COLUMNS

  • Diary

    Inside Job

    A WOMAN IN A RED JACKET, doing her job, walked through the halls of the Miami Beach Convention Center on VIP Preview Day. An older, whiter man in navy blue walked beside her. They paused to look at a John Currin painting. “In the end, visual art is all about light,” said the woman. “Have you ever been to Ohio?” asked the man. He had a point.

    The point of Miami, both Beach and Basel, is that you don’t have to visit to understand it. “I am not here to do drugs,” said a man in a Panama hat, pacing the exhibition floor with a skull-topped cane. “It has nothing to do with drugs. It has to do with my

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  • Film

    Power Forward

    THE FILMS OF JOSH AND BENNY SAFDIE move at a hotfoot thinking-on-your-feet pace, built around fraught and frantic protagonists who can see no further than the next contingency, the next corner of the personal maze that they’re negotiating. Compulsive and often reckless behavior is a throughline in the Safdies’s filmography; from 2008’s The Pleasure of Being Robbed—concerning the misadventures of a female kleptomaniac—onward, they’ve dealt in men and women working desperately to stay one step ahead of consequences. More recently, they’ve centered films on a lovelorn teenaged heroin addict (2014’s

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  • Passages

    Osvaldo Romberg (1938–2019)

    OSVALDO ROMBERG WAS ONE OF THE FIRST ARTISTS that I met upon my arrival in New York in 1992. My friend, the painter Fabián Marcaccio, was his assistant at the time, and he considered meeting Osvaldo an unavoidable rite of passage for any recent Argentine émigré. Larger-than-life in all possible senses, a mountain of a man with a voracious intellect and inexhaustible energy, he was welcoming, if slightly intimidating, when we visited him at his chaotic studio on Broadway and Prince, full of architectural models and canvases of all sizes. In a single sentence he could string together thoughts on

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  • Interviews

    Sophia Al-Maria

    For the Tate’s exhibition series “Art Now,” London-based artist Sophia Al-Maria has mounted “Beast Type Song,” an installation that foregrounds her new eponymous video. Inside its thirty-eight minutes, Al-Maria braids a narrative from strands of stories and texts, scripts and speech, post-apocalyptic science fiction and apocalyptic reality. Through footage that flips between a film and its own making, the artist lets us watch her assemble a world out of words, built from the rubble of colonial history and the brutality of its tongue. “Beast Type Song” is on view at Tate Britain in London until

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  • Diary

    Love of Siam

    I LANDED IN BANGKOK in the midst of an identity crisis: Having lost my Chinese ID just before the Singapore Biennial, my original itinerary was out the window—I had planned to travel from Shanghai to Thailand via Singapore, but now I could no longer apply for a tourist visa to enter the Lion City at all. And so I vacationed through the more visa-lenient nations of Indonesia and the Philippines, finally touching down in Bangkok the night before the opening of the second “Spectrosynthesis”—a queer art exhibition series initiated by the Hong Kong–based Sunpride Foundation, this time hosted by the

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  • Film

    Heaven Scent

    A TRUE “HOTHOUSE FILM,” Little Joe opens with a fluid overhead shot from a rotating surveillance cam, circling rows of genetically modified plants. They’re the creation of workaholic geneticist Alice Woodard (Emily Beecham) and her team of plant breeders: a purported “happiness” flower whose scent releases a precursor to oxytocin, the hormone that facilitates bonding between mother and child. Alice’s smitten associate Chris (Ben Whishaw) makes this artificial attachment sound warm and gushy: “What this plant really needs is love.”

    In return, the flower, which Alice names Little Joe after her son,

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  • Passages

    Gillian Jagger (1930–2019)

    SOMEHOW, AT THE BEGINNING OF AUGUST 1988, I ended up in the Catskills with Nancy Graves and my husband, Paul Greengard, hell-bent on trying out our riding talents on Gillian Jagger’s horses. We were giddy like a group of children hungry for adventure. Being lifelong, thoroughbred hard workers, we weren’t used to taking a month off for anything, but that year we bought plenty of country records, cowboy boots, chaps, and riding helmets. I believe Gillian had four horses that summer. They were old and tired, but more than willing to do anything their beloved Gillian asked of them. She was their

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  • Performance

    Action Figures

    NOVEMBER WAS THE MONTH of overscheduled evenings, stacked with events sprawling across three weeks and forty venues for the eighth iteration of Performa. The brainchild of RoseLee Goldberg, the biennial has since 2005 promoted the field of performance art as a coherent subdiscipline of the visual arts, drawing on histories of the avant-garde to firmly tie the field’s lineage to art history. In fact, it is Performa’s habit to produce new commissions undertaken by visual artists with little experience in live media (at the expense, often, of supporting practitioners already active in this domain),

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  • Music

    Sentimental Duration

    WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, dreaming about New York and reading weeks-old issues of the Village Voice, the extended and even epic creative moments were the ones I most wanted to experience: La Monte Young playing the music he famously refused to release in recorded form; Lou Reed or Patti Smith performing multiple nights in intimate venues; spending a whole day at the Guggenheim watching Andy Warhol’s Sleep, 1963, or Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster Cycle,” 1994–2002. Before YouTube and file sharing, these adventures couldn’t be accessed secondhand; you just had to be there, which I wasn’t. I remember

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  • Interviews

    Mickalene Thomas

    When Mickalene Thomas was invited to convert the east lobby, facade, and adjoining terrace of the Baltimore Museum of Art into a yearlong installation, she accepted, excited to deploy her signature vibrant aesthetic on an institutional scale. The exhibition, titled “A Moment’s Pleasure” and on view through May 2021, is the first in a series of biennial commissions calling upon artists to create site-specific works in the most accessible areas of the museum. Below, the matchless painter and patternist discusses this relational project, which aims to ground community in personal nostalgia as well

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  • Diary

    High Water

    THE RAINS WERE BIBLICAL, justifiably accusatory. In a remarkable occurrence, the lagoon overtook most of the city, flooding the chamber on the Grand Canal where Veneto’s right-wing regional council had only minutes before rejected measures to fund renewable energy sources and minimize plastic use, among other climate change proposals. Images of waterbuses beached near a drowned Saint Mark’s Square made the rounds, some vessels conspicuously bearing bubblegum-pink ads for the 58th edition of the Venice Bienniale: “May You Live In Interesting Times.” The Peggy Guggenheim Collection closed, as did

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  • Film

    John Waters

    Filmmaker John Waters’s sixteen-city spoken-word tour “A John Waters Christmas” begins December 2 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

    1

    CLIMAX (Gaspar Noé)

    The best movie of the year gives new meaning to the term “bad trip.” Frenzied dance numbers combined with LSD, mental breakdowns, and childhood trauma turn this nutcase drama into The Red Shoes meets Hallucination Generation. Freak out, baby, freak out!

    2

    JOAN OF ARC (Bruno Dumont)

    There is a God and his name is Bruno Dumont. His piously poisonous sequel to last year’s best film, Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, is artier, holier, and will give

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