Dan Jakubowski

  • picks November 13, 2018

    “Nothing Vanishes, Everything Transforms”

    Curator Nadine Abdel Ghaffar’s decision to stage this exhibition in the newly reopened Manial Palace is a clever historicizing gesture. Built in the early twentieth century under the watchful eye of Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfik, the palace is a sumptuous mélange of stylistic influences ranging from Rococo and Art Nouveau to Ottoman and Persian. A horror vacui that is both awe-inspiring and disorienting in its anachronist appropriation, the palace proves an arresting environment for a take on the modern Egyptian canon.

    Ghaffar includes members of the old guard of Egypt’s fine arts community like

  • picks August 02, 2018

    Afruz Amighi

    Afruz Amighi’s “shadowpieces” are dichotomous structures, aphotic and heavy while ethereal and effused with a gentle light. Constructed of elegant steel frameworks, they hang from the ceiling or emerge from the floor, creating dramatic shadow plays. Exhibited in darkened gallery spaces, works such as We Wear Chains, 2018, transform the rooms into cathedral-like vaults of warm luminosity and silent gloom. The sculpture, which confronts the viewer at the beginning of the show and immediately compels a reverential quietude, melds disparate sources such as ancient Greek vase painting, traditional

  • picks June 25, 2018

    John Akomfrah

    Vertigo Sea, 2015, John Akomfrah’s magisterial multichannel video installation, presents modernity as a half-millennium of mounting atrocities. Nineteenth-century photographs of enslaved people, grainy, decades-old footage of polar bear hunts, and more recent clips of sperm whale butcherings and melting icecaps are intercut with sweeping shots of majestic natural beauty. Through this dichotomy, Akomfrah shows the development of a truly globalized world as a centuries-long and human-produced emergency, one that trespasses on an increasingly burdened environment. Walter Benjamin’s axiom that

  • Yasmine El Meleegy

    Yasmine El Meleegy’s sculpture Emergency Room (all works 2016) appeared to grow on Townhouse’s factory space like a fungus, reaching across the floor and climbing the walls in lumpy protuberances. An amalgamation of construction materials and more intimate figures and domestic objects cast in wax and concrete, the piece took the rough-hewn aesthetic of the gallery’s undressed brick-and-concrete surroundings and mutated it. In this work, doll-like concrete figurines, with soft contours and exaggerated anatomies, sit beside wax molds of teapots and salt-cellars. Little cartoonish cats, also in

  • picks November 09, 2017

    Amalia Pica

    Amalia Pica plays with the basic coordinates of sculpture here, presenting monumental objects with opulent volume but no mass, and small prostrate forms that are weighty but seem visually buoyant due to their surface treatment. In the first of these categories is Ears, 2017, cardboard reconstructions of derelict satellite dishes and other antiquated acoustic instruments that the artist found in the British county of Kent. The original mechanisms were built in the early twentieth century to detect sonic harbingers of incoming aircrafts, but they were quickly rendered obsolete by newer technological

  • picks September 25, 2017

    Jennifer Packer

    The hands in Jennifer Packer’s paintings are what stay with me. Graceful and obdurate, elegant and knotted, these hands bear strange relationships with their owners, floating into distinct view as the rest of the figure recedes among paint dribbles and hazy skeins of color. In Cumulative Losses, 2012–17, a billiard player lines up a shot, his left hand resting on the table surface like a rough, blotchy creature readying itself to pounce. A still, almost regal man sinks into a luscious red in Jerriod, 2017, his palms resting on a chair’s arms, fingers hanging loose in sinuous quiescence. These

  • picks August 16, 2017

    Njideka Akunyili Crosby

    Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s paintings exhibit both a generous opulence and a tender grace, taking small moments of intimacy and imbuing them with a meticulously ordered magnificence. Mama, Mummy and Mamma (Predecessors #2), 2014, is exemplary of her approach, presenting a domestic interior with the monumentality and structural organization of a Renaissance-era sacra conversazione. Like much of Akunyili Crosby’s work, this piece is wrought on paper, its painted image scored by numerous photo transfers that dissolve the painting’s surface even as its muscular linearity and bold colors work toward

  • picks July 13, 2017

    Nicholas Mangan

    Nicholas Mangan’s four video installations explore the overlapping disciplines of economics, geology, ecology, and colonial history, presenting a portrait of a world riven by human intervention but elusive when it comes to humanity’s efforts to understand it. A World Undone, 2012, the simplest and most powerful of the works on display, depicts a churning vortex of golden particles that fall slowly out of view. The whirling specks are Zircon particles, 4.4-billion-year-old crystalline mites that were produced by the formation of earth’s tectonic plates. The video, which eschews the complicated

