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              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 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, demonstrate her sociologist’s ability to seamlessly ...
              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. ...
              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 ...
              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 ...
              “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 ...
              Ruth Asawa
              Alan Gilbert
              One of the three gallery spaces at David Zwirner’s Ruth Asawa exhibition contains a display case featuring archival photographs taken by Imogen Cunningham of the artist in her studio and with her family; an earlier photo of Asawa in class with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College; a letter Asawa wrote to her future husband, architect Albert Lanier, with enclosed drawing; and more. It also features a small color photograph of Asawa in Mexico placed near a flattish, oval basket made of thin, metal wire. This latter, relatively unassuming object, barely highlighted within the overall exhibition, is in fact a key to Asawa’s important art, which until recently has been neglected, despite a scattering of noted shows. Similar to the painter Etel Adnan, who like Asawa lived and exhibited locally in the San Francisco Bay Area for decades, Asawa did not achieve international renown until much later in life. And like Adnan, she was displaced by war. While a teenager, Asawa was one of the roughly 120,000 Japanese Americans forced by the United States government into internment camps during World War II. Asawa’s father, a farmer in California, was detained first and sent to a separate location; she didn’t see him ...
              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 met 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 ...
              Jordan Wolfson
              Kevin McGarry
              At the apex of art and money, the air is thin and the atmosphere is replaced with rarified pain. Rather than terrestrial life, only blood fortunes are endemic here, whose constituent lifestyles are at least as abstract as the most totemic artworks that give this place meaning. All the vectors involved in Jordan Wolfson’s show at David Zwirner point to such a place of supremacy. The gallery has accrued spectacular gains during this long boom of the art market, which has endured through a period in which the working and unworking people of the world have seen most of what remains to them siphoned away. The artist has been given the codes to launch his vision without compromise, in an ideal demonstration of what one and the other—artist and gallery—can do for each other within the reigning system of production. That vision is an inanimate Colored sculpture (2016) of a lacquered, wincing boy, cut up and marionetted by a brutal contraption of chain pulleys in such a way that he is popularly referred to as a robot. This is likely because Wolfson’s breakthrough work, Female Figure (2014)—exhibited at his first solo show with David Zwirner—more conventionally resembles a robot. Two years ago, ...
              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 fascination with diverse materials, images, textures, and technical processes. The visitor most familiar with O’Neill’s film work will recognize his sensibility in the other media immediately, as in the exhibition’s first object: the 2001 sculpture Forney Chair, a red wooden chair with a yellow lacquered cow horn ...
              Julie Ault’s “afterlife”
              Pedro Neves Marques
              Dear Ted Kaczynski, It will soon be twenty years since you entered prison. I saw that you finally changed your occupation status to “prisoner” in the Harvard alumni magazine, and that you’ve listed your eight life sentences as “awards.” Controversial as always. Twenty years have done a lot to New York… Luddite that you are, you’d hate it right now. Hell, I’m sure you’d be up for bombing the whole place! The thing is, there are so many tech start-ups, services, and businesses nowadays you wouldn’t know where to begin… Julie Ault has a solo show at Galerie Buchholz’s new space uptown. I didn’t know that you had corresponded before, but in the show she says so, and who am I not to believe her? I’m sure you must have happened to discuss New York at some point. The city has always been a subject for her work—her life downtown in the 1980s, the artist’s collective Group Material. While Ault’s work has become more intimate, quieter, it’s definitely not mute. It’s just a different politics: of friendship, of details, her own affective archive. Ault’s archive has traveled some: to the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel; Culturgest, Lisbon (both 2013); and the 2014 Whitney Biennial ...
              Robert Smithson’s “Pop”
              Thyrza Nichols Goodeve
              Robert Smithson grew up collecting rocks, shells, and insects. He adored The American Museum of Natural History, about which he famously said: “There is nothing ‘natural’ about the Museum of Natural History. ‘Nature’ is simply another eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction.” An iconic figure in what we now know as “Land Art” or “Earthworks,” he is best known for the conceptually radical distinction between site and non-site and the brilliant aesthetic repurposing of natural history, industrial decay, geology, cartography, photography (“art that is made out of casting a glance”[2]), entropy, erosion, gravity, the monumental, and the crystalline into tools and methods of conceptual and minimal art. Such works as Asphalt Rundown (1969), Spiral Jetty (1970), Partially Buried Woodshed (1970), and Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan (conceived in 1970 but realized some 30 years after his death by Minetta Brook in collaboration with the Whitney in 2005), have given him an ambiance of neutral colors and earthy hues, tones drawn from the layers of geological sedimentation and industrial waste from which he made his art. For this reason, you wouldn’t be the only one who passed through the glass doors of James Cohan’s handsome new gallery on the Lower East Side and ...
              John Russell’s “SQRRL”
              Alan Gilbert
              If after finishing this review you visit Bridget Donahue’s website to learn more about John Russell’s current exhibition, “SQRRL,” you’ll find a brightly hued digital collage of image and text in the place of a static gallery homepage with its neatly tabbed categories linking to exhibitions, artists, about, and contact information. Hybrid imagery featuring animals, humans, and robots is illustrated by short, cryptic texts, such as “CarlEee sits sipping coffee. / 195 years old. / Forty-five body allocations / Since the Starvation Wars of 87.” These, in turn, are explicated by 33 footnotes and a bibliography in the right-hand margin that unfolds a sci-fi-esque allegory of the present in which a predatory digital realm becomes the new organic as the human—and its various modes of social and epistemological organization—collapses in its wake. Along with slyly serving as an online artwork in the exhibition, it also functions as the show’s press release. If you visit Bridget Donahue proper, you’ll find a 45-minute digitally animated projected video version of the web page entitled Relaxation Video: SQRRL/BRUCE WILLIS (2015) with ambient soundtrack and Russell whispering parts of the script. Beginning relatively bucolically, and with short poetic descriptions, the work vividly depicts the cyborgization of ...
