Cathryn Drake

  • diary October 05, 2008

    Show and Tel

    Tel Aviv

    In Israel especially, politics are never far from one’s mind. The day before I arrived in Tel Aviv for the first edition of the citywide art exhibition Art TLV, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned in the face of corruption charges. He punctuated his exit with a radical message, characterizing the aggressive Israeli defense strategy as shortsighted and arguing that a withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem was the only way to peace. “The time has come to say these things,” he said in an interview for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. “We are a country that has lost a sense of proportion

  • Simon Starling

    Nicknamed the Fetta di Polenta (“slice of polenta”), the eccentric yellow palazzo housing Franco Noero’s new space, Casa Scaccabarozzi, is meant to serve as an experimental architectural laboratory and point of departure for the gallery’s artists. The inaugural exhibition, Simon Starling’s “Three Birds, Seven Stories, Interpolations and Bifurcations,” engaged the building as a character in an epic architectural drama that collapses time and place by merging different spaces and contexts, fact and fiction.

    Seven stories high, with only one room per floor, the wedge-shaped nineteenth-century palazzo

  • diary September 22, 2008

    Happi Campers


    The eleventh edition of Geisai, an art fair started by Takashi Murakami in 2001 to allow artists without galleries to peddle their own wares, commenced last Sunday at Tokyo Big Sight in a joyful explosion of Japanese subcultures. At the opening assembly, a kimono-clad woman with a big Minnie Mouse bow on her head gave a long introduction in Japanese, after which Murakami kicked things off by leading the crowd of artist-exhibitors in cheers, instructing them to pose for a mass portrait, and concluding: “This is the biggest Geisai ever. We must make a revolution!”

    Needless to say, with roughly

  • Basim Magdy

    For the exhibition “On a Better Day Than This,” Egyptian artist Basim Magdy assembled more than thirty drawings and paintings produced over the past six years, along with two sculptures and a site-specific mural. Alternating between humorous and ominous, the small images—rendered variously in graffiti-style spray paint, gouache, stencil, and collage, among others—were hung in groups to resemble cryptic comic-strip narratives. The simplistic style and acid colors of the pictures, at once bold and opaque, were meant to both parody and underline the absurd messages of mass media.

    The scenes bear

  • diary July 24, 2008

    Italian Hours

    Bolzano-Bozen, Italy

    The title of this year’s Manifesta, “100 Miles in 100 Days,” seemed more logistical caveat than curatorial mandate. The impressive exhibition, which, along with parallel events, includes more than four hundred artists, is a veritable endurance marathon. This is the first time the roving biennial has been based in more than one city: the Italian towns of Rovereto, Trento, and Bolzano-Bozen. Perhaps the director, Hedwig Fijen, wanted to make up for the cancellation of the 2006 edition, scheduled for Nicosia, Cyprus, which was abandoned because of political discord among the curators and local

  • diary July 10, 2008

    Roman Holiday


    As soon as I arrived at the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina in the sultry Roman evening and looked down into the ancient ruins, I experienced something like an LSD-induced time warp: Bedouin transvestites had taken over four ancient temples dating from the fourth century BC. “It is a discotheque!” exclaimed an Italian passerby as he looked upon the colorful, pulsating encampment below. His female companion said, “It is not possible!” But there it was: Eli Sudbrack’s assume vivid astro focus collective was making its debut in Rome. Flashing neon hieroglyphs adorned the walls of the Temple of Juturna,

  • diary May 25, 2008

    Amazing Race


    As people arrived from all over the world to attend the opening weekend of the Reykjavik Arts Festival and participate in Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Olafur Eliasson’s “Experiment Marathon Reykjavik,” the mood resembled a summer camp—albeit one attended by Björk, who was on my flight from London, and the country’s president, Olafur Ragnar Grímsson. Festivities kicked off with receptions at both the president’s residence and at Reykjavik city hall, where mayor Ólafur F. Magnússon spoke with guests. Iceland’s intimate social landscape, along with its intimidating physical landscape, brought the eclectic

  • Gregor Schneider

    Here Schneider will reconstruct his family's bathroom and his grandparents' bedroom on either end of the venue to achieve a mirroring—and, no doubt, uncanny—effect.

    Since the mid-1980s, German artist Gregor Schneider has both dismantled and faithfully re-created the rooms of his house in Rheydt, Germany, placing them in public contexts to throw into question the concept of personal space. For this solo show, organized by Danilo Eccher, he will amplify his eerie game by adding a disorienting perceptual device. Part of a project in progress, the installation Double, 2008–, will take over four main rooms of this beer factory–turned-museum, which sports two identical wings. Here Schneider will reconstruct his family's bathroom and his

  • diary December 27, 2007

    When in Rome


    The locals were ecstatic at the highly anticipated opening of Gagosian Gallery’s new outpost in Rome on December 15, which they see as a sign that the city has finally reemerged as a cosmopolitan cultural capital after a fifteen-hundred-year hiatus from being caput mundi. Considered in light of recent press focusing on the lagging Italian spirit and economy—most notably a New York Times article published just two days prior—the opening of the gallery and Cy Twombly’s exhibition, “Three Notes from Salalah,” gave especially welcome recognition that, while other aspects of the culture may be sitting

  • Jimmie Durham

    At the opening of Jimmie Durham’s “Templum: The Sacred, the Profane, and Other,” the suffocating perfume of burning incense permeated the dark cavelike space at the gallery, furnished with natural and manufactured articles lifted from other contexts and arranged to create the atmosphere of a religious sanctuary. One distinct message of this assemblage seemed to be that any place—equipped even with the recycled detritus of our profane commercial culture—could be hallowed. The raw gallery space, a former glass workshop, suddenly resembled St. Peter’s in Antakya, Turkey, a mottled grotto containing

