Allison Young

  • Samson Kambalu, Don, 2014, digital video, black-and-white, silent, 52 seconds.

    Samson Kambalu

    The colonial government of the early-twentieth-century British protectorate of Nyasaland (today’s Republic of Malawi) exerted control over the bodies of Black citizens in ways that were both brutal and mundane—Africans who did not remove their hats or shoes in the presence of a European, for example, were subject to punishment. The Reverend John Chilembwe took particular issue with such policing of clothing and gestures, and in 1915 he led an uprising against plantation owners. Samson Kambalu’s exhibition “New Liberia” smartly laid bare the absurdity—and the utter seriousness—of such rules and

  • Joe Tilson, Eye Mantra, 1971–72, oil on wooden relief, 79 1⁄8 × 79 1⁄8".

    Joe Tilson

    Around the time British Pop artist Joe Tilson moved from London to rural Wiltshire in 1972, following time spent in Hannover, Germany, his work underwent a major shift in iconography and style, or so the story goes. Gone were the strategies of mass-media critique that had defined his seminal series “Pages,” 1970, which had been nurtured by the countercultural politics of the 1960s and the print revolution at London’s famed Kelpra Studio. Instead, Tilson embraced a pastoralist lifestyle—tending the land, growing his own food, and joining peers such as Peter Blake in what amounted to a major exodus

  • Gaku Tsutaja, Spider’s Thread Daily Drawings Day 11: 230 Million Dollar Village, 2020, sumi ink and graphite on canvas, 11 x 14".
    picks July 21, 2020

    Gaku Tsutaja

    If recent months have taught us anything, it’s how deeply entangled our lives are with others across the globe—revolutions and microbial pathogens can sweep through continents, propelled by social media and airborne particles. Gaku Tsutaja’s current exhibition here addresses this interconnectedness, ensuring us it’s nothing new. When the pandemic hit, Tsutaja was researching the Manhattan Project and its devastating nuclear impacts, in Japan as well as the Native American homelands, portions of which have been co-opted by the United States military as test sites. Illustrating a butterfly effect

  • Marcel Dzama, The pool near the ocean, 2020, watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper, 12 x 9".
    picks May 08, 2020

    Marcel Dzama

    Beneath a pair of sienna-hued palm trees, four hooded women in polka-dotted capes stand by the edge of a pool in which a lone child sits, fully clothed. With upturned hands, he creates a swirl of gentle ripples across the water’s surface. This watercolor drawing by Marcel Dzama, titled The pool near the ocean, 2020, is among several serene bayside dramas produced for an online presentation at David Zwirner. Each whimsical scene—inspired by the artist’s recent sojourns with his young son to Morocco and Mexico—is peopled with a host of carnivalesque characters, whose choreographed antics often

  • Saks Afridi, Sighting #3, 2019, Vibrachrome print on aluminum, 48 × 36".

    “Utopian Imagination”

    Imagining utopia requires a certain leap of faith—and a conscious suspension of our present reality, with all its glaring limitations. That we must cross a literal threshold in order to enter this group exhibition seems appropriate, then. Viewers pass through a curtain of silver drapes into a small, mirrored room, wherein a pair of luscious panels by Firelei Báez—known for creating immersive, painterly environments that overlie evanescent portraits and Baroque Tropicália—are infinitely reflected. Collectively titled Adjusting the Moon (The right to non-imperative clarities), 2019, these works

  • Left: Gallerist El-Yesha Puplampu and artist Serge Attukwei Clottey. Right: Curator Koyo Kouoh and founder of 1:54 Touria El Glaoui. (All photos: Allison Young)
    diary May 05, 2017

    Fair Exchange

    “ART HAS ALWAYS BEEN A SITE OF RESISTANCE, A SITE OF REFUGE IN HARD TIMES,” Dakar-based curator Koyo Kouoh mused while we were discussing the impressive lineup she had organized for this weekend’s discursive and artistic program throughout the third iteration of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. During the morning preview at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works, we stood in front of Nú Barreto’s monumental Disunited States of Africa, 2010, an American flag reconceived as pan-African icon. Black stars representing African nations cascade down the composition, crossing gold and red stripes, which are adorned

