Brian Curtin

  • picks February 18, 2015

    Anna Vogel

    Anna Vogel’s small and highly mechanical photographs have a strange impact. The artist supplies clearly delineated forms in neutral colors that claim objectivity in terms of their coolness or inexpressiveness, yet she also achieves a great sense of significance for minor and culturally marginal images. The motorcycle helmets in Tinted Transformers I and II and Pygmalion Agents (all works 2014), for instance, are oddly ominous. Signifying the industrial reduction and concealment of human bodies, these objects nevertheless appear unique and precious, suggesting proxies for an intimacy with the

  • picks August 12, 2014

    “Traversing Expanses”

    The three artists in this exhibition were born in Cambodia and in refugee camps on the Thailand-Cambodia border before, during, and after the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. All three were subsequently raised abroad, and in this exhibition, as transnational artists showing in Phnom Penh, each aptly investigates the force of history and memory to unsettle a sense of self in the present. For instance, Amy Lee Sanford’s prints and video relate fragments of her father’s 1974 letters to her—he arranged her migration to the US prior to the emergence of the Khmer Rouge—in a personal,

  • interviews December 11, 2012

    Manuel Ocampo

    Philippines-born artist Manuel Ocampo is currently based in Manila, where he runs the gallery Dept. of Avant-Garde Cliches and is about to launch an alternative art school called Bureau of Artistic Rehab. Ocampo’s curatorial project “Bastards of Misrepresentation,” a multivenue survey of current art from Manila, recently opened in New York and will continue at Topaz Arts in Queens until December 30. A solo exhibition of his recent work is on view at Tyler Rollins Fine Art in Manhattan until December 22.

    THE ART SCENE IN MANILA is very dynamic and in 2003, I decided to move back here from Los

  • picks February 01, 2012

    Apichatpong Weerasethakul

    British critic Jonathan Romney once wrote in The Independent, “We shouldn’t mistake Apichatpong [Weerasethakul]’s true nature as a hyper-sophisticated modernist with complex, innovative ideas about time and narrative,” but he didn’t elaborate on what this actually means, and he concluded his article by reminding us of the magical and bewitching aspects of the lauded artist’s works. It’s arguable that the enthralling qualities of Weerasethakul’s films and installations have generated enough discourse that the possibilities for description have been exhausted. However, Weerasethakul’s compelling

  • picks July 20, 2011

    “Still Life”

    The inclusion of Sherrie Levine in this show alongside five younger artists—Gillian Carnegie, Anne Collier, Mark Leckey, Seth Price, and Richard Wright—was an inspired decision. Levine’s presence here not only demonstrates the continuing significance of the Pictures generation’s legacy, but also points to how expanded that tradition has become. “Still Life” reveals her methods of repetition and copying as now so diffuse in contemporary art practices as to warrant consideration beyond challenges to notions of uniqueness, authenticity, and originality.

    The curator Polly Staple perceptively suggests

  • picks April 08, 2011

    “Singapore Biennale 2011: Open House”

    The declared nontheme of this year’s Singapore Biennale is “Open House,” which alludes to Asian festivals such as Dewali and Chinese New Year, a time when people open their homes to one another. In this respect, visitors are invited to experience contemporary art in terms of the everyday. But in view of 2010’s seemingly universally lauded Gwangju Biennale, which explored the contemporary, global status of the image, questions of the possibilities of what a large curated show can do hang heavy over such an open-ended approach. On the other hand, to resist or refuse a tighter theme merely brings

  • picks August 17, 2010

    Rirkrit Tiravanija

    The title of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s first solo show in his ethnic homeland is “(who’s afraid of red, yellow and green)”—surely a reference to the 1982 attack on Barnett Newman’s similarly titled painting in Berlin. The vandal defended himself by claiming Newman’s painting was a “perversion” of the German flag. In Thailand, the colors of Tiravanija’s title represent factions within local nationalist politics: Those protesting the recent governments have organized themselves under the mantles of “red shirts” and “yellow shirts.” (Green, one can assume, is a reference to the army). His show comes in

  • picks April 20, 2010

    Olivier Pin-Fat

    Photographic representations of Bangkok usually tend toward one of two poles: seamy or spiritual. The satiric online magazine notthenation.com recently ran a fake-news item about CNN ordering its correspondents to report on current political unrest in Bangkok from outside the “Super Pussy” bar––the joke being that international media coverage typically and gratuitously references this country’s famous sex industry. On the other hand, the tourism authority of Thailand and any number of local photographers and publishers portray Thailand as halcyon, full of Buddhist architecture and enriching

  • picks November 16, 2009

    Ohm Phanphiroj

    Ohm Phanphiroj’s latest series of photographs, “The Disabled,” 2009, was shot at the “Male Disabled Center and Rehabilitation” in southeast Thailand. In these works, Phanphiroj eschews the high production values of his previous images of beautiful young men and Thai transsexuals for heavily shadowed and mostly gritty black-and-white shots. Many of the figures lie or crouch; some are naked, including one man who is tied to a pipe while, nearby, a dog dozes in the shade. Phanphiroj also resists the conventions of portraiture for views of the disabled men in situ. Soulless concrete architecture is

  • picks September 24, 2009

    Pornpilai and Jiradej Meemalai

    Pornpilai and Jiradej Meemalai are married artists who are building a solid reputation with collaborative works that metaphorically address their relationship. Doubling, repetition, and reflection are key features of their new exhibition, which includes two cast-ceramic life buoys, a granite replica of a suitcase, and a large wooden frame supporting two tiny totemic figurines. In a separate area of the gallery, a large video projection depicts Pornpilai struggling with a soft, kitelike white object atop a makeshift raft on the open seas while her husband swims frantically.

    Tensions in their

  • picks July 15, 2009

    Ambroise Tezenas

    Ambroise Tezenas’s photographs of Beijing’s rapidly disappearing hutongs (traditional residential streets) offer a notable adjunct to all the artworks that decry the effects of modernization and modernity on Asia. Tezenas’s vision of a passing era is resolutely melancholy, and he documents the wear and tear of these working-class local neighborhoods without nostalgia or politics.

    The photographs were taken at night or dusk, and their use of chiaroscuro lends the views an artificial, staged quality. No people are depicted outright: only traces of their presence, in bicycles, a spotlighted grocery

  • picks March 06, 2009

    “Speaking Alone”

    Featuring work by four Myanmar-based artists, this exhibition suggests there is a healthy contemporary art scene in one of the world’s harshest military dictatorships. While pastoral paintings of Buddhist monks and temples usually dominate shows of Myanmese art, these mixed-media works are provocative, formally sophisticated, and relatively innovative. Although the predominance of religious imagery here speaks to Myanmar’s strict censorship laws, the artists in “Speaking Alone” manage to resist didactic political statements without lapsing into the benign or the conventional.

    Aye Ko’s installation