Chinnie Ding

  • Bill Morrison, The Miners’ Hymns, 2011, stills from a black-and-white and color film, 52 minutes.
    film February 07, 2012

    Miner Details

    BILL MORRISON’S The Miners’ Hymns (2011) is a remembrance of northeast England’s lifeworld of coal and an ode to the solidarities born of the struggle to survive it, before the industry was union-gutted and privatized unto extinction in the 1990s. Like Morrison’s Decasia (2002)—whose deliquescing cast included men fleeing a mining disaster only to encounter death by nitrate film stock—it is a necromantic collage, but it extends a homecoming to the past more than a final farewell. Black-and-white clips culled from archival footage since 1900 underscore strain and occlusion in the dug-out dark—miners

  • Jason Middlebrook, New New York, 2011, acrylic on English elm plank, 12 x 3”.
    picks December 15, 2011

    Jason Middlebrook

    Shimmering artifice embraces natural wonder in Jason Middlebrook’s new wooden-plank paintings, inscribing nature with the abstract patterns it inspires, in an act of closeness akin to tracing, gilding, gifting. Stele-scale cuts primarily of maple, walnut, redwood, and elm, the fifteen works have long, lean edges that are sometimes smooth, sometimes craggy or crusted with bark. Framed by, and occasionally wrapping, those edges, handsome lines or angular shapes traverse the fissures, streaks, and tawny eddies within the sanded, waxed surfaces. If the results acknowledge Ellsworth Kelly’s graceful

  • Nicola Tyson, Two Figures Touching, 2011, oil on canvas, 81 x 72”.
    picks October 26, 2011

    Nicola Tyson

    Boasting a promiscuous palette of tart, toxic brights and smudgy flesh-tones, Nicola Tyson’s recent oil paintings seethe with ambiguity. Their not-entirely-human protagonists bear scrambled faces and polyps more than limbs, as if subcutaneous stirrings have burgeoned new orifices and naked nerves. Often these characters are paired into riddling relation. It’s hard to determine, for instance, whether the veiled pantless biped in Two Figures Touching (all works 2011) prances or stalks toward that imminent touch; whether the boyish Figure with Sphinx is ward or prey to the taloned thing nearby;

  • Roman Ondák, Enter the Orbit (detail), 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable.
    picks August 18, 2011

    Roman Ondák

    An index of supply and demand, self-regulation and dependency, the queue has peculiar gravitational force for Slovakian artist Roman Ondák, whose patient pop-up version in the performance Good Feelings in Good Times, 2003, for instance, evoked both breadlines and faddish consumerism to contemplate shared histories of waiting. Enter the Orbit, 2011, the centerpiece of this compact exhibition, lines up ninety-six miniature approximations of Sputnik 1 along an empty gallery’s perimeter, one for each minute of the 1957 satellite’s inaugural voyage around the Earth. Handmade by the artist and unnamed

  • View of “The Making of the Chinese New Working Class,” 2011.
    picks August 17, 2011

    “The Making of the Chinese New Working Class”

    Passing informational posters and display cases of abraded tools and identification papers, one enters the heart of this exhibition on contemporary Chinese labor migration: a room-size diorama reproducing a migrant worker’s domicile, composed of blanketed cot, dusty PC, stuffed washtub, children’s copybooks, coal briquettes, and other typical provisions of China’s “floating population.” Cramped and lusterless, yet arrayed with a ready-to-hand tidiness, the room is a forthright, intimate representation of the efforts of some 230 million Chinese to assemble lives far from home. “All we have are

  • El Anatsui, Akua's Surviving Children, 1996, wood and metal, dimensions variable.
    picks June 17, 2011

    El Anatsui

    Ghanaian-born, Nigeria-based El Anatsui’s vast aluminous sheets of flattened, fastened liquor-bottle caps have become so recognizable that it may be surprising to recall they soared to super-visibility just two Venice Biennales ago. Binding mass commercial cast-offs into sensuous, spangled wholes, their hand-recycled textures and kentelike designs variegated Venetian patinas (and the Arsenale’s own maritime-industrial past) with the heterogeneous material histories of modern West Africa. Filling two floors of Rafael Moneo’s sunny cubic gallery, the US debut of Anatsui’s seminal touring retrospective

