COLUMNS

  • Interviews

    Frank Bowling

    Frank Bowling on color, the sublime, and painting paradox

    For six decades, Frank Bowling has experimented with how personal and political memory can be sustained within the constraints of late-modernist abstraction. A solo exhibition, “Penumbral Light,” is on view at Hauser & Wirth in Zurich through August 20, and a major survey, “Frank Bowling’s Americas,” will open at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in October. Below, the Guyana-born, London-based artist discusses his abstraction as an encounter with something simultaneously familiar and unexpected, compelled by an enduring fascination with what a painted surface can be.

    I’M WORKING THROUGH WATERY

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  • Slant

    Point Blank

    The gun and the readymade

    IT IS GUNS.

    Such is the common refrain of gun safety advocates in the wake of these constant horrors. I started drafting this piece following the racist massacre of ten Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, New York. Then, nineteen children and two of their teachers were murdered in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. As I revised, at least four were killed at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, followed by more carnage the following weekend. Beyond these widely covered mass shootings, the steady drumbeat of gun-related death continues to claim hundreds of lives each day in the United States. While

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  • Diary

    Bah Lumbung

    Kristian Vistrup Madsen at Documenta 15

    DURING THE PREVIEW DAYS, riders on the international art circuit seemed excited about Documenta 15, mostly on the grounds that it was not the Berlin Biennale (“too depressing”) or because they were relieved to no longer be paying ten francs for water at Art Basel. Having gone to neither, I remained unenthused. “But it’s fun!” people said, in reference to the “relational” food offerings, generous beanbagged chill-out zones, and never-ending jam sessions. There were even “quiet rooms” where the fatigued could go and collect themselves, though the only occupied one I saw was being used by a

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  • Film

    Unhappy Together

    Stanley Kwan’s Rouge and the end of history

    REAL THINGS ARE ALWAYS UGLY. Murmured by a character in Stanley Kwan’s Rouge (1987), these words double as a commentary on the director’s broader filmography, marked by restless expeditions across the gossamer boundary between fiction and reality. Content at times to dwell inside comforting, cathartic artifices, such as the thundering melodrama of Lan Yu (2001), at others Kwan turns a more skeptical eye on the conventions of genre, as in his snaking metafiction Center Stage (1991). This conflicted attitude toward the templates prescribed by commercial filmmaking was characteristic of the New

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  • Interviews

    Karla Knight

    Karla Knight on living with the unknown

    Over the past four decades, artist-conlanger Karla Knight has doggedly worked in an extraterrestrial idiom, cultivating an otherworldly iconography and an invented language so potent she dreams in it. Arriving on the heels of “Navigator,” her survey at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, “Road Trip,” on view from May 20 to July 1 at Andrew Edlin Gallery in New York, features recent drawings, paintings, and tapestries that hover between spaceship blueprint, geometric abstraction, and impenetrable abecedary. Below, Knight addresses her diverse influences, her relationship with paranormality and

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  • Interviews

    Dario Argento

    A horror maestro’s quest for beauty

    Unfairly “demoted” to the status of genre filmmaking in America, Dario Argento’s half-century of aesthetically and narratively outlandish giallo films have managed to invent a new cinematic language written in images of blood, death, and desire. Argento’s emphasis on stylistic detail— characterized by an oscillation between baroque maximalism and the midcentury modern, and a disorienting penchant for the extreme close-up—has ensured the director’s oeuvre a place alongside those of Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Sergio Leone, all of whom Argento counts as major influences. On

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  • Interviews

    Kembra Pfahler

    Putting it on the record

    I first heard about the work of performer, musician and artist Kembra Pfahler in the early ’90s when a friend told me she’d seen a Richard Kern film—Sewing Circle (1992)—that documented Pfahler getting her vagina sewn shut. I recall her gesture making me feel sad and a little sick, yet I mostly felt deep admiration for the extremity of her self-possession. Here she was taking on rape culture (among other violences), prohibiting the penetration of her body by means of needle and thread, the classic tools of “woman’s work.” Perhaps best known for her death rock project the Voluptuous Horror of

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  • Slant

    Ethereal Presence

    NFTs and the theater of risk

    At the round earths imagin’d corners, blow

    Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise

    From death, you numberlesse infinities

    Of soules, and to your scattred bodies goe,

    All whom the flood did, and fire shall o’erthrow,

    All whom warre, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,

    Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,

    Shall behold God, and never tast deaths woe.

    But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,

    For, if above all these, my sinnes abound

    ’Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,

    When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,

    Teach mee how to repent; for that’s as good

    As if thou’hadst seal’d

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  • Film

    Remain in Light

    Rediscovering Dore O.’s cinema of the self

    THE IMAGES MOST ASSOCIATED with the German filmmaker and artist Dore O. are of a woman, face-up like Millais’s Ophelia, drifting phantasmally over ocean waters, her body a gauzy projection superimposed onto a blue backdrop of restless movement. The woman is twentysomething Dore herself in her second film, Alaska (1968), a supple succession of beachy still shots and double exposures whose femininity and softness feel deceptive. Staccato editing rhythms and a menacing drone agitate these ethereal visions. And is the woman fading, or coming into view? The images now carry an awful prescience in

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  • Diary

    Reborn this Way

    Andrew Berardini at the RenBen 2022

    “THE SLEEPER MUST AWAKEN.”

    On a banner trailing an airplane circling the South Shore Cultural Center in Chicago, this message read mysteriously to all who spied it in the soporific sunset heat, including those like me coming to the Renaissance Society’s first benefit under its new director Myriam Ben Salah and orchestrated under an impresario, the grandly sly Italian artist Piero Golia.

    After too many buses and trains from the airport, I walked through the deepening dusk under rounded terracotta arches alongside the long drive leading up to the front doors of the 1909 Mediterranean Revival former

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  • Film

    Ink Trap

    Bylines and betrayal in Xavier Giannoli’s Lost Illusions

    DOES THE WORLD have any more need for the Young Man from the Provinces? That figure, as aptly defined by the critic Lionel Trilling, describes a plethora of characters who populated nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, from Stendhal’s Julien Sorel and Flaubert’s Frederic Moreau to Dickens’s Pip and Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby. He (and it is almost always a “he”) “stands outside life and seeks to enter,” according to Trilling; possessed of talent and ambition but devoid of money or pedigree, he relies on his cunning and wit to ascend the social ladder. The fortunes of the Young Man from the

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  • Interviews

    Katherine Wolkoff

    A bird’s-eye view of mass extinction

    Throughout her lifetime, Block Island resident Elizabeth Dickens (1877­–1963) amassed a collection of 172 stuffed birds—whenever one died, locals would bring her the specimen—which she used to teach the island’s children about ecology. Her life and work inform “Taken from a Cat,” a solo exhibition by the Brooklyn-based artist Katherine Wolkoff that remains on view at Benrubi Gallery in New York through June 18, 2022. The show features forty photographs displaying Dickens’s handwritten labels recording how each bird died, and five larger landscape views of the island made with a lensless camera.

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