Categories
    Subjects
      Authors
        Artists
          Venues
            Locations
              Calendar
              Filter
              Done
              Fernando Palma Rodríguez’s “Āmantēcayōtl”
              Xenia Benivolski
              When I first visited the wall between Mexico and the US in Patagonia, Arizona, in 2017, the town was celebrating: the redevelopment of a large patch of agricultural land had been halted due to the discovery of traces left by a jaguar. In one dramatic appearance, the endangered animal had accomplished what land activists had been trying to do for years. In this same spirit, Fernando Palma Rodríguez’s work plays on the symbiotic relationship between nature and technology, hinting at the possibility of alliance between animals, machines, and humans in the interest of anti-capitalist resistance. Rodríguez is an artist trained as a mechanical engineer whose 1994 robotic installation, Greetings, Zapata Moles—sewing machines adorned with traditional Mexican wrestling masks—responded to the industrialization of his hometown. Rodríguez’s latest robotic work likewise anthropomorphizes technological objects while extending the definition of technology to include unspoken, embodied forms of knowledge that sustain the living practices of Mesoamerican cultures, with particular reference to the Nahua cosmology. At Canal Projects, Rodríguez draws parallels between the energetic currents that power physical, electronic, and metaphysical grids, and the cosmogenic principles that tie humans to the earth. “Āmantēcayōtl: And When it Disappears, it is Said, the Moon has Died” tells …
              Arthur Jafa’s “BLACK POWER TOOL AND DIE TRYNIG”
              Travis Diehl
              With the subtlety of a revolver, Arthur Jafa’s merciless ***** distilled the racial psychopathy of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) by replacing the white characters in its climactic bloodbath with Black ones. Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster still play Vietnam vet Travis Bickle and the pubescent sex worker he thinks he’s saving but—by recording new performances and stitching them into the original footage—Jafa transformed the white pimp Sport into the Black Scar, the bouncer and the john were made Black, and so too the horrified cops who edge in after Bickle has emptied his guns. This wasn’t so much a subversion as a restoration: the script had called for a Black body count, but was recast to avoid inflaming audiences. Critics of Jafa’s redux—recently screened at Gladstone Gallery—have complained that Taxi Driver was already about race. But Jafa’s grim snuff film takes that fact to be obvious, then warps it, repeating his revised climax with small differences and new surprises, for seventy-three minutes. Jafa’s show of sculptures at 52 Walker carries the same themes of Blackness, erasure, violence, and moving images, but in a more damning, paranoid register. A walkthrough structure, studded with extruded aluminum sculptures like bisected window …
              Moyra Davey’s “Forks & Spoons”
              Maddie Hampton
              Moyra Davey’s latest film, Forks & Spoons (2024), studies the work of five photographers: Francesca Woodman, Carla Williams, Alix Cléo Roubaud, Justine Kurland, and Shala Miller. In her characteristic, essayistic style, Davey weaves together footage of herself pacing between moss-covered tree trunks to a voiceover narration that contextualizes the work of each artist within their respective biographies. Reprising a handful of motifs—close-ups of dog-eared book pages, sunlit corners, long shots of her hands methodically turning through photobooks, and other symbols of the daily and domestic—the film is screened alongside a curated selection of prints and photo books by each artist, so that it functions as a kind of coda for the wider exhibition. Though Davey maintains a porous boundary between cinematic and physical space, she accentuates the varying capacities of moving, still, and published images throughout the show, highlighting how each of these forms carries and conveys distinct meanings. Davey’s subject never shifts, but by translating it across forms, she successfully presents something closer to its totality. Davey’s primary interest here is in many ways a style. Each of her chosen image-makers was or remains attuned to a particular pitch of self-capture: a feminized portraiture of long exposures, blurred movement, …
              Vija Celmins’s “Winter”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              Vija Celmins’s latest show is at once an invitation to marvel at the perfect copy and to contemplate copying itself. The heavy rope that seems to hang down from the gallery ceiling is, in reality, a stainless-steel sculpture extending up from the ground (Ladder, 2021–22). Its adjunct, another piece of painted steel, Rope #2 (2022—24) sits coiled on the floor, playing its role as a fiber weave with equal conviction. The ropes, along with two other sculptures of exquisite verisimilitude, are enthralling in their own right. They also remind visitors that the surrounding paintings, which can easily register as minimal abstractions, are exercises in illusion and replication as well. Umberto Eco once declared the United States to be a country “obsessed with realism, where, if a reconstruction is to be credible, it must be […] a perfect likeness, a ‘real’ copy of the reality being represented.” This cultural propensity for real fakes, Eco suggests, is at odds with the “cultured” America that produced Abstract Expressionism and modernist architecture. Celmins seems to think otherwise. “Winter” is full of Eco’s real copies, and Ladder may even be a reference to the “Indian Rope Trick” popular in magic shows. On the other hand, …
              Grace Wales Bonner’s “Artist’s Choice: Spirit Movers”
              Osman Can Yerebakan
              Rhythm gives form to Grace Wales Bonner’s contribution to the Artist’s Choice series of exhibitions showcasing the “creative response of artists to the works of their peers and predecessors.” Not in the sense of a soundtrack or score, but rather in the British fashion designer’s focus on the different ways in which “sound, movement, performance, and style in the African diaspora” is translated into the works in MoMA’s collection. Tucked away in the more intimate first floor gallery, Wales Bonner’s exhibition offers a space of tranquility. Terry Adkins’s Synapse (1992) hovers close to the ceiling, a yellow enamel-painted drum skin as perfectly rounded as the July sun. Beneath it is Adkins’s Last Trumpet (1995), a quartet of eighteen-foot-long horns crafted by attaching used trombone or sousaphone bells to brass cones. Standing like the enduring towers of an ancient civilization, the musical instrument-cum-sculpture resonates with the potential of its own activation (Adkins would play the instrument from its first presentation in 1996 through to his passing in 2014). Earthy tones, dense textures, and subtle connections are the main ingredients in Wales Bonner’s alchemy. She has painted the gallery in tones of rusting metal, crystalizing sugar, and sanguine resin, lending the gallery …
              Raven Chacon’s “A Worm’s Eye View from a Bird’s Beak”
              Rômulo Moraes
              The flag-score that opens composer and sound-artist Raven Chacon’s exhibition at Swiss Institute—featuring work made over the past twenty-five years alongside a new sound and video installation—is a miniature portrait of his career. American Ledger No. 1 (Army Blanket) (2020), a graphic history of the United States in the form of an army blanket, is embossed with icons of waves, flames, police whistles, wood-chopping axes, and a fractured city skyline. Chacon’s main interests are all there: notation in the expanded field, the interplay of various mediums, the embeddedness of sound and landscape, and the malleability of map and territory. Working with post-Cagean aesthetics yet advancing them within a Diné/Navajo context, Chacon’s work suggests that notation is an imposition onto sound comparable to colonialism’s imposition onto the land. The opening room contains the installation Still Life No. 3 (2015), in which a series of glass panels mounted onto the walls and engraved with white fonts tell the Diné Bahane’ creation myth, which describes the birth of light and color in worlds below ours, the raising of the waters, and the formation of mountains and celestial bodies. The transparent and reflective surface makes the glossy text intentionally difficult to read, as though …
              Joan Jonas’s “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral”
              Filipa Ramos
              Arranged into families following a meticulous taxonomic logic, the almost 300 drawings presented at Drawing Center reveal the extraordinary bestiary that Joan Jonas has been compiling over five decades. Jonas has a unique capacity to traverse and merge artistic fields as varied as performance, sculpture, environment, and video installation, but what is illuminated by this exhibition, carefully curated by Laura Hoptman with Rebecca DiGiovanna, is how drawing runs through, across, and within every means of her expression, accompanying the development of her career from the 1960s to the present. The show also demonstrates how the artist has been bringing these disciplines together through drawing, as it becomes a practice akin to performing and editing, in a do-repeat-redo-repeat-erase-do-repeat method that connects the mind, body, and hand until the form emerges. Two drawings flank the entrance to the show (all works are untitled but classified by a reference number, in this case JJ084, circa late 1990s, and JJ085, from 2012), which also becomes its exit. These are two naked female torsos, as imposing and as head-, arm- and feet-less as the Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BCE), made in the context of two live performances. In parallel to this, Jonas has blurred …
              Eva Gold’s “Shadow Lands”
              Jenny Wu
              The critique in London-based artist Eva Gold’s first US solo exhibition is spare and subtle. Consisting of six works on paper and two sculptural installations, the show conveys, in meticulous details and material choices, a message about the coercive economic power embedded in everyday cultural transactions. At the heart of the exhibition is “Pilot and Passengers” (all works 2024), a series of colored-pencil drawings of stills from Benny’s Video, Michael Haneke’s 1992 film about a violence-obsessed teenager disenchanted by his affluent upbringing, who murders a stranger in his parents’ home. Gold’s understated drawings, hung in identical, nineteen-by-twenty-six-inch frames, line three of the gallery’s walls. In Haneke’s film, a low tracking shot follows several pairs of hands as Benny, the teenager, covertly collects money for a pyramid scheme called Pilot and Passengers that he introduced to his friends during school choir practice. Gold’s lighter, less saturated images emphasize general forms over details. From afar, viewers might mistakenly believe that they are spying on people holding hands. Up close, one still feels like a voyeur, since Gold’s static renderings allow the eye to linger on the creases in the fabric of the boys’ jeans, the threaded borders of their back pockets, the …
              81st Whitney Biennial, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
              Ben Eastham
              Walking through this survey of American art in the age of anger and anxiety, I kept returning to the curatorial statement’s seemingly innocuous proposal that new technologies are “complicating our understanding of what is real.” Are our horizons now so narrow, it occurred to me, that an algorithm’s ability to generate a derivative image is really more consciousness-expanding than such longstanding preoccupations of art as spiritual experience or the natural world? Or might the title’s appeal to something “better” serve to distract us from the already complicated and unarguably real events playing out beyond the walls of the museum, with which this biennial can seem reluctant to engage? A generation of artists are, on the show’s evidence, retreating from a hostile public sphere into their own carefully cultivated worlds. This tendency manifests both in the valorization of marginalized identities through the adaptation of folk traditions to the present—notably ektor garcia’s use of crochet to articulate a nomadic cross-border experience—and in the tendency towards opacity, most explicitly in the panels of smoked black glass suspended precariously over the audience’s heads by Charisse Pearlina Weston (of [a] tomorrow: lighter than air, stronger than whiskey, cheaper than dust, 2022). Many of the realities …
              Mary Helena Clark’s “Conveyor”
              Chris Murtha
              There’s a card trick midway through Mary Helena Clark’s Neighboring Animals (all works 2024 unless otherwise stated), a two-channel video projected into a darkened corner. While an elderly orangutan watches from the other side of his enclosure’s window, two human hands press a single playing card against the thick safety glass. Holding a stick in one hand, the ape nimbly picks up the card, now (miraculously!) on his side of the barrier. After giving it a sniff and twirling it around in his hands, he places it back on the glass, tapping it a few times with his makeshift wand—perhaps his attempt to send it back through the seemingly porous window. Clark edited this video—a zoo’s promotional clip gone viral—to preserve some mystery on behalf of the orangutan, cutting the ending so that the card, instead of falling to the ground, remains affixed to the glass. A collage of sampled footage, still pictures, medical scans, and her own camerawork, Neighboring Animals scrutinizes the thresholds between inside and outside, human and beast. The left channel consists solely of yellow subtitles with no corresponding voice, a pastiche of quotations on the topic of disgust. Alongside illustrations of chained and leashed animals from …
              Catherine Opie’s “Walls, Windows, and Blood”
              Sylvie Fortin
              They say ghosts, vampires, and the soulless cast no shadows. Shot in a Vatican City emptied of visitors during the pandemic summer of 2021, Catherine Opie’s new photographs provocatively reshuffle different threads of her longstanding inquiries—the spectrum from transparency to opacity; communal spaces; the body as/and architecture; queerness and institutions. With its succinct, descriptive enumeration, the exhibition’s trinitarian title “Walls, Windows, and Blood” implies unsettling visual conversations to which she gives form with a selection of images from three new series (all works 2023), clustered in grids, lined up along walls, and proceeding in colonnades. No Apology (June 5, 2021), a large photograph of Pope Francis delivering a speech from a top-floor window of his residence overlooking St. Peter’s Square, greets visitors. A lone white man dwarfed by statuary and muffled by the resounding whiteness of the colonnaded plaza, he floats above a blood-red banner bearing his coat of arms. In his short allocution, uttered in the wake of the traumatic discovery of unmarked graves at the former Church-run Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, the pontiff acknowledged (apologies would have to wait) the Catholic Church’s complicity in both the colonial dispossession of Canada’s Aboriginal communities and the accompanying systematic …
              Amalia Pica’s “Aula Expandida”
              Noah Simblist
              How might our understanding of education better incorporate communication, participation, and play? And what would be the consequences of that expanded approach? Such questions have been at the center of Amalia Pica’s work for many years, drawing partially on her early experience as a primary school teacher. Her first solo exhibition in New York attends to the manifold aspects of learning across a group of collages, sculptures, and video works organized around a new interactive installation. Two understated large-scale graphite and watercolor drawings, School sheets in adjusted scale (or an exercise in how to go back to all the things I hadn’t thought of yet) #1 and #2 (both 2011), are based on notebook paper with “Rivadavia” printed in an elegant cursive in the margin. This references Bernardino Rivadavia, the first president of the London-based artist’s birth country of Argentina, using a font based on his signature. The stamping of state power into the very books in which young people learn how to write signals the reproduction of the ideological subject through a form of repeated inscription. This has chilling implications in the context of the military dictatorship (1976–83) into which Pica was born. Her 2008 video On Education depicts …
              Madeline Hollander’s “Entanglement”
              Maddie Hampton
              In profile, the six rounded disks at the center of Madeline Hollander’s latest exhibition appear glamorously extraterrestrial, the bright bulbs of the track lighting glinting in their polished chrome surfaces. Arranged in a grid on curved, white pedestals, the satellite-shaped objects are constructed from parabolic mirrors, a hole cut at the top of each to reveal a sinewy figure cast in aluminum, revolving atop a bifurcated circle of colored glass. Based on Hollander’s personalized notation system, specific silhouettes and colors correspond to a precise movement so that, taken in concert, the six figures play out an entire choreography, spinning perpetually in place. Viewed at the right angle, the maquette doubles, ascending out of the mirror like a ballerina from a jewelry box to create the illusion of a perfect pas de deux—not a limb out of place, nor a posture skipped, as both “dancers” rotate in flawless synchronicity. Titled Entanglement Choreography I-VI (all works 2023), the objects are designed as miniaturized visualizations of quantum entanglement, the theory that two particles can be interdependent, mimicking one another across both space and time, the action of one entirely conditional on that of its partner. Quick and loose with her interpretations of the …
              Astrid Klein
              Xenia Benivolski
              Astrid Klein’s photowork Untitled (Je ne parle pas,…) (1979) presents two cut-out images of Brigitte Bardot—posing in a baby doll dress and, again, coquettishly looking back over her shoulder. In broken, typewritten French and English are the words “je ne parle pas, je ne pense rien” (“I don’t speak, I don’t think”) and “to paint my life, to paint my life, so many ways.” It’s a fitting prelude to this exhibition, which is something of a house of mirrors. Trapped behind the museum glass, like sexy cats in apartment windows, large photographic works fill the walls, each featuring a beautiful woman while slyly reflecting the viewer. In Untitled (la sans couleur…) (1979), a reclining woman awkwardly turns her head to look at me with an enigmatic smile. Loosely draped in a sheet on an unmade bed in the dark, she is a body in waiting. These gazes are not exactly inviting; if anything, they somehow lack emotion, as the title reflects: “masks without color.” But there is something cool, even powerful, about their magnetic resignation. Like several in the show, the image is arranged with visible marker framing and taped sections, giving the impression that this composition sets the stage …
              An-My Lê’s “Between Two Rivers/Giữa hai giòng sông/Entre deux rivières”
              Jacinda S. Tran
              In 1968, army photographer Ron Haeberle shot Vietnamese civilians indiscriminately massacred by US ground forces in the hamlet of Mỹ Lai. His photographs circulated widely—including a color photo of corpses strewn across a road featured in LIFE magazine that, in 1970, with support from the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Workers Coalition incorporated into an antiwar poster overlaid, in blood red, with the text “Q. And babies? A. And babies.” When MoMA withdrew its support for the poster, AWC staged a protest to illuminate board members’ tacit support of the war in Vietnam. The museum promptly assimilated AWC’s poster into their own collections, institutionalizing institutional critique. Half a century later, MoMA exhibits “Between Two Rivers/Giữa hai giòng sông/Entre deux rivières,” a survey of multimedia works by Vietnam-born An-My Lê, whose large-format photographs are known for their staging and depictions of militarized landscapes. Lê focuses on what the visual reveals and obscures; how a range of quotidian landscapes may be conceived as “always already military.” Though Lê left Vietnam as a teenager after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the specter of war and its spectacularization informs her approaches to representation. In “Viêt Nam (1994–98), Lê returns to her birth …
              Andrea Bowers’s “Joy is an Act of Resistance”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              The first work that one encounters on entering Andrew Kreps’s gallery might be mistaken for an extension of the gallery’s commercial operations. Trans Bills (2023) consists of fifty-four black ring binders, arrayed on a shelf to the left of the front desk, labeled with the names of states that have passed legislation restricting the rights of trans citizens. The work’s blandness is perhaps the point. Quietly running in the background of clownish Republican performances of parental rights and viral videos of religious zealots is a legislative machine producing the reams of paper progressively restricting the rights of trans people to work, receive medical care, and live basic social lives. In a mere two years, 1,006 anti-trans bills have been introduced by state legislatures. An additional sixty-three have been introduced at the federal level. At the back of the first-floor gallery is a 47-minute single-channel video of a trans prom organized by four teenagers as both an adolescent rite of passage and a protest—two things that are, for many trans youth, inseparable. The footage is visible from the gallery’s entrance, and the contrast between the young faces and the scale of adult animosity ranged against them is the show’s most valuable …
              Mit Jai Inn
              Jenny Wu
              In Shirley Jackson’s allegorical short story “The Lottery” (1948), villagers gather for a game of chance in which they draw slips of paper, all blank but one, from an old black box. Children, adults, and elders alike, accustomed to the tradition, participate with a mixture of anticipation and boredom. The ending reveals that the prize, known to them all along, is the stoning of an unlucky villager. Mit Jai Inn’s first US solo exhibition also features a large quantity of “stones” and a lottery that, in subtler ways, uncovers a set of human behaviors integral to the functioning of society and politics. Here, the Chiang Mai-based artist, whose work is often framed as a form of social practice infused with Buddhist teachings, sets up a participatory piece titled after a recent sculpture series, Marking Stones (2022). Visitors are invited to submit pledges for “positive action” for a chance to win one of these sculptures. The title of the series is a tenuous reference to the bai sema stones used by Buddhist communities in Southeast Asia to mark their territory: the sculptures are, in fact, fully functional baskets, lamps, and stools. Around two dozen of these candy-colored wares occupy a room …
              Delcy Morelos’s “El abrazo”
              Michael Kurtz
              Here lie the ruins of the American avant-garde. Wood salvaged from an installation by Dan Graham, offcuts from a felt piece by Robert Morris, and scraps of flooring from a Dorothea Rockburne display. Mounds of soil recall Robert Smithson’s geological samples and rows of pipe echo Walter de Maria’s Broken Kilometer (1979) of brass rods lined up on the floor. These fragments now sit in darkness, illuminated only by four shaded skylights. They are arranged across the space along with sheets of corrugated metal, parallel stacks of wooden planks, and hundreds of small pieces of Colombian pottery. Everything is dark brown and sitting on a crust of mud which rises up the walls to a high-water mark, I later read, left after the gallery flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Despite their simple forms and materials, the objects become mirage-like in this dimly lit monochrome expanse. Walking down the pier of clean floor that stretches into the room, I try to perceive the scale and texture of the things around me, but they evade my grasp. The light fades and they retreat further. Cielo terrenal [Earthly heaven] (2023), the first of two installations by Colombian artist Delcy Morelos at Dia Chelsea, is …
              Shilpa Gupta
              Paul Stephens
              Recent New York Times headlines point to American perceptions of India’s increasingly prominent role in global affairs. “Can India Challenge China for Leadership of the ‘Global South’?” “Will This Be the ‘Indian Century’?” “The Illusion of a US-India Partnership.” “US Seeks Closer Ties With India as Tension With China and Russia Builds.” “US Says Indian Official Directed Assassination Plot in New York.” “An Indian Artist Questions Borders and the Limits on Free Speech.” The last headline refers to Mumbai-based Shilpa Gupta, whose work obliquely explores the emergent global polycrisis (a term popularized by Adam Tooze) in which India plays a central part. Although Gupta’s art is deeply engaged with contemporary political events, it is not headline-driven. It resists didacticism, in part, through being polyvocal, as exemplified in her standout installation Listening Air (2019–23). Defying simple description and rewarding patient immersion, Listening Air consists of multiple microphones-turned-speakers that play songs of labor and resistance from around the world. As the songs fade in and out, listener-viewers in the dimly lit room slowly begin to perceive themselves as members of a temporary community. The effect is ethereal and meditative. Gupta’s two concurrent New York exhibitions, at Amant and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, accord …
              New Red Order’s “The World’s UnFair”
              Stephanie Bailey