              Hollis Frampton’s “ADSVMVS ABSVMVS”
              Genevieve Yue
              There is a certain historical irony in the way “ADSVMVS ABSVMVS,” Hollis Frampton’s last major photographic series, became the basis for his first solo exhibition in New York some thirty years after his death in 1984. Frampton himself might have delighted in this inversion of firsts and lasts; his thinking, elaborated in his theoretical writings, was often preoccupied with the origins and overlapping destinies of the media in which he practiced, namely photography, film, and, well ahead of his time, the burgeoning field of computer arts. “ADSVMVS ABSVMVS,” a series of plant and animal specimens in various states of decomposition, evinces these diachronic concerns. Paralleling the work’s archaeological overtones, this excavation of Frampton’s photographic legacy promises to be the first of many shows to bestow upon this major American artist and polymath the recognition he has long deserved. For those familiar with Frampton’s films, it may come as a surprise that he continued to make photographs: in (nostalgia) (1971), he suggests that he has abandoned photography altogether. The film, which screened at Anthology Film Archives in conjunction with the exhibition at ROOM EAST, provides a voiceover account (spoken by Michael Snow) of the young photographer’s struggles in New York from the ...
              Paul Laffoley’s “The Force Structure of the Mystical Experience”
              Tyler Coburn
              The past decade has seen a shift in art’s center/periphery model, as so-called “Outsider Art” gains both curatorial and market visibility. Yet far from losing its particularity, as David Maclagan notes in a 2012 frieze roundtable, Outsider Art risks becoming “a prospective concept, continually enlarging itself, not least because of the commercial pressures driving it.” The term, in other words, may remain an expedient, ignoring the wildly different interests and circumstances of the artists in question. One of the roundtable discussants was Paul Laffoley, a Boston-based artist who sometimes falls into this category, though prefers to describe his relationship to the art world as that of a “lightly touching tangent.” While Laffoley has a few of the stereotypical qualities of the Outsider—an intensely private studio practice, a spiritualized singular vision—his commitments to theology and philosophy are too vast and scholarly for easy categorization. This partly owes to his upbringing. Laffoley’s father, a lawyer, cultivated an interest in occultism and Eastern faith practices (supposedly performing as a medium). When diagnosed with mild Asperger’s Syndrome, the artist found himself in the tutelage of an Indian Brahmin who taught math at Harvard. That said, Laffoley’s creativity might also derive from a more unusual muse: a ...
              Wu Tsang
              Rachael Rakes
              Wu Tsang’s work employs the fruits of creative human exchange as both a subject and a method. Whether engaging with various facets of queer community (Wildness, 2012, and A Day in the Life of Bliss, 2014), or previously unfamiliar subjectivities (The Shape of a Right Statement, 2008, based on a speech by autism rights activist Amanda Baggs), Tsang’s films, performances, and installations make space for reliance and collaboration. Tsang’s latest solo exhibition at New York’s Clifton Benevento is the result of an exchange with Fred Moten, the poet and theorist whose explorations of representation and identity in black avant-garde culture have over the last few years brought him into the art-world fold. The central work of this exchange, Miss Communication and Mr:Re (2014), was initiated as a long-distance communication experiment. Moten and Tsang left each other voicemail messages every day over a two-week period, never actually making contact, but often riffing off of the other’s previous message. The recording of these messages plays over separate speakers, with the two channels laid over each other, making only segments of either party’s monologue distinguishable. Gratifyingly, the transcript reads out on a video screen across the gallery. The typed text allows their two distinct ...
              "Greater New York"
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              One of the biggest stories of the year in U.S. literary fiction was the publication of Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut novel City on Fire, for which the young author received a reported two-million-dollar advance––a startling number, even by the hyperinflationary standards of the contemporary art market. Such a bet seemed odd at first, given the novel’s length (nearly a thousand pages), complex plot structure, and setting (New York City in the bombed-out 1970s). However, on closer inspection the deal looked canny. With the commercial appeal of this period already proven by figures like Patti Smith and Rachel Kushner, what better time to roll out a novel full of potential screenplay material? (In the event, the film rights were optioned for six figures; the novel was also sold in 17 other countries.) As this episode suggests, fistfuls of money are being made from the fantasy of being poor and beautiful and artisanal in New York. This is true not just in the U.S. but globally, where “Brooklyn” is the most recognizable brand identity for bourgeois-bohemian-hipster culture. One uncomfortable irony is that many of those who built Brooklyn™ can no longer afford to live there; another is that figures like Hallberg exhibit an ...
              Trevor Paglen
              Laura McLean-Ferris
              The evidence that we live in a dystopia is mostly swept out of sight, and kept out of mind. So let’s be clear that Trevor Paglen is engaged in a form of politically urgent visual labor. His work, most notably in photography, has given visual texture to a very real, and very menacing, shadow-realm. Lush, compelling images dramatize his near-failure to photograph post-9/11 black sites used for extraordinary rendition (quasi-legalized kidnap and torture of terror suspects); astral military satellites hard to make out in constellations of twinkling stars in the night sky; tiny drones seen from a distance, mosquito-like, crossing florid, sunset skies. Here are the enormous blind spots of our age, mostly off-screen zones that are routinely used to exercise and abuse power. Presently Paglen is attentive to dismantling one of the most insidious metaphors of our age—that myth of immateriality which suggests that information is held and shared in data “clouds.” At the risk of victim-shaming myself and every other person with a smartphone, it’s true to say that societal blindness to infrastructure leaves us wide open to abuses of power. A failure to understand the geophysical elements of say, the internet (the mining of metals, the labor practices ...
