Rashaad Newsome: Assembly
Until 6 March at the Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, Manhattan
The performers voguing in Rashaad Newsome’s awe-inspiring multi-media installation Assembly make the art form look easy. But follow a class with Being, the AI non-binary “digital griot” the artist has created, which has been leading decolonisation lessons during the run of the show, and you’ll quickly find that it all takes work. And it should, since voguing came out of the Harlem ballroom scene in the 1980s, and the Black and Latino queer community’s efforts to tear up patriarchal structures. Being—who is perfectly poised and innately uplifting—walks you through the basic movements of voguing and talks you through tenets of decolonisation theory, asking audience members: “How does the capitalist, imperialist, white supremacist patriarchy affect and oppress you? What’s one simple action you can take today to start liberating yourself from that oppression?” The two-year-old AI learns from your answers, as well as from the questions you ask them, but Being already clearly has a deep repository of knowledge. A query about their robotic, femme form, for example, elicits an answer about the history of abstraction and its African cultural roots. While participation slots for the classes are sold out, you can still sit in on the lessons, held at various times every day. Be ready to think critically and leave inspired to take action, with Being’s signature encouragement: “Yas, Miss Thang.”
Holbein: Capturing Character
Until 15 May at the Morgan Library and Museum, 225 Madison Avenue, Manhattan
The obvious draws in the Morgan’s survey on Hans Holbein the Younger, co-organised with the Getty in Los Angeles, are the Old Master’s matchless portraits. There really was, as the show’s title suggests, no other painter who so uncannily fixed a sitter’s personality onto canvas. The stern faces of German bankers and aristocratic ladies seem caught in the moment, staring at you as if you disrupted them from their accounting ledgers or afternoon reading. But perhaps the most delightful discoveries in the exhibition, which differs from the California iteration due to loan restrictions, are the works on paper. A suite of woodcut drawings on the theme of the “Dance of Death”, a Renaissance reminder of the inescapability of mortality, by an even younger Holbein and blockcutter Hans Lützelburger, are wonderfully imaginative and animated. Death has never looked so full of life.
Bruce Nauman: His Mark
Until 12 March at Sperone Westwater, 257 Bowery, Manhattan
The exalted American artist Bruce Nauman has forged a lifelong practice fusing Minimalism and performance, creating works in which he conceptually explores movement through methodical, meditative and often repetitive choreographed sequences. His longtime dealer, Angela Westwater, has organised an exhibition of Nauman’s new work, a six-channel video titled His Mark (2021) that engulfs the two-storey Lower East Side space with wall-sized projections, visible in 3-D form with glasses dispensed at the front desk. The installation shows Nauman tracing an X with his hands on a vintage table in his studio in Galisteo, New Mexico, a gesture that is repeated and visually manipulated in different forms in the various projections. According to Westwater, who has represented Nauman since the mid-1970s, the work was inspired by a history textbook containing the copy of one of various 18th century treaties signed by the Crown, the Canadian government and First Nations leaders, in which the chief of the Blackfoot Band signed his name with an X, a symbol used to authenticate documents in lieu of an anglicised signature.