Emily LaBarge

  • Gretchen Bender, TV Text & Image (Image World Version)(detail), 1989, live television broadcast on nine monitors (color, silent), vinyl lettering, dimensions variable. Photo: Ben Westoby.
    print March 15, 2023

    Gretchen Bender

    It was a nice touch, installing Gretchen Bender’s TV Text & Image (Image World Version), 1989, so that it faced the gallery’s front window and the nine bulky wall-mounted CRT monitors were visible from the street, their televised grid flickering with 24-7 live feeds of mainstream media channels. What they were drawing us into was the exhibition “Image World,” which gathered three works made between 1984 and 1990—and a selection of related archival materials—by the Pictures generation artist who died in 2004. Inside, closer to the work, we could read the series of phrases overlaid on the screens

  • Barbara Chase-Riboud, La Musica Josephine Red/Black, 2021, bronze, cord, 74 3⁄4 × 59 × 51 1⁄8".

    Barbara Chase-Riboud

    “I reject labels,” Barbara Chase-Riboud has said. “Creative artists don’t deserve them.” Heavy and light, solid and pliable, masculine and feminine, strong and delicate, light and dark, static and dynamic: The work of the eighty-three-year-old American artist and writer, who has lived in Paris since 1960, summons a host of competing, often conflicting associations. Walking through “Barbara Chase-Riboud: Infinite Folds,” the artist’s first institutional exhibition in the United Kingdom, I began to think a vital part of her project is to create art that unsettles categories and assumptions—formal,

  • Cinzia Ruggeri in her studio, Milan, 1982. Photo: Occhiomagico.


    “FASHION ALLOWED ME to explore the wearer’s intimate secrets, needs, and desires, but also a person’s crazes, fads, and nervous disorders,” said the Milanese polymath Cinzia Ruggeri in 2013, six years before her death at age seventy-seven. “I loved this aspect of fashion as the entire point behind my work wasn’t to continuously and bulimically create, but to tackle and explore these issues . . . through behavioral garments.” A beguiling phrase, “behavioral garments”; in Italian, abiti comportamentali. In Ruggeri’s work, the behavioral garment is emotional, interactive, insouciant, serious, droll,

  • Maeve Gilmore, Boys at Play, Darjeeling Mail, ca. 1958, acrylic on canvas, 20 7⁄8 × 15 3⁄4".

    Maeve Gilmore

    Cats, children, dolls, interiors, still lifes, and contemplative self-portraits were not Maeve Gilmore’s only subjects, though they dominated a captivating display—her first institutional exhibition—at Studio Voltaire. Twenty paintings by the English artist, who was born in 1917 and died in 1983, spanned roughly four decades of her career, from 1943 through 1978. While Gilmore’s wider oeuvre includes abstract and pared-down, spiritually inflected work, here the focus was closer to home. A drab hush sometimes falls over invocations of the “domestic,” so often an undifferentiated shorthand for

  • View of “Yu Ji,” 2022. Photo: Eva Herzog.

    Yu Ji

    Over the past few years, Yu Ji invited men to her studio to pose for her, asking them to test the limits of their bodies—to strain, to exhaust themselves, to go perhaps beyond their physical capacities—as she