              Lorraine O’Grady
              Alan Gilbert
              In the “Dada Manifesto on Feeble Love and Brittle Love” from 1920, Tristan Tzara famously provided instructions on how to write a Dada poem: get a newspaper and some scissors, snip out individual words and put them in a bag, shake it and then withdraw slivers of text, write down the words in the exact order in which they appear, and—voilà!—poem. Yet even more provocative than the method is Tzara’s claim that, “The poem will resemble you.” Similarly, although William Burroughs utilized the cut-up technique to undermine authorial intention and the way in which information serves as a means of control, the writings he produced in this manner continued to bear the impression of his obsessions: the police, queer sex, death. Over the course of 26 Sundays in 1977, Lorraine O’Grady took scissors to the New York Times to create a series of text-based works recently on display at Alexander Gray Associates. If Tzara was convinced that his aleatory approach to writing a poem would nevertheless reflect the author, what does this involve for O’Grady, a crucial yet still somewhat overlooked artist of Caribbean descent who produced an important body of work in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including “Mlle ...
              Bruce Conner
              Kevin Hatch
              Bruce Conner used to give fits to museums and galleries. He exasperated William C. Seitz when he served as his consultant for the landmark 1961 exhibition “The Art of Assemblage” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which culminated in the artist dumping a box of junk at the doorway during the show’s opening (an attempt to demonstrate to the curator what “real” assemblage was). In 1964, he fatally poisoned his working relationship with his longtime New York gallerist Charles Alan by handing him a box of random objects to show in lieu of new work. And, in the 1970s, with an idea well ahead of its time, he insisted on a cut of the “box office” for a planned mid-career retrospective at what is now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (He was deadly serious, and his intransigence ultimately scuttled the show.) Conner died in 2008, but it is fun to imagine what new aggravation, were he still around, he might inflict on those currently planning his major retrospective, jointly organized by MoMA and SFMOMA and set to open in July 2016. In the meantime, Paula Cooper Gallery offers an elegant if rather solemn show of Conner’s ...
              Stan VanDerBeek
              Leo Goldsmith
              Words pulsate, then bleed into abstraction. Fields of color fragment into pixels or smear into mutating organisms. Swarming text grids explode into chaotic rainbow clouds, blinking dots, stars, and spirals. Snaking orange lines and pointillist textures form strobing mandalas, mosaic embroidery, and Pac Man architecture, tumbling geometries of throbbing color that dissolve into blue, pink, yellow, and green pixel noise. Five of the eight Poemfield films that Stan VanDerBeek made between roughly 1966 and 1971 return to us now at a moment in which the technologies of computation and image-making have all but inextricably fused. This transition seemed only just underway when VanDerBeek died in 1984, and yet the works that he created in collaboration with programmer and physicist Ken Knowlton at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, and then further developed during an artist residency at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, look ahead to a full integration of cinema with computer imaging, attesting both to the artist’s prescience and to his devotion to a deeply syncretic notion of media. VanDerBeek is frequently cited as the originator of the terms “expanded cinema” and “underground film,” and while his name is most closely associated with these spheres, his body of work ...
              The Gallerist: Kazuko Miyamoto from A.I.R. Gallery and Onetwentyeight, New York
              Luca Cerizza
              This column aims to introduce and analyze the activity of a number of gallerists and galleries. I am interested in presenting not necessarily the history of major galleries and their successful careers, but to reflect on a series of experimental approaches to the gallery format, and to discuss the different modalities in which the borders of the profession of the gallerist and the format of the commercial gallery have been tested and eventually eroded. The first episode (which discussed Fabio Sargentini and his gallery, L’Attico, in Rome) analyzed the case of a dealer who had a strong curatorial approach to his gallery program and to the exhibition format, to the point of using the gallery as his own linguistic, even artistic, tool. In this second installment, I will discuss the activities of artist Kazuko Miyamoto and her role as an early member of A.I.R. Gallery (Artist In Residence Gallery) and as the founder and director of Gallery Onetwentyeight, both located in New York. Born in Tokyo in 1942, where she studied art at the Gendai Bijutsu Kenkyujo (Contemporary Art Research Studio), Miyamoto moved to New York in 1964 to attend The Arts Student League of New York, located in Manhattan (1964­–1968). ...
              Vitaly Komar’s “Allegories of Justice”
              Kim Levin
              Vitaly Komar, formerly half of the illustrious team Komar & Melamid, which split in 2003, continues to paint in a style he has dubbed “New Symbolism.” For more than a decade, his virtuosic paintings of the proverbial scales of justice, tiny birds of truth, hulking Russian bears waving red flags, and circular serpents biting their own tails have been going through their allegorical paces, wrapping religion in history and spirituality in cosmic swirls. Melamid, meanwhile, has kept a lower profile. Komar’s recent exhibition at New York’s Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, “Allegories of Justice,” which includes a few earlier works by the former team, raises a number of questions. What happens when an artist duo splits up, as Komar & Melamid did? What happens when the context of any artist’s production—in this case conceptual sociopolitical work satirically skewering both Soviet ideology and American consumerism—vanishes into thin air, as the Soviet system did, leaving them and other Soviet artists without a framework? And how do they continue to make art in the context of the internal void of a suddenly collapsed culture? Also, in the case of Komar & Melamid—who left Moscow in 1977 and moved to New York the next year—how was ...
