Agnieszka Gratza

  • picks September 04, 2014

    “Portraits d’intérieurs”

    The pictorial genre that lends this exhibition its title flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century, before photography made it redundant. “Interior portraits” depicted living spaces and their furnishings, devoid of yet suggestive of human presence. Built around historical works and archival materials, the installations on view by five contemporary artists can be seen as three-dimensional portraits of interiors.

    Put center-stage, Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s and Nick Mauss’s contributions—Jean Cocteau . . ., 2003–14, and Concern, Crush, Desire, 2011—pay tribute to Cocteau and to his

  • diary August 25, 2014

    Forgive and Forget

    THE HOUSE OF EXTRAVAGANZA lies at the end of a narrow lane that slopes up toward the volcano. “You made it,” Fiorucci Art Trust director Milovan Farronato greeted me shortly after I arrived on the opening evening of the ten-day Volcano Extravaganza festival. Getting to the remote Aeolian island of Stromboli from Saint Petersburg in a day certainly felt like an achievement. But losing a night of sleep seemed a small price to pay to hang out with fellow lotus eaters on the terrace of the whitewashed villa at the foot of the volcano.

    Lest I forgot this was meant to be work, someone motioned me to

  • diary July 13, 2014

    Here Comes the Sun

    THE TWENTY-ACRE PARC DES ATELIERS, a defunct SNCF railway yard on the outer edge of Arles, might only be a fifteen-minute walk from the train station. But as I stood in midday heat last Sunday, with no taxis in sight, Maja Hoffmann’s proposal to build a station closer to the Ateliers made perfect sense to me.

    Not so to my French travel companions, who saw it as a sign of how out of touch with (local) reality the Swiss-born arts patron is. A new railway station is, after all, “an affair of national concern.” Though Hoffmann, who recently purchased the Ateliers to transform them into a Frank

  • picks May 03, 2014

    “L’Heure des sorcières”

    Spread throughout four rooms, this thematic group exhibition takes as its starting point Breton myths and legends as portrayed by nineteenth-century French artists in works borrowed from the local Musée des Beaux Arts. Drawing on traditional basket-weaving techniques, ethnographic approaches, and oral histories, Paris-based artist Marie Preston’s sculpture piece Barque sorcière (Witch Boat), 2014, and accompanying fictional dialogue involving four characters—a druidess, a painter, a widow, and a washerwoman—specifically address the lore of female seaweed harvesters on the nearby Île de Sein and

  • performance April 19, 2014

    Black Ties

    “AT 7:30 be ready to go across the street to that building there,” a man standing by the open window whispered as he placed a square wooden object in the palm of my hand. I followed the direction of his gaze to a tall opulent building—the Vault Karaköy, which used to house the Credit General Ottoman, recently converted into a luxury hotel—on the other side of Bankalar Caddesi, just a few doors down from SALT in Istanbul’s Galata quarter.

    For the time-being we found ourselves in a shabby room bathed in an eerie blue light, as Charles Arsène-Henry initiated some of the black-clad dinner guests into

  • picks March 25, 2014

    Richard Hawkins

    Not a contorted martial arts move or sex position, “Hijikata Twist,” the subtitle of Richard Hawkins’s debut UK museum exhibition, refers to the uses and abuses to which the Japanese artist and choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata subjected works by Western painters in his Butoh-fu scrapbooks of the 1960s and ’70s. These reveal the often overlooked Western influences, literary and artistic, behind butoh—a species of dance and performance art with dark, erotic overtones that Hijikata was elaborating at the time. Collaged with densely annotated reproductions of figurative abstract paintings, which

  • performance March 20, 2014

    You’ve Got Mail

    I’M RUNNING LATE for my appointment with the Anembassador of Abkhazia. The fact that it’s only a mock-embassy hosted by an art institution and that I’m meeting the anembassador of a country that does not even figure on some maps is no excuse. Maxim Gvinjia, Abkhazia’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, doesn’t seem to mind. I thank him for granting me an audience. The rules of the game have not been spelled out at any point yet I find myself playing along, unable to decide whether to take this exercise seriously or in jest.

    While he goes out to fetch some milk for my coffee (the anembassy appears

  • picks January 25, 2014

    “Schizophonia”

    The synagogue turned contemporary art center in sleepy Delme, near Metz, could not be further removed from a white cube, despite its milky-white interior and perfectly square proportions. Modeled after Berlin’s Neue Synagoge, the repurposed building has accommodated an impressive range of group and solo exhibitions over the last two decades. As number symbolism is integral to sacred Jewish architecture, it seems at once fitting and discordant that Latifa Echakhch’s Resolutions (In Progress), 2009, should greet the visitor on the threshold of this well-orchestrated and elegant show guest-curated

  • performance December 06, 2013

    Every Which Way

    IN A FOUR-WAY “conversation” with his collaborator Silas Riener, dance critic Claudia La Rocco, and lighting designer Davison Scandrett, posted on Bomblog on the eve of Way In’s premiere, choreographer and dancer Rashaun Mitchell said: “I’m always thinking about what’s the way into this and out of this.” What follows are four ways into the piece I went to see at Danspace Project during its brief run, offered up as my way of making sense of it (with a little help from my friends).

