Briony Fer

  • Paul Maheke, Mauve, Jim and John, 2021, HD video, color, sound, 28 minutes 5 seconds.


    SEPARATED FROM THE MAINLAND by a narrow stretch of the River Ore, Orford Ness is a wild strand of shingle on the Suffolk coast. From 1915 to 1993, it was a Ministry of Defense research laboratory developing technologies of war and death (radar, atomic weaponry) out of public view, its existence not even officially acknowledged. Today, the place feels vast and eerie, more Tarkovsky’s Zone, studded with disused buildings called things like Cobra Mist and Bomb Ballistics. And yet the spit of land we are talking about is only three square miles and sits across the water from the perfectly picturesque

  • View of “Gego: Line as Object,” 2014, Henry Moore Institute. Foreground: Esfera Nº 5 (Sphere No. 5), 1977. Background, from left: Esfera Nº 7 (Sphere No. 7), 1977; Siete icosidodecaedros (Seven Icosidodecahedrons), ca. 1977; Esfera Nº 8 (Sphere No. 8), 1977. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones. © Fundación Gego.

    Briony Fer

    WHAT DOES SCULPTURE BECOME when it is suspended in space, containing nothing but air? What does drawing become without paper to provide its surface? The work that the German-born artist Gego (who emigrated to Venezuela in 1939) made in Caracas from the late 1950s through the early ’90s continues to prompt such fundamental questions about the status of postwar art. It shows us what is left of the art object when you have taken away precisely that which conventionally defined or supported it: whether mass from sculpture or ground from drawing. The little that remains has the surprising capacity

  • Lucio Fontana, Ambiente spaziale a luce nera (Spatial Environment in Black Light), 1949/1976, papier-mâché, phosphorescent pigment. Installation view, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2014. Photo: Benoît Fougeirol. All works by Lucio Fontana © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome.


    HOW DID THE SCULPTOR become the spatialist? This is a deceptively simple and far-reaching question to ask of Lucio Fontana. Yet it allows us not only to see the fundamental logic of the artist’s work but also to think again about the long history of twentieth-century European art as it played out in the aftermath of two world wars and across continents. The recent retrospective of the artist at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, curated by Choghakate Kazarian and Sébastien Gokalp, presented a firmly rooted yet wide-ranging picture of one of modernism’s most tantalizing figures,

  • “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925”

    FEW EPISODES IN THE HISTORY OF ART attract so many origin myths as the history of abstraction. As a plotline, it’s hard to beat—an intoxicating, utopian rhetoric of a revolutionary new beginning through art—and ever more entrenched now that it can be consigned to a distant past: After all, abstraction is more than one hundred years old. Marking that centenary, the ambitious exhibition “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925” provided no exception to that narrative, but offered a more nuanced and considered version that speaks very much to our own time and to current cultural anxieties (as

  • Waldemar Cordeiro, Parque Infantil do Clube Esperia (Playground Esperia Club), ca. 1965/2012, concrete. Installation view, Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo.

    the 30th São Paulo Bienal

    LUIS PÉREZ-ORAMAS, the chief curator of the Thirtieth São Paulo Bienal, stakes out a critical space for an “imminent poetics”—for “what is on the verge of happening, the word on the tip of one’s tongue,” as he puts it—as if now is the time for art to open onto the “about to be” rather than remain in thrall to melancholic reflections on “that which has been,” or on what art has lost of its own histories. The exhibition makes the claim that to turn away from an art of explicit social engagement is not necessarily, or not only, to turn inward or backward to older formalisms; there may be

  • David Batchelor, Green (ali) 04.04.11, 2011, gloss paint on composite aluminum board, 23 3/4 x 20 3/8".

    David Batchelor

    Although David Batchelor’s three-dimensional objects and photographs have often reflected on the condition of painting, this was the first time that he has exhibited works that are, in fact, paintings. Yet as flat things on the wall, the new pieces in this show (which was called “2D3D: David Batchelor”) talk back to the idea of sculpture in a way that is both incisive and comic. They also prompt some basic questions about the relationship between abstraction and figuration—these works operate in both registers—and invite us to think why that relationship (or at any rate its messier

  • View of “Lygia Pape: Magnetized Space,” 2011. Background: Livro do tempo (Book of Time), 1961–63. In vitrine: Livro da criação (Book of Creation), 1959.

    Lygia Pape

    LYGIA CLARK, HÉLIO OITICICA, AND LYGIA PAPE (1927–2004) are often mentioned in the same breath—all three were key figures in Brazil’s Neo-concrete movement—yet Pape has not received the recognition accorded her two great contemporaries. That should change now that the artist’s first major retrospective outside Brazil, “Lygia Pape: Magnetized Space,” has opened at the Reina Sofía. Curated by Manuel Borja-Villel and Teresa Velázquez in collaboration with the Projeto Lygia Pape in Rio de Janeiro, the show elucidates the full breadth of her remarkable and complex work, presenting drawings,

  • Isa Genzken

    IN THIS RETROSPECTIVE of Isa Genzken, which opened in April at London’s newly expanded Whitechapel Gallery, the sheer range and depth of her work becomes clear, registered not in spite of but in the reeling effects of its many glitzy surfaces. Firmly establishing the artist as one of the leading innovators of the past thirty years, the selection of works made since the late 1970s brings into sharp focus the powerful logic at the heart of her practice. True, there are myriad media and materials—sculpture, photographs, collages, paintings and not-paintings attached to the wall, small models, and




    The financial crisis of fall 2008 is one symptom of a transition in the nature and form of global order. The most important question this transition raises is what new possibilities it is opening up; but before asking that, one has to understand also what the transition is closing down. Two of the best books I have read in the past year, Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century (Verso) and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Picador),

  • Roni Horn

    HIGH UP on a slight promontory at Stykkishólmur, a small town of about a thousand inhabitants on the far west coast of Iceland, sits a modest building that used to be the local library. It has one striking feature: a huge bay of glass offering a 180-degree prospect on the town’s harbor, the lighthouse, and then the infinite seascape and the archipelago of islands (visible or not, depending on the weather) beyond. It is here that Roni Horn has made Vatnasafn/Library of Water, 2007, which has been commissioned by Artangel, and is the London-based nonprofit’s first project outside the UK. Instead

  • Gabriel Orozco, Balones acelerados (Accelerated Balls) (detail), 2005, 20 of 250 incised soccer balls, dimensions variable.


    SCATTERED AROUND THE GARDEN of Gabriel Orozco’s house in Mexico City are a number of soccer balls in various states of dereliction. Dirty, worn, frayed, and more or less deflated, they lie about the place as if they had grown there. Left in the open air, they slowly weather and decay, deflating imperceptibly over time. Occasionally Orozco picks one out and changes its ecology by cutting into it, say, or peeling away precise circular patterns from its outer skin to reveal a fabric lining. Then he may draw over its surface with small constellations of points and lines. Despite their look of material

  • Eva Hesse

    Focusing on a pivotal moment when the artist “unmade” the category of sculpture to continue her own work in it, this show comprises twenty-three sculptures (including five of the eight shown in 1968), a selection of drawings, and never-before-shown archival material.

    Eva Hesse’s radical latex and fiberglass sculptures—first shown at New York’s Fischbach Gallery in 1968—will be the core of this exhibition. Focusing on a pivotal moment when the artist “unmade” the category of sculpture to continue her own work in it, this show comprises twenty-three sculptures (including five of the eight shown in 1968), a selection of drawings, and never-before-shown archival material. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by the curators and by art historians Yve-Alain Bois and Mark Godfrey, and runs