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              Walter De Maria’s “Boxes for Meaningless Work”
              Valentin Diaconov
              The Walter De Maria exhibition at the Menil has everything: guns (HARD CORE, a film from 1969, shows Michael Heizer and an actor dueling in the desert), swearing (“Color, Size, Shape, Shit” is number 25 on the list of One Hundred Activities, a score work from 1961), and even the faint possibility of a romantic encounter in the form of a pink mattress and a pair of headphones playing seductive and relaxing field recordings of the Atlantic’s steady breath (Ocean Bed, 1969). “Boxes for Meaningless Work” does not, of course, contain De Maria’s most iconic pieces—The Lightning Field and New York Earth Room (both 1977). But the show is rich enough to serve as a solemn reminder of what passed as artistic expression in the golden years of American Imperialism, when it was still possible for Minimalists to repackage the formal purity that had denoted universal social progress for Russians and Germans in the 1920s. It is interesting to look at the sea change in relationships between the avant-garde and infrastructure over this period. If the Soviet artist would overreach towards a platonic ideal of a sexless, classless, and ageless society, an approach best exemplified by El Lissitzky’s About Two ...
              “Tangled Hierarchy 2”
              Ben Eastham
              At the heart of this group exhibition curated by Jitish Kallat are reproductions of the five envelopes on which Mahatma Gandhi, under a vow of silence, wrote messages to Lord Mountbatten on the eve of the Partition of India. The first of his scribbled responses to the last Viceroy of British India reads: “I am sorry / I cannot speak.” The phrase introduces some of the paradoxes that animate this brilliantly executed show about an historical trauma that continues decades later to be felt: silence as protest, mourning as action, absence as presence. The show opens in violence. Visitors to an exhibition ranged over two floors of a warehouse space in the backstreets of Fort Kochi are greeted by Zarina’s Abyss (2013), a woodcut print which renders the Partition line as a white chasm running like a wound through a black page, Mona Hatoum’s standing globe Hot Spot (Stand) (2018), its land masses marked out in burning electric filaments that cast the room in threatening red light, and the sound of bombs dropping, the source of which is Mykola Ridnyi’s Seacoast (2008). Shot in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, the short film syncs the noise with ...
              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 ...
              “AMOUNT”
              Alice Godwin
              The subterranean rooms of artist-run space Simian, in Copenhagen’s Ørestad district, could easily be mistaken for an underground bunker after the industrial apocalypse. Ørestad itself is a curious reminder of failed human design: an eerily deserted hangover from a bold urban plan to transform this area of wetlands on the edge of a nature reserve into a metropolitan center with gleaming glass buildings and a floating metro line. In the bowels of an old bicycle lockup, it feels as if the only souvenirs of the old industrial world are artworks by Toke Flyvholm, Yuri Pattison, Naïmé Perrette, and Lucie Stahl. Perrette’s documentary-style video Both Ears To The Ground (2021) is the engine of an exhibition that addresses the climate crisis. Projected on a wall in an intimate space within the first room of the gallery, the video focuses on the town of Berezniki in the Ural mountains and establishes the themes of collective amnesia and aestheticization that run through the exhibition. Once a beacon of Soviet industry, the town is now blighted by sinkholes created by the potash mines beneath. For residents, the sinkholes—warmly referred to by nicknames such as “the grandfather”— are a part of daily life. We are ...
              “Aaron Douglas: Sermons”
              Ladi’Sasha Jones
              The works on view in this group show, in which several contemporary artists respond to the legacy of Harlem Renaissance-era painter Aaron Douglas, are united by a Black existential affinity with literature and the natural environment. The exhibition is constructed around four works by Douglas from the museum’s Walter and Linda Evans Collection of African American Art that center two of his key interlocutors: James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes. Three are illustrations to Johnson’s poetry collection God’s Trombones (1927), a striking articulation of religious oratory, while the fourth illustrates Hughes’s poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (1921), and accompanied its original publication in The Crisis. It’s a poem that Black folks have long held as a psalm, its closing lines reverberating across generations— I’ve known rivers: / Ancient, dusky rivers. / My soul has grown deep like the rivers. This meeting of Black thought, art, and letters—a history of cross-disciplinary connection—sets the stage for the contemporary works in the show, and guides the exhibition’s curatorial framework. The gallery is dimly lit, with a humming cacophony of sounds and dancing imagery bleeding between the gallery’s archways from four stand-out video works. A commissioned piece by Akeema-Zane and Rena Anakwe, Our ...
              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. ...
              Aarati Akkapeddi’s “A·kin”
              Michael Kurtz
              Aarati Akkapeddi’s work exploits the uneasy interaction of analog and digital—paper and pixels—to convey the strangeness of both our warped view of the past through dog-eared images and the mediation of the present by algorithmic technologies. “A·kin,” at London’s Photographers’ Gallery, continues the Telugu-American artist and programmer’s practice of using machine-learning algorithms to analyze and manipulate historical images. The installation combines Akkapeddi’s family photographs from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu with those from an archive created by the STARS research collective of Tamil studio photography from the 1880s to the 1980s. Akkapeddi used an image classification model called VGG-16 to sort the photographs into a grid based on formal similarity, and then divided them into twelve generic groups: portraits of children propped up by an object, for instance, and close-ups of couples in which the man stands on the left. These “clusters” are arranged across a gallery wall within the interlocking forms of a kolam—a pattern drawn with rice flour at the entrance of Tamil homes to bring good fortune and exclude evil spirits. A larger composite image at the center of each group collates the surrounding photographs as if to identify what they share, while interviews ...
              Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s “The Navel of the Dream”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              Watching Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s silent 16mm film Otros usos [Other uses] (2014) is like looking into a kaleidoscope made with old snapshots too nondescript to make it into an album but nonetheless strangely fascinating. A composite image of four shots of a tranquil sea, each aligned to the edges of the frame, spins in a circle. As they oscillate, the distant shoreline in each shot tilts and merges with the next. The anachronistic sound of the projector, installed on a pedestal in the gallery, combines with the faint heat produced by the machine to heighten the body’s senses, like the effect of ASMR. I feel that Muñoz wants me, the viewer, to feel disoriented, employing a combination of the images’ banality and their movement to lull me into a dream state. They want to suspend my desire for narrative resolution and a fixed horizon. Both Otros usos and another silent 16mm film projected beside it, Black Beach/Horse/Camp/The Dead/Forces (2016) do have a precise physical referent: the island of Vieques in the Caribbean near Puerto Rico that the US Navy used as a bombing range and a training ground for over sixty years. In Otros usos, Muñoz’s carefully folded image is ...
              Sissel Tolaas’s “RE____
              Murtaza Vali
              A visit to Sissel Tolaas’s “RE_________” is unnerving, exciting, and, ultimately, strangely liberating. Countering the deodorization of social and cultural life, in the West especially, Berlin-based Tolaas has for three decades worked to remind us of the importance of smell in how we experience and understand ourselves, in our relationships to others and to our environments. She first records and deconstructs real-world smells into their molecular components, then synthesizes and represents them as olfactory artworks, demonstrating how smell remains a vital carrier of information and mode of communication. Airborne and inseparable from breath, our awareness of smell has been, inadvertently, heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. To properly experience Tolaas’s exhibition means ignoring the invisible, omnipresent, aerosolized threat of contagion that has haunted public life of late and shedding our masks to inhale fully, freely, openly, again and again, as we touch, scratch, sniff, and lather up with objects and surfaces previously handled by strangers. Dubbing herself an “inbetweener,” Tolaas, who has a background in art, linguistics, and organic chemistry, shrewdly plays the affective and visceral punch of smell and the objectivity and empiricism of scientific method against each other. Her artificial reconstructions remain mimetic, ultimately unable to traverse a sort ...
              Mungo Thomson’s “Sideways Thought”
              Francesco Tenaglia
              Mungo Thomson is a California-born conceptual artist in the lineage of John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha. His works often appear in serial forms that change over the years, adapting to different display contexts and making a virtue of repetition itself—framing, editing, and magnifying found objects and images from popular visual culture. At the center of his solo presentation at frank elbaz gallery in Paris is a strong example of this tendency. Projected in the gallery’s darkened first room is Volume 5. Sideways Thought (2020–22). Part of the artist’s “Time Life” series of stop-motion animations that draw on encyclopedias and other sources of found imagery, the video consists of a montage of every photograph of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures available in books about the artist’s work. The idea is to mimic, or allude to, the operations of a high-speed scanner while transforming paper archives into digital databases for universities or research centers. Yet the breakneck speed of the editing also illustrates an artistic possibility: that an artwork can be generated from the processes of digital sublimation. Thomson’s use of ancillary documentary materials, and indexical and archival practices (those building blocks of art history), extend into Rodin’s desire to capture the naturally continuous ...
              Okayama Art Summit 2022, “Do we dream under the same sky”
              Jason Waite
              The main venue for this year’s Okayama Art Summit, directed by Rirkrit Tiravanija, is a 1930s elementary school that has been vacant for the past twenty years. It is therefore surprising to encounter swarms of uniformed middle-school students circulating around the grounds as part of a school trip; then again, an uncanny sense of historical repetition is a hallmark of this edition of the triennial. Take Cambodian artist Vandy Rattana’s “MONOLOGUE Trilogy” (2015–19). This three-screen installation opens an oneiric portal to the lush forests of Kâmpŭchéa, still haunted by the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities. Rattana’s poetic grappling with the loss under that regime of his own sister, whom he never met, unfurls with images of the artist wading through the overgrown landscape, punctuated by slow shots of fantastical rituals invented to establish a connection to the land and its textures. The durational melancholy that results contrasts with the abundance of nonhuman life that fills the frame. An intricately woven cinematic tapestry, “MONOLOGUE Trilogy” decelerates time. Its slow, haunted temporality permeates the rest of the summit. Upstairs, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s installation The Word Silence Is Not Silence (2022) invites viewers into a small room that features two chairs in front of a ...
              Carol Bove’s “Vase/Face”
              Orit Gat
              A friend once called me out for overusing “the viewer” in my writing. “What does this viewer stand for?” he asked, suggesting that to use an abstract generality as a stand-in for the self absolves the writer of having to account for their own presence. Initially I saw this as a comment about the politics of being a body in space; that viewers are not interchangeable, experiences matter, and they are distinct. This conversation convinced me that the personal can be a powerful position from which to reflect. So, here goes: I stood in front of Carol Bove’s new sculptures at David Zwirner and related to them in a way that is intuitive and emotional, a way that made a specific viewer of me, one whose life seeps into the looking. Though they’re made of metal, I saw their softness. I kept staring at the meeting points of two bits of steel, and found in them a connection. Bove’s exhibition, “Vase/Face,” includes two sets of works presented across two rooms, two presentations that differ in scale, color, and treatment. In the main space are four large-scale sculptures made of stainless steel and laminated glass with heat-fused ink. The sandblasted stainless ...
              Bangkok Art Biennale 2022, “CHAOS : CALM”
              Max Crosbie-Jones
              The titles for the first two editions of the Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB), “Beyond Bliss” and “Escape Routes,” were catchy rhetorical constructions that signposted a sanguine worldview: art can help us survey, process, and perhaps even surmount the multipolar reckonings of the Anthropocene. Setting a similarly salutary tone for the third edition—the last in a trilogy, according to artistic director Apinan Poshyananda—is “CHAOS : CALM.” During the opening symposium, Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani (part of a four-strong curatorial team alongside Nigel Hurst, Jirat Ratthawongjirakul, and Chomwan Weeraworawit) remarked that the title’s colon allows for all states in between, rather than enforcing a binary. Her assertion left the tonal spectrum wide open, yet the thematic scope is wider still: BAB 2022 is a heaped potpourri of over 200 au courant artworks ostensibly united around capacious notions of disarray and harmony. Works that evoke dialectics between societal structures or belief systems are piled in alongside those that summon disorderly nature, and others of a more lived and personal bent. Circling the upper floors of the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC)—the largest venue—is a heady, often unnerving experience. “Your voice is powerful and it will be heard,” says a pensive AI avatar of Kawita Vatanajyankur, a ...
              Nikita Kadan’s “Victory over the Sun”
              Xenia Benivolski
              The 1913 opera Victory over the Sun describes an attempt to capture the sun in order to overthrow linear time and reason. The work ushered in artistic traditions that came to shape Soviet Futurism: it’s where Malevich’s black square, for instance, made its first appearance (on a set curtain). Nikita Kadan’s exhibition, which takes its title from the opera, is anchored by a wall-hanging neon sculpture entitled Private Sun (2022) which refers to a classic of Soviet-era design: a window grate, ubiquitous in large apartment buildings, with bars like the rising sun. Where the avant-garde original advocated for the destruction of the present to clear a path for the new, the Ukrainian artist’s use of the architectural feature suggests a darker notion: of being held captive in someone else’s idea of the future. Hanging in the main space of the gallery is a series of charcoal drawings. In one, titled A Sun-headed character in a garbage bag (2022), Kadan renders a black trash bag akin to those rumored to have been used to transport the bodies of soldiers killed during Russia’s invasion. Over the trash bag presides an unsmiling black sun. In another, similar drawing (The Sun I, 2022), a black ...
              1st Korkut Biennale of Sound Art and New Music
              Nikolay Smirnov
              The first biennale of its kind in Kazakhstan set out to combine sound art with a decolonial paradigm or, as curator Anvar Musrepov put it, “to find a correlation between experimental sound and the local culture, which is more audial than visual.” It fulfilled this mission through a convergence of the new posthuman ontologies being manifested in sound art with neo-traditional trends in decolonial thinking, in particular shamanism and animism. The symbol of this convergence is the mythological Turkic musician and shaman Korkut. According to legend, he created the kobyz, a bowed string instrument which in his hands was capable of imitating all possible sounds, and was later used by the baksy, or Turkic shamans. While Korkut played it, he was immortal. Although he eventually got tired, fell asleep, and died, he gained eternal life in the world of spirits and memory as the one who healed people through the power of art and music. As a core component of the national identity, a demiurgical healer, and the personification of radical avant-garde aspirations like the search for immortality, Korkut is a fitting figurehead for artistic speculations on shamanism, magic, and healing in the Kazakh context. Two concerts became the central ...
              Dozie Kanu
              Aoife Rosenmeyer
              Dozie Kanu blocks the entrance to Francesca Pia’s gallery with a low, square platform studded with cents. I take the H marked out in shinier coins to connote “Helipad” and edge past it into a series of bright rooms arrayed with sculptures composed largely from found metal objects. Among them is hang something metric (all works 2022), which makes a crucifix-like coat rack from a 150 cm rule atop a coiling metal pump component. Though from Texas, Kanu now makes his ambiguous objects in a studio in rural Portugal. The influence can be seen in the selection of decorative Portuguese keyhole plates painted onto the wooden tabletop of aro pillars chukwu dinners, which is supported by thick metal pipes. Deep blue panelling collars the ceiling, rather than the base, of the central gallery: General State of Judgement and Concern. Its velvety hue is a pleasing touch, making the space a little cosier, and easier to imagine these objects in a living room. The patina on the tortured metal sheet in the light fitting Explosion Proof is so appealing—was there an explosion or is it to signify antiquity, accelerated for your convenience? It’s not all to my taste though. Chair [ ...
              18th Camden International Film Festival
              Lukas Brasiskis
              Some documentary festivals prioritize the needs of the regional or international film industry, while others strive to present politically urgent and aesthetically groundbreaking nonfiction films to their audiences. Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) has been successfully combining these two strategies for almost two decades. This year's program consisted of thirty-four feature-length and forty short films from forty-one countries spread around screening locations in Camden and Rockland. The premieres of big-budget documentary productions expected to entertain American movie goers as well as Netflix and HBO streamers—such as Sr (all works 2022 unless otherwise stated) by Chris Smith, Tamana Ayazi and Marcel Mettelsiefen’s In Her Hands, and Compassionate Spy by Steve James—were held at the Opera House in Camden, while the majority of artists’ films were featured at Rockland’s Strand Cinema and at a massive industrial dock turned into a movie theater. Following executive and artistic director Ben Fowlie’s injunction that “festivals must take risks” and senior programmer Milton Guillén’s invitation to accept the challenges cinema poses, the best films in this year’s iteration prompted audiences to reconsider what documentary cinema is and what it can do. Katya Selenkina’s Detours (2021), the winner of this year's Cinematic Vision Award, is an experimental ...
              2nd Hacer Noche, “Promised Land”
              Kim Córdova
              Hacer Noche—an independent biennial directed by a former employee of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Francisco Berzunza—aims to establish connections between Oaxaca and international contemporary art discourse. The first edition, in 2018, set a high bar. The second, titled “Promised Land” and curated across ten venues by Elvira Dyangani Ose, strives to set the history of global leftist activism in dialog with Mexican art history. Yet sparse curatorial framing, alongside a casual commitment to presenting works with basic information for the visitor, leave the overall throughline too vague to be persuasive. The main exhibition, at Museo de Las Culturas de Oaxaca in the Santo Domingo convent, features two salons of works by eighteen artists on plywood displays. Among these are several coups in the form of institutional loans, including paintings by Mexican artists Rufino Tamayo and David Alfaro Siqueiros classified as “artistic national monuments” whose loans require federal approval by the museum's sister institution, the National Institute of Fine Art (INBA), and from UAE-based Barjeel Art Foundation, including a painting by Dia Al-Azzawi, a pioneer of modern Arab art. Significant care has gone into establishing a dialogue between celebrated and underknown artists. Curiously, however, little contextual information is provided ...
