While individual galleries throughout this fine exhibition at The Met lie hushed in low-light to preserve these truly masterful drawings—their nuanced hatchings, their delicate shadings, their refined, ephemeral colorings—the pièce de résistance of Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer will stun the visitor: The Sistine chapel’s ceiling frescos projected on an upside down screen. The flawless, backlit surfaces convey most effectively the colossal composition, and reproduce with accuracy the gaudiness of the original. This technological marvel might be perceived as preposterous by the more discerning modern visitor, but is likely to have been applauded by Michelangelo and the public of the Renaissance. [Read more…]
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” begins Charles Dickens’ epic A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens goes on to describe the novel’s period, set against the French Revolution, as an age of “wisdom” and “foolishness.” The context may have changed since those words were written, but the sentiment remains true. Here we are in 2017, arguably more conscious than ever to the plights of the dispossessed, yet somehow still stuck in the mires of narrow mindedness. Why do we seem doomed to repeat the errors of our ways? How can we better draw on lessons from history? In November, at New York’s Performa Biennial, these were questions at the heart of at least two South African artists’ commissioned performances. [Read more…]
1930 | 2017
It is possible that the people who run the American Folk Art Museum have wondered in recent years about the name of their institution. Works by American folk artists make up the majority of its exhibitions, it is true. In the last decade or more, however, the museum has become an invaluable part of New York’s cultural life because it has produced a little stream of full-fledged introductions to figures who are much the opposite of folk artists and frequently are not American. The term “folk art” implies an art for a wide, popular, and perhaps not overly discriminating audience—ingenious and lovely as folk-art creations can be. But the day has passed when this kind of work, which was at its most vibrant in the early decades of the nineteenth century, was crowded with figures waiting to be discovered. [Read more…]
As a legendary and enduring figure on the international art stage, Louisiana-born conceptual sculptor Lynda Benglis is renowned for crafting pained yet sensual anthropomorphic works out of melted bronze, latex, ceramics, polyurethane, and glass. Bursting into the public consciousness with her transgressive, fearless, and unforgettable nude advertisement in Artforum (the magazine refused to give her editorial space for the image) in 1974, the artist garnered much public praise and shock for posing with a dildo between her legs in order to subvert the male gaze, binary gender roles, and notions of bodily objectification. After decades of consistently producing arresting and audacious sculptures with themes of sexuality and mortality, Benglis is once again in the public eye with her current solo retrospective at Culver City’s prestigious Blum & Poe. [Read more…]
Plunder Me, Baby—sounds like an invitation, but an invitation to what? There’s irony aplenty in that title and it leaves a sickening aftertaste, as it’s meant. Kukuli Velarde’s trenchant and caustically humorous ceramic sculptures fix within their sights the conquest—both cultural and corporeal—of Latin America. This widely exhibited series, now in a PST: LA/LA exhibition at the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA), is fashioned after traditional pre-Columbian ceramic objects, but Velarde, who brings a distinctive lens to themes of identity and cultural appropriation, creates each object as a kind of self portrait. Each sculpture bears her visage and expresses a reaction to the realities of conquest: defiance, anger, mockery, subversion, and the like. [Read more…]
As a meditation on the flexible nature of time and an ode to the objet trouvé readymades of French-born Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, Argentinian conceptual installation artist Adrián Villar Rojas’s current showing at Little Tokyo’s Geffen Contemporary at MOCA offers frozen cases of preserved organic and manmade materials, as well as layered, almost geological or landfill-like gallery floors infused with packed dirt, multicolored concrete, clay, old tennis shoes, and fruit peels. These modern and seemingly ancient items reveal Adrián Villar Rojas: The Theater of Disappearance be an excavation of sorts, or even perhaps a burial. [Read more…]
Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin & Peter Hujar
At Matthew Marks, Los Angeles (Through December 22, 2017)
Reviewed by Emily Nimptsch
As three supremely unconventional 20th century portrait photographers, Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, and Peter Hujar are currently the subjects of an exhaustive, evocative and eponymous retrospective at Matthew Marks, Los Angeles.
With twenty-two poignant prints spanning sixty years proudly on display here, the viewer can detect the overwhelming similarities and differences between these widely adored artists. Although all three chose the same medium and subject, each photographer approached the human form and spirit in a completely unique manner. [Read more…]
On view at Matthew Marks, Los Angeles, are a selection of photographs from Nan Goldin’s hypnotic and haunting series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which in its original format is a 48 minute slideshow documenting Goldin’s life in over 700 photographs and 30 songs, the text of which, those songs, acting as the narrative for the “film.”
