Arielle Bier

  • diary July 06, 2017

    Under Pressure

    THIS TRADE–CUM–BANKING MEGALOPOLIS just hasn’t been the same since the Brexit blowtorch caught aflame last year. Boiling blisters of social unrest last burst in the 2011 London riots, and had been temporarily covered by courtly Band-Aids. How surprised should we really be to find that the wounds wrought by inequality, racism, isolationism, and xenophobia still fester? The slate and chalk hills feel like all that’s left holding this country together as the continuous surge of violent attacks and gut-wrenching tragedies like Grenfell Tower make it hard to believe in a society based on faith and

  • picks November 14, 2016

    Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo

    One-percenters, auction flux, freelance precarity, champagne hangovers, gender imbalances, personal well-being sacrificed for fleeting moments of international fame, life guided by passion and aesthetics over stability—sounds a lot like the art world. But these are also defining factors in the world of thoroughbred horse racing, explored in the exhibition “Winner Takes All,” by artist Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo. Intersections between competitive horse racing and contemporary art markets with neoliberalism unfold as a bittersweet elegy to these parallel high-stakes systems of labor and the struggles

  • picks October 06, 2016

    Liz Larner

    Beyond the turgid layers of human construction and waste, the pristine white mountain peaks and deep, dark ocean floors are the tectonic plates that rumble, roil, and buckle on a geologic timescale. The idea of these terrestrial bodies enfolding, slipping over, and sliding beneath one another, their caresses lubricated by bubbling magma, and coming to rest in a mighty embrace, is a romantic’s wet dream.

    Inspired by the poetic language used to describe earth’s formative movements, Los Angeles–based sculptor Liz Larner reverses the process, turning dust into solid form on a human scale. Her dense

  • picks September 29, 2016

    David Douard

    “At the center of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg,” writes Donna J. Haraway in the opening paragraph of A Cyborg Manifesto (1991), which might as well serve as a tagline for David Douard’s current exhibition. Industrial meets biomorphic design, with rooms sectioned off with steel beams, glass panels, and grids of aluminum studs, around and through which his sculptures have been placed. The cool, sterile architecture suggests a bespoke spaceship, and the main activity inside is sex between humans and machines.

    The jellyfish-like sculpture all like peacemeal, 2016, hangs

  • picks September 12, 2016

    Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys

    When it comes to the soul and ethics, on what foundation should we base our measurements? Developing their ongoing interest in psychopathologies and social value systems, Belgian artist duo Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys present selections from a new sculptural series, “White Elements,” 2013–16, which they posit as a baseline for such judgment.

    Solid steel plates welded together and painted white mimic elemental shapes and human forms. Loosely pinned where the heads should be are lightweight sheets of paper with pencil drawings of mug shots found on the internet, each chosen for their striking

  • picks July 25, 2016

    Amy Sillman

    Crackerjack painter Amy Sillman kicks the bucket (of paint, that is) in her current exhibition, conjuring AbEx ghosts so she can slay them with her spirited, calligraphic line work. Her version of abstract painting is more than alive—it is animated.

    A humorous digital video, Kick the Bucket (loop for Portikus), 2016, echoes from the entryway. Recordings of vigorous, sharp scratching sound out the act of drawing in front of her studio windowsill to a background chorus of chirping birds. The illustrations, initially made on an iPad, depict dogs, hogs, and humans in a continuous string of transformative

  • picks July 25, 2016

    Andrey Bogush

    Data to computer scientists is as concrete as atoms to nuclear physicists or DNA to biologists. Although generally considered in abstract terms, these elements function as the foundational building blocks of our perceptible world. Take digital images for example: What we see on screen are not apparitions but tangible visual information. From this standpoint, artist Andrey Bogush dissects digital photography as material that can be calculated, coded, and manipulated. For his exhibition “When Everything Is Over So We Can Discuss,” Bogush renders quotidian photographs—shot while working at home or

  • diary July 12, 2016

    Young and the Restless

    LEAVE/REMAIN. TERROR/PEACE. As I boarded my plane to Moscow from Berlin a fortnight ago, these and other divisions echoed from flat-screens in the departure halls as post-Brexit fallout and ISIS bombings in Istanbul hit the news circuits. I checked my phone: Social media was aflame. Six degrees of separation become more like one, and the intimacy of personal experience more fragile.

    Conjuring Gogol’s animate nose as a protective angel, I decided to embrace the melodrama, keep calm, and carry on. Fresh perspective was on the horizon as I stepped offline and into a new city to visit the Fifth Moscow

  • picks June 24, 2016

    Débora Delmar Corp.

    Liquids and liquidity are the targets for Mexican artist Débora Delmar, self-branded as Débora Delmar Corp., in this exhibition—an addendum to her commercial juice-bar project at the Akademie der Künste for the Ninth Berlin Biennale. Riffing on the “Silicon Allee” start-up culture permeating the city, Delmar turns the gallery into fictitious corporate marketing offices for her lifestyle drink, Mint, by installing designer worktables where digital test prints for advertising images of the green juice are strewn about, while walls are decorated with three series of tie-dye paintings titled “Matcha,”

  • picks June 23, 2016

    Claire Fontaine

    Reflecting on complicity with the status quo and the necessary role of political art, the artist collective Claire Fontaine takes on the refugee crisis in Europe, economic exploitation, and environmental collapse for the current exhibition here.