  • Garth Weiser,  Nautilus, 2011, oil on canvas, 108 x 89”.
    picks June 02, 2011

    Garth Weiser

    Garth Weiser’s thirteen exquisite paintings in this show seem to grate and incise past the graphic veneers of his earlier work—with its penchant for gradients, macro dots, pin-striping, and refractive or sculptural planes—toward some secret inner dimension. In a majority of works, vibratory moiré-like designs emerge from tight, toothy diamond lattices of monochrome paint that screen a back layer of colorful blotches or a uniform hue. The dominant pattern at once recalls rippling fluid, landslides, wood grain, and topographic contour lines, as if the push of an invisible vector were warping

  • Raashad Newsome, Shade Compositions, 2009, still from a color video, 21 minutes 3 seconds.
    picks April 18, 2011

    Rashaad Newsome

    Oddly at home in downtown Hartford’s turreted castle-cum-museum, Rashaad Newsome’s videos, collages, and sculptural objects in the Atheneum’s latest MATRIX exhibition tessellate black street-culture signifiers with Rococo regalia and classical music. An analogy between heraldry and hip-hop (think allegiances, prestige, occasional peacocking) confects the iced-out, fur-weft escutcheons Fess and Bend, both 2010. Glossy cut-out images of bijoux, champagne, LVMH loot, and the like compose paper coats of arms, sometimes mounted on white with a generous border, recalling pinned butterflies, per Status

  • Lu Yang, Krafttremor, 2011, still from a color video, 4 minutes 32 seconds.
    picks April 18, 2011

    “In a Perfect World…”

    In a climate of political duress, counterfactuals can supply an agile grammar of yearning and questioning. True to the title of their show, curated by James Elaine, the twelve mainland Chinese artists gathered here—all of whom grew up after the Cultural Revolution—let loose idiosyncratic, lyrical imaginations into worlds of what-if.

    Fanciful episodes flit across Zhou Yilun’s small sketches and suites of collage, seemingly sprung from histories half-learned, half-dreamed in childhood. Why are PLA soldiers in Untitled, 2010, feeding a crocodile they’re pinning with sticks? Are those comets or

  • Wang Qingsong, Follow Me, 2003, color photograph, 47 x 118”.
    picks April 01, 2011

    Wang Qingsong

    Gothic yet humdrum, the oversize staged photographs in Wang Qingsong’s first US solo show may be too melancholic to deliver the assured satire they’re usually credited with. Earlier images here bear traces of Wang’s “Gaudy Art” phase, when he joined that mid-1990s movement to spoof the mix of logomania and folksiness styling China’s nascent consumerism. Later tableaux, however, are more plaintive than declarative in mood. Often portraying despondent pluralities—waylaid migrant workers in Sentry Post, 2002, half-buried nudes in Archaeologist, 2004—they lend a shade of Boschian allegory to social

  • Stan VanDerBeek, Movie Mural, 1968/2011, mixed media. Installation view.
    picks March 28, 2011

    Stan VanDerBeek

    “Flim,” “fill ’m,” “visible,” and “illuminated poem” were a few of Stan VanDerBeek’s alternative names for his terse, sprightly animations and collage films. Those works are generously sampled in this sizable, memorable exhibition, alongside his prescient and rarely shown projects in computer graphics, fax, television, performance, and video murals for his 1963–65 spheroidal cinematheque, the Movie-Drome—innovations far beyond playful coinage. Early paintings by the expanded-cinema pioneer favor irradiated, Blakean forms that hint at a visionary sensibility. In later works, VanDerBeek pondered

  • Patricio Guzmán, Nostalgia for the Light, 2010, still from a color film, 90 minutes.
    film March 18, 2011

    Search and Rescue

    PATRICIO GUZMÁN’S FILMS are shovels and telescopes—farseeing, barehanded excavations. For over four decades, he has recorded and interrogated Chile’s history with devastating, rallying lucidity—bearing witness to bomb-sieged Allende and Pinochet’s politicidal junta, then advocating, from exile, for the numberless “disappeared” and against national amnesia. The Battle of Chile (1975–78) remains unsurpassed in capturing the heat and precariousness of mass action in the streets during crisis or transition. Though a tragedy, the film trilogy is a paean to the articulate political self-organization