Colby Chamberlain

  • Alison Knowles, Proposition #2: Make a Salad, 1962. Performance view, Festival of Misfits, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, October 24, 1962. Center: Alison Knowles.

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT

    FEW TITLES ENCAPSULATE an exhibition’s argument as succinctly as “by Alison Knowles: A Retrospective (1960–2022).” Curator Karen Moss borrows that “by” from a slim volume of the same name, a collection of the artist’s compositions issued through the “Great Bear” pamphlet series of Something Else Press in 1965. The preposition’s pliability is the point. Most obviously, “by” denotes authorship, as in a corpus of texts written by Alison Knowles, yet it also suggests facilitation, a process brought about by means of Alison Knowles, or proximity, i.e., close by Alison Knowles. In a work by Alison

  • Mungo Thomson, Time Life. Volume 2. Animal Locomotion, 2015–22, 4K video, color, sound, 5 minutes 21 seconds.

    Mungo Thomson

    I remember seeing the films of Mungo Thomson in 2009 at John Connelly Presents, one of the NADA galleries that occupied a row of storefronts on the western end of Twenty-Seventh Street in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. Derek Eller Gallery, Foxy Production, JCP, Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery, and Wallspace all used to coordinate their openings for the same evening, encouraging a block-party atmosphere that reliably spilled out onto the street—so much so that the NYPD caught on and started rolling through to issue tickets for outdoor drinking. (Once, as two of my friends were being written up, I heard

  • Alina Tenser, Container for Utterance, яю (detail), 2022, vinyl, zipper, steel rods, concrete, dimensions variable.

    Alina Tenser

    The work of Alina Tenser inhabits a notional space at the juncture of a Montessori school and the Container Store. Her sculptures, performances, and videos suggest playtime scenarios of experiential learning while evoking a distinctly grown-up predilection for organizing. Though children may view the “useful pot to put things in” that Winnie the Pooh presents to Eeyore as a lackluster birthday gift, the right storage device can excite the passions of adults (or at least “adulting” millennials) in ways that Marx’s theory of the commodity fails to fully comprehend. Tenser seeks to activate the

  • Alvaro Barrington, Black Power, 2021, oil and acrylic on burlap in artist’s wooden frame, steel oil drum, shelf, metal chains, 75 1⁄4 × 103 × 26 1⁄2".

    Alvaro Barrington

    Is everything all right over at the New York Times arts desk? In the paper’s review of “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1 this past October, Martha Schwendener devoted whole paragraphs to disparaging the acknowledgment of artists’ ethnic background on wall labels. Three weeks earlier, co-chief art critic Roberta Smith’s write-up on Alvaro Barrington’s recent solo exhibition told visitors to “ignore the overreaching news release at the front desk which ties the artist’s life to that of Marcus Garvey, because of ‘similarities in their migratory paths,’ and consider the work.” Smith then proceeded to

  • Huguette Caland, Bribes de corps (Body Bits), 1973, oil on linen, 60 × 60". From the series “Bribes de corps” (Body Bits), 1973–81.

    Huguette Caland

    WE ARE GIVEN A BIOGRAPHY: At the age of thirty-nine, Huguette Caland leaves her husband and children to pursue a career as an artist in Paris. Years later, she moves to Venice, California, and establishes her “dream home.” Toward the end of her life, she returns to Beirut, the city of her birth. The present exhibition, we are told, “celebrates Caland’s love affair with line and its capacity to express the shared human desire for intimate connection.” So goes the opening wall text for “Huguette Caland: Tête-à-Tête,” curated by Claire Gilman with Isabella

  • Franklin Evans, joysdivision, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 30 3⁄4 × 32 5⁄8".

    Franklin Evans

    The titles for the paintings in Franklin Evans’s exhibition “fugitivemisreadings” were made up of lowercase letters jammed together into solid blocks, like the stream-of-consciousness “thunderwords” in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939), or the file names of PDFs scattered over a Mac desktop. In one canvas, Evans paid tribute to Henri Matisse’s famous pastoral of 1905–1906, The Joy of Life, by hand copying the composition’s Fauvist figures and rearranging them as if he were using the cut-and-paste function in Photoshop. The work is called . . . wait for it . . . joysdivision (all works cited,

  • Arghavan Khosravi, Patiently Waiting, 2021, acrylic and cement on cotton canvas wrapped over wood panel, wood cutout, polyester rope, 53 1⁄2 × 58 1⁄8 × 12".

