Cathryn Drake

  • 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

    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

  • 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

  • “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,

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Helidon Gjergji

    For the exhibition “SHKODAR Lake,” curated by Ana Ivanović, Albanian artist Helidon Gjergji created a sort of museum of unnatural history in the Gallery Atelier Dado—a studio given to Montenegrin artist Miodrag Đurić (1933–2010), known as Dado, in the late 1980s to lure him back from France. While Dado’s intention to make the space an anti-museum went unfulfilled, Gjergji reflected it in an immersive diorama of interpretive wall paintings accompanied by vitrines containing deceptive artifacts that illustrate the elusiveness of existence.The exhibition title was a hybrid of Skadar and Shkodër

  • Loukia Alavanou

    The hallmark of Loukia Alavanou’s work is the collaging of sounds and images—anything from photographs and disembodied cartoon characters to newsreel and film-noir clips—into incongruous compositions that expose the mechanics of the media in constructing history and manipulating our perception of reality. Her show “Towards New Horizons,” curated by iLiana Fokianaki, presented four exemplary videos, produced between 2005 and 2013, alongside a new installation.

    Alavanou’s virtual reality installation New Horizons—Pilot, 2018, is a stereoscopic counterpoint to the future predicted by

  • Lorck Schive Kunstpris

    Each of the four artists nominated for the third edition of the Lorck Schive Kunstpris, Norway’s biggest art prize, produced installations for an exhibition that evinced their distinct stylistic sensibilities, coalescing into portrayals of personal and collective histories while imparting a sense of romanticism derailed. Mattias Härenstam’s Begrensning (Limitation; all works 2017) consisted of a birch tree being dragged around the perimeter of a strikingly antiseptic, even anesthetic modernist space, a trail of leaves tracing the path of its nearly imperceptible progress and inexorable deterioration.

  • diary December 24, 2017

    Divine Comedy

    ARRIVING IN NAPLES for the late-November opening of “Pompei@Madre: Materia Archeologica,” curated by Massimo Osanna, director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, and Andrea Viliani, director of the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (Museo MADRE), I hit the ground running and did not stop before hopping the northbound train for Rome a few days later.

    The official opening was attended by a number of politicians, including Dario Franceschini, the minister of culture, who declared it the best show of the year. Juxtaposing pieces from the permanent collection and artworks by Betty Woodman, Mark

  • diary June 14, 2017

    Mediterranean See

    THE ITALIAN REGION OF PUGLIA is where the eighteenth edition of the Mediterranea Young Artists Biennale kicked off, its theme a perennial and problematic formula: “History + Conflict + Dream + Failure = Home.” The shows and performances, in Tirana and Durrës, Albania, present the work of 230 young artists and performers, aged eighteen to thirty-four, from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Mediterranean diaspora. It is fitting that the biennial is located this time in Albania, a nascent country with an elusive national identity.

    The biennial’s inaugural conference took place on the periphery

  • slant February 10, 2017

    On the Ground: Athens

    ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE MOMENT: Greece is at the center of a convulsion in global capitalism. Athens, the birthplace of democratic ideals, experienced one of the earliest documented economic crises in the Western world, in the fifth century BCE. Even now, as an early warning sign of things to come for the European Union—and the epicenter of the biggest refugee crisis in history—Greece is a natural case study. Adding to the fracas is the inauguration this April of one of the world’s largest art exhibitions, Documenta 14: “Learning from Athens (Working Title),” directed by Adam Szymczyk.

    Szymczyk proposed

  • Faig Ahmed

    To enter Faig Ahmed’s exhibition “Nə var, Odur” (It Is What It Is), you had to pass through Aramızdakı pərdə (Curtain In-between, all works 2016), a threshold of diaphanous drapes embellished with gold embroidery. Inside, you encountered exiting visitors as ghostly apparitions gradually emerging from behind the layers until they were suddenly right in front of you. This transformation reverberated throughout the show as a metaphor for the veiled mechanisms of control that serve to cohere (and divide) communities while conferring a tribal identity.

    Azman (The Biggest), a hierarchical battalion of

  • picks November 18, 2016

    Paolo Colombo

    An exhibition of watercolors and photographs by Paolo Colombo portrays an intimate and mysterious cosmos populated by everyday objects (all works untitled and 2016). Several photographs capture artifacts on the artist’s worktable—tiny shells, pottery shards, and beach stones—imbued with the significance of personal talismans. Three photos of plastic Greek baskets embellished with floral motifs, collected by Colombo in the 1970s, look as precious as china against luminous marble backgrounds.

    In the paintings, simple geometric shapes or flat forms of birds and human hands interrupt fields of color

  • Zoë Paul

    Zoë Paul’s solo exhibition “Solitude and Village” embodied a harmonious universe where the divine resides within the domestic, the individual alongside the collective. Like a cross between a cult temple and a midcentury living room, the space was arrayed with seven disembodied clay heads supported by architectural platforms, the walls covered in frescoes of giant nudes engaging in sexual acts or relaxing in solitary poses, each painted in expressive strokes of natural clay and whitewash. The stylized sculptures recalled Modern Primitivism; the arrangement of the irregularly shaped plinths, topped

  • diary October 10, 2016

    Endless Love

    LAST TIME I SAW WARSAW, a decade ago, the Palace of Culture and Science was a colossal ruin with darkened windows, an unwanted reminder of the grim Communist past towering over the city center. Now restored and full of life—with three museums, a multiplex cinema, four theaters, a swimming pool, an accredited university, and an auditorium that has hosted Miss World—it keeps company with a slew of new high-rises. Stalin’s “gift” to Poland, a plump babushka version of the Empire State building, was the epicenter of the sixth Warsaw Gallery Weekend as well as the setting of the newly inaugurated

  • picks September 05, 2016

    “A World Not Ours”

    The exhibition “A World Not Ours” reflects on the powerful concept of a homeland. For The Persecuted, 2015, asylum seekers captured on the move by photojournalist Yannis Behrakis are presented as newspaper clippings with headlines announcing one tragedy after another, alongside a slide show of lush, emotional portraits. By contrast, Giorgos Moutafis’s black-and-white photos of refugees in limbo for Europa, Europa, 2016—taken with a disposable camera and displayed in light boxes—take on the soft, romantic sheen of a remote past like family portraits.

    In Marina Gioti’s video Saint Marina, 2016,

  • diary August 05, 2016

    Another Day in Paradise

    THE WAY TO THE AEOLIAN ISLAND OF STROMBOLI—little more than the cone of a volatile volcano emerging from the Sicilian sea—is fraught with uncertainty (and often nausea), and once there you feel tugged between extreme attraction and alienation. In this intimate and explosive context, Fiorucci Art Trust’s sixth Volcano Extravaganza, “I Will Go Where I Don’t Belong,” orchestrated by artist Camille Henrot and curator Milovan Farronato, offered a fertile framework for contemplating the depths of the soul (or at least a fun excuse to hang out in paradise).

    The weeklong program of exhibitions, film