              Occupying a pocket of undeveloped land in Long Island City, “The World’s UnFair” is a principled riot. Created by New Red Order (NRO), a “public secret society” facilitated by artists Jackson Polys, Zack Khalil, and Adam Khalil, this carnivalesque fairground, supported by Creative Time, is presided over by Ash and Bruno, a sixteen-foot animatronic tree with LED screens nestled in cellular tower branches and a furry five-foot tall beaver, respectively. The pair talk about the legacies of settler colonialism on the land where they stand, Lenapehoking—a forest, they say, the last time they met. America’s original multi-millionaire John Astor is mentioned: he made his fortune in the fur trade that all but decimated beaver populations, before acquiring land in Manahatta and making “a killing off renting to incoming settlers.” The politics of land is at the heart of this roadshow. Staked into the earth is New Red Right to Return (2023), a wooden post with directional markers naming Lenape diasporic nations displaced by settlers due to the fundamental difference between the colonial European treatment of land as a commodity and the Indigenous American understanding of it as a communal resource. That discrepancy complicates the narrative that the Lenape sold Manahatta …
              Candice Lin’s “Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory”
              Jonathan Griffin
              The story, as literary theorist Peter Brooks has observed, is today’s dominant cultural form. To Brooks, this “overabundance” of narrative is worrying: he criticizes the deference of virtually all strands of culture (not only literature, TV, and movies but art, museology, and—especially—news media) to the persuasive rhetorical power of the story. I share many of his concerns. “The universe is not our stories about the universe,” he writes, “even if those stories are all we have.” In the artwork of Candice Lin, however—an artist who nests stories inside stories, who researches, remembers, speculates, and concocts in equal measure, all at once, without hope or intent to persuade—the story becomes a lubricative medium that enables the destabilizing of sense, the de-centering of singular subjectivities, and the unpicking of neatly tied conclusions. “Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory,” the Los Angeles-based artist’s multimedia exhibition at the non-profit Canal Projects in New York, is near-impossible to summarize, except by telling stories. Let me start with one. In the 1970s, female workers at Japanese-operated factories in rural Malaysia experienced demonic possessions and spirit attacks. Workers at these factories hailed not just from Malaysia but China and India too, so bomohs (Malay shamans) and healers …
              “Emerging Ecologies: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism”
              Matt Shaw
              In March 1949, the cover of Popular Science magazine featured Ray Pioch’s brightly colored drawing of architect Eleanor Raymond’s Dover Sun House, a Massachusetts home developed with solar engineer Maria Telkes and heated exclusively by solar energy. Part Rockwell painting, part architectural section, and part science diagram, the illustration drew on Pioch’s experience drawing instruction manuals for the U.S. Navy during World War II. It shows an idyllic family in their well-tempered living room, kept warm by the energy captured through south-facing windows and stored in canisters of mirabilite, or Glauber’s salt, a mineral well suited to storing solar heat in the day and releasing it after dark. The cover represents the best image of post-war Pax Americana, but with a twist: a bright optimism that the sun was the future source of America’s energy needs, not oil. The cover serves as a lively introduction to “Emerging Ecologies: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism,” the inaugural presentation by the Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and Natural Environment. Curated by Carson Chan, the show attempts to draw lines in the sand about what “ecology” and “the environment” mean in architecture from the 1930s to the …
              Michael Rakowitz’s “The Monument, the Monster, and the Maquette”
              Rachel Valinsky
              The exhibition’s title, alliteration and all, has the ring of an Aesopian fable. The Latin etymology of monument, Michael Rakowitz spells out on the edges of a sculpture, are trifold: caution (to remind, to advise, to warn), protest (demonstrate, remonstrate), monstrosity (monster). And indeed, around the gallery, the monstrous is everywhere in sight. Its forms are many: to the right, Behemoth (all works 2022), a colossal black plastic tarp obscuring the suggestion of an equestrian figure below rises tall only to fall to the ground as the fan powering its ascent clocks out. At the center, American Golem, poised on a decorative white wooden tabletop, an assemblage of found antiques and papier mâché sculptures (a strategy the artist has previously used for reproducing objects looted from Iraqi museums, highlighting the calls for their repatriation). The central figure, which stands on a stack of marble slabs, greets the viewer from the top of its bell-mold body and fired-clay mask—a copy of the Babylonian monster Humbaba. Gazing out at the viewer, its composite arms outstretched, it recalls Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus (1920), but even more grotesque. It doesn’t just stand on the wreckage of the past, propelled toward the future: it is …
              Valerie Werder’s Thieves
              Wendy Vogel
              In Valerie Werder’s debut novel Thieves, Valerie—an autofictional alter ego—chronicles her slide from disgruntled gallery copywriter to brazen shoplifter. At first she steals for the rebellious thrill of inhabiting other identities; eventually, and more abstractly, she steals to reclaim her time, words, and sense of self. Thieves centers on the New York blue-chip commercial art world, with its fussy idiosyncrasies and particular flavor of exploitation. But it is equally a novel about the fungibility of female identity—and a shrewd indictment of how language operates under capitalism. Werder’s decision to write in a self-reflexive mode—a contemporary novel in the lineage of Semiotext(e)’s influential “Native Agents” series, edited by Chris Kraus and featuring authors such as Kathy Acker, Lynne Tillman, and Kraus herself—speaks to a desire to expose and explore the conditions under which Thieves was produced. Yet Werder is critical of how language is strategically deployed in the name of “authenticity,” both within the art world and literature. In Thieves, words bolster value, then drain themselves of meaning. People become expendable, while material things reinforce their self-worth. Over the course of the novel, Valerie becomes both a precious object and a voracious acquisitor. She enables, and is enabled by, a mysterious …
              Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s “Radiant Remembrance”
              Murtaza Vali
              In Ken McMullen’s experimental film Ghost Dance (1983), Jacques Derrida proclaims that “Cinema is the art of ghosts, a battle of phantoms. It’s the art of allowing ghosts to come back.” This assertion of film’s proximity to the spectral plays out across Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s video installations, three of which anchor “Radiant Remembrance.” Blending animist beliefs held by Indigenous communities across Southeast Asia with the importance given to reincarnation within Buddhist theology, Nguyen uses film as a medium, not just as the material form of his art practice but as a channel through which to conjure forgotten pasts, narrate counter-memories, and confront historical violence and ecological destruction. After all, what are ghosts, if not simply our ancestors, and our memories of them, continuing to radiate their presence to us? What is remembrance if not simply a form of reincarnation? These capacities are most clearly articulated in The Specter of Ancestors Becoming (2019), an immersive four-channel video installation about the descendants of the tirailleurs sénégalais—Senegalese soldiers conscripted to fight for the colonial French army in the First Indochina War who fathered children with Vietnamese women. That conflict ended a year before the 1955 Bandung Conference, which sought to build cooperation …
              Ethan Philbrick’s Group Works
              Laura Nelson
              There are many ways to move through and think alongside Ethan Philbrick’s Group Works. At first glance, it’s a book of academic theory coming out of performance studies. Following a “desire for collectivity,” Philbrick takes the small-scale formation of “the group” as the locus of inquiry. He enters the text with a tentativeness toward groups, recognizing the ways that they are frequently viewed with healthy suspicion or uncritical celebration. He asks: What kind of good-bad thing is a group to do? When do we do things in groups, and why? How do we group, and how does that matter? Moving with these questions, the book turns to artists experimenting with novel group formations in dance, literature, film, and music in the 1960s and ’70s. Each chapter pairs a “group work”—Simone Forti’s 1961 performance Huddle, Samuel Delany’s 1979 memoir Heavenly Breakfast: An Essay on the Winter of Love, Lizzie Borden’s 1976 film Regrouping, and Julius Eastman’s 1979 musical piece Gay Guerrilla—with contemporary works that re-imagine, re-perform, or dialogue with these experiments. Taken together, each pairing amplifies and extends the book’s central impulses to consider how groups assemble and disassemble. Along the way, Philbrick introduces a chorus of thinkers—theorists of community, theorists of in-operative community, theorists …
              “Schema: World as Diagram”
              Paul Stephens
              This exhibition of diagrammatic works juggles some of the most contested categories in contemporary art—and manages to keep all its curatorial balls in the air. Despite the broad sweep of its title, the show is tightly curated and requires multiple viewings for its full scope to set in. With an emphasis on painting, this meticulous grouping of fifty-plus artists undermines simplistic, outmoded art-historical binaries that oppose figuration and abstraction, conceptualism and expressionism, scientism and humanism. To call it expansive feels like an understatement. The show takes its title from Thomas Hirschhorn’s Schema: Art and Public Space (2016–22), an exuberant multimedia collage-manifesto. Rudimentary and improvisational, Hirschhorn’s patchwork of ideas and contexts places the works in the show under a utopian-communitarian umbrella—exemplifying David Joselit’s claim in his 2005 essay “Dada’s Diagrams” that “the diagram constitutes an embodied utopianism.” Hirschhorn’s Schema might usefully be juxtaposed with Dan Graham’s 1966 work of the same name—sometimes taken to represent the apex of early informatic anti-figural conceptualism. (A show devoted to Graham’s Schema at 3A Gallery closed, coincidentally, several weeks before this exhibition opened.) Graham intended his work to be “completely self-referential” and meant to define “itself in place only as information.” Simply a text without …
              Aria Dean’s “Figuer Sucia”
              Katherine C. M. Adams
              One enters Aria Dean’s exhibition “Figuer Sucia” through Pink Saloon Doors (all works 2023) that open onto a vaguely neo-Western mise-en-scène. An ambiguous gray sculpture—heavily textured, with densely packed contours that evoke layers of folded skin and the crushed musculature of a horse—sits on a wooden pallet at the center of the room. This mildly cubic, contorted sculptural figure (FIGURE A, Friesian Mare) appears to be cowering, its subject’s equine body nearly unrecognizable. Dean’s recent exhibition at the Renaissance Society, “Abattoir, U.S.A.!,” took the slaughterhouse as a way to examine the limits of subjecthood. Its central film work walked the viewer through the environments of factory farming. While Abattoir, U.S.A.!’s featured architecture was outfitted for the killing of animals, the rooms it showed remained empty, painting a backdrop of violent and eerie subjectification. Like that project, “Figuer Sucia” is implicitly connected to Dean’s longstanding reflections on how Blackness is conditioned for and as social material. The contorted not-quite-object, not-quite-subject of FIGURE A might seem to show the implied, absent victim of that prior project. Yet “Figuer Sucia” calls the source of such brutality into question. It examines a violence that is not only in the scene we are witnessing, but …
              Paige K.B.’s “Of Course, You Realize, This Means War”
              Travis Diehl
              At the opening, the red and white helium balloons were in everyone’s face. Now, at the show’s close, they’re at your feet, like a deflated Great Pacific Garbage Patch, pressing visitors closer to Paige K.B.’s intricate collages on wood panels, pastiches of art-historical material, and political sound-bites; closer to the web of found objects and deadpan references supplementing the paintings, to the sour red walls they hang on. The balloons make it hard to take in the show from a safe, not to say critical, distance. No measured overview allowed, only deep diving, unpacking, conspiring. The balloons suggest a constellation so dense and rubbery it’s a blob, the trampled ribbons like the red yarn in the disgraced detective’s storage unit—their significance all wadded up and too close to see. Maybe that’s too much weight to attach to party decorations that never got cleaned up. But why weren’t they cleaned up? Why are they on the checklist, inaccurately, as 99 Red Balloons of Diplomacy (all works 2023 unless otherwise stated): “Thirty-one red balloons,” when some are white? A checklist on a PDF dated May 17—two weeks after the opening? But the balloons fit the vibe. They insinuate themselves into a scenography …
              Trinh T. Minh-ha’s The Twofold Commitment
              Patrick J. Reed
              The Twofold Commitment revisits Trinh T. Minh-ha’s time-dipping Forgetting Vietnam (2015), a documentary feature about the mythical origins of Vietnam. Which is to say, it’s a book about a film which reflects on what the name of a country evokes of the history, people, and cultures associated with it. Seven interviews conducted between Trinh and eight media scholars and critics compose half of the book. Each approaches the filmmaker and writer’s work from a different tack, focusing on aspects of Forgetting Vietnam that are representative of her multi-hyphenate career. Irit Rogoff, for example, homes in on what it means to make a film for the feminist viewer, while Stefan Östersjö concentrates on the multi-sonic soundscapes within it. And Lucie Kim-Chi Mercier’s discussion, “Wartime: The Forces of Remembering in Forgetting,” provides important historical background about the country in question. As a filmmaker and theorist, Trinh strives to disavow classification and impress upon her audience the necessity of the extra- and non-categorical. Thus certain terminology, like some already employed in this review, requires inverted commas more often than not. “Documentary” refers to a moving-image essay composed of Hi8 footage from 1995 and HD footage from 2012, which Trinh gathered on separate visits …
              Juliana Huxtable and Tongue in the Mind
              Harry Burke
              As a teenage indie fan, I spent countless hours on peer-to-peer file sharing platforms like LimeWire and Kazaa, and later blogs and MySpace pages, on which I discovered bands like the Velvet Underground, Boredoms, and Gang Gang Dance. Each products of art scenes, these acts not only soundtracked my adolescence but, by showing me alternative ways of listening and living, sparked my curiosity for contemporary art. In their New York City debut at National Sawdust early last month, Tongue in the Mind forged a novel branch in the art-rock lineage. The project follows almost ten years of collaborations between artist Juliana Huxtable and multi-instrumentalist Joe Heffernan, also known as Jealous Orgasm, who are joined by DJ and producer Via App on electronics. Huxtable’s art practice spans creative registers, and muses on themes including furry fandom and the psychedelic edges of queer desire. An acclaimed DJ, her inventive sets defy genre and expectations, whether she’s playing Berghain or the basement of a bar. Tongue in the Mind synthesizes these pursuits, and evidences the trio’s musical and artistic maturation. The performance was the finale of “Archive of Desire,” a week-long ode to the Alexandrian poet Constantine P. Cavafy (1863–1933), programmed by the …
              Bispo do Rosario’s “All Existing Materials on Earth”
              Elena Vogman
              A number of extravagant garments, marked by generous color schemes and complex embroidery, open the first of three luminous rooms in “All Existing Materials on Earth,” curated by Tie Jojima, Aimé Iglesias Lukin, Ricardo Resende, and Javier Téllez. Its central piece, Manto da apresentação [Annunciation Garment], catches the eye with a multiplicity of details, inscribed with colored threads against a light-brown ground: signs and drawings of objects, names, numbers, abbreviations, and streets of Brazilian cities, utensils, boats and a model of a large sailing ship. A photographic portrait of the artist wearing his magnum opus reveals not a fashion designer but a Brazilian psychiatric patient. The descendant of Black slaves, Arthur Bispo do Rosario (1909/11–1989) spent forty-one years of his life in mental health institutions while accomplishing his “mission.” On the side of the short exhibition text, another mugshot-like portrait of the artist is displayed on the patient card from Colônia Juliano Moreira, the hospital where Bispo was interned. He is described as “indigent,” a wandering Black beggar bearing no documents. The card repeats the police record from December 1938, when Bispo was arrested in Rio de Janeiro and diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia.” It was the month of Bispo’s revelation: …
              “Refigured”
              Travis Diehl
              Among a spring flush of screen-, code-, and tech-related museum shows, “Refigured” at the Whitney stands out for its concision. The exhibition’s frame may seem vague—the human figure vis-a-vis technology at times verges on a universalized body—but the five works by six artists pulled by in-house curator Christiane Paul from the Whitney’s holdings maintain a fairly tight focus on the physical possibilities of digital bodies, from statues to demigods to talking heads. In Auriea Harvey’s Ox (2020) and Ox v1-dv2 (apotheosis) (2021), for instance, a muscular, berobed humanoid called Ox—which the wall label describes as an avatar for the artist—appears three times over: a pigmented statuette around 20 cm tall, a 3D model presented on a monitor, and an AR version pinned nearby and visible through an iPad tethered to its plinth. The artist’s intentions notwithstanding, Ox exists in digital and psychic “space” as a concept, a potentiality, and these various renderings are all concessions to display in a physical room. In fact, as each new struggling trillion-dollar metaverse venture demonstrates, even state-of-the-art interfaces between the digital and physical “realms” remain pretty clunky (and the hardware here is not state of the art). The redundancy of Ox means there are …
              “Cinema of Sensations: The Never-Ending Screen of Val del Omar”
              Herb Shellenberger
              A quick survey of a handful of my peers—among them several experimental filmmakers, curators, and academics—revealed that none of them recognized the name José Val del Omar (1904–82). This came as a surprise to me, given that Val del Omar is perhaps the most foundational filmmaker of Spanish avant-garde cinema. My peers’ responses were ample if anecdotal evidence that the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Cinema of Sensations: The Never-Ending Screen of Val del Omar” is not only much needed; it should also provide an eye-opening look at the work of a visionary artist who is too little-known outside his home country—even to those who are invested in the subject of experimental film. “Cinema of Sensations,” in the museum’s temporary exhibition gallery, demonstrates that Val del Omar was not just a filmmaker but a technician and inventor, cultural critic and theorist, and a trailblazing artist whose work and ideas spilled across many forms and media. This chronological exhibition opens with Val del Omar’s first films, made in rural towns that he visited during the early 1930s as part of the Misiones Pedagógicas (Pedagogical Missions) literacy campaign. It closes with the techno-futuristic experiments developed at his P.L.A.T. lab, a live-in studio space …
              “Signals: How Video Transformed the World”
              Dennis Lim
              “Video is everywhere,” begins the wall text at the entrance to MoMA’s largest video show in decades, as if on a cautionary note. Equally, to borrow an aphorism from Shigeko Kubota, subject of a recent MoMA exhibition: “Everything is video.” (It is worth noting that Kubota said this in 1975.) In tracing the evolution of video from its emergence as a consumer technology in the 1960s to its present-day ubiquity, “Signals” covers a dauntingly vast sixty-year span. A lot happened—not least to video itself—in the years separating the Portapak and the iPhone, half-inch tape and the digital cloud, and as the material basis of video changed, so too did its role in daily life. This sprawling, frequently thought-provoking show proposes a path through these dizzying developments by considering video as a political force. In their catalog essay, curators Stuart Comer and Michelle Kuo call the exhibition “not a survey but a lens, reframing and revealing a history of massive shifts in society.” Not incidentally, this view of the medium—as a creator of publics and an agent of change—is in direct contradiction to a famous early perspective advanced by Rosalind Krauss, who in a 1976 essay wondered if “the medium of …
              Refik Anadol’s “Unsupervised”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              It is widely accepted that propaganda makes for bad art. But propaganda is not always an Uncle Sam poster. Sometimes it is a towering, spectacular argument for the supremacy of the machine; an exercise in post-industrial American triumphalism, surveillance technology, and repressive deep-state R&D disguised as visually appealing, non-referential images. The United States has a long history of cultural campaigns aimed at furthering its imperial goals. The Museum of Modern Art’s historical connection to the CIA is—like Radio Free Europe and the Congress for Cultural Freedom—among the more notable examples of the government’s intervention in our civic life. But despite our awareness of these operations, the potential propaganda function of abstract and non-representational art rarely enters into its critical reception and evaluation. Perhaps the idea of propaganda is so thoroughly wedded to realism in the American imagination that MoMA’s collection seems unimpeachable. Maybe the term “propaganda” has become, through popular use, something that is only used by one’s political opponents. While it is tempting to argue that cultural control is now mediated by a confusing, irresponsible, and diffuse spectacle of corporate greed, Refik Anadol’s “Unsupervised” (2022) suggests that we should reconsider the utility of a more vulgar analysis of visual …
              Charles Atlas’s “A Prune Twin”
              Erik Morse
              When Charles Atlas quit as filmmaker-in-residence at the influential Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in 1983, after more than a decade, he decided to embrace a younger generation, a different continent, and a more public medium. These changes coalesced around the Pandean figure of Michael Clark, a former prodigy of London’s Royal Ballet School who in 1984 began to sketch out a punk- and club-inspired choreography with his own newly founded dance company. That same year, Atlas produced two works of videodance—a genre of experimental dance film, popularized by Atlas and Cunningham, in which choreography is designed for the camera rather than the stage. These two films, Parafango (1984) and Ex-Romance (1984/1987), feature performances by Clark, Philippe Decouflé, and former Cunningham dancer Karole Armitage. They are set in vernacular places such as airport lounges and gas stations, and are spliced with news footage, presenter commentary, and video transmission signals. Both spotlight Clark as the enfant terrible of London’s post-punk underground, and the combination of his fauvist choreography with Atlas’s camp visuals captured a Baroque aesthetic that would characterize its queer subculture throughout the decade. A Prune Twin, originally commissioned by London’s Barbican in 2020, consists of a multi-channel video projection sourced …
              Gordon Matta-Clark and Pope.L’s “Impossible Failures”
              Katherine C. M. Adams
              Gordon Matta-Clark’s film Bingo X Ninths (1974), which features a precise dismantling of all but the core of an abandoned house, has been projected at large scale along the first wall of 52 Walker. The door to the exhibition space intersects the projection, such that gallery visitors irrupt onto the image as they enter and exit. A perfectly circular hole, cut straight through the same gallery wall, also interferes with the clean transmission of the film. A layer of dust from this incision lines the gallery floor. It’s tempting to view such strategies as a literal self-reflexivity built into the gallery design: Matta-Clark’s canonical building cuts overflowing onto the gallery’s walls, making their mark on the present architectural space. Yet the pairing of Matta-Clark and Pope.L for “Impossible Failures” performs a different function, complicating Matta-Clark’s practice on a more fundamental plane. Here, Matta-Clark appears to work vertically, in the air, through various forms of physical suspension, while Pope.L works laterally, low-to-the-ground, worm-like. Drawings by Matta-Clark with subjects such as High Rise Excavation Diving Tower (1974) show lofty engineering schemes that seem to resist the pull of gravity. The artist’s three exhibited films all emphasize, to varying degrees, aerial vantage points …
              Luis Camnitzer’s “Arbitrary Order”
              Paul Stephens
