Ana Finel Honigman

  • Bruce LaBruce, LA ZOMBIE, 2010, still from a color film in HD, 65 minutes. Installation view.
    picks March 09, 2010

    Bruce LaBruce

    Francois Sagat, the star of Bruce LaBruce’s latest film and a series of monochromatic silk-screened portraits in his exhibition “LA ZOMBIE: The film that would not die,” has a gladiator physique and tattooed scalp that on first glance seem at odds with the usual flesh eater’s starved silhouette. But the French-Arab gay porn star’s sensitive face sets him apart from his role as the unseeing zombie obsessed with satiating unquenchable desires.

    In the director’s sixty-five-minute film, LA ZOMBIE, 2010, Sagat appears as both an uncommonly comely homeless man scavenging for trash and an electric-blue

  • Leyla Gediz, Autopsy I, 2009, graphite on paper, 27 1/2 x 19 1/2".
    picks February 16, 2010

    Leyla Gediz

    A massive plaster sculpture that depicts a balled-up gym sock is all that can be seen at the entrance to “Subject: Free,” Leyla Gediz’s exhibition of installations, graphite drawings, oil paintings, and epoxy sculptures. The sock that Gediz selected as her subject is beyond banal, almost unpleasant. Yet its size and lifelike detail make it a compelling object, especially in Istanbul, where much of the work in galleries now tends toward monumental subjects such as love and the potential meaning of life itself.

    Gediz’s conceptual art draws comparisons to that of Tom Friedman, as her careful attention

  • John Isaacs, It is for you that I this (hippy scalp), 2009, wax, oil paint, human hair, wood, glass, steel, velvet, 20 x 20 x 71".
    picks February 01, 2010

    John Isaacs

    The centerpiece of “Tears Welling Up Inside,” British artist John Isaacs’s darkly witty solo exhibition, is titled It is for you that I this (hippy scalp), 2009. Here, a delicate Victorian-looking wood and glass vitrine at the entrance of this charming town-house gallery holds a grotesque form––a meaty, veiny scalp streaming platinum-blond hair. Despite the title, the scalp looks exactly like the head of one of the blond nihilists in The Big Lebowski (1998), and in that echo, it seems, is embedded the gritty tension of Isaacs’s work.

    In an adjacent room there is a massive, meticulously crafted

  • View of “Manuel Graf,” 2010.
    picks February 01, 2010

    Manuel Graf

    What is work? Today’s art world isn’t good at drawing a clear line between professional, social, and personal activities or interchanges. In “Buchtipp 2,” Manuel Graf’s deceptively casual installation for his third solo exhibition at this gallery, the artist succeeds in exposing tensions and confusions among different forms of art, work, and play, which might be reason enough to applaud his effort.

    For the show, Graf has arranged two large, flat yellow sofas around a small wooden coffee table, which faces a television that plays a video of couples discussing sections of Rudolf Steiner’s 1919

  • Thomas Baldischwyler, Die Spiegel (Physik), 2009, collage, glass, paint, 22 x 16".  
    picks November 20, 2009

    Thomas Baldischwyler

    Visions of social upheaval and cultural touchstones are painted with a rosy, muted palette in Thomas Baldischwyler’s solo exhibition. Over a series of collaged images culled mainly from vintage mass-market news publications, Baldischwyler elegantly paints Rorschach-blot-like abstractions with thick acrylic, resin, and glitter glazes and employs silk-screen patterns against heavy, occasionally blistered glass panels. The few instances of strong color in the compositions are softened by the thick glass, and the dominant colors on view include sweet, minty green, light yellow, lavender, and rose.

  • Alicja Kwade, Der Tag ohne Gestern (Dimension 1–11) (The Day Without Yesterday [Dimension 1–11]), 2009, steel, black varnish, speakers, mixer, microphones, neon tubes, dimensions variable. Installation view.
    picks October 01, 2009

    Alicja Kwade

    Three works summon a powerful sense of the uncanny in Alicja Kwade’s latest exhibition, “Border Cases of Fundamental Theories.” The Polish-born, Berlin-based artist’s pair of installations and video share a Minimalist appearance, and together they evoke disquieting impressions.