    Arghavan Khosravi

    You could see the rocket through the glass door. In the surreal setting of Arghavan Khosravi’s The Suspension, 2020, a dark-haired woman bows beneath a pointed silver projectile. Hung directly across from the gallery’s entrance, the painting conjured an image that comported with the talking points of hawkish cable-news pundits looking to cast Iran as a militaristic and misogynist theocratic regime. Yet just as quickly as Khosravi advanced this threatening caricature of her homeland, she undermined it as well. A second glance revealed that the woman wears a magenta athleisure jumpsuit—a getup

  • View of “Kevin Jerome Everson,” 2021. From left: Opel, 2021; Signal Thirty, 2021.

    Kevin Jerome Everson

    In North America, the formal rigor of avant-garde cinema has fostered the impression that its foremost practitioners disdain emotional expression. Yet this cannot be said of the movement’s nominal godfather, the late Jonas Mekas, whose films are saturated with plaintive meditations on his childhood in rural Lithuania, his years in DP camps following World War II, and his provisional reconstitution of a home in New York. This story of rupture and dislocation, critic David E. James has observed, follows the thematic arc of modernity itself, wherein the comforting rhythms of agrarian life are

  • THE STRANGER

    “I KNOW YOU ARE DAVE, but who is Dave?” Sixteen years ago, in these pages, the artist Glenn Ligon recounted how a stranger once posed this question to Dave McKenzie’s face. Or rather, she posed it to a papier-mâché approximation of his face, which McKenzie wore while he handed out bobblehead figurines of himself during an opening at SculptureCenter in New York. Ligon floated a few possible rejoinders: Dave was a dancing machine; Dave felt your pain; Dave wanted to be like Mike; Dave believed he could fly; Dave was a dime-store Jesus, for whom made-in-China tchotchkes were the bread and wine of

  • Mira Schor, The Painter’s Studio, 2020, ink, acrylic, and gesso on tracing paper, 9' 11" × 19'.

    Mira Schor

    Perhaps you know of Mira Schor as an alumna of the legendary “Womanhouse” exhibition of 1972, a coeditor of the journal M/E/A/N/I/N/G (1986–96, 2002–16), and the author of Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture (1997) and A Decade of Negative Thinking: Essays on Art, Politics, and Daily Life (2009). Or perhaps you recognize her from Twitter, where she regularly weighs in on current events and retweets various left-leaning blue-check accounts. “Tipping Point,” a selection of works Schor made over the course of the Trump presidency, reflected the difficulty in reconciling the discrepant

  • Craig Kalpakjian, Silent Running, 2019–20, dual moving head spotlight, DMX controller, houseplant, lighting truss and base, security mirror, counterbalance weight, watering can. Installation view.

    Craig Kalpakjian

    An increasingly common trope in big-budget science-fiction films has been mankind’s departure from an overcrowded or ecologically devastated Earth. Such films include WALL-E (2008), Elysium (2013), Interstellar (2014), Passengers (2016), and The Midnight Sky (2020). An early example of this premise is Silent Running (1972), directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Bruce Dern as Freeman Lowell, a botanist on board a space freighter transporting bio-domes filled with specimens of otherwise extinct flora and fauna. When the freighter receives orders to destroy the samples, Lowell attempts to save

  • Rick Lowe, Untitled, 2018, paint marker on collaged paper, 6 × 12'. From “Storage_.”

    “Storage_”

    When the social-practice conference Open Engagement came to New York in 2014, I remember being struck by how much vital work in reimagining art’s capacity for community involvement was happening elsewhere in the United States, and by how comparatively little of it was reflected in the city’s vaunted museums, venerable nonprofits, or myriad commercial galleries. That may now be changing. Two of the most influential figures in the field of social practice, Theaster Gates and Rick Lowe—the founders of the Rebuild Foundation in Chicago and Project Row Houses in Houston’s Third Ward, respectively—both