              Frieze New York
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              Far above the North Atlantic, a plane is flying from Venice to New York. Most of the passengers in business class sleep comfortably in their lie-flat seats, but one stays awake sipping complimentary champagne. His voice barely audible above the jets’ white noise, he muses: “Is there even any difference between biennials and contemporary art fairs?” The knee-jerk answer to his question would be, Of course. Biennials are typically organized by curatorial teams who engage in protracted research to stage thematic arguments. Whereas they ask their visitors to look and think, art fairs tell them to buy, or at least window-shop. Venice notwithstanding, most biennials exist in relatively peripheral locations and often target non-art audiences, while fairs are built to serve the needs of the global 1 percent who comprise their clientele. But another, more pertinent answer might be, Less and less, or even, Was there ever? As the sociologist Olav Velthuis has shown, aesthetic and commercial modes of exhibition have been indissociable throughout the history of the Venice Biennale. For its first 70 years, the Biennale had a sales office that worked on commission. Following the protests of 1968, it adopted new practices that spawned what Velthuis has called ...
              Pierre Bismuth’s “Where Is Rocky II? Trailer-Teaser”
              Genevieve Yue
              Pierre Bismuth’s “Where Is Rocky II? Teaser-Trailer” offers itself as a conceptual riddle. The two videos in the exhibition, one a two-minute teaser, the other a three-minute trailer precisely edited to Hollywood convention, play in alternation, advertising a film about an artwork that may be hidden, forgotten, or non-existent. They also hold the status of this “coming attraction” in a similarly contingent state. In the teaser, Lawrence Weiner’s voice plays over a field of solid green, the same screen used for digital visual effects, or, on a film set, a placeholder for an image that will be added later. Like the white neon letters that served as both advertisement for and a standalone artwork in Bismuth’s 2008 exhibition “Coming Soon,” there’s no guarantee that the promised film that investigates the whereabouts of Ed Ruscha’s Rocky II, a fake rock planted somewhere in the Mojave Desert in 1976 (the date given in the teaser), actually exists. If an artwork is lost in the landscape, and there’s no film to corroborate its location, is it really there? With Where Is Rocky II?, the answer is a tentative yes. Bismuth has been shooting a documentary, which, as the trailer depicts, follows private investigator and ...
              Claire Fontaine's "Stop Seeking Approval"
              Stephen Squibb
              At the center of Claire Fontaine’s new show, “Stop Seeking Approval,” is a series of monochrome paintings, in gray, a burnt red, and black. They have been painted using anti-climb paint, their colors dictated by price and availability. Anti-climb paint never dries, so in addition to making its object hard to climb, anyone who touches it is marked as having done so. These paintings are permanently wet. They are also paintings, the classic objects of desire for the collecting class, and so the temptation is to read Fontaine’s no-climb monochromes as the artist getting defensive about making objects for the purpose of exchange. And the great pleasure of “Stop Seeking Approval” is that so much of the show works as a personal expression of the ready-made artist, in addition to the host of conceptual and political levels we’d expect. The title, for example, could just as easily refer to: 1) A message from the artist to herself. 2) An excerpt from Untitled (Why your psychology sucks) (all works 2015), the re-fabricated self-help video, alternately seductive and ridiculous, that greets us on a monitor as we enter. 3) A commentary on the political strategy of Syriza. 4) A hypothetical slogan for Claire Fontaine™. ...
              “Destroy, she said”
              Alan Gilbert
              As capitalism solidifies into a global religion, iconoclasm—traditionally defined as the destruction of sacred artifacts—accordingly shifts its tactics, where it doesn’t become coopted. However inadvertent it may have been, the last notable iconoclastic act in Europe—“Beast Jesus,” an elderly Spanish woman’s attempt in 2012 to improve, while in fact defacing, a fresco portrait of its namesake—created a cash cow for the various parties involved. A more secular brand of iconoclasm in contemporary art has its famous examples—whether Tony Shafrazi spray-painting Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in 1974 or a 2006 hammer attack on Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain by a self-proclaimed Dadaist—that go alongside more conceptually oriented versions such as Robert Rauschenberg’s erasing of a Willem de Kooning drawing in 1953. Just as every system contains the seeds of its own destruction, iconoclasm has erupted from within the current art world and even artworks themselves in response to their hyper-commoditization over the past decade or so. Recent projects have begun to address this at times literal fracturing of art as commodity object. Elka Krajewska’s Salvage Art Institute, which makes an appearance in Ben Lerner’s widely touted 2014 novel 10:04, presents works of art that have been rendered valueless (in some cases temporarily) because of damage ...
              Armory Show and Independent
              Orit Gat
              Trendspotting is a competitive sport at art fairs. Still, with every fashion, there’s always an artist who either reinvents worn forms or executes them so well it’s hard not to admire. This year, it's the case of objects hanging from fishing lines—a frequent fair staple—and Glenn Kaino’s A Shout Within a Storm (2014) on view at Los Angeles’s Honor Fraser is the perfect example. The 149 copper-plated steel arrows, shining in the strong exhibition lighting, filled the booth, especially since Kaino’s paraffin brick wall, The Last Sight of Icarus (2014), was positioned diagonally against the back corner, pressing the space even further. They’re not site-specific, but seeing them together at a fair—where they seem monumental and ambitious in comparison to all the paintings hanging on drywall—becomes not only impressive, but also meaningful. When sameness abounds, it’s key to focus on the work that’s different. At Philipp von Rosen Galerie, Cologne, Anna K.E. showed Post-Hunger Generation (2015), comprising drawings on paper installed in a wooden structure. The architectural configuration served to frame the drawings and a small monitor, showing a man’s hands as he unwraps plastic packages and rearranges their contents (headphones, an SD card, a USB cable) on a table, to ...