    Kwade’s video captures a few rocks falling slowly through pitch-black space. In reality, the stones are mere pebbles. Yet Kwade has filmed them with a high-speed camera that magnifies the objects to massive proportions on the gallery wall to create the unnerving sense that these simple, harmless stones are meteors plummeting

  • Hito Steyerl, Lovely Andrea, 2007, two-channel video, 30 minutes 15 seconds. Installation view.
    picks September 21, 2009

    Hito Steyerl

    Hito Steyerl’s first solo exhibition at a German institution features After the Crash, 2009, a seven-minute film shown on a loop alongside eight well-matched recent works by the Berlin-based artist. Included is Lovely Andrea, 2007, Steyerl’s thirty-minute tale of her journey through Tokyo’s pornographic publishing industry in search of the single photo spread taken of the artist in 1987 as a nawa shibari bondage model. Produced for Documenta 12, this work benefits from being paired with In/Dependence, 2008, a six-minute film split between two screens that features only close-up shots of Steyerl’s

  • Left: Artist Julieta Aranda. Right: Artist Eva Grubinger, dealer Johann König, and critic Jörg Heiser. (All photos: Ana Finel Honigman)
    diary September 10, 2009

    Building Character

    Berlin

    “I AM SAD and sentimental tonight,” Julieta Aranda said at the start of the two-night Irish wake a fortnight ago for the Building, the multiuse space that the Mexican-born artist established with Anton Vidokle and Magdalena Magiera. “I was up all night printing photos from past parties to pin on the walls. I was holding them and thinking, ‘That looks like so much fun. I look so drunk in these.’ But we always wanted it to be a moment. We never wanted it to become an institution.”

    Despite that intention, the Building grew into a long-term hub for Berlin’s art activity. Vidokle originally rented

  • David Levine, Hopeful, 2005–2009, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.
    picks August 03, 2009

    David Levine

    The discarded head shots and cover letters that David Levine has culled from casting agents and used to wallpaper this gallery all proclaim that their subjects are flexible, professional, and extremely eager. Yet it is unlikely that these actors would be pleased with the role they now play in Levine’s artwork, as their unwitting participation in his project does not cast them in a flattering light. Nevertheless, it is a role more poignant, challenging, and meaningful than most acting jobs.

    Levine’s Hopeful, 2005–2009, evokes uncomfortable degrees of voyeurism, schadenfreude, empathy, and pity.

  • Paolo Chiasera, Berg (Mountain), 2009, oil, canvas, wood. Installation view.
    picks June 12, 2009

    Paolo Chiasera

    “Under the Open Sky,” Paolo Chiasera’s exhibition in the MARTa Herford museum, is a captivating response to the beauty and the absurdity of the Frank Gehry–designed building that houses it. Gehry’s structure is a mass of exposed brick and seashell-like forms, and like the building’s oscillating exterior, Chiasera’s work initially recalls the natural world. But in actuality, the Bologna-born and Berlin-based artist’s show is a layered meditation on the often-fraught relationship between artists––including Gehry––and the nature they seek to represent or emulate.

    Adjacent to Wald (Forest), 2009,

  • Rini Tandon, Echo Location 2 (detail), wood, plastic strings, metal, 2009, dimensions variable. Installation view.
    picks June 01, 2009

    Rini Tandon

    Rini Tandon uses numerous materials and media to explore a fundamental aspect of the natural world in “Waves,” her first solo show in Berlin. The Indian-born and Vienna-based artist calls on drawing, sculpture, photography, video, and installation to visually represent energy waves and associated elements of the branch of geometry known as topography.

    Without context, the majority of Tandon’s works appear to be abstractions with aesthetic roots in 1980s art. Her use of colors such as magenta, radioactive orange, and electric blue gives the show an element of lightness and fun. But these seductive

  • Simon Schubert, Untitled (Staircase out of water),
2009, 45 x 35”.
    picks May 20, 2009

    Simon Schubert

    The main installation of “In Apnoesie,” Simon Schubert’s first solo exhibition in Berlin, collects crisp, clean black-and-white sculptures that recall horror-film tropes. At first glance, its cool presentation suggests that our nightmares have become domesticated, maybe even sanitized. But somehow, they still do not feel safe. The distance that Schubert achieves by removing any hint of gore and by addressing his darkly surreal source material with a levelheaded aesthetic slowly accentuates the creepiness of his work, even for viewers jaded by graphic violence.

    Among the works the Cologne-based