              4th Bergen Assembly, “Yasmine and the Seven Faces of the Heptahedron”
              Adam Kleinman
              As the dust begins to settle on this summer’s tumultuous large-format exhibition season, Bergen Assembly—“convened” by French artist Saâdane Afif—presents another opportunity to assess what happens when perennial shows are led by an artist, not a curator. This year’s Assembly, a Triennial now in its 4th edition, takes an unusually literary turn, in contrast to Kader Attia’s thesis-driven Berlin Biennale or ruangrupa’s Documenta, with its move toward decentralized leadership. Entitled “Yasmine and the Seven Faces of the Heptahedron,” the Assembly is organized around a loose frame story. This whimsical attempt to band together the show—featuring work by roughly eighteen participating artists and collaboratives—asks visitors to walk in the shoes of a fictional character, Yasmine d’O, in order to set the exhibition’s plodding scenario in motion. Afif developed the character of Yasmine for the 2014 Marrakech Biennale; later, he expanded the project into a play, made in collaboration with Thomas Clerc. In Bergen, Yasmine is on a quest to gather and assemble the titular Heptahedron, a seven-sided object of desire. If the mythical polyhedron serves as a Hitchcockian MacGuffin to push the story forward, other contrivances follow in its wake: each of the Assembly’s seven venues is connected to even more fictive ...
              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 ...
              Santiago Mostyn’s “Dream One”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              Santiago Mostyn has placed low banks of sand at rhythmic intervals throughout the large, open exhibition space of Södertälje Konsthall. Brazil nut casings lie scattered on top of the sand; they are also suspended from the ceiling, each shell holding a speaker. A soft clicking animates the room, as the eighteen-channel sound work emanating from the shells thickens the space at the periphery of my senses, like a subliminal awareness of thriving insect life. Looking down, I notice that viscous liquid fills one of the empty shells to resemble brackish rainwater trapped at the bottom. One shouldn’t leave water standing in the tropics, it invites mosquitoes to breed, I think, and realize that my mind has left the outskirts of Stockholm. The floor beneath Mostyn’s piles of sand is a permanent artwork by the design duo Laercio Redondo and Birger Lipinski, entitled Opacity (for Édouard Glissant) (2021). Inspired by indigenous weaving techniques in the Americas, it is an abstract geometrical pattern made with rectangular flooring panels in beige, navy, and powder blue. The design reminds me of a disarticulated Catholic labyrinth, a geometric pattern inlaid in stone on the floor of cathedrals during the Middle Ages, that provided a score ...
              Olivia Plender’s “Our Bodies are Not the Problem”
              Tom Jeffreys
              Olivia Plender’s research-driven practice is rooted in a fascination with the way communities self-organize—from activist groups, youth movements, and spiritualist associations to alternative education programmes and the offices of tech behemoths—and the strategies, labor, geographies, and architectures that enable (or obstruct) them. Her second solo exhibition at Maureen Paley recontextualizes texts, images, and actions relating to self-education and resistance, with the delicacy of several series of small drawings in black ink or charcoal pencil contrasting with all-caps wall posters proclaiming statements like “THEY WILL NOT DIVIDE US.” But in bringing together these slices from various projects, each of which has grown out of sustained historical research or community engagement, this exhibition is not always successful in communicating their richness or significance. Plender takes great care in considering the spaces in which community organization takes place: she pays attention, for example, to the labor that goes into setting up for a meeting or tidying away afterwards. In 2021, she revamped the community room at Glasgow Women’s Library, transforming the upstairs area into one of welcoming softness. Plender’s life-size drawings are now emblazoned across a partitioning curtain. Floor rugs and jewel-toned bean-bags offer comfort for those wishing to sit or lie, while ...
              Monira Al Qadiri’s “Refined Vision”
              Valentin Diaconov
              Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri is a prophet of doom with an ear for a joke. Sarcasm and puns are hallmarks of her solo exhibition at Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum—starting with its title, which replaces “divine” with a near-homonym that nods to the petroleum industry. Combining pieces made in the last decade with new commissions, “Refined Vision” presents hyper-realistic sculptures alongside installation and video. The tone is uniformly satirical, except for one new piece (Onus, 2022) based on press photographs of dead birds drenched in petroleum. It is the only work to state directly the real-world consequences of the oil industry and, as such, looks a little out of place in an exhibition that revolves around that industry’s enticing iconography. Spectrum (2016) is a series of 3D-printed sculptures, painted in iridescent car paint, whose shapes are based on the heads of oil drills. Pointing out that oil and pearls share the same color scheme on the opposite side of the dichroic color spectrum, Al Qadiri presents these precious objects as jewels in the crowns of the sovereigns who control oil. Deep time is crucial to Al Qadiri’s analysis of petroleum, and many of her works derive from her absurdist conflation ...
              “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 ...
              Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser’s “Piña, Why is the Sky Blue?”
              Jayne Wilkinson
              In the world of Piña, the title character of this expansive, speculative work of documentary-fiction, there are few boundaries. Piña stretches across temporalities, geographies, and technologies; it’s a world where futures and pasts align, where spiritual knowledge is transformed and disseminated for generational survival. Each element in Stephanie Comilang and Simon Speiser’s collaborative exhibition—a VR work, a wall-sized video projection, and a series of framed textile works, whose patterns repeat on custom-designed floor cushions—contributes to an experience where body, mind, memory, and technology converge. The project is structured around an elegant spirit, Piña, named after the Spanish and Tagalog word for pineapple, a fruit first introduced to the Philippines in the seventeenth century by Spanish colonizers who considered it a symbol of luxury. In the distant future, Piña is an omniscient AI-guide that holds and transmits matrilineal knowledge by first receiving information, or “data,” uploaded from knowledge-keepers who preserve spiritual and ecological practices, despite the violence of colonization. In the video, Piña’s presence is felt but unseen, as we meet real-world healers and activists. Among them are Kankwana Canelos and Rupay Gualinga of Ciber Amazonas, a group of Indigenous activists in Puyo, Ecuador, who discuss their work forming feminist alliances ...
              “Queering the Crip, Cripping the Queer”
              Anne Finger
              In 2015, the disabled American writer Kenny Fries gave a reading as part of the program for “Homosexuality_ies,” an exhibition jointly sponsored by the Deutsches Historisches Museum and the Schwules Museum. During it, he posed a question: Where, he asked, was disability in this wide-ranging exhibit? Why had access for disabled people been ignored? The response to that challenge is “Queering the Crip, Cripping the Queer” at the Schwules Museum. Co-curated by Fries, Birgit Bosold, and Kate Brehme, it is one of the first international exhibitions to explore the artistic, political, and historical links between queerness and disability. It presents disability as sexy, provocative, tough, and a source of artistic strength—not a black hole of suffering and blankness. Access is at the heart of the show. Seated in my wheelchair, I could actually experience the art. Nearly always when I enter a museum (sometimes after having been assured that a show is “completely accessible”) I am able to see only a fraction of what is on display, and I am left wondering: “What does that wall text, too high for me to read, say?” I might be able see diaries, letters, magazines in a display case, but the height ...
              58th Carnegie International, “Is it morning for you yet?”
              Noah Simblist
              What does it mean to be “international” today? Against a post-pandemic backdrop of hardening borders and resurgent ethnonationalism—in which cross-border solidarity, cooperation, and exchange are increasingly difficult to achieve—the 58th Carnegie International offers a nuanced way forward. The exhibition’s title, “Is it morning for you yet?” is an ancient Mayan saying which also evokes the opening greetings of a video call in which participants introduce themselves across time zones. As the exhibition’s curator Sohrab Mohebbi noted at the press preview, during which he acknowledged that the Guatemalan artist Édgar Calel had introduced him to the phrase, the title also recognizes that we can never exist in different places and be absolutely contemporaneous. By posing a question and inviting us into dialogue, the title suggests how we can be both separate and connected. Filling the museum’s Hall of Sculpture are artists whose work is critical of US Empire since 1945. Hiromi Tsuchida’s “Hiroshima Collection” is a set of black-and-white photographs that depict the material traces of the death and suffering that Japanese citizens endured in the wake of the US detonation of Little Boy. Produced over two periods at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, in 1982 and 1995, these objects include ...
              Azza El Siddique’s “Dampen the flame; Extinguish the fire”
              Murtaza Vali
              At once material and spectral, intimate and diffuse, scent can linger, occupying space and impregnating matter while remaining invisible. And it is the warm, smoky, sweet aroma of bukhoor—a type of incense composed of various aromatic resins and essential oil-infused wood chips that is commonly used across the Muslim world—that hits you first, near the top of the stairs, even before you enter Toronto-based Azza El Siddique’s sophomore show at Helena Anrather. Physiologically linked to the brain’s limbic system—the neurological locus of memory and emotion—the sense of smell is a powerful trigger, eliciting both a visceral and affective response. For El Siddique, bukhoor both invokes and evokes. It references religious spaces and rituals, sacralizing the gallery and our encounters within it. It also conjures up memories of the Sudanese diasporic community in which she grew up, and the many matriarchs who helped sustain it. One of its components is sandaliya, an oil derived from sandalwood that is used during the ritual washing and shrouding of the body before a Muslim burial. Bukhoor signifies care, of both the living and the dead. El Siddique’s interest in rituals and accounts of death and the afterlife stems from a profound personal ...
              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 ...
              “Histórias Brasileiras”
              Oliver Basciano
              “Histórias Brasileiras” [Brazilian Stories] is a profoundly depressing show, a curatorial snapshot of a country, it would seem, at the end of its tether. It coincides with the closing months of Jair Bolsonaro’s grueling first term as the country’s president, opening just before the world’s fourth biggest democracy goes to the polls. The complaints and traumas presented in the exhibition are legion. That does not, however, necessarily make it a great exhibition. Adherents of Bolsonarismo have long co-opted Brazil’s national flag. And so it is as a presumed rebuke that the curators present a series of reimagined versions of the blue, yellow, and green standard to open this sprawling exhibition (over 400 objects divided between eight thematic chapters, the first of which is titled “Flags”). Abdias Nascimento’s Okê Oxóssi (1970), in which the late artist and activist inserts symbols of Candomblé, the Afro-Brazilian religion, into the composition and palette of the original national design, subverts the European Christianity that has long held power in the country. It hangs alongside Mulambö’s Remembering Thy Noble Presence (2021), a funereal silhouette of the globe and diamond motif made from black plastic rubbish bags; and Leandro Vieira’s Brazilian Flag (2019), a rendition of the ...
              Nour Mobarak’s “Dafne Phono”
              Jennifer Piejko
              When the nymph Daphne refused Apollo’s advances, the god’s patience ran out quickly. “This is the way a sheep runs from the wolf […] everything flies from its foes, but it is love that is driving me to follow you!” Daphne took the only means of escape available to her: she prayed for transformation into a laurel tree. Apollo nonetheless claimed her as “my tree,” and so the laurel wreath became an emblem of power worn by royalty, gods, and victors in competition. It is also a symbol closely associated with the Medici family, patrons of the very first opera, most of the music from which has been lost: Ottavio Rinuccini and Jacopo Peri’s La Dafne, performed at the Palazzo Corsi in 1598. Nour Mobarak’s sound installation Dafne Phono (2022) takes the myth to its acoustic limits, playing a new composition based on La Dafne through sixteen channels into a spare, industrial loft on a street in downtown Los Angeles that still bustles at sundown. Mobarak’s version is sung in six languages that collectively cover the widest possible phonetic ground: the original Italian, Abkhaz, San Juan Quiahije Eastern Chatino, Silbo Gomero, and Taa (West !Xoon dialect), as well as Ovid’s ...
              Manifesta 14, “It matters what worlds world worlds: how to tell stories otherwise”
              Cathryn Drake
              For its 14th edition, the nomadic European biennial Manifesta has taken up temporary residence in various cultural institutions and derelict spaces in and around Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, where creative mediator Catherine Nichols invited artists and practitioners to explore modes of storytelling across cultures. As a contested nation state, Kosovo embodies many of the most pressing and complex issues facing society today. When is a country a country? How many people have to say it is for it to be? Who has the authority to declare a territory as a nation? Does the population need to be homogenous? Who is nationalism good for? How can we all live together and be free? Roaming the city in search of the exhibitions and “artistic interventions”—by 102 artists in 25 locations, from an Ottoman-era hammam to a former brick factory—I attempted to plot pieces of the puzzle into a coherent picture. Interacting with locals in Pristina was inevitable, both to find the far-flung (and often vaguely signposted) locations and to glean how the tumultuous, not-so-distant past led to the complex present. The main exhibition, titled “The Grand Scheme of Things,” is hosted on seven floors of the Grand Hotel Pristina, a decadent ...
              2nd Front International, “Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows”
              Ladi’Sasha Jones
              The poetic invocations of Langston Hughes ground the 2022 Front Triennial, an exhibition spanning over thirty sites across three cities in Northeast Ohio—Cleveland, Oberlin and Akron. At Transformer Station, a private museum owned by the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation in the rapidly changing Ohio City neighborhood, visitors are greeted by a series of archival reproductions of drafts of the poem from which the exhibition takes its title, Hughes’s “Two Somewhat Different Epigrams” (1957), showing the delicate changes the poet made to his now-famous lines. Within an exhibition focusing on healing and the civic potential of artistic processes, these records make visible the art and practice of revision, and stand here as a critical exchange on what it means to bear witness to the ephemeral. It's a fitting opening for an exhibition featuring several community collaborations as well as activations of public commons, historic sites, and cultural institutions, and with several outstanding performance elements. A multi-day boat trip from Buffalo, New York to Cleveland’s harbor marked the beginning for Asad Raza’s performance work Delegation (2022). A brass band ushered participants into the Old Stone Church with a rendition of Civil Rights anthem “This Little Light of Mine.” Inside, the ...
              Tony Cokes’s “Fragments, or just Moments”
              Harry Burke
              Walking into “Fragments, or just Moments” at Haus der Kunst is like walking into a club. Blue lighting animates the subterranean LSK Gallery, while atmospheric techno—the audio of Tony Cokes’s Some Munich Moments 1937–1972 (2022)—thuds in the corridor. The effect is uncanny, not least as the bunker was formerly an air raid shelter created by the National Socialist party—as three shower cubicles by the entrance, among other eerie details, testify. In this retrospective, which spans this venue, the Kunstverein München, and two public sites, Cokes stages a haunting conversation with Munich’s past. 1937 is the year that the Haus der Kunst, designed by Hitler’s “master builder” Paul Troost, opened its doors. In 1972, the city’s Olympic Games, which West Germany hoped would repair its international standing, were overshadowed by the murder of eleven Israeli athletes by affiliates of the Black September Organization, a Palestinian militant group. In the postwar years, Germany undertook a determined program of de-Nazification, and today is reckoning with its colonialism. In a change of tune from Cokes’s celebrated text animations of the last two decades, which mostly shun representational imagery, Some Munich Moments (different edits of which appear at each venue) features scenes of a comprehensively ...
              Lungiswa Gqunta’s “Sleep in Witness”
              Novuyo Moyo
              Though not officially a part of the exhibition, the enormous black-and-white photograph on the exterior of the Henry Moore Institute—the image also appears on promotional material—anticipates the works shown inside. It depicts four Black women posing and gesturing playfully by some rocks on a beach. The women are a part of Lungiswa Gqunta’s family, and the photo was taken in mid-1970s South Africa at the height of Apartheid, when the best parts of the country’s vast coastline were delegated for the use of white people only. With this additional information, the photograph captures a moment of resistance, pointing to one of the many ways in which Black people reclaimed their rights to access, freedom, and movement. Gqunta was born in 1990, four years before South Africa held its first democratic elections with universal suffrage. This period may have brought an end to the legislative system of Apartheid, but its effects endure—a point to which she constantly returns in her practice. This economical show opens with Zinodaka (2022), an installation that takes up the entire floor of the first room, meaning the visitor has to walk over it to get to the other galleries. In the work, a thin, patchy layer of ...
              Daniel Otero Torres’s “Las huellas del viento”
              Jayne Wilkinson
              It’s a rare artist who combines deep research into histories of colonization with the technical draughtsmanship necessary for near-photographic expressive figuration. This is the kind of work for which Daniel Otero Torres—a Colombian artist based in Paris—has become known. His detailed, hyper-realistic drawings on large, flat sheets of steel or aluminum reproduce archival photographs by adjusting scale and composition to create the larger-than-life creaturely figures that populate his installations. Taking cues from archaeology, magical realism, and mythology, the works include many visual references that address pre-Columbian histories across Latin America. In his newest work for “Las huellas del viento” (the exhibition’s poetic title translates to “the traces of the wind”) Torres extends these concerns to the industrialization and financialization of nature, a complex topic handled here with nuance. The show comprises steel sculptures, a five-panel wall work, a hanging installation, and a series of ceramic vessels, with each group exploring a different natural commodity—bananas, corn, and poppies—that has been intensively mono-cropped and tightly controlled in order to produce corporate wealth rather than communal resources. Bananas are one of the world’s most popular fruits, and not by accident. The United Fruit Company, a twentieth-century multinational corporation, is largely credited with developing ...