              New Museum Triennial, “Surround Audience”
              Andrew Stefan Weiner
              The phrase “Surround Audience” sounds like it could be the name of an EDM party, a function in a home theater system, a Quickmeme caption, or Michael Fried’s worst nightmare. It is actually the title-cum-motto-cum-slogan of the 2015 New Museum Triennial, which at first glance appears to be some mixture of these descriptors. The current Triennial, curated by Lauren Cornell and the artist Ryan Trecartin, is the third installment of an event that has quickly realized its ambition of becoming New York’s leading exhibition of on-trend global contemporary art. As if this weren’t enough, the current Triennial aspires to expand into a kind of aggregative platform: hosting performances, publishing a poetry collection, and sponsoring residencies, research projects, and a web series. Visitors to the Triennial will indeed feel themselves surrounded, even overrun by competing appeals for their attention. These bids are so numerous and elaborate that at times the show seems less like an art exhibition than a tech convention or a curated Tumblr. To be fair, such heterogeneity is endemic in biennials, which tend to be at cross purposes in trying to craft a cohesive, timely statement from disparate works chosen for divergent reasons. Depending on one’s age, taste, and ...
              Erik van Lieshout’s “I Am In Heaven”
              Thyrza Nichols Goodeve
              It’s a bit like meeting a landmine that’s about to detonate. In his first solo show at Anton Kern, Erik van Lieshout explodes into our consciousness as a wild-child provocateur, a Pac-Man Expressionist running rampant 24/7, videotaping everything in his life, while making art out of every piece of paper, chunk of wood, sentence, gesture, fragment of material, conflict, situation, and mess that constitutes his—the contemporary artist’s—everyday life. Provocation and agitation are his calling cards: two feet into the gallery’s threshold, the viewer is confronted with a looming, life-size tunnel hastily put together out of plywood and carpet, designed to mimic the basement of the St. Petersburg’s Hermitage where, for Manifesta 10 (in the summer of 2014) the artist and his team performed a two-month make-over for the museum’s 70 cats. (Since Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, the daughter of Peter the great, who ruled over Russia in the mid-eighteenth century, cats have lived in the basement of the museum in various states of care in order to rid the impeccable, imperial treasure house of mice and rats.) The tunnel leads to a cozy screening room where the 80-minute WORK (2015) is playing. Footage from Workers (2013) is fused and re-edited with footage ...
              Joachim Koester’s “Body Electric”
              Pedro Neves Marques
              “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” A fine phrase for art, but just as eerily appropriate for politics in these days of technocratic, neoliberal control over “non-societies” jam-packed with contemporary “me only” pathologies—from entrepreneurship bullshit to non-dom tax evasion. What William Burroughs couldn’t possibly have imagined was how this iconic sentence from his Red Night Trilogy (1981–1987) would, in time, mirror another phrase, instated by Britain's Iron Lady: “There is no alternative!” Despite its close relationship with Burroughs's work, in Joachim Koester’s solo show at Greene Naftali not everything is permitted. In the main room, anonymous bodies communicate, exasperatingly, in a language whose bodily grammar is found somewhere between hallucinogenic and repressed oblivion—all in a set of four moving image works. At its heart screens The Place of Dead Roads (2013), Koester’s video adaptation of Burroughs’s 1983 Wild West novel, which tells the time-traveling tale of gay gunslinger cowboy Kim Carsons, shot dead in 1899, who desires only to escape his body-prison out into the immortal cosmos. But Carsons is nowhere to be seen, either in the video or in the show. More important to the exhibition’s spirit is the series Some Boarded Up Houses (2009–2013) that greets us in the ...
              “Thanks to Apple, Amazon, and the Mall”
              Media Farzin
              Stupidity is a tricky thing. It’s omnipresent, but usually hidden. It can be the place where things begin—first drafts, new ideas—but it’s also a final judgment. As philosopher Avital Ronell points out, stupidity has its own nature and contours, yet we rarely take time to explore it. We tell children that it’s wrong to call someone stupid, because we consider it “the ur-curse, the renunciation of which primes socialization in this culture.” Fear of being stupid can inhibit desire, but the inhibition feels necessary. Certainly, it’s as derogatory a term in art criticism as it was in kindergarten. But it might be time to reconsider. Deliberately or not, “Thanks to Apple, Amazon, and the Mall” presents some very stupid things—many of them specific to online life and its vernacular—as a crucial means for contemporary socialization. The group show, curated by Brian Droitcour, takes social relations in the digital age as its focus: the emotional valences of digital identities, the implications of their potential for shape-shifting, and the way artists weave their lines of inquiry between the porousness of the virtual world and hard materiality. “Thanks to Apple” is a small show, with nine artists and one gallery of works, but it’s also ...
              The 6th Annual Migrating Forms
              Genevieve Yue
              "Migrating Forms" is easily New York’s most eclectic film festival. A glance at the program, now in its sixth year, can be dizzying: a half-inch videotape documentary from the seventies here, a Korean art film there, and all manner of experimental film and artists' film in between. Instead of theme, we get range. The festival bills itself as innovative and inclusive, and it is. It’s a kind of weathervane sample of the past year’s moving image work, not tied to any particular culture, whether avant-garde film, the art world, or the subcultural connotations of its predecessor, the New York Underground Film Festival. Forms, as it were, are able to migrate freely, often in delirious and unpredictable ways. But it's unclear whether such movements—across histories, institutions, and media practices—actually are that easy. Left unanswered is the question of what it means to serve up these various forms as if flipped through in the manner of a restless channel surfer—a metaphor all the more fitting for the festival’s ongoing emphasis on television, as evident in the accompanying sidebar program “Tube Time” showing at Anthology Film Archives. There’s undoubtedly value in creative disassociation, of stepping from Cory Archangel’s Freshbuzz (2014), a mesmerizing plunge into ...
