Dawn Chan

  • Left: Vulcan senior curator Greg Bell. Right: Spencer Finch’s Sunset ice cream truck. (All photos: Dawn Chan)
    diary August 05, 2015

    Sleepless in Seattle

    IF YOU’RE FROM SEATTLE (I am), you’re apt to think that the city is home to people who springboard from abject scrappiness straight to global domination. You can start in a garage, without a major label deal, or without any venture capital, and your two-tailed mermaid can end up on every street corner in the world, and teens in Japan will wear flannel because you did.

    The week reaches highs of nineties as the Seattle Art Fair—the first in many years—gets underway. Mount Rainier looms portside, like a mutant white meringue, as we touch down in SeaTac. The fair’s venue: the WaMu Theater, which sits

  • Steffani Jemison, Promise Machine, 2015. Rehearsal view, June 7, 2015.
    interviews June 22, 2015

    Steffani Jemison

    Responding to the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibition “One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Works,” Steffani Jemison’s recent commission for the museum, Promise Machine, includes multiple parts: a research phase, a reading group, and a semi-improvised composition that will be performed by several musicians traversing the institution’s galleries. The performances will run at MoMA on June 25, 27, and 28, 2015.

    JACOB LAWRENCE studied art at a community center called Utopia Neighborhood House in Harlem, which provided a range of services for kids and their mothers—everything

  • Left: Artists Enrico David and Esko Mannikko. Right: Artist Jonathan Miles.
    diary May 30, 2015

    Foto Finish

    TRAFFIC COPS manned the roads in Reggio Emilia on a recent Friday as a black town car sent for arty guests jolted along over cobblestones, trying to make it to the hotel before the roads shut down for the day. We were there for the art: the opening weekend of Fotografia Europea and two new shows at Collezione Maramotti, the extensive collection created by Max Mara founder Achilles Maramotti and continued by his kin. As it turned out, the tiny comune had started closing down its streets because of the Mille Miglia, a vintage car race pitting Alfa Romeos against Bugattis. “Usually the town is very

  • Candice Breitz, Treatment, 2013, two-channel video projection, color, sound, 9 minutes 11 seconds.

    Candice Breitz

    Cleft-lipped, navel-less miniature mutants—dressed inexplicably in Devo-esque jumpsuits—are the chilling bogeymen in David Cronenberg’s 1979 horror film, The Brood. Scarier, though, is what unleashes them: the unorthodox therapeutic practice of Dr. Raglan, who seeks to treat the antiheroine Nola Carveth by excavating her repressed rage through spirited role play. As a result of Raglan’s questionable methods, his patients’ emotions become somatized symptoms: whether welts, glistening pustules, or, in Nola’s case, the titular squad of undersize assassins, who bud parthenogenetically from

  • Left: Performance by Styrmir Örn Guðmundsson. Right: Sequences' Edda Sigurjonsdottir and Alfredo Cramerotti. (All photos: Dawn Chan)
    diary April 27, 2015

    Plumbing the Depths

    “ALL ARCHITECTS should be forced to live, for at least a week, in every building they design,” says an architect friend of mine. What if it were the same for curators? What if, every time a curator picked a theme for a biennial, he or she was forced to cohabit with some twisted version of that theme? It happened last week with Alfredo Cramerotti, who curated Sequences, Reykjavik’s biennial real-time art festival. Cramerotti had picked “plumbing” as the focus of this year’s edition. And just like that, as if curatorial conceits carry their own karma, on a recent Saturday morning his kitchen sink

  • Aki Sasamoto, Wrong Happy Hour, 2014. Performance view, November 2, 2014.