              Jeannette Ehlers’s “Archives in the Tongue: A Litany of Freedoms”
              Tobias Dias
              Jeannette Ehlers has for many years confronted viewers with the repressed history of colonial exploitation on which large parts of Denmark’s wealth is built. In the old and new works that comprise her solo show at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, “Archives in the Tongue: A Litany of Freedoms,” the Danish-Trinidadian artist looks at this history—in particular how it relates to the Black diaspora—across various media. As a whole, the show forms an open, lively archive with no definitive beginning or end: softly tangled braids of brown and black hair appear in several rooms and extend beyond the Kunsthal’s walls, with dance rhythms and singing voices carrying in one of the performance works taking place outside the museum. In the first room of the exhibition, the large-scale, portrait-format video Moko is Future (2022) features Moko Jumbie, a mythical figure from Afro-Caribbean folklore. Dressed in carnivalesque clothes, masks, and stilts, Moko is shown ascending from the Atlantic Ocean and dancing through Copenhagen’s streets, with its monuments to dead white men, to bring spiritual healing. “Until the lion has their historian, the hunter will always be a hero” is spelled out in pink neon on one of the walls at Charlottenborg—a found text Ehlers saw ...
              Hernan Bas & Zadie Xa’s “House Spirits”
              Danica Sachs
              There’s a spot in the two-person exhibition “House Spirits” from which Hernan Bas’s large-scale painting Disco Demolition Night (all works 2022) appears framed by Zadie Xa’s shamanic robe Kimchi rites, kitchen rituals, hanging near the front of the gallery, and her kaleidoscopic constellation in stitched linen-and-denim, Seven full moons, on the back wall. In this sightline, the artists seem an unlikely pairing: the content and references of Xa’s fabric works draw on her Korean heritage while Bas’s acrylic paintings are rooted in white American pop culture. In bringing these two artists into dialogue, however, this exhibition foregrounds the way each traffics in a kind of visual folklore. The tension between the former’s new, hybrid identities and the latter’s melancholy depictions of the demise of a monolithic culture reflects changing social dynamics. Two of Xa’s brightly colored robes hang opposite each other, suspended from the ceiling. The open folds on the front of Princess Bari fall in concentric half circles, made of linen hand-dyed in shades of coral, chartreuse, and sky blue, the hues seeping together to create a riotous sunset. The back is festooned with stitched knives and a cascade of rainbow ribbons running down the back, each ending with ...
              American Artist’s “Shaper of God”
              Jonathan Griffin
              About 15 minutes’ drive from the mirrored towers of downtown Los Angeles, a shady canyon throngs with oaks, willows, sycamores, and cottonwoods. Treefrog tadpoles wriggle in the creek. Snakes hunt among the rocks. Visitors to Hahamongna Watershed Park, named after the Tongvan village that once existed there, also cannot miss the adjacent white buildings of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a giant research facility owned by NASA. This discordant landscape, according to a text accompanying American Artist’s exhibition “Shaper of God,” was an inspiration to the science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, who set several of her novels in nearby Altadena and Pasadena, where she lived for much of her life. (Butler died in 2006, at 58.) The exhibition, dominated by recreations of urban street furniture, is really a single installation made from several semi-autonomous artworks. Its enigmatic title derives from a verse in the fictional religious text The Books of the Living, quoted in Butler’s nightmarish futurist novel Parable of the Sower (1993): “We do not worship God. / We perceive and attend God. / We learn from God. / With forethought and work, / We shape God.” Among other themes, Parable of the Sower is about self-determination in the ...
              Documenta 15, “lumbung”
              Kevin Brazil
              In the first of our dispatches from Documenta 15 over the next 100 days, Kevin Brazil considers the exhibition as an experiment in the art of administration.” At the opening press conference of Documenta 15, held in a Kassel sports stadium, the Indonesian collective ruangrupa invited the audience to sing along, “karaoke style,” to a music video created by Tropical Tap Water. In the lexicon of terms developed by ruangrupa to explain their curatorial ethos, this video was a “harvest”—a gathering of the fruits of a process—undertaken by one of the 1,500 artists working and sharing resources within the Documenta ekosistem (a more limited number are invited to exhibit). It showed people painting and playing music in studios, with diagrams and flowcharts mapping the stages by which the song was created. Lyrics flashed on screen, riffing on the idea of a “baskom,” or washbowl: “To decentralize Europe / We use the baskom.” Some of the participating artists half-heartedly clapped along, but the audience was otherwise largely silent. Collaboration, participation, and process over product: these are the practices ruangrupa aim to foster in the activities—from childcare to composting—taking place across Documenta’s 100 days. And, indeed, in the meetings, financing, and ...
              12th Berlin Biennale, “Still Present!”
              Jesi Khadivi
              As curator of the twelfth edition of the Berlin Biennale, Kader Attia continues his ongoing engagement with notions of injury and repair. There is precedent for this in his own artistic practice: the sprawling installation The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures (2012) staged reconstructed artifacts from ethnological collections that clearly reveal their stitching and staples, drawing a contrast with Western approaches to restoration that conceal an object’s damage and thereby silence the many stories it might tell. In the series “Repaired Broken Mirror” (2013–21), Attia sutured nondescript fractured mirrors with crude materials like staples or copper wire, a gesture of repair which appeared no less brutal than the act of breaking. The visible scars and reflective surface feel emblematic of this exhibition’s aspirations to hold a mirror to the legacies of colonialism and imperialism, sweeping environmental destruction, racism, sexism, and forced displacement due to war and climate change—and to propose ways forward. Through works by 82 artists and collectives displayed across six venues, Attia endeavors to foster spaces of “collective speech and reflection” that respond to the accumulated, unhealed wounds that have been rendered invisible by discourses of expansionism, algorithmic governance, and 24/7 capitalism. Working against the universalist claims of ...
              ORTA’s “LAI-PI-CHU-PLEE-LAPA Centre for the New Genius”
              Inga Lāce
              Organized by the transdisciplinary ORTA collective and based on the writings of Kazakhstani artist, writer, and inventor Sergey Kalmykov (1891–1967), the Kazakhstan Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale comprises immersive scenography made from the simplest materials. When I visited during the opening days, grayish wrapping paper enveloped the space from floor to ceiling, providing a background to printouts and props covered in aluminum foil and activated by participatory performances that the collective call “spectacular experiments.” This is the first year that Kazakhstan has participated in the Venice Biennale on its own, and the same goes for Uzbekistan and the Kyrgyz Republic: since 2005, these countries have shown as part of the Central Asian Pavilion. Ten days before the opening of the biennale, ORTA realized that the long-planned delivery of artworks and materials from Kazakhstan would not arrive in time. The war in Ukraine meant that trucks that would usually cross Russia and Belarus—including those from Kazakhstan—were being rerouted through Georgia and Azerbaijan. This not only rendered visible the often-hidden logistical and financial efforts that organizers have to go through, pointing to the extreme inequality at the very foundation of the national pavilion format, but also made the pavilion a makeshift ...
              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 ...
              Pipilotti Rist’s “Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor”
              Terry R. Myers
              “Stay home.” Where or when does comfort become confinement? Pipilotti Rist’s exhibition in MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary warehouse invites us to take an entertaining, even rejuvenating stroll through Rist’s “neighborhood,” a place provocatively split in two, where the bodies on screens present little to no risk and plenty of reward. As a survey of Rist’s substantial production from 1986 to the present, “Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor” sets out to achieve the kind of wish-fulfilment its title proposes. Moving from the entrance past a theatrical curtain into the exhibition, the neighborhood is suddenly there below—we enter from slightly above—all at once a stage set and an apparition, aglow with colorful imagery moving across the walls of its buildings and the communal grounds surrounding them, caught in the middle of a kind of pre-performance begun before we even arrived. (Or, more likely, a sequence that neither starts nor stops, just exists.) There are also sounds, voices even. At first they seem to be over … there, beckoning from the housing or near the picnic tables in a park, but then, there she is, that small mirage and small voice crying out at your feet. What to do here with one of Rist’s ...
              Bani Abidi’s “The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared”
              Sadia Shirazi
              In Chicago, during the anti-racism protests against police violence in the summer of 2020, river bridges were raised and steel barricades erected by police to corral demonstrators. These very same barriers, now painted bright red, greet visitors as they enter Bani Abidi’s survey at the MCA, in its third iteration after stints in Berlin and Sharjah. The exhibition includes video, performance, sound installation, and print-based work spanning over two decades, and draws together her long-standing interest in power, securitization, and everyday life, marked by moments of humor and absurdity. Collectively, Abidi’s practice might be seen to illustrate Henri Lefebvre’s suggestion that “the critique of everyday life involves a critique of political life, in that everyday life already contains and constitutes such a critique: in that it is that critique.” A trio of split-screen videos that Abidi made as a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago form the core of the exhibition, clustered together and displayed on box monitors. In each video—The News (2001), Anthems (2000), and Mangoes (1999)—the artist plays two characters—an Indian and a Pakistani—whose identities emerge from sartorial, discursive, and linguistic differences, revealing the codes that constitute their differentiated national identities. The viewer is forced ...
              Tarek Atoui’s “The Whisperers”
              Rachel Valinsky
              Near the entrance of the Contemporary’s street-level gallery, a long chain hanging from the ceiling rigging traces a circular motion around an oxidized cymbal. In the sculptural assemblage The Whisperers: Infinite Ballet Solo (2020–21) these pieces are connected via a long brass rod to a wooden box perched atop a concrete pedestal, and to other nearby elements. The mesmeric, metallic rub and scrape generated by the chain’s slow trajectory is miked, and can be isolated if listened to in headphones nearby, but it’s just as audible at the other end of the gallery, where it coalesces into the overarching din of the soundscape. Tarek Atoui’s exhibition “The Whisperers” is a meticulously orchestrated playground in which each “tool for listening,” as he calls them, triggers a mechanism that generates a series of chain reactions and feedback effects. These new sculptures, first exhibited at Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris last year, emerged out of a collaboration with a class of kindergarten students on an ongoing sound workshop. They conserve their experimental, ludic quality with playful titles given for the form each assemblage evokes, or the associations it whimsically stirs up. Underwater Birds (2020–21), for instance, fosters a set of aquatic plants, while ...
              Chim↑Pom from Smappa!Group’s “Happy Spring”
              Jason Waite
              A number of art exhibitions have, in recent years, disrupted cultural institutions in Japan. Take the allegations of censorship at the 2016 MOT Annual, which resulted in two curators being let go, or the temporary closure of the 2019 Aichi Triennale after violent threats were made against its organizers. To this list can be added “Happy Spring” at the Mori Art Museum, the work of the six-person, Tokyo-based collective founded in 2005 and known at the time of the show’s opening as Chim↑Pom. In late April, the group changed its name to Chim↑Pom from Smappa!Group in response to the institution’s refusal of sponsorship from its long-time collaborator Smappa!Group, an organization which runs a number of “host clubs” in Tokyo. The museum claimed this was a “branding” issue; the artists argued that it could be regarded as “discrimination against nightlife workers”—an already stigmatized section of Japanese society. All that can be said with certainty is that this group’s first retrospective, curated by Kenichi Kondo, was long overdue and worth undertaking, although its longer-term effects remain uncertain. The pulsing, unruly show at Mori Art Museum centers around a replica street shaped like an ouroboros that runs throughout the institution. That this ...
              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). ...
              Paulo Nazareth’s “Vuadora”
              Oliver Basciano
              I often stare open-mouthed at Brazilian supermarket shelves, horrified by the overt racism of some of the branding. One line of cleaning products features a caricature that’s too grim to go into, and would likely have been considered offensive by many as far back as the 1920s. There is a history to all this of course. While they number under half the population, white Brazilians still hold a disproportionate amount of the country’s wealth and power: a legacy of colonialism, slavery, extractionism, but also of the myth of Brazil’s post-racial utopia to which many in the country still cling (a multiculturalism partly due to the post-abolitionist government’s desire to “whiten” the population by inviting immigration from Europe and Asia in the late nineteenth century). That is a lot to unpack from the weekly shop. Some of these dubiously branded products caught the eye of Brazilian artist Paulo Nazareth too, who uses them as the basis for his critique of the art world’s tendency to transform cultural identity into commercial capital. In his series “Ovo de Colombo” (Egg of Columbus, 2020), one of the first bodies of works encountered in this expansive retrospective of art made over 17 years, they ...
              Elmgreen & Dragset’s “Useless Bodies?”
              Cathryn Drake
              The sleek, sardonic work of Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset has found a consummate context in the Fondazione Prada, a private museum founded by luxury fashion entrepreneurs. The question mark in the exhibition title—“Useless Bodies?”—signals an interrogation of the human body as a viable organ in contemporary society, played out within the context of a western-centric ideal of beauty and vitality. The main space, called the Podium and employed in all the term’s senses of stage, soapbox, and platform, is arrayed with human figures engaged in related but disassociated activities. Classical marble nudes—tautly muscled athletes, a young shepherd with a dog, and a reclining gladiator among them—mingle with bronze sculptures of pubescent boys to suggest a diorama in an archaeological museum. The only woman represented is Pregnant White Maid (2017), regarding a petulant, pouting schoolboy (Invisible, 2017) with her eyes decidedly shut. All of the contemporary bronze figures are lacquered in opaque white or buffed to a brilliant glow, with the exception of a striking black Runner, from the first century BC, idealized with Caucasian features and a startlingly realistic gaze. Like a terrarium, the main space is transparent yet hermetic, enhancing a sense of highly visible isolation, not ...
              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 ...
              59th Venice Biennale, “The Milk of Dreams”
              Quinn Latimer
              How to make an exhibition about technologies of gender in the year 2022? About bodies that are symbiotic and prosthetic and in solidarity—an extension of ourselves into other receiving forms, whether animal, vegetal, machinic, spirit, land, human, or otherwise—and about an ecosystem in which the body is seen as a vessel of ancestral and speculative relations and active possibilities? That is, at once mutable, vulnerable, hybrid, Indigenous or diasporic, human or non, but ever transforming and telegrammic? Real queries, I know, but stay with me. We were all once stardust, remember. Take These Eyes Djamila Ribeiro has written about understanding “the gender category” from non-Eurocentric sources, taking, for example, the female orixás deities in African-origin religions including Candomblé and Umbanda. This is feminist discourse by other “geographies of reason,” with women of care, women of cult, mythical female ancestors, and African diaspora witches who are, she writes, “the antithesis of any denial of behavioral, political, ethical transcendence that women may represent.” Ribeiro notes, precisely: “From them it is possible to think of a practice that transforms the colonial relations present today.” Her words surfaced in my mind as soon as I entered the opening rotunda of Cecilia Alemani’s exhibition in ...
              59th Venice Biennale, The National Pavilions
              Ben Eastham
              Among the many dizzying contradictions that characterize the Venice Biennale is the persistence, amidst the rhetoric of decentering and decolonization, of a national pavilion format that gives prominence to those western powers considered a century ago to constitute the world order. The issues this raises are complicated, in this year’s edition, by apparently conflicting attitudes to the construction of identity (to be affirmed or broken down) and the violability of borders (to be defended or dissolved, sometimes within the same press release). For all of the anachronism and cognitive dissonance, one purpose of the Biennale’s pavilions might be to drag these contradictions—all of which have “real world” analogues or implications—into the light in order to discuss them. With its façade transformed by hanging thatch into an homage to vernacular African architecture, Simone Leigh’s attention-grabbing US Pavilion is pointedly titled “Sovereignty.” As a counterpoint to Cecilia Alemani’s surrealist-infused international exhibition, which foregrounds fluidity and category slipping, this assertion of the right to self-determination is striking. The sheer physical presence and self-possession of sculptures indebted to African traditions—precisely and sparsely arranged through the pavilion—communicate an identity that is confident, coherent, and secure in its boundaries. Yet the title also draws attention to ...
              Rabih Mroué’s “Under the Carpet”
              Jayne Wilkinson
              “One of the main weapons is the image itself.” So proclaims Rabih Mroué in his 2018 lecture-performance Sand in the Eyes. With trademark brevity, his statement articulates the complex recurring strategies—analyzing images as weapons, conflating theatricality with war, reading revolutions through pixels—that underlie Mroué’s multidisciplinary projects as a visual artist, actor, playwright, and director. This mid-career survey, surprisingly also his first solo exhibition in Berlin, brings together two decades of work and, incredibly, eight new commissions produced largely during the pandemic. In design and execution, its ambitions are staggering. A non-linear constellation of video projections, installations, collages, and archival material are structured around a two-story vertical video that can be seen from all corners of the exhibition’s two floors. With so many video and audio works, the sound bleeds (a plinky xylophone suggestive of a film score’s anxious denouement, punctuations of gunfire and explosions that arrive unexpectedly, the noisy insistence of a film projector) effectively recall the sonic chaos of war while still creating an integrated audio environment. The imposing central work, Images Mon Amour (2021), loops through imagery culled from Lebanese newspapers, with the benday dots of analog print enlarged and visible. Weaponry, ...
