Reggie Burrows Hodges begins by painting a raw canvas black. Then he paints his figures and their atmosphere on top of that. His hand is everywhere in his work, in control but not controlling. Shall we call Hodges’s work controlled bleeding? While Color Field painters such as Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and the like managed their paint by splashing color here and there, their project was different from Hodges’s in a number of ways, including their use of color. While today we look on those distinguished Color Field paintings for the joy they express about physicality, the irrepressible eye, and a relative lack of fear when it comes to the decorative, there are, in these artists’ wonderfully gestural work, some shortcomings. Such as their use, or lack of use, of the color black, a hue that is of the utmost importance to Hodges, who has said: “I start with a black ground [as a way] of dealing with blackness’s totality. I’m painting an environment in which the figures emerge from negative space….If you see my paintings in person, you’ll look at the depth.” [Read more…]
by Mark Goodman
For us the new year began far from home at the southern tip of Africa. Apartheid — “apartness” — was a euphemism for racial brutality, and the necessary condition for its enactment: the dehumanizing ghettoization that precedes violence. 2020 would be a year of reckoning for my country’s racial division and a year when being-apart became a universal condition. The disorienting isolation of quarantine spread with its own kind of virulence, eroding intimacy and fraying bonds. [Read more…]
at Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles (through 20 March 2021)
Reviewed by Nancy Kay Turner
God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a Cheshire cat.
I will eat the last signs of my weakness
Remove the scars of old childhood wars
and dare to enter the forest whistling
like a snake that had fed the chameleon
–“Solstice,” Audre Lorde
Simphiwe Ndzube’s engaging exhibit, entitled Like the Snake that Fed the Chameleon at Nicodim Gallery, is a visual and aural treat composed of paintings, sculptures and two installations, all bathed in a soundscape created by the artist in collaboration with Thabo K. Makgolo and Zambini Makwetha. A master storyteller, Nzdube creates an existential, otherworldly space where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The work defies easy explanations, as mystery is piled on top of enigma. Each painting or sculpture shares a homemade, do-it-yourself aesthetic, with all seams made visible, as though haphazardly sewn, stitched, stapled, glued and pinned together in a hurry. All collaged elements are intentionally separate and noticeable, like a homey piecework crazy quilt. Ndzube juggles fact and fiction, the real and the imagined, with a skill and dexterity of a trained magician while employing inventive improvisation like a superb jazz musician. [Read more…]
Reviewed by Brandon M. Terry
The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
by Peniel E. Joseph
Basic Books, 384 pp., $18.99
Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X met only once, at the US Capitol during the Senate debate over the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That chance encounter was immortalized in a photograph that shows the two men shaking hands and smiling but reveals little trace of the public feud that has linked them in our historical imagination. Their conflict has cast arguably the longest shadow over African-American politics and the struggle for racial justice of any contretemps since the one between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington at the turn of the twentieth century. [Read more…]
Reviewed Brandon M. Terry
At the end of his remarkable, improbable life, Malcolm X was on the cusp of a reinvention that might have been even more significant than his conversion in prison from criminal predation to religious piety. Although he rose to prominence preaching the bleak, racialist metaphysics of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (NOI), which depicted whites as “devils by nature,” in March 1964 Malcolm defected from the Nation and converted to Sunni Islam. Charging Muhammad with the sexual exploitation of his teenage secretaries, and the NOI with corruption, criminality, and idolatry, Malcolm pushed a dangerous feud toward its deadly conclusion. [Read more…]
Andrej Dubravsky, Aggressive Slav + Friendly Slav, at LAUNCH F18, NYC
by Sam Trioli
Andrej Dubravsky speaks to Sam Trioli about his new paintings for his current dual exhibition at LAUNCH F18, Aggressive Slav and Friendly Slav. Created from his countryside home in rural Slovakia, Andrej shares the effects on his work and life with returning to nature.
SAM TRIOLI: This exhibition highlights a new series of paintings for you. How did the Aggressive Slav/Friendly Slav series first begin?
ANDREJ DUBRAVSKY: I don’t even know if it’s a particular “series” with an exact start and end, to be honest. I just keep working all year long on various subjects in parallel, no matter if there’s any show coming up next month or in the next six months. Sometime before the works had to be shipped to New York City, I lined up many paintings outside in my garden and I picked from all of these paintings and sort of curated them in a way that would make a sense. This show makes it my first solo show in New York City. [Read more…]
by Lisa Zeiger
“All I can see is the frame.”
