Ara Osterweil

  • Bharti Kher

    In 1993, Bharti Kher weighed moving to New Delhi versus moving to New York. For an artist born and raised in England, she chose the road less traveled and relocated to India. As her recent show attests, Kher’s decision has made all the difference in her choice of materials and motifs. In a series of sculptures made between 2012 and 2016, heavily lacquered saris draped on cast-concrete plinths create portraits of the absent bodies they reference. In The night she left, 2011, saris twist up and around an overturned chair on a set of reclaimed wooden stairs that dead-end into a wall. Who is “she,”

  • AT WIT’S END

    LIKE A SCARECROW, Adrian Norvid abhors a match. That’s because everything the British Canadian artist creates is made of paper. But if you are thinking Thomas Demand, think again: Norvid indulges his material of choice to celebrate the lowbrow history of everyday detritus with operatic gusto. From his dilapidated “knocking shop” to his shit-splattered outhouse, Norvid’s 3-D installations evince his faith in minimal means of production; these homely structures are supported by little more than handmade paper tabs and interlocking beams. With the exception of the biscuit tins, rubber chickens,

  • Scott McFarland

    Toronto-based artist Scott McFarland doesn’t represent reality—he cultivates it. He is best known for creating dense composite landscapes—often gardens—that conflate the temporal and spatial coordinates of the not-quite-natural world. McFarland’s images hinge on artificiality—or at least assemblage—as do the photographs of Jeff Wall, for whom he worked as an assistant. And like many post-Conceptualist artists nostalgic for modernism, McFarland probes the specific properties of his media, although the media in question make for a decidedly unmodernist mélange that includes

  • Nadia Myre

    Entering a dark gallery, one encounters a handful of objects, or— as the French title of Nadia Myre’s show, “Tout ce qui reste,” suggests—“all that remains.” They are not so much scattered as deliberately placed, as if to evoke a sacred ritual. All are deeply symbolic: Whether offerings for trade or shrines to remember, each has undergone a meticulous process of handicraft that sanctifies or effaces it.

    The atmosphere is one of quiet contemplation, but the histories of the indigenous peoples that these objects reference are violent. An oversize woven basket—large enough to contain

  • “Before Projection: Video Sculpture 1974–1995”

    In our current age of portable microscreens and flat-screen TVs, it is hard to recall the stubborn materiality of the midcentury television set. Yet before large-screen projection became enshrined in museum and gallery spaces, a generation of Conceptual artists seeking alternatives to both experimental cinema and Minimalist sculpture seized on the availability of inexpensive consumer video technology as a new frontier. These artists did not explore television exclusively as a window onto an ideological world but as a three-dimensional object that might be moved from

  • Janet Werner

    Janet Werner is known for her fun house of female figures. Bending source material from fashion magazines and other forms of popular culture to her imagination, Werner typically distorts both classical and corporate ideals of beauty. Yet what prevents even her quirkiest compositions from becoming mere kitsch is the Canadian painter’s virtuosic technique. Having mastered the medium, Werner seems to have tasked herself with a new imperative: to avoid making her work too gorgeous. This can be difficult when your primary subjects are pretty girls.

    The works on view in “Sticky Pictures” were a bold

  • SONS, MOTHERS, AND LOVERS:

    IN NO HOME MOVIE (2015), Chantal Akerman records the decline of her mother, a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, in what would turn out to be the last few years of both of their lives. The videography is amateur and the interactions between the two women quotidian: The film includes recordings of Skype sessions in which mother and daughter cannot think of much more to say to each other than “I love you.” Yet in spite of the time they spend together, the unspeakable remains so, and the traumas of history resist revelation. For a film in which “nothing happens,” the intimacy is staggering.

    Akerman

  • “Matisse/Diebenkorn”

    It is no wonder that Richard Diebenkorn is known as a “painter’s painter.” His devotion to the medium is evidenced not only in his lush handling of paint but in his constant experimentation and his refusal to be constrained. By moving fluidly between abstraction and representation, as many prewar modernists had, Diebenkorn undermined the hard distinction between the two that circulated among midcentury polemicists. In doing so, he shaped an artistic trajectory that would come to be considered as among the most extraordinary of the post war period. Throughout Diebenkorn’s fifty-year journey from

  • CLOSE UP: AMERICA YEAR ZERO

    THIS YEAR marks the seventieth anniversary of Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks, widely considered the ur-film of American queer cinema. In the pages that follow, artist and film scholar Ara Osterweil reexamines the seminal short as a response to profound social tensions—racial, sexual, and nationalistic—that came to a head in the aftermath of World War II.

    THE INAUGURAL FILM of postwar queer cinema and a watershed event in the history of the American avant-garde, Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks of 1947 is an autobiographical account of the awakening of desire. Shot when the filmmaker was only seventeen years old,1 the film is the sadomasochistic fantasy of a young man, played by the teenage Anger, who dreams he is sexually assaulted by a gang of sailors. Like its young author, the film was precocious. Made in the immediate aftermath of World War II, just as the United States was entering the Cold War, in which it imagined itself to be the policeman of

  • Sophie Mayer’s Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema

    Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema, by Sophie Mayer. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016. 272 pages.

    THESE DAYS, feminism doesn’t always look or sound the way you think it will. In British film scholar and activist Sophie Mayer’s new book, Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema, fourth-wave feminism is digital, transnational, transsexual, anticolonialist, and multiplatform. It is also occasionally “cisgender,” “Two-Spirit,” and—perhaps most regrettably—“merqueer.” As the aforementioned list suggests, getting with the program might require not only recognizing some unexpected political

  • FUCK YOU!

    THIS BRIEF TAXONOMY attempts to theorize why “Fuck You” has been such an indispensable survival strategy for feminist and avant-garde artists. Because, let’s face it, we live in a world that’s so totally fucked that sometimes the only possible response is to acknowledge it with a response of equivalent animosity. Even if it means having to use the F-word (by which I mean feminist).

    THIRTEEN WAYS OF SAYING FUCK YOU

    1. IN ITS MOST OBVIOUS ITERATION, FUCK YOU IS AN ACT OF AGGRESSION.

    A feminist FUCK YOU turns the aggression of patriarchy back on itself. It holds up a mirror to culture, so that what is reflected back is nothing more than an asshole giving himself the finger. In her book, SCUM Manifesto, Valerie Solanas writes:

    Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete

  • BODILY RITES: THE FILMS OF ANA MENDIETA

    SOMETHING IS AMISS in the first shot of Ana Mendieta’s film Moffitt Building Piece, 1973. The image is of an ordinary white Midwestern exterior with a glass door and a storefront window, both blinkered by venetian blinds. Neither the address number (230) nor the old-fashioned lettering (H. F. MOFFITT) provides much of a clue. But after a few moments, the camera tilts down to what looks like a bloodstain on the sidewalk in front of the adjoining door. The blot seems out of place, for nothing else in the scene portends violence. Before we have a chance to figure out what has happened, the camera