              Zoe Leonard’s “A View from the Levee”
              Jesi Khadivi
              Art historian Darby English describes humans’ relationship to the natural world as “an interchange of flow and force,” a phrase that also evokes the way geological forces are harnessed to mark political boundaries. Zoe Leonard’s epic photographic work Al río / To the River, created between 2016 and 2022, comprises approximately 500 black-and-white and 50 color photographs of the river that marks the border between the United States of America and Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Called the Rio Grande by Americans and the Rio Bravo by Mexicans, the numerous violent modifications the river has undergone testify to this entanglement of flow and force: over the last century engineers have forcibly straightened and shortened its meandering natural course by nearly 67 miles, lining its base in concrete so that it may never shift its channel again. The river’s edge is alternately home to cities, towns, border patrols and facilities, grazing animals, and open expanses. In some places it flows wide and mighty, while in others no water runs through, and its cement embankments form what scholar C. J. Alvarez describes as “a massive trapezoidal canvas for graffiti.” Before Leonard zooms out to capture this interchange, she zooms in. Upon entering “A View ...
              Patrick Goddard’s “Pedigree”
              Tomas Weber
              Watching animals in a zoo, Patrick Goddard’s show at Seventeen suggests, disapprovingly, is a bit like looking at art in a gallery: you stroll between marvels, whose only reason for being is to be seen. At the entrance to the gallery are three grisaille ink paintings (all 2022) behind reeded privacy glass. Each stars a bichon frise dog: watching a burning car (Whoopsie at the End of the World), saying “up against the wall!” through a speech bubble (Whoopsie, Up Against the Wall), and next to a naked woman under the word “APOCALYPSE” (Whoopsie’s Dream). Against the quietness of these works on paper, a sculptural installation occupies a whole wall. Plague (Downpour) (2022) consists of 200 falling frogs cast in recycled lead and attached to the wall. Each is unique, its body caught in baroque contortions: some graceful, some agonized, some resigned. These works introduce the show’s prevailing theme of our entanglements with animal life, from pets to pests. Humans enlist animals into satisfying their needs and desires. Sometimes such animals are threatening or toxic; usually, they are unfathomable. As John Berger points out in “Why Look at Animals?,” a 1977 essay that inspired Goddard, animals have been stripped of ...
              Dora Budor’s “Continent”
              Aoife Rosenmeyer
              With my nose to a millimeters-wide gap between wall and floor on the building’s top story, I tune in to a thrumming disruption. Dora Budor has channeled it into the very arteries of the Kunsthaus Bregenz: remote-controlled sex toys have been placed in a ventilation system that should operate invisibly and inaudibly. Instead sound resonates—sometimes faintly, then a crescendo, a solid impression. For an extra frisson, the 2022 work is titled Termites, to spell fear for wooden-building-dwellers the world over. The stimulation might be a gift or a curse. In his famous 1976 essay, Brian O’Doherty defined what a white cube for art means: a space aspiring to neutrality, even if that is ultimately an illusion. In Bregenz, the architect Peter Zumthor took a controlled environment for display to the next level, creating a blank page onto which art can be written. In an array of sumptuous stone-based material treatments, four high-ceilinged galleries are stacked on top of each other, connected by straight flights of stairs to make a nigh-on spiritual experience. (Spiritual spaces are a Zumthor speciality; among his best-known projects are the Bruder Klaus Feldkapelle, or field chapel, outside Bonn, and the Kolumba Museum in Cologne, which ...
              Andrea Bowers’s “Can the world mend in this body?”
              Brian Karl
              Andrea Bowers’s solo show at Jessica Silverman is marked by the artist’s signature combination of directness and nuance. Rooted in eco-feminist engagement and employing a wide range of media—neon signs, drawings on recycled materials, and video documentary—her deftly radical work calls attention to environmental degradation caused by patriarchal systems. Bowers’s wall-mounted sculpture Rights of Nature I (2022) glows at passersby through the gallery’s street-level storefront window. Green neon tubing, styled in antique Gothic font, evokes legal documents while limning the piece’s title phrase. This in turn seems to emit a yellow speech bubble framing the words “to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve” in a contrasting font. This work builds on the use of neon by an earlier generation of artists—Deborah Kass and Bruce Nauman among them—as a communicative medium for political commentary, while continuing to play on and against its conventional employment in commercial signage. Though less dynamic than some of Bowers’s previous witty and sharply political slogans in flashing multicolor lights, it is among her most substantial: a heartfelt and lucid declaration that the Earth and other living creatures should be afforded the same rights, ethical treatments, and legal protections as humans. Within the gallery, a sister piece is ...
              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 ...
              Wilson Díaz’s “Taste and Conflict: Reasons to Connect”
              Noah Simblist
              Wilson Díaz speaks to a violent history with tenderness and humor. Born and raised in Pitalito Huila, a rural area in southern Colombia, and now based in Cali, the artist has witnessed the effect on daily life of drug trafficking and violent clashes between the government’s military, leftist guerillas, and right-wing paramilitaries. Since it began, in the 1990s, his career has coincided with a number of significant moments in the country’s recent history: the drug cartels’ increasing power and political influence, growing neoliberal economic policies, and the incessant US intervention as a result of, among other things, the so-called War on Drugs. Díaz’s solo show at Cali’s Museo La Tertulia mostly comprises paintings and drawings, whilst the exhibition’s layout makes use of immersive installation. A line of newspaper clippings, reproduced on one-to-one scale with adhesive vinyl, covers several walls with images including military generals and politicians in staged photo-ops. One story describes a director of police intelligence who is also an amateur painter, depicted with smock and easel in his living room. Above are two small black-and-white easel paintings: one of Pablo Escobar, another of a military jeep surrounded by dead bodies—a reference to a 1989 state-sanctioned massacre at La ...
              Kathmandu Triennale 2077
              Hera Chan
              Once upon a time, the Buddhist scripture Swayambhu Purana tells us, the Kathmandu Valley was an enormous lake filled with serpents. One folk legend describes lengthy negotiations with the king who displaced the serpents to other smaller lakes, to bring rain back to the dusty valley. Another describes the draining of the lake as an act of god, in which the Buddhist deity Manjushree took a sword to the lake and cut a gorge deep enough to drain the whole valley. Woodcut block prints on rice paper depicting serpents typically grace the heads of doorways, bidding safe passage to those who cross the threshold. One of these hangs in the Patan Museum next to No History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 5 (2018), a single-channel video by Korakrit Arunanondchai and Alex Gvojic featuring the performance artist boychild performing as the Thai serpent spirit Nāga, interspersed with news bulletins charting the 2018 rescue mission of 13 boys trapped in a flooded cave in Northern Thailand. Kathmandu Triennale 2077 is dated according to the Nepali Bikram Sambat calendar system, which is set almost 57 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. But the Triennale takes place neither in the ...
              Yerbosyn Meldibekov’s “A Dot Becomes a Circle, or Dark Ghosts of a Bright Future”
              Valentin Diaconov
              Born in 1964, Yerbosyn Meldibekov is part of a generation of groundbreaking Kazakhstan artists who, since the collapse of the USSR, have challenged Russian imperialism. Working in a wide variety of media—photography, painting, sculpture, 3D-modeling, readymade, performance—Meldibekov disassembles the Eurocentric model of Empire, adopted by Russia as well, with its monuments to political and military leaders, neurotic craving for geographical expansion, and degrading stereotypes of conquered peoples. At the start of the nineteenth century, Russian authorities began to restrict Kazakh nomadism and traditional horse-breeding practices. Their aim was to coerce the populace into accepting agricultural and industrial jobs that integrated neatly into Russia’s imperial framework of resource extraction. Backlashes against this system have been constant over the decades since. But only since Kazakhstan declared its independence, in 1991, has the country begun openly to discuss its cultural autonomy. Meldibekov is prominent among the first generation of Kazakhstan artists clearly to denounce ideological frameworks of statehood based on colonial bureaucracy. Their alternative is the vast Kazakh steppe, where ideologies are accidental and infirm. The centerpiece of Meldibekov’s show at Almaty’s Dom Na Baribayeva 36, The Fall of the Author (2021), is a self-portrait as a destroyed monument. On a white neoclassical ...
              Jesse Darling’s “No Medals No Ribbons”
              Frances Whorrall-Campbell
              What does it mean to make forgettable work when the art world trades in memory? Pics or it didn’t happen, the reification of the document: even in the dematerialized, social-media-sodden scene, art still functions as a memorial—even, we might venture, a monument to capital. Forgetting is abolitionist. The title of Jesse Darling’s survey at Modern Art Oxford, “No Medals No Ribbons,” signals a refusal to this sort of public recognition. Like the vitrines of slowly wilting flowers in the gallery café (and entrance to the exhibition), it calls up the trappings of remembrance while imploring us to forget. Inside the show, objects engage in childlike cosplay, slough off inhibitions to reveal new forms. A litter picker, crutch, and plastic bottle come together to form a gun; a Hitachi vibrator becomes the torch on the Statue of Liberty. Objects seem unbothered by the fact they are in a museum: they trip over each other, try and trip you up, stretching and lurching their wiry limbs in ungainly configurations. Two unsteady vitrines—part of the series “Epistemologies” (2018–22)—comprise an art-historical joke at the expense of the institution. Containing only concrete blocks or a pile of lifeless birds, these works make a blunt mockery ...
              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 ...
              Leonor Antunes’s “the homemaker and her domain, part iii”
              Jayne Wilkinson
              Leonor Antunes has described her latest exhibition as a library, or an archive. The vast range of materials—jute, bamboo, brass, nylon, pineapple leather, straw silk, cotton, glass—does offer a hanging collection of sorts, presented in various knots, weaves, textiles, and forms of joinery suspended around two primary structures. But any archival capacity is purely speculative, and the exhibition is more a staging of the conceptual possibilities of design than an accounting of historical documents. Nonetheless, histories saturate the work, and the invocation of many elegant lesser-known figures of twentieth-century art and design forms a network of influences tied together by Antunes’s own signature aesthetic. As in her past work, Antunes addresses local contexts through visual and material citations that are direct, honorary, and respectful, in this case through the figure of Lena Meyer-Bergner, a designer who trained in the second phase of the Bauhaus and moved to Mexico in 1939. She was primarily a textile artist but was active in the graphic workshop, Taller de Gráfica Popular, which was famous for using printmaking to support anti-fascist and leftist political causes. The jute hanging grid that draws influence from Meyer-Bergner’s work tells us little that would recall her legacy directly, but it ...
              Samara Golden’s “Guts”
              Vanessa Holyoak
              Samara Golden’s “Guts,” the inaugural exhibition at Night Gallery’s new venue in downtown Los Angeles, offers a direct, physical encounter with fantastical perceptual experience. In this warehouse space, Golden has installed a huge mirrored box titled Guts (2022). Looking into it from one of two walkways reveals three white “floors,” each of which holds two “scenes” (one above and one below) relating to Golden’s shifting psychological states over the past few years: a messy living room with its toppled furniture, lamps, and crushed beer cans; an iridescent blue water-like surface; and an array of snaky, muted pink and lavender intestinal shapes that evoke the title of the installation, which gives its name to the exhibition. The effect is of one building contained within the atrium of another, extended vertically in a vertiginous series of reflections. It is a demanding task to distinguish between “real” installations and their mirrored reproductions. Guts builds on Golden’s previous site-specific installations using mirrored structures. The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes (2017), for instance, was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial and staged handmade furniture to create miniature “sets” of scenes of everyday life. In the context of a shift towards virtuality and digitization accelerated during ...
              Every Ocean Hughes’s “One Big Bag”
              John Douglas Millar
              In the introduction to her friend the photographer Peter Hujar’s monograph Portraits in Life and Death (1976), Susan Sontag wrote that: “We no longer study the art of dying, a regular discipline and hygiene in older cultures; but all eyes at rest contain that knowledge. The body knows and the camera shows inexorably.” Sontag wrote those lines from a hospital bed while awaiting surgery to remove a malignant tumor from her breast. The surgery was successful, but she would die from cancer a quarter century later, terrified, furious, and absolutely unresolved. On June 5, 1981 the first clinical report on AIDS was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In the years that followed, the gay and queer communities and other vulnerable minorities were forced to “study the art of dying,” to construct communities of mourning and activism and develop clusters of “lay-expertise” in pharmaceuticals and their trialing, endocrinology, blood science, and the legal and ethical structures of the medical and death industries. As the art historian and ACT UP New York member Douglas Crimp argued, “AIDS intersects with and requires a critical rethinking of all of culture: of language and representation, science and medicine, health and illness, sex and ...
              Valentina Diaz’s “The Intermittent Movement of Speech Acts”
              Gaby Cepeda
              A guide, dressed all in black, formally addresses the audience. Argentinian artist Valentina Diaz’s practice, the guide explains, relies on a series of inexact but exacting translations: specific mental states inspired hand-knitted costumes; knitting patterns are transposed into a musical score rendered on an old-school typewriter; this score is interpreted, according to a tempo kept by a metronome, as a choreography for performers dressed in the costumes. Diaz’s performances have long been characterized by such iterative mutations, a methodology emphasized in this exhibition: rather than wander around the space, viewers enter at specific times to follow the guide through a pre-planned sequence of rooms. After the brief introduction, we are welcomed into a room surrounded by a soft orange curtain. The space is illuminated only by the projection of a new, 11-minute video version of one of Diaz’s performances, /A Å Æ )A(, dating from 2019. Two characters wearing black, triangular, and armless costumes whose hoods conceal the upper halves of their faces pace metronomically around a squash court’s symmetrical grid. One sports a small yellow triangle on their front and a large red one on the back; the other has a large yellow and large blue triangle on front ...
              Jala Wahid’s “AFTERMATH”
              Adeola Gay
              Delicate sheets of paper are scattered over the floor of Jala Wahid’s exhibition at Niru Ratnam Gallery. The pieces are reminiscent of leftover protest flyers and posters, giving the sense that a demonstration has taken place. The Kurdish-British artist’s exhibition continues her interest in exploring materiality, investigating the symbolic elements of archival objects. Wahid’s latest series of works is heavily informed by her research at the Kurdish Cultural Centre and the UK National Archive in London. The two archives focus on contrasting aspects of Kurdish history, with the former dedicated to the lived experiences of the Kurdish community, and the latter serving as a public record, listing details of treaties, conflicts, and political policies. “Aftermath” is a collection of seven compelling objects and texts, with two sculptures hung on the wall, two sculptures placed on a long base, two text pieces displayed on plinths, and the paper cut-outs spread across the gallery floor. The exhibition prompts questions including: Who is allowed to narrate history? How does one document that history? And, most importantly, how are cultural identities formed? As with much of Wahid’s work, these recent pieces embody a sense of memory. The artist captures moments of conflict and ...
              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 ...
              “Sex Ecologies”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              At first glance, I thought Jes Fan’s iridescent installation Mother of Pearl 東方之珠 (2021) was simply a set of surrealist silk scarves strung up between aluminum poles. In the mostly abstract, brightly colored close-up images of oyster shells’ undersides I saw the stage set for a (deliciously) campy eco-political sex show. The images printed onto the fabric document a process by which the artist had four Chinese characters implanted into a variant of pearl oysters native to Hong Kong; the oysters responded to the implants the way they respond to sand, coating the intruder in mother-of-pearl. Each of the four characters translates to a word that, taken together, form a colonial nickname for Hong Kong: Pearl of the East. So, yes, a brilliant eco-political sex show starring the oyster slathering layers of nacre and wet dichroic substrate over the legacy of British colonialism. Fan’s work sets the tone for “Sex Ecologies,” a group show curated by Katja Aglert and Stefanie Hessler, with Prerna Bishnoi, Carl Martin Faurby, Kaja Grefslie Waagen, and Katrine Elise Pedersen, that presents nine newly commissioned works spanning both floors of Kunsthall Trondheim. Asking playful but biting questions about contamination and desire, the works on view critique ...
              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 ...
              Donna Huddleston’s “In Person”
              Chloe Carroll
              If you had been wandering the corridors of the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, Sydney, sometime around the year 1997, you might have happened upon a young, overworked Donna Huddleston. The artist documented her experiences studying set and costume in the monumental 2019 work The Exhausted Student, in which a pale waif, having fainted, is held aloft by a group of concerned, impeccably dressed undergrads in a sling of milky green drapery, pieta-like. Informed by Huddleston’s student years, the artist’s first exhibition at London’s Simon Lee Gallery stages a one-woman show over eleven unabashedly theatrical new works on paper. The drawings here mark a departure from The Exhausted Student’s tableau form, instead focusing in on strange intimacies and individual dramas. Several pieces show the artist herself, roughly life-size, donning various glamorous disguises: slinky, ruched dresses with plunging necklines; ruffled poet’s blouses under tailored camel coats; immaculately coiffed wigs. She slips from frame to frame like a woman on the run. Most are rendered entirely in Caran d’Ache pencil, a painstakingly slow process and unforgiving material which lends itself naturally to the artist’s taste for minute detail against flat, overlapping planes and tightly choreographed mise-en-scene. Blocks of color are lightly flecked with ...