              Christopher Williams’s “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19)”
              Karen Archey
              Do you think any collectors were bothered by the raw, open drywall and exposed electric wiring at Christopher Williams’s newest exhibition at David Zwirner? Or did they read it as a bad-boy “fuck you” without actually feeling insulted? Did they read it as Christopher Williams probably intended, as a savant gesture referencing the institutional critique strategies of his mentor Michael Asher, who made work during a time in which manipulating a gallery’s architecture was actually a radical gesture? Do you remember the time in Sex and the City that Charlotte meets a movie star in her gallery and he confuses the fire extinguisher for contemporary art? Wait—cringe! I forgot mass-appeal pop culture isn’t in-the-know enough to be considered a salient reference in a contemporary art criticism context, even if it’s poking fun of the art world’s need-to-knowness, and especially not if it’s a television show detailing the lives of “basic” women. Intentionally raw walls okay; Sex and the City references not okay. Got it. You probably get what I’m going for here. There are certain radical gestures—walking around nude in full body paint at an art fair, making monochrome paintings, or performative alterations in the gallery space, for example—that through time have ...
              Geoffrey Farmer’s “Cut Nothing, Cut Parts, Cut the Whole, Cut the Order of Time”
              Alan Gilbert
              If some version of the afterlife exists, and if Aby Warburg manages to find a little peace there, he might be pleased to see Geoffrey Farmer’s “Cut Nothing, Cut Parts, Cut the Whole, Cut the Order of Time” at New York’s Casey Kaplan. During the last few years of his life, Warburg famously worked on Mnemosyne Atlas (1924–1929), a collection of nearly one thousand images divided thematically and pinned to wooden panels. Though primarily art-historical (and heavy on the Italian Renaissance), these black-and-white reproductions were supplemented with maps, cosmological and mathematical formulas, text, and newspaper photos. While diachronically charting the evolution of an image or motif through time (“ascent to the sun,” for instance), Mnemosyne Atlas also makes synchronic connections across cultures and metaphor. The result is a project that combines the deep knowledge of the scholar with the associational logic of the poet, both amplified by a sense of iconography as always alive: Warburg’s panels are a kind of animistic art history (and prophetically proto-digital). Farmer’s Leaves of Grass (2012) was among the most memorable works at Documenta 13 in 2012. Using approximately 16,000 images clipped from issues of LIFE magazine spanning 1935–1985 and affixed to thin sticks, he created ...
              Independent Projects
              Laura McLean-Ferris
              It's hard to find much affection for art fairs. Aside from their unvarnished commercialism, they are, after all, why some gallerists never see their children/partners/ornamental budgerigars. However, Independent—a fair that has taken place in New York every March since 2010 to coincide with the Armory show—has induced warm feelings over the years, rising through the old sun-lit Dia building in Chelsea. At a time when galleries, collectors, and critics alike were losing faith in the Armory's bald, depressing, trade-fair approach, Independent stepped in with proof of life and experimentation in the fair game: freeform design, heavy European participation, and not-for-profit collaboration brought playful experimentation at a moment when things were feeling scarily dead on the piers. Capitalizing on these successes, this year Independent attempted to switch it up once more, adding an autumn show with Independent Projects, which not only went it alone without a mega fair in town to support it (though New York's Contemporary and Modern auctions do take place within its run), but also proposed that the fair be devoted only to artists' solo projects, and that it should transform into an "exhibition" after an initial "fair weekend." Gallerists, desks, and iPads would disappear and be replaced by ...
              Jean-Luc Mylayne’s “Chaos”
              Thyrza Nichols Goodeve
              Our contemporary ontology is one of acceleration and mania. Along with the logic of global and cognitive capitalism, we look to our iPhones and the internet as the source for these intensified temporalities. Indeed, walk out on any street and hundreds of individuals are engaged in locating their sense of self and place via the rapid click of the cell-phone snapshot. Jean-Luc Mylayne’s 38-year oeuvre of patiently staged conceptual nature photography is the philosophical inversion of this state. Famous for his extensive labor and Zen-like patience, not to mention the huge amounts of time and ethical sensitivity he invests in creating his images of birds (as if that is all he is doing), Mylayne has more in common with Proust’s distended moments of reflective memory than the manic attention deficit of today’s amnesiac iPhone present. In fact, while preeminently photographic, his work calls more upon the fixed, contemplative gaze of modernist cinema and Bergsonian duration than upon the gee-whiz gimmickry of still digital photography. And yet Mylayne has also been linked to a new ethics of animal studies, since his work depends upon trust and mutual recognition, not force or artificial hierarchies of human versus animal. These “bird photographs” are ...
              Helen Mirra’s “Waulked”
              Media Farzin
              The wool of a black sheep, I was surprised to learn, isn’t black at all—it comes in numerous subtle variations of dark brown. Helen Mirra’s recent exhibition “Waulked,” offers several such lessons; seemingly random observations about organic materials, traditional crafts, and what could be called “more grounded” ways of being in the world. The show’s centerpiece is a room full of Waulked Triangles (all 2013), identically shaped pieces of dark cloth draped over cedar wood supports. Each strip combines the wool of two different black sheep (which are identified in the works’ titles by location). Up close, the Triangles are engagingly tactile and reveal subtle differences in texture and color. Some portions are smooth and evenly covered with white wool fuzz; others are nubby, knotted, or glossy. There are sections that appear to be the wool of an individual sheep, and in some pieces, thin strands dyed with the inks of wild mushrooms delicately underline interwoven portions. The technique is identical in each Triangle—an apparently straightforward weaving of warp and weft—but the gradual accumulation of differences in the wool brings the source of each object’s material, in its individual and living reality, into intense focus. “Waulking” is an obsolete term for finishing ...