              Luis Camnitzer’s A to Cosmopolite (2020–22) is a marvel of precisely executed conceptual art—or as Camnitzer might prefer, “contextual art” (a term he has advocated since the 1960s). Writing through a 1972 Webster’s unabridged English dictionary, Camnitzer covers the gallery walls in prints that match each definition to a screenshot of the first search result from Google Maps that corresponds to it. The title of the exhibition is something of an oxymoron: by combining two classification systems, the cartographic and the lexicographic, Camnitzer reveals a myriad of cultural and political interconnections. The search results in A to Cosmopolite are proximate to Camnitzer’s own location in Great Neck, New York, thus making the project personal as well as global. Someone in Camnitzer’s digital orbit named their corporation “Aleatoric Media, LLC,” and that entry, like many others, stuck out to me as a viewer. I found the best way to explore the work was to read, in alphabetical order, every red location name—which took approximately an hour. When a name intrigued me, I consulted the corresponding definition and took a photo with my phone—reincorporating the physical work on the wall into my own personal datasphere. This work is, importantly, a remediation of …
              Andrea Fraser
              Wendy Vogel
              In 2005, Andrea Fraser’s consideration of the art world appeared to undergo a transformation—from externalization to embodiment. “If there is no outside for us, it is not because the institution is perfectly closed,” she wrote. “It is because the institution is inside of us, and we can’t get outside ourselves.” This sentiment of identity entrapment is nowhere more evident than in her latest work, This meeting is being recorded (2021), in which the shape-shifting artist portrays seven white women in a closed-door meeting about internalized racism. The ninety-nine-minute video—which is based on real conversations and debuted at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart before traveling to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles last year—forms the nucleus of Fraser’s first US commercial gallery show in 13 years. The five works on view, from the late 1980s onward, get a new, retroactive reading from her current perspective of grappling with the complex, emotive terrain of racial privilege. Fraser’s best-known performances offer pitch-perfect approximations of art speak and style, from staid guided tours to overblown acceptance speeches by egotistical artists, threaded with a feminist criticality toward gendered modes of presentation. Two major works from the 1990s, commissioned by the Wadsworth Atheneum and the São Paulo Bienal, …
              Ali Eyal’s “In the Head’s Sunrise”
              Dina Ramadan
              “In the Head’s Sunrise”, a quiet yet compelling exhibition of Ali Eyal’s recent drawings and paintings, captures the intricacy and complexity of the young Iraqi artist’s practice; the emotional texture of the work, accomplished through rapid, forceful strokes, is immediately striking. Individually and collectively the works recreate moments from life in Eyal’s hometown—referred to only as small farm—where he came of age amidst the violent turmoil of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The titles of the pieces underscore Eyal’s propensity for narrative along with his acute awareness of its limitations; each enigmatic label ends with “and,” indicating its incompleteness, and suggesting that every encounter is a beginning, like tugging on a loose, seemingly extraneous thread that unexpectedly unravels the entire fabric. Three heads walking between towns, and (2022) is the immediate focal point of the exhibition and reflects the mythological nature of Eyal’s work. The large canvas hangs like a banner, hands snatching at its sides, attempting to tear through the composition. Three women’s heads attached to makeshift bodies, an assemblage of ill-fitting and dislocated ligaments, dominate the canvas. They are reminiscent of the three fates, their thick black hair unfurling behind them like billows of smoke, each home to …
              keyon gaskin with Zinzi Minott and Moya Michael
              Rachel Valinsky
              keyon gaskin, Zinzi Minott, and Moya Michael weren’t just stalling. Barely visible beneath their semi-opaque hooded cloaks, and positioned at various points around the entrance to Artists Space, they outlined the terms of their performance clearly: “Once we get moving feel free to roam around the space. We will be all over the place … We might get close to you … Keep your hands to yourself … Be mindful, be careful … We’re at work.” We “waited” for things to start—though, of course, they already had. gaskin—an artist living in Portland, Oregon who performs both solo and in movement-based groups—has frequently made active audience engagement a feature of their pieces, eschewing passive consumption of black and queer performance by primarily white audiences. At the first performance commission held across Artists Space’s 8,000 square feet, audience-performer interactions were diffuse in part because of the building’s size—the performance took place over several rooms, and not all of it could be witnessed simultaneously. Visibility, its trappings and attendant politics, were not so much withheld as decentered. “We can’t see everything,” gaskin and their collaborators cautioned at the start, implying that neither should we. “Remember, this is a performance, but not your performance. …
              Nikita Kadan’s “Victory over the Sun”
              Xenia Benivolski
              The 1913 opera Victory over the Sun describes an attempt to capture the sun in order to overthrow linear time and reason. The work ushered in artistic traditions that came to shape Soviet Futurism: it’s where Malevich’s black square, for instance, made its first appearance (on a set curtain). Nikita Kadan’s exhibition, which takes its title from the opera, is anchored by a wall-hanging neon sculpture entitled Private Sun (2022) which refers to a classic of Soviet-era design: a window grate, ubiquitous in large apartment buildings, with bars like the rising sun. Where the avant-garde original advocated for the destruction of the present to clear a path for the new, the Ukrainian artist’s use of the architectural feature suggests a darker notion: of being held captive in someone else’s idea of the future. Hanging in the main space of the gallery is a series of charcoal drawings. In one, titled A Sun-headed character in a garbage bag (2022), Kadan renders a black trash bag akin to those rumored to have been used to transport the bodies of soldiers killed during Russia’s invasion. Over the trash bag presides an unsmiling black sun. In another, similar drawing (The Sun I, 2022), a black …
              Jumana Manna’s “Break, Take, Erase, Tally”
              Dina Ramadan
              Jumana Manna’s first US museum exhibition traces the violence inflicted through infrastructures designed to control, transform, protect, or even destroy the natural environment, while recognizing the ways in which the land, in its mutations and transformations, resists in order to survive. Knowledge produced from and about the land emerges as a site of struggle, both an apparatus of hegemony and oppression and a potential tool for defiance and liberation. The exhibition includes recent and newly commissioned sculptural works; pieces from the multidisciplinary Palestinian artist’s ongoing “Cache Series” populate the main gallery space. These large, smooth, earth-toned ceramic sculptures seem capable of shape-shifting despite their sturdiness. Inspired by the khabyas—the storage vessels attached to homes throughout the Levant that have been rendered superfluous with the proliferation of modern means of refrigeration—they capture these structures in various states of disintegration and ruination. Some share recognizable features of the original khabya while others have morphed into unfamiliar forms, alien-like creatures whose disfigurations speak to their incongruity in the contemporary landscape, glossy monuments to their own demise in the face of industrialized means of producing and conserving food. Throughout the exhibition, Manna borrows from the visual and organizational language of archival institutions; the steel …
              “SIREN (some poetics)”
              Wendy Vogel
              Curator Quinn Latimer takes the mythological sirens of the ancient world—“figured as women (part bird or part fish, but all witch)”—as the symbol uniting this group show of seventeen artists at Amant. Such a premise might evoke notions of the demonized, feminized voice: incantations, laughing, shrieks, or related sonic eruptions. Precedents in feminist theory include Silvia Federici’s writing on the etymology of gossip (once defined as a group of women friends); Gloria Anzaldúa’s exhortation that “wild tongues can’t be tamed, they can only be cut out”; and Anne Carson’s assertion that patriarchal culture, from antiquity onward, has enforced “an ideological association of female sound with monstrosity, disorder and death.” However, Latimer (a poet herself) positions the siren’s call as a type of technology that destabilizes binaries—gender and otherwise. The sound of the siren is one of knowledge, seduction, and death that crosses species, bumping against the limits of linguistic order. The predominant sounds in “SIREN,” therefore, are nonsense and drones—an undoing of language into various states of nonhuman noise. Rather than creating a cacophony, these works are arranged airily throughout Amant’s three discrete spaces (two linked by a café and courtyard, and another across the street), their sound elements sometimes …
              Ghislaine Leung’s “Balances”
              Katherine C. M. Adams
              What one sees of Ghislaine Leung’s “Balances” depends on precisely when one visits the exhibition. During Leung’s own “studio hours” (9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday), Gates (2019) lines the main gallery space with child safety gates. The work’s three editions—each a different neutral shade—have been installed on top of each other: sometimes they occupy the same elevation of the wall in dense proximity, and at other points are stacked vertically. Directly before the first group of Gates is one half of Monitors (2022)—a baby monitor transmitting live footage of the gallery’s back office. Other works on view in the central space include Fountains (2022), a small readymade, three-tiered fountain burbling loud enough to “cancel sound” in the vicinity, as the work’s score instructs. A partly filled rectangular grid the size of Leung’s studio wall, Hours (2022), covers the largest wall. Outside these hours, the gallery is apparently blank, all works removed or covered over. “Balances” exercises an unusually strict control over the terms of encounter with its work, calibrating the viewing situation to the artist’s allocated studio time for art production. In a correspondence with the gallery reproduced in the show’s press release, Leung explains the three-way …
              “A Maze Zanine, Amaze Zaning, A-Mezzaning, Meza-9”
              Rachel Valinsky
              Pulling up to David Zwirner on the opening night of its tongue-twistingly-titled benefit show for Performance Space New York, the scene was chaotic: a several-hundred strong mix of fashion week, Armory week, and overdressed Chelsea partygoing crowds spilled out onto 19th Street, closed to car traffic and repurposed for a block party, complete with food stands and ice-cream truck. Inside, five long banners co-made by the exhibition’s all-star squad of artist-organizers—Ei Arakawa, Kerstin Brätsch, Nicole Eisenman, and Laura Owens—hung from a beam overhead. These screen-printed, acrylic- and vinyl-painted Curtains (all works 2022 unless otherwise stated)—a title that evokes the fabric separating audience from proscenium stage—read like précis of each artist’s signature style: one shows a cartoonish Eisenman figure raising paint roller to wall, while Brätsch’s and Owens’s colorful, abstract geometries and pop-cultural influences infiltrate others. Two open, wooden structures on wheels evoked both stage props and domestic spaces (they are called “houses” on the gallery map). Behind the curtains, Performance Space’s metal rigging structure was temporarily relocated as décor, where it dynamically remodeled the gallery’s interior. A ramp leading to a platform wrapping around either side of the space served as the titular “mezzanine,” offering elevated views of the many paintings …
              Anne Imhof’s “AVATAR”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              “AVATAR” is an installation featuring rows of industrial lockers, cored concrete blocks, a large, three-panel painting of clouds, figurative drawings, and new additions to Anne Imhof’s series of “Scratch Paintings”—large aluminum panels coated in custom automobile paint with patterns scratched into them by the artist. While no performance will be held here, it is impossible not to think of it as a set absent the actors—which, given the function of lockers and the potential density of bodies in a locker room, isn’t far-fetched, even if we bracket the German artist’s fame as a dramaturge. The lockers containing concrete blocks as a way of staging giant, slightly abstracted car doors is almost too literal if you have even a glancing, film-based familiarity with industrial production. The untitled cloud painting is compelling—beautiful in a Monet’s waterlilies sort of way. The drawings—mostly hung in a back space that functions as an office—are likely there so people have something to buy. The show is fine. Imhof is a talented painter and draughtswoman. One could leave it at that if it weren’t for the ghosts of bodies that might use the lockers on the way into a General Motors plant. Imhof continues to describe herself …
              Josephine Pryde’s “Taylor Swift’s ‘Lover’ & the Gastric Flu”
              Travis Diehl
              Josephine Pryde’s campily titled show at Reena Spaulings frames the genius of Taylor Swift—her capacity for reinvention and the influence of her confessional songwriting—as a model of the creative process. The story goes that sometime in 2019, Pryde, an English artist known for detourning the conventions of commercial photography, came down with a stomach bug: she spent her convalescence listening repeatedly to Swift’s album Lover, released that same year. In the months since, she produced a series of twelve bronzes by chewing on a piece of gum while remembering a different track, matching her chews to the rhythm of each song in a kind of masticatory lip-sync. She stuck each resulting wad to one of the pieces of driftwood or small rocks scattered around her flat, cast the assemblages in bronze, and patinated the gum part a scaly green. Hannah Wilke, eat your heart out. Pryde’s goal seems not to relive or remember her illness so much as transpose it into the key of Taylor’s heartbreak. Each piece is titled after the song in Pryde’s head while she made it: “The Archer”; “Paper Rings”; “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince.” The suggestion is that the tenor of each song affected …
              Em Rooney’s “Entrance of Butterfly”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              “Entrance of Butterfly,” Em Rooney’s third solo show with Derosia (formerly Bodega), consists of six large sculptures and the looping, 11-minute slide show that gives the exhibition its title. The artist has previously integrated photographs into her sculptures, but here the 80 color stills are disaggregated and projected at a notably small scale in a separate gallery: their relation to the sculptural forms is symbolic or narrative rather than material. If these representational images suggest context or content for their more abstract, three-dimensional counterparts, it is only in the most provisional way. The wall-mounted sculptures, titled with reference to films and natural processes, have a descriptive power of their own. trouble every day (all works 2022) is the approximate size and shape of a headless dress mannequin. Impaled on the steel strip that secures it to the wall, the candy-wrapper quality bestowed by Mylar and coated rice paper is at odds with the violence of a disarticulated female torso. This shape, at once a replica and an encasement of the female body—shiny, blue, aggressively corseted by sharp, rhinestone-studded petals (synthetic whale boning and all)—invites us to dwell on the often incompatible demands made on women’s bodies (literally, materially on them). …
              Elbert Joseph Perez’s “Just Living the Dream”
              Hallie Ayres
              A pristine, nondescript hammer dangles upside down from the skylight in Rachel Uffner’s upstairs gallery. Situated on a pedestal directly underneath are three porcelain figurines: a swan, a lamb, and a pony. Arranged in a congregation that is as tender as it is eerie, the figurines exude a fragility that is exacerbated tenfold by the hammer’s precarious installation. The notion that moments of suspension—of disbelief or otherwise—can so quickly turn catastrophic runs through the rest of the works on display in “Just Living the Dream,” Elbert Joseph Perez’s first solo gallery show in New York City. The motif of ceramic figurines of baby animals on the brink of violent extermination recurs throughout Perez’s suite of paintings. The eleven compositions, all oil on canvas, oscillate stylistically between aesthetics of naturalist still life and symbolist metaphysics. Their conventional orientation on the gallery wall belies the foreboding subject matter. Duhkha Aisle (all works 2022) features a ceramic duck in a cowboy hat, an immobile target for the rearing snake in the hellscape behind it, while 16 oz. Migraine positions the glazed upper body of a horse inches away from a glimmering sledgehammer affixed to something beyond the bounds of the canvas by a …
              80th Whitney Biennial, “Quiet as It’s Kept”
              Dina Ramadan
              In her 1988 lecture, “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature,” Toni Morrison explained that the opening sentence of her 1970 novel The Bluest Eye—“Quiet as it’s kept”—was a familiar idiom from her childhood, usually whispered by Black women exchanging gossip, signaling a confidence shared. “The conspiracy is both held and withheld, exposed and sustained,” Morrison tells us. By borrowing this expression for the 80th edition of the Whitney Biennial, curators David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards promise the intimacy of knowledge bestowed, an exploration of the tantalizing space between hidden and revealed, a quiet reflection on whispered truths. Unfortunately, the possibilities of this title are not fully explored; the curators instead pursue a series of “hunches” which are much less satisfying. The two main floors of the biennial are constructed in opposition to each other, the upper story a dark maze, restricted and confined, while the lower level is an airy relief, open and invigorating. This contrast is intended to reflect what the curatorial statement describes as “the acute polarity of our society,” although it is never clear how the works on each floor speak specifically to these fissures. A recurring concern through the exhibition is a palpable disillusionment …
              Carolyn Drake’s “Knit Club”
              Ben Eastham
              To walk into Yancey Richardson’s Chelsea gallery is to enter a secret society of women. These photographic portraits of women alone, with their children, and in groups—their faces often hidden behind objects ranging from bunches of flowers to a plaster cast death mask—are freighted with esoteric symbols. A snake twists around a tree as if it were Asclepius’s staff before transforming into dangling feet; a woman holds an eerie nineteenth-century painting of a small girl in front of her like a screen. A slim figure in a pink dress wearing the rubber mask of an eagle’s head completes the impression of having stumbled into a feminine cult, the meaning and membership of which must remain obscure to the uninitiated. That the title of the exhibition suggests this is a “knit club” does not diminish the mystery: even fleeting acquaintance with the literature of the Southern Renaissance is enough to forewarn the viewer that the weirdest histories are concealed behind the picket fences of polite society. And we are unmistakeably in the American South of the popular imaginary: complementing the air of collapsed grandeur connoted by peeling colonial-era wallpapers and hardwood dressing tables are signifiers as direct as a Victorian Gothic dollhouse …
              Shannon Ebner’s “FRET SCAPES”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              FRET is an acronym for Forecast Reference Evapotranspiration Report. It is a record of the rate of evaporation and transpiration, or how fast water moves from the various living and non-living surfaces of the earth—dirt, lakes, oceans, plant bodies, forest canopies—back into the atmosphere. The information is useful in deciding how to irrigate crops and manage municipal water supplies; decreased precipitation depths, as a result of climate change, mean water will evaporate more quickly and increase irrigation demands in arid and semi-arid climates. Fret is also, of course, a verb that means “to worry” and a noun that refers to a number of things: a repeating, geometric ornament that forms part of a frieze, the fret saw that might be used to cut such ornamental designs into wood, and the raised portion on the neck of many stringed instruments. Shannon Ebner’s “FRET SCAPES” consists of thirteen black-and-white photographs arranged around a five-columned floor-to-ceiling poem called FRET, in which Ebner has some fun playing with the acronym in relation to the common verb as well as its technical use. The National Weather Service gives daily, weekly, and other reports that Ebner transcribes: “THE DAILY FRET/THE WEEKLY FRET/AND THE DEPARTURE/FROM NORMAL FRET.” It …
              Golnar Adili’s “Found in Translation: A Story of Language, Play, and a Personal Archive”
              Dina Ramadan
              “Found in Translation” is a quiet exhibition that exudes a palpable sense of yearning for a past that never quite was. Golnar Adili’s childhood was shaped by the fracturing of her family due to political events; born in Virginia, she returned with her parents to their home country of Iran in the wake of the 1979 revolution. Her father, a leftist activist, soon returned to the United States, forced into exile by his political convictions. The exhibition is an expansive yet cohesive “lexicon of displacement” (in Adili’s words) articulated through a floor installation, sculptures, digital and silkscreen prints, and photo lithography. The first piece we encounter is She Feels Your Absence Deeply - Pixels (2017), a digital image of the artist and her mother printed on delicate Japanese paper and reconstructed in a grid of quarter-inch wood cubes reminiscent of children’s building blocks. The two subjects, seated close together, stare directly at the camera with gravitas, intent on capturing the moment, no matter how joyless. Titled after a line in a letter from Adili’s mother to her husband, in which she describes their daughter’s visceral response to the family’s disintegration, the piece evokes many of the exhibition’s essential themes; the (re)construction …
              Sahra Motalebi’s “This Phenomenal Overlay”
              Rachel Valinsky
              “What is semantic security?” asks an acousmatic voice. This is one among many phrases Sahra Motalebi recites in a twenty-minute recorded track that emanates from a speaker concealed in a wall-hung assemblage to the left of the entrance door. Material Conditions for a Stage (Diorama) (2022) teases the premise of its own title with its slapdash construction and unpretentious materials: a linen curtain peeled back over two metal pylons enframes a rectangular, open-faced cardboard container like product packaging, its insides an irregular topography shaped to hold an object during transport. In other words, the kind of thing that is usually thrown away. But for Motalebi, a dispensable object, like a “dead metaphor,” can have alchemical properties. “What can we perceive?” the voice asks. “This Phenomenal Overlay,” the exhibition’s title, suggests one possible way into the question. Material Conditions is one of two “dioramas” in Motalebi’s exhibition at Brief Histories. As if reprising the question at the core of Plato’s allegory of the cave—whether we acquire knowledge through sensate experience or philosophical reasoning—the diorama enters into dialogue with another voice sculpture, Resonator #1 (404) (2022). The “resonator,” a potential instrument, is made of decommissioned copper tubing from which jut out two …
              Nikita Gale’s “END OF SUBJECT”
              Adam Kleinman
              What are the uses, and abuses, of abstraction? Five years on from the controversy sparked by the inclusion of Dana Schutz’s Open Casket (2016) in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, the quandaries of representation continue to preoccupy institutional programs. Brilliant figurative portraiture of and by traditionally silenced voices has become dominant—at the price, perhaps, of de-platforming artwork in which personal identity is less then immediately recognizable. Said more crudely: visibility is in, while opacity is out. But at what, or whose, cost? Plausibly as a consequence of, and response to, the kind of over-visibility through which people are surveilled by corporations and states, several artists who deploy strategies of interference are now, perhaps paradoxically, achieving prominence. Nikita Gale—a nom de plume (or is it nom de guerre?) created by redacting Gale’s inherited “legal” surname—is one such artist. In Gale’s work, abstraction is more than a device to generate imagery, and becomes a mode of creative reflection and deflection. Upon entering the artist’s current exhibition at 52 Walker, the David Zwirner TriBeCa outpost that opened in October 2021, expectations are immediately interrupted. Within the cavernous hall, a series of crushed and deformed aluminum bleachers frame the overall sense of arriving too …
              Colette Lumiere’s “Notes on Baroque Living: Colette and Her Living Environment, 1972–83”
              Wendy Vogel
              Colette Lumiere’s art is unmistakably original, though its reverberations throughout pop culture may inspire feelings of déjà vu. Spanning painting, sculpture, and performance tableaux, as well as interior design, music, fashion, and the branding of various personae, Colette’s “Deadly Feminine” aesthetic crystallized in the New York of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Her work is born of the unique cultural collisions of that time—disco, punk, and new wave; the countercultural underground and the emerging art market; feminist ideology and postmodernism; and a thirst for glamor in a city plagued by crime and bankruptcy. Much like punk’s jarring aesthetics, Colette’s winking appropriation of theatrical femininity (with nods to the bohemian demimonde) has moved from the artistic fringe to a canny marketing posture in pop and art. Her restless and shapeshifting influence has become part of the cultural ether. This exhibition focuses on the fruitful period of 1972 to ’83. At the show’s core are garments and artifacts from her Living Environment, staged in her Wall Street–adjacent loft during these years. There, Colette suspended satiny ruched fabric in unabashedly feminine shades of blush and cream from every available surface. The look was described by one writer as “suffocating voluptuousness”—a …
