Brian Sholis

  • interviews May 29, 2009

    Damon Rich

    In late 2008, Damon Rich, an artist, designer, and founder of the nonprofit Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), presented an exhibition at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about the possible relationships between finance and buildings. That exhibition will be reprised as Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center at the Queens Museum of Art in New York from May 31 to September 27.

    RED LINES HOUSING CRISIS LEARNING CENTER BEGAN as a broad proposal for the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT about risk, and in particular about the rise of risk management as a form of planning. In the

  • “Convention”

    “Convention” seeks to take stock of recent years’ fairs, biennials, and related phenomena. Local artists and their international counterparts will reflexively engage through, performances, site-specific installations, and collaborations with the Miami community.

    The 2007 “Grand Tour”—a high-octane trek through mega-exhibitions and fairs in Venice, Basel, Kassel, and Münster—was but one peak in the bubble-financed art world’s far-flung, seemingly nonstop, ever grander parade. “Convention,” presented in another city that became a principal stopover for the itinerant hordes, seeks to take stock of recent years’ fairs, biennials, and related phenomena. Local artists (Jim Drain, Gean Moreno, Bert Rodriguez) and their international counterparts (Julieta Aranda, Superflex) will reflexively engage what critic Peter Schjeldahl has termed “

  • “Regift”

    Lewis Hyde asserts, in the introduction to his book The Gift (1983), that “works of art exist simultaneously in two ‘economies,’ a market economy and a gift economy.” Recent contemporary art can be accused of focusing on the former to the detriment of the latter. Hyde’s subsequent insistence that “a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art” appears to ignore or be at odds with the realities of a commercial market flying high, as it was recently, or laid low, as it seems to be now. Yet his counsel is a welcome reminder that, no matter our commercial

  • Mark Ruwedel

    At the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, there were 35,085 miles of operable railroad track in the United States. Eight years later that number had doubled. Midway between these dates, on May 10, 1869, a golden spike joined the rails of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit, Utah. It was near this site that photographer Mark Ruwedel was inspired to begin his series “Westward the Course of Empire,” 1994–2007. This exhibition brought together seventy-five of the small black-and-white photographs, which document the railroad lines, now abandoned, that knit

  • film March 18, 2009

    It’s a Mall World

    A SHOPPING MALL is “a place where idealism, passion, and greed can come together, all under one roof,” intones the voice-over narrator near the outset of Canadian filmmaker Helen Klodawsky’s Malls R Us (2008), her latest work. The seventy-eight-minute documentary chronicles what these feelings provoke in a diverse cast of characters: megalomaniacal ambition in real estate developers, utopian fantasies of behavior engineering in corporate architects, slightly smug moralizing in critics of consumerism, and rousing antimall activism in environmentalists and labor activists. Klodawsky’s cameras

  • Emily Newman

    In the seven recent videos included in this exhibition, Emily Newman—who was born in Singapore, identifies as American, and currently resides in Russia—presents a self-portrait that also functions, at its best, as a cultural inquiry. Mainly through informally shot footage of her young son, Isaac, and of Saint Petersburg, Newman examines the vicissitudes of cultural assimilation. The videos, which range from four to twenty minutes in length, do not feature a traditional narrative structure, and instead use occasional intertitle cards and brief on-screen text to help orient the viewer. Not knowing

  • interviews February 03, 2009

    Thomas Chambers

    Kathleen A. Foster, senior curator of American art and director of the Center of American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, organized “Thomas Chambers: American Marine and Landscape Painter, 1808–1869,” the first major exhibition of Chambers’s work in over fifty years. She also authored the exhibition’s catalogue, which is the first book to survey Chambers’s life and paintings.

    ORGANIZING THIS EXHIBITION was a very long process. About fifteen years ago, when the Indiana University Art Museum received twenty-nine works by Thomas Chambers, I tried first to answer the most basic curatorial

  • Luigi Ghirri

    This was Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri’s first New York solo exhibition in over seven years, and coincided with Aperture’s publication of the first English-language monograph dedicated to the artist. Ghirri, who worked consistently from the early 1970s until his death in 1992, should be better known in the United States, not only on the merits of his intelligent, subtly mischievous color photographs but also because American audiences will find in these images the traits they cherish in their own canonical figures from the era. They will detect, for instance, similarities to prints by

  • picks January 20, 2009

    Lecia Dole-Recio

    Few lines align with the edges of the compositions in Lecia Dole-Recio’s new works. Nearly five years after her busy cut-and-paste collages of vellum, paper, and gouache were presented in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, this exhibition, the artist’s first New York solo show, presents eight pieces that maintain an equivalent sense of dynamism despite having far more subdued surfaces. In Untitled (prpl.rd.orng.lnn.) (all works 2008), large blocks of bright red, rendered in acrylic, angle across the linen canvas, their edges picked out with contrasting strokes in orange; in Untitled (blk.lns.bl.lnn.),

  • film January 15, 2009

    Parts and Labor

    SHARON LOCKHART’S LATEST FILMS depict employees at the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. Lunch Break (2008), at eighty-three minutes the longer of the two, is notable first for the artist’s decision to set the camera in motion, something she has not done in any of her previous films. (Exit [2008], a related forty-one-minute study of repetition and difference that depicts workers leaving the facility on five consecutive days, maintains a fixed camera position.) In a long, uninterrupted tracking shot, the camera in Lunch Break traverses at midday what appears to be the spinal cord of the shipyard—a

  • picks January 07, 2009

    Nancy Spero

    This exhibition of Nancy Spero’s early paintings and watercolors on paper, many made in Paris in the late 1950s and early ’60s, will help offset disappointment that her retrospective now touring Spanish museums won’t come to these shores. In these works, sketchily outlined figures emerge from dark abysses rendered with expressionistic flair. Mothers give birth to and clutch children; lovers’ bodies fuse and pull apart. Spero has said that in making these works she was interested in “timeless human subjects,” to which she has imparted a sense of existential despair: Heads (Canopic Jars), 1956,

  • “Diana Thater: gorillagorillagorilla”

    In two decades of patiently constructed, often lusciously colorful video and film installations, Los Angeles–based artist Diana Thater has frequently reflected on humankind’s interface with the natural environment.

