Adam Jasper

  • Len Lye

    IN 1935, the British General Post Office commissioned an advertisement from the New Zealand–born artist Len Lye, who was based in London at the time. The resulting film is a mere four minutes long, a small gem of an animation titled A Colour Box that sends a joyful riot of dots and lines dancing across the screen to a festive soundtrack of beguine, a jazz-inflected type of West Indian dance music. It’s hard to imagine just how gratifying the protopsychedelic film would have been to watch in the midst of the Depression, but it enjoyed a wide run as a preview reel that played before commercial

  • Zhang Enli

    Zhang Enli’s most recent wall painting deserved to be seen, rather than described, but it existed only for the duration of the exhibition at Galerie Xavier Hufkens, so it makes sense to tentatively capture it here. Zhang’s swirling tangles of green watercolor were applied so thinly against the white wall that the hues appeared luminous. The sweeping gestures recalled action painting, and the overall effect was optical, unashamedly pleasing to the eye. The mural shared this quality with the other highly accomplished abstract paintings in the solo show. Each tone felt like an expression of a

  • Vaclav Pozarek

    According to his genial Swiss gallerist, Gianfranco Verna, Donald Judd had to be dissuaded from assaulting a group of children who were playing inside one of his sculptures at the Basel outdoor exhibition “Skulptur im 20. Jahrhundert” (Sculpture in the Twentieth Century) in the summer of 1984. The furious artist could not believe that the Swiss would respond to his work by playing in it, but they did.

    Vaclav Pozarek, although at the time already well into his forties, could be imagined as one of those who played. The work of this Czech-born artist who has lived in Switzerland for about half a

  • Monica Bonvicini

    A leather belt, broad, black, and with a pronounced buckle, might be just a way to keep trousers up, but contemplated in the right (or wrong) context, the same strip of leather can recall a whip, a restraint, or a lolling canine tongue. Film footage of a man slowly taking off a belt might represent the meditative act of a tired person undressing to sleep. It could also anticipate the release of the anger of a paterfamilias about to issue corporal punishment, or it might be a precursor to a sexual act; in Monica Bonvicini’s cosmos, all these associations are present. It may seem like nasty

  • Hreinn Friðfinnsson

    When the reformation came to Iceland, it confronted a Catholicism whose roots were old, but whose day-to-day practice was flexible. Before the last bishop, Jón Arason, was decapitated along with his two sons for leading an armed resistance, a priest attempting to comfort him reminded him that there would be a next life. “That I know, little Sveinn!” he replied. Arason’s last words have entered the Icelandic vernacular, and the latent ambiguity in the condemned bishop’s statement corresponds to the ambivalence in Hreinn Friðfinnsson’s work. Friðfinnsson’s faith in art is the bridge that carried

  • Nora Turato

    There was no shaking the feeling you’d just missed it. Everywhere in Nora Turato’s ambitious solo show “explained away,” you sensed you’d entered a room still positively buzzing from a performance for which you—who, let’s face it, often manage to be in the right place at the wrong time—had yet again arrived too late. Some of the props were still there. The stage had not yet been completely taken down. But the show was over.

    This sustained atmosphere of loss was intentional. Turato understands that while an exhibition cannot substitute for a performance (no more than this review can), it can mark

  • Raphaela Vogel

    The title of Raphaela Vogel’s exhibition “Gregor’s Loch” recalled many Gregors, among them Pope Gregory I, the gallerist Gregor Staiger, and Kafka’s Gregor Samsa. Loch, German for hole, could refer to a lair or a hideaway, which in this case might have been the gallery or perhaps an orifice, Gregor’s hole. It was tempting to see the title as intended to needle, to get at Mr. Staiger, who is known for his genial, imperturbable, lightly self-deprecating distance. You have to admire Vogel’s consistency: She never smooths over the awkward question of the artist’s relationship to a host institution.

  • Melanie Smith

    In 2014, Melanie Smith made a video work called Fordlandia, a study of the eponymous abandoned town in the Brazilian rain forest where Henry Ford had attempted to establish a vast rubber plantation in the 1920s. In spite of the enormous resources at Ford’s disposal and the best possible techniques of scientific management, the plantation proved a catastrophic failure and the rain forest slowly engulfed its ruins. Fordlandia was inevitably read as a parable about hubris, but it was as concerned with how to convey an atmosphere of heat, humidity, and lethargy as it was with colonial economics.

  • Emil Michael Klein

    Emil Michael Klein’s paintings are as boring as the novels of Bret Easton Ellis or Karl Ove Knausgaard. Klein’s paintings, like Ellis’s descriptions of sexual violence or Knausgaard’s of his breakfast, are painstaking, methodical, and indifferent to the audience. And like both writers’ prose, the results are repetitive, inhumane, and strangely compelling. Asking if Klein is a good painter seems as beside the point as asking if Knausgaard writes well—for their works have as much of the character and motivation of scientific experiments as they do of artworks. What these works present is a

  • James Bishop

    When John Ashbery died last year, the New York press reacted as if an epoch had come to a close. The poet is gone, but some witnesses of his generation are still with us. James Bishop is now ninety years old, and still working in the countryside outside Paris. Back in the 1960s, Ashbery succinctly nailed Bishop’s work when he described it as “Post-Painterly Quattrocentro”—“Quattrocentro” because of Bishop’s fierce loyalty to oil paint and to the paradoxical possibilities of the painting as window, and “Post-Painterly” because of his immediate struggle with the work of Robert Motherwell,

