Chris Kraus

  • 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

    “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

  • 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

  • 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 artforum.com, “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,

  • 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

  • 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

  • interviews May 21, 2014

    Susanne M. Winterling

    Susanne M. Winterling is an artist based in Berlin and Oslo. “Complicity,” her project at Amsterdam’s Kunstverein, gathers works by painter Romaine Brooks, architect and designer Eileen Gray, and the writers Carson McCullers and Annemarie Schwarzenbach and will also encompass film screenings, dialogues, as well as the launch of The Correspondence Book, which comprises newly published correspondence between McCullers and Schwarzenbach. The show is on view from May 21 to July 5, 2014. Here, Winterling discusses the project and her recent work.

    THIS EXHIBITION continues on from other projects I

  • Channa Horwitz

    SURROUNDED BY FAMILY AND FRIENDS at the opening of her solo exhibition at Los Angeles’s François Ghebaly Gallery this past April, Channa Horwitz watched from a bench as viewers donned slippers and entered the immersive space of her installation Orange Grid, 2013. To create this work, Horwitz had applied her signature pattern of gridded bright-orange lines to the gallery’s walls and floor, creating a theatrically charged, vertiginous box. The effect of being inside it was dizzying, partly because of the near panic induced by enclosure within such an optically disorienting, implacably repetitive

  • interviews July 10, 2013

    Annette Weisser

    Coming of age in Germany in the 1980s, Annette Weisser and her generation were caught between a genuine horror of fascism and disgust with the official national creed of repentance. Considering this almost-forgotten history is to ask oneself how, and by what turn of events, identities like “citizen” and “nation” that were once taken for granted have come to seem almost incredible. Weisser’s woodcuts, partly inspired by this history, can currently be seen in “Make Yourself Available,” the most extensive exhibition of her work to date in Germany, which is on view at the Heidelberger Kunstverein

  • “Bolaño Archive: 1977–2003”

    Despite the abundance of material by Roberto Bolaño published since his death in 2003, no full-length critical biography of the Chilean-born writer has yet appeared. Readers have been left to comb his novels and essays for tantalizing clues as to who the writer might have been and how much or little he actually shared with Arturo Belano, the alter ego we meet in The Savage Detectives and other Bolaño books. It’s in this investigatory spirit that Miles and Insua have assembled “Bolaño Archive.” Spanning the twenty-six years the writer resided in Spain, the

  • CHRIS KRAUS

    CHRIS KRAUS

    FOR PAUL THEK, painting was a both a vocation and a discipline. “We must discover WHY we are really painting, really WHY . . . painters are priests . . . IT IS A GLORIOUS JOB + WE . . . TRY ALWAYS HARDER + ALWAYS WE KNOW IT IS NEVER ENOUGH . . . ,” he wrote in a 1973 letter to painter Franz Deckwitz. While most of Thek’s sculptural work and installations were created on commission, painting was the activity that he pursued consistently, irrespective of a destination. As R. H. Quaytman observed in the 1995 catalogue for Thek’s first big retrospective, “The Wonderful World That Almost

  • Dino Dinco and Julio Torres

    “Todos Somos Putos” (We Are All Faggots), an exhibition created by Los Angeles–based Dino Dinco and Mexicali artist Julio Torres, was, as its title suggests, an argument for the persistence of nonassimilated queer culture on both sides of the border. As the artists wrote in their press release, “Shattering the construction of (a) ‘gay community’ allows for queerness to remain queer and not subsumed by the global plague of rainbow flags and middle class gay marriage.” Created for Mexicali Rose, an inspiring community-based media center and gallery in Mexicali’s Pueblo Nuevo barrio, next to the

  • interviews August 12, 2010

    Emi Fontana

    Influenced by the Italian student movement of the 1970s during her childhood in Rome, dealer turned curator Emi Fontana recently closed her Milan gallery to found West of Rome, an organization whose events are redefining public art in Los Angeles. Eschewing this American city’s more conservative tendencies, she commissions projects by international artists that draw out the psychogeography of LA’s confusingly interstitial urban space.

    I OPENED THE GALERIE FONTANA in Milan in 1992, but I always looked for ways to work in different modalities. I never wanted to be a dealer! I was always less

  • Candice Breitz

    Candice Breitz’s first North American survey, “Same Same,” debuted the initial three installments of “Factum,” 2009–, a series of intimate, understated video installations that mark a departure from her trademark engagement with global pop media. Commissioned specifically for this exhibition, the works comprise marathon interviews with seven pairs of identical twins (and one set of triplets) conducted by Breitz in Toronto last spring. Taking its title from Robert Rauschenberg’s pair of nearly identical paintings from 1957, Factum I and Factum II, and exhibited on three diptychs of flat screens,

  • Lisa Kirk

    Inspired by the theatricality of street and media activism, Lisa Kirk’s projects—or, as she sometimes calls them, “social occasions”—are marked by a winning combination of wit, nerve, charm, and aggression. For “The Greatest Show on Earth,” her exhibition at Participant Inc. in 2003, she had an effigy of the Whitney Museum fashioned from cake, and then blown up. For her project Revolution, 2006–, she created a customized fragrance memorializing the persistent smell—or, rather, the stench—of street violence, bottled in pipe-bomb vials and “marketed” with a bandanna face-mask accessory and a DVD

  • Pauline Stella Sanchez

    Dedicated to “those with no face and no voice,” Pauline Stella Sanchez’s exhibition at Rosamund Felsen Gallery concluded a trilogy of mixed-media shows, begun in 2001, in which the artist engaged with tropes culled from art history, cinema, and architecture. Her trilogy’s untitled Part 1 exhumed astonishing confluences between modernist art and the contemporaneous cult of theosophy, while Part 2, the 2005 “It’s Busted,” clustered around allusions to control, grandeur, and power. Part 3, which was untitled, was concerned with seeing itself, and the ways in which sight is rendered as spectacle.

  • Suck

    PERHAPS THE GREATEST promise of May ’68 arose with an eruption of spontaneity that, as it interrupted the dreary process of national politics, suggested it might indeed be possible to live differently. But could this difference arise over the course of time without the tempestuous cycle of action and reaction? For when the barricades were dismantled, the fabric of daily life remained largely unchanged. As Dutch Fluxus artist Willem de Ridder said of his postwar generation in a 2005 interview with the Los Angeles–based magazine Tease, “Our upbringing was death. Father was the boss. Strict rules.

  • Renée Petropoulous

    Throughout her career, Renée Petropoulos has explored the contours of public space in immediate, human terms. Her installations actively question who the “public” is and subtly alter how its designated spaces are used. Collaging together fragments of shoppers’ conversations at a women’s clothing boutique in a sound work titled Nearly Ten Months, 2003, for example, she ingeniously demonstrates the social function of language, the way words form an imperfect surface that separates individuals. And in Is It Possible, 2005, she turns the floor of the San Leandro County Juvenile Court lobby into an