  • Leonardo Drew

    “Existing Everywhere,” Leonardo Drew’s first major European exhibition, proves the New York and San Antonio–based artist to be a force of nature. The show’s thirteen installations (one per room)—obsessively ordered compositions of industriously assembled unruly bits of crude materials submitted to an accelerated natural process of degradation—displayed an exquisite, often awe-inspiring magnificence, starting with Untitled, 1998, a wall covered with a vast expanse of small rusted boxes filled with pieces of fabric, wood, rope, straw, and even lace, stretched across quadrants to display its delicate

  • Guido van der Werve

    In a digital video shot in 35 mm and shown on a monitor, Nummer twee (Number Two), 2003, Dutch artist Guido van der Werve addresses the camera with a deadpan stare as an inner narrative reveals his ennui: “Just because I’m standing here doesn’t mean I want to.” Standing on a suburban street, he walks backward slowly; focusing on the audience rather than the traffic, he is hit by a car. A blue police van pulls up; five young ballerinas emerge and dance to Corelli’s Christmas Concerto in front of his inert body, against a backdrop of nondescript condo buildings. Projected sequentially on a large

  • Adrian Tranquilli

    For some time, Adrian Tranquilli has been portraying superheroes as poignantly human. In this show, “The Age of Chance,” a pure white Superman—the original superhero—burst robustly out of the wall with stigmata of gold bleeding from between his ribs (This Is Not a Love Song 1; all works 2006), a phantom of spiritual purity. Spiderman’s form half emerged out of another wall (This Is Not a Love Song 2), regarding the upturned palm of his hand, from which a stream of white gold spilled into drops on the floor. And isn’t Christ himself a sort of superhero? In an earlier work, Tranquilli confounded

  • Sabrina Mezzaqui

    In a stark white space under a centuries-old archway, Sabrina Mezzaqui assembled works on paper and a video nearly as immaterial as thoughts under the title “Sottolineature” (Underlinings). Sitting just inside the entryway on a simple wooden pedestal, Inter-essere (Inter-being; all works 2005), consisted of rice paper formed into the shape of a book, a work so understated that it might be mistaken for a pile of pamphlets about the show. The top surface was printed with a treatise by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (in Italian translation) on the relatedness of things: A poet looking at

  • picks January 19, 2006

    “The Leisure Club”

    This gallery’s setting, in the working-class quarter of Fuorigrotta (“outside the tunnel”), seems strangely appropriate for this show of artists based in Copenhagen. The brightly lit storefront’s relation to the billboards and gas station across the street reflects the harmony between the paintings and sculptures inside, which add up to an evocative whole that blurs the line between the quotidian and the fantastic. Andreas Schulenburg’s playfully embroidered pictures on felt depict dissimilar objects entering and exiting the frame without apparent motivation: a bee, a tractor, elephant feet,

  • diary December 14, 2005

    Piazza Party


    On Saturday night I was chauffeured by gallery owner Mimmo Scognamiglio to the opening of the second floor of the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina (MADRE), the second contemporary art museum to open in Naples this year. Scognamiglio had just hosted his own opening, for Roman artist Adrian Tranquilli’s exhibition “Age of Chance,” the night before, and he was still in high spirits. After braving the chaotic traffic, we were ecstatic to find a parking space nearby despite the crowds of Christmas shoppers. When I visited the museum a month ago, the street was torn up and littered with rubble,

  • Kiki Smith

    For the exhibition “Homespun Tales: A Tale of Domestic Occupation,” Kiki Smith occupied a Venetian palazzo, decorating its third floor as an American Colonial home that paralleled the former residence of the noble Querini Stampalia family below. Among the opulent eighteenth-century furnishings and Renaissance paintings of the historical second floor the artist placed thirteen porcelain figurines—delicate white apparitions peering from behind the glass of dark wood cabinets or perched on top of fireplace mantels. These mythical creatures—some of which resembled Smith—included an

  • picks November 23, 2005

    Henrik Håkansson

    In a dark room the clicking sound of an imposing projector gives the impression of being in a vintage movie theater, but the image on the screen is more like a still-life painting set in motion. The twenty-five-second flight of a white butterfly (Pieris napi), shot against a velvety green background of plants accented with tiny purple flowers, has been slowed down to eighty seconds and projected on the wall in a small format. The elongated rise and fall of the butterfly’s wings becomes a graceful, mesmerizing ballet that transfixes the eye with every undulating wave—more underwater creature

  • Luisa Rabbia

    Time was the subject but also a metaphorical medium in Luisa Rabbia’s multimedia exhibition “Anywhere Out of the World.” In the entrance to the gallery one was greeted with the sound of A Raining Day (all works 2005): the continuous pounding of a heavy downpour emanating from hidden speakers above the doorway. In the next room were two drawings of sleeping figures—Silent Landscape and Winter Landscape—covered in fabrics, some patterned with stripes and others solid blue or white. Finely rendered in bright blue pencil on plain white backgrounds, they suggested topographic landscapes. Only the

  • Dan Attoe

    In his first European solo exhibition, American artist Dan Attoe portrayed his inner life and his cultural milieu in twenty-five paintings (all works 2004). Trained in both psychology and visual art, he reveals childhood memories and dreams in small cinematic scenes with handwritten captions spoken by characters who seem to be working through deep emotional issues. The paintings are often set in sublime, distinctively American natural landscapes that are so impressive, almost heroic, that they become characters in the scenarios. Underlying these remarkable yet ordinary situations is a sense of