The Fourth of July is on practically everybody’s mind this weekend, but there’s still a lot more to look forward to in the week ahead. Keeping with the spirit of independence for just a moment, now is an amazing opportunity to catch new shows devoted to two of the more strikingly original women artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
An exhibition devoted to the iconic slogan-based work of Barbara Kruger just opened at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea. I’ve not seen it yet myself, but we’ve just published an enticing preview and I’m itching to get there.
Meanwhile, on the Upper East Side, Hauser & Wirth is offering a terrific show focusing on the early work of Cindy Sherman, a New Jersey-born, New York-based artist whose work in photography opened up new possibilities of messaging, narrative, and identity in the medium. This one I have seen, and it’s quietly sensational.
“Cindy Sherman: 1977-1982” concentrates on images from a period in which Sherman had just begun to cause a stir with self-portraits that used the storytelling language of Hollywood film — she’s not recreating specific film shots in her groundbreaking “Untitled Film Stills” series, but her use of scenery, costumes, and props akin to what you might see in 1950s and ’60s Hollywood B-movies and European art films gives a viewer the chance to figure out their own stories.
This show marks the first time the entire “Untitled Film Stills” series has been shown complete in a decade, and it also includes some of Sherman’s subsequent developments in her “Rear Screen Projections” and “Centerfolds” series. It’s a rich, concentrated experience — and a real declaration of independence. ThroughJuly 20; hauserwirth.com
Nicole Atkins is also from New Jersey, though she makes her home in Nashville now. She launched her professional career 20 years ago with a series of critically acclaimed albums that wedded her soulful original songs with strong bands and vintage-style production — her material has always been of the moment, but her sound could make you think of vintage girl groups, “Dusty in Memphis,” psychedelia and other classic pop production styles.
Atkins made a fantastic album called “Italian Ice” in 2020 — it was her fifth studio album, recorded at the fabled Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama — but the pandemic prevented her from touring behind it. Instead, she focused on playing shows online, and also set about creating “Memphis Ice,” a stripped-down chamber-music retake of songs she’d recorded previously for “Italian Ice.”
Speaking with New Jersey Stage, Atkins joked that with “Memphis Ice” she’d reached her “Judy Garland or Liza Minnelli moment” a whole lot sooner than she’d anticipated. Whatever the case, the sound is gorgeous, and it suits her timeless songwriting style.
That said, seems likely she’ll bring a full band when she comes to Wagner Park in Battery Park City for a free show on Thursday evening — she’s opening the annual River & Blues Festival, and she hits the stage at 7 pm, after a DJ set by Susan Z. Anthony. July 7th at 6 pm; bcpa.ny.gov