Chris Kraus

  • Sylvère Lotringer, Los Angeles, April 2016. Photo: Mark Seliger.

    SYLVÈRE LOTRINGER (1938–2021)

    No one did theory like Sylvère Lotringer. Many recall his role in staging the watershed 1975 Schizo-Culture conference at Columbia University in New York, marking the arrival of that perverse chimera, “French theory,” on American shores. (Speaking at the symposium, Michel Foucault—then a young scholar largely unknown in the States—famously called Schizo-Culture “the end of the ’60s.”) He also presented the similarly outrageous Nova Convention in 1978, which made William S. Burroughs its cynosure. But mostly Lotringer, who died November 8 in Baja California, is remembered as the legendary instigator

  • Sylvère Lotringer, ca. 1990.


    HEDI EL KHOLTI: A lot of the obituaries written about Sylvère expressed the notion that he didn’t write a lot, or enough—that he regretted not having written The Book. McKenzie Wark, in her beautiful obituary for New Left Review, talked about Sylvère having written other writers instead. I love the sentiment, but I almost want to disagree. As I was reorganizing my bookshelf this week, I kept finding things Sylvère wrote. Just stumbling on them. There’s one in the 1997 ArtCenter publication Asteroid Impaired, called “Ball of Fat,” that riffs on the Maupassant story “Boule de Suif.” It starts like

  • Fernando Méndez Corona, ME AND YOU, 2018, oil on canvas, 80 × 80".

    Fernando Méndez Corona

    Titled “Baja Soul,” this exhibition collected thirty-two paintings, one sculpture, and two videos in Fernando Méndez Corona’s largest survey to date. Born in Mexicali, capital of the Mexican state of Baja California, in 1977, Corona studied art in Seattle. Since his return in 1998, he has become a kind of godfather of contemporary muralism in the city, as well as a leading figure within the Baja California group of artists who live and work in the border cities Tijuana and Mexicali. The group includes Mely Barragán, Pablo Castañeda, Charles Glaubitz, Jaime Ruiz Otis, and Daniel Ruanova. Frequently

  • View of Marwa Abdul-Rahman’s “Eternal Return,” 2019.
    interviews July 09, 2019

    Marwa Abdul-Rahman

    The six sculptures that comprise Marwa Abdul-Rahman’s “Eternal Return,” on view at Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles through July 27, are at once grotesque and helpless. Bursting with resin, zippers, and buttons, they look like alien monsters suspended by rebar and twine. While she was trained as a painter, Abdul-Rahman’s work has become increasingly sculptural during the last half decade. Constructing these sculptures, she began to question the nature of boundaries, freedom, and form as they are known politically, existentially, and aesthetically. Her objects are allegories with inner lives.

  • Sabina Ott. Photo: The artists’ estate and Aspect/Ratio Gallery.
    passages July 04, 2018

    Sabina Ott (1955–2018)

    I FIRST MET SABINA OTT in the mid 1990s when she was making a series of large encaustic paintings that she titled Sub Rosa. They featured a mixture of geometric and cloudlike, decorative shapes arranged above slanting lines, suggesting an aerial viewpoint. Lone or paired alphabet letters were buried under the wax, but they didn't say anything. The paintings were triggered when she read Gertrude Stein—and they, or the idea, continued to grow until they were no longer paintings. Stripes of deep color leapt out of the frames and onto wood plinths, and eventually onto the walls of the gallery. As

  • Chris Kraus

    Unlike other classics of Russian gulag literature, Maria Alyokhina’s activist memoir Riot Days(Metropolitan) ends rather well. While the authoritarian government that incarcerated her remains in place, she has not only withstood it but used her experience to inspire and advocate for hundreds of other prisoners of the regime.

    It’s tempting to understand Riot Days as a self-help book (and isn’t all the best literature a form of self-help?), because it shows how a life of real meaning and beauty can be lived even under the most oppressive circumstances. But such a reading would overlook Alyokhina’s

  • Julie Becker, Interior Corner #3, 1993, C-print, 35 × 27". From the series “Interior Corners,” 1993. © Julie Becker.