              Chris Marker’s “Koreans”
              Stephen Squibb
              A sequence of photos by Chris Marker on display at New York’s Peter Blum Gallery features a little girl. The 51 images are mostly snapshots; matte, legal-pad-sized prints hung evenly at eye level around the four walls of the gallery. Some appear to have a kind of incidental chronology, following a single figure through different settings, as with the child in a dress. In one image, we are positioned behind her as she faces a propaganda poster. In another, we see her alone amidst a vast public plaza. In a third, she regards us quizzically alongside a strange painting on a stone wall. In each case we feel as if we are alongside the girl, sharing her field of vision and experience, rather than regarding her as a subject for pity or contemplation. The photos were taken in 1957 when “the formidable propaganda machine that would soon be identified with the sheer mention of North Korea wasn't yet running at full throttle,” as Marker puts it in an accompanying testimony. The resulting photos, he notes with amusement, were rejected on both sides of the 38th parallel: “To the North, [work] which never mentioned once the name of Kim Il-sung simply didn't ...
              “Slide Slide Slide”
              Genevieve Yue
              The slide projector last appeared in pop cultural consciousness on the television period drama Mad Men. Don Draper, pitching a fictional ad campaign to Kodak executives, clicks through a carousel filled with own family photos: his head leaning against his wife’s pregnant belly, his daughter sitting atop his shoulders. The poignancy of these slides is underscored by the knowledge that Don’s family life is falling apart. Nostalgia, he explains, means the pain of an old wound. The carousel is “a time machine… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” The carousel’s nostalgic twinge appears in “Slide Slide Slide,” an exhibition of slide projection works and related performances at New York’s Microscope Gallery. Older viewers will recognize the stout plastic machines from their childhood homes and classrooms. They are less familiar for younger audiences, for whom slide projectors have been replaced by their digital counterparts. This is evident in Bruno Munari’s Untitled (1, 2, 3) (1952), slide sculptures that, because of their curled ribbons that extend from the flat slide frame, are too delicate to be exhibited in a projector. In their place, images of the multifocal works are digitally projected as visual documents. Joel Schlemowitz’s A ...
              “The Bigger Picture: Work from the 1990s”
              Alan Gilbert
              The 1990s art world began with the rumblings of multiculturalism and identity politics and closed with a resurgent art market interested in—as it frequently is—painting, and figurative painting in particular: John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, and the total ascendance of Gerhard Richter. In between these two moments a variety of forms proliferated, especially installation and new media works, and so it’s not a surprise that there isn’t much painting on display at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery’s own survey of the decade: “The Bigger Picture: Work from the 1990s.” In fact, the exhibition is as much a celebration of the gallery’s first twenty years as it is any kind of time capsule or historical summary of the period. Although founded in New York’s SoHo in 1994, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery made the early move to Chelsea in 1998. International notables such as Phil Collins, Olafur Eliasson, Ernesto Neto, Sarah Sze, and Gillian Wearing all have work in “The Bigger Picture” as part of a mid-1990s openness that gradually evolved—paralleling the rise of social media—into a late 2000s state of anything goes. But the historical still registers, if mostly in terms of the trajectory individual artists took, as in Eliasson’s early experiments with perspective and perception ...
              Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s “euqinimod & costumes”
              Media Farzin
              I puzzled over the word “euqinimod” in the exhibition’s title for some time, until I figured out that it’s the artist’s name spelled backwards. And for viewers familiar with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s work of the past two decades, the show does seem like an inversion of her typical approach, and an unusual statement for her first solo exhibition in a US gallery. She is mainly known to New York audiences for her elaborate installations, like chronotopes & dioramas (2009), a project that the Dia Art Foundation commissioned for The Hispanic Society of America, or the performance-concerts NY.2022 (2008) and T.1912 (2011) at the Guggenheim Museum. Gonzalez-Foerster’s signature style is to supply her audience with a minimally furnished stage and invite the viewer’s participation with props, which are often books on subjects that inspire her thinking, from “tropical modernism” to experimental science fiction. While “euqinimod & costumes” does include a roomy couch and reading material, it feels detached from Gonzalez-Foerster’s larger body of work. It is essentially an installation of her clothes, interspersed with memorabilia like snapshots, childhood drawings, domestic furnishings, and even a painting by her aunt. Strains of Richard Wagner’s 1845 Tannhäuser opera waft out from a smaller back room, a ...
              Frieze New York
              Ginny Kollak
              A rather Duchampian vignette set the tone for my visit to this year’s Frieze New York, the third edition of the London-import fair that takes up residence in an airy custom tent on Randall’s Island, the East River stopover noted both for its athletic fields and psychiatric asylums. In the first booth I visited, of the Lower East Side gallery Ramiken Crucible, two dealers were seated at a small table, attempting to play a game of chess. Their progress was impeded, however, by the constant stream of interested parties inquiring about the works they had on display: a lush series of cast-aluminum panels, uniform in size but varied in surface and color, by Alberta-born, New York-based artist Elaine Cameron-Weir. The panels have the archeological quality of relics from the future, alternately evoking bars of gold bullion, the remnants of some unknown spacecraft, or fossilized color field paintings. But the chess game, in spite of it being an obviously cheeky gesture, seemed significant, as it points to how completely internalized certain motifs of twentieth-century modernism have become, but also reminds one of the important role that chance encounters still have to play in contemporary art. In the regimented world of art fairs, ...