              New Museum Triennial, “Soft Water Hard Stone” 
              Dina Ramadan
              The reopening of New York’s art institutions a little over a year ago was accompanied by vocal expressions of support for movements for racial and social justice, and an avowed intention to confront their own discriminatory practices. What has transpired since has mostly taken the form of a curatorial recalibration—of which “Soft Water Hard Stone” is symptomatic—in which exhibition-making has been used as a primary tool of critique and correction. However, despite their content, such exhibitions tend to leave the institutional infrastructure largely intact, all too often underplaying both the historic and continued complicity of the art establishment in perpetuating the conditions for colonialism, climate change, poverty, income inequality, displacement, and gentrification. Curated by the New Museum’s Margot Norton and Jamillah James of the Institution of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the fifth edition of the New Museum Triennial includes 40 artists from 23 countries. Borrowing its title from a Brazilian proverb—a commentary on the power of perseverance and persistence—“Soft Water Hard Stone” contemplates material and materiality, focusing primarily on Indigenous artists from the Americas working in various forms of sculpture, with a handful of video installations and a noticeable absence of photography. The assumption of a slow and steady path …
              59th New York Film Festival, “Currents”
              Herb Shellenberger
              After the virtual screenings and drive-ins of its 2020 edition, this year’s New York Film Festival (NYFF) once again rolled through Lincoln Center: a program of screenings, talks, parties, and red carpets that—with the exception of vaccine checks and masks—would not have felt out of place pre-pandemic. Situated as a festival-within-a-festival, NYFF’s “Currents” strand was billed as an eclectic showcase of innovative cinema, comprising 15 features and 36 short films that ranged from experimental and essay film to low-budget arthouse. In the context of a reduction in support for experimental film across festival lineups internationally, “Currents” was this year marked by a sense of plentitude that felt both generative and somewhat overwhelming. The general level of quality was high, but several works stood out. A Night of Knowing Nothing (all films mentioned 2021), Payal Kapadia’s feature debut, is a bold work of documentary that balances the poetic and political in depicting protest movements at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). (Kapadia joined the institute as a student in 2012, producing several phenomenal short films through to the end of the decade.) It opens with an off-kilter shot, camera low to the ground like Ozu’s, showing a group …
              Diane Severin Nguyen’s “IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS”
              Peter Brock
              The central character in Diane Severin Nguyen’s video IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS (2021), which comprises her institutional debut at Sculpture Center alongside four color photographs, is a Vietnamese girl named Weroníka who literally washes up on the shores of Poland. In the opening sequence, a male voice addresses her in Polish over shots of soggy grey landscapes. His obscure phrases are charged with radical sentiment as low piano music escalates the tension: “This is the condition for understanding the collective as a process. Isolation will destroy you.” When Weroníka appears onscreen in a yellow shirt with red sleeves, she is accompanied by sound effects: a mechanical breathing noise ends in a metallic click as she opens her eyes; percussive noises punctuate her repeated, dance-like gestures. Later, she nods her head to the thumping bass of a pop song playing on her headphones while the man’s voice declares that knowing the “truth” of a spectacle comes at the price of not participating in it. Nguyen’s sound effects complicate the viewer’s relationship to Weroníka, as does the staging of the video. Flanked by two PA speakers and pleated yellow fabric, the screen on which the video is shown is mounted …
              “Greater New York”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              A large installation of T-shirts stretched across metal wall studs anchors MoMA PS1’s 2021 iteration of “Greater New York.” The T-shirts—by the collective Shanzhai Lyric—are the bearers of mistranslations (“Revoltig/No!/Save the Queen”), misspellings (“La Vieen Rose”), juxtapositions that make little to no sense (“LV/Louis Vuitton/Challenger Races for the Americas Cop/For the Americas Cop”), or free-floating phrases that violate the semiotics of communicative clothing (“I’ll be back!/I’ll be back!”). Shanzhai is the transliteration of a Chinese word for both “mountain hamlet” and “counterfeit.” The shanzai T-shirts, collected since 2015 from Hong Kong to New York City, are part of an ongoing project—or poem—that urges us to think about translation, trade networks, the exchange value that is increased by the designation “real,” and, as the artists note in the wall-text, “how deeply we can be moved by apparent non-sense, how it actually seems to describe with poetic precision, the experience of living in an utterly nonsensical world.” Incomplete Poem (2015–ongoing) might serve as a useful cipher for a large and, one could argue, unavoidably chaotic exhibition. “Greater New York” is staged every five years. It is what it sounds like: an exhibition meant to give viewers a sense of what artists are …
              Lyndon Barrois Jr. and Kahlil Robert Irving’s “Dreamsickle”
              Shiv Kotecha
              The word “dreamsickle,” like the word “chaos,” conjures numerous associations. Referring to the defunct brand of ice pop, it might invoke an orange gleam, a vanilla coat, the state of being frozen; more broadly, a “dreamsickle” suggests a tool used to harvest imaginative content, such as montage or color. In their show at New York’s 47 Canal, Lyndon Barrois Jr. and Kahlil Robert Irving probe at the chromatic (and chronomatic) channels by which cultural memory is sutured to political violence. Using collage, repurposed film stills, and frequent allusion to the coded lexicons with which we read color—for example, the artists specify that the exhibition title is formatted using the “pure Orange” code HEX #ff7c00—Barrois Jr. and Irving’s latest collaborative exhibition teases out the elastic, yet always discontinuous, circuits by which a person may inhabit the limits within which they are materially defined. Installed at eye-level along the gallery’s main wall is Irving’s Sky_High (Low & fractured SMAERD) (all works 2021), a thin wooden shelf on which rest several square and rectangular panels that depict blue skies and fluffy clouds, cross-sections made from a digital composite image. The panels fill out the shelf’s sill, overlapping with one another from one …
              Sara Cwynar’s “Glass Life”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              Early in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (1941), we are told to get out: “Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.” Part of Eliot’s poem makes up a small fraction of the voiceover narration to Sara Cwynar’s six-channel video installation Glass Life (2021), a maximalist meditation on living amongst ever-accumulating and constantly moving images. Glass Life is as dense audially as it is visually. The images are accompanied by two voices reading a sequence of largely unattributed quotes culled from texts and speeches by Anne Boyer, Margaret Thatcher, and William Shakespeare, among many others. But this line seems to offer a particularly apt cipher for a work that is about a life lived in and through an excess of images and text—a life whose reality is always in question, where the distinction between activity and documentation collapses, and representation precedes its object. What is the internet but a massive archive? And what is an archive but an institution, as Jacques Derrida noted in the mid-1990s, obsessed with cheating death? “The archiving,” Cwynar’s two narrators say, “makes the self seem richer and more substantial even as it becomes more tenuous.” The internet is a space …
              Every Woman Biennial, “My Love is Your Love”
              Wendy Vogel
              There’s always been a pioneering, even contrarian spirit to the Every Woman Biennial (EWB). Formerly known as the Whitney Houston Biennial, the inaugural exhibition opened in March 2014—in the same week as that year’s Whitney Biennial—as a scrappy one-day exhibition in a Brooklyn artist’s studio. With works by women artists hung floor to ceiling and ranging from figuration to agitprop, the Whitney Houston Biennial thumbed its nose at the tepid representational politics of the uptown affair from which it derived its (first) name. Over the next two New York editions C. Finley, the biennial’s founder, grew the exhibition to include hundreds of women and non-binary artists of diverse ages, races, and life paths. The 2021 iteration of the EWB operated as a testing ground for the (post-?)pandemic new normal. The EWB expanded to London for the first time, presenting work by more than 300 artists in IRL locations for a week in early July. This year’s New York show, “NYC/NFT,” moved to the Wild West of the blockchain. Curated by Finley and EWB managing director Molly Caldwell, the show featured NFTs of works by 272 female and non-binary artists selected through an open-call proposal process. Superchief Gallery hosted the …
              Nan Goldin’s “Memory Lost”
              Talia Curtis
              Since the advent of the US’s “War on Drugs,” popular media representations from Breaking Bad to Intervention to Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew have mirrored the political consensus on drug addiction, reducing it from a deeply political phenomenon driven by markets—both the pharmaceutical industry and underground economies—to a dialectic of stylized euphoria on the one hand and abject depravity on the other. Both the media landscape and the rehab industrial complex drip with a Protestant ethic that pits puritanism against hedonism: addiction is rendered as a moral failing, not what a growing scientific and sociological consensus understands as one symptom of a profit-driven healthcare system, systemic racism, and gross income inequality. Nan Goldin’s work is antithetical to ideas of addiction that, by painting it as a personal failing, obstruct any substantive response to a devastating health crisis in favor of subjecting vulnerable populations to punitive violence. Against this backdrop, Marian Goodman Gallery’s first New York exhibition of Goldin’s work highlights several major pieces, including Memory Lost (2019–21), an impressionistic slideshow of life seen through the experience of addiction; its thematic sister Sirens (2019–20), a video work approximating the hypnotic ecstasy of being high; and The Other Side (1992–2021), an update of …
              Cameron Rowland’s “Deputies”
              Alan Gilbert
              Cameron Rowland’s artworks sometimes feel as if they are meant to serve as illustrations for a text or historical thesis. I don’t say this as a criticism. His breakout 2016 exhibition “91020000” at Artists Space in New York City contained previously manufactured items—to use the term “readymade” would already begin to aestheticize them—that partly functioned as visual counterparts to their captions and to an accompanying essay made available as a pamphlet. Displaying desks and benches made by inmates, “91020000” addressed the prison-industrial complex, which disproportionately incarcerates Black men and is a crucial node in slavery’s ongoing legacy in the United States. Rowland’s current exhibition, “Deputies,” contains four object-installations (all undated) and a longer essay also available in takeaway pamphlet form. The theme here is the origins of policing in the United States with the establishment of slave patrols that monitored and disciplined the subjugated and hunted down fugitives. With a nod to site-specificity, the exhibition focuses on New York City (where the first official U.S. police force was created following the passage of the 1844 Metropolitan Police Act), and extends outside the gallery space to five benches installed in a nearby park, each one paying homage to a different unmarked …
              Monika Baer’s “loose change”
              Peter Brock
              The six watercolors that greet the viewer when they enter “loose change,” Monika Baer’s second exhibition at Greene Naftali, offer a pared-down introduction to the artist’s habit of combining heterogeneous elements within the space of a single picture. In one sense, these modestly sized paintings are straightforward: splotchy pools of pigment on chunky paper with a few coins glued to their surfaces, sometimes in little clusters. The painted bits look casual, loosely composed, and unselfconscious. Faint lines meander through The Grove (2021) with such ease that they almost resemble accidental scratches from a bracelet or the dull end of a tool. Two of these works have fragments of small sawblades screwed into their surfaces. The watery dabs of paint in Loose Change (2021) seem not to notice the menacing metal teeth less than an inch away, whose rusted tips look weary but fierce. The literal and symbolic density of these metallic intruders contrasts strongly with the soft haze of the watercolor passages. At first it seems like the only relationship these chunks of metal have with the paint is that a few of the coins overlap with the colors. Face Up (2021) contains a loose wash of pale blue …
              Smriti Keshari and Eric Schlosser’s “the bomb”
              Hallie Ayres
              When an atomic mushroom cloud is reduced to an image, it is more likely to inspire awe than terror. This is the paradox that haunts Smriti Keshari and Eric Schlosser’s the bomb (2021), an immersive adaptation of a 2016 film that transmutes violence into spectacle in an attempt to teach its audience a lesson. These sensational images, though ostensibly employed in the service of nuclear disarmament, instead exaggerate the perverse glamor of mass destruction. At Pioneer Works, the black-box installation resembles a military command center, curved to simulate the enclosure of a cockpit. The effect calls to mind Charles Eames’s Glimpses of the U.S.A., which collaged thousands of images of “typical” American life into 13 minutes and projected them onto seven massive screens suspended within a geodesic dome. The reference to Eames’s consumerist propaganda, famously displayed at the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959, sets a prescient tone for a film that spends nearly half of its 59-minute runtime rehashing Cold War talking points. Playing through five rows of nine LED screens, the thematically grouped footage follows a loose chronological cycle: contemporary displays of military might; US propaganda footage of nuclear testing and safety drill education; the destruction of Hiroshima …
              Frieze New York
              Osman Can Yerebakan
              Nostalgia was the prevailing feeling as I approached Frieze New York’s new home at The Shed in Hudson Yards. I wasn’t around when the piers were a queer hub of sex and solidarity, but I remember the East River breeze on the ferry to Randall’s Island on previous visits to the fair, and a time before Thomas Heatherwick’s (indefinitely closed) eyesore The Vessel. Frieze’s pandemic-enforced change in venue brings into sharp relief the disparity between the neighborhood’s new occupiers—business-casual millennials; more recently those getting their vaccines at the nearby Javits Center; and, now, fair-goers—and the legendary stories that haunt the crumbling docks. It was nonetheless hard not to miss the old spectacle of the fair, which has been replaced by a new and more muted tone. In place of the gigantic sculptures that guarded the vast fair tent in its previous location, visitors to The Shed find a series of more modest flower boxes. The Acute Art “augmented reality” app transforms them, via your phone screen, into Cao Fei’s RMB City AR (2020), a virtual rendering of an exploding, dystopian city. Stationed outside the entrance, the phone-activated work starts the chain of “camera moments” that stretches into the booths …
              “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America”
              Ladi’Sasha Jones
              Ella Sheppard Moore’s father bought her freedom from enslavement as a child; as the lead arranger and composer of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, she grew up to establish Negro spirituals (or plantation songs) in the landscape of American popular culture. Listening to a 1909 recording of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” which happens to be my favorite spiritual, I hear a haunting ringing out as the four members sing the phrase “coming for to carry me home”—taking a hold of the word “home,” stretching it, and drawing it out over a run of four notes wherein the register lowers twice as the chorus loops back around. What is utterly magnificent about this rendition of the song, which differs greatly from the version I grew up listening to and singing, is that it conveys a deeper, reifying story of radical refusal, stirring the condition that emerges from living in pursuit of freedom from the imagination of white terror. This kind of living is marked in the formations of early Black American music, wherein songs are in part prayers and prophetic visioning. They are spiritual speech acts that map pathways for new possibilities, self-possessed futurities. Okwui Enwezor wrote that the social space …
              Seung-Min Lee’s “Light White”
              Peter Brock
              Seung-Min Lee’s satirical video installation challenges all claims to virtue, especially those that depend on reductive notions of identity. With four looping videos and their intermingling soundtracks, Lee transforms this subterranean gallery into a bunker where the air is thick with bad vibes. In these works, the artist—who was born in Seoul and grew up in Queens—performs as a suite of characters in a way that simultaneously debases and dignifies them. At the center of this effort is Lee’s impersonation of Kim Jong-un, who plays a role in all but one of the videos. Instead of the righteous condemnation and mockery common in western media, we find oddly intimate glimpses of the Supreme Leader and even the occasional moment of glee. Frantic slurping sounds interspersed with a metallic clanking quickly drew my attention to a flatscreen television lying askew on the floor. Supreme Leader Feed 2 (Kim Jong Un Mukbang) (all works 2021) consists of looping footage of the artist scarfing ramen while dressed as Kim Jong-un. Filmed from the perspective of the bowl, this work is mostly chin, nostrils, chopsticks, and yellow noodles. The ramen occasionally covers the lens completely, resulting in lovely moments of glowing beige abstraction. Aside …
              Lucy McKenzie’s “No Motive”
              Laura McLean-Ferris
              Aesthetic objects of art and design have unruly lives beyond their official business—they exist in homes, imaginations, shopping malls, state politics, and world histories in ways that are promiscuous and difficult to control. Over the last decade, Lucy McKenzie has depicted this pollination between forms in a captivating practice which unifies troubling, exciting, and mundane associative materials through the smoothing effects of style, most prominently trompe l’oeil painting. Her exhibition at Galerie Buchholz’s New York space, “No Motive,” opens with Ethnic Composition (Moldova, Russian Ethnographic Museum) (2021), a kind of user guide to thinking through forms as composites of visual influence. Adopting the design of an informational display from the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg, the artist painted a map of Moldova, divided into patches of cream, green, blue, and lilac, according to the styles of traditional dress in the country. On an “explainer panel” below, angled towards the viewer, we find, in place of any “key” to the data, six photographic prints: a mannequin in a museum display; a fashion illustration; a Mexican store mannequin dressed as “The Lady of Death”; a 1950s Russian department store mannequin; a young woman visiting a Moscow gallery; and, finally, an …
              “Speculations on the Infrared”
              Harry Burke
              “Have you ever wanted to be… savage… wild… free?” asks a nylon banner in New Red Order’s Recruitment Station (2020–21). Mimicking the pat visual grammar of military recruiting tables, the multimedia booth—modelled on a portable trade show exhibit—solicits volunteer “informants” to join the self-styled “public secret society.” With plentiful wit, Recruitment Station frames a contradiction that haunts this exhibition of Indigenous futurisms: modernity has consistently subjugated Indigenous peoples, yet is driven by a sublimated desire for Indigeneity. Addressing this bind, “Speculations on the Infrared” explores the ways in which Indigenous artists are dismantling settler colonial fantasies by asserting decolonized futures. Alan Michelson, a Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, here displays Pehin Hanska ktepi (They killed Long Hair) (2021). The installation projects archival film of Indigenous veterans of the Battle of the Greasy Grass onto an antique wool trade blanket. Known in the settler mythos as Custer’s Last Stand, this saw several Plains tribes unite to defeat forces from the US Army during the Great Sioux War of 1876. The gridded, looping footage, recorded during a parade celebrating the battle’s fiftieth anniversary in 1926, recalls a winter count: a pictorial record used by Plains tribes to …
              Casey Reas and Jan St. Werner’s “Alchemical”
              Forrest Muelrath
              What would it take to simulate the sensorium of a single person on any given day and channel it into my own nervous system? Something like the SimStim technology in William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, or the apparatuses that simulate the sensory experience of other people inhabiting other worlds in the Wachowskis’ 1999 film The Matrix. What if a machine were trained to create new 3D spaces based on photographs and videos: could it then simulate a world indistinguishable from our own? Science-fiction fantasies and ethical questions such as these come easily when considering Casey Reas’s work. This has less to do with the images he creates than how he creates them. Reas is best known for co-developing Processing, an open-source software and coding language intended to make computer programming easier for non-programmer artists and designers. By turns poignant and unnerving, his exhibition “Alchemical” at New York’s bitforms showcases still images and videos made using generative adversarial networks (GANs), a machine-learning program that creates new images from processing thousands of existing ones. The images are accompanied by glitchy, hypnotic music composed by Jan St. Werner, one half of the electronic music duo Mouse on Mars. In the first room …
              “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution”
              Wendy Vogel
              The Rearview series addresses blind spots in contemporary art history by returning to an influential exhibition, work, or text from the past and reflecting on its relevance to the present. In this edition, Wendy Vogel considers how the 2007 touring exhibition “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” marked a generational shift in art criticism. Feminist art history may come to be defined as the era before and after WACK!. The onomatopoeic word—more a metaphorical whip-crack than a line in the sand—is shorthand for “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” an exhibition curated by Cornelia Butler that opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) in March 2007. This pioneering institutional survey of feminist art brought together work made by more than 120 female artists and collectives between 1965 and 1980. In the introduction to the 500-plus-page exhibition catalogue, Butler stated her curatorial goals: “My ambition for ‘WACK!’ is to make the case that feminism’s impact on art of the 1970s constitutes the most influential international ‘movement’ of any during the postwar period—in spite or perhaps because of the fact that it never cohered, formally or critically, into a movement.” It remains a bold statement today; it was …
              Sable Elyse Smith’s “FEAR TOUCH POLICE”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              A short clip functions as the backdrop for Sable Elyse Smith’s multimedia project in three issues—“FEAR TOUCH POLICE”commissioned by the Swiss Institute and exhibited on a dedicated website. It is roughly 18 seconds of footage showing a solitary car parked by the side of a road at night engulfed in flame. After 14 seconds the car explodes, the camera jolts and then restabilizes. Then the clip resets. The fire is omnipresent as I scroll down through the five entries that make up “Issue one: FEAR.” I zoom into Jibade-Khalil Huffman’s poem, which is printed in infinitesimal letters to the right of the screen, and the fire is there. It explodes around the edges of the embedded screen on which plays Johan Grimonprez’s classic montage film dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (1997). “If you are reading this, then you have found yourself in a time consumed by crisis,” writes Jessica Lynne in her contribution entitled “A letter written on a day without the sun,” and the car explodes in the background. Several paragraphs later she writes about her wish for a “place that is not riddled with food insecurity or housing instability or extrajudicial murder or…” and the car explodes again. Neither …
              SoiL Thornton’s “Does productivity know what it’s named, maybe it calls itself identity?”