In her introduction to the book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Goldin writes:
I was eleven when my sister committed suicide. This was in 1965, when teenage suicide was a taboo subject. I was very close to my sister and aware of some of the forces that led her to choose suicide. I saw the role that her sexuality and its repression played in her destruction. [Read more…]
This is a sort of Cinderella story, if Cinderella was a 74 year-old man with a penchant for drawing fantastical landscapes, imaginary cars, trains and figures. William Hall may look like a character actor with Santa Claus on his resume, but he harbors an interior life that is far more unique than his appearance suggests. Outwardly there are no clues to imply the fullness of his imagination, nor his impressive talents, yet like the kernel of truth buried within any fable, his story reveals the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. [Read more…]
1964. Richard Avedon and James Baldwin publish their spare yet radical treatise shot through to the arrow’s heart of America and much-adored Americana. Their collection, perhaps even more radically, was titled Nothing Personal, and nothing at the time could have been further from the blood-slaked truth. One can only imagine how so very personal, and how lacerating, these images must have been in the high epoch of Jim Crow, where the unsilenced shot of pistol, the swift stroke of knife, the snap of rope, the strike of skin-crackling fire were the unmitigated and unmediated means of cage-keeping of the day. This fall Taschen will republish a facsimile edition of Nothing Personal, with unpublished photographs and a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Hilton Als. Als’ introduction is excerpted below. An exhibition of images from Nothing Personal will be on view at Pace Gallery, NYC, from 17 November through 13 January, 2018.
by Richard Avedon and James Baldwin
Introduced by Hilton Als
I am about thirteen years old and my body and mind are carried along by the energy that thinking engenders in me—the nearly phosphorescent ideas and possibilities I find in books, looking at pictures, and whenever I visit a museum. Some of the photo books I covet the most can’t be checked out from the Brooklyn Public Library, so, day after day, I duck out of my junior high school, in Crown Heights, and, walking past the Brooklyn Museum, then through the Botanic Garden, I go to look at them in the stacks. [Read more…]
Ellen Gallagher: Accidental Records At Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles (Through January 28, 2018) Reviewed by Emily Nimptsch
Expanding upon her seminal DeLuxe series (2004–05) as well as her intricately drawn Watery Ecstatic series (2001-2009), Rhode Island-born, Brooklyn and Rotterdam-based mixed-media artist and minimalist painter Ellen Gallagher’s newly opened exhibition, Ellen Gallagher: Accidental Records is currently making waves at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles, with her exploration of maritime themes. [Read more…]
Guillermo Bert’s Encoded Textiles Project, a series of exquisitely wrought tapestries that embed the stories of indigenous communities through QR codes woven into the textiles themselves, brings together traditional weaving techniques, digital technologies and stories of identity. The QR codes within the weavings launch additional content and documentary video Bert shot while working with weavers in Chile and Oaxaca, Mexico. His tapestries are currently on view in two Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibitions in Los Angeles—The U.S.-Mexico: Place, Imagination, and Possibility at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, and Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas at the UCR Arts Block. They also may be seen in two museum exhibitions: Unsettled, at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, reframes human migration within the context of a vast super-region that encompasses the western edge of the Americas from Alaska to Patagonia and much of the Pacific; and Tied, Died, and Woven: Ikat Textiles from Latin America, at the Textile Museum of Canada, juxtaposes textiles from the museum’s permanent collection with contemporary objects by Bert and other artists. [Read more…]
A black lascivious baby bandaging the head of a wounded soldier, possibly confederate. A white man walking while giving (or imposing) cunnilingus to a black hydrocephalic woman. Fredric Douglass. OJ Simpson. A composite of Peter Tosh and the Baron Samedi holding Trump’s head. Salome offering Trayvon Martin’s severed head on her tray, while a missionary with a voluptuous backside admonishes her. A Ku Klux Klan member hiding Trump under his skirts. An 18th century libertine masturbating. Batman stealing a mummy topped with a black head. [Read more…]
Molly Larkey’s recent exhibition at Ochi Projects, a shape made through its unraveling, reflects her interest in the invisible conceptual structures that shape society and structure ways of thinking. Her sculpture alludes to the ideals of utopian concepts as novel possibilities on a distant horizon, but with this exhibit Larkey also focused on identifying and adopting practices that solve seemingly intractable societal problems. [Read more…]
My desire was to predict and measure the infinity of the unbound universe, from my own position in it, with dots.