              Allison Katz’s “Artery”
              Oliver Basciano
              Why did the chicken cross the road? I don’t know—but Allison Katz has some suggestions. There are chickens aplenty in “Artery,” a show of 30 works, the majority new, by the Canadian painter. The other side (2021) is a painting of a cockerel in motion that recalls Eadweard Muybridge, the work hung across two freestanding walls so the bird seems to be surmounting the gap between them. Grains of rice—a kind of chicken feed, presumably—are scattered across the canvas surface, stuck on and around the golden animal. Despite the bird’s strut, it’s unclear—given the yellow plumage and blue-feathered head—whether what we are looking at is the result of Katz painting a chicken (or a photo of a chicken), or of her painting a chicken-shaped ornament; whether this painting is a representation, in other words, or a representation of a representation. This quandary seems answered in The Cockfather (2021), a painting titled like a hipster fried chicken joint, but which in fact shows a kitschy egg holder in the shape of a cock in which are placed three eggs, the neck of the apparently misgendered bird (it is hens who normally warm eggs) forming a handle. This plumed porcelain soul ...
              Forensic Architecture with Laura Poitras’s “Terror Contagion”
              Jared Quinton
              Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, international research collaborative Forensic Architecture has been investigating the use of Pegasus, a spyware product developed by the private Israeli cyber-arms firm NSO Group. Pegasus has been licensed by governments around the world to covertly surveil journalists, activists, and political opponents by hacking their phones, and has been linked to high-profile human rights cases such as the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico, and the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018. In “Terror Contagion,” presented at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), Forensic Architecture and a few high-profile collaborators—filmmaker Laura Poitras, musician Brian Eno, and whistleblower Edward Snowden—map a preliminary network of Pegasus’ operations, attempting to visualize the frightening scale of its global reach as well as to humanize the experience of its civilian victims. Mirroring the collaborative nature of Forensic Architecture’s work and the networks that Pegasus is designed to infiltrate, the exhibition fills a subterranean, windowless gallery with a dense web of interconnected films and videos that feature interviews with people targeted by the spyware alongside haunting, disturbingly beautiful data visualizations of these attacks and how they are interconnected. Explanations of how the ...
              Teresa Gierzyńska’s “Women Live for Love”
              Ewa Borysiewicz
              Viewers are caught in a crossfire at the start of Polish photographer Teresa Gierzyńska’s first major retrospective. On the facing walls of Zachęta National Gallery hang two self-portraits. The black-and-white images Left-handed I and Left-handed II (both 1980) show the artist pointing a crude reflex camera towards the center of the gallery. With this simple gesture, she communicates that she’s in charge here. Born in 1947, Gierzyńska trained as a sculptor in the studio of Oskar Hansen, who encouraged her “to experiment, to question the existing rules.” Gierzyńska's experiment is not merely formal or technical, but extends to challenging the patriarchic status quo. It is, first and foremost, an existential decision: a way of living and making art. The “About Her” series (1979–present) introduces a number of the techniques by which Gierzyńska pursues this project, and this first part of the show is prefaced by a revealing quote from the artist: “I talk about intimacy, love, loneliness, femininity, motherhood, puberty, relationships […] in a rather quiet voice, even a whisper.” Her photographs are colored with aniline, while details are added with pen and pencil; other images are copied and reframed. These intimate pieces cover one wall without an immediately discernible order, resembling ...
              Claudia Gutiérrez Marfull’s “There is No Paradise Without Snakes”
              Gaby Cepeda
              The idea of the periphery implies a metropolitan center around which everything revolves. As cities become ever-more expensive and policed, they effectively turn their poorer citizens into an extrinsic workforce, pricing them out of central areas and forcing them to commute. Claudia Gutiérrez Marfull’s textiles capture the sorts of exurban landscapes that workers who live in the peripheries are likely to witness daily. Her delicate embroideries in “No hay paraíso sin serpientes” [There is no paradise without snakes], made with chunky acrylic and natural wool on Aida cloth, depict neglected areas of Puente Alto, the most populous commune in Chile, on the edge of Santiago. In one of the two 2020 works whose shared title lends the show its name, Gutiérrez Marfull represents an overpass leading nowhere atop a dry stream bed using tight, colorful stitches. The weeds are tall, the concrete bridge mossy. Graffiti dots the area, as do a few trees. A few dark, elongated clouds cross the blue sky. In the second embroidery of the same title, a graffitied concrete wall obscures everything but the red roof of a beige building standing in the background. Beneath the gray sky, a couple of yellow trees sit in ...
              “Witch Hunt”
              Kim Córdova
              “Witch Hunt” opens with an unnerving chill courtesy of El agua del Río Bravo (2021), a sculptural installation by Teresa Margolles that envelops visitors ascending the Hammer’s steps in air cooled by water gathered from the Río Bravo, along the US-Mexican border, by residents of the Casa Respetttrans women’s shelter. The work sets the tone for an exhibition responding to today’s generalized culture of misogyny with powerful work by an international roster of midcareer women artists. It may be tempting to assume that the show’s title is mere allegory: that concerns about cabals of female devil worship no longer occupy the minds of contemporary Americans. But a cursory review of the news, from Pizzagate to the “lock her up” refrain against Hillary Clinton and death threats against AOC, show that women who threaten to disrupt male power will continue to be accused of evil. And where witch hunts once referred to the persecution of the weak by the powerful, the script flipped in 1973 when Richard Nixon used the term to denounce the Watergate hearings, setting in motion a pattern of powerful men—most notably Donald Trump—claiming to be the subjects of exactly such a threat. This show across two institutions ...
              Sonya Rapoport’s “Fabric Paintings”
              Danica Sachs
              In 1970, Sonya Rapoport unlocked an antique architect’s desk she had purchased a decade earlier and discovered a trove of geological survey maps from the early 1900s. Using the information on the maps as a starting point, Rapoport began drawing and embroidering directly on the sheets in what she called her “Nu Shu language,” a visual lexicon the artist developed in reference to a tongue used only by women in the Hunan region of China. As the artist tells it in a 2006 essay, this moment marked an aesthetic shift, opening a new line of creative inquiry that would anchor her practice for decades. The artworks exhibited at Casemore Kirkeby, however, make clear that in fact there were inklings of these developments a few years prior to the artist’s revelatory moment with the maps in the desk. Here, in a selection of sculptural paintings made from 1964 to ’67, Rapoport uses upholstery fabric as her primary substrate, both for tracing the gaudy floral patterns in paint, and for stenciling curvilinear, abstract forms that mark the first instances of the artist’s transcription of her visual language into her artwork. Viewed alongside several drawings made during the same period, the exhibition reveals ...
              “Crip Time”
              Kenny Fries
              The sign next to the interior ramp at the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK) indicates that it is too steep for wheelchair users. Though there is an elevator to access the three floors of exhibition space, the inaccessible ramp and its sign form an apt metaphor for the “Crip Time” exhibit. Disability/feminist/queer scholar Alison Kafer defines crip time as follows: “rather than bend disabled bodies and minds to meet the clock, crip time bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds.” By this definition “Crip Time”—unlike Shannon Finnegan’s refashioned one-handed clocks, Have you ever fallen in love with a clock? (2021), in which the days of the week replace numbers—has not bent the clock nearly enough. An entire major museum dedicated to disability-related work from 41 international artists and collaboratives is a big deal; as far as I know, on this scale it’s unprecedented. But the work is shown without the necessary cultural, historical, and political context. Too many times one is forced to ask how the work relates to crip time and, even when the connection is obvious, it is too often in the medical model of disability, in which the body’s impairment is at issue, rather ...
              April Bey’s “Atlantica, The Gilda Region”
              Ikechúkwú Onyewuenyi
              What is the blueprint for Black liberation? And where does Afrofuturism fit into it? As if in response to political philosopher Joy James’s charge that Black liberation lacks a workable model, April Bey’s immersive two-room installation offers ways to reimagine Black futurity and governance against the civilizing agenda of European humanism and the afterlife of colonial dependence. At the magenta-lit entrance, dubbed The Portal Room, I’m greeted by an effervescent ecology of live plants. On opposing walls, framing the room like clasped hands, are two time-lapse videos—Julia and Namibia (all works 2021)—showing calatheas (also known as prayer-plants) bowing and bending to the revolutionary sounds of Super Mama Djombo. The Guinea-Bissau funk band’s name venerates Mama Djombo, an initiation spirit who presides over an uncleared sacred forest in Cobiana. That Mama Djombo grew in popularity during the anti-colonial struggle in Guinea-Bissau underscores an idea that varied acts of spirituality—from song to ecological conservation—are central to emancipated Black futures. Continuing with a sense of sonic spirituality, the next room, titled “The Gilda Region” after Jewelle Gomez’s 1991 speculative novel The Gilda Stories, displays three wall vinyl pieces; two murals composed of high-gloss photographs and faux fur; and eight large paintings and hanging tapestries ...
              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 ...
              “The Machine of the World: Art and Industry in Brazil”
              Oliver Basciano
              A few days before I visited the Pinacoteca, I witnessed a traffic accident. At a busy intersection in downtown São Paulo—medics and military police already in attendance—a motorcyclist lay on the oily tarmac, his crumpled bike to one side. He was going to survive, it seemed, but his recuperation might take a while. Particularly telling was the fluorescent orange food delivery box abandoned on the ground next to him. The workers’ rights activist group Treta no Trampo has recently been fighting for those working in Brazil’s gig economy, targeting low pay, dangerous working conditions, and contracts that leave those injured at work on the breadline. The tech might now be more advanced, but the fact that worker exploitation is as old as industry was brought home to me by Eugênio Sigaud’s 1944 painting Acidente de trabalho [Work Accident]. Included in the group show “A máquina do mundo” [The machine of the world], this social-realist canvas depicts a man sprawled on the ground of a building site, his fate equally unknown, as colleagues look down from the precarious scaffolding and ropes far above. Sigaud’s painting is among the oldest squeezed into this 120-year survey of art dealing with Brazilian industrial ...
              Johannes Phokela’s “Only Sun in The Sky Knows How I Feel (A Lucid Dream)”
              Sean O’Toole
              In February 1959, Walter Menzl walked into Munich’s Alte Pinakothek and splashed acid over Peter Paul Rubens’s The Fall of the Damned (ca. 1620), a baroque vision of biblical end times replete with corpulent humans being consumed by horned demons and fanged animals. Contemporary news photographs show museum staff conveying the three-meter-tall painting, its center visibly stained, like a stricken soldier. That stain, the residue of an action intended by Menzl to jolt the television-gawping masses and draw attention to his own unpublished writings, is central to understanding Johannes Phokela’s work, pictorially as much as conceptually. In 1993, six years after relocating from Johannesburg to London, Phokela presented his master’s degree show at the Royal College of Art. His budding interest in iconoclasm was summarized in Original Sin - Fall of the Damned as Damaged, 1959 (1993), a compact, murky reproduction of the vandalized Rubens painting. The work features two embellishments: a red dot and pink oval at the topmost point of the stain. Such geometric appendices would become a hallmark of his classically influenced and technically accomplished figure paintings. Also part of Phokela’s degree work was a larger canvas, Fall of the Damned (Yellow) (1993), which resembles Guy Head’s ...
              Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement, “A Goodbye Letter, A Love Call, A Wake-Up Song” 
              Filipa Ramos
              Green is toxic, alienating, envious. Green is hopeful, lush, prosperous. Chromakey backgrounds and laser diodes are green: they can place something somewhere else by using a color that is as natural as it is artificial. The organic and the synthetic meet in green. And it is via an ever-changing strip of electric green, presented on a 17-meter long LED video display, that I first encounter the 2021 Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement, curated by the Centre d’Art Contemporain’s director Andrea Bellini and the New York-based collective DIS (Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, Marco Roso, and David Toro, whose 2016 Berlin Biennale polarized opinions and traced generational gaps like few other artistic proposals). Riccardo Benassi’s Daily Dense Dance Desiderio (DDDD) (2021), a three-minute video loop presented at the Champel Léman station in Geneva, allures biennale visitors and random train commuters alike with its inebriating sound, hypnotic imagery, and poetic reveries. With this installation, the artist turns the station’s calm hallway into a soft rave where semi-abstract images pulsate to the rhythm of a gentle, danceable melody, over which sentences about bodies, technology, and affects float intermittently. DDDD brings together organic, synthetic, and linguistic matter: out-of-focus hands may well be tentacles, iridescent lines ...
              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 ...
              “quelque part entre le silence et les parlers”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              At the entrance to the Centre d’Art Contemporain de Malakoff on the outskirts of Paris, I am met with a mass-produced, generic “Oriental-style” rug into which an Arabic word has been burned, a word which transliterates to inteqaal. It can mean the movement of persons from one country or place to another, or the transition from life to death. It also describes the time when something ends, such as the end of a regime or the end of belonging resulting from immigration and exile. Oran-based artist Sadek Rahim burned the word into the rug—in some places straight through it—by dripping refined petroleum made from Algerian crude oil into its synthetic ground and then setting it on fire. The rug is part of Rahim’s installation Mouvement (2020), which encompasses a slim plinth standing in front of the rug with a GPS Garmin 73 device sitting atop it. This model is the one most used by harragas [burners], the North Africans who destroy their papers and cross the Mediterranean in search of economic stability. Rahim’s work is thus centered on a word that marks a slippage between physical and metaphysical transitions. It introduces a group exhibition entitled “quelque part entre le ...
              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 ...
              Lorna Simpson’s Everrrything
              Fanny Singer
              A horizon line of celestial bodies runs around the first room of Lorna Simpson’s solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles. In each of these collages, the figure of a woman has been cut away from a printed photographic image and placed over another of a night sky, revealing, through the negative space of her form, a window onto the cosmos. The show’s title is borrowed from the first piece you encounter, a ten-part work stretching out like a necklace, or a string of stars perhaps, across the north wall. This opening gallery contains four multi-part works, and three discrete ones (all from 2021), of nearly identical scale and media: all are intimate collages affixed to rough, indigo-hued handmade paper. Of the twenty-four pieces in the first room, the majority have the same source material: nineteenth- or early twentieth-century astronomical charts, illustration plates depicting constellations of stars and planets and celestial events. Simpson’s muses are sourced—as her female subjects so often are—from vintage magazines like Jet or Ebony, or pin-up calendars. These dazzling pieces are both tidy and careful, yet strangely unpredictable, as if Simpson had allowed the process of excising the female silhouettes to approach automatic drawing rather ...
              Andrew Norman Wilson
              Jared Quinton
              Last month, a strike by over 60,000 members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) was narrowly averted by last-minute negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers; the union will vote to ratify its new contract on Friday. This felt like a fitting backdrop for the opening of an exhibition which uses the tricks and trappings of the art world to make insidious labor politics slightly less ignorable. Andrew Norman Wilson’s solo presentation at the MIT List Visual Arts Center pairs two short features about workers navigating increasingly obsolete roles in corporate systems that produce mass media: the video Kodak (2019), a fictionalized account of a blinded former employee of the Kodak corporation, and Wilson’s new film Impersonator (2021), which follows a houseless, out-of-work character impersonator as he wanders the fringes of the Los Angeles film industry. Wilson’s work treads the (often uneasy) territory between cinema and contemporary art. The two films, around 30 and 20 minutes respectively, play alternately on projection screens at either end of the List Center’s project space, which has been painted entirely black. Drawing techniques from documentary, montage, animation, and big-budget Hollywood, the works operate in a cinematic idiom that ...
              Hurvin Anderson’s “Reverb”
              Kevin Brazil
              The first painting you see on entering Thomas Dane’s white-cube gallery—one of the two Duke Street spaces devoted to Hurvin Anderson’s “Reverb”—is called Skylarking (all works 2021). In a two-meter tall canvas, three small figures stand in the lower foreground. A woman, to the left, looks away from the viewer. Another, in the middle, looks to the right, partially obscuring the face of a man standing behind her. Are they looking at one another? Conversing? Above loom palm trees in bursts of dark green, aquamarine, and lime—above, albeit only on the surface of a canvas. The size of the trees in relation to the diminutive figures makes it hard to situate both in a coherent three-dimensional space, one which further dissolves in the lower half of the canvas as the paint thins into long thin drips. In their frozen interactions, and in their relationship to the trees, these figures are at once proximate and distant; almost touching, yet floating in unarticulated space. This sensation of proximity and distance is produced by all the paintings in this show, even when, as is more common, no human figures appear. Each work, rendered in oil, depicts a hotel complex in northern Jamaica, where Anderson’s ...
              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 ...
              17th MOMENTA Biennale, “Sensing Nature”
              Xenia Benivolski
              The seventeenth edition of MOMENTA seeks to map out alternate ways of sensing the natural world and, in return, to allow nature to respond in ways imagined, projected, and real. Curated by Stefanie Hessler with Camille Georgeson-Usher, Maude Johnson, and Himali Singh Soin, the biennale comprises fifteen exhibitions scattered throughout the city’s institutions and galleries, which offer divergent perspectives from the points of view of air, water, land, animal, and plant life. These projects tether the exhibition to the site of Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang/Montréal, and expand the local context by letting global contemporary issues resonate throughout. On opening day, a group gathered to see TEIONHENKWEN Supporters of Life, a new installation in a city park by Montréal’s Grande Bibliothèque, where artist and ethnobotanist T’uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss, in collaboration with Silverbear and Joce TwoCrows Mashkikii Bimosewin Tremblay, planted an elaborate garden of indigenous plants, carefully researched for their medicinal and ceremonial properties. The garden is a new start: walking between the wooden crates, viewers take part in a social gathering between groups of plants and of humans. This encounter proposes a novel way of moving through the biennial, through touch, smell, and the presence of the entities that prompt one to ponder the priorities and ...