–Robert Mitchum in Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past
The art of Shirin Neshat is the pure, clear pool at the heart of a Persian garden. On its surface play fountains of poetry and music, films and visions. In its depths reside all the sequestered emotion, alluring ritual, and ambivalent traditions of the artist’s native Iran. Long gone from another country, Neshat exalts its beauty in the photographs, video installations and feature films she has been making since the early 1990s. To paraphrase Henry James, she is someone on whom nothing is lost, least of all the lessons and losses of her own life, in particular the chasm of her exile from Iran. [Read more…]
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC (ended 1 November 2020)
Reviewed by Sanford Schwartz
Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle
an exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art,
November 20, 2020–February 7, 2021;
the Seattle Art Museum,
February 25–May 23, 2021;
and the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.,
June 26–September 19, 2021.
Catalog of the exhibition edited
by Elizabeth Hutton Turner and Austen Barron Bailly.
Peabody Essex Museum/University of Washington Press,
188 pp., $45.00
As we were waiting on line at the Metropolitan Museum to get into the exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, I told my friend that one reason why Lawrence, though long an esteemed name in American art, has a rather modest presence in our museums may derive from his not having made oil paintings. In a long career that stretched from the late 1930s, when he was barely in his twenties, through the late 1990s—he died in 2000, at eighty-two—he primarily used gouache (which is sometimes referred to as poster paint) or tempera. [Read more…]
by Lisa Zeiger
“I dream of a new alphabet.” — Marcel Broodthaers, 1974
When considering the merit of a work of art, should the biography of its maker matter? Should we train the tentacles of personality upon the armature of art? When I first saw images of David D. Oquendo’s calligraphic paintings on Instagram (@monkpuppy) I had no ideas about the age, identity or ethnicity of their maker. The paintings were all sign rather than signature, solemn instances of regal yet anonymous beauty, not unlike that of many hieroglyphic writings made in ancient Egypt. Such was the imposing presence of these unfamiliar letters that, while I wondered if they conveyed a meaning, I didn’t care. As I would later learn, a friend of Oquendo’s told him, “You have not created a language, but language.” [Read more…]
by Greil Marcus
Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow.
Chicago Review, 326 pp., $20.05
Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson
by Annye C. Anderson, with Preston Lauterbach,
and with a foreword by Elijah Wald.
Hachette, 203 pp., $24.99
There’s an old blues metaphor. You know, Robert Johnson found his sound at the crossroad when he made a deal with the devil. It seems to me that the country is at a crossroad, whether we are going to continue to invest and double down on the ugliness of our racist commitments, or [we’ll] finally leave this behind. —Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
The blues singer and guitarist Robert Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, in 1911, grew up in Memphis, and was fatally poisoned by a jealous husband during a performance at a juke joint near Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1938. He recorded twenty-nine of his own songs for the Vocalion label in San Antonio in 1936 and in Dallas in 1937. In 1938, with the blues musician Johnny Shines, he traversed most of the eastern part of the country, playing from St. Louis to Chicago to Detroit to Harlem. Later that year the producer John Hammond, who had celebrated his recordings in New Masses, knew Johnson had to perform at his historic “Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall; learning of his death, Hammond played two of his songs on a phonograph on the stage. [Read more…]
The Whitney’s show, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, is a study in revisionism, recasting the standard story so that those formerly disregarded and excluded from the canon of modern American art are instead given a place in it. Exhibitions in recent years have been doing that rewriting in accord with values newly freed from stigma, discovering or rediscovering artists who are female or non-European-American, or who simply didn’t fit the strictures of formalist Modernism. The artists in this show, however, were truly avant-garde in their social values, championing the underdogs of history when it was deeply unfashionable to do so. [Read more…]
at Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC: Salmon Toor: How Will I Know (through 4 April 2021) and Vida Americana: Mexican Artists Remake American Art, 1925-1945 (through 31 January 2021)
Reviewed by Arabella Hutter von Arx
In two rooms on the ground floor of the Whitney Museum, a scattering of miniature brown men frolic around the walls, choreographed by Pakistani artist Salman Toor. Some dance, some light a cigarette, others whisper. Many do nothing but offer themselves to our gaze or that of their cellphone. Salman Toor, who admits to admiring Watteau and Gainsborough, has adorned his tableaux with a whole festival of baroque imagery: undulant mustaches and hair styles, collars that almost look like lace, a loose neckerchief, a large hat largely out of place. [Read more…]
by Allyn Gaestel
I lent Jason Eskenazi’s photo books to a friend of mine to look at after dinner. I had been carrying them in my suitcase for eight months. It was the night before a residency where I planned to finally cohere the fragments of this essay into a text. In the morning my friend told me the books were intense to look at right before bed. She quoted the introductory poem to Departure Lounge:
If you cannot bear your grief
And you dare not dare to die
Then make of grief a song
And bear it high.
at William Turner Gallery, Los Angeles (through 28 November)
Reviewed by Lita Barrie
Mark Steven Greenfield’s powerful exhibition of Black Madonna paintings, currently on view at William Turner Gallery, is perfectly timed to coincide with the election of the first woman of color, Kamala Harris, to be our next Vice President; while the exhibition notably follows on the years-long Black Lives Matter protests that in all likelihood lifted Ms. Harris to the second highest office of the land.
