COLUMNS

  • Diary

    Friend Zona

    “IS SOMETHING SPECIAL HAPPENING in Mexico City this week?” Rachel Kushner asked. I introduced myself to her during Laura Owens’s opening at House of Gaga, a day before Material and Zona Maco began. Kushner, in town to support her friend, was somewhat surprised to be running into so many other Angelenos. Owens’s dreamy abstractions, atypically small, hung well in the modest gallery—paintings and watercolors, the size you'd hang in a breakfast nook, set off by custom wallpapers bearing cartoonish lemons and stripes in rogue geometries. A tiny rat in a hat and coat was painted in the corner. “It’s

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  • Interviews

    Kim Westfall

    The New York–based artist Kim Westfall’s cheeky compositions of tufted yarn contend with the banality of selfhood. Her works find humor in the insatiable human ambitions for uniqueness and authenticity, but also manifest real longing for deeper meaning and social cohesion. Her latest tapestries draw connections between human reproduction, the mechanical reproduction inherent in her medium, and ideologies of the ego that keep us stuck on repeat. “Splendid Bitch” opened on January 23, 2020, and runs through March 7, 2020, at White Columns in New York.

    THE THING ABOUT TEXTILES IS IT’S THE FREAK

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  • Slant

    TRUE ROMANCE

    I WAS IN LOVE WITH TWO PEOPLE and I had traveled to their country to be near them. 

    I already had a lover, with whom I had been suffering a disappointment, and I had just completed a large and demanding work of art, so in many ways I no longer knew who or what I was, or what good I could possibly be to anybody. 

    I am only telling you these things, and in such a dispassionate way, because I want to tell you about a dream I had, in which my great-grandfather appeared, and his many progeny—

    But the dream won’t make sense unless you know I had traveled a great distance to be near these people, that

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  • Diary

    Retail Therapy

    “WHAT I LOVE ABOUT RACHEL IS she has this alchemy,” said former Olympic swimmer Casey Legler, by way of introduction to Rachel Comey’s Fall/Winter 2020 runway show on Thursday evening at the SoHo restaurant/showroom La Mercerie. “Her art form lends itself to people who not only do things, but do really powerful, impactful things.” She was referring primarily to the time her wife Siri May, the United Nations program coordinator for LGBT rights group OutRight Action International, wore a Comey dress at the UN Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security, giving the New York label a diplomatic gravitas.

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  • Slant

    Great Expectations

    MY FIRST ENCOUNTER with the work of Derek Jarman was imageless. Or more precisely, it was sonorous: The artist voiced a text that was at once a celebration and a lament of a life of love and loss that accompanied a projection of pure azure: “In the pandemonium of image I present you with the universal Blue. Blue an open door to soul. An infinite possibility becoming tangible.”

    This was the director’s last feature, Blue, released in 1993, less than a year before his death from AIDS. As his disease progressed, he became partially blind and his vision would frequently be overtaken by a field of

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  • Interviews

    Peter Saul

    Peter Saul remembers a radio broadcast about the electrocution of Ethel Rosenberg at New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility in 1953—in particular, the moment when a horrified announcer described her hair going up in flames. There’s a gruesome, orange-skinned rendering of her, strapped to an acid-green version of Old Sparky, in “Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment,” a six-decade survey that features more than sixty of the artist’s dark, dyspeptic, and ruefully funny paintings, which take on American history, stupidity, and culture. The show, organized by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari

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  • Diary

    Nacht Fever

    “I'M NOT FUCKING WITH THIS,” declared Lafawndah as she rushed upstairs to the backstage of Griessmuehle after an hour-long sound check before her Saturday night performance at Berlin’s CTM Festival. “I want to go back to the hotel,” she told one of the managers trailing behind her. There wasn’t enough time. I had been sitting with the night’s other performers in the backstage lounge when one of the festival organizers came in and announced that everyone had to leave: Lafawndah needed the room to herself, “for her voice.”

    Banished downstairs, we watched an opening DJ warm up the floor. “I kind of

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  • Diary

    Stayin’ Alive

    “WHEN I EAT, I EAT MY OWN DEATH,” proclaimed a pile of bright green stickers, injecting a gloomy note into what otherwise promised to be a lively opening. However dour, artist Atul Bhalla’s warning was not going to keep me from India International Centre’s famed samosas and a cup of hot tea on a cold winter’s day. Curated by Arshiya Lokhandwala, the site-specific exhibition bore the sanguine title “We Are Still Alive: Strategies in Surviving the Anthropocene.” I spotted the statuesque Shalini Passi, the collector and founder of MASH (My Art Shalini, a digital platform that sponsored the project),

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  • Passages

    Jason Polan (1982–2020)

    IT WASN’T SO UNUSUAL to run into Jason Polan in New York, as he loved to wander the streets and was always out and about, looking for people and things to draw. And in the last few years, he lived down the street from me. “Hi, how you feeling?” he would ask. Still, it was always one of the happiest things that could happen. A minute with Jason could turn a low day into a good one—he made life felt lighter, brighter somehow.

    I don’t remember the first time we met, but it must have been at some book fair, or book release, definitely at some book-related thing. What I remember well was the first

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  • Interviews

    Eva Koťátková

    Eva Koťátková is known for investigating societal rules and authoritarian codes via large-scale installations and collaborative workshops. While her earlier work centered on limiting performers’ physical movement with metal cages and apparatuses—bleak exercises in regimentation inspired in part by her upbringing in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic—Koťátková has begun to use textiles to reenvision how the body can function within oppressive systems. As two solo exhibitions end their run—“In the Body of a Fish Out of Water” at Kestnergesellschaft in Hanover and “Confessions of the Piping System”

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  • Film

    Perchance to Dream

    IN ANGELA SCHANELEC’S THIRD FEATURE, 2001’s Passing Summer, there is a scene in which one of the characters—you might call her the central character, though it seems misleading to refer to a “center” in one of Schanelec’s films—a young woman, Valerie, played by Ursini Lardi, asks an older male authority figure for feedback on some short stories she has written. His analysis: “Rather nice, when you let yourself go, when you’re not trying to express too much through style alone. . . To put it plainly, whole sentences are generally better than fragments. . . Reading it, you start wishing for

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  • Diary

    Last Resort

    TO GET TO THE ALPINE VILLAGE OF VERBIER, I cabbed to the airport at five in the morning, flew to Geneva, and from there took the train two hours along the north side of Lac Léman. Then I transferred to a smaller train for another half hour before catching a ski lift into the clouds. This trek was thrilling at first—magical, really—and, finally, somewhat absurd, given that this year’s Verbier Art Summit is titled “Resource Hungry: On Our Cultured Landscape and Its Ecological Impact.” I had come solely to attend this event—for which the Dia Foundation’s Jessica Morgan had asked an array of artists,

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