  • picks June 29, 2017

    Tal R

    Tal R’s retrospective bubbles with an inexorable sense of play, as the Danish painter ricochets between abstraction, representation, and all points between. His earlier work from the 1990s and his early 2000s experiments with bold, carnivalesque colors and crudely wrought objects are seemingly lifted from a late Philip Guston painting and strained through a kaleidoscopic sieve. Paintings such as Blocked Door, 2000, dominate the space around them through their sheer size and raucous polychromy, their luminous abstraction pushing up against the garbled hieroglyphic-like simplicity of Tal R’s

  • picks June 26, 2017

    “Philip Guston and the Poets”

    It is a small wonder to see Titian’s final statement, the anxious, sepulchral Pietà, 1576, only a few rooms away from Philip Guston’s late meditation on frailty and death, East Coker-Tse, 1979. The latter painting depicts an emaciated, red-tinged visage with lips peeled back in a rictus and eyes staring listlessly upward. Drawing on T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (1943), Guston finished the work shortly before his death in 1980, conflating the poet’s contemplation of looming inexistence with the rough, painterly economy, lack of ornament, and representational directness that had become synonymous

  • picks April 19, 2017

    Maha Maamoun

    This museum is an ironically fitting setting for Maha Maamoun’s Night Visitor: The Night of Counting the Years, 2011, a film constructed from YouTube clips the artist compiled in the months following the initial uprising of the 2011 Egyptian revolution during the Arab Spring. The work documents a series of trespasses on the part of liberated Egyptian civilians into the hitherto hermetically sealed, intensely defended spaces of the state’s security wing, responsible for many brutal abuses under the auspices of President Mubarak’s draconian Emergency Law. The revealed gilded interiors, with their

  • picks March 27, 2017

    Claire Morgan

    Claire Morgan refigures the tradition of Minimalism and post-Minimalism in the whimsical yet startlingly affecting works in her first solo exhibition in the United States. Using nylon thread to stitch together shreds of plastic, insects, small pieces of lead, butterflies, and other materials into constellations of three-dimensional geometric shapes, Morgan creates a meditative fragility out of the scraps of environmental degradation. Caught within the ghostly matrix of her sculptures are taxidermy animals, seemingly trapped by the artist’s meticulous structures. If you go down to the woods today

  • picks March 10, 2017

    “Rotative Repository of Latin American Video Art: Mono Canal”

    This group show from fifteen Latin American artists presents an impressive and sometimes deeply affecting series of video works that is hampered by an ill-conceived and amateurish exhibition approach. Given that the videos rotate over a total running time of nearly two hours on a single LCD screen in the Museo’s café, the show’s title is appropriate, though the quiet intimacy evoked by many of the works calls for—and deserves—a more sophisticated exhibition style that would give each work its own space to subtly operate on its viewers. Margarita Sanchez’s As I Inhale, 2013, a mysterious and

  • picks February 14, 2017

    Zina Saro-Wiwa

    Questions of ecology lie at the core of Zina Saro-Wiwa’s exhibition, though her approach to the subject includes more than addressing the natural environment. The show features works produced by the artist since 2013, when she moved from Brooklyn to her birthplace of Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Her photography and videos represent a reconnection to and an exploration and celebration of her homeland, even as it suffers dramatic environmental degradation from rampant oil extraction. Karikpo Pipeline, 2015, a multichannel video presented across five LCD screens, envelops the

  • picks January 30, 2017

    Basim Magdy

    Basim Magdy’s retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago is the Egyptian artist’s first large-scale exhibition in the United States. Collecting a number of his psychedelic films, drawings, and photographic works from the past decade, the show offers a view into Magdy’s career-spanning fascination with dystopia, hope, and visions of futures that never came to be. From the strangely subdued neon hellishness of his early drawings to his newer experiments with “film pickling,” the artist’s term for submerging his photographs in chemicals to achieve riotous color effects, the works

  • picks November 27, 2016

    Wael Shawky

    Wael Shawky’s serial film project “Cabaret Crusades,” first presented in its complete form in 2015 at MoMA PS1, maintains its macabre ability to fascinate and horrify at the Castello di Rivoli. For his one-man show at the Castello, Shawky produced an entirely new site-specific environment for the films, with two of the three projected in bubble-gum pink facsimiles of medieval fortresses that forcefully occupy the venue’s cavernous top floor. Grotesque in appearance but comically subdued in their dramatic presence, the puppets that populate Shawky’s films commiserate, betray, and murder their