As an African American artist who emerged out of the Black Power movement in the late 1960s, Greenfield has had a long arc of making art of consequence, art with something to say, art with teeth. In his latest exhibition, Black Madonna, Greenfield takes dead aim at centuries of racial supremacy by inverting the very narrative of white dominion: exalting Blackness while simultaneously setting aflame, quite literally, the relentless tide of teeming inhumanity that seeks in all-too-horrific ways to subjugate and enslave. [Read more…]
at Track 16, Los Angeles (through December 12)
Reviewed by Genie Davis
Curated by Georganne Deen, the group show at Track 16 Gallery is perhaps the ultimate exhibition for pandemic times. Titled The Naked Mind, the show features the art of eleven artists including Deen, Liz Young, Eve Wood, Cathy Ward, Samantha Harrison, Christine Wertheim, Laurie Steelink, Rhonda Saboff / Parker Pine, and Lara Allen. The exhibition focuses on the uncovering and understanding of trauma on the human mind. Running through December 12 and available for both virtual viewing on the gallery website and in-person at the Bendix Building, the show also serves as a dazzling tour de force for the artists.
at LA Louver, Los Angeles (through 16 January 2021)
Reviewed by Eve Wood
45 at 45, currently on view at LA Louver in Venice, is an exhibition of epic proportions, not only because of the sheer number of artists included but also because it signifies and celebrates four-and-a-half decades of LA Louver’s luminous and expansive vision. Big group shows can be difficult to navigate, especially if they constitute more of a retrospective-like approach; yet when done right, the plethora of works included create what feels like a variety of intimate conversations. Such is the case here where artworks by represented gallery artists like Matt Wedel and Rebecca Campbell create insightful and sometimes deeply moving interchanges with works by artists the gallery does not necessarily represent but have shown in the past. The breadth of this exhibition is truly impressive, as is the range of work represented, some of which are representational and some of which are not. Either way, the thru line here appears, simply, to be excellence. [Read more…]
Reviewed by John Biscello
by Patrick Modiano
Yale University Press, 176 pp., $24.00
If there is a suitcase, forged documentation, café-life and tons of mileage accumulated tramping the streets of Paris, it’s a pretty safe guess that you are inside a Patrick Modiano novel. The French writer, whose Nobel Prize in 2014 launched him into a new stratosphere of exposure, acclaim and readership (with many of his works now having been translated into English), has been haunting a familiar path, a twilit phantom territory all his own, for the past fifty-plus years. [Read more…]
at the Scuderie del Quirinale
Reviewed by Ingrid D. Rowland
Catalog of the exhibition edited by Marzia Faietti and Matteo Lafranconi, with Francesco P. Di Teodoro and Vincenzo Farinella Skira
543 pp., €46.00 (paper) (in Italian; an English translation will be published in October 2020)
The New York Review of Books
Like the artist himself, the long-anticipated Raphael exhibition that opened in Rome on March 5, 2020, was struck down by infectious disease. Raphael succumbed to a sudden fever on April 6, 1520, his thirty-seventh birthday. The exhibition that marked the five hundredth anniversary of his death lasted only four days. On March 9, the Italian government issued a decree prohibiting “every form of gathering in public places” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and every public institution in Italy shut its doors. Raphael’s birthday came and went with his legacy under lockdown. [Read more…]
Don DeLillo’s slim new novel, The Silence, is a pristine disaster novel with apocalyptic overtones. It’s a Stephen King novel scored by Philip Glass instead of Chuck Berry. A plane from Paris to Newark crash-lands. Two of the main characters are on this flight, and they survive. Power grids have gone down all over the world. Aliens? The Chinese? The Joker? QAnon? [Read more…]
by Joseph Giovannini
“This is a hostile takeover of the museum, and if the design succeeds in hijacking the institution, Los Angeles will be living for a long time with a wanton act of architecture, and the bitter memory of a very expensive betrayal of the public trust.” —Joseph Giovannini
There are two demolitions going on at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the largest encyclopedic museum west of the Mississippi, with collections spanning many historical periods and cultures. Over the last several months, the museum has razed three of the four structures on the East Campus, the original core of the institution—themselves only sixty years old—and excavators are now polishing off the last and largest, the Ahmanson Building. The East Campus will soon be a bowl of dust. [Read more…]