COLUMNS

  • Slant

    Blow Up

    IT COULD NOT BE AVOIDED. With the lingering force of a traumatic memory, an advertisement for “Immersive Van Gogh” resurfaced constantly across social media. All over our screens, clips of masked visitors taking in wall-size projections of the Dutch painter’s self-portraits, still lifes, and landscapes proliferated. A thousand Starry Nights bloomed in rapid succession. Any cursory investigation of the phenomenon would uncover a veritable ecosystem of similarly titled, large-scale digital van Gogh installations, their locations ranging from Atlanta to Antwerp, Houston to Hangzhou: “Immersive Van

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  • Passages

    Danish Siddiqui (1983–2021)

    THIS APRIL, Danish Siddiqui flew a drone over New Delhi’s Seemapuri neighborhood. A second wave of Covid-19 was sweeping through India, and the capital had emerged as the epicenter. At first, the available information was sparse, the scale of devastation unknown. This was until Siddiqui’s drone footage flashed across social media, showing hundreds of makeshift pyres burning in an empty plot of land. Later, when the central government denied—in parliament and court—that the country was facing a lethal shortage of oxygen, Siddiqui’s photographs from hospital wings and parking lots demonstrated

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  • Diary

    A Bigger Splash

    AMONG THE MANY PROBLEMS the United States finds itself confronting in the summer of 2021 is a shortage of chlorine for its swimming pools. This shortage is not, as you might guess, because of ongoing hygiene theater or because you can cure Covid by injecting yourself with bleach. Rather it results from the (accidental) detonation one year ago of a chemical plant in Louisiana that produces half the US supply of chlorine tablets. Despite some workarounds, the explosion put a crimp in the sanitizing pipeline.

    Los Angeles is a town smitten with swimming pools, absolutely nuts for them. During the

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  • Interviews

    Mónica Mayer

    A pioneer of feminist art in Mexico, Mónica Mayer uses humor and satire to address gender-related topics largely absent from public discourse. Intimidades . . . o no. Arte, vida y feminismo (Intimate Matters . . . or Not. Art, Life, and Feminism, Editorial Diecisiete) surveys her prolific writing practice, a vital extension of her artistic output for more than four decades. At a time when gender-based violence is surging throughout Mexico, Mayer’s writing reminds us that the feminist struggle—in the art world and beyond—is always waged on the battleground of language.

    I AM AN ARTIST WHO WRITES

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  • Passages

    Denzil Hurley (1949–2021)

    TWO YEARS AGO, at the Milton Resnick/ Pat Pasloff Foundation, I mounted a group show of work by abstract painters who were generally below the art world’s radar but who’d caught my eye and about whom I thought frequently. They had awakened something in me that wouldn’t let go. Borrowed from a Broadway musical about Annie Oakley, the title was “Doing What Comes Naturally.” It was intended to bait critics because I am of the firm conviction that art is by definition artificial and therefore unnatural, making me skeptical of the assertion that what seems compelling in a given artist’s work is that

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  • Books

    Glitter In the Air

    Tabboo!, Tabboo! 1982–1988. New York: Gordon Robichaux/Karma Books, 2021. 140 pages.

    ONCE UPON A TIME in the early 1980s, New York City’s East Village was cheap and scary, a petrified forest of desiccated industry. Among the ruins, fantastic creatures built worlds of fantasy and devised strategies to survive. They made themselves at home. One of these creatures was Stephen Tashjian, who had come to New York with a gaggle of friends, each full of promise, after graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Some were photographers: Mark Morrisroe, the prolific punk, and Jack Pierson,

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  • Slant

    A Dangerous Method

    I WONDER HOW people will think of psychoanalysis after they see the show “Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter,” currently at the Jewish Museum in New York. Will it rise in their esteem, having fallen to the level of a silly, obsolete science, a worn-out, clichéd set of interpretations? Bourgeois’s relationship to psychoanalysis is rich, layered, and, importantly, long, as psychoanalysis is wont to be: beginning in 1951 with her treatment following her father’s death, lasting until 1985 with her psychoanalyst’s death. She calls it “a jip,” “a duty,” “a joke,” “a love affair,” “a bad dream,” “a

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  • Interviews

    Elise Rasmussen

    Elise Rasmussen’s “Year Without a Summer” took her to multiple continents and into the creation of one of Western literature’s best-known books—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). The artist’s research-based project joins personal experience, cultural history, and scientific discovery into a surprising, layered narrative. Speaking from Los Angeles, Rasmussen shares how she weaves disparate artistic and ecological threads together with a perspective afforded by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Year Without a Summer” will be on view at Toronto’s G44 Centre for Contemporary Photography from July 21 to August

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  • Film

    High Stakes

    “I WAS A VERY STRANGE CHILD. Everything had to be very beautiful.” In a 1974 interview with Impressions Magazine, the multihyphenate maverick Bill Gunn traced his aesthetic sensibilities to his precocious early years. A quiet only child who grew up in Philadelphia mostly around adults and with parents who both had artistic backgrounds, Gunn was fascinated by storytelling and uninterested in still photography and sought a physiognomic proximity that the theater could not deliver. The cinema, a space of collective solitude and close-ups, was an ideal fit. He called it his babysitter.  

    Gunn, who

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  • Diary

    Island Cure

    UP TILL NOW, Menorca has kept a relaxed profile compared to its Balearic sisters: Majorca, which has long managed to be both aristocratic and touristy, and Ibiza, mecca of die-hard partygoers and a somehow dubious and certainly ostentatious jet-set syndicate. Menorca’s natural heritage remains intact (not a highway to be found), attracting a particular breed of enlightened cosmopolitans not often seen in re-afters (that truly great Ibizan contribution to contemporary culture). Think Hockney rather than Guetta or Beckham when someone nonchalantly mentions having just seen David.

    Hauser & Wirth

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  • Film

    Test Drives

    JUST AS, FOR MANY, the pandemic’s repercussions on the movie industry weren’t fully accepted as fact until the Cannes Film Festival canceled their 2020 edition, so too were international film events in physical space not considered a reality until director Thierry Frémaux announced the festival’s return earlier this year. And return it did, belatedly and somehow bigger than ever, with new dates (July instead of the customary May), a new section (Cannes Premiere), new health protocols (mandatory Covid tests every forty-eight hours for non-Europeans), and a handful of films (most notably Wes

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  • Interviews

    Julien Nguyen

    At the end of our conversation, Julien Nguyen read from a poem by the eighth-century Chinese poet Tu Fu that supplied the title for one of his new paintings: “In ten warrior years and more, how / could I avoid all honor? Everyone // treasures heroes, but how shameful / to talk myself up like all the others. // War smolders across our heartland / and rages on the frontiers: all those // lords chasing ambition everywhere, / who can elude resolute in privation?” It may seem grandiose to tie yourself to history this way—and it is—but this is exactly what makes Nguyen’s art contemporary. He achieves

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