  • Susan Hiller, Homage to Marcel Duchamp: Auras, 2008, fifty color archival dry prints, each 12 x 12", overall 12 1/2 x 12 1/2'.
    interviews April 28, 2017

    Susan Hiller

    London-based artist Susan Hiller is known for her innovative media works, many of which incorporate elements of anthropology and psychoanalysis. One recent strain of her practice involves artworks that pay tribute to other artists whose works reveal an influence of occult or paranormal ideas, such as her ongoing Homage to Marcel Duchamp: Auras, 2008–, a collection of aura photographs, sourced online and digitally modified; the work is inspired by Duchamp’s Portrait of Dr. Dumouchel, 1910, which shows the sitter surrounded by colorful emanations. Here, she speaks about the aura works included

  • Pieter Hugo, Portrait #3, Rwanda, 2014, digital C-print. From the series “1994,” 2014–16.
    picks February 17, 2017

    Pieter Hugo

    The “born free” generation of South Africans—those born after the fall of apartheid in 1994—has recently come into the limelight as protest movements such as #FeesMustFall or #RhodesMustFall have swept university campuses and city streets. The country’s youth have rallied against the intensification of economic disparity and the lingering effects of historical traumas. As time passes, the Mandela-era dream of the “rainbow nation” seems to slide further away.

    South African photographer Pieter Hugo offers a more enigmatic vision of this generation with his series “1994,” 2014–16, employing portraiture

  • View of “Meleko Mokgosi: Democratic Intuition, Lerato,” 2016.
    picks September 16, 2016

    Meleko Mokgosi

    In two concurrent solo exhibitions at the gallery’s Twentieth and Twenty-Fourth Street spaces, Meleko Mokgosi presents the latest “chapters” in an ongoing series titled “Democratic Intuition,” 2014–. His monumental paintings give us African subjects in compositions derived from vernacular photography, film, and European history paintings, but the project is far more complex than a mere blending of African and Western influences. Mokgosi examines the construction of historical narratives and questions of representation—both visual and political—through a process of continuous becoming: Precise,

  • Dawit L. Petros, A Series of Complicated Ambivalences (detail), 2016, 12 archival color pigment prints, dimensions variable.
    picks June 13, 2016

    Dawit L. Petros

    In many of Dawit L. Petros’s large-scale color photographs, fragmented or partially obscured figures stand in vast desert landscapes, flanked by swathes of sea, sand, and sky. The effect is enigmatic—like de Chirico’s abandoned city plazas—but might be more appropriately characterized as opaque in the sense described by the late Martinican writer Édouard Glissant, whose words grace Petros’s film, The Shop, (all works cited, 2016). Glissant writes: “There is an opacity now at the bottom of the mirror, a whole alluvium deposited by populations, silt that is fertile but, in actual fact, indistinct

  • View of “Bosco Sodi,” 2016.
    picks May 09, 2016

    Bosco Sodi

    The Japanese art of kintsugi—the treatment of cracked or broken pottery with gold lacquer—stems from a philosophical embrace of imperfection. Seams of precious metal trace the jagged fault lines of an object; gold can elevate, but does not mask, these traces of the vessel’s history. Bosco Sodi’s art is forged in a similar spirit of deference for raw materials and natural processes. If you look closely enough at one of his ceramic-glazed volcanic rock sculptures (all works cited Untitled, 2016), a subtle line of gold-on-gold pigment might catch the light, revealing its meandering path across the

  • View of “Kim Gordon,” 2015
    picks July 15, 2015

    Kim Gordon

    While the full title of Kim Gordon’s current solo exhibition—“Design Office: Noise Name Paintings and Sculptures of Rock Bands that are Broken Up”—makes direct allusion to the concept of noise, the show itself might just as easily be characterized by the dramatic effect of silence that it invokes on both visual and thematic levels. The main walls of the long gallery space are lined with black-and-white paintings that memorialize and canonize current noise bands as well as groups that are now defunct. Distinctly nonfigurative, the paintings still bear some affinity to icons; they contain only