    Symbolic gestures in painting and sculpture are presented as counterpoints to the general mood of resignation about these calamities, illustrating quotes in the press release by Nietzsche, Kafka, Deleuze and a reference to the El Khomri labor-reform laws that sparked violent protests in Paris this spring. At the entrance of the gallery, a snowman made

  • picks May 02, 2016

    Viktor Pivovarov

    Despite the suffocating grip on culture imposed by the Soviet state, a rich literary scene continued to thrive underground. This fecundity was the starting point for artists such as Viktor Pivovarov, whose long-awaited retrospective “The Snail’s Trail” includes paintings, works on paper, sculpture, and installations. Pivovarov was a founding member of the Moscow Conceptualists, along with artists Ilya Kabakov, Dmitri Prigov, and Erik Bulatov—many of whom illustrated children’s novels, using the format to disseminate subversive thought. While the government sponsored Social Realist portraiture,

  • picks April 28, 2016

    Erwin Wurm

    Erwin Wurm has a knack for finding eureka moments in the most mundane circumstances. Domestic objects as activated by everyday people define his current exhibition, bringing together three bodies of work ranging from the early 1990s—including printed instructions on paper outlining fattening recipes—to the present, with oversize bronze and polyester sculptures that look like they’ve been bashed or clawed.

    Turning spectators into participants, Wurm invites audiences to complete his works by literally stepping into them and accepting his play on conventions at face value. Narrow House, 2010, for

  • diary April 20, 2016

    Fifty Shades of Great

    “ARE YOU HERE to buy a car?” asked a dapper Frenchman waiting in line last Wednesday for the fiftieth anniversary of Art Cologne.

    He was referring to Stuart Ringholt’s compact automobiles bearing cynical license plates like CURATOR or ART CRITIC parked at the entrance to the shiny Koelnmesse. There was a time when such “critical” gestures weren’t just de rigueur but actually meant something. Like in 1970, when Wolf Vostell, Helmut Rywelski, and Joseph Beuys staged a protest demanding rights for artists and publishers to be allowed into the fair, literally banging on the windows with keys and

  • picks April 16, 2016

    Bunny Rogers

    The number of school shootings in the US continues to rise unfettered. Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine High—sites of the most fatal of these killings over the last two decades—are emblazoned across the collective American consciousness. For every generation, another trauma tops the list. As a young child, Bunny Rogers was deeply affected by the media representation of the Columbine massacre—which left fifteen dead and twenty-three injured, and to which her latest exhibition is dedicated. In “Columbine Cafeteria,” the counterpart to her 2014 show “Columbine Library,” she resurrects

  • picks March 31, 2016

    Laura Lamiel

    Laura Lamiel’s variety of Minimalism is one of intimacy. With her sculptures and installations, she reduces structural forms to elemental traces. Figure, 2013, is a room framed by three sterile, white, enameled steel walls assembled in the center of the gallery’s first room and simply held in place by a scattering of C-clamps. Within this semi-enclosed space stands a series of white enameled objects: a floor of neon light fixtures in a row, a neat stack of bricks, a tall, leaning vertical beam, a slanted square board, and a lone chair facing the invisible fourth wall, where the viewer looks in.

  • picks March 28, 2016

    Karl Haendel

    Karl Haendel’s exhibition posits the practice of yoga as an alternative to accelerationism. Citing the anxiety around self-optimization, Haendel presents lifestyle- and body-enhancement products marketed to reinforce the need for self-betterment to question the ways these objects aid or inhibit our sense of self-worth and identity.

    A maze of built-in walls—each painted mint green, golden yellow, bubblegum pink, or aqua—is paired with geometric floor sections filled with corresponding colored gravel, made from dried split peas, couscous, beans, or packing peanuts, which audiences can shuffle and

  • picks February 26, 2016

    Melike Kara

    Painting is a lonely activity—no two ways about it. But if the canvas could talk, would you want it to be your friend? Cologne-based painter and sculptor Melike Kara fills this gallery with coquettish figure drawings of gender-fluid imaginary friends, toying with the implicit sexuality of nature and human communication for her second solo show, “In Your Presence.” Large paintings in acrylic and oil stick line the walls with a palette of cobalt, salmon, brass, and butterscotch, depicting eroticized group activities immersed in lush jungle settings, as in If You Say So, 2016, or in the desert in

  • picks February 15, 2016

    Cooper Jacoby

    Raising the floor of the gallery with a platform of industrial steel grates—the kind avoided on urban streets for fear of falling into seedy underground tunnels—Cooper Jacoby sets his viewers up for a disorienting and portentous encounter with his sculpture series “Stagnants” (all works 2016). Four fiberglass sculptures cast from sections of decaying roadside curbs in Los Angeles—including gutters and drains—hang at waist height, one on each of the three walls with the fourth supported by poles in the window. A gothic depravity looms over the sooty matte black curbs, pooling into the reflective

  • picks February 08, 2016

    Marco Poloni

    Lest we forget, Marco Poloni demonstrates that global networks existed far before the Internet. The artist visualizes a sordid tale of murder among 1960s and ’70s radicals, in his current exhibition linking key political figures from Germany, Italy, and Bolivia. A potted prickly-pear cactus inscribed with the word “COIDADU,” Sardinian for “attention,” greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibition. Pinned to the wall above is a black-and-white photograph of two jovial-looking men playing ball: Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Italian Communist publishing mogul Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. The

  • picks December 11, 2015

    Lucy McKenzie

    What happens when a little girl grows up and realizes that the world around her is a rotting illusion? In a biting critique of the creative upper class, Lucy McKenzie has converted the upstairs rooms of this gallery into the live-work quarters of an anonymous entrepreneurial woman. Each room, including a maid’s bedroom, a secretary’s office, and a waiting room, is filled with dark and cynical riddles that parallel elements of the artist’s own circumstances.

    In the secretary’s office, the artist uses her characteristic trompe l’oeil techniques, creating detailed paintings of neatly arranged bulletin