              Rahel Aima
              In SoiL (formerly Torey) Thornton’s 2019 solo show at London’s Modern Art, a Macon, Georgia-area number was spray-painted across one corner of the gallery. In their current show at Essex Street, New York, the same number repeats on a crenellated Formica tear-off flyer, titled Dematerialize now but as self portrait to whom (1990-2020 Labor Cont(r)act) (all works 2020 unless otherwise stated), an oversize version of the kind you might see advertising piano lessons or rooms for rent. Used paint sticks along its top edge create an overall effect of a printer test page. But here, it’s the artist that’s for sale in one of the most frankly exciting shows I’ve seen this past year. Call them, maybe. In 2020, art institutions sought to offer a corrective to the historical marginalization of BIPOC artists. Or perhaps dealers are more interested in meeting the predictable uptick in market demand. In the aptly titled “Does productivity know what it’s named, maybe it calls itself identity?” Thornton unpicks this fetishization of identity and, as their diaristic exhibition text puts it, “biography as trap.” They wonder whether the cultivation of individual celebrity—especially one whose work is predicated upon their racial or gender identity—is a …
              Ambera Wellmann’s “Nosegay Tornado”
              Jessica Caroline
              Ambera Wellmann’s roses are not sick. They are not exactly well, either. The paintings in “Nosegay Tornado” stage fantasy landscapes in which bodies topple out of other bodies, depersonalized and pliable, genitalia effaced, often surrounded by enormous flowers. Her arrangements call to mind the doomed visions of Georges Bataille or William Blake, in which beauty is always poised between grace and destruction. Wellmann’s work also exists at the juncture of excess and profanity, where the material and spiritual realms dissolve into each other. Her triumph is to make these weary old Romantic and Surrealist tropes seem fresh. In The Unicorn Captivity (all works 2020), roses are anxious placeholders for human heads. Their bodies ride a two-headed unicorn beneath echoes of the eye in Odilon Redon’s Le cyclope (c. 1914); the scene is bordered by flames. The edges of Wellmann’s brushstrokes are soft, her contours indistinct. Like many of the bodies in her paintings, the unicorn appears to be splitting and doubling, recalling earlier works that play on the idea of autoscopy—the ability to hallucinate externalized versions of oneself. Blue Bouquet presents a different kind of framing device, giving the impression that the viewer is peeping through a service window or, perhaps, …
              Salman Toor’s “How Will I Know”
              Murtaza Vali
              Nine months since the pandemic first hit New York, it is hard not to be moved by Salman Toor’s tender and luminous paintings, fifteen of which make up “How Will I Know,” his first solo show in a museum. In them young queer men gather inside and outside bars, dance joyously in apartments, embrace tenderly, and chat quietly on stoops and sofas, banal scenes of everyday intimacy and sociality that our seemingly interminable forced isolation has rendered both unfamiliar and precious. Skillfully composed of accumulations of short sketchy brush strokes, they picture the innocent ease of pre-pandemic revelry when the simple act of coming together was still untainted by the invisible threat of contagion. Though inspired by moments from his life, Toor’s scenes are composed entirely from memory and imagination, and form visual analogues to the literary genre of autofiction, as co-curator Ambika Trasi persuasively argues in an accompanying essay published online. Some are given a dazzling emerald tint, energizing their quotidian settings with the buzz of dreamy fabulation. Toor conceives of his slender young male figures as marionettes, a quality emphasized through their slightly elongated noses á la Pinocchio. However, their sleepy downcast eyes, drooped shoulders, and limp, …
              Yara El-Sherbini’s “Forms of Regulation and Control”
              Dina Ramadan
              It is impossible to separate my experience of Yara El-Sherbini’s “Forms of Regulation and Control” from the circumstances surrounding the viewing: the end of a balmy November day, awash with the jubilation of Donald Trump’s electoral defeat. The first US solo exhibition for British-born, Santa Barbara–based El-Sherbini, curated by Naeem Mohaiemen, is an elegant rejoinder to the din of recent months. Deftly weaponizing humor through a series of discreet interventions, it challenges the so-called “unconscious” bias that permeates even the most seemingly benign forms of knowledge and their production. “Forms of Regulation and Control” is an exhibition conceived and reconceptualized in the wake of the pandemic; El-Sherbini’s work, usually tactile and interactive, is incompatible with our current socially distanced reality. The game “Border Control” (2017), the only pre-pandemic piece in the show, is an example of the kind of audience participation El-Sherbini usually employs. In something reminiscent of the children’s game, players must trace a charged metal wire shaped like the US-Mexican border with a circular metal tool, all the while avoiding making contact with it: if they do, they will sound off alarms and lights. And yet the way in which the exhibition has been reimagined serves to highlight …
              Ellen Lesperance’s “Together we lie in ditches and in front of machines”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              Let us begin with the grid: flat, rational, anti-mimetic, static. The grid, writes Rosalind E. Krauss, “announces […] modern art’s will to silence, its hostility to literature, narrative, discourse.” If the grid can be said to represent anything, Krauss argues, it is the two-dimensional surface of the canvas itself. Nine new gouache- and graphite-on-paper works by the Portland-based Ellen Lesperance present us with evidence to the contrary. Lesperance’s grids are not austere or empty—the hand-drawn graphite lines hold layered squares of color that combine to produce, from a certain distance, the appearance of tightly woven tapestry. But they are still, insistently, grids—the lines are visible and the shapes emerge from a series of squares whose boundaries are observed. What differs from Krauss’s evaluation here is not the grid itself but its function. These grids speak. Their content is historical, narrative, real. Far from being silent, these artworks are a condensed, formal expression of years of research into feminist, anti-nuclear activism. In 1981, the Welsh group “Women for Life on Earth” walked from Cardiff to Greenham Common in Berkshire, England to protest the installment of ninety-six Cruise nuclear missiles. The protest turned into an encampment—the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp—that remained …
              “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration”
              Adam Kleinman
              The feeling that physical detention is only one aspect of a grander system of constraint haunts “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” Curated by Nicole R. Fleetwood, Amy Rosenblum-Martín, Jocelyn Miller, and Josephine Graf, and based on Fleetwood’s book of the same name published earlier this year, the adroit exhibition at MoMA PS1 features work by past and present detainees as well as their extended family, friends, and advocates, alongside pieces by other nonincarcerated artists. In doing so, the show maps what Fleetwood calls “carceral aesthetics,” referring to the wide-reaching ways in which the US prison-industrial complex affects cultural production, and how such artifacts draw an image of our society at large. On a formal level, several works note how artists overcome the material limitations inherent to forced captivity. Jesse Krimes’s Apokaluptein 16389067 (2010–13) is a vast fever dream. Hung as a floor-to-ceiling panorama on a curved wall, it consists of heaven, earth, and hell drawn in pencil over newspaper images transferred using hair gel onto 39 bed sheets—each of which were individually smuggled out of jail via the postal system. A low plinth in another chamber hosts Dean Gillispie’s nostalgic maquettes depicting 1950s Americana …
              Tavares Strachan’s “In Plain Sight”
              Orit Gat
              How are stories told? Who is remembered, who forgotten, and why? Which narratives last and what histories remain unaccounted for? These are questions of the moment, when representation is crucial to political struggle and debates on decolonial knowledge gain mainstream traction. Tavares Strachan’s exhibition at Marian Goodman suggests that what was neglected was always in plain sight, and that what was missing from the narrative was often not image-making but storytelling. A large, leather-bound and gilded book is displayed in a mahogany and glass case. Titled The Encyclopedia of Invisibility (Mahogany #9) (2018), it is part of an ongoing project that has featured in different iterations in several of Strachan’s previous exhibitions: its thousands of pages include entries dedicated to people, places, and events that were omitted from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, that is, systemically sidelined by Western history. At the most recent Venice Biennale, he displayed another version of the work, subtitled White (also 2018), along with pieces dedicated to Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African American astronaut, who died in a training accident in 1967. “In Plain Sight” departs from another African American explorer: Matthew Henson, who was part of an expedition with Robert Peary and four Inuits …
              New York City Roundup
              Terence Trouillot
              I didn’t think I’d be this excited to go back to a gallery. In some ways, I’ve enjoyed experiencing art within the confines of my Brooklyn apartment over the past months, and I’m still excited by the possibilities arising from the advent of novel digital platforms. But this time away from real-life art viewing has made the experience a novelty, and as galleries started to reopen it felt like a much-needed indulgence—after months of social distancing, and then weeks of defying said social distancing to protest in the streets against the most recent examples of state-sanctioned violence against Black bodies—simply to be back. At “Jack Whitten. Transitional Space. A Drawing Survey.” at Hauser & Wirth on the Upper East Side—an exhibition which outlines Whitten’s exceptional works on paper chronologically, from the 1960s to the 2010s—I was surprised by the boyish glee I felt just at noticing the pronounced physicality of paper: the deckled edges, the wrinkle in the page, the raised contours of paper cut-outs collaged onto another flat surface. The show demonstrates the careful evolution in Whitten’s work from figuration to abstraction, but also focuses on the artist’s attention to material, and the various techniques that make his later …
              “A Language for Intimacy”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              “A Language for Intimacy” is an online group exhibition, curated by Amanda Contrada and Terence Trouillot, addressed to the notion of intimacy. The project is set up as a dialogue between nine artists and nine writers. Each page centers images of an artwork at the top, with an interpretative meditation below it. To take one example, Sougwen Chung’s Corpus VII, from the series “(distance) in place” (2020), is a drawing made using a robotic arm, in which Claire Voon sees “the poetic promise of mechanical and artificial systems to imagine forms of closeness in an increasingly estranged world.” Voon’s observation could be extended to the project as a whole. Contrada and Trouillot have assembled a portrait of entanglement between humans, and our entanglement with the technologies of perception we use to try to reach each other. What emerges is the sense that intimacy is in crisis, infused with a profound exhaustion and uncertainty. In late March 2020, Paul B. Preciado published a short piece in Artforum describing the moments after he emerged from the sickbed in an empty Parisian apartment. The last paragraph struck me as a particularly apt analysis of intimacy during the present pandemic. He wrote a …
              “Metro Pictures Online Film Festival”
              Anthony Hawley
              It might be a stretch to call an online screening program of gallery artists a “film festival,” just as it might be a leap to describe an online viewing room as an “exhibition.” But “Metro Pictures Online Film Festival” offer its viewers something that resonates in our infinitely streamable world: a series of reckonings with time out of joint and objects out of place. Time capsules, time travel, and temporal transformations abound in works exploring the brevity of life and our troubled relationship to the past. “I suggest we change the function of this building!” declares a character in David Maljković’s Scene for a New Heritage (2004), the title work in a trilogy featured in the festival. The building in question is the Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija in the Petrova Gora mountain range in Croatia, to which the film’s three protagonists have pilgrimaged as part of their “quest for heritage” in the year 2045. The characters’ reality, symbolized by the tin-foil-covered cars they drive, doesn’t match up with the grandiose future promised by Vojin Bakić’s glittering postmodernist monument, one in a series of towering Croatian spomeniks commemorating revolutions and uprisings against fascism during …
              Jutta Koether’s “4 the Team” / Jana Euler’s “Unform”
              Wendy Vogel
              Days before New York’s galleries shuttered in mid-March, I saw exhibitions of figurative paintings by Jutta Koether and Jana Euler that read to me like biological weapons threatening the patriarchal history of art. Worried that I may have become an invisible conduit for viral contagion, my heightened bodily self-consciousness found echoes, first, in Koether’s exhibition “4 the Team,” the German-born painter and musician’s first solo show at Lévy Gorvy. For this mini-survey of the artist’s works on canvas from the 1980s to the present, Koether variously adopts vulnerability and heroism as painterly moods. Her practice—born out of the discourses of appropriation, feminism, and institutional critique—often hinges on the theatrics of installation: stage lighting, transparent glass walls, and performance. Here, she chose to leave the gallery’s elegant three-story space free of spatial interventions, allowing for an associative reading of the paintings. The ground floor debuted a suite of triumphant new works—three large figurative canvases, and two smaller abstract pieces titled Vorhang [Curtains] in her signature palette of reds and pinks. At first glance the portraits Neue Frau [New Woman], Neuer Mann [New Man], and Encore, all from 2019 with a color scheme of contrasting pastels, appear optimistic about the state …
              Peter Saul’s “Crime and Punishment”
              Jonathan Griffin
              How much is too much, when it comes to the art of Peter Saul? How about: The big high box of the New Museum’s fourth-floor gallery stacked two-deep with more than two dozen large paintings in fluorescent hues? How about: Every gallery on the floor below packed with at least as many again, dating from 1960 to the present? How about: Three paintings that feature Donald Trump? Seven of electric chairs? Countless more figures with bullet-holes spewing glossy gouts of blood? A dog barfing onto the head of Rush Limbaugh, accompanied by a speech bubble that reads “BARF”? How about: One retrospective, only the second of the artist’s career, and his first in New York? I thought I was a fan of Peter Saul, but “Crime and Punishment,” the five-decade retrospective curated by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari, left me numb. Really, there is no other way to feel after seeing this much of Saul’s work, which trades in violent mayhem, visual noise, muscular kinesis, compositional derangement and—increasingly since the mid-1960s—hard-edged shapes rendered in bold and clashing colors. There is no question that Saul is a virtuoso technician, as he himself seems eager to demonstrate. His meticulous use of pointillism renders …
              “Before and After Tiananmen”
              Xin Wang
              Imagine a curated overview of contemporary art from the United States titled “Before and After the Vietnam War.” Imagine the case not as a new direction for explorative scholarship but as the perpetuating, defining framework, over and over again. “Before and After Tiananmen,” Gallery 207 in the 2019 rehang of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, presents established Chinese artists such as Xu Bing, Zhang Peili, Huang Yong Ping, and Song Dong in a sparse installation. Yet it registers not as a progressive move towards more inclusive and nuanced narratives of modern and postmodern art worldwide, but rather as a form of institutional gaslighting that raises deeper and stickier issues than the more manifest ills of exclusion or erasure. Reflecting a growing institutional recognition of heterogeneous global modernisms, it illustrates where that promise of progressive inclusivity falls short—and flat—if the historical framing remains uncontested, and situated knowledges are routinely overlooked. Presenting these alternative trajectories using the criteria and assumptions of the old canon—essentially treating them as outposts of western art history—will always miss the mark, limiting the discourse while purporting to expand it. It is telling that in most reviews of the new MoMA, …
              Hannah Levy’s “Pendulous Picnic”
              Ksenia M. Soboleva
              Hannah Levy’s sculptures can make you shudder. Working between sculpture and design, she extracts commonplace objects from domestic contexts and defamiliarizes them through her use of unexpected materials, distortion of scale, and exaggeration of their formal properties: their curves and bends. The sculptures in “Pendulous Picnic,” her first solo exhibition with Casey Kaplan Gallery in New York, combine silicone and steel—the artist’s signature materials—into multifaceted structures that conflate forms resembling vegetables and body parts in disturbing ways. Take her untitled series of wall-mounted sculptures (all 2019), in which metal fixtures hold up silicone casts of enlarged asparagus, a recurring motif. The artist renders each phallic object limp, drooping over the curved metal as if it might slide off any second—thereby denying any imagined potential for sexual pleasure. More striking are Levy’s suspended sculptures, something of a departure for the artist. Hanging from the ceiling in the first gallery are three large, untitled structures (all 2020) reminiscent of nursery mobiles—though far too large and hazardous to be suitable for infants. The nickel-plated steel frames curl into chillingly sharp edges resembling fishhooks. The metal is pierced with silicone objects whose surfaces resemble pale skin: in the first sculpture the viewer encounters, casts of …
              Jason Hirata’s “Sometimes You’re Both”
              Saim Demircan
              The ambiguity of Jason Hirata’s exhibition title speaks to his ambidexterity as artist and videographer, two roles that fold into one another in this show. Hirata produces videos for artists, as well as documenting live events and providing technical assistance, and this exhibition presents six videos he has worked on. The precise nature of his labor, however, remains oblique or uncredited, the exception being Hito Steyerl’s 2018 video Unbroken Windows (a piece of paper sellotaped to the wall lists Hirata as production manager and director of photography). “Sometimes You’re Both” continues Hirata’s recent practice of deconstructing the solo show. For his “25 October, 2015—12 May, 2019” exhibition at Kunstverein Nürnberg in 2019, he exhibited other artists’ work under his own name. Similarly, “Sometimes You’re Both” is neither strictly artist-curated nor collaboratively billed. More liberty is taken here with the display of works than in “25 October, 2015—12 May, 2019”: technical equipment sits out in the open on tabletops. While this could be mistaken for slacker aesthetics, it’s rather another instance of the artist divulging the mechanics of artistic production—or, perhaps more specifically, the invisible labor behind installation. Films play from laptop to projector in a visible circulatory system. The …
              “Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011”
              Dina Ramadan
              Even before it opened, “Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011” had attracted critical attention. A string of scandals highlighted once again just how embedded museums like MoMA, and its affiliate PS1, are in the military and prison industrial complexes responsible for so much of the devastation on display in this exhibition. Phil Collins’s withdrawal of his work from the show late last year, in protest of some MoMA board members’ investments in private prisons and ICE detention centers, was followed by a request from Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz that the curators “press the pause button” on his video in order to “discuss some recent events.” After PS1 ignored Rakowitz’s request, the artist paused the video himself, in January this year, and posted a statement explaining his position on the gallery wall beside it. The museum quickly removed the statement, despite the artist’s insistence that it “constitutes an essential part of [the] ongoing artwork.” Three dozen participants in the show have since signed a letter urging the museum to sever ties with controversial trustees. Meanwhile, at least four Arab artists, including Netherlands-based Afifa Aleiby, were denied visas to attend the opening. Others knew better than to apply. The absence of …
              Michael Rakowitz’s “The invisible enemy should not exist (Room F, section 1, Northwest Palace of Nimrud)”
              Alan Gilbert
              The world has experienced immense changes since the turn of the millennium, including the spread of neo-fascism, a deepening of the climate crisis, and advances in digital technologies. Yet one situation has remained consistent throughout that time: infernal war across the Middle East. Whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Yemen, the devastation these countries have experienced remains almost unfathomable to those living in the West. For much of this time, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz has addressed the repercussions of these conflicts through a cross-cultural artistic practice rooted in processes of translation across mediums, disciplines, and national borders. At the same time, Rakowitz aims to engage with a history of the Middle East that expands far beyond the prevailing narratives of war and insurrection. In an exhibition entitled “The invisible enemy should not exist” at New York’s Lombard-Freid Projects in 2007, Rakowitz used everyday materials from the Middle East, such as food packaging, newspapers, and cardboard, to make replicas of some of the nearly 7,000 cultural artifacts plundered from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad following the disastrous US invasion in 2003. Versions of small statues, friezes, cups, vases, and more from ancient Mesopotamia were displayed in rows on wooden …
              Jacolby Satterwhite’s “You’re at home”
              Ania Szremski
              “Let me tell you about my mother” is a famous line from Blade Runner (1982), the iconic movie that wonders about the violent intersections of life and technology and what really makes us human. A little over a decade later, at a time when technology’s coloring of the human experience had exponentially intensified, those words were recycled as a sample in “Aftermath,” a song off Tricky’s debut, genre-defying album, Maxinquaye (1995), which was named for his mother, Maxine Quaye, who died of suicide when he was little. Now fast-forward nearly 15 years after that, and consider Jacolby Satterwhite’s exhibition “You’re at home,” which rolls up everything I’ve just written about into a dizzying fractal pattern along with a manifold of other references, sounds, and iconography in which, indeed, the artist tells us all about his mother. Tricky has said his mother used to write poems but had no place to put them. Patricia Satterwhite, too, was an artist without a public, without a means of access to the infrastructure and institutions that would have made her the star Jacolby says she dreamed of becoming. Before she died in 2016, she had lived with schizophrenia. Throughout her life she incessantly wrote …
              “Soft and Wet”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              In the video documentation of Burial Pyramid (1974), Ana Mendieta’s body looks like it is lodged in the aftermath of a landslide. Lying on the ground, everything but her face covered with muddy rocks, the late artist seems trapped under the stones’ weight. She starts to breathe great heaving breaths and the rocks slowly shift and then tumble away. The soft flesh of her midriff and the areola of her right breast faintly come into view through the grain of the digitized Super 8mm film. Mendieta’s film immediately drew me into “Soft and Wet,” a group show curated by Sadia Shirazi at the project space of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts. It is shown across the room from the entrance and when I turn away from Mendieta’s immobilized form, I notice a pedestal by the door and return to inspect it. The slim, stapled booklet on it is a facsimile of the catalog of an exhibition curated by Mendieta, Kazuko Miyamoto, and Zarina at feminist gallery A.I.R. in New York in 1980. “Dialectics of Isolation: An Exhibition of Third World Women Artists of the United States” was organized in response to the marginalization of women of color within white feminist …
              Danh Vo’s “untitled” and “Cathedral Block, Prayer Stage, Gun Stock”
              Harry Thorne
              We create our own artworks. Regardless of their maker or mark, we push ourselves through the objects and images that deign to confront us and, as such, shape ourselves and our newfound companions into something other than we were before. It could be said that when we interact with art objects, we actively collaborate with another, with one another, which is a pleasant way of narrativizing our lowly passage through life: we work alongside the many things of the world so as to generate meaning. This notion of incorporeal co-existence would suggest that the self is an entity less fixed and singular than it is multivalent, multiplicitous, more. The memory of Édouard Glissant floats, preaching the oft-quoted pledge “not to be a single being”; Antonio Gramsci, cited prominently in Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), writes of “‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces.” Self as infinity. Infinity as self. Vietnam-born Danish artist Danh Vo speaks in similar tones: “I don’t really believe in my own story, not as a singular thing anyway. […] I see myself, like any other person, as a container.” But are we containers or conduits? Do …
              Paul Chan’s “The Bather’s Dilemma”
              Alan Gilbert
              The figures in Paul Chan’s work have frequently been subject to powerful outside forces. In the large-scale animated video Happiness (Finally) After 35,000 Years of Civilization (After Henry Darger and Charles Fourier) (1999–2003), which helped garner Chan initial acclaim, a group of prepubescent girls with origins in Darger’s writings are threatened by a war raging around them. Every object in The 7 Lights series (2005–07) of digital projections is subject to the same gravitational pull. The physical and sexual violence depicted in black-and-white silhouette in the mural-sized and nearly six-hour-long digital video projection Sade for Sade’s sake (2009), created in the wake of the Abu Ghraib torture revelations, is larger than any one person; rather, it is institutional and endemic. Even Chan’s more documentary-style video essay, Baghdad in No Particular Order (2003), was shot during a visit to Iraq and ominously foretells a war that would leave hundreds of thousands dead and a country in near total ruin. It is understandable that Chan eventually took a hiatus from these labor-intensive screen-based projects, and from the ubiquity of screens in general, while continuing to think about the centrality of images in a rapidly digitizing world. Recently, he has been producing bodies of …
