The Design Culture Calendar: January

Tatsuo Mayajima’s “Connect with Everything” installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Few contemporary artists grapple with what it means to be human as profoundly as Japanese-born Tatsuo Miyajima, whose signature works are high-tech, immersive light installations that border on the mystical. “Tatsuo Miyajima―Connect with Everything,” the artist’s first solo show in the Southern Hemisphere, is on view at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and is as comprehensive a retrospective as the works deserve. Foremost among them are the installations Mega Death and Arrow of Time, which take on the weight of mortality and the irreversibility of life’s trajectory, respectively, and the equal parts mesmerizing and agitating Pile Up Life, light-studded sculptures dedicated to the individual lives lost to mass genocide. All three resonate with the mantras that inform Miyajima’s life and work: Keep Changing, Connect with Everything, and Live Forever. 

Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Sydney, Australia; Through March 5.  

A Robert Rauschenberg Retrospective at the Tate Modern Switch House, London

Your excuse for a visit across the pond to inaugurate the Switch House – the Tate Modern’s new brick pyramid-tower extension designed by the same Swiss firm, Herzog & de Meuron, that transformed the massive Bankside Power Station into the enormously popular hub of modern and contemporary art – has arrived in the form of the first major retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg since the American artist’s death in 2008.

Organized chronologically and in collaboration with New York’s MoMA, where it heads next spring, the show unfolds as a riveting narrative, journeying through the maverick’s many seminal creative moments, from his striking blue monoprints and his extraordinary Combines—so named for their amalgam of painting and sculpture (two of them are on rare loan from their respective homes: MoMA’s Bed and Moderna Museet’s Monogram)—to the artist’s Pop-inflected transfer drawings and silkscreens, and sculptures he made during his multifaceted tenure as a performance artist. 

Tate Modern, Bankside, London; Through April 2.

Cy Twombly’s Retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

It’s strangely fitting that the extraordinary Cy Twombly, Rauschenberg’s erstwhile teacher, lover and friend, is being feted simultaneously at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in the first major retrospective since this artist’s death in 2011. Spanning the early 1950s to his last year, the show’s 140 works are framed around three major cycles of the artist’s work: Nine Discourses on Commodus, the 1963 series Twombly undertook shortly after his permanent move to Rome that harnessed the artist’s scribblings, smudges and erasures to tell the story of the barbaric reign and eventual murder of Roman emperor Aurelius Commodus; Fifty Days at Iliam, what the artist referred to as “a painting in ten parts” that depicts the first 50 days of the siege of Troy, inspired by Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad; and 2000’s Coronation of Sesostris, another series of ten whose subject was the Egyptian mythology of the sun’s journey from morning to night. After much rejection and hostility in the States, Twombly was given his first solo show in Paris in 1971, making this elegiac show in the City of Light all the more poignant. 

Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, Paris; Through April 24.

R.H. Quaytman’s “Morning: Chapter 30″ exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

The poetic, hypnotic and singular work of R.H. Quaytman is on display in full splendor at “R.H. Quaytman, Morning: Chapter 30” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the first major museum survey of the NYC-based artist. Made up of 22 gesso-and-silkscreen paintings, the series “30 Chapters” is, like the 29 “chapters” that preceded it, a site-specific project that in this case takes inspiration from another site-specific work, Michael Heizer’s earthwork Double Negative, an excavation on the eastern side of Mormon Mesa in southern Nevada that resulted in two massive trenches. Quaytman traveled to the site in late 2015 to photograph the barren site with an instant camera; the resulting images were the basis for her latest work. (The artist clearly relishes the absurdity that Heizer’s work belongs to the MOCA collection yet can never be shown within the museums walls—except, perhaps, via this translation.) But “Chapter 30” the exhibition is a comprehensive solo show as well, as it includes not only her most recent series but another 43 paintings from the past ten years, including a complete chapter from 2011. 

Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles; Through February 6. 

The Opening of the Sumida Hokusai Museum, Tokyo

Despite the rich history of art in Japan, it is ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”)—woodblock prints from the 18th and 19th centuries depicting everything from kimono-clad courtesans and kabuki actors to animals, plants, and dramatic, often romantic landscapes—that first comes to mind when one thinks of Japanese art, and that has had the most lasting influence on artists of every nationality (including 19th-century masters James Whistler, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, among others).

Now there’s a museum devoted entirely to the country’s best-known practitioner, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose formal, masterfully composed works have, alongside those of rival Hiroshige (1797-1858), come to define the genre. Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Kazuyo Sejima, the angular Sumida Hokusai Museum just opened in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, where the legendary master lived and produced the bulk of his work in the mid 19th century. Don’t miss Great Wave off Kanazawa from his seminal “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” series. 

Sumida Hokusai Museum, 2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo;

Louise Bourgeois’s “Structures of Existence: The Cells” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen

Be sure to buy a ticket to Copenhagen, not the Southern U.S. state, to see “Louise Bourgeois. Structures of Existence: The Cells” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The show in Denmark’s most visited museum, located about 20 miles north of Copenhagen on the Øresund Sound, showcases 25 of the French-American artist’s 62 Cells, the self-contained, microcosmic tableaux that she began shortly before turning 80 that are among her most visceral works. (She embarked on their creation in 1980 in a spacious new Brooklyn studio that allowed her to create much larger works than she ever could in her Chelsea home.)

Her first six Cells, which are demarcated by walls with doors that lead into interior spaces, have been reunited for the first time since they were shown in 1991 at the Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh. Another highlight is her monumental spider Cell, which, rather than signifying menace, symbolizes the kindness and care of her nurturing mother, who was a weaver and restorer of ancient tapestries.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark; Through February 26.