Stitching together six of eccentric Japanese conceptual artist Yayoi Kusama’s signature infinity mirror chambers as well a meticulously curated selection of paintings, historical photographs, posters, and videos documenting her prolific sixty-year career, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, currently on display at downtown Los Angeles’ celebrated Broad Museum, celebrates Kusama’s vibrant maximalist style. This visiting special exhibition is surprisingly the first comprehensive museum survey highlighting the artist’s beloved infinity mirror rooms. So far, these shed-sized chambers filled with immersive lights and mirrors have garnered much attention in the city, sparking 90,000 advance tickets to sell out in mere hours. Due to lengthy lineups, guests are limited to 30 seconds inside each room. [Read more…]
The concept of toxic masculinity is not a difficult one to grasp. Just last week it was evinced throughout social media, as millions of women testified to the regular abuse they suffer at the hands of misogyny and the patriarchal structures that shape power relations in society. At the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, French-born Brooklyn-based artist Anne Mourier was staging her own subtle stand in the form of a solo exhibition she titled Elevation. [Read more…]
Oozing avant-garde, post-industrial gravitas, Hauser & Wirth’s ultra-trendy Los Angeles Arts District location is currently housing Mike Kelley: Kandors 1999 – 2011, an exhaustive survey of internationally-renowned late sculpture and performance artist Mike Kelley’s rarely-seen Kandors. These miniature cityscapes encased in variously-colored glass bell jars offer a truly unique and poignant emotional viewing experience, revealing how it would feel to be a superhuman, omnipotent being gazing upon a civilization below. Exploring themes of memory, loneliness and desperation, Kelley’s titular Kandors are inspired by legendary comic book hero Superman’s home city of Kandor on the planet Krypton. [Read more…]
In 1969, Cary Raditz, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, quit his job in advertising and headed to Europe to bum around with his girlfriend. They ended up in Matala, on the island of Crete, where they found a bunch of hippies living in a network of caves. Raditz soon decamped for Afghanistan in a VW bus; when he returned, his girlfriend had bailed, but there was word that a new girl was headed to Matala. Raditz didn’t know much about Joni Mitchell, but “there was buzz” among the hippies, and, soon enough, he found himself watching the sunset with one of the most extraordinary people alive. Raditz and Mitchell shared a cave for a couple of months, travelled around Greece together, and parted ways. That’s where you and I come in, because Mitchell wrote two songs, among her greatest works, about her “redneck on a Grecian isle”: “California” and “Carey.” I’ve been singing along to those songs, or trying to, since I was fifteen. I learned from them what you learn from all of Mitchell’s music, that love is a form of reciprocity, at times even a barter economy: “He gave me back my smile / but he kept my camera to sell.” Mitchell’s songs were the final, clinching trade.
Carey, from Blue
“Strangler Bob” is one of five stories from Denis Johnson’s forthcoming collection, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, which was completed just before his death in May of this year. See Riot Material’s earlier tributes to Denis Johnson here.
You hop into a car, race off in no particular direction, and, blam, hit a power pole. Then it’s off to jail. I remember a monstrous tangle of arms and legs and fists, with me at the bottom, gouging at eyes and doing my utmost to mangle throats, but I arrived at the facility without a scratch or a bruise. I must have been easy to subdue. The following Monday, I pled guilty to disturbing the peace and malicious mischief, reduced from felony vehicular theft and resisting arrest because—well, because all this occurs on another planet, the planet of Thanksgiving, 1967. I was eighteen and hadn’t been in too much trouble. I was sentenced to forty-one days. [Read more…]
45 years ago, Jackie Shane, a 1960’s transgender soulstress, walked away not only from her career but from the public spotlight, not to be heard from again. Until now. A reluctant Ms. Shane is back with a two-disc retrospective titled Any Other Way, set to be released on October 20. Below is the title track from the new release, as well as an electrifying performance of Shane singing “Walking the Dog,” from 1965:
An extract from “China Is Laughing About This Situation,” The Global Politico/Susan Glasser interview with Ai Weiwei.
Ai Weiwei is making a strong case for himself as America’s leading dissident of the Trump era.
Never mind that he’s Chinese, or that he lives in Berlin in de facto exile these days.
The legendary artist, who has long embraced political themes in his work, has gone full-out activist in a new feature-length documentary film about the global refugee crisis, called Human Flow and released in theaters across the U.S. Friday, and in a new, New York City-wide public art exhibit of 300 works in dozens of locations called “Good Walls Make Good Neighbors.”
Both are explicit rebuttals of the nationalistic, America-First-fueled policies espoused by Trump, from his proposed Mexican border wall to his curbs on immigration that include admitting the smallest number of refugees to the U.S. in decades. [Read more…]
Harmony of forms and symmetry are of the utmost importance in renowned New York-based, Colombian-born abstract painter Fanny Sanín’s sublime, geometric compositions currently on display at Venice Beach’s prestigious L.A. Louver Gallery. As her Los Angeles debut, this comprehensive retrospective traces this acclaimed color field artist’s prolific 50-year career as part of the collaborative Getty-led initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA which aims to highlight Latin American culture across scores of exhibitions presented by 70 of Southern California’s most prestigious museums and galleries. [Read more…]
Known for his eccentric personality, flock of famous artists he calls friends, and wildly experimental geometric paintings, Billy Al Bengston is currently the subject of a much-anticipated retrospective featuring 30 years of his beloved moon paintings at Hollywood’s trendy Various Small Fires Gallery.
Captivated by the seas of stars and luminous moonscapes he witnessed while on a motorcycle trip down the breathtaking Baja Peninsula, Bengston began capturing this incandescent starlight on canvas. He debuted his first moon painting collection at Santa Monica’s James Corcoran Gallery in 1987. The artist has since added to that original series over the years, but never before have they all been displayed together, making this exhibition an incredibly rare opportunity for fans of the artist. [Read more…]