    The Way of Taste

    In a prior incarnation, a site-specific performance and installation at the BFI Gallery in Miami, Way

  • picks October 31, 2013

    Atelier Van Lieshout

    “The Butcher” is the first installment in the New Tribal Labyrinth trilogy, the latest Gesamtkunstwerk by the Rotterdam-based collective Atelier Van Lieshout in the greatly expanded exhibition space at Marseille’s La Friche de la Belle de Mai, which has been spruced up like the rest of the city to mark its term as the 2013 European Capital of Culture. The work comprises large-scale sculptural installations inspired by the built environment the Industrial Revolution left behind; agriculture, industry, and ritual are the three pillars upon which the imaginary society of the New Tribal Labyrinth

  • performance October 14, 2013

    Oto Didacts

    “IS IT JUST ME? Lightning Bolt’s been doing it for, like, ten years,” a stranger sidles up, sensing a fellow-skeptic. I nod. “The shirtless thing, the masks,” he adds. My response is drowned out by waves of sonic interference. Out there in the spotlight, a balaclava-clad man stripped down to his waist is pounding away at some homemade drumlike instrument, while his bare-chested companion, a shaggy black wig covering up his face, is strumming on something resembling an elongated rocket. We’re being treated to sonic warfare by Poland’s noise rock band BNNT. Derivative or not, the act has got raw

  • performance August 19, 2013

    Up in the Air

    THE AIR, this year’s chosen theme for Contexts 2013, the third Sokolovsko Festival of Ephemeral Art, could not be more appropriate. Set amid the wooded hills of the Stone Mountains, close to the Polish-Czech border, the health resort of Sokolovsko boasts a microclimate uniquely suited for the treatment of lung diseases. Consumptive patients have been employed over the years to carve out the unusual, childlike motifs adorning the concrete grey facades of local buildings. In Situ, the contemporary art foundation that runs the festival, has set out to restore these buildings, along with the ruined

  • picks July 26, 2013

    Moyra Davey

    The outcome of a reconnaissance-cum-research trip to Liverpool and Manchester earlier this year, this exhibition takes its somewhat macabre title, “Hangmen of England,” from a scholarly volume Moyra Davey discovered while taking photographs at the Liverpool Central Library. Focused on small-scale photographic works, which are pinned to the walls and showcased in two antique walnut-framed vitrines (the only adornment in an otherwise bare room), this beautifully spare solo show styles itself as an archival display.

    The exhibition’s centerpiece is a new iteration of the artist’s ongoing “Copperhead”

  • performance April 30, 2013

    Project Runway

    THE LAST TIME I saw New York–based Polish artists Joanna Malinowska and Christian Tomaszewski was at a party in Brooklyn. The guests were asked to set their inhibitions aside and howl together like a pack of wolves (or was it coyotes?) in preparation for a participatory group performance Malinowska was staging as part of her contribution to the 2012 Whitney Biennial.

    Nothing quite so taxing, or invigorating, was required of the elegant crowd gathered around the giant Tyvek spacesuit for the opening earlier this month of Mother Earth Sister Moon at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw. The spacesuit was

  • picks April 16, 2013

    Alice Channer, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Linder

    Made in response to the work of a woman and curated by women, this trio of subtly interconnected yet discrete exhibitions by three female artists (Alice Channer, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, and Linder) at different stages in their careers is spread across five communicating rooms at the Hepworth Wakefield. The influence of Barbara Hepworth, the presiding deity of the place—whose love of gardens, fashion, birds, music, opera, and dance are variously invoked, perhaps more by Linder, as she seeks to engage with Hepworth’s legacy, than the two younger artists—may be partly responsible for the unabashedly

  • picks January 08, 2013

    Maurizio Cattelan

    Maurizio Cattelan’s 2011 retrospective at the Guggenheim, emphatically titled “All,” was meant to be his last show. But with “Amen” at the Center for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, he appears to have risen from his ashes. Although none of the pieces on view had been made specifically for this show (all were featured in the Guggenheim retrospective), the particular context into which they have been inserted—that of a still predominantly Catholic Poland struggling to come to terms with the traumas of the past century—gives these familiar works a new resonance. In contrast to the

  • picks November 07, 2012

    “Expanded Performance”

    You can’t accuse the staff of Stroom Den Haag––an independent center for art and architecture located in The Hague––of lacking in spirit of adventure. The venue’s latest project, titled “Expanded Performance,” in reference to Rosalind Krauss’s seminal 1979 essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” steadily encroaches upon Stroom’s work and exhibition space. Artist and architect Adrien Tirtiaux will eventually reduce Stroom Den Haag by 20 percent, as a visual rendering of the Dutch government’s stringent budget cuts affecting cultural institutions, by erecting slanted, skeletal wooden structures

  • picks April 02, 2012

    “Chronicles of a Disappearance”

    Spread across two neighboring exhibition spaces, this show takes its name from the Palestinian director Elia Suleiman’s acclaimed first feature film, Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996). The show’s title is subtly alterated to reflect the contributions, in a variety of media, from five artists of different national origins.

    Taryn Simon’s stylish 2007 photographic series “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” dominates one gallery, and her haunting still Zahra/Farah, 2007, made for Brian De Palma’s film Redacted (2007) about the gang rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl by

  • Sanja Iveković

    Croatian artist Sanja Iveković’s works, which range from private gestures documented on video to public interventions broadcast on television or erected in a city square, were never intended for museum display. Yet for “Sweet Violence,” the artist’s first retrospective in the United States, curator Roxana Marcoci overcame the challenge of presenting such formally diverse works in an institutional context. At once the starting point and the centerpiece of this exhibition, the large-scale Lady Rosa of Luxembourg, 2001, emblematized this success—it actually seemed made to fit MoMA’s atrium.

  • picks November 15, 2011

    “33 Fragments of Russian Performance”

    A joint venture between Performa and Moscow’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, “33 Fragments of Russian Performance” occupies an entire floor of the former elementary school in Nolita where Performa Hub—a pop-up academy, bookshop, visitor center, and exhibition space rolled into one—has set up quarters for the duration of the biennial. Given its resolutely institutional setting, it is unsurprising that the exhibition should read like so many variations on the theme of rebelliousness.

    Russian Constructivism is among the thematic strands explored in this year’s edition of Performa, and this