  • Shirana Shahbazi

    At first sight, this latest exhibition of Shirana Shahbazi’s photography seemed to present merely a highly polished version of the eclectic screen aesthetic that characterizes a lot of contemporary photography. Her work might appear to allude to 1960s Op art, psychedelia, found photography, and documentary, all laid out in a manner so clean as to seem forensic. But a second, slower take showed that there is no system of reference at the center of her work. Not only is the subject matter of her photography somehow incidental, but so are any apparent historical citations. For Shahbazi, photography

  • Nora Turato

    At her best, Nora Turato is absolutely bewildering. The first performance of hers that I saw, in Venice in 2015, was in a darkened courtyard in the middle of the Biennale’s opening week, when nerves are frayed from the constant expectation of novelty. In the midst of a crowd of young people who looked like they were lining up for cheap drinks, there was a sudden shout, as if a fight had broken out, and a circle formed around, or rather backed away from, a young woman who was clearly very angry about something. She had a hell of a voice: insistent, querulous, and gaining in self-assurance with

  • Marvin Gaye Chetwynd

    Even when a performance has not yet taken place, when Marvin Gaye Chetwynd has not conducted some Walpurgisnacht in the gallery, when no one has been chained to a latex double of Jabba the Hutt or done a banshee dance half-naked or otherwise worked themselves up into a transformative, ecstatic frenzy—even when the surfaces are innocent of blood or sperm or body paint—her artworks still reverberate with arcane energy. In “The Stagnant Pool,” in which she converted a single room into a stage set for a potential performance, Chetwynd showed off her ability to animate her work through her

  • Harun Farocki’s final project

    Where does the wind come from? From the trees.

    How did the wind begin? Because the branches move.

    Do the branches make the wind? Yes.

    But how do the branches move? Because of the wind.

    —Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of Physical Causality (1930)

    SOME TWO YEARS before he died, Harun Farocki released the first installment of Parallel I–IV, 2012–14, the four-part film cycle that was to become his last major work. Whereas many of Farocki’s films explored polemical images of technology and violence—from the flying smart bombs that repeatedly appear in Eye/Machine I–III, 2000–2003, to

  • Phyllida Barlow

    Phyllida Barlow’s 2014 Tate Britain Commission dock inevitably evoked the history of the Port of London. With its motley sacks and tangles of cranes, the piece recalled the waterfront as it appeared before the arrival of the shipping container redefined global trade in terms of anonymous, neatly stackable metric boxes that could just as easily contain weapons as toys. A carnival of open sculptural forms, dock was a raucous response to the stern Neoclassicism of the Duveen Galleries, and was well received by press and public alike.

    Barlow’s successor installation, demo, 2016, had a slightly more

  • Bertrand Lavier

    In the Mickey Mouse adventure “Traits très abstraits,” from Le journal de Mickey, no. 1279 (January 2, 1977), Mickey gets embroiled in a criminal drama in a setting loosely modeled on the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The tale—a Disney foreign-market story originally drawn by Sergio Asteriti for an Italian release called “Topolino e il ladro artistico”—introduces the famous mouse striding through the gallery with his hands in his pockets, both proactive and detached, insouciant. The artworks, playful misinterpretations of Miró, Picasso, and Henry Moore, are not the main object of

  • Vittorio Brodmann

    In an article published in 2015, Hans Ulrich Obrist declared that “at the beginning of the year I could have been convinced that really everywhere in the American art scene, people were talking about the Swiss painter Vittorio Brodmann.” This statement could almost be a line from one of Brodmann’s own jokes. The subtle undercutting of the statement with the modal verb could suggests the possibility that Brodmann wasn’t really famous: It was all a setup, an elaborate prank. It would be poetic justice if Obrist’s caution turned out to be well founded—if Brodmann’s fame were the product of an

  • Joachim Bandau

    Theodor Adorno, your illustrator is here.

    Walking into this recent show of Joachim Bandau’s work, one could not help but recall how Adorno’s thinking, and that of some of his Frankfurt School colleagues, was characterized by axioms of exuberant pessimism: Humanity is deformed by a military-industrial cage; sexuality has been harnessed by the culture industries; our senses have been dulled by the media machine; our consumer society is nothing other than a cultural mausoleum, richly decked out with grave goods. Adorno dispensed his inexhaustible despair in aphorisms; he defined modern music—one

  • Manifesta 11: “What People Do for Money—Some Joint Venture”

    The title of this year’s Manifesta describes the curator’s scheme bluntly enough. Over the past two years, Jankowski has embedded artists in thirty businesses and workplaces around Zurich—ranging from a dentist’s office to a Michelin-starred restaurant to a police station—where they’ve developed site-specific works. The main exhibition, a survey of modern and contemporary art on the theme of labor, will be presented in the Löwenbräu art complex and at the Helmhaus. The biennial will also include a “Pavilion of Reflections”—a

  • Adrian Paci

    Adrian Paci’s timing has been, unfortunately, good. Long concerned with migration, exile, and nostalgia, his works touch the raw nerves of our day. No one who’s seen it is likely to forget, for instance, his video Centro di permanenza temporanea (Temporary Shelter Center), 2007, which depicts scores of people stranded on a movable staircase on an airport runway, hoodwinked into waiting for a promised plane that never comes.

    Paci’s new video installation Sue proprie mani (Open by Addressee Only), 2015, a collaboration with Roland Sejko, is based on a chance discovery in the Albanian National