              Condo New York
              Orit Gat
              I’m leaving New York in a month. The other night I told that to an acquaintance who asked if I had read Goodbye to All That (2013), a collection of writing about “loving and leaving New York.” I’ve only read the 1967 Joan Didion essay that gave the book its title. A friend suggested we go to the used bookstore around the corner. “They probably have a shelf dedicated to it,” I said. “You see I was in a curious position in New York,” Didion writes: “it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there.” She came for a few months and stayed for eight years. I came with an intention to stay, but “a real life” is elusive or impossible under the current political system. The third iteration of Condo New York, an initiative begun in London in 2016 in which local spaces host visiting galleries, opened in the same month MoMA closed for renovations as it soaks up the building of its displaced former neighbor the American Folk Art Museum, and in the same week I skipped an opening at the New Museum because I didn’t want to cross the picket line of its …
              79th Whitney Biennial
              Travis Diehl
              Remember when America was hard to see? Boy, is it obvious now. The Whitney Biennial 2019, curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, has a marked interest in the alter-local, doing some overdue national soul-searching, as well as catching up to artists who have been doing this kind of reparative work all along. There is Joe Minter from Birmingham, Alabama, whose assemblages of rusty tools and metal imagine an “African village” in America, a stunning euphemism that is lost on no one. The agglomerations of plant matter and mass commodities by Puerto Rican artist Daniel Lind-Ramos (such as Maria-Maria [2019], in which an emergency FEMA tarp clothes a Virgin-like figure) are at once elusively bitter, ritualistic, and ruthlessly compromised, like a straw on a Caribbean beach. Curran Hatleberg’s lucid photographs document America’s rural poor over the past decade: folks on their stoops between weedy squares of lawn (Untitled [Front Porch], 2016), children in what seems like the aftermath of a natural disaster (Untitled [Girl with Snake], 2016), a half-dozen men in an auto junkyard waiting (for what?) around a fresh, grave-sized pit (Untitled [Hole], 2016). A half-hour video by Steffani Jemison, Sensus Plenior (2017), portrays a gospel mime in Harlem …
              Allan Sekula’s “Photography, A Wonderfully Inadequate Medium”
              Kylie Gilchrist
              In one gruelingly unedited scene of Allan Sekula’s three-hour film essay Lottery of the Sea (2006), a figure suited head-to-toe in white Tyvek hauls a gluey black lump across a slate-gray jetty. Steely waves wash up pebbles of oil, which she collects by rolling or smashing the lump upon them. Her mass will soon be lobbed into a rubber basket, foisted up a dune by a chain of hands, and deposited in a sea of oily baskets awaiting removal. The labor of viewing this protracted sequence faintly echoes its subject: the Sisyphean task of cleaning an oil spill on Spain’s Galician coast, accomplished by volunteers and by hand. In a world where most things are—as Sekula says of a Greek fish market at the film’s start—“fresh but dead,” the scene’s weary, weather-worn figures testify to the fragile solitaries born in struggles to resist the wholesale extermination of human and non-human life. The film is housed in a screening room at the center of an exhibition purportedly dedicated to Sekula’s photography, underscoring the latter medium’s distinctive feature for the artist: its insufficiency. True to the exhibition’s title, photography’s limitations are foregrounded throughout. The opening sequence of works features Sekula’s early engagement …
              Siah Armajani’s “Follow This Line”
              Ania Szremski
              “Habit is like a cotton blanket. It covers up all the sharp edges, and it dampens all noises,” Vilém Flusser mused in his 1984 essay “Exile and Creativity.” Comfortable and self-affirming, the familiar is “a mud bath where it is nice to wallow.” There’s a sensation of wading into that warm gooey tub when you first encounter Minneapolis-based artist Siah Armajani’s sculptures from the 1970s at his Met Breuer retrospective, “Follow This Line.” His models of houses, bridges, rooms, and gates draw from an old-timey tradition of plain vernacular architecture gleaming with middle-American wholesomeness, but look a little closer, that air of comfort turns out to be a trick—an innocently nondescript bridge doesn’t let you out the other side, a dependably sober log house refuses entry, a Norman Rockwell main street is shuttered and shrouded in black. The noises of strangeness rush in, forebodingly. For the expelled, who has been uprooted from a life of cozy continuity, “everything becomes unusual, monstrous, in the true sense of the word un-settling,” Flusser wrote. And it’s this perception of the world that drives the exiled “to discover the truth” of experience, inconstant and fractious. In her catalog essay for “Follow This Line,” curator Clare …
              Andrea Geyer’s “On this day”
              Ksenia M. Soboleva
              A series of slide projectors are supported by stacks of books and pieces of wooden furniture. The space is darkened, only illuminated by streams of light exuding from the projectors, as well as the images they produce: a range of abstract squares and rectangles in various shades of white that linger on the walls in a quiet rhythm. From a handful of speakers spread across the room, a recording is transmitted, with the sound of the artist’s voice, speaking English with a subtle German accent. Titled Feeding the Ghost (2019), this multimedia installation is the centerpiece of Andrea Geyer’s current solo show at the Hales Gallery. The project was originally conceived as a performance lecture delivered by Geyer at Dia Art Foundation in September 2018. Indeed, this installation mimics the interior Geyer created at Dia, where she performed her lecture around an audience seated in the middle of the room, surrounded by small wooden classroom tables. The artist sat and read at each table for about 15 minutes, before switching to the next, while the audience’s gaze followed her, some awkwardly rotating their chairs. The text Geyer reads is always the same, an intimate account of her watching Chantal Akerman’s one-hour …
              Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s “The Conditions”
              Alan Gilbert
              A gaze without a frame might be a form of direct perception, or, in the digital age, unprocessed information. Frames are always accompanied by categories, which in turn bring their histories and memories along with them. In this sense, a gaze is only as powerful as the frames and categories, discourses and institutions that support it. When attached to an apparatus for seeing, a gaze becomes structural or systemic. It should also be remembered that a gaze, as feminist scholars and theorists of race have insisted, is an aperture that holds the potential to open onto physical violence. This may seem a grim way to introduce Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s photographs, which attentively celebrate queer identities and relations. Yet what is most striking about Sepuya’s current exhibition, “The Conditions,” is how strongly it foregrounds the camera’s gaze and the studio as site of image-making. Using sets fashioned from wood, mirrors, and black velvet drapery, Sepuya constructs carefully composed photographs. These images feature his camera, parts of his body, and on one occasion—A Portrait (0X5A6109) (2017)—his entire figure reflected in mirrors. This desire to oversee both sides of the gaze is crucial to Sepuya’s photographic practice, with its blending of portrait and self-portrait. A
              New York City Roundup
              Amy Zion
              Twenty-five years ago, a group of young dealers, including Pat Hearn, Colin de Land, and Matthew, Marks started the first contemporary art fair in New York at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Titled the Gramercy International Art Fair, it spanned floors 12, 14, and 15 (there is no 13, of course) of the hotel, with each gallery taking over a room or suite. In the first iteration in 1994, Tracey Emin slept in the bed in the room where her work was displayed (by Jay Jopling/White Cube). In 1997, Holly Solomon installed two TV screens as part of a work by Nam June Paik in her room’s bathtub. After outgrowing the hotel, in 1999, the fair moved to the original site of the infamous 1913 Armory Show and changed its name. Now it fills two West Side piers and includes a modern/twentieth-century art portion alongside the contemporary. There are more fairs that share the week with the Armory—the Independent, which celebrated its 10th anniversary, Volta (more on that later), and Spring Break, among others. Amid talks and other initiatives marking the quarter-century celebrations, at the fair there was a room several booths wide that included documentation and restaging of works from the …
              “Samaritans”
              Rob Goyanes
              The first lines of the song “I See a Darkness” (1999) by Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy, go like this: “Well you’re my friend / That’s what you told me.” Dan Nadel, curator of “SAMARITANS” at Eva Presenhuber, suggests viewers read the lyrics while visiting the exhibition: they are printed in full in the press release. Instead, I listened to it about 25 times: “Many times we’ve shared our thoughts / But did you ever / Ever notice / The kind of thoughts I got?” An alt-country ballad, “I See a Darkness” is tender, bordering on saccharine. Its voice, piano, and guitars are aching, then hopeful, then not. It is about, among other things, friendship: “Well, you know I have a love / A love for everyone I know.” And though the artists in the exhibition, according to the press release, are “connected to at least one other [artist], and usually more, by friendship, inspiration, and influence,” the connections between the works feel tenuous. On a wall in the first room is Xeno (2017) by Takeshi Murata, a slick, totemic, geometric sculpture whose enamel paint glows like radioactive candy. On the wall adjacent is The Golden Age: The Jaguar and …
              Eileen Myles’s “poems”
              Alan Gilbert
              It’s so easy to ignore what’s directly in front of you when it seems more sullied than that which is imagined to be just beyond a particular moment or place. Digital technologies seek to eradicate this gap by making a better or more convenient life, via an image or purchase, only a click away. In the process, desire is replaced by need as online streams of ads and information, many of which are targeted to sell some sort of aspirational product or lifestyle, arrive with greater speed and density—not for nothing are these streams called feeds. At the same time, social media has created spaces for alternative communities, identities, and politics that refuse the increasingly tenuous status quo. And while their cooptation can happen quickly, and their tracking—the consumer-friendly word for surveillance—is ubiquitous, these spaces are also seedbeds for a different world. The most striking visual aspect of the photographs from the writer Eileen Myles’s Instagram account (@eileen.myles) currently on display as enlarged (ca. 24 x 18 inches) digital prints at Bridget Donahue is how oriented they are on the image’s frequently messy foreground. In the selection of 20 photographs (out of more than 6000 on Myles’s Instagram), this foreground includes …
              Jean-Marie Appriou’s “November”
              Aoife Rosenmeyer
              The show is called “November”; I write as the month draws to a close. It’s cold and slightly damp, albeit not enough to offset the long, dry summer and autumn. But the apples sold at the market are still crisp, the Raebeliechtliumzug—an annual walk through the dark, originating in harvest festival celebrations, in which children sing songs and carry lanterns carved out of turnips—took place last week, and now we’re getting ready for Christmas. To everything there is a season. Jean-Marie Appriou illustrates this circle of life in two chapters. In the first gallery are sunflowers in full bloom and thick fields of corn; the second features a collection of waist-high caves, tall dark cypress trees, and bats flying around the viewers’ heads. All the sculptures were made this year, cast in aluminum from clay models formed by traditional tools and the artist’s gouging fingers, which have left deep, irregular, tactile indentations. The aluminum varies from silvery to blackened. The works are striking, like the two-and-a-half metres-tall corn thicket Crossing the parallel worlds; the faces and limbs that appear elsewhere are spindly, verging on grotesque. It is hard to gauge this aesthetic, which is unfamiliar in a contemporary art context—as is …
              Aura Satz’s “Listen, Recalibrate”
              Genevieve Yue
              On the night of July 16, 2006, Mazen Kerbaj stood on a balcony in Beirut as Israeli Air Force bombs fell in the distance. He picked up his trumpet and played along to the ominous pops, some louder than others. Starry Night (2006), the composition that resulted, asks the unanswerable question: What is the value of an aesthetic response to a political situation? Aura Satz’s film Preemptive Listening (Part 1: The Fork in the Road) (2018) dwells in the same conceptual and acoustic space. This spare work, which beyond a few close-up glimpses of a light bulb depicts only a dark void punctuated by pulses of light, obscures its sources to the point of unrecognizability: actor and activist Khalid Abdalla, whose voice we hear, never identifies the emergency sirens he describes occurring in Egypt during the Arab Spring; an alarm light rotates according to the cadence of his speech; and Kerbaj again plays his trumpet, this time as a low drone imitating the sound of a siren. Satz turns a moment of questioning into reckoning, when one is called to attention by a distant siren, but not yet certain how to act. Played on a loop in the gallery’s back …
              Jeffrey Gibson’s “I AM A RAINBOW TOO”
              Alan Gilbert
              If there ever was an ars poetica for house music, it might be the one articulated by Chuck Roberts that Larry Heard incorporated into a 1988 remix of his own groundbreaking single “Can You Feel It” (1986). Roberts’s proclamation is a nearly two-minute-long origin story delivered in sermonic fashion featuring a figure named Jack: “In the beginning there was Jack, and Jack had a groove.” Roberts describes house music being born with an utterance by Jack, just as the Judeo-Christian God named the world into being, before announcing: “And in my house there is only house music. But I am not so selfish because once you enter my house, it then becomes our house and our house music.” The slightly modified “Because once you enter my house it becomes our house” is one of many phrases derived from dance-music tracks that Jeffrey Gibson incorporates into the paintings, sculptures, and beaded weavings featured in his exhibition “I AM A RAINBOW TOO.” Some, such as “Last night a dj saved my life,” will be recognizable to casual dance-music listeners; others require deeper digging in the crates (or lots of googling). Gibson’s exhibition title is also shared with its opening work, a series of …
              “A Void”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              In his press release for “A Void,” a group exhibition at 601Artspace, curator and artist Paul Ramírez Jonas provides an epigraphic clue to the relationship he sees between various forms of displacement that result in a void: “When books burn, people burn.” The phrase, according to the press release, is a quote by Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz, one of eight artists in the show..] Their works render the violent displacement and death of people: Palestinians, Syrians, African Americans, Bosnian Muslims, Colombians, French Jews during the Holocaust, and female victims of domestic abuse in Ecuador. The exhibition is bifurcated: on the largest wall of the narrow gallery, Ramírez Jonas has painted eight large black rectangles, which are meant to represent the absence of eight Western European paintings destroyed over the course of World War II by both sides and, thus, to illustrate his curatorial intervention. Past these voids and into the gallery, eight artworks are installed simply but effectively. A new work by Aida Šehović, Family Album (ŠTO TE NEMA): Wall 6 and 7 (2018), covers the gallery’s back corner with a one-to-one scale photographic reproduction of two walls in the Women of Srebrenica Association office, a nonprofit dedicated to identifying the …
              Haroon Mirza’s “The Night Journey”
              Monica Westin
              The source material for The Night Journey (2018), Haroon Mirza’s sound-based multimedia installation, is a miniature painting from the collection of the Asian Art Museum that is conspicuously absent from the final exhibition. The original painting, The night journey of the prophet Muhammad on the heavenly creature Buraq, created in India around 1800, depicts Muhammad on his journey from Mecca to Jerusalem with his face unveiled: a type of representation that has often been prohibited on the grounds that images of the Prophet can encourage idolatry. There is a roughly contemporaneous miniature painting of Muhammad included in Mirza’s exhibition: this one is, pointedly, veiled. The theme of iconoclasm—the destruction of images—is thus woven into Mirza’s installation, which teases out from the perennial contentiousness of representing religious figures a more formal question, asking how the relationship between a subject and abstracted information extracted from it and converted into another form can be understood, whether as an appropriation, another type of depiction, or a form of censorship. In other words, iconoclasm is a starting point for the artist’s exploration around the limits of translation that transcend ideology into form. Mirza’s exhibition “The Night Journey” includes a pixelated inkjet printout of the c. 1800 …
              Zardulu The Mythmaker’s “Triconis Aeternis: Rites and Mysteries”
              Ania Szremski
              The summer of 2018 was grifter season. Starting sometime in May, a strange coterie of glittering personages came coasting along: hustling socialites, scurrilous aventuriers, faux–Saudi princes. The hoax has always had a special place in American mythology, from a newspaper editor convincing his readers there were unicorns on the moon in 1835 to P.T. Barnum’s unveiling of an exotic mermaid in 1842, but there seems to be a renaissance in a present-day America where the sociopolitical order feels like it’s crumbling. And these swindling apparitions with the power to dupe the richest among us (think of Anna Delvey, a young Russian woman reborn as a German aristocrat in New York City[1]) have the gleam of folk heroes. The anonymous performance artist who goes by the name of Zardulu the Mythmaker has a keen understanding of this bunk that resides at the heart of the American imaginary. It’s the fundamental stuff of her work: she crafts an outlandish con, then tips off a credulous media outlet, and sees it go viral. The work is over when the artist chooses to trigger the reveal—the gotcha moment that shows everyone what a fool they’ve been to believe. (It can take years to come, if …
              Trisha Baga’s “Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor”
              Leo Goldsmith
              Trisha Baga’s third exhibition at Greene Naftali is also her most ambitious. “Mollusca & The Pelvic Floor,” like its cosmically hilarious and dizzyingly psychedelic predecessors, features a dazzling and untidy collection of found, handmade, and moving-image works: from doctored lenticular posters of human anatomy to idiosyncratic ceramic representations of everyday objects, all arranged around and within a deliriously complex 3D video installation. Baga has made more than 40 ceramic pieces of various sizes and dimensions representing an array of often comical real-world objects. There’s a full rock-band set-up, complete with drum set, guitar, and tip jar; a log fire; a cardboard box with the Amazon swoosh logo; a portrait of Baga’s dog, Monkey, swimming; and a quintet of poodle heads in the shape of Mesoamerican pyramids (temples of the dogs?), with titles such as Kimberly and Butchie (both 2018). Encountering life-sized versions of a crumpled rhinestone Elvis suit or a cockatoo in the gallery, you get the feeling of entering the artist’s psyche—or, simply, of her ideas made flesh, birthed into the world in a way that’s as simultaneously magical and quotidian. Baga’s ceramics have an amusingly DIY quality that both belies their complex material origins and butts up against the more …
              Hiwa K’s “Blind as the Mother Tongue”
              Ania Szremski
              Hiwa K doesn’t believe that art can change anything. Following a screening of his videos at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Iraqi-Kurdish artist explained his frustration with the uselessness of the whole contemporary art enterprise in the face of profound global violence. To hear him say that he doesn’t believe art can offer anything in terms of repair felt startling, at odds with the political nature of the works we had just seen. But it also felt breathtakingly familiar. I worked at an art space in downtown Cairo in the years following Egypt’s 2011 revolution. As I was mounting exhibitions in the center of clouds of tear gas and violent clashes, against a backdrop of forced disappearances and mass killings, I was constantly, brutally, forced to ask myself why we were doing what we were doing. There was an incredible sense of urgency to persist, but at the same time, the crushing knowledge that it was largely pointless, that art wasn’t going to get anyone out of jail, for example. Hiwa K left the context of crisis out of necessity, I left out of choice; we both settled in the so-called Western world, where we watch those traumas continue to …
              Frieze New York
              Orit Gat
              It’s summer in May. It’s been a long winter, and a long semester teaching art history is drawing to a close. The past four months I’ve been talking to my students about the political possibilities of art: trying to convince them not to look away, but to be moved, to pay attention, and to think of that participation as a form of political agency. We’ve talked about how to look at historical work with an eye to 2018. “Is this still useful?” I ask them of 1950s painting, or video work from last year. My students don’t always have an answer. Nor do I. But I keep asking and looking, knowing that, while I may not always find answers, paying attention is important. At Sfeir-Semler Gallery (Beirut/Hamburg) are drawings from Rabih Mroué’s Leap Year’s Diary (2006–16). Small framed works are composed of clippings from mostly Lebanese newspapers, cut out and glued onto paper. There are objects (a bell, a truck, a military plane flying across a blank white-paper sky) and full scenes (a boy reaching for a string tied to a bird’s foot); there are shells of homes, and figures standing alone, looking at what may have been landscapes before they …
              Laure Prouvost
              Alan Gilbert
              Eager to see the art in Laure Prouvost’s first solo exhibition at Lisson Gallery in New York, visitors might breeze through its central installation: Uncle’s Travel Agency Franchise, Deep Travel Ink. NYC (2016–18). Situated at the entrance to the gallery, it looks like an unkempt and outdated version of an art gallery’s normally pristine front desk featuring a guest book, a stack of press releases, and a 3-ring binder containing an artist’s curriculum vitae and relevant press materials. Instead, Prouvost has surrounded the gallery attendant with promotional airline posters, maps, a bookshelf lined with travel guides, a coat rack and umbrella stand, an outmoded printer, a dirty water cooler, and even the requisite framed family photo on the desk. To the right of this configuration is a table with two chairs and a ceramic teapot in the shape of a pair of buttocks that is the first explicit clue to the whimsy and weirdness of Prouvost’s art. The exhibition’s conceit is that all the work on display—including installation, sculpture, painting, textile, and video—is connected to this travel agency. Three other workstations feature stacks of plane-ticket receipts and travel magazines with the company name, “Deep Travel Ink,” printed on white labels affixed …
              The Armory Show and Independent Art Fair
              Ania Szremski
              The art-fair think piece is as stale as the art fair itself. What could be said already has been, from puzzling over the mysterious machinations of the market, to annual denunciations from gallerists, and ethnographies of those who buy and those who sell. The form of writing that is truest to the form of the art fair is the nimble listicle, the best-or-worst-of reportage, the photo-heavy guided tour; the spirit of the fair is inimical to the weightier, slower-moving thousand-word reflection. Even though visiting the storied behemoth that is The Armory Show and the leaner, more winsome upstart Independent was something of an exercise in “seen one, seen them all,” I was nonetheless startled to be confronted by works that I actually liked—that offered a cool respite from the surrounding fervor of the art-mall experience, that compelled dreamier reflection. And so begins my own inevitable best-of list: at The Armory, Upfor Gallery from Portland, Oregon, showed Iranian artist Morehshin Allahyari, who commanded sustained attention with her spellbinding videos Huma (2016), Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj (2017), and Aisha Qandisha (2018), each depicting voracious Near Eastern goddesses and fever-causing spirits with glitched-out animations and oracle-like narrations. And even as Nam June Paik’s multimedia sculptural …
              “Memories of Utopia: Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Collages de France’ Models”
              Leo Goldsmith
              In 2006, French filmmaker and polymath Jean-Luc Godard was commissioned to curate an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, devising a series of 18 maquettes—nine large, nine small—as a plan for “Collage(s) de France: Archaeology of the Cinema.” The exhibition would link a series of rooms—each with its own title, like “Myth (allegory of cinema),” “The Camera (metaphor),” and “The Real (reverie)”—featuring objects, artworks, and videos. The result would be a kind of funhouse excursion through the director’s major themes and obsessions: cinematic and media images, the patrimonies of Europe, Hollywood, and their cultural and ideological peripheries. But the exhibition was not to be: after two years of work, Godard abruptly abandoned the project, leaving the museum’s then-director of cultural development, Dominique Païni, to construct an attenuated version in its place: “Travel(s) in Utopia, Jean-Luc Godard 1946–2006, In Search of a Lost Theorem,” in which paintings by Nicolas de Staël and Henri Matisse were exhibited in proximity to excerpts from films by Godard and his idols (like Fritz Lang and Robert Bresson) and collaborators (like his longtime partner Anne-Marie Miéville). While Godard’s original idea for the show was never realized, his maquettes (all from 2004­­–2006)—eventually deposited in one of the rooms of the …
              Judy Chicago’s “PowerPlay: A Prediction”
              Tess Edmonson
              After the completion of The Dinner Party (1974–89), for a five-year period from 1982 to 1987, Judy Chicago interrupted her study of female subjecthood to focus instead on its political other, masculinity. The result is a series of paintings and bronzes titled “PowerPlay,” a selection of which is currently on view at New York’s Salon 94. It’s affixed with the subtitle “A Prediction.” Of what? Four large-scale paintings in the main gallery figure variations on a male nude in a wash of taupe and technicolor. In each, he appears bald, white, and muscled, engaged in the performance of symbolic action. Driving the World to Destruction (1985), for example, shows the surface of a bald man’s torso, its hypertrophy defined by dark shadows. His overlarge hands hold a steering wheel affixed to the surface of the earth, whose deep greens are caught in a swirl of flames. In their rendering of male violence, these allegories are not complicated. A second gallery location in Freeman Alley housed an additional suite of works on paper, whose surface is sculpted to protrude from its frame. (This part of the exhibition is now closed.) Two among these works qualify the show’s claim to prophecy: Doublehead with Green
