Agnieszka Gratza

  • picks December 11, 2018

    Donna Huanca

    Spread over eight rooms in the Baroque former summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736), Donna Huanca’s current exhibition has an opulence all its own. Bright and dim spaces alternate throughout the Lower Belvedere, evoking an initiatic journey into a brave new world. Nude models—sixteen at the opening and two for the duration of the exhibition—with bodies painted in canary-like greens, oranges, and blues starkly contrast with their life-size marble and plaster counterparts, culled from local sculpture collections and arranged in a circle in the penultimate gallery. Huanca calls

  • picks July 09, 2018

    “Garden of Memory”

    Weaving together poetry, sound, and sculpture, “Garden of Memory” styles itself as a conversation à trois between artists who are bound by friendship and love. Poet and painter Etel Adnan serves as the link among her longtime collaborators Robert Wilson and Simone Fattal, both of whom she met for the first time in the summer of 1972 in Beirut. Her poem Conversations with my soul (III), 2018—here read aloud by Wilson over speakers and heard by Fattal’s sculpted angels—folds into another dialogue, this time between the poet’s different selves.

    Fitted with a gray carpet that dulls the sound of

  • picks March 05, 2018

    Sean Scully

    Displayed in stable stalls and outdoors at Cuadra San Cristóbal, on the outskirts of Mexico City, Sean Scully’s paintings and sculptures gain a lot from their unusual setting. The Luis Barragán–designed private residence and equestrian center is all vibrant color and clean lines. Although his palette is much wider than Barragán’s own and his bands of color are fuzzier around the edges, the artist’s works resonate with and meld into their semi-rural surroundings. Take Landline That Pink, 2017, for instance, whose very title pays homage to the architect’s signature hue.

    The juxtaposition of Scully’s

  • picks November 14, 2017

    Kasper Akhøj

    When Eileen Gray’s ill-fated 1929 architectural gem E-1027—a beautifully proportioned white modernist villa overlooking the sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, near Monaco—opened to the public in 2015, the controversial restoration project that started in 2006 and saw successive teams of architects and administrators undoing and redoing each other’s work was far from over. Taken on five separate visits to the site between 2009 and 2017, Kasper Akhøj’s black-and-white photographs chart the progress of such work at the house. Variously displayed individually, as pairs, and in constellations, the set of

  • diary August 19, 2016

    Third Time’s a Charm

    WHAT HAPPENS WHEN Brazil and the Middle East meet in Japan? Artistic director Chihiro Minato conceived “Homo Faber: A Rainbow Caravan,” the third edition of the Aichi Triennale, as a journey, inviting curators Daniela Castro and Zeynep Öz—based respectively in São Paulo and Istanbul—along for the ride.

    The trip was designed to take visitors, curators, and artists across the Aichi prefecture in central Japan from the bustling capital of Nagoya to the smaller, equidistant cities of Okazaki and Toyohashi—all located on the same train line. A new satellite venue, Toyohashi has a sizable Brazilian

  • picks August 11, 2016

    “Finnish Landscape”

    This open-air museum, like all others, is an elaborate fiction. Confined to an island and only accessible by a footbridge, the place—with its traditional wooden buildings, original furnishings, and costumed interpreters—appears to be caught in a time warp. Commissioned by the nonprofit Checkpoint Helsinki and curated by Joanna Warsza, “Finnish Landscape” features ten local and international artists subjecting this bucolic yet artificial landscape to critical scrutiny. An outline of Seurasaari looks like an elongated leaf in Erik Bruun’s arresting graphic design created for the poster of the

  • diary August 01, 2016

    Beach and Teach

    CAN EDUCATION BE SEXY? I didn’t used to think so. Twelve days in the company of twelve near-strangers on the volcanic Dodecanese island of Nisyros made me reconsider.

