Cathryn Drake

  • Paulo Nimer Pjota, Antiquário (Antique Shop), 2021, automotive paint, flight tickets, acrylic, and oil on canvas. Installation view.

    Paulo Nimer Pjota

    Paulo Nimer Pjota’s show “Fragmented Images, Fragmented Stories” comprised ten paintings and a sculptural ensemble, most of which the Brazilian artist produced during a research residency on the island of Chios. The exhibition was mounted in a former slaughterhouse, where three large canvases were suspended like animal carcasses by chains anchored with chunks of local stone. With tactile surfaces inspired by the exterior walls of houses in the artist’s home country, they were floating palimpsests animated with disembodied details, layers of collaged snippets, and what looked like timeworn

  • Dimitris Daskalopoulos speaking at Portals reception with work by Glenn Ligon. All photos by author.
    diary June 24, 2021

    Greek Revival

    THE MAD FLURRY of art openings in the wake of Greece’s six-month lockdown began with a showdown: an exhibition of sculptures by Blind Adam (Thanos Kyriakidis) in the catacombs of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity was shut down at the last minute by the head priest, Father Synesius Victoratos. “I do not know much about art, but all the works are black and look like pagan talismans,” he reasoned. “We apologize for the inconvenience, but our patrons are conservative.” Funded by the NEON Organization, the show, titled “The End. After Before,” had already wended through a rigorous

  • Ali Banisadr, Rhizome, 2019, oil on linen, 48 × 60".

    Ali Banisadr

    The seventeen paintings and prints in Ali Banisadr’s exhibition “Ultramarinus: Beyond the Sea,” curated by Polina Kosmadaki, swarmed with inchoate figures and dynamic forms that incited viewers to search for sense in the face of inherent natural disorder. Banisadr’s works were displayed together with Ming- and Qing-dynasty ceramics, from the Benaki Museum’s collection, that are adorned with decorative motifs in the vibrant blue pigment derived from cobalt oxide, obtained from Persia by Chinese artisans who exported their wares to markets in the Middle East and Europe. Called ultramarinus by

  • Matthew Wong, Stargazer, 2019, gouache on paper, 16 × 12 1/8".

    Matthew Wong

    A postcard is an ephemeral missive bearing a single image signifying a locale and a brief message, if only the classic “Wish you were here.” Very often arriving in the recepient’s mailbox after the traveler has returned, these epistles pass through space and time to become anachronistic apparitions—delayed shadows of momentary presences. For Matthew Wong’s show “Postcards,” twenty smallish watercolors were dispatched in lieu of the artist, who had been expected in Athens for a spring residency at Arch before his sudden death at the age of thirty-five. All produced last year with what now seems

  • View of “Lynda Benglis,” 2019–20. Foreground: The Graces, 2003–2005. Background: Knossos, 1978.

    Lynda Benglis

    “In the Realm of the Senses”—an exhibition organized by the Athens-based nonprofit Neon—featured thirty-six of Lynda Benglis’s sculptures, arrayed in the ornate period rooms of the nineteenth-century mansion that hosts this museum of ancient Greek art. Storm Pattern, 2003, which looked like a visceral organic rupture captured in bronze atop a sleek marble plinth, stood sentry among the austere neoclassical columns framing the stately entrance. Its two companions, Summer Dreams and Thunderbird, both 2003, occupied the foyer and an adjacent sunlit rotunda like uninvited guests, presenting disruptive

  • Hulda Guzmán, Selfportrait, 2019, watercolor and acrylic gouache on cedar plywood, 39 × 24 1⁄8".

    Hulda Guzmán

    In her exhibition “With the Mother,” the Dominican artist Hulda Guzmán conjured a liminal state between the supernatural and terrestrial in fifteen vivid paintings. Set in the stark new storefront space of Dio Horia—a gallery founded on the Greek island of Mykonos—the show, mainly of recent work, opened with a couple of earlier large-scale works, The Arch II (chibirica) and The Arch III (nairi), both 2013, which beckoned through the glass facade like portals into a psychedelic jungle, summoning Henri Rousseau on LSD.

