Abraham Adams

  • Katarina Burin, Irrational Attachments, 2019–20, concrete, vinyl, plants. Installation view.

    Katarina Burin

    Reading to the letter is the ancient lie of fundamentalisms everywhere. As Michel de Certeau has written, the dream of a “‘literal’ meaning is the index and the result of a social power, that of an elite.” When I consider Katarina Burin’s disarticulated architectural imaginary of the Eastern Bloc, I think of how a certain kind of mundane object also manifests a claim to literality, a building-to-the-letter of how people live. Her architectonic vocabulary derived from Soviet plazas and public housing—abstract fragments, mostly béton brut of course, spread in reticulated clusters with a humorously

  • Jonathan Berger, Untitled (Tina Beebe, Barbara Fahs Charles, Robert Staples, and Michael Wiener, with Matthew Brannon) (detail), 2019, tin, nickel, dimensions variable.

    Jonathan Berger

    Eros rides a dolphin or a swan—or else a crab, a snail, a dove, a lion, an aquatic goat, a unicorn-drawn chariot, a turtle. I thought about this history of images while reading of a man’s devotion to a turtle, on a visit to Jonathan Berger’s “An Introduction to Nameless Love,” a show with its own vision of those various conveyances. Made up of texts either written or edited by seventeen collaborators on “earnest but unusual love relationships” (to quote the scholar Mady Schutzman’s excellent accompanying book, Behold the Elusive Night Parrot [2019]), the installation had a rigorous simplicity:

  • Emily Jacir, Notes for a Cannon, 2016, mixed media. Installation view. Photo: Joerg Lohse.

    Emily Jacir

    Emily Jacir’s work on time and power summons an unlikely thought: The consensus that everything takes place in a universally shared present is old but not without origin. Her installation Notes for a Cannon, 2016—which sketches, with brilliant looseness, the British imposition of timekeeping systems on both Ireland and Mandatory Palestine in the early twentieth century—brought to mind Aristotle’s take on the subject in Physics (ca. 350 bce): The “now” is a universal “identity” that “accepts different attributes”—all the events of the world within its total advent. But people, he

  • Gianni Pettena, Ice House II, 1972, C-print, 16 x 16”.
    picks September 17, 2018

    “Utopie Radicali: Florence 1966–1976”

    In a 2007 manifesto on the “death of context” in architecture since the 1970s, architectural historian Mark Jarzombek asked: “When are we going to reclaim utopia for our discipline?” This survey of speculative, anti-utilitarian work by seven architects and collectives in and around Florence from 1967 to 1977 offers both a model for designers who would pursue such a reclamation and a warning of the monetized decline that can follow.

    Avoiding the Albertian literalism of blueprints for an ideal city (the closest thing in this enormous exhibition is Grupo 9999’s collaged suggestion of a rewilded or

  • Anne Libby, The Noosphere Unground, 2018, plywood, venetian blinds, Formica, aluminum, garlic skin, laminate, 100 1/2 x 52 x 53".
    picks June 25, 2018

    Anne Libby

    Conceptual rococo is a common hedge, designed to lend itself to any discourse that would have it. I like something else entirely, a kind of concretism whose late place in genre history reminds me of a postapocalyptic settlement, both decadent and thriving: work by artists such as New York–based Anne Libby, where we can, for once, safely ignore the press release. I did, and so retained my feeling of disquieted attraction to her pools and pillars of—what, I don’t know; their coppery and vaguely aeronautical composites of machine parts looked from far away as if they would disclose themselves up

  • Derek Walcott, 2012. Photo: Jorge Mejía Peralta.
    passages August 22, 2017

    Derek Walcott (1930–2017)

    DEREK WALCOTT WROTE, “ANSWERING DEATH, EACH WHISPERED, ‘ME?’” He died in March where he was born, in Saint Lucia.

    A Nobel laureate, Walcott taught poetry at Boston University. Along with poets including Édouard Glissant, who died in 2011, Walcott bore the legacy of the previous Caribbean generation’s poetic icon, Aimé Césaire: Glissant, through a philosophy grounded in pastoral abstraction; Walcott, through a Shakespearian epicism that measured the region’s history with a “hymn’s metronome” (to use one of his own phrases).