    What brought us there—from Athens, Stockholm, Berlin, Brussels, Kassel, Hamburg, and Vancouver—was the Experimental Education Protocol, admittedly not the sexiest of banners. Drafted by artist Angelo Plessas, EEP or #exedupro—in its snappier, Instagrammable version—proposes “an alternative educational model” based on “experiential and communal learning.” For Plessas, whose Eternal Internet Brotherhood has been meeting every year

  • picks March 09, 2016

    Alice Theobald and Atomik Architecture

    A collaborative project by Alice Theobald and Atomik Architecture, It’s not who you are, it’s how you are, 2015, operates on different levels—quite literally. Mixing sound, video, and performance, the temporary edifice they conceived together is composed of a sinuous black platform abutting four cylindrical, timber-framed towers lined with duvets. This immersive site-specific installation occupies a single, lofty gallery, and its hypnotic recorded sound track permeates everything.

    Visitors are channeled along a circular route as they walk in and out of the towers at ground level, which are

  • interviews January 18, 2016

    Aura Satz

    Spanning film, sound, performance, and sculpture, Aura Satz’s historically anchored projects often celebrate the achievements and inventions of women. “Her Marks, a Measure,” Satz’s solo exhibition at Dallas Contemporary, presents two recent works—the dual slide projector installation Her Luminous Distance, 2014, and the film Between the Bullet and the Hole, 2015—which focus on women who compiled data as so-called human computers, enabling advances in astronomy and ballistics, respectively. The show is on view from January 17 through March 20, 2016.

    ALL MY WORKS explore diagrams and traces;

  • picks January 14, 2016

    “Qwaypurlake”

    The mix of science fiction, archaeology, and magic in this varied group show makes for a lethal cocktail, bound to leave visitors feeling somewhat queasy. At the outset, David Wojtowycz’s looping video installation The Lake, 2012—the only moving-image work on view—presents a pier stretching out toward the horizon, a lurid pink at both ends, as if lit up by twin setting suns. The unnaturally still and ruffled aspect of the water adds to the sense of the uncanny, compounded by a disquieting sound track that permeates the adjacent rooms.

    Bringing together mostly British artists with some connection

  • diary November 16, 2015

    The Curator Cure

    “SOME OF THE OTHER FAIRS need to step it up,” artist Hugo McCloud declared as we stood outside of the brightly lit Lingotto Oval on the opening night of the twenty-second Artissima. Formerly a skating ring built for the 2006 Winter Olympics, the pavilion is nowadays oval in name alone. Artissima director Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, whom I had run into earlier at the plush VIP Lounge styling itself as an “Opium Den,” took me up to a suspended observatory kitted with design furniture, where the jury members for the different prizes convened. (Rumor has it that it was designed for the director to

  • picks October 02, 2015

    Jasmina Cibic

    A conference room has never looked this good. Immaculately dressed and made-up, the four female speakers seated at the round table beneath a vast, elegant glass dome could be characters from Sex and the City were it not for their posh British accents and the fact that they appear to be debating the merits and demerits of an unspecified building slated for demolition. Culled from speeches by public figures, state officials, dictators, and architects spanning the last century, theirs is no ordinary dialogue. Each woman embodies a certain position—nation builder, pragmatist, conservationist, and

  • picks July 06, 2015

    William Kentridge

    Spread over four oddly shaped rooms, this tight-knit exhibition begins with a portrait gallery of cardboard cutouts mounted on the walls. Roughly sketched out, effigies of Cicero and Giordano Bruno rub shoulders with those of Chinese revolutionary heroes as well as some token household items (a bathtub, a typewriter) tucked away at one end. Affixed to wooden poles or borne on shoulders, these effigies are among the trophies carried by members of the shadow procession unfolding across eight screens in William Kentridge’s new video installation, More Sweetly Play the Dance, 2015, around which the

  • picks June 29, 2015

    Juan Muñoz

    Spanish artist Juan Muñoz’s sculptures and installations are the stuff of dreams, or nightmares. The geometric patterned linoleum floor he designed, which greets visitors entering the main exhibition room, seems to infinitely extend the space. The diminutive bronze ventriloquist figure seated on a ledge affixed to the wall in The Wasteland, 1986, stares across the floor’s dizzyingly linear expanse at his double in The Waste Land, 1986, perched atop a small white wall.

