COLUMNS

  • Passages

    CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI (1944–2021)

    IT WAS SNOWING SO HEAVILY that winter afternoon in Moscow that Christian Boltanski and I had trouble finding our way back to the Lenin Museum. This was in 2005. We were in town for the first installment of the Moscow Biennial, which took place in dusty old buildings near Red Square. Visibility was limited to a few feet. Dressed in black, as always, the artist looked like a dark shadow in front of me. Occasionally he disappeared into the white void.

    There he is. Now he’s gone. That image was the first thing that came to mind when I heard this past July that Boltanski had died at the age of

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  • Passages

    KAARI UPSON (1970–2021)

    I DON’T KNOW if Kaari Upson believed in an afterlife—I never thought to ask—but I know she believed in doubled selves, twinned spaces, and the cosmic undersides they might promise, the profusion of near, almost realities. I know that for Kaari every house had its dream equivalent, a swimming reflection. Kaari loved tract houses, their audacious, abundant banality; I would go so far as to say that she operated under a tract-house theory of the universe. Our earthly realm might be a single house in a long line of houses, rows of identical building plans, identical rooms filled with nothing but

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  • Film

    PRACTICAL MAGIC

    NEELON CRAWFORD’S FILMS are at once deeply unfashionable and exactly on time. In making his old-school 16-mm productions in the days of cinepoetry, mostly with a Bolex, his principal concerns were light, movement, and texture, often in the natural world. Crawford’s first film, Freakquently, 1968, is pretty much the sort of movie you’d expect a twenty-two-year-old guy impressed by Bruce Conner and living on the outskirts of Haight-Ashbury to make—a try-anything Kodachrome sound-image collage replete with trippy effects, snatches of Jimi Hendrix, and a nude dancer gyrating in a mirrored cube of

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  • Top Ten

    Raque Ford

    Raque Ford is a New York–based artist whose work incorporates Minimalism, abstraction, and narrative fiction. Her art has been featured at numerous galleries and institutions, including the Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art in Massachusetts as well as New York’s 321 Gallery, P.P.O.W, SculptureCenter, and Shoot the Lobster. Ford’s work will appear in this year’s edition of “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1, and her first solo exhibition with New York’s Greene Naftali will open in March 2022. 

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  • Film

    Hot Wheels

    IF YOU’VE HEARD ANYTHING about Titane, it probably involves someone getting fucked by a car. Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner—a mishmash of grindhouse tropes doused in that transgression-conferring, liquid neon color palette du jour known as “bisexual lighting”—is an onslaught of sensationalist imagery and discordant textures: oil-slicked flesh gliding over strips of metal in the opening titles, a lock of hair snatched out of a nipple ring, a woman’s head resting on a man’s bare chest still oozing from a third-degree burn. Behold an incessant smashing of dichotomies—the hard and the soft,

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  • Interviews

    Dindga McCannon

    Music seemed to melt into color as Dindga McCannon walked me through “In Plain Sight” at Fridman Gallery. The songs of Ma Rainey and Gladys Bentley played behind a recent work, Blues Queens, 2021, a shrinelike, quilt-covered column commemorating blueswomen of the early twentieth century. Footage of their performances looped in the background, the black-and-white of the videos contrasting with the textile’s shimmering blue tonalities. A key figure in the Black Arts Movement, McCannon cofounded the groundbreaking collective “Where We At” Black Women Artists, Inc., with Kay Brown and Faith Ringgold

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  • Diary

    Bosom Buddies

    “LET'S JUST SAY that the Italian Ambassador is a great friend,” said Isa Lorenzo, owner of Manila’s Silverlens Gallery, from her Art Basel Features booth, when asked how she managed to get into Switzerland from Asia. “We self-quarantined for a week on the Amalfi coast. Luckily, we can sell art from the beach.”

    With so many borders closed, many knew that this edition of Art Basel would be less international, perhaps even a return to the early demographics of the fifty-one-year-old fair. “In the 1970s, there were hundreds of people in the art world,” said Francis Outred, a London-based art consultant,

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  • Film

    Cats and Dogs

    EVEN WITH the New York Film Festival kicking off tonight with Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, I thought I had had enough of festivals, at least until 2022. Wild horses could not have dragged me to see Frances McDormand, whose every performance is more forced than the last, assay Lady M, although I would have liked to see Denzel Washington’s interpretation of the character whose name must not be spoken except within a performance of “the Scottish play.” (Were you under the impression that the “don’t speak his name” shit began with Voldemort?) And then, early yesterday morning, I went to a

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  • Film

    Social Studies

    WITH FIFTEEN FEATURES and eight programs of shorts, the second edition of the New York Film Festival’s “Currents” sidebar almost qualifies as a festival in itself. Again international in scope, this year’s selections reflect the ongoing impact of social media, not only in terms of how it has altered the speed and perspective by which global events are registered, but in how it suggests a possible new direction for cinema; this seems to be the point of Tiffany Sia’s Do Not Circulate. In reworking cellphone images of the violent police response to protests in Hong Kong in 2019, Sia’s work seeks

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  • Interviews

    Mariam Ghani

    Our conversation began as a requiem for Afghanistan—its violent unwinding corresponds horrifically with the name of Mariam Ghani’s film. What We Left Unfinished (2019) is a feature-length documentary on five unedited Afghan films made during the country’s Communist era of state-funded cinema (1978–991), a time deluged with coups, conflict, and censorship. Ghani’s film attests firstly and mostly to the significance and precarity of cultural workers in Afghanistan—their voices were recently gathered in an Open Letter from Arts for Afghanistan—and the Afghan histories and imaginaries that depend

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  • Slant

    Loose Threads

    THIS SUMMER IN PARIS, two museums installed versions of the same artworks—eighteenth-century French tapestries from a royal series known as the “Nouvelle Indes” (New Indies)—to tell very different stories about European legacies of race, slavery, and colonialism. One version hangs in the lavish period rooms of the new Hôtel de la Marine in the Place de la Concorde, while another was part of an exhibition devoted to the forty-two-year-old Congolese artist Sammy Baloji at the École des Beaux-Arts. Despite the fact that both sets of hangings came from the Mobilier National and were on view only a

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  • Interviews

    Sara Cwynar

    Sara Cwynar’s opus Glass Life (2021) ambitiously navigates contemporary image culture with her signature embrace of “high” and “low” source material. To watch this six-channel video is to tumble headlong through sheaves of saturated hand-clipped images interlaced with hundreds of files pulled from deep within the artist’s hard drives. Her narrator reminds us: “In the glass life, everything can be used. It is all material.” Fingers swipe through Instagram. Hands hold open history books. Kim Kardashian appears while we hear about tulips in seventeenth-century Holland. Cwynar pins a stock photo of

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