Ciarán Finlayson

  • slant July 17, 2019

    The Tear Gas Biennial

    WARREN B. KANDERS DIDN’T EARN HIS PLACE as vice chair of the board at the Whitney Museum of American Art through his good taste alone. He has also used some of his estimated $700 million fortune to make tax-deductible donations to support exhibitions at the museum. What successful enterprise has made this generosity possible? Thanks to the collective, years-long effort of activists, students, and reporters to bring everyday brutality to light, we could tell you quite a lot about Kanders’s company Safariland, which does a brisk trade supplying batons, handcuffs, holsters, and body armor to police

  • slant May 06, 2019

    Subject Lessons

    IN MARCH, Isaac Julien’s show “Lessons of the Hour – Frederick Douglass” premiered at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, a week before it opened at Metro Pictures in New York during Armory Week. I caught a flight upstate for a weekend of events surrounding the debut and was toured around sites important both to Douglass’s life and to Julien’s process, including the George Eastman Museum, the graves of Anna Murray Douglass and Douglass, and Highland Park—the location of a 120-year-old bronze statue of Douglass, the first public monument in the country to memorialize a black American. Julien’s

  • “FELIX FÉNÉON (1861–1944): ARTS FROM DISTANT LANDS”

    Curated by Isabelle Cahn and Philippe Peltier

    Felix Fénéon became a critic, gallerist, and Communist after being fired from the civil service for his alleged (and probable) bombing of a restaurant directly opposite the French senate. A lifelong anti-imperialist, he also called for the Louvre to give space to “art from distant lands,” which at that time was relegated to provincial museums of ethnology. Featuring Fénéon’s personal collection of artworks from Africa, Oceania, and the French avant-garde, this exhibition will examine his attempt to suspend such separations. Like last year’s revelatory

  • “NARI WARD: WE THE PEOPLE”

    IT’S A STRUCTURING CONTRADICTION of American politics that the opening “we” of the preamble to the US Constitution effectively dissimulates the manifest contempt for even the concept of “the people” expressed at the 1787 convention that led to its drafting. Behind locked doors, Alexander Hamilton sought to give the rich a “distinct, permanent share in the government” and James Madison to enshrine them as a protected minority. Political economist J. Allen Smith argued as early as 1907 that those seeking to grapple with

  • COLONY OF ERRORS

    IN 2006, a year after Ed Ruscha’s series “Course of Empire” debuted at the Fifty-First Venice Biennale, Noam Chomsky called America a failed state. Ruscha tends toward wry jokes over declamation, but his own assessment was similarly damning. In the US pavilion, his series “Blue Collar,”1992, comprising five black-and-white paintings of Los Angeles buildings connected to working-class life (e.g., a trade school), was shown with five new works in color depicting the progress or deterioration of each site. These deadpan before-and-after records of changes in the urban landscape registered the

  • PAUL MAHEKE

    WHEN MBU, 2017, PREMIERED LAST SPRING at Tate Modern, it was difficult to actually see Paul Maheke dancing. His body was obscured and occasionally illuminated by video projections and layers of hanging scrims. Past the initial frustration, these impediments to spectatorship, it became clear, were as much part of the piece as any of Maheke’s choreography. Viewers were unable to hold him in sight for long. The effect was to make the dance feel ambient rather than spectacular, something best enjoyed with the same etiquette as that of the dance floor: by casting the occasional obliquely held glance.