    Aki Sasamoto

    With its Emeralite-green pendant lamps overhead and its chalkboard sidewalk sign, the mise-en-scène at Aki Sasamoto’s recent performances at JTT’s living-room-size space held the promise of a particularly cozy strain of relational art: the gallery as site for a libation-fueled, slightly sweaty gathering meant to foster conviviality. That impression only grew as the artist—before launching into her signature mix of monologue, febrile live drawing, and interactions with everyday objects—began by serving fresh-brewed espresso while a Stan Getz and João Gilberto track played in the

  • Screenshot of the Bloodbath of B-R5RB in EVE Online, January 27–28, 2014.
    performance December 29, 2014

    The Year in Video Games

    A WAR STARTED the year in video games, and another war ended it. That latter—Gamergate, a vituperative expression of cultural frictions among game-makers, critics, and audiences—continues to play out in news feeds and their ids, the comment sections. But the first clash, while less contentious, raised another set of stakes for video-game cognoscenti. Gamers call it the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, and it took place this January in EVE Online: an anarchic outer-space environment where players, to survive, often join one of several thousand-member alliances, many of them locked in ongoing hostilities with

  • Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Untitled, 2014, acrylic polymer and inkjet prints on acetate on Plexiglas, hardware, 77 x 40 x 1/2".
    picks December 10, 2014

    Sara Greenberger Rafferty

    The area on the outskirts of painting, photography, and graphic design is a rocky place to set up camp, but Sara Greenberger Rafferty does just that, deftly, with the multivalent works in her latest show. On view are largely ink-jet prints on acetate—the product of variations on a technique that the artist has explored since 2012. Upon certain pieces, the artist has poured paint and solvents, and then mounted the cracked, shiny results onto Plexiglas.

    The elements of each artwork oscillate between order and entropy, as if salvaged from a postapocalyptic world and then preserved in their sorry

  • Fiona Tan, Nellie (detail), 2013, still from the 3-minute 9-second color HD video component of a mixed-media installation additionally comprising framed cloth.

    Fiona Tan

    Nicknames, for the most part, arise from familiarity, even intimacy. As such, the pet name “Nellie,” which gives the title to a 2013 video by Fiona Tan, is a wry foil to the work’s flaxen-haired cipher of a subject. Loosely based on Rembrandt’s illegitimate daughter Cornelia van Rijn, Tan’s preteen protagonist remains unknowable throughout the video, her inner life anyone’s best guess, as she poses her way through a sequence of successive indoor vignettes, pale-skinned and beatific, her gown a blue-and-white patterned chintz. She moves languidly and sparingly: a model in a tableau vivant, almost,

  • Left: Artist and Yokohama Triennial artistic director Yasumasa Morimura. Right: Artist Wim Delvoye. (All photos: Dawn Chan)
    diary August 22, 2014

    Road to Oblivion

    IN JAPAN, Yokohama’s a city that’s stayed ahead of the curve. We were told in our tour bus that Japan’s first-ever train line connected Yokohama and Tokyo. The newfangled transportation was so baffling that (absent any other protocol) the train’s first passengers politely left their shoes in neat rows on the Yokohama station platform—only to find themselves in Tokyo, twenty miles away, parted from their footwear.

    Apparently, Yokohama’s progressive leanings extend to the realm of the art festival. While it seems that other major biennials and triennials will stick with the imported star-curator

  • View of “DTR,” 2014.
    picks July 23, 2014


    In its latest show, the collective BFFA3AE has erected two parallel walls that cut diagonally across the gallery’s main room, sandwiching a handful of Mylar balloons, each emblazoned with a cheerful special-occasion message, an image of One Direction’s Niall Horan or iCarly’s Miranda Cosgrove. BFFA3AE—made up of Daniel Chew and Micaela Durand—is perhaps somewhat better known for Internet-based work, but here the group takes a thorough turn toward art IRL. Its recent output seems to celebrate the eager-beaver impulse to amass and admire that’s shared by distinguished art collectors and

  • View of “Kara Walker: A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby,” 2014.
    picks June 24, 2014

    Kara Walker

    Gone are Kara Walker’s signature decal-flat silhouettes; no longer, in her latest show, do viewers confront two-dimensional, Rabelaisian scenes replete with characters ambiguously propositioning, fondling, dancing, and otherwise interacting with each other. Commissioned by Creative Time, Walker’s latest installation is scaled up, monumentalized, and experienced in the round. Its centerpiece, a thirty-five-foot-tall, seventy-five-foot long black woman, is constructed from sugar and posed like a sphinx. Her mien appears both seraphic and perturbed as she holds court, her status as a “mammy”