    Julie Becker

    “SHE WAS THE ONE TO WATCH,” Bruce Hainley recalls thinking when he surveyed the local art scene in the summer of 1997. He’d just moved to Los Angeles and seen an installation of Julie Becker’s photographs at Regen Projects. Becker had recently been profiled, along with Liz Larner, Catherine Opie, et al., in Ralph Rugoff’s Harper’s Bazaar feature “L.A.’s Female Art Explosion.” The year before, her monumental CalArts MFA thesis project, Researchers, Residents, A Place to Rest, 1993–96, had been selected by Paul Schimmel, then a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, for the 1996

  • View of “Lift Me Up So I Can See Better,” 2016.
    interviews July 05, 2016

    Shirley Tse

    Soon after arriving from Hong Kong to study at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1990, Shirley Tse abandoned philosophy for visual art, and relocated to Southern California, receiving an MFA from ArtCenter College of Design in 1996. Almost immediately she embraced plastics as material and metaphor. Of late, she has expanded her palette to glass baubles, wire mesh, figurative CelluClay sculptures, and literary texts; this is all on view in Tse’s latest exhibition, “Lift Me Up So I Can See Better,” which is partly inspired by Oscar Wilde’s sad children’s tale “The Happy Prince.” The

  • View of “Sabina Ott: who cares for the sky?,” 2016. Photos: Tom Van Eynde.
    interviews April 01, 2016

    Sabina Ott

    Sabina Ott’s 2014 exhibition “Here and there pink melon joy” at the Chicago Cultural Center exploded her previously painterly work into a multidimensional journey through purgatory, heaven, and hell. As Jason Foumberg observed on, “This dream is no escape from reality; Ott builds the type of world she wants us to live in.” Her new project, who cares for the sky?, is her most ambitious to date, featuring an eight-thousand-cubic-foot mountain that can be scaled on a series of stairs or burrowed into via a treasure-filled underground tunnel, presenting a lopsided monument to innocence,

  • Pablo Castaneda, Simulacro 48: Pueblo en llamas (Simulacrum 48: Town on Fire), 2012, oil on canvas, 20 x 24”.
    interviews February 02, 2016

    Pablo Castaneda

    I first encountered Pablo Castaneda’s work during a visit to Mexicali in 2011, where one of his paintings, Simulacro 15: Carretera imposible (Simulacrum 15: Impossible Highway), 2009, was featured in the Bienal de Artes Visuales del Noroeste at the Centro Estatal de los Artes. Later, I visited his studio and was overwhelmed by the range of his work: figurative paintings in muted colors as well as black, white, and gray monochromes that render familiar sites in this desert city newly strange. Sexy and violent, vulgar and tender, his paintings depict an everyday life enhanced by the presence of

  • Chris Kraus

    Cecilia Pavón’s poems are pure happiness, although they aren’t always about happiness, or about happy things. Living and working in Buenos Aires, she writes poems that are at once subtle, direct, and uncanny. Sometimes emotion erupts, but she keeps her eyes moving, scanning the room and the sidewalks, the faces of friends. Poetically, she seems a close cousin of Dorothea Lasky. Her poems in A Hotel with My Name (Scrambler Books) are like beach balls: primary colors in bright plastic strips, driven by winds and always aloft. Pavón founded the legendary Belleza y Felicidad storefront cultural

  • View of “Parker Ito: A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” 2015.
    interviews March 23, 2015

    Parker Ito

    Crammed into 7,500 square feet of leased space behind Château Shatto Gallery in downtown LA, Parker Ito’s current exhibition is a stunning, vertiginous private museum multiplied hundreds of times. The show is over a year in the making, and it’s not finished yet: Ito will continue amending the paintings and installations on view until the exhibition is reprised as an “epilogue.” “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” is on view until May 2, 2015.

    I WANT TO MAKE EXHIBITIONS where there is always a potential for the work to be shifting. There is a sensation that I’m chasing: an exhibition beyond the