The Best Painting Shows to See this Spring

From a stunning Joan Mitchell retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art to an exploration of enchanted modernity at The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

BY frieze in Critic's Guides , Exhibition Reviews | 06 MAY 22

Joan Mitchell 

Baltimore Museum of Art

06 March – 14 August 2022

Joan Mitchell
Joan Mitchell in her Vétheuil studio, 1983. Courtesy: © Joan Mitchell Foundation; photograph: Robert Freson

When viewing the Joan Mitchell retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), the word ‘intimate’ – both as a descriptor and as an action – comes to mind. The feeling of intimacy within the exhibition stems from the selection of Mitchell’s most important works from across her four-decade career: though most of the paintings on display are large in scale, dominating whole walls from top to bottom, the viewer does not feel diminished but, rather, welcomed inside the artist’s world. What Mitchell intimates are the landscapes, memories, music and poetry of her realm, offering a welcome refuge in which momentarily to escape the world outside. – Dereck Stafford Mangus

Marlene Dumas

Palazzo Grassi, Venice

27 February 2022 – 08 January 2023 

Marlene Dumas
Marlene Dumas, Teeth, 2018, oil on canvas, 40 × 30 cm. Courtesy: the artist

Marlene Dumas has long been drawn to paint grief, death and the dark side of human endeavour, searching for the banality of evil in photographs of the human face, much as her contemporary Luc Tuymans looks for it in the documentation of landscape and architecture. Counted among Dumas’s dead here are Marilyn Monroe and a nameless drowned woman, face down in a night-black river. There are chilling echoes, in composition and claustrophobia, between Figure in a Landscape (2010), depicting a Palestinian woman walking with her child down the West Bank separation wall, and The Visitor (1995), in which sex workers clustered in a darkened room stare facing the light flooding through a doorway. – Hettie Judah 

Carlo Crivelli

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham 

23 February – 29 May 2022

Carlo Crivelli
Carlo Crivelli, Virgin and Child, c. 1480, tempera on panel, 48.5 × 33.6 cm. Courtesy: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Confronted with Carlo Crivelli’s work, it is easy enough to see why art historians baulked at incorporating him into a conventional Renaissance teleology. His paintings are often, to put it simply, weird. His saints and virgins are almost insect-like: sharp-featured and narrow-eyed, fingers and toes fine to the point of attenuation, their poses articulated with a kind of sinewy stillness. His Saint Mary Magdalene (c. 1491-94) looks out from a small altarpiece panel with an inscrutable sideways glance, one ivory hand displaying a golden jar, the other delicately lifting the hem of a rich mantle. Her foot is poised as if she is about to step out of her niche, but the overall effect is of a living mannequin: moveless. – Tim Smith-Laing

‘Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity’

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 

09 April – 26 September 2022 

Leonor Fini, Ends of the Earth, 1949, oil on canvas, 35 × 28 cm. Courtesy: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Dating from the 1920s through to the ’50s, this wonderful collection of works depicts the myriad ways in which surrealism was in dialogue with the occult, and the imaginative overlap between a movement that found expression through the unconscious and a set of practices and beliefs similarly dictated by elusive forces often concealed. Following on from Tate Modern’s ‘Surrealism Beyond Borders’, which offers a welcome widening of the surrealist project by framing it in a less gendered and Eurocentric context, the Guggenheim show explores how certain artists turned to magic and myth not only as a source of freedom and enchantment but as a way of getting closer to the very essence of things, to a state of consciousness that preceded discursive and logical reasoning. – Chloe Aridjis

Lubaina Himid 

Tate Modern, London 

25 November 2021 – 02 October 2022 

Lubaina Himid
Lubaina Himid, Metal Handkerchief – Saw/Flag, 2019, acrylic on metal, 49 × 54. Courtesy: the artist and Hollybush Gardens

The cut-out figures that first gained Lubaina Himid attention in the 1980s connect most directly to her theatrical training. These painted cardboard and plywood constructions – resembling the two-dimensional scenery of stage sets – relate to the artist’s definition of herself as ‘a political strategist using visual language’ (The Observer, 2017). Arguably her best-known installation, A Fashionable Marriage (1984–86) is a resounding critique of Thatcherite Britain and the exclusionary practices of the London art world with which Himid was all too familiar. – Allie Biswas

Matthias Groebel

Schiefe Zähne

30 April – 4 June 2022

Matthias Grübel
Matthias Groebel, ‘the rhythms of reception’, 2022, exhibition view, Schiefe Zähne, Berlin. Courtesy: the artist and Schiefe Zähne, Berlin; photograph: Cedric Mussano

The cyborg, first popularized by Donna Haraway’s critically acclaimed essay ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ (1985), is a popular motif in contemporary art today. Cologne-based artist Matthias Groebel, who currently has a solo show, ‘The Rhythms of Reception’, at Schiefe Zähne, has been merging machines with art since the early 1990s. His computer-assisted paintings are created using a self-made electro-technical device composed of a digitally operated airbrush. These works, dominated by red, green and blue hues, such as Untitled (1996), are reminiscent of old-style CRT television screens, a fact that seems to visually contradict Groebel’s ostensibly highly contemporary approach. – Claire Koron Elat

Colectivo Cherani

University Museum of Contemporary Art, Mexico City 

27 November 2021 – 03 July 2022 

Celectivo Cherani
Colectivo Cherani, ‘Uinapikua’, 2022, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artists and MUAC, Mexico City

Five members of the Colectivo – Betel Cucué, Giovanni Fabián, Huaroco Rosas, Ariel Pañeda and Alain Silva – were invited by the University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC) to create an in-situ work in the airy atrium space. There is little wall text, but the panels coalesce into a single suite of towering icons surrounded by large benches suited to panoramic viewing. Each of the larger tableaux comprises many smaller panels, alternately printed, woven or richly built up from resins and found objects. – Ian Bourland 

Main image: Colectivo Cherani, Kumanda tanimu (detail), 2021, oil, enamel, acrylic and collage on canvas. Courtesy: the artists

Contemporary Art and Culture