              “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 ...
              “The Cool and the Cold”
              Ryan Ruby
              I am standing in front of two full-length portraits, each just over 200 centimeters tall. The one on the left is a gray-scale screen print; in it, a man in a billowy shirt with a popped collar, jeans, and cowboy boots has emerged from the void to draw a revolver from the holster at his hip, which he points at the viewer. The one on the right is painted in thick, dark oils; it shows a man in a black three-piece suit and polka dot tie, his hands in his trouser pockets, standing in his study, before wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a desk covered in a red, tasseled table cloth, on which the viewer can make out two candlesticks and a set of miscellaneous papers. The subject of the first painting is Elvis Presley. The subject of the second: Vladimir Lenin. These two portraits—Andy Warhol’s Elvis Presley (Single Elvis) (1964) and Dmitriy Nalbandyan's Lenin (1980–82) respectively—flank the entrance of “The Cool and the Cold: Painting in the USA and the USSR 1960-1990,” a selection of over 125 pieces from the collection of the late chocolate manufacturer and art historian Peter Ludwig and his wife Irene, now on view at the Gropius ...
              Arseny Zhilyaev’s “The Monotony of the Pattern Recognizer”
              Valentin Diaconov
              Arseny Zhilyaev’s “The Monotony of the Pattern Recognizer”—an installation of more than a hundred untitled paintings, wall-texts, neon sculptures, collages, and other works arranged according to a series of speculative concepts that comprises his exhibition at Moscow Museum of Modern Art—seems to have been thought out while stoned. “Imagine TENET,” the show seems to propose, “not the Christopher Nolan flick but a freight spaceship lost in some faraway quadrant of the universe, and its AI stumbles upon the Sator Square palindrome from Pompeii, you know, the one reading SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS, and starts to unpack it and reconstructs the whole history of European art, from the Romans to the Moderns, in coded images! And… maybe we all are living in a simulation that is created by that AI to get in contact with sentient life and bring us whatever cargo it has on board!” This sci-fi premise is beguiling by itself, but Zhilyaev, nothing if not studious, brings the idea into relation with the wealth of contexts he has explored in the past. Prominent among these is avant-garde museology: an umbrella term for a number of early Soviet practices that seek to recontextualize histories from class ...
              Brussels Gallery Weekend
              Vivian Sky Rehberg
              Having moved to “the capital of Europe” just last August, I approached the 14th edition of Brussels Gallery Weekend (BGW) aiming not to reckon with changes in the city’s cultural landscape, or discern the features of a much-touted “new normal,” but to focus on the present. I started with “Generation Brussels,” an exhibition of young Brussels-based artists without gallery representation, sponsored by BGW since 2018. Spread across two venues, the thematic focal points this year were gender, identity, space, and environment. In their curatorial statement, Dagmar Dirkx and Zeynep Kubat declared individualism dead, lauded collaboration, and opposed binary divisions (nature/culture, artist/curator, etc.). This overly familiar discourse and thematic framework belied the curators’ sensitivity in arranging a true medley of mixed-media installations, videos, photographs, and textile works, many of which seem to have been produced with the strictest economy of means. Amongst these, at the Tour à Plomb sports and culture center, Günbike Erdemir’s ramshackle burlap tent At the horizon of the evening of no return (2020) arose from the ground floor like some arcane pagan shelter, eerily lit and replete with small paintings of fantastical creatures and ritualistic scenes, pillows, and wooden bookstands built for reading on the floor. Upstairs, ...
              Shuruq Harb’s “Ghost at the Feast”
              Marwa Arsanios
              How can one write about Shuruq Harb’s work when the work itself is already a wonderful text about the potential of writing? At first glance, one could be fooled into thinking that the artist’s questioning of a dominant visual culture tackles its subject straightforwardly, through images, only to be surprised at how essential writing, text, and language are to the work. Not that they were ever separate to begin with. The more one delves into “Ghost at the Feast”—Harb’s solo exhibition at Beirut Art Centre, comprising five video installations and sculptures made over the past decade—the more one understands that the images’ “duty” is to make the text appear, while the text pushes the image to the margins and slowly breaks its supremacy. What we hear or read in this exhibition is at the same time a caption, a poem, a press release, and a beautiful literary form. This tense, unresolved, and dialectical relation between what is pictured and what is written opens up the question of how text is used to structure and support the image. Harb’s exhibition takes this question to the level of the unconscious. Language here becomes a manifestation of an accessible—but not necessarily understandable—part of the unconscious, ...
              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 ...
              Conceição dos Bugres’s “The Nature of the World”
              Oliver Basciano
              Over a hundred pairs of inky-black eyes stare out of their glass vitrines. These are Conceição Freitas da Silva’s “bugres”: the diminutive figures that for over two decades until her death in 1984 the Brazilian artist carved from tree trunks and branches. The short smiles of some disarm, the longer grimaces of others give a more forlorn, or on occasion menacing, disposition. Their arms and legs are mostly demarcated by the slightest carved line, their heads flat-pated and running with the merest hint of neck into the stocky bodies. Their gender is indeterminate. Such was Conceição’s connection with the creatures that preoccupied her whole life—she made nothing else—she adopted the moniker Conceição dos [of] Bugres. In the majority the bugres—a colonial-era racist slur for indigenous workers offensively perceived as “lazy buggers”—have a pale, yellowish, complexion that stems from the paraffin wax the artist used to decorate her carved figures. Most have a bob of straight painted black hair. Conceição had Kaingang heritage, an ethnicity native to southern Brazil: “I think that Indians have heads like that,” she said. “That’s the only way for it to come out.” Each of them possesses uniformity, to a point. Yet the longer you spend ...
              34th Bienal de São Paulo, “Though it’s dark, still I sing”
              Felipe Molitor
              In recent years, the common description of Brazil as a “polarized” country has shaped a national identity forged in resentment, which only fuels the fantasy that two equally radical factions are in dispute and that one must be annihilated. The 34th Bienal de São Paulo marks an attempt to avert this dystopia, guided by echoes from a distant or recent past. The result is an exhibition that is more reflective than activist, that sets out to listen rather than make claims. It seeks to bring about a meeting between ancestral and contemporary voices, creating a space for dialogue where each can be heard. The show—curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, alongside Paulo Miyada, Ruth Estévez, Francesco Stocchi, and Carla Zaccagnini—opens with the Santa Luiza meteorite, discovered in Goiás in 1921. This survivor of the 2018 fire that gutted the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro (and other cosmic misfortunes) makes a strong opening statement about the ruinous state of the underfunded cultural sector in Brazil (echoed, through the exhibition architecture, by dominant shades of black that conjure an atmosphere of mourning). Contemplation of the object is interrupted by the tinkle and flash of metal pieces being transformed by a hired ...
              “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse”
              Noah Simblist
              “The South got something to say!” declared André 3000 at the 1995 Source Awards, after Outkast were awarded Best New Artist to boos from the audience. Goodie Mob, another Atlanta-based hip-hop group, released a track called “Dirty South” that same year. Both these events are cited by curator Valerie Cassel Oliver, who also notes in her catalogue essay for “The Dirty South” that the term had been in use since at least the 1980s. So what does it mean? We know that the American South is below the Mason–Dixon line, but what’s dirty about the prevalent image of it? Is it the paradox of living with violence and corruption while also celebrating its finer qualities, as Goodie Mob suggests? The Northern fantasy of rural life and unpaved roads that resist Cartesian order? An intermingling of African, European, and Indigenous traditions? This is not the first exhibition to focus on the American South in recent years. In 2016, “Southern Accent” opened at the Nasher Museum: a thirty-year survey show that treated the region as an “emotional idea,” a term borrowed from William Faulkner. What’s new about the VMFA exhibition is its focus on the particularities of Black culture in the ...
              3rd Autostrada Biennale, “What if a Journey...”
              Adam Kleinman
              Whether measured by visitors, tourist revenue, and column inches, or in the more nebulous terms of intellectual, spiritual, and social understanding, it’s worth asking: is growth an inherently good thing for a biennial? Each of these developmental metrics can be applied to the Autostrada Biennale, now in its third iteration, as it partners with a larger institution: the peregrinating European biennial Manifesta, which lands in Pristina in 2022. Curated by Övül Ö. Durmuşoğlu and Joanna Warsza, “What if a Journey…” plays on the series of postwar highway projects, collectively known as the Autostrada, that link the nation’s three main cities and hosts for this exhibition—Pristina, Prizren, and Peja—to each other and to neighboring countries. Featuring 30 artists and collectives in venues ranging from a library in Pristina to a bar in Peja, it grows a project founded in 2014 by Vatra Abrashi, Leutrim Fishekqiu, and Barış Karamuço as the first contemporary art institution in Prizren. In the nation’s capital, two large-scale installations pivot from infrastructure to flora, and back again. Agnes Denes’s Sunflower Fields (2021) finds the artist planting a radiant sea of sunflowers within a drab city plaza awash with crumbling concrete. As charming as it is seemingly ...
              Pejvak’s “If Need Be”
              Xenia Benivolski
              The slippery narratives in “If Need Be” by Pejvak, an artist collective formed of Felix Kalmenson and Rouzbeh Akhbari, blend fact and fiction. Working as intermediaries, Pejvak channel a larger collective—of artists, writers, authors, playwrights, composers, miniaturists, calligraphers, and translators both imaginary and real, dead and alive—with whom they appear to collaborate across the centuries. Their work fills historical gaps with selective, hyper-surreal auto-fictions, forging new myths from overlapping narrative elements that hint at the bio-political agency of water, residue, plant life, and people. In the entrance to the first exhibition hall is Cold-Chain Logistics (2021), a cold, sweating pipe that runs around the perimeter of a small bridge leading to a half-closed roll-up door reminiscent of those on water-delivery trucks. Step into the rectangular metal loop, and you are enveloped by the smell of copper and iron. The scent, diffused by the evaporating water on the surface of the pipe, conjures associations with blood, the earth, and the cosmos. Metal alloys have also been the subject of much local conflict in areas of Soviet industrialization and resource extraction. Cold-Chain Logistics thus establishes the tone of an exhibition that connects multiple landscapes, photographs, and sites of interest throughout eastern Eurasia ...
              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 ...
              sonsbeek20→24, “force times distance: on labour and its sonic ecologies”
              Rachael Rakes
              Early on in the preview for sonsbeek20→24, I started thinking about art historian James Elkins’s Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings (2001). Among the book’s touching elements is a seriously brooding table of contents: “Crying at the Empty Sea of Faith,” “Crying at nothing but colors,” and so on. At the risk of over-performing my own sentimentality, the press conference, of all things, set the exhibition up for me in a similar way. Instead of procedural speeches, there were testimonies on overwork and the uneven distribution of rest from co-curators Amal Alhaag and Aude Christel Mgba (Antonia Alampi and Zippora Elders complete the team with support from Krista Jantowski), artistic director Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung’s remarks about assembling through and despite resonant bitter histories, and several other expressions of weariness, resilience, anger, and pride. These statements were interspersed with live choral music performed by Black Dutch gospel group G-Roots, whose songs felt programmed to raise energy and spike emotion. The form and feeling of this event set an affective index for the exhibition’s opening days. The press conference took place in St. Eusebius Church, a sixteenth-century landmark in Arnhem that doubles ...
              Naeem Mohaiemen’s “Jole Dobe Na”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              Naeem Mohaiemen’s new film, which lends its title to this solo exhibition of his work at the Bildmuseet in Umeå, opens with an image of a beautiful young woman. Sufiya, played by Kheya Chattopadhyay, is standing with her eyes closed, her head caught between two old-fashioned surgery lights covered in dust. In Listening to Images (2017), Tina Campt follows Fred Moten in asking “what is the sound that precedes the image?”; the question comes unbidden into my mind as a landline telephone begins to ring softly but insistently off screen, forcing the woman to open her eyes and return to the surface of the world. As the film cuts to a slow panning shot of the crumbling façade of the abandoned Lohia Hospital in Kolkota—formerly a maternity hospital—I wonder what this woman heard in the privacy of her own mind before she faced the ruinous present. According to the exhibition guide, Mohaiemen’s work is “a counter-history of minor events” that destabilize grand historical narratives using imaginative annotation, slow panning shots, and speculative documentary strategies. I think that both the exhibition and the film are more profoundly about the frequency at which loss becomes audible, sensible. For example, the installation of ...
              “Ora et lege”
              Emily McDermott
              Sister Francesca Stanislava Šimuniová gave a speech at the opening of “Ora et lege” (“pray and read”). I can only speculate about what the nun said—she was speaking in Czech—but her presence, along with that of Sister Lucia Wagner, reflected this exhibition’s point of departure: It is not critical of or in opposition to religious belief; rather, curator Monika Čejková proposes contemporary art as a way to bring values of the Benedictine Order into a secular positioning, namely that of the “holy reading” ritual. The six participating artists—Ed Atkins, Kamilla Bischof, Jesse Darling, Liam Gillick, Martin Kohout, Florian Meisenberg, and the collective Slavs and Tatars—have responded to the site through artworks and texts, reflecting the Benedictine daily practice of lectio, meditatio, and oratio (reading, meditation, and prayer). Entering St. Adalbert’s Church, Baroque frescos and architectural elements juxtapose Gothic wooden pews covered with graffitied inscriptions of Czech and German names, along with the occasional phrase. These markings were likely made by students at the grammar school that operated within the monastery from 1624 through to 1939—all but one, that is. On the second pew in the row, an uncannily new engraving reads “silence of the perpetual choire in heaven, 23 June ...
              “Chicago Works: Omar Velázquez”
              Harry Burke
              At the center of artist and musician Omar Velázquez’s first solo museum presentation is a sequence of four landscape paintings. Evocative of eerie, enlarged postcards, they depict disquieting Puerto Rican pastoral scenes. In Baracutey (2020), the slender neck of a white heron is throttled by a loop of metal wire. The gasping bird stands upon a squat wooden pig; nearby, a green lizard scuttles up a slanting tree. Between is an emptied bottle of Lysol surface cleaner, propped like a pennant on a wooden stick driven into a hump of pointillist grass. In An Eye for the Tropics (2006), her study of the role of photography in early twentieth-century marketing of Jamaica and the Bahamas to tourists, Krista A. Thompson discusses the complex processes of “tropicalization” by which the Caribbean was fashioned as a “paradise.” She describes how images, consumed in the context of a sightseeing culture that burgeoned with the decline of agricultural industries, became the “new sugar.” The art-historical tradition of the picturesque—reformatted to accent the exoticism of the tropics, as perceived from an imperial viewpoint—informed this development. This imported European aesthetic shaped landscaping conventions and racialized island terrains. By probing this lineage, Velázquez’s paintings connect contemporary patterns ...
              Tursic & Mille’s “Strange Days” 
              Kevin Brazil
              Tursic & Mille’s Blue Monday (January) (all works 2021), an oil painting on a wood panel, depicts a young woman in a gingham dress sitting at a table. She is staring with confused disgust at her fingers, covered in the blue paint that lies, in a viscous blob, on the surface in front of her. Or rather, on the surface of the wood panel. Or rather: both on the table and on the panel at the same time, for the blue is so thickly applied that, disrupting the illusion, it reminds us that a painting is always matter and representation at once. Like this girl, Tursic & Mille are transfixed by this fundamental fact about painting: a fact and a fixation, which seems to unsettle as much as it captivates. Each painting in “Strange Days,” Tursic & Mille’s first UK solo show, has a month of the year as a subtitle. These works, along with two sculptures of painted dogs, were all painted in 2021, yet the calendar they constitute serves as a summary of the concerns that the Serbian artist Ida Tursic and the French Wilfried Mille have explored since beginning to work together in the early 2000s. They start ...
              “Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys”
              Aaina Bhargava
              Hong Kong’s art history has traditionally been overshadowed by its status as a trading post for galleries and institutions showcasing internationally established artists. “Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys,” an exhibition organized by Asia Art Archive (AAA), brings different stories to light by exploring what archives are and can be. Claire Hsu and Johnson Chang founded AAA in Hong Kong in 2000, with the objective of documenting existing and developing Asian art histories from Asian perspectives. Their action anticipated wider movements advocating the reclaiming of historical narratives, which have in recent years dominated discourses engulfing the art world and cultural sphere. Now home to one of the most valuable and comprehensive collections of materials pertaining to recent and contemporary Asian art, AAA demonstrates how crucial archives are to local art ecosystems, as well as to artists’ practices. By making the process of documentation accessible, they make the unseen seen. Curated by Michelle Wong, a former researcher at AAA, this exhibition stems from a project initiated by the institution in 2014, delving into the vast personal archives of the late self-taught Hong Kong artist Ha Bik Chuen (1925–2009). Ha’s collection of printed materials including exhibition catalogues, art books, and photographs—known as his “thinking ...