    In two decades of patiently constructed, often lusciously colorful video and film installations, Los Angeles–based artist Diana Thater has frequently reflected on humankind’s interface with the natural environment. We’re All Mad Here, a new multimedia installation that depicts rescued lowland gorillas, will be premiered as the focus of Adam Budak and Peter Pakesch’s selection of Thater’s work. As with her earlier installations, in which the filmmaking apparatus plays a prominent role, this new multichannel meditation encompasses manifold perspectives. It

  • Rodney McMillian

    “The challenge of the next half century,” said Lyndon B. Johnson at the University of Michigan in 1964, “is whether we have the wisdom to use [our] wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.” Los Angeles–based artist Rodney McMillian, who in recent years has delivered Johnson’s famous “Great Society” speech at numerous art venues, might argue that the past fifty years have not lived up to the former president’s hopeful vision. McMillian’s art has, without seeming merely didactic, patiently explored the social fissures—in particular,

  • film December 03, 2008

    Lost, Not Found

    THE DUTCH ARTIST Bas Jan Ader arrived in California in the late 1960s, created a small, potent body of lyric artworks, and then was lost at sea in 1975. He has received increasing attention in recent years, yet he remains a mystery. Rene Daalder’s documentary, Here Is Always Somewhere Else: The Disappearance of Bas Jan Ader (2007), is a useful if pedestrian addition to the spate of exhibitions and publications honoring the artist, and its flaws highlight why we may never come close to understanding Ader’s fateful decision to sail across the Atlantic in the Ocean Wave (a twelve-and-a-half-foot

  • Kay Hassan

    Johannesburg-based artist Kay Hassan’s New York solo debut may have signaled a departure to viewers familiar with his large-scale figu- rative collages, composed of torn billboard advertisements, his found- object sculptures, and his room-size installations, one of which re-creates a miner’s shabby living quarters. Those works have received significant attention from museum curators in Europe and South Africa (a midcareer survey was recently held at the Johannesburg Art Gallery), and have also been included in prominent exhibitions of contemporary African art that have toured the United States.

  • interviews November 27, 2008

    William Chapman Sharpe

    William Chapman Sharpe, professor of English at Barnard College in New York City, is the author of Unreal Cities (1990) and coeditor of Visions of the Modern City (1983). His new book, New York Nocturne (2008), examines images of the city after dark in literature, painting, and photography from 1850 to 1950.

    I’VE SPENT MY ENTIRE PROFESSIONAL LIFE engaged with the modern city’s representation in art and literature. Unreal Cities discussed poetry about the metropolis by Wordsworth, Whitman, Baudelaire, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and others. I’ve always straddled the Atlantic, surveying

  • interviews November 14, 2008

    Michael Wolf

    The Asian- and European-based photographer Michael Wolf is known for his fine-art and editorial photographs depicting rapid growth in Asian cities. A new series of photographs made in Chicago, “Transparent City,” goes on view this week at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago and is collected in a book just published by Aperture.

    THE EXPERIENCE OF PHOTOGRAPHING in America was not much different from photographing in Asia, really. The challenge was more conceptual: After working so long in Hong Kong and China, I wasn’t sure I was capable of working somewhere else. I feel in tune with

  • film November 14, 2008

    Les Is More

    VIEWERS FAMILIAR WITH FILMMAKER LES BLANK’S extensive catalogue of slice-of-life Americana may be surprised at the opening shots of All in This Tea (2007), which depict street scenes in Hangzhou, China, and women conducting an elaborate tea ceremony. The hourlong film, which was coproduced and codirected by Gina Leibrecht, is Blank’s first feature in a dozen years and also his first shot on digital video. It follows avid tea enthusiast and importer David Lee Hoffman on his quest to acquire the finest teas produced on China’s terraced mountain slopes. Blank, who followed Werner Herzog up and down

  • picks November 09, 2008

    Sharon Core

    What pictorial genre seems to require less interpretive acumen than the painted still life? Accumulations of fruit and fish and fowl are all exquisite surfaces, and invite surface readings. But photographer Sharon Core, after making a reputation with images of her re-creations of Wayne Thiebaud’s dessert tableaux, proves once again with her exhibition “Early American” that profound questions of representation can reside within simple compositions. Core’s muse for this body of work, the early American painter Raphaelle Peale, is smartly chosen. In the past two decades, scholarship about the

  • Joel Sternfeld

    In a passage in his journal dated February 5, 1855, Henry David Thoreau asserted, “In a journal it is important in a few words to describe the weather, or characters of the day, as it affects our feelings. That which was so important at the time cannot be unimportant to remember.” The thirteen large-scale color photographs in this exhibition chronicle the weather and the characters of the day in and around a single meadow in Northampton, Massachusetts, from July 29, 2005, to April 20, 2007. The site, famously depicted in a heroic Thomas Cole landscape that was painted in 1836 and is now in the