    Everyday life and the uncanny coalesced in a potent brand of magical surrealism

  • View from Thomas Dane Gallery. All photos: Cathryn Drake.
    diary July 09, 2019

    Memento Morra

    “MUSEUMS ARE DEAD,” said Andrea Viliani, artistic director of the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, over dinner on my first night in Naples. “White cubes are devouring white cubes.” It was a daring declaration coming from a longtime museum curator who is collaborating on art projects sited among the ruins of Pompeii. We were at the raucous Ristorante Europeo Mattozzi with curator Milovan Farronato and artist Maria Loboda, both in town casting for “Death,” this summer’s Stromboli Volcano Extravaganza. Here for the reopening of the Morra Greco Foundation, I thought my own days would end in

  • Jennifer Nelson, Democracy is a party, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 10 minutes 53 seconds. From “Anatomy of Political Melancholy.”

    “Anatomy of Political Melancholy”

    An appropriate setting for a show titled “Anatomy of Political Melancholy,” the Athens Conservatoire was envisaged as part of an ambitious Bauhaus-style cultural complex designed by architect Ioannis Despotopoulos, much of which was left unbuilt; in 1976, not long after the fall of the Greek military junta, construction was halted for lack of funding. The show’s portrayals of individual desperation and collective surrender by twenty-four artists imparted a widespread sense of hopelessness as a political affect: an emotional disorder encompassing disorientation, disillusionment, disenfranchisement,

  • Rosella Biscotti, The Undercover Man, 2008, 16 mm transferred to video, black-and-white, sound, 30 minutes.

    Rossella Biscotti

    Like a sleuth, the Italian artist Rossella Biscotti stalks her subjects for years, enfolding them into the fabric of her own existence. Her show “Three Works and a Script,” curated by Sara Dolfi Agostini, documented the progress of four forensic investigations into some of the covert psycho-social frameworks that not only underpin our assumptions about how things work but also, for that very reason, dictate how we behave.

    In Alfabeto (Alphabet), 2018, twelve black-and-white photographs captured the consecutive position of a physiotherapy patient encased in the robotic exoskeleton of a Lokomat—a

  • Artemis Potamianou, The Unknown Masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring, 2018, mixed media, 23 x 22 1/2".
    picks April 07, 2019

    Artemis Potamianou

    To enter “Your history, it’s not my story,” visitors pass through a towering black metal gate into a shadowy space, where Artemis Potamianou has arrayed elaborate birdcages. Inspired by those presented to Victorian brides on the eve of their weddings, and devised in the style of coveted bourgeois mansions, these structures house objects symbolic of the artist’s autobiography and a socially traditional female psyche (butterflies, figurines, Jane Eyre) in lieu of songbirds. The room bears a slight resemblance to Queen Anne’s chambers in Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite (2018), where rabbits

  • EMST, Greece’s national museum of contemporary art. Photo: Stephie Grape.
    news March 11, 2019

    Cultural Figures Decry Greek Ministry’s Handling of Museum Director Search

    Cathryn Drake

    Greek arts professionals have condemned the Ministry of Culture and Sports’ pronouncement that a public competition failed to come up with a suitable director for the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens.

    A petition launched last week by artists Angelo Plessas and Georgia Sagri, along with anonymous initiators who call themselves the “committee of invisible international Greek cultural practitioners,” contests the prohibitive conditions of the application process and protests the lack of state institutional support for Greek art production in general. “The current situation proves

  • Iepe Rubingh, Chessboxing, 2003–18. Performance view, Esperia Palace Hotel, Athens, October 2018. From the 6th Athens Biennale.

    6th Athens Biennale

    The goal of the Sixth Athens Biennale, titled “ANTI” and curated by Stefanie Hessler, Kostis Stafylakis, and Poka-Yio, was to provide a screenshot of the era of “post-truth” and fake news, in which mechanisms of resistance have been appropriated by reactionary movements operating in tandem with the rise of populism. Inasmuch as reality is at best fugitive and ambiguous, and at worst impossibly complex and subjective, the ambition of the endeavor necessitated its apparent failure. With the work of more than one hundred artists and collectives, the show as a whole resembled nothing so much as a