              Caline Aoun’s “Sedimentary Matters”
              Rahel Aima
              Summer, muggy and punishing. In another city we might rely on our bodies to index its various accumulations: sunlight, sweat, melanin. Here, we use our cars. Steering wheels and leather seats that scald palms and thighs and—I had forgotten until I found myself hurtling down the highway unable to see—windows that fog up with the contrast between the hot, soupy air outside and our blessedly air-conditioned interiors. Since moving back to Dubai from Brooklyn earlier this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about terroir. What would work that reflects these atmospheric conditions, the filmy dust and sticky heat, look and feel like? In Caline Aoun’s “Sedimentary Matters,” the uber-minimalist gallery is recast as an alluvial plain. There’s a rare sense of overflow and sensuous excess that overwhelms the space’s usual affective straitjacket. Things accrete into a material typology: ink, shadows, humidity, and the ghosts of all the other shows that have happened there. Upon entering the space, viewers encounter Condensations of the Invisible Space (all works 2021), a machine placed upon a high, spindly table with attached piping that goes through the wall. Those more mechanically literate might identify a fridge and compressor parts. On the other side is an ...
              Maxwell Alexandre’s “Pardo é Papel”
              Oliver Basciano
              In early 2020 I attended a protest outside the police headquarters in downtown São Paulo. The small crowd had come to hear from the relatives of nine young people, all Black, who had been killed in a stampede when police fired rubber bullets indiscriminately across a packed baile, a dance party, in the south of the city. The authorities claim that these nights are a hotbed of gang activity and are rife with drugs. One young woman who spoke to the crowd, her voice flat, described how her 16-year-old brother, Dennys, worked six days a week to support the family and went to the party on his one day off. He never came home. This May, 27 residents of Jacarezinho, in Rio de Janeiro, died during a drug raid. Earlier this month, a young woman called Kathlen Romeu, who was pregnant, was fatally caught in the crossfire of a police shootout in the north of the city. Both police violence and parties are subjects of the thirteen paintings by Maxwell Alexandre at Instituto Tomie Ohtake. In one work from “Pardo é Papel”—the series that dominates the exhibition and in which the artist depicts his scenes of favela life using acrylic, ...
              Glasgow International
              Rosanna Mclaughlin
              On my way to Tramway in Glasgow’s Southside I spot the artist Jenkin van Zyl walking past the McDonald’s on Pollokshaws Road. I know it’s van Zyl because I watched an online video about his make-up routine. He’s wearing prosthetic horns, hooks for hands, and nothing much on the bottom half, except for some strapping that reveals pretty much the whole of his arse. Van Zyl’s film Machines of Love (2020–21), showing at Tramway as part of Glasgow’s biennial arts festival, unfolds like a World of Warhammer cosplay fantasy with heavy shades of Paul McCarthy, in which a group of orc-like people with rat teeth and squashed noses conduct squalid sex games in an underground lair. The prosthetics are impressive, yet while van Zyl has understood the look, after 40 minutes of writhing around it’s less clear what he wants to say with it: a problem endemic in a culture that specializes in polishing and grafting pre-existing aesthetics. The theme for this year’s festival is “attention.” During an era in which convoluted curatorial agendas have become de rigueur, director Richard Parry has opted for the opposite approach, picking one so open that you’d be hard pressed to find an artwork to ...
              13th Shanghai Biennale, “Bodies of Water”
              When “Bodies of Water,” the 13th edition of the Shanghai Biennale, opened in November last year, it adopted a fluid approach to programming in response to the pandemic. In place of the traditional biennale format was a multi-platform “in crescendo” project comprising three “phases” and lasting a total of eight months. The first two of these, “A Wet-Run Rehearsal” and “An Ecosystem of Alliance,” featured live events, screenings, and discussions—held within the Power Station of Art (PSA), in art spaces along the Yangtze river, and online—that explored the exhibition’s central concerns: ecology, hydrology, posthumanism, and the interconnectedness of all lifeforms on earth. In the midst of a pandemic precipitated by zoonosis, these are timely concerns. In April this year “The Exhibition,” the biennale’s third and final phase, opened in the PSA. This massive decommissioned power station, modelled on London’s Tate Modern, was in 2012 repurposed as the first state-run museum of contemporary art on mainland China. Situated on the banks of the Huangpu River, which the electric plant helped to industrialize, it is an apt location for an exhibition that emphasizes the inseparability of humans from the natural world they exploit. Curated by architect, researcher, and writer Andrés Jaque ...
              “Portals” 
              Ben Eastham
              The editors of this publication keep a list of words and phrases that writers are to be strongly discouraged from using. On it are examples of curatorial bluster and authorial overreach (“In these times”), individually blameless words against which one editor maintains a personal vendetta (“oeuvre”), and a selection of quotes from canonical literature that have, by adoption into the catchphrase kitty of contemporary art, been entirely separated from their original meaning. So imagine my feeling when I discovered one of those blacklisted lines—Samuel Beckett’s “Fail again […] fail better”—mounted in giant steel letters outlined by LED lights on the façade of Athens’ new cultural center. In fairness to Nikos Navridis, the artist responsible for transforming Beckett’s meditation on the void into a city-scale motivational mantra, his piece illustrates how a work of art can be interpreted in ways contradictory to its maker’s intentions. The artist is entitled to construe the line as he chooses, or it might even be that he wants local residents to reflect on the purposelessness of existence when buying oranges at the neighborhood market over which his sign looms. Either way, this reminder of art’s tendency to slip the leash of simple meaning offers a ...
              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 ...
              Maysha Mohamedi’s “Sacred Witness Sacred Menace”
              Fanny Singer
              I cannot stop thinking about the quality of Maysha Mohamedi’s facture. There are a number of different styles of brushstroke—or, perhaps more accurately, applications of paint—deployed in Mohamedi’s first solo show at Parrasch Heijnen, but, in particular, there is one type of line, thin and febrile, that struck me as completely original. It’s unusual to discover something like this in contemporary abstract painting; young artists are inevitably rearranging, for the most part—sometimes brilliantly—familiar, anthologized marks. There is a sense that only a finite quantity of maneuvers are possible when it comes to the meeting of pigment and surface. Here is a line, however, rendered in oil with a minute brush, that denies the sumptuousness of the medium. A line that, in effect, does what oil paint does not want to do: it creeps anxiously across a spare ground, it does not fatten, grow tumid with thinner, or spill blearily beyond itself. As if responding to my scrutiny, this line appears—on each canvas applied at different frequencies—to jump like the reading of a seismometer’s jittery needle during a series of minor earthquakes, or, in other places, to accumulate like a loose mass of Silly String. I think of Joan Mitchell, her ...
              Piotr Łakomy’s “Combined Vessels”
              Ewa Borysiewicz
              Piotr Łakomy’s work reconsiders the classical idea of the human figure as model of good proportion. Recent events have proved beyond any lingering doubt that man is in fact not the measure of all things, and the Polish artist’s latest exhibition focuses on feedback loops between human and nonhuman agents as one alternative source of aesthetic form. Łakomy’s presentation of painting-like sculptures and sculpture-like paintings, composed of both organic and inorganic matter, hints at a possible way out of the nature-culture dichotomy. Łakomy’s points of departure are Le Corbusier and Frederick Kiesler, whose contrasting architectural theories outline the field of his investigations. Le Corbusier’s insistence on rational principles provides Łakomy’s works with their basic structure; Kiesler’s emphasis on fluidity is reflected in the versatile and unpredictable character of the fabrics with which he fills his frames. Best known for his careful, minimalist sculptures, Łakomy has recently gravitated towards an even more ascetic style, reflected in his new sculptures’ nearly two-dimensional design and unified formats. The majority hang with their upper edge 140cm above the ground (the height is conceived to meet the eyeline of the body according to which Le Corbusier’s scale, the Modulor, was ...
              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 ...
              Liverpool Biennial, “The Stomach & The Port”
              Frances Whorrall-Campbell
              The title for the latest Liverpool Biennial, “The Stomach & The Port,” makes direct reference to the tangled threads of global trade and disease transmission, plumbing the history of a city that has, over the last three centuries, found itself at the center of both. The curatorial “entry-points” for the Biennial are “porosity,” “kinship,” and “stomach,” all themes which have taken on new resonance during the Covid-19 pandemic: the show, which spreads from the waterfront up into the city, taking in nine venues and various public commissions, displays a timely fascination with what it means to be a body alongside others in the world. The city’s port, a place of commerce in both people and goods, here serves both as metaphor and as real site of human connection and consumption. Curator Manuela Moscoso's commitment to interrogating the past is particularly striking—and necessary—in light of recent policy moves by the British government to hamstring museums and other cultural organizations in reckoning with the colonial violence embedded in their collections. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, currently making its way through the UK legislature, proposes harsh penalties for those enacting “criminal damage” on a memorial, ignoring the real criminal damage done ...
              Peter Hujar’s “Backstage”
              John Douglas Millar
              “Backstage” is the third solo exhibition of Peter Hujar’s work to be presented at Maureen Paley’s London space since 2008, when the gallery took responsibility for the artist’s estate in the UK. The work is presented across two rooms; a larger space that almost exclusively shows portraits of artists from New York’s thriving drag performance scene of the 1970s, either preparing their costumes and make-up or gloriously composed backstage. These silver-gelatin prints were made by Hujar himself, with three exceptions: a portrait of the filmmaker John Waters, another of his muse Divine, and a group self-portrait showing Hujar jumping in the air with friends. These are all estate ink prints made by Gary Schneider, the artist and master printer trained by Hujar and now widely regarded as one of the finest printmakers alive. He is also the only printer authorized to make editions of Hujar’s work. The second, smaller room displays four further estate prints: an extraordinary nude self-portrait entitled Seated Self-Portrait Depressed (1980); a portrait of Hujar’s friend the writer and raconteur Fran Lebowitz reclining in bed at her parents’ home in Morristown; one of Hujar’s sometime lover, protégé, and friend, the artist David Wojnarowicz, sparking up a cigarette on ...
              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 ...
              Kamrooz Aram and Iman Issa’s “Lives of Forms”
              Vivian Sky Rehberg
              The title of Kamrooz Aram and Iman Issa’s “Lives of Forms,” and the work included in it, is not inspired by French art historian Henri Focillon’s 1934 study Vie des formes, as far as I know. Yet after exploring this kempt trove of paintings, sculptures, and displays, installed in separate galleries devoted to each artist, the art-history geek in me found hope in Focillon’s claim that formal relationships within and among artworks order and serve as a metaphor for the universe. In this universally chaotic period, with this astute artist pairing, curators Silvia Franceschini and Tim Roerig kindle still-combustible frictions between aesthetics and politics by exquisitely accentuating form in relation to the content it conveys. “Lives of Forms” asserts that aesthetic form is always imbricated in the socio-political realities of historical moments. The space in which the artists’ works overlap is at a threshold atop the central staircase, just outside the gallery entrance. There sits a white, ring-shaped bench where you can listen to a disembodied text-to-speech software-generated voice deliver Issa’s looping sound piece The Revolutionary (2010). While doing so, you can gaze toward or away from an interior portico in which Aram’s trim collage of a ceramic vessel ...
              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 ...
              Hanni Kamaly’s “THE MIGHT THEY HAVE”
              Natasha Marie Llorens
              Hanni Kamaly’s lanky sculptures remind me of something an earth scientist in N. K. Jemisin’s 2015 SF novel The Fifth Season said about a mountainous life form: “They are an arcane thing, you understand, an alchemical thing […] Obviously they possess some sort of kinship with humanity, which they choose to acknowledge in the statue-like shape we most often see, but it follows that they can take other shapes. We would never know.” The strangeness of Kamaly’s creatures is similar—impenetrable and infinite, simultaneously. The sculptures are crowded into Index’s exhibition space. Some, such as LAMINE DIENG (2018–21), stoop to fit under its low ceiling. Made of paired solid metal rods and standing on five legs stabilized by at least four joints each, LAMINE DIENG’s formal composition should imply both strength and flexibility, yet it gives the impression of a thing that has been abruptly switched off in the middle of a gesture. The same sense of interruption affects all of Kamaly’s sculptures, and it feels like an act of power intended to limit the development of these careful, dexterous creatures. Jemisin’s novel comes to mind because of the attention the author pays to the violence inflicted upon ...
              John Akomfrah’s “The Unintended Beauty of Disaster”
              Cora Gilroy-Ware
              Viral videos, especially those featuring animals, rarely make a lasting impression. Part of their charm is their innate forgettability. But every now and then there is an exception. In April I came across a video online that has haunted me ever since. Shot by drone from directly above, this 49-second clip centers on a strange spiral made up of hundreds of tiny gray-brown forms moving clockwise over a pale surface. As the camera moves down, we see that these forms are four-legged creatures whose fur ranges from dark taupe to a white brighter than what gradually reveals itself to be snow under their hooves. When the camera retreats back up into the sky, we glimpse another, more dense and fast-paced spiral to the left. A caption states that these are “reindeer cyclones” captured on the Kola Peninsula, the north-eastern part of the area known as the Baltic Shield. Responding to an outside threat, reindeer gather and move in a whorl, keeping their fawns tucked safely in the middle. In the comments under the post, viewers asked what, in this instance, caused the reindeer to behave in this way. “Probably the drone” was the consensus. Not only were these mesmerizing rosettes ...
              Shahryar Nashat’s “THEY COME TO TOUCH” 
              Jonathan Griffin
              I still do not really know what color the fitted carpet is that runs through the three floors of 8762 Holloway Drive in West Hollywood. Some shade of sage green, I’d guess, but it could be more lime, maybe more grass, maybe more gold. I do not know because Shahryar Nashat has covered every window in the building with a pink film (again, hard for my dazzled eyes to calibrate) that suffuses the space in a discombobulating, low-contrast pall—akin to the pulsing non-color that appears when you face into the sun with your eyes closed. I also was not certain, on my visit to Nashat’s exhibition “THEY COME TO TOUCH,” what was in the bags of yellow liquid that slump unpleasantly in the corners of most rooms, although I suspected, and further research has confirmed, that they are filled with piss. A former architect’s office in a 1930s commercial building designed by Rudolph Schindler, 8762 Holloway Drive has seen better days. Tidemarks of caulk on the walls reveal where desks have been ripped out. The greenish carpet is wrinkled and unevenly patched. The building is a stone’s throw from the Sunset Strip, where tourists trundle in open-top minivans past ...
              “A Fire in My Belly”
              Alan Murrin
              This show of 47 works by 36 artists—41 drawn from Julia Stoschek’s collection, augmented by six loans—explores the effects of violence, physical and psychological, on the body and the body politic. The earliest work on display is Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach’s Capri (1911), an oil painting showing a sunset burning out over a darkening coastline; the most recent is Anne Imhof’s Untitled (Wave) (2021), a thirty-minute video wherein a lone figure stands on a shoreline, beating back the oncoming tide with a whip. The show is filled with careful pairings, its emotional register ranging from despair to hope, from the abject to the sublime. It takes its title from David Wojnarowicz’s 1986–87 montage of spinning eyeballs and sewn flesh, mummified corpses and ants crawling over a figurine of the crucified Jesus; on the opposite wall hangs Zoe Leonard’s Untitled Aerial (1998/2008), a photograph of a vast landscape with a river wending through it like a strip of silver ribbon. The two sit in silent communion, the naked landscape a counterbalance to the corporeal concerns of Wojnarowicz’s work. As is so often the case with this show, the wound inflicted by one piece is salved by the next. On entering the space, ...
              Ishi Glinsky’s “Monuments to Survival”
              Christina Catherine Martinez
              It was an emergency. A young brown girl had Tik Tok’d misinformation about the origins of punk. A podcast was assembled. A white expert was brought in. He used to skateboard. He said the girl was “probably a good person” but she didn’t know what she was talking about. A Reddit post began with a list of black and brown punk artists (Pleasure Venom, Big Joanie, Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex) and the thread spiraled into a tangled argument over whether or not they constituted the “real” origins of punk. I can’t believe these arguments are still happening. But then again, I’m still not certain I know what modernism is, only that it has failed us in some way, and I know that similar arguments occur about whether what we call “America” today started with brown people or white people, and what value judgements must attach to each tangled story. Sitting on the ground in the back room of Chris Sharp’s white cube gallery, Ishi Glinsky’s Tohono O’odham Basket (2013) looks like a tangle of wires shaped into a gourd-like vessel, a purposeful twist on the traditional baling wire baskets of his tribe. Each of the five works in this ...
              Monika Grabuschnigg’s “Razed in Isolation”
              Rahel Aima
              We knew that the onslaught of pandemic art was coming. In Monika Grabuschnigg’s “Razed in Isolation,” it arrives by way of parable. Here, the cataclysmic disaster is the most powerful volcanic eruption ever recorded: Mount Tambora, Indonesia, 1815. Volcanic ash blocks the sun, changing the weather and affecting crops on the other side of the world. Things, as the Spice Girls once sang, would never be the same again. At least, according to the exhibition text. This narrative plays out obliquely across a series of flat ceramic works, which are installed on the walls alongside aluminum panels and gnarly, gloopy tire rims. Loosely articulated nude figures cavort across glazed lavalike rocks, all overlapping limbs and orifices and doggy style. It later occurs to me that this kind of thing is probably a bit risqué here in Dubai. The skin tones on view resemble the shade range of a makeup counter up until a few years ago: alabaster, peaches-and-cream, golden, and—other. This is definitely the kind of cinematic event in which all the people of color die first. The largest works suggest volcanic activity of a different kind, namely the plate tectonics of early geologic time. In works like Rite of passage ...
