To display, study, and conserve modern and contemporary drawings in an optimal environment, Houston’s The Menil Collection art museum is opening a new stand-alone Menil Drawing Institute building on its campus on November 3, 2018. Inaugurating the elegant space is an exhibition on the career of Jasper Johns that will span 50 years of his drawings. The Condition of Being Here investigates the ways motifs like targets and flags have reappeared and transformed in Johns’s work, and how his use of drawing has allowed for a fluid experimentation in the evolution of these iconic themes.

Elizabeth Price

December 8, 2018–June 30, 2019; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
In her first commission at a U.S. museum, the London-based, Turner Prize–winning artist Elizabeth Price is creating site-specific moving image work for the Walker Art Center’s Perlman Gallery. As with Price’s previous works, seemingly simple objects and ideas unravel into threads that take viewers on unexpected journeys through archival footage, animation, and photography. One piece, entitled FELT TIP, will tower over 15 feet in the gallery, turning patterns from 1970s and ’80s neckties into digital systems, while considering gender in the workplace. The other of the exhibit’s two featured works, KOHL, explores various unsung uses for coal, from writing tools to cosmetics, through the voices of fictional characters.

The Jeweled Isle: Art From Sri Lanka

December 9, 2018–June 23, 2019; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
The permanent Sri Lankan art collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is rarely showcased, with much of it relegated to storage. Now in an exhibition of around 250 objects—representing the first major survey on Sri Lankan art by a U.S. museum—the institution is displaying these exquisite holdings that span 2,000 years of history. Ranging from textiles and decorative pieces to ivory and photography, the works of The Jeweled Isle explore how sacred practices of Buddhism, the impact of European colonization, and cross-cultural exchange in south Asia influenced the eclectic art of Sri Lanka.


In painstaking drawings like “Untitled (Ocean)” (1970), Latvian American artist Vija Celmins illustrates in minute detail rolling waves.

Courtesy of Vija Celmins and Matthew Marks Gallery, photo by Kevin Todora

Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory

December 15, 2018–March 31, 2019; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
In painstaking drawings, Latvian American artist Vija Celmins illustrates in minute detail the rolling of an ocean’s waves, a fragment of the night sky, or the delicate lines of a spider web. A recurring motif in her drawings is the lack of a horizon, giving the impression that each creation is a glimpse of some colossal presence. In this sprawling retrospective, some 150 works cover art from her early days in 1960s Los Angeles to the present. Paintings of World War II fighter planes and sculptures—through which Celmins “re-described” found stones—show the development of her meticulous work. After a run at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Met Breuer in New York.

Margaret Kilgallen: that’s where the beauty is.

January 11–June 16, 2019; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado
Late San Francisco Bay Area artist Margaret Kilgallen employed the style of old hand-painted signs and U.S. folk art to paint scenes that elevated everyday life, with a particular emphasis on women. Kilgallen, as she once put it, cared for “things that show the evidence of the human hand.” In 2001, at the age of 33, she died from breast cancer. This exhibition celebrates her legacy, both as a member of the 1990s Bay Area Mission School art movement and as a vibrant creator of art that represented powerful women through U.S. visual traditions.


Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is devoting an exhibition to Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide, featuring works like “Mujer Ángel, Desierto de Sonora (Angel Woman, Sonora Desert)” (Mexico, 1979).

Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico

January 19–May 12, 2019; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Following a significant acquisition of her work, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is devoting an exhibition to Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. Some 125 photographs spanning five decades of her career, going back to the 1970s, are vivid with the cultural collisions and juxtapositions of contemporary life in Mexico. Her La Mixteca series captures the complex goat-slaughtering rituals of Oaxaca; El baño de Frida reveals the bathroom of Frida Kahlo’s La Casa Azul home in Mexico City, which was kept locked for 50 years after Kahlo’s death (initially under orders from her husband Diego Rivera). In one of her most recent photo series, Iturbide visited the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Gardens and documented its cacti in “intensive care,” with the plants’ plight reflecting the fragility of the botanical heritage in her home country.

Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now

January 25–July 10, 2019, July 24, 2019–January 5, 2020; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City
Thirty years since his death in 1989, the Guggenheim Museum is dedicating a yearlong exhibition to U.S. artist Robert Mapplethorpe, with much of it drawn from a major 1993 gift from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Organized in two viewing phases, the first show concentrates on the museum’s holdings, with an emphasis on his photography. Whether of flowers, male nudes, or portraits from the New York City S&M scene, Mapplethorpe’s images share a thorny allure. The second phase will examine his influence on contemporary art, especially in depictions of the body and self-portraiture.


A compositional study for “The Incident” (1952) by U.S. artist John Wilson

Courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery / Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

Reckoning With “The Incident”: John Wilson’s Studies for a Lynching Mural

January 25–April 7, 2019; Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
This compact but potent exhibition resurrects a lost 1952 mural by U.S. artist John Wilson at Iowa’s Grinnell College before traveling to the University of Maryland’s Driskell Center, Clark Atlanta University Art Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery. Reuniting almost all of the known preparatory drawings for The Incident—a now-destroyed fresco of a lynching scene Wilson painted while studying art in Mexico City—the Reckoning With “The Incident” show displays his drawings of hands, guns, and ropes, and a final gouache study revealing the startling scene.

Wilson, who died in 2015, would go on to sculpt the monumental bust of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C., and made social justice an enduring part of his practice. The drawings for this early mural, which responds to the rampant lynchings in the United States following the Civil War and continuing into the 20th century, shows the young artist grappling with the violence that shadows U.S. history.

Reopening of the Norton Museum of Art

Reopens February 9, 2019; West Palm Beach, Florida
After months of closure to undergo a comprehensive expansion, the Norton Museum of Art reopens in February with a third more gallery space. Following a redesign by British architect Norman Foster, the revamped West Palm Beach museum—which has collections ranging from historic to contemporary art—will include a subtropical landscape for displaying art outdoors.

Inside, the inaugural exhibitions will include a solo show by dynamic U.S. painter Nina Chanel Abney, whose colorful canvases examine issues of racial prejudice, the environment, and violence. Another will showcase camera-less photography, such as the “rayograms” of artist Man Ray, and one will highlight the watercolor collection of the museum’s namesake, Ralph Norton. Sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s oversized Typewriter Eraser, Scale X (1999), which presides over the new museum entrance, is explored in another exhibition, while additional shows spotlight paintings of a Ming dynasty lantern festival, the evolution of photographic portraiture, and paintings by U.S. modernist Ralston Crawford.

Wendy Red Star: A Scratch on the Earth

February 23–May 19, 2019; Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey
Through self-portraits, in which she dresses in Apsáalooke (Crow) regalia amid kitschy landscapes populated with inflatable wildlife, as well as through historic photographs by white photographers that she has annotated with context, Native American artist Wendy Red Star uses her biting humor to confront romanticized visions of indigenous people. This exhibition features 60 works sourced from the past 15 years of her career, with one of the newest being an immersive video piece created with artist Amelia Winger-Bearskin and screened inside a simulated sweat lodge.

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