    Both writers were animated by the spirit of opacity—a term Glissant

  • Jean Blackburn, Warp, 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable.
    picks April 18, 2017

    Jean Blackburn

    The titular installation at the center of Jean Blackburn’s current exhibition, “Warp,” comprises connected domestic scenes evoking something like a bedroom, laundry room, and kitchen. Where another artist might have separated the elements into autonomous, salable sculptures, this work appears intended just for this sort of encounter with an audience, rather than for Instagram-then-freeport afterlives—as if to match the disappearance of the unremunerated gendered labors native to its subject matter. The title’s homonyms, for weaving and distortion, limn the psychic space that overgrows a household

  • Max Ritvo. Photo: Ashley Woo.
    passages October 21, 2016

    Max Ritvo (1990–2016)


    We die. You did, who seemed to have believed this fact. That we are of the nature of dying means that what happened to you in August in Los Angeles is that you went ahead of us. If too far ahead.

    I froze on a Brooklyn sidewalk the moment I realized I would no longer be chanting your name as I had for months with everyone in our temple: “Max Ritvo . . . Monastic Senjin . . . May they heal all their ills.”

    Did you hear, before you died, that Senjin’s last words were “I’m ready”? I have wondered if you were ready, who wrote:

    When my heart stops, it will be the end of certain things,
    but not the

  • Bård Breivik, Moldy Bread, 1971/1974, wooden crates, bread, 4 x 4'.
    picks July 20, 2016

    “Silent Revolt: Norwegian Process Art and Conceptual Art in the 1970s and 80s”

    It’s strange to see Conceptualism treated like the Parthenon, but here we find a fragment of that globalizing movement subject to repatriation of a kind: a survey of internationally trained mostly Norwegian artists of the 1970s and ’80s, brought home together by the state under the sign of heritage.

    Aggressively curated, wall to wall, the gluttonous and satisfying show is dominated by a twelve-foot sphere of felt (Inghild Karlsen’s Pustende ballong [Breathing Balloon], 1988); the startling abjection of a shin-high case of neatly gridded decomposing loaves of bread (Bård Breivik’s Moldy Bread,

  • Carlos Betancourt, In the Pleasant Sand, 2015, acrylic paint on wood panels, sand, glitter, glue, and video, dimensions variable.
    picks March 10, 2016

    Carlos Betancourt

    “Looks like fun,” said my companion at Carlos Betancourt’s capacious retrospective “Re-Collections,” looking up at a projection of the artist writhing naked in a room-size pile of glitter for the video En la arena sabrosa (In the Pleasant Sand), 2004. The other half of this installation—dated to 2015—is a grid of several hundred concrete bucket-sand-castle-style cylinders, also smudged in purple sparkles, giving the impression of a weirdly abstract, geometric favor from the artist’s one-man party. “Fun” may be a fitting word for the exhibition’s attitude, whose knowing exuberance in treating

  • View of “Orlando,” 2015.
    picks September 11, 2015

    Trisha Baga

    There is a scene toward the end of Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (1975) in which a lantern on a solitary table rolls and falls into the grass, and though we hear a constant sound of leaves, the fall is silent. In Trisha Baga’s latest solo outing, the subtle drama of that unexpected sensual loss receives a strangely maximalist reincarnation. One scene of the 3-D video installation MS Orlando (all works 2015) depicts a group dance lesson in a mall, led by a head-miked, corporately poloed instructor, who becomes devoiced midscene, as if she’d switched to speaking with the silence of galactic voids. This

  • Claudia Andujar, “Família mineira (Minas Gerais family),” 1964, gelatin silver print, 7 x 9 1/2".
    picks September 09, 2015

    Claudia Andujar

    I still feel as if there is a knifepoint underneath my eyelid: Such is the somatic staying power of Claudia Andujar’s 1967 photographs of “psychic surgeon” Zé Arigó, who performed his “miracles” with cutlery on that most delicate of facial features. It’s this power to compel the body of the viewer that has been Andujar’s trademark throughout the past half century of her work, the origins of which are under retrospective here. The show leads up until the early 70s, when she became renowned for dancerly depictions of the Yanomami tribes of northern Brazil. Their absence in this show, titled “no