              Kasper Bosmans’s “A Perfect Shop-Front”
              Francesco Tenaglia
              Kasper Bosmans has turned the Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro outside in. On entering his solo exhibition, the visitor is presented with a reproduction of a stylized city: painted onto the walls in shades of red are two ajar doors; assorted memorabilia can be glimpsed through a window display; a mural resembles a fake stone wall; and a thin pink highway painted on the floor, beside which rests an object resembling a discarded necklace, directs the viewer to a red wall on which hang three paintings the size of standard letter paper. Curator Eva Fabbris approached Bosmans about a show before the pandemic. The project morphed over the following months to suit the radically changing conditions, and to reflect art institutions’ ongoing anxiety over how they relate to their audiences. “A Perfect Shop-Front” could be thought of as a kind of trompe l’oeil: the minimal rendering of an urban project within an institution. A tiny strip of the city has percolated into an exhibition space, creating a zone of thresholds in which the boundaries between inside and outside are thin. A serendipitous detail: Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro is located just a few steps from Milan’s Navigli, two artificial water channels built in the ...
              Joachim Bandau’s “Die Nichtschönen. Werke 1967–1974”
              Aoife Rosenmeyer
              At the entrance to Joachim Bandau’s Basel exhibition stands Großes weißes Tor [Large White Gate] (1969/1970), a trio of tall, shiny white columns, each sprouting buffed shoulders and arms that conjoin with its neighbors. Born in Cologne in 1936, Bandau’s childhood was marked by World War Two. He determined to be an artist at 13, after a visit to a Paul Klee exhibition, and went on to study at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, just ahead of Gerhard Richter and Imi Knoebel. Nonetheless, he grew up in the shadow of the figurative sculpture with which the National Socialists underpinned their credo of racial superiority—like Karl Albiker’s strapping athletes that still welcome visitors to Berlin’s Olympic Park—and began to counter this mechanical perfection in his own work. The anthropomorphic columns of Großes weißes Tor make unconvincing titans: the arms might just be thighs; the bulges don’t swell where they ought to. And the structure is modular, easily assembled and just as easily tidied away. It’s a collaged acropolis for a time of jerky social reconfiguration. The initial mood of this selective retrospective, a survey of Bandau’s Nichtschönen [Non-beauties] from 1967 to 1974, is black humor. The Nichtschönen are generously proportioned, fiberglass-reinforced polyester forms, sometimes with ...
              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 ...
              “OTRXS MUNDXS”
              Gaby Cepeda
              The group show “OTRXS MUNDXS,” at Museo Tamayo, is a watershed moment: it’s the first standalone exhibition in the museum’s recent history to focus on young, local artists, all of whom work in Mexico City. Since the museum was founded in 1981, it has largely dedicated its spaces to promoting international artists and spearheading state-private alliances in the museum sector. That this inclusive, self-aware moment arrives in the throes of a pandemic, and likely out of institutional necessity rather than want, is unimportant. Is curating local—if only because of travel restrictions and vanishing state budgets—better than the usual fare of pre-packaged US exhibitions? It is to me. It’s exciting to walk into a show full of familiar names and objects now comfortably nestling in the institutional bosom, which is why it is also disappointing that the conceptual bag into which these practices were thrown is so, well, generic. “OTRXS MUNDXS”—a non-binary spelling of the Spanish for “other worlds”—essentially attempts to other the work of 39 very different artists and artist groups and in doing so make the museum appear sympathetic to the zeitgeist. But there’s a contradiction in claiming these new practices as radical breaks with the past while ...
              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 ...
              Heman Chong’s “Peace Prosperity And Friendship With All Nations”
              Christine Han 
              “PEACE PROSPERITY AND FRIENDSHIP WITH ALL NATIONS,” declares a wall piece mounted beside the entrance to Heman Chong’s solo show at Singapore’s STPI. Written in an all-caps, dripping black font reminiscent of leaking bodily fluids and suggesting violence, the arresting phrase—which lends the exhibition its title—is lifted from a British coin minted to commemorate the UK’s formal withdrawal from the European Union on January 31, 2020. Direct and ambiguous, official and hilarious, the piece combines the playful language of conceptual art with the immediacy and seriousness of contemporary history. In doing so, it sets the tone for an exhibition that brings into focus the artist’s powerful use of appropriation, abstraction, and repetition in addressing the restrictiveness and complexity of the present. In Call for the Dead (2020)—83 black-and-white scans of pages from the eponymous 1961 novel by John Le Carré, screen-printed on linen and hung in a grid-like formation in a long, white-walled gallery—Chong takes his experiments with text into new territory. The Cold War fantasies of the mid-century spy genre might here be read as a comment on decoloniality: the novel was written while Le Carré was working as a spy for MI6—which had a regional outpost in Singapore. ...
              Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir’s “WERK – Labor Move”
              Kimberly Bradley
              Much of the material labor that drives the western world—rubbish collection, farming land, fulfilling Amazon Prime orders—is invisible. Or, in its most exploitative forms, has been made invisible, disappeared for consumers’ benefit in fortress-like fulfillment centers or unsafe garment factories in the Global South. Yet in Hulda Rós Guðnadóttir’s exhibition, manual labor is highlighted, abstracted, and aestheticized. In an elongated, darkened exhibition hall in the Reykjavik Art Museum’s harborside Hafnarhus location, more than 5,000 white cardboard boxes emblazoned in blue with the words “KEEP FROZEN AT -20 OR BELOW; FRESH FROZEN AT SEA” are stacked floor to ceiling; some jut out at regular intervals like decorative building bricks. Lining the walls almost entirely, they envelop the space. These particular boxes are empty, but normally each would contain 25 kilos of frozen fish, to be transported by freezer trawler to Rekyjavik’s harbor, where they are speedily unloaded by teams of dockworkers, entering the economy as one of Iceland’s primary natural resources (tourism only recently surpassed fish as its primary export). We see several of these workers in the three-channel video Labor Move (2016), installed on large, vertically oriented screens suspended at even intervals along the hall’s long interior wall. The on-screen protagonists are ...
              Haig Aivazian’s “All of the Lights”
              Jared Quinton
              One Sergei Eisenstein quote I’ve always remembered: “montage is conflict.” It’s the ultimate expression of how art can be politically relevant—not by representing or calling for struggle, but by manifesting it formally. Eisenstein argued that while conventional film merely directs emotions, montage directs the entire thought process. A century later, Beirut-based artist Haig Aivazian’s examinations of conflict in the Middle East insist that montage is every bit as expedient today as it was upon its invention. Aivazian’s solo exhibition at The Renaissance Society features two densely edited videos: All of Your Stars Are but Dust on My Shoes (2021) and Prometheus (2019). Roughly twenty minutes apiece, these play alternately on opposing large screens within a third work: the moody, site-specific installation 1440 Couchers de Soleil par 24 Heures [1440 Sunsets every 24 Hours] (2017/2021), which covers the gallery’s raking walls in a chalk grid reminiscent of surveillance technologies such as radar and heat maps. In both of the videos, Aivazian layers and splices found footage to brutal effect, mobilizing elemental motifs—fire and light—to trace themes of surveillance, protest, cultural hegemony, and military invasion that have characterized the relationship between the West and the Middle East over the past several decades, ...
              Hiwa K’s “Do you remember what you are burning?”
              Nadine Khalil
              The second time I visit Hiwa K’s retrospective at Dubai’s Jameel Arts Centre it’s still daylight. In the outside sculpture park is the wood, cement, and metal sculpture One Room Apartment (2008-17), shown at Documenta 14 in Athens. A single staircase leads to a worn mattress on a morbid metal bed without walls. I climb it to take in the scene from above, and watch a bird land on the bedframe. Several kids are sprawled on a grassy patch, and in the distance is Palazzo Versace’s promise of decadence. In a city of labor camps and high-rises, Hiwa K’s comment on the rise of single-person living near minefields in Iraqi Kurdistan, the home he fled from and has recently returned to, takes on a different meaning. Where economic deprivation is fueled more by free-market economics than war, his work on atomized dwelling points to the divergent ways in which art manifests in different contexts: from the refugee crisis in Athens to the ongoing controversy over migrant workers’ conditions in Dubai. Around the unsheltered bed, Hassan Khan’s multi-channel sound installation Composition for a Public Park (2013) expounds, fittingly, in three languages on the nature of bondage. Inside the exhibition, Hiwa K’s video ...
              Transmediale, “for refusal”
              Orit Gat
              Sitting at my desk in London in front of my MacBook, I join a Zoom meeting where I look at four chunky, gray mid-2000s computers arranged on a table in an exhibition space in Berlin. The old computers, grouped in a way that brings to mind an internet café, are there for visitors to play a video game by Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, I Can’t Remember a Time I Didn’t Need You (2020). But there is no one there to play: the two exhibitions in this year’s edition of art and digital culture festival Transmediale opened in a locked-down Berlin. I am taking part in a virtual proxy tour of Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien. The guide, Annina Guntli, sets her phone to selfie mode and we can see each other and talk for a quick minute. She then turns it around and walks me through the show. Using the chat function, she sends me links to excerpts of the videos on view and Brathwaite-Shirley’s game, which I play a day later. It begins with a message and a trigger warning: “This archive centers Black trans people. Those that are not Black and trans may feel uncomfortable. TW: there are themes of loss within the ...
              Rosie Lee Tompkins
              Amelia Lang
              I learned about the life and quilts of Rosie Lee Tompkins (the pseudonym of Effie Mae Howard) from my mother. She was an art teacher—my art teacher—and would routinely give short presentations about local artists, usually women, to teach her students about art made in Northern California. I knew that Tompkins was born in Arkansas in the 1930s, had settled in Richmond, California, and that her work was considered part of an African American quilting tradition, but I had never seen the quilts in person until early March 2020, when I visited the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) to view “Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective.” The previous day, the Grand Princess cruise ship had pulled into the Port of Oakland carrying thousands of passengers exposed to the novel coronavirus; I walked through the museum in suspense, my thinking fragmented by constant notifications about the future. Yet Tompkins’s quilts pulled me into the present: I was mesmerized by the nearly seventy works on display, which revealed her fascination with color, the consistency of her inconsistency, and her use of fabrics that carried with them generational shorthands depending on pattern, texture, and material. Nearly a year later, a small ...
              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 ...
              “‘Lacrimae Rerum,’ homage to Gustav Metzger – Part II”
              Tal Sterngast
              Memory, noted Marguerite Duras, is an attempt to escape the “horror of forgetting.” It is also, she argued, a failure: “You know you’ve forgotten, that’s what memory is.” The memory of the things we forget we call the unconscious. A group show at Tel Aviv’s Dvir Gallery, conceived in homage to Gustav Metzger and featuring works by Armando Andrade Tudela and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané alongside the late artist, traces the ways in which amnesia and memory constitute each other in the writing down of history. At the center of “Lacrimae Rerum,” a lavish yellow fabric covers a large black-and-white photograph fixed to the industrial floor. This photograph from March 1938, part of Gustav Metzger’s “Historic Photographs” cycle and titled To Crawl Into - Anschluss, Vienna, March 1938 (1996–2020), has been enlarged to about thirteen square meters. It shows Jewish citizens in Vienna who were forced to clean the streets of the Austrian capital while Nazis and fellow citizens watched on, shortly after the Anschluss. In order to see this larger-than-life photograph, the viewer is required to crawl on all fours under the cloth, moving along the image’s surface, too close to comprehend it as a whole. The yellow fabric (as ...
              Liu Shiyuan’s “For Jord”
              Fanny Singer
              As I left Liu Shiyuan’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, I kept tripping over lines from a Robert Hass poem, “Meditation at Lagunitas”: “because there is in this world no one thing/ to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,/ a word is elegy to what it signifies./ […] After a while I understood that,/ talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,/ pine, hair, woman, you and I.” This poem was published in 1979, when the internet as it exists today wasn’t so much as a dream, but the dissolution that Hass describes is in many respects the subject of Liu’s forensic examinations of post-internet culture. Since 2007, the Beijing-born Liu (who splits her time between China and Denmark) has devoted herself to unpacking, interrogating, even satirizing, internet semiotics. At a moment in history in which an ever-increasing percentage of the global population has been compelled online, there is a poetry to Liu’s search for meaning in a digitally atomized world. Liu’s exhibition is centered on a fictional—and purely conceptual—character named “Jord” (after whom, or what, the show is titled). Jord is both a noun and a name in Danish, translating, respectively, to “land” or “soil,” and “divine being” or “peace.” ...
              Thomas Ruff’s “tableaux chinois”
              Tomas Weber
              The propaganda photographs of Chairman Mao, miners, dancers, rallies, and flowers reproduced in Thomas Ruff’s “tableaux chinois” look magnificent. Their colors are warm and bright: the grass is the greenest of green, skies blue beyond belief, the Chairman radiates kind-heartedness. Propaganda might at first seem an odd motif for an artist interested in the camera as a machine for recording and rendering objects into reliable flatness. But in addition to testing the limits of the camera’s detachment, Ruff has—going back to his series “Plakate” (1996–99)—also interrogated its capacity to glorify. Think of the passport-style photographs in his “Portraits” from the 1980s: blown up to overwhelming sizes, the anonymous subjects are transformed into bureaucratic demi-gods. Or take his colossal C-prints of the heavens (“Stars,” 1990): in images taken from an observatory, the light from innumerable stars and galaxies scatters over a black abyss. The apparent neutrality of Ruff’s images—too much to take in all at once—can be grandiose, eulogistic. Here, Ruff has scanned propaganda images taken from the Chinese-produced European magazine La Chine, published between the 1950s and ’70s, and converted the analog halftone pattern of the scans into a pixel structure. He has then placed the digitally built images over the ...
              Jeffrey Gibson’s “It Can Be Said of Them”
              Patrick J. Reed
              Here’s a platitude: all’s fair in love and war. This, one could argue, is what Jeffrey Gibson’s solo exhibition “It Can Be Said of Them” is all about: the love being queer love, the war being that waged against queer bodies of color who cannot voice their desires without anticipating, so as to deflect, hatred. Here’s a second platitude to consider in relation to the first, one sometimes assigned to Gibson’s artistry: it is infused with joy and resistance. It’s true that both characterize, for example, YES! WE CAN (all works 2020), one of two punching-bag sculptures at the gallery’s center. White and yellow words reading “CAN THEY SHE HE DO IT? YES WE CAN!” wind around the bag in a red-and-blue square diamond lattice. As one circles the hanging piece, it reveals its pronouns deftly, like jabs to the psyche that parry normative presumptions. This sensation carries through to the mixed-media pieces mounted on the nearby walls—combinations of acrylic paint, glass beads, and fiber materials embellished with lyrics and protest slogans. The show is a flurry of defensive moves and is more complex than the upbeat language that is often used to label it. Another of Gibson’s ...
              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 ...
              Nathalie Du Pasquier and Alessandra Spranzi’s “Les jeux de mains”
              Ewa Borysiewicz
              In another interminable lockdown, the gentle winter colors are the clearest indications of time passing in Switzerland’s Engadin valley. But a show at Monica de Cardenas in Zuoz, a nearly monochrome town surrounded by the silent Alps, offers a very different atmosphere to the world outside: a vivid and humorous joint presentation of recent works by Nathalie du Pasquier and Alessandra Spranzi. The two artists’ aesthetics at first sight have little in common: Spranzi’s practice involves found images, often gleaned from unglamorous contexts such as manuals or the classified ads sections in daily newspapers, which she cuts out, rephotographs, crops, resizes, and upcycles into black-and-white silver gelatin prints, allowing herself to be “carried away by the gaze of others.” By uprooting her chosen photographs and washing out their primary meaning, Spranzi reveals the nonchalance with which one can alter and aestheticize the message carried by an image. In Mano con bicchiere rovesciato (L’insieme è nero) [Hand with Upturned Glass (The Whole is Black)] (all works 2020), a palm holds up an upside-down utensil against a dark background. The decontextualized action demonstrates how easily gestures can lose their value and be rendered absurd. A group of Spranzi’s black-and-white photographs shows ...
              Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s “Fly in League with the Night”
              Caleb Azumah Nelson
              In the foyer outside Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibition, a question is written on the wall. “What sounds can you hear when you look at the paintings?” Music spills from a hidden speaker; Miles plays. I can hear the way he held his horn, so closely attuned to the spaces he could inhabit within a melody, perhaps looking for a nod from his band, or, more likely, improvising, always improvising. Feeling rather than knowing. When I enter the space, it is quiet. The music has stopped, but looking at the paintings around me I still hear Miles and Bill and Gil, Fela and Ebo, Solange and D’Angelo: the music Yiadom-Boakye had playing in the studio when painting. A tradition of rhythm rendered on canvas in blues and greens, yellows and reds. In this way, it is possible to see something and to hear it too, and I wonder if this is what feeling is. What I do see: Black figures, in all manner of poses and activities, caught in private moments. They tease and taunt, they are in repose, they squat, they crouch, they hurt, they ache, they joy. They are quiet but never silent. In Later or Louder or Softer or Sooner ...