              New Museum Triennial, “Songs for Sabotage”
              Kevin McGarry
              “Songs for Sabotage,” the fourth New Museum Triennial, is suavely branded as a survey of 26 subversive practices from around the world. The curators, Gary Carrion-Murayari and Alex Gartenfeld, frame the exhibition with an astute awareness of the challenges it faces as an institution that would seem to reify the repressive ideologies it purports to dismantle. In his catalog text, Gartenfeld—who might be considered the most precocious institutional mind of the generation still younger than Jesus, and thus keenly attuned to the trappings of dwelling on age—addresses the wise move to excise the word “generational” from the show’s identity (though it remains a round-up of artists under 35), writing, as a kind of disclaimer: “Previously described as a ‘generational’ survey, the Triennial implicitly and explicitly weds the notion of youth to international movements in order to link artistic potential (both criticality and marketability) to demographics.” Further, he parses how the Triennial is positioned in such a way that makes it an increasingly impossible curatorial undertaking: “The implicit task of the Triennial is to contrast the spirit of internationalism—solidarity, diversity, autonomy—with the deleterious, dominating processes of globalization, and to observe and propose points of connection that might be liberatory, rather than merely …
              Sondra Perry
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              For Sondra Perry’s solo exhibition at Bridget Donahue, New York, all the walls are painted Rosco Chroma Key Blue. The deeply saturated color is used on television sets and in the production of special effects for movies and videogames because it contrasts so profoundly with most human skin colors. Chroma Key Blue is the obverse of the color of being, Sondra Perry pointed out to me at the opening. No human skin exists in an adjacent shade, and so it can be used as the negative space onto which context for any body can be manufactured and projected. The color of ultimate negativity, or the absence of existence. Perry’s interest in the condition of visibility is influenced in part by Simone Browne’s Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (2015), which analyzes the way people of color are visualized using surveillance technologies and, through this visualization, de-humanized. Browne traces the containment of blackness from basic technologies, such as branding and lantern laws, to more technically advanced forms used in contemporary policing. Black bodies are often represented in the aforementioned visualization techniques against a ground very similar to Rosco Chroma Key Blue: one of the conditions of their visibility since slavery has been …
              Survival Research Laboratories’ “Inconsiderate fantasies of negative acceleration characterized by sacrifices of a non-consensual nature”
              Rob Goyanes
              A modernist critical framework would have you believe that the difference between a machine and sculpture is the same as between politics and aesthetics: a machine uses power to fulfill a function, while a sculpture is all about form and taste. Knowing that this is bullshit—that there is no apolitical aesthetic—our contemporary lives are defined by the somewhat analogous understanding that the difference between war and terrorism is the same as between art and non-art: purely a question of legitimacy. Started in 1978 in San Francisco by Mark Pauline, Survival Research Laboratories is a collective of technicians who build freakish militaristic machines. They’re then employed in spectacular public productions that are part hilarious war zone, part robot drama, consisting of modified jet engines that shoot hurricanes of fire; remote-controlled six-legged crawlers that skitter and stab; and spark shooters and shockwave canons and wheelocopters that provoke a sort of childish, anarchic delight. However, there’s a political rigor to these radical machines. Revered in the social circles of punk, noise, outsider junk art and other so-called “extreme” American subcultures, SRL’s VHS tapes documented these chaotic public events, which often ended in pissed off cops and fire departments even though proper permits were (usually) always …
              “Cosmic Communities: Coming Out Into Outer Space—Homofuturism, Applied Psychedelia & Magic Connectivity”
              Alan Gilbert
              There is an astonishing sequence in Robert Mugge’s 1980 film Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise, a documentary about the great intergalactic avant-garde jazz musician, artist, and poet. It occurs when Sun Ra is playing a solo during his band’s—the Arkestra—performance in a Baltimore ballroom. Sun Ra stands in front of his synthesizer and makes a glorious cacophony of smashed and pounded notes. He then spins and turns his back to the keyboard, playing it with the tops of his fingers and hands. The music is quite literally meant to transport: Sun Ra believed that life on this planet was doomed, especially for people of African descent, and that his music and philosophy would carry people to other worlds. Even Jupiter would be better than the ongoing slave ship called Earth. Sun Ra features prominently in “Cosmic Communities: Coming Out Into Outer Space—Homofuturism, Applied Psychedelia & Magic Connectivity,” a sprawling, ambitious, and occasionally overreaching exhibition organized by Diedrich Diederichsen and Christopher Müller for Galerie Buchholz. Eight Sun Ra vinyl record sleeves are included along with three of his original designs for other album covers—two in red swathes and lettering, one in shiny gold and black. Nearby vitrines contain over 50 black-and-white photographs …
              Douglas Huebler’s “Works from the 1960s”
              Kim Levin
              “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more. I prefer, simply, to state the existence of things in terms of time and/or place.” That once startling, now iconic statement by Douglas Huebler (1924–1997) was crucial to the foundation of Conceptual art. It was his contribution to Seth Siegelaub’s “January 5 – 31, 1969,” the exhibition without objects that launched Conceptualism. With those sentences, aimed at an art world dominated by Minimalist objects, Huebler announced that art was no longer an object: it was an idea, documented by means of language, photographs, or diagrams. It was also a matter of time and space. He was the eldest and most famous of the Conceptualists—including Robert Barry Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner—who participated in that objectless exhibition, but in retrospect he was also the most elusive, puzzling, and least understood. Almost half a century later, the current exhibition is not about what Huebler went on to do after that announcement—his “Variable” series, “Location” series, and “Duration” series (all begun in 1969)—and his quixotic attempt to document everyone on earth. Instead it offers the work he made shortly before that revelation: the quasi-Minimalist objects that …
              Cassils’s “Monumental”
              Wendy Vogel
              The practice of Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based artist Cassils expands upon—and queers—a feminist performance-art tradition, molding their transgender masculine physique through rigorous fitness regimens and durational actions. Though in “Monumental,” Cassils’s current New York exhibition, abstraction has entered the artist’s repertoire. Cassils grapples with their political desire to represent transgender lives and the media’s desire to spectacularize transgender bodies. The most traditional monument on display is Resilience of the 20% (2016), a bronze cast of a one-ton block of clay that Cassils attacked during a previous live performance in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts’s casting hall. The sculpture, which reveals impressions of Cassils’s hands, feet, and limbs, is spotlit at the center of a room painted a sober, dark gray. A suite of five photographs depicts the artist’s creation of Resilience of the 20%, punching and kicking their way through a ton of clay in total darkness. The only illumination comes from the hard flash of the cantilevered camera, capturing the artist and wide-eyed audience, as well as a cast of Michelangelo’s David (1501-4) behind them. Earlier this year, Cassils led a site-specific performance with Resilience of the 20% in Omaha, Nebraska, called Monument Push. A series of local activists pushed …
              Amar Kanwar’s “Such A Morning”
              Colin Perry
              Amar Kanwar’s latest video installation delves into more mystical concerns than the documentary format, for which he is known, might seem capable of containing. The eponymous single-channel video at the heart of “Such A Morning” (all works 2017) is an exquisitely installed piece of visionary slow cinema—a work whose mode comes close to magical realism, speculative fiction, or fractured moral parable. Where Kanwar’s earlier films always had one foot in reality, this 85-minute work unfurls a loose narrative in which a famous but unnamed mathematics professor quits his job for no good reason (his colleagues guess at a “deep inner question of the soul” or “a complex conflict of ideology and prejudice”), and retreats to the wilderness to live in an abandoned train carriage. Previously installed at Documenta 14, Such A Morning voices a general existential question: how to live in the present? Such A Morning is a cinema of affect at its most seductive. Kanwar’s camera captures verdant leaves, rust, and old wood; his soundtrack includes traditional Indian music of flutes and strings. Immersed in this sensorial world, the mathematician’s mind appears to transcend the world of logic, deduction, and syllogisms, to a new plane of emotional resonance between environment …
              John Gerrard’s "X. laevis (Spacelab)"
              Laura McLean-Ferris
              Where is the bright line between life and the simulation of life? And what then are the criteria for assessing aliveness? These questions are forever reconstituted and assessed anew at life’s fringes—around automata, the dead, artificial intelligence. 2017’s prestige AI television series Westworld is only the most recent thinking-through of such questions—a narrative in which robots make a leap into sentience through the injection of a “mistake” memory gesture into their programming. In 1780 Luigi Galvani ran currents of electricity through dead frogs’ legs, the force animated the limbs so that they twitched and jumped (the term “to galvanize”—to electrify into action—is named after the scientist). The repercussions of this experiment, and the question marks it placed over animation, reanimation, and the godlike ability to give life charged through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), the seminal horror story which drew on Galvani’s experiments to consider the implications of electricity as the force of vitality. Such histories and philosophical problems are embedded in John Gerrard’s new simulation, X. laevis (Spacelab) (2017), on view at Simon Preston, playing on a large screen in the center of the gallery. Like several of the artist’s previous works, this is a digital animation that renders in real …
              Mel Bochner’s “Voices”
              Kim Levin
              At a moment when all kinds of anxieties can be tweaked by a tweeting president, Mel Bochner—a highly respected first-generation Conceptualist—has found his voice. Or perhaps I should say, these uneasy times have caught up with Bochner’s word-based art of language and ideas. Other founding Conceptualists of the late 1960s— Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner—formulated their immaterial ideas and the stenciled or neon words to articulate them early, and stuck with them, developing and refining them. In those days, Bochner’s dematerialized works questioned the measurement of space. When his early “Theory of Sculpture” series (1968-73)—made with numbers, lines, circles, white stones, and walnuts arrayed on the floor—was re-shown at Peter Freeman in 2013, Roberta Smith in the New York Times called the pieces “elegant thought puzzles.” But shortly after the turn of our century, Bochner went backwards to move forward. He embraced the old material-based act of painting on canvas. He began making enigmatic, hotly expressionistic, and sometimes illegible words with brushy, runny, dripping oil paint. At the time, some of us were puzzled by this apparently retrograde move by a highly theoretical artist who had studied philosophy. Was he still making Conceptual art? Or was he turning to …
              Dara Birnbaum’s “Psalm 29(30)”
              Leo Goldsmith
              Six years in, Syria’s Civil War has been the subject of a vast quantity of information—in the form of user-generated video, reportage, news analysis, social media updates—and yet we seem no nearer to an adequate means of representing it. Representation and resolution are often intertwined: the clarity of a representation, the point at which visual material resolves into an image, is a question of the way in which content is subjected to form. We are still seeking a form with which to organize the barrage of information from Syria into a coherent image that will make the conflict materially sensible for those only able to apprehend it from afar. Documentary media have historically been the privileged modes through which to process such crises. News reportage now constitutes the most prolific of these, if also the noisiest. But contemporary art, with its recently intensifying interest in strategies of documentary, has been quick to respond as well: through photography and reenactment—such as Ai Weiwei’s restaging of the shocking photograph of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned off the coast of Turkey, with the artist himself as the dead child—as well as more “archival,” object-based exhibitions of work made by Syrian artists or …
              New York City Roundup
              Orit Gat
              As I missed out on international art events this season because New York is so far away, all I could think of was how unlucky their curators are. You work on Venice or Documenta for a year or two or four. You start out researching when there’s a somewhat liberal president in the US and some island off the coast of Europe still considers itself part of the union. Though the war in Syria, the refugee crisis, and economic instability in the EU were already present, there’s still a feeling that this past year has served too many blows. And those large-scale exhibitions, years in the making, all opened to a great unknown. On Instagram, almost all the photos I see from Venice are of the same works, and I wonder how and if they respond to the current situation, whether there is a way for art not to seem detached. In New York, few of the exhibitions currently on view in commercial galleries and museums focus directly on contemporary politics. At Metro Pictures, Robert Longo’s show, “The Destroyer Cycle,” does just that. It’s comprised of large-scale charcoal-and-graphite drawings of riot cops in full gear, prisoners being led to a CIA …
              Jörg Immendorff’s “LIDL Works and Performances from the 60s”
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              At the time of his death in 2007, Jörg Immendorff was celebrated in his homeland as one of postwar Germany’s most famous artists, and also as one of its most infamous. Earlier that year the terminally ill, functionally incapacitated painter had directed a team of assistants to produce an official portrait of the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The commission from Schröder, a friend of the artist, offered him a chance to redeem himself after a spectacularly louche scandal in which police found the wheelchair-bound Immendorff enjoying the company of seven prostitutes in a posh hotel suite, accompanied by some eleven grams of cocaine (on a Versace tray, no less). Whether because this rehabilitation was in fact successful, or more probably because Immendorff’s improbable escapade only enhanced his rakish reputation, a decade later the artist’s status in his homeland looks to be secure. However, outside Germany matters are less clear. While Immendorff’s name is widely recognized, he has failed to attain the sort of superstardom associated with peers like Isa Genzken, Sigmar Polke, or Gerhard Richter, or even with younger artists like Martin Kippenberger. Although his work is in the collections of MoMA and Tate Modern, along with many other prominent museums, …
              Frieze New York
              Rachel Wetzler
              The first thing I saw upon entering the tent at Frieze New York was Elmgreen and Dragset’s Rite of Passage (2014) at Massimo De Carlo, a tattered sign bearing the word “MIRACLE” with a white vulture perched on top, flanked by lengths of torn chain link fence. This dismal tableau fitted the mood: when I left my apartment for the preview on Thursday morning, Congress was, for the second time in as many months, debating a bill that would return millions of Americans—including most of the artists and writers I know—to the ranks of the perpetually uninsured. This unreal quality of the fair, literally ensconced on an island, was the subject of Dora Budor’s Frieze Projects commission, MANICOMIO! (2017), for which she hired several Leonardo DiCaprio impersonators to meander around in the guise of the actor-collector’s notable characters. Details were left intentionally murky in the advance press materials, presumably to enable moments like the one I experienced upon seeing a man with a scraggly beard and fur cape walk by: I jotted down in my notebook “is the man dressed like he belongs in The Revenant a performance artist, or just weird?” Still, I was pleased by the distraction. Though the overall …
              “Sputterances”
              Tim Gentles
              In artist Sanya Kantarovsky’s latest curatorial venture, an exhibition at Metro Pictures organized around the underappreciated Dutch painter René Daniëls, he continues to examine the mechanics of artistic positioning. Similarly, in his previous curated exhibition, “No Joke” at Tanya Leighton (Berlin, 2015), he grouped together work that, through humor and self-deprecation, cast a self-reflexive eye on the mythologization of the artist. Daniëls, who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1987 at the age of 37, and has only made work sporadically since, was initially received as a Neo-Expressionist, a movement known more for the expulsion of sweat and blood onto canvas than critique of the broader art field. Yet Daniëls’s work—and the present exhibition, whose title “Sputterances,” a portmanteau of sputter and utterance, derived from a poem written by the artist—suggests that this is hardly a neither/nor proposition, and that, rather, expression is tied to the mutual dependence of sense and nonsense, central to which is the question of the frame. For “Sputterances,” Kantarovsky has assembled 22 artists, ranging from his peers, elder statespeople of figurative painting’s seemingly perpetual renewal, and historical figures both vaunted and obscure, alongside three works by Daniëls. It’s not immediately clear what unites these artists, much less around
              78th Whitney Biennial
              Chris Sharp
              The stakes surrounding this Whitney Biennial are, to say the least, high. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a biennial being under more pressure to signify, to mean, to produce meaning, to attempt to offer some special and tangible insight into our current moment. Instead, what the curators Christopher Lew and Mia Locks offer is art. This is not to say, of course, that the art presented here is divorced from our current harrowing reality, by any means, but that it does not forfeit its unique transformative power in the face of it. Lew’s and Locks’s love of and faith in art is refreshingly unequivocal. Nor is this to say that the biennial they have curated is devoid of the political, insofar as one of the capacities of the political is to seek to imagine alternatives to the status quo. In the alternative imagined here, an ideal diversity and gender balance reigns. Of the agreeably modest and negotiable number of 63 artists and artist collectives, this biennial possesses more artists of color than any other in its past. That diversity is not limited to ethnicity, gender, and geography (artists hail from as far afield here as Puerto Rico and Seattle, although …
              Lynn Hershman Leeson’s “Remote Controls”
              Alan Gilbert
              One day the interface between humans and computers will be seamless. For now, it involves necks bent over smartphones, hours sitting hunched in front of a monitor, fingers and arms that still need to extend toward their devices. Despite all the talk about disembodied experiences and virtual worlds, computer technology hasn’t superseded the physical body; instead, it’s subtly reshaping it, including neurochemistry. Nevertheless, some new media and digital art treats computers as if they’re mostly tools for creating shiny images and scrolling animations, especially when abstraction is added to the mix. Many of these works can feel like painting and video simply updated for the electronic age. The first audio track encountered upon entering Lynn Hershman Leeson’s exhibition “Remote Controls” at Bridget Donahue is the phrase “touch me.” It emanates from Deep Contact (1984–89), described on the exhibition checklist as the “earliest touchscreen”—i.e., the first artwork to utilize an operational touchscreen. Hershman Leeson has always been at the forefront of incorporating new technologies into her work (checklist descriptions also mention “earliest digital editing software” [Seduction of a Cyborg, 1994], “earliest emotional engine to reflect stock market data” [Synthia Stock Ticker, 2000–2], and “earliest interactive LaserDisc” [Lorna, 1979–84]), but accompanying this exploration …
              The Armory Show and Independent Art Fair
              Brian Karl
              If the art auction is the ultimate hunger games of ostentatious display for your taste and bank account, the art fair is the auction’s suburban or exurban cousin: the mega shopping mall, where everything is under one roof. Whether or not you went in knowing what you wanted to get and what your individual sensibility might consist of, there is a tidal flow of people and things that overwhelms and cross-wires your brain toward shutdown. Any individual piece of art, of course, has its competitors for attention at the fair, including not only a swirling mass of people (most decked out in lively garb) but the mass of art itself, an ongoing assault not just to the eye but to the mind demanding response to an endless stream of questions, starting with “What is that?” and often ending with not only “Is it good or bad?” but “Why?” or “What is it good for?” The Armory Show, having established itself after a mere 22 years as the go-to art fair of scale in New York, is attempting this year to buck off a sense of staidness, of predictability and unmaneuverability. Filling two of the giant piers on the Hudson River (appropriately enough, …
              Kader Attia’s “Reason’s Oxymorons”
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              Despite their enigmatic, aloof character, most of the works in Kader Attia’s current exhibition at Lehmann Maupin are relatively easy to make sense of. Whether in their medium (neoconceptual sculpture), their mode of facture (readymade assemblage), or their topic (cultural hybridization), they exemplify what we now expect of “global contemporary art.” This isn’t meant pejoratively; the sculptures are poetic, spare, and subtle, compelling attention while frustrating reductive interpretation. They show why the artist is receiving ever-broader acclamation, and they make clear that he deserves it. Attia’s inventiveness and spatial intelligence are evident from the show’s outset, most memorably in an arrangement of Styrofoam packing materials upon a wooden table (Untitled, 2017), a piece that looks like it might have taken minutes to assemble but that reads as a mordant update of Constant’s designs for New Babylon (1959-74). By and large, the other sculptures in the show successfully achieve the objectives they seem to set for themselves, reworking established tropes of the Western neo-avant-gardes by interrogating their assumed universality; the precedent of artists like Jimmie Durham and David Hammons is clear. With that said, the piece that stands out is the one that doesn’t really work, at least not in the way …
              Halil Altindere’s “Space Refugee”
              Orit Gat
              Muhammed Ahmed Faris is the only Syrian who has traveled to outer space. A colonel in the Syrian Air Force, Faris—the subject of Turkish artist Halil Altindere’s video Space Refugee (2016)joined the Soviet cosmonaut program in 1985 and was part of a mission to the Mir Space Station in 1987. “Those seven days 23 hours and five minutes changed my life,” Faris told The Guardian. He saw this experience as a privilege that he could share with other Syrians through education in science and astronomy, but that was not on the agenda of President Hafez al-Assad, who controlled Syria following a coup in 1970. When in 2000 al-Assad died and his son Bashar succeeded him, Faris was the head of the Syrian Air Force Academy and a military advisor. To The Guardian, Faris describes both father and son as enemies of the people, who ruled by maintaining their population as uneducated and divided as possible. In 2011, when the revolution in Syria broke out, he marched in Damascus, calling for reform; the next year he defected to Turkey, becoming one of the five million Syrian refugees to leave the country. Faris and Altindere met in Istanbul, and the cosmonaut became the subject …
              Arthur Jafa’s “Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death”
              Genevieve Yue
              The art world is overstuffed with collages of YouTube clips and Internet artifacts, with most of these trafficking in an ironic glibness that is overly praised either for its affect or lack of it. Though cut from the same digital cloth, the compilation video Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death (2016) comes from a radically different place. Appropriately situated in Gavin Brown Enterprise’s new location in the historic black (and rapidly gentrifying) neighborhood of Harlem, this monumental piece is the sole work on view in the cavernous, converted brewery. Jafa doesn’t allow his materials—a collection of black athletes, musicians, dancers, civil rights leaders, victims of police violence, and sci-fi creatures—to overwhelm him; instead he moves with them, feeling a pulse in and through each fleet and purposeful cut. This makes the work emphatically cinematic. Jafa, a long-time cinematographer whose career includes Julie Dash’s newly restored Daughters of the Dust (1991) and two recent music videos for Solange Knowles (“Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes In The Sky,” both 2016), has developed a complex system of continuity that goes far beyond classical Hollywood cinema norms. Instead, he adapts a musical structure of harmony, rhythm, and variation, as when a shot …
              Gordon Matta-Clark
              Mara Hoberman
              “If anything emerges to cut up, I’ll go anywhere, anytime” wrote Gordon Matta-Clark in 1975. Earlier that year, Paris had come calling, and, at the invitation of the ninth edition of the Paris Biennale curated by Georges Boudaille, the artist realized Conical Intersect (1975). Photographs, photomontages, and film footage of Matta-Clark’s highest profile project in Paris (where he spent considerable time during his short lifetime) are now on view as part of the artist’s first solo show in France since 2000. Conical Intersect, an enormous oculus that Matta-Clark carved through two abutting seventeenth-century apartment buildings on rue Beaubourg, is a spectacular example of what Matta-Clark described as his practice of “anarchitecture” as well as a case study of how the artist engaged with physical and sociopolitical structures. Overlooking the construction site where the Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano-designed Pompidou Center would open two years later, Conical Intersect created a giant peephole onto gentrification in-progress. Matta-Clark cited Anthony McCall’s seminal light and fog installation Line Describing a Cone (1973) as inspiration, but Conical Intersects corkscrew form also evoked the tornado of controversy surrounding its neighbor. Though the Pompidou Center is now an architectural icon and top tourist attraction, it was initially much …
