Daniel Culpan

  • picks August 12, 2019

    “New Order: Art, Product, Image 1976–1995”

    “New Order: Art, Product, Image 1976–1995” surveys two seismic decades in British culture when style collided with substance and pop was art. The era was born from the two-fingered musical salute of punk. Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon’s photographic series “Punks,” 1976–77, captures the subculture in all its stylish spleen. Club promoter and style icon Philip Sallon grins in black lipstick next to a swastika-buttoned hellraiser; DIY outfits stitch together a silk-screened Karl Marx and the Union Jack. A few years later, in the spirit of English Warholism, graphic designer Peter Saville bridged

  • Emma Hart

    Emma Hart’s “BANGER,” a presentation of works commissioned in 2018 for Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, was a joyride through strange psychological weather. The artist has adopted the car, that mobile extension of the self, as the vehicle, so to speak, for her meditations on the ways in which we navigate our own identities and the world around us. Through a series of jump cuts and careening swerves, Hart reveals the eye as no objective reader of signs, but rather a speeding maniac—erratic and split-second impulsive.

    Four double-sided planar ceramic sculptures on steel legs stood on the floor like

  • Kris Lemsalu

    Kris Lemsalu staged our passage from womb to tomb as a drama of bewilderment, full of improbable ecstasies and strange metamorphoses. In three installations, each occupying its own room in the Estonian artist’s exhibition “4LIFE,” viewers could feel Lemsalu pushing at the squishy, shifting membrane between the fantastic and the quotidian, as they were guided—as if by some sense-deranging shaman on an LSD-induced rebirthing trip—through the milestones of existence and the shared struggle for meaning.

    In HOLY HELL O (all works 2018), psychedelically colored mannequins plunged like Olympic divers

  • picks December 03, 2018

    Sheida Soleimani

    In “Medium of Exchange,” Sheida Soleimani dramatizes the play of domination and dependence between the US and oil-rich nations. Featuring an array of actors in caricature masks, her photographic collages are a visual assault: shock-and-awe metaphors megaphoned through a punky, DIY aesthetic. Laying bare the amoral, transactional ties between the establishment and OPEC figureheads, Soleimani choreographs a pornography of cronyism and corruption—the money shot, in this case, being geysers of crude oil.

    In a disheveled hotel room, Jimmy Carter and the UAE petroleum minister are caught in flagrante

  • picks July 06, 2018

    “Land of Lads, Land of Lashes”

    At the margin of the margins, the three largely ignored female avant-garde artists of this exhibition carved out their own space of bold experimentalism in the 1960s and 1970s—in some cases, literally. Growing up in Poland in the twilight years of Stalin’s regime, Wanda Czelkowska began her career creating monumental Socialist sculptures. Though she later rejected this totalitarian aesthetic, its repressed energy teems beneath the surface of her raw Brutalist vision. Her “Heads” series, 1964–72, evokes a genderless Easter Island, contorted and amorphous. Some heads are cracked or bisected,

  • picks April 16, 2018

    “Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-Dressers”

    A butch wears a Stetson and boxy suit, her leg cocked raffishly over a table. A group of cross-dressers in 1950s Washington, DC, live out their fantasies of glamour—sheer dresses and Joan Crawford hair—in suburban living rooms. And a trans showgirl named Bambi is getting her hair fixed by a muscled dancer in a dark Dusty Springfield beehive wig. These works appear in “Under Cover,” an exhibition that untethers the fixed absolutes of male and female, revealing gender to be a rich and shifting spectrum.

    This trove of around three hundred found photographs, unearthed by French filmmaker Sébastien

  • picks February 01, 2018

    Paola Ciarska

    Paola Ciarska’s first solo exhibition in London is akin to a comic-strip reimagining of the British television game show Through the Keyhole. Her series of painstakingly intricate paintings—each not much larger than an A6 postcard—chronicles a series of rooms: the homes of friends, family, and acquaintances of the Polish-born, Newcastle, England–based artist.

    The miniature scale of these eight works from 2017—each one Untitled (Cześć, Pani Ciarska [Hi, Ms. Ciarska] Series)—demands close attention, and repeated looking unfolds strange new frissons and surprise details. One room, with garishly

  • picks January 11, 2018

    Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley

    In “We Are Ghosts,” Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley perform an antic kind of haunting: dark jokers leering from the unquiet slumbers of history. In their new video, In The Body of The Sturgeon, 2017, we’re plunged into the claustrophobia of the fictional USS Sturgeon at the end of World War II. The twelve-minute narrative is saturated with various fluids: You can almost smell the thwarted testosterone, the sweat, the ethanol swigged straight from the can by a desperate sailor. There’s even an ode to golden showers, in which Mary, with drawn-on chest hair and metal funnel bra, performs a