              Martin Kippenberger’s “The Raft of the Medusa”
              Chris Reitz
              In 1996, his body bloated, his liver consumed by cancer, and his work more popular than ever, Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997) set about his final series of self-portraits. Taking Théodore Géricault’s iconic 1818–19 painting as its point of departure, and working from photographs taken by his wife Elfie Semotan, “The Raft of the Medusa” eventually came to include over a dozen each of paintings, drawings, and lithographs, as well as an eight-by-fifteen-foot rug that depicts the raft’s schematic layout. This sprawling multimedia series has been reunited for its first New York exhibition at Skarstedt, organized in collaboration with the Estate of Martin Kippenberger at Cologne’s Galerie Gisela Capitain. The project has been divided into four elements. The first floor provides a preliminary or preparatory overview: a collection of drawings on hotel stationary as well as the rug and an oversized painting that, here, appears as the series’ linchpin. The second floor, the gallery’s largest exhibition space, features the body of “Medusa”’s 16 paintings. On the third floor, a group of lithographs produced after the “Medusa” work opened in Copenhagen acts as the images’ afterlife; ethereal yet straightforward, these prints announce the end of their author—one of them, depicting a detail of the ...
              77th Whitney Biennial
              Kevin McGarry
              The most streamlined mythology of the past two decades of the Whitney Biennial goes something like this: 1993 represented the Big Bang of art and identity politics, and since then, the curve has bobbed up and down like a sine wave, going above and below the axis of overthought mediocrity towards an ever more platitudinous parody of itself. It is, after all, the biennial that everyone… loves to hate. Shoot me now. Framing it this way can be as mind numbing as discussing the weather, and yet, it is nearly as inescapable. Perhaps drawing from its upper Manhattan terroir, the Whitney Biennial is an inimitable, enduringly anachronistic, and extremely self-referential institution. Each edition rehashes the questions “What is contemporary?” and “What is American?”—often to post-rational ends. Convoluted curatorial conceit is the most dangerous pitfall threatening state-of-the-art-world survey shows today. The best biennial I’ve seen in the past couple of years was Luiz Pérez-Oramas, André Severo, and Tobi Maier’s 2012 30th São Paulo Biennial about, simply, “poetics”—a theme so loose and extensible that the exhibition wore it as a heartening halo rather than a pretentious noose. In this respect, the 2014 Whitney Biennial does not fail. Well, actually, it does, but only ...
              “Bad Conscience”
              Jennifer Piejko
              Over the decades, John Miller has produced a body of work that is semi-ambiguous in concept, yet is—in terms of deadpan humor and wry observation—unwaveringly his own. In the 1980s, he made pieces that appeared to be caked in human waste, like paintings with brown splotches and appropriated objects covered with brown plaster; in recent years, he has gilded junk and composed melodramatic portrayals of reality-television-show stars—all of which play to the middlebrow taste and artifice that he critiques. However, Miller’s latest endeavor at Metro Pictures, “Bad Conscience,” an expansive and varied group show he has curated, suggests that it might simply be impossible for his practice to be represented by his artwork alone. Illustrating the work of a significant number of his previous collaborators, sixty-five works are spread across the gallery’s immense rooms, most of them clustered in conceptually interlaced compositions. One constellation of banal images, richly treated in oil paint—Caleb Considine’s Hairdryer (2013) and Marilyn Minter’s Paper Curls and Untitled (Porcelain Photo) (both 1976)—are hung opposite from a mix of photographs either weighed down with self-conscious unease or unmoored by their subjects’ reckless oblivion. Adjacent is a wall that includes Walter Robinson’s Impression Cheeseburger (2012) and Greg Parma Smith’s ...
              Tacita Dean’s “JG”
              Mara Hoberman
              In the late 1990s, equipped with directions furnished by the Utah Arts Council, Tacita Dean traveled to the Great Salt Lake in search of Robert Smithson’s Land art masterpiece Spiral Jetty (1970). Though she was ultimately unsuccessful in locating the massive earthwork (likely, it was submerged at the time), her thwarted pilgrimage was far from unfruitful. Having inspired an early sound piece, Trying to Find Spiral Jetty (1997), Smithson’s elusive anti-monument resurfaces—so to speak—sixteen years later in Dean’s latest film, JG (2013). Titled after the late author J.G. Ballard—with whom Dean enjoyed a long-running correspondence based on their mutual interest in Smithson’s work—the 26.5 minute, 35mm film pairs footage of saline landscapes in Utah and California with a voiceover culled from various texts by Smithson and Ballard, including the latter’s 1960 dystopian short story “The Voices of Time.” Offering alternate glimpses into Dean’s salt-infused experience, the current exhibition presents JG in the company of a number of related photographs, paintings, prints, and objects. Projected widescreen on a continuous loop in the basement of Marian Goodman’s Parisian gallery, JG is a slide show-like succession of landscapes ranging from snowy-white salt flats and crystalline stalagmites to turquoise-blue thermal lakes and fiery sunsets. Making ...
              Liz Glynn’s “On the Possibility of Salvage”
              Ginny Kollak
              The pants belonging to the “friend” of the eighteenth-century Welsh pirate Captain Howard Davis were apparently very tiny. Their sculptural replica, crafted from painted papier-mâché and complete with a petite button fly, now sits in a storage box made of birch in the Tenth Avenue space of the venerable Paula Cooper Gallery, alongside a large, floppy-armed, double-breasted overcoat. As the story goes—when Captain Davis landed at the Portuguese colony of São Tomé, a shipmate went ashore with a bag of second-hand clothes to sell to the “natives.” One can only imagine the small-bottomed man’s shocked expression when the crowd gathering on the beach made off with the goods instead. Black Suit from a friend of Capt. Howard Davis (Stolen) (all works 2013)—one of the new pieces on view in Los Angeles-based artist Liz Glynn’s New York solo debut “On the Possibility of Salvage”—exemplifies the artist’s careful balance between humor and pathos, politics and poetry. Taking the themes of piracy, smuggling, wreckage, and recovery as a starting point, Glynn stages an assortment of papier-mâché sculptures in the gallery, which represent either salvaged or seized (depending on one’s perspective) objects across a spectrum of times and cultures. Why does one become a pirate? ...
              Liam Gillick and Louise Lawler
              Tyler Coburn