    Muñoz’s doubling effects and optical tricks are only compounded as one turns the corner. Dotted around the space or suspended from

  • picks June 22, 2015

    Ian Cheng

    A “smart story” is how Ian Cheng describes Emissary in the Squat of Gods, 2015, the latest of his live simulations and the centerpiece of this exhibition. Neither a movie nor a video game, yet partaking of both, this never-ending auto-generative animation indebted to Japanese film director and manga artist Hayao Miyazaki is smart in more ways than one: It combines artificial intelligence with a slick presentation.

    Placed aslant in relation to the wall on which the two-channel simulation is projected, a large white podium, whose single step viewers can sit on, bears the twin projectors, speakers,

  • diary March 24, 2015

    Track Meet

    STEPPING INSIDE the plush lobby of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina—a mere four miles from Saint Moritz in the Engadin valley—felt like walking into a time warp. The beautifully appointed Kronenhof, overlooking the Roseg Glacier and a pine-clad valley, is what the Grand Budapest Hotel in Wes Anderson’s film may have been like in its glory days. A bottle of champagne was chilling in my room, but alas, there was no time to wallow in the luxury of the place that evening, as the Schwarzenbachs were expecting our party for dinner at Villa Meridiana in Saint Moritz.

    Champagne was being served

  • picks March 16, 2015

    James Benning

    With its white walls, this latest installation of “Decoding Fear” seems the negative image of the show’s first iteration at Kunsthaus Graz, where sundry objects, texts, and projections were displayed in a dark space. In either iteration, the gallery spaces have felt as sepulchral as the immaculately white, minimally furnished twin cabins at the heart of the show. These simplified, abstract reproductions of the hermitical dwellings that Henry David Thoreau and the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski constructed at Walden Pond and Stemple Pass, Montana, respectively, are an essay in contrasts, for all their

  • diary March 10, 2015

    Private Eyes

    CONVENIENTLY LOCATED FOR THE CITY AIRPORT, if not much else, artgenève is a ten-minute walk from the arrival gate. Though styled as a salon d’art, there is nothing salon-like about the vast complex known as Palexpo—short for Palais des Expositions et des Congrès—which has housed the fair since its inception.

    Now in its fourth edition, artgenève prides itself on being more intimate and “human-scale” than most fairs. For one thing, the number of exhibiting galleries is capped at seventy. These share the floor with private groups like the Syz Collection, local institutions, and nonprofit spaces,

  • diary January 19, 2015

    Drama School

    “WE CAN LEARN A LOT FROM PIRATES,” artist Jonas Staal assured us. We had just finished the “Violence & Non-Violence” panel that closed day two of Artist Organisations International (AOI), a congress initiated by Staal with the Berlin-based curators Florian Malzacher and Joanna Warsza and held at the Hebbel am Ufer complex in Kreuzberg. According to Staal, “Pirate ships run on a model of direct democracy.” The metaphor wasn’t totally off; we may have been on dry land, inside a theater rather than a boat, but the three-day event at times felt as rudderless as a Ship of Fools.

    The AOI had gathered

  • diary December 17, 2014

    Money Talks

    A MAN WALKS into a bar and greets another: “Wasabi.”

    What on earth does that mean? “What’s up,” artist Gabriel Lester had to spell it out for me.

    The bar, furnished with slanted black wooden stools designed by Robert Wilhite to facilitate encounters rather than comfort, is the setting for BOB’s YOUR UNCLE, a recurring event at the back of the Kunstverein in Amsterdam’s lively De Pijp district. That Friday, warming saffron vodka cocktails as well as a pale cloudy concoction were being served, courtesy of perfumer-turned-artist Laurent-David Garnier. “Saffron is the new red,” he assured me.

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