Alex Davidson

  • Charlotte Salmon, Leben? oder Theater? (Life? Or Theatre?) (detail), 1941–42, gauche on paper, 12 1/2 x 10".
    picks January 27, 2020

    Charlotte Salomon

    “I will live for them all,” Charlotte Salomon promised to the several women in her family who had taken their own lives. She kept her promise. Her means of survival? Leben? oder Theater? (Life? Or Theatre?), a monumental corpus of nearly eight hundred page-size gouaches that poured out of Salomon—obsessively, furtively—in the early 1940s. Two hundred of these original paintings hang elegantly behind glass panels in this exhibition. Arranged as storyboards and annotated with transparent overlays of text, the world she reckons with in these scenes is her own once removed, narrated by “Charlotte

  • Jo Spence in collaboration with Terry Dennett, The Picture of Health: Property of Jo Spence?, 1982, gelatin silver print on paper, 16 x 12''.
    picks July 30, 2019

    Jo Spence and Oreet Ashery

    Jo Spence’s iconic photographs of her body between her first cancer diagnosis in 1982 and her death ten years later appeal so keenly to a posthumous memorialization of her oeuvre that it becomes easy to overlook the community organizing and activism to which she devoted the majority of her working life. Still, the artist’s collages, scrapbooks, self-portraits, and interviews included in “Misbehaving Bodies” splay open with raw clarity her confrontations with patriarchal and classist value systems and the ways in which they govern lives and their representation. Spence made photography into a

  • Leslie Thornton, Cut from Liquid to Snake (still), 2018, HD and 2K video loop, 26 minutes 14 seconds.
    picks December 10, 2018

    Leslie Thornton

    “Have you really thought about the question, What is thought?” philosophizes a bearded man in Leslie Thornton’s twenty-six-minute film Cut from Liquid to Snake, 2018. His face is oddly cramped against the camera; perhaps we’re witnessing bedtime banter. Complicating matters, Thornton has fragmented the footage into multiple reflections that jumble into a kaleidoscope, an effect she repeats throughout the film. A woman’s voice replies with a non sequitur: “The Boson is the particle, and the Higgs is the field. . . .” He interrupts: “They’re just names.” Thornton’s grainy, near-monochrome video

  • View of Shannon Te Ao’s my life as a tunnel, 2018.
    picks July 01, 2018

    Shannon Te Ao

    Being in Shannon Te Ao’s exhibition “my life as a tunnel” is a bit like entering another body. The gallery is lit only by the dim glow of the show’s two video projections, and their soundtracks ripple through the room as though through skin, tissue, and marrow.

    Such is the viscous intimacy of A torch and a light (cover), 2015. In the video, the words of a precolonial waiata (a Māori song) are spoken as the camera pans across the dark walls of a former abattoir: “Sparkling brightly on high / Are a hundred stars of early morn; / Would ye’ together were my spouse / I would then enclasp ye all in

  • View of “Giovani Intra,” 2018. From left: Twin Intoxicant; White Powder; Pharmakon Squib, all 1992.
    picks April 05, 2018

    Giovanni Intra

    The death of a young artist is lighter fuel for the blaze of mythologizing that inevitably follows. But Giovanni Intra was enshrined in legend well before he died suddenly in New York in 2002 at the age of thirty-four. At the time, Intra had been running China Art Objects, the LA gallery he cofounded, having also established himself as a writer and editor. His earliest work, made in his native New Zealand, mined the meanings of punk, religion, and pharmacology with a luminescent and at times provocative energy, and he funneled his pursuits through a Bataillean idea of subculture, which he once

  • Rosalind Nashashibi, Electrical Gaza, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 18 minutes.
    picks October 12, 2015

    Rosalind Nashashibi

    Rosalind Nashashibi’s new film Electrical Gaza, 2015, recasts Gaza as an enchanted place behind sealed borders, codified through danger and division, bristling with beauty and life. Shot prior to the most recent Israeli assault on the area in 2014, it images scenes of the region where violence is, for once, not at the center. The camera luxuriates in quotidian life: Kids play in an alley, horses are washed in the searing blue Mediterranean, and men prepare falafel and sing together in a living room.

    Every so often, Nashashibi’s footage morphs into computer-modeled animations resembling children’s

  • View of “Rachel Rose: Palisades,” 2015.
    picks October 12, 2015

    Rachel Rose

    “Um, I’m the voice of dead people, so. . .” are the first words channeled through the female protagonist in Rachel Rose’s video Palisades in Palisades, 2014, which is filmed atop a cliff in upstate New York’s Palisades Interstate Park, a former battleground of the Revolutionary War. This is also the location of the beginnings of pre-Hollywood cinema, and the protagonist bears subtle references to tortured women in popular movies—von Trier’s Melancholia, Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Cuarón’s Gravity, Godard’s Pierrot le Fou. The site’s violent history is recollected through a synesthetic relationship

  • View of “Them,” 2015.
    picks July 03, 2015


    Before her death in 1973, Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow cast the effects of sickness on her body into sculptures. Bits of synthetic female flesh—lips, breasts, bellies—are severed like limbs, suspended in a performance of pain and its counterpart, pleasure. The Bachelor’s Ashtray I, 1972, for instance, is a two-faced head sliced open just below the nose, its wound a repository for matches and cigarette butts. This is one of many works by Szapocznikow in “Them,” which sets a group of younger artists who have specific associations with post-Internet art into conversation with the feminist