PAINTERLY CONTROVERSY: William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri
This is a lively, illuminating tour through a tempestuous relationship that became a watershed in the course of American art. One fascinating feature is the selection of the men's classroom demonstration pieces, blueprints to their teaching styles, plus classroom work from their students: Stuart Davis, Rockwell Kent, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Edward Hopper. William Merritt Chase's virtuosic "Young Girl" (c.1900) is a breathtaking evocation of a living presence completed in about an hour while students watched.
On view are some of the pair's loveliest and most characteristic works, including Chase's "Carmencita" (1890) and Robert Henri's "La MadrileŮita" (1910). Henri's magnificent 1904 portrait of John Sloan (who often substituted for him in class) reincarnates Velazquez's "Portrait of Pablo de Valladolid" (1632). Chase's 1882 painting of his famous 10th Street studio interior conveys his cosmopolitan image.
Maureen Mullarkey (February 22).
Until April 29 (1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, Conn., 203-869-0376).
VAN GOGH AND EXPRESSIONISM
Walking into this glorious, highkey-colored exhibit is like entering a party in full swing: The atmosphere is heady; the conversations, a combination of shouts, murmurs, and belted-out song, are amicable and a joy to listen to. Such is the inexplicable magic of a show centered on the influence of a painter so gifted, his work so groundbreaking, that his art demanded an immediate and emotional response in the studios of other artists.
Lance Esplund (March 22)
Until July 2 (1048 Fifth Ave. at 86th Street, 212-628-6200).
DANA SCHUTZ: Stand by Earth Man
Zach Feuer Gallery
Usually, an artist has to choose between directness and complexity, stridency and nuance, abstract qualities and psychological ones. But Dana Schutz sustains a highwire balancing act by reconciling these opposites. Her new show includes works that seem intent on communicating with the future, or with another planet, about how humanity performed various tasks, arcane or quotidian. A show stopper of muralist proportions, "How We Cured the Plague" (2007), at 10 feet by 12 feet, depicts a hangarlike space packed with patients, doctors, a cage of monkeys, and a sprawling whale rigged up with tubes. These connect to a patient, his arms outstretched and beset by tumorous boils, standing on a pedestal, a christomorphic Man of Sorrows. Through big semicircular windows, the sun rises in a new dawn for health and humanity.
David Cohen (April 12)
Until May 19 (530 W. 24th St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, 212-989-7700).
AWAKENINGS: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan
Zen Buddhism maintains a robust tradition of figure painting, a tradition magnificently celebrated by "Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan," a new exhibition at the Japan Society. The show comprises 47 Japanese (Zen) and Chinese (Chan) scroll paintings and painted sliding doors, including some work that has never before left Japan. Scroll paintings of the Zen pantheon ó the Buddha Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha), certain bodhisattvas, Bodhidharma (the First Patriarch), and others ó were key tools for transmitting and enacting the religion as it spread east.
This show provides informative bold strokes to follow, and then fills them in with gorgeous detail. Like the peripatetic Buddhist saints, these works have traveled widely to convey the dharma. You will delight in awakening to it.
Daniel Kunitz (April 5)
Until June 17 (333 E. 47th St., between First and Second avenues, 212-832-1155).