              Wael Shawky
              Ilaria Bombelli
              Craggy peaks of stone, desolate plains, parched and rasping arctic coasts—still caught perhaps in some distant geologic era—provide a home to stray beasts of all kinds: the spindly heads of snakes rise like pinnacles from the summits of crumbling towers. The sagging legs of pachyderms prop up arcades redolent of Byzantium. The hooked beaks of hawks frown from the prows of merchant vessels. Prehistoric herbivores with dorsal crests like minarets spring from the ground, breaking its crust as if they had just awoken from centuries of hibernation. The salt spume curls into the outline of a feather, of a scale. Stone turns to visage, snout, and sneer. Pinned down by tremulous lines of ink and graphite, and filled with the pale colors of a sorbet—blush, ocher, powder blue—the drawings of surreal vistas (about 20 in all, with the collective title Al Araba Al Madfuna Drawings, 2015) that underpin Wael Shawky’s first show at Lisson Gallery’s Milan venue tell of a world straddling past and present, East and West, with the penchant for zoomorphism found in ancient civilizations, first and foremost that of Egypt, the artist’s home country. Docile creatures parade through them, alarming no one. The doubtful perspective skews planes and …
              Ai Weiwei’s “Laundromat” and “Roots and Branches”
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              Whatever one might think of Ai Weiwei, he has made it impossible to simply not think about him. Ai’s will-to-notoriety has led to him to become all but ubiquitous, with much of this publicity deriving from his transformation into the world’s most prominent artist-activist. Critical reactions to this development have been mixed. While some have hailed Ai’s bravery, taking this reinvention as a convincingly artistic act of self-fashioning, many have criticized him as a sloppy artist, an opportunistic activist, or an impresario who forces both art and politics into the service of his own self-promotion. Still others have sought to split the difference: “wonderful dissident, terrible artist,” as Jed Perl put it in the New Republic. It is difficult to find adequate precedents or analogies for the position of Global Artist-Activist that Ai has created for himself. Andy Warhol shunned politics, whereas Joseph Beuys wanted little to do with pop culture; in some ways Ai’s aesthetic and commitments resemble those of Thomas Hirschhorn and Tania Bruguera, but neither enjoy anything like his degree of international exposure. It would seem that the best parallel is the celebrity humanitarianism of Angelina Jolie or Bono: the artist has made publicized visits to refugee camps; …
              Carolee Schneemann’s “Further Evidence - Exhibit A & B”
              Leo Goldsmith
              Exploded canvases, split screens and multiple channels, mixed-, multi-, and inter-media: Carolee Schneemann has been clear in her rejection of medium specificity in favor of what one might call medium promiscuity. Since the early 1960s, she has consistently incorporated images (both moving and still) into multimedia environments that include elements of performance, painting, sculpture, installation, Happening. This has always made her difficult to categorize and, despite her centrality to the history of the last half-century of American art, easy to marginalize. The intense hybridity of form and medium is, in this sense, partly bound up with her feminism, her explicit engagement with sexuality, and the exploration of her own body through her work. While her contribution to experimental cinema is fairly well known, her reputation rests almost entirely on the four films she made between the mid-1960s and late 1970s. Relatively little has been written about her practice since then, leaving a lacuna which is only now being filled by a two-part solo exhibition, divided between P•P•O•W Gallery (“Further Evidence – Exhibit A”) and Galerie Lelong (“Further Evidence – Exhibit B”), which focuses on work that the artist made in a number of mediums—video installation, collage, sculpture, performance, drawing, painting—from the …
              Jacky Connolly’s “Shadows on the Hudson”
              Tim Gentles
              A source of artistic fascination since the nineteenth century, when it became the subject of the Hudson River School of landscape painters, the grandeur of Upstate New York’s Hudson Valley also figures in Jacky Connolly’s first solo exhibition, at Kimberly-Klark in Queens, New York. The exhibition’s centerpiece is a video projected against the wall of the darkened gallery—for the duration of the show, the gallery is only open during the evening. Entitled Hudson Valley Ruins (2016), the video, as with all of the artist’s, has been constructed entirely within the computer game The Sims 3 (2009). Named after a website that chronicles the region’s abandoned architectural landmarks, it is set in a virtualized Hudson Valley with an ambience that might best be described as rural-suburban Halloween macabre circa 2004. Hudson Valley Ruins’s opening sequence clearly situates its aesthetic coordinates—cartoonishly gothic red lettering displays the title over a shot, at dawn, of rolling hills, fall foliage and, in the foreground, a weather vane on the roof of a lone house. The wind whistles threateningly, a motif that persists throughout the video’s half hour. Then, it begins to rain. Like The Sims, Hudson Valley Ruins contains no dialogue, but is accompanied by in-game …
              Bruce Nauman’s “Contrapposto Studies, i through vii”
              Kim Levin
              He was considered a lightweight in the early days of post-minimalism but for decades Bruce Nauman has been praised as one of the most wildly influential artists of our time. His video performances with the sounds of their own making hover between tedium and enthrallment, banality and profundity, repetition and distortion. Nauman’s art probes the failure of language and the betrayals of the body and what used to be known as “the eternal verities.” One Hundred Live and Die (1984), his huge flashing neon wall piece at the Benesse House Museum on the Japanese island of Naoshima, proclaims a litany of one hundred oxymoronic alternatives: “LIVE AND DIE, LOVE AND DIE, SHIT AND DIE, PISS AND DIE, EAT AND DIE, SLEEP AND DIE, HATE AND DIE,” and their opposites, “EAT AND LIVE, SLEEP AND LIVE, LOVE AND LIVE, HATE AND LIVE.” His Clown Torture video installation (1987) is as excruciating to listen to as it is to watch. Nauman’s art goes straight to the crux of the human condition. One of his best-known early video performances is Walk with Contrapposto (1968), in which the young Nauman sashayed back and forth along a narrow corridor, swinging his hips from side to side.(1) …
              Simon Denny’s "Blockchain Future States"
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              Few major exhibitions in recent memory have generated anything like the sort of intensely polarized response that greeted the recently concluded 9th Berlin Biennale, curated by the New York-based DIS, an increasingly notorious group of Gen X and Y “creatives” with close ties to the fashion and advertising industries. A recent publicity email from the Biennale explicitly highlighted this split, inviting readers to peruse the show’s “accolades” alongside its “viral backlash.” Yet despite this blithely mediaphilic rhetoric of all-press-is-good-press, the statement barely concealed a more defiant, even petulant message, evident in its illustration—a smugly confrontational photograph of a man and a woman wearing Yngve Holen’s Hater Blockers contact lenses (2016)—and its advertisement for a “soundtrack” mix by Isa Genzken and Total Freedom called FUCK THEM ALL (2016). In presuming that any negative responses could be dismissed as mere hateration, the message positioned the Biennale as standing somehow beyond critique. This maneuver formed part of a more concerted defensive strategy in which the exhibition’s curators framed their product as immune to conventional forms of postmodern criticality, while simultaneously deploying their own bespoke, branded form of critical discourse, for example in a guest-edited issue of DIS magazine that attempted to theorize the “post-contemporary.” So …
              Matthew Barney’s "Facility of DECLINE"
              Thyrza Nichols Goodeve
              “Facility of DECLINE” at Gladstone Gallery, New York, “mirrors but does not reproduce” Matthew Barney’s iconic 1991 exhibition of the same name at the gallery’s SoHo space. Immediately upon entering, one is immersed in Barney’s now familiar yet ever fantastic world of petroleum jelly, mythic characters, seductive hermeticism, and ever-revelatory aesthetic invention: the signature hermetic conceptual drawings in self-lubricating plastic frames and petroleum jelly (rendered in graphite with that gorgeous, light, sinuous, even awkward Old Master hand); Caucasian flesh and bright yellow wrestling mats; football and weightlifting paraphernalia; speculums; cast sucrose capsules and barbells; saltwater pearls; an NFL jersey numbered “00”; thermal retractors, red skeets, binding belts, a hydraulic jack with glucose syrup; a “hubris pill”; various electronic freezing devices; numerous references to Oakland Raiders football star Jim Otto; Harry Houdini, dubbed “the Character of Positive Restraint”; and the melancholy intersex diva TRANSEXUALIS (1991), a weightlifting bench cast in petroleum jelly and enclosed in a walk-in-cooler. Twenty-five years after its first exhibition this critical early work—which transformed Barney from a recently graduated pre-medical student into one of the most astonishing and influential artists of the 1990s—is not only alive and well, but finally has its moment. What was ungraspable, eccentric, and …
              Andrea Zittel
              Alan Gilbert
              While driving through the Mojave Desert two hours east of Los Angeles in the area surrounding Joshua Tree National Monument, among the most striking aspects of the scrub-and-bleached landscape are abandoned wooden shacks that regularly punctuate the view. The majority are nothing more than weather-blasted frames with doors and windows gone. Most are the products of a Small Tract Act that lasted from 1938–1976, whereby the federal government sold small parcels of land for cheap to those who built structures on the property and made an effort to inhabit it. As the current vacancy rate shows, most denizens couldn’t maintain a viable existence in the unforgiving desert environs. It’s to this area that Andrea Zittel moved from Brooklyn in 2000 to make an attempt at total living, which involves designing and building domestic and work spaces, producing clothes, growing food, and having greater agency over one’s social and cultural experiences—all of it done on a relatively small and sustainable level. Although since expanded to 50 acres, Zittel’s experiment is still dwarfed in comparison with, for instance, Donald Judd’s related project for the art of living in Marfa, Texas. (Of course, he initially had many more resources at his disposal.) A one-person …
              John Akomfrah
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              It is lamentable and somewhat curious that John Akomfrah is just now receiving his first major exhibition in the US. Despite the critical acclaim Akomfrah has received in the UK and Europe, both for his recent solo output and his earlier work with the Black Audio Film Collective, he remains relatively unknown to Americans outside the experimental film community. One hopes that the current show at Lisson Gallery’s new Chelsea outpost will begin to address this oversight, thereby bringing more attention to the pivotal, underexposed history of Black British cultural production in the Thatcher era and to its continuing relevance in the present. Responding to the precedent of Third Cinema, as well as the thinking of figures including Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, groups like BAFC and Sankofa Film and Video Collective (which included Isaac Julien) used broadcast media to advance a nuanced critique of the intersections between race, neoliberalism, and postcoloniality. Rethinking the politics of the African diaspora through the idiom of emergent artistic, musical, and mediatic forms, these cooperatives laid the foundation for what would later be called Afrofuturism, establishing a crucial precedent for contemporary practices like those of the Otolith Group and Chimurenga. Perhaps the most outstanding example …
              Rosalind Nashashibi’s “Two Tribes”
              Rachael Rakes
              Ever-regenerating discussions in mainstream documentary discourse pit form in opposition to function. It is still commonly understood that utility and representable actuality risk becoming diluted or confused by formal invention or experimentation with narrative structure. This reasoning foregrounds a perpetuating valuation in the inherent power of the documentary as a pedagogical and propaganda tool, above all else, and suggests that a kind of ideal documentary purity is always just out of reach. Consequently, this has also produced infertile grounds from which to begin discussing documentary works that sit outside of documentary convention, even after a particularly fruitful past decade of aesthetic development in the discipline. In some sense, the documentary’s entrance into the art world as an aesthetic and as a research mode has helped to lessen this specific pressure on the form (whether that pressure is justified is another matter). The expanded material exhibition practices of contemporary art help to constellate a more coherent message—of evidence, explanation, context—that would otherwise need to emanate solely from the single work, thereby leaving it more often than not suffused in and defined by didacticism. At the same time, contemporary art does not typically require such a rigorous self-justification in terms of its usefulness. …
              Sadie Benning’s "Green God"
              Alan Gilbert
              The internet and its social media spawn have made modes of communication increasingly seamless, with displays of personhood now embedded in a post or link. And while the democratic polyphony of voices has perhaps never been greater, so too is its expression through corporate-owned technologies. Ever since Sadie Benning was a teenager making short videos with a Fisher-Price toy movie camera in a working-class Milwaukee bedroom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the artist has foregrounded the seams, the fractures, the not quite fitting in. Those early videos brought Benning much-deserved acclaim before the artist turned 20, and they still feel groundbreaking in their fragmentary reveal of a queer identity that tentatively—yet joyfully—coalesces into a whole. In an age of unabashed selfies, it’s curious to see these works frame small slivers of the body (an eye, a hand) in a slow exposure of self over multiple videos and years. Along with making video, film, and, later, digital animation, the artist also participated in Riot grrrl zine culture (and was an original member of the band Le Tigre), and it’s possible to connect that format’s literal cut-and-paste technique and aesthetic with much of Benning’s output up to the present. This includes the …
              Amie Siegel’s "The Spear in the Stone"
              Orit Gat
              Exhibition spaces are, at times, haunted by the work they housed in the past. Walk through a museum and former installations will reverberate. Think of the Arsenale in Venice, visited by the ghosts of biennials past. This is all the more evident in galleries. The steady relationship between a gallery and an artist translates to a specific kind of knowledge by way of following, by way of making connections when seeing an artist return to a space with new work. “Provenance,” Amie Siegel’s first exhibition at Simon Preston, in fall 2013, included a video, Provenance (also from 2013), that presented the artist’s research into the trail of value creation that occurs in auction houses. Tracking pieces of furniture created by Le Corbusier for buildings in Chandigarh, the Indian city planned by the Swiss-French architect, the work delineates the travels of tables, chairs, and settees from fancy apartments in New York and London back through their sales at auction, through auction previews, shipping crates, and finally their origin in India. Even if they are the video’s subject, these objects don’t have magical faculties, they do not carry an inherent value just by virtue of the attention paid to them; rather, value is …
              Art Fair Roundup: Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, New York
              Stefan Kobel
              When Claus Föttinger installed his Bar 60/99-16 (2016) in the booth of Düsseldorf’s Van Horn Gallery at Art Cologne, Rhinelanders did what they are said to do best and partied, using the installation as an actual bar. Yet what might have been expected to be the biggest celebration—the opening of the 50th Art Cologne, the oldest continuously running contemporary art fair—was a rather sober event. Everything was in place: after a long and painful downturn, some important international galleries have returned to the fair since Daniel Hug became director in 2008. Almost all of the predominant German protagonists have become regulars again since the death of Art Forum Berlin in 2010, and collectors from neighboring countries visit the fair, even some Britons and Americans. All this adds to the unrivaled (in Europe) density of private collectors and institutions in the Rhine region. Sales have always been solid—rarely spectacular—at Art Cologne, where the collectors are traditionally educated and savvy but not deep-pocketed. But for a 50th jubilee one would have expected more. The low-key atmosphere was only partly due the general sentiment of a world in crisis, and there are structural reasons why the fair felt uninspiring. One of its strengths has …
              “David Hammons: Five Decades”
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              Among the many brilliant and confounding works in David Hammons’s current retrospective is one entitled A Movable Object/A Japanese Garden (2012). The piece centers around a wheeled flatbed dolly, a perfectly banal machine bearing strange cargo: chunks of broken asphalt interspersed with unrecognizable articles of clothing and lengths of colorful tulle. Facing this apparent enigma, the mind grasps after established meanings. It registers familiar qualities like texture, color, and density. It tries to establish contrasts between the jagged opacity of the asphalt and the smooth translucency of the fabric. It asks questions: what is being said here about color, about blackness, about materiality or meaning? Searching for cues, the viewer’s eye finds a warning sticker on the dolly’s side: DO NOT RIDE OR OVERLOAD. In an elliptical manner that is typical of Hammons, this caption reads as a wry, sardonic joke. Of course the “movable object” can’t be ridden, it’s an artwork. And not only is the dolly loaded with hundreds of pounds of asphalt; the sculpture seems to be overloaded with potential meanings, not all of which resolve or align. There’s a gnomic levity to this humor but also an air of faintly hostile warning: the joke’s on the person …
              Frieze New York
              Tim Gentles
              On Wednesday, the day of Frieze New York’s invitation-only preview, a friend of mine, another part-time art writer, tweeted: “Feels like a good weekend to go to something you loathe, run into people you sort of know, and make small talk about the inanity of it all.” Those who work in the contemporary art world typically approach major art fairs with a unique blend of trepidation, begrudging participation, and barely contained glee at being able to tell everyone just how busy and sleep-deprived you are for an entire week. While taking a masochistic delight in being overworked is nothing new to the art world—in fact, it could and has been argued that our longstanding tradition of eliding the distinction between work and leisure is precisely the economic model for an overworked and underpaid present—it’s a coping strategy that feels especially resonant as art fairs become increasingly numerous and integral to its fabric. Frieze in particular is synonymous with the rise of an event culture within the art world, and this year’s iteration only serves to expand this tendency. Once again presenting a series of talks, specially curated sections, site-specific commissions, an education component, and a meticulous selection of hip New York …
              Mark Dion’s “The Library for the Birds of New York and Other Marvels”
              Thyrza Nichols Goodeve
              While Charles Baudelaire’s definition of “the ephemeral, the fugitive, and the contingent” is a familiar truism of contemporary understandings of “the modern,” Baudelaire’s casual, even offhand 1863 observation, “nature, being none other than the voice of our own self-interest,” is less well known. Yet if one were to draw a line from Baudelaire’s nineteenth-century evocation of the early days of modernism to our twenty-first century epoch of over-modernism(s), who but the artist Mark Dion would affirm Baudelaire’s prescient observation? As Dion knows, and explores once again in his exhibition “The Library for the Birds of New York and Other Marvels,” we live in an era when this self-interest has cast the very planet we live on into a melancholy condition of the “ephemeral,” “fugitive,” and “contingent.” While a quick impression of the works on view suggests Dion has broken no new ground, and may even be recycling what have become all-too familiar tropes, it is the contingent, the detail, the specificity of the subject matter of each piece, that reveals once again Dion’s cogent, nuanced, and up-to-the-minute dissection of this self-interest we call nature. For instance, the formal elements (monumental bird cage, dead tree trunk, shelves and piles of books, photographs …
              Ana Mendieta’s “Experimental and Interactive Films”
              Kim Levin
              It is now impossible to speak of Ana Mendieta’s pioneering, ritualized, land-body performance art without referring to the still unsettling manner of her untimely death—fallen, pushed, or thrown from a 34th-story window on Mercer Street, New York. Back in 1988, shortly after her husband Carl Andre was acquitted of Mendieta’s murder, monochrome painter Marcia Hafif invited me to a dinner party in her loft. She neglected to tell me the purpose was to welcome Andre back to the art world. And so I found myself seated opposite him, quite speechless, at a long table of minimalists and monochromists. The conversation started innocuously, with a discussion of front-page items from the day’s New York Times. It was the summer of the circling garbage barge, which was traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard, unable to dispose of its trash. “In some places,” one person remarked, “they just throw their garbage out the window.” Another guest added that in Rome, throwing something out the window on the New Year was believed to bring good luck, and a third regaled us with how he was narrowly missed by a milk bottle that fell from a fire escape. Each person added another out-the-window anecdote, oblivious …
              “Marcel Broodthaers: Écriture”
              Alan Gilbert
              It’s only appropriate that visitors to Michael Werner’s current Marcel Broodthaers exhibition would encounter a stuffed parrot as part of the installation Dites Partout Que Je L’Ai Dit (1974). Broodthaers was a master at creatively parroting—both consciously and unconsciously—the tropes, images, and theory that may now seem a bit tame or even passé, but which during his decade or so working as an artist (1963–1976) were some of the most heady and cutting-edge ideas of the time: René Magritte’s indexically challenged “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” as contemplated by Michel Foucault in 1968; Jacques Derrida’s distinction between speech and writing; Jacques Lacan’s string of metonymic associations, etc. Take, for instance, Parle Ecrit Copie (1972–1973), an image of which could serve quite well as the cover of any of Derrida’s early works. In a wall-mounted vitrine, three nearly identical blue typewriters with raised lids are aligned to face the viewer, with the word PARLE letterpressed in purple on a strip of canvas inserted into the carriage of the one on the left, the word ECRIT letterpressed in yellow for the one in the middle, and COPIE in the typewriters’ same shade of blue placed in the one on the right. Not exactly …
              Jeanette Mundt’s “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA”
              Tess Edmonson
              Of the six paintings that make up Jeanette Mundt’s “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA,” three render figures of women at rest. Of these, Jeanette Mundt (all works 2016) is a self-portrait; we see her body contorted into the archetypal pose of the butt selfie: the back side of her body facing the plane of the image, with shoulders and head twisted around to point the camera. Here, in their translation from photograph to painting, the artist’s hands, face, and camera (phone)—what’s typically a dense site for information—are obscured by a greyish specter, left unarticulated. In the hands of another artist the gesture of painting a selfie might feel cheap, but Mundt—simultaneously painter, photographer, viewer, and model, both subject and object—gives it grace, teaching viewers how to see a body seeing itself. The scope of the adjacent artwork (Another Double Mountain and the Modern Sofa) feels radically different, with a sort of ugly modernist sofa affixed to an upright painted panel featuring the Alps’ Matterhorn. In the painting, the mountain’s blue peak is reflected in the waters of a deep pool at its base, with bands of paint leaking downwards. A second smaller slope bisects the image, supersaturated with rust, ochre, and peacock …
              Armory Show and Independent
              Sam Korman
              “Who isn’t here?” I asked myself on the lead-up to the 2016 incarnations of the Armory and Independent art fairs. And I asked myself again upon leaving. A few weeks ago, I received the announcement that Laurel Gitlen Gallery closed. As an art student in Portland, Oregon, I had missed Laurel’s original project space by a year or two, but it possessed mythic status for me. After she settled in New York, her gallery lent credibility, if not a lingering inspiration, to those of us trying to organize exhibition spaces as something punk, smart, and deliberate. We followed in her footsteps—albeit in our garages—and saw that our activities could be legible in New York or Los Angeles or wherever the conversation was happening. I am not sure how many people from my Portland community would count Laurel as a direct influence, but most of my friends there have moved to New York, most still work in art or as artists, and we discussed the gallery’s closure with bummed-out, downturned glances. It’s hard not to feel indignant that the art world could suck a personal history up its ass, but an organizer can be around for one or two (or, in …
              Pat O’Neill’s “Let’s Make a Sandwich”
              Leo Goldsmith
              Los Angeles-based artist Pat O’Neill has been making work for the last 50 years, and yet it’s rarely seen in New York. A key figure in West Coast experimental cinema, O’Neill is probably best known for highly plastic and technically accomplished films like his lysergic 7362 (1967) or his extraordinary 35mm feature Water and Power (1989), an experimental documentary concerning, among many things, the development of the Los Angeles Basin from prehistory to the present. But since the start of his career O’Neill has also been involved in an astonishing range of media—photography, sculpture, collage, and installation, in both commercial and independent spheres. Now in his late seventies, O’Neill is the subject of his first New York solo exhibition, which offers a concise but judicious sampling of his varied output. Comprising twenty-two works on paper, five sculptures, and three moving-image works, “Let’s Make a Sandwich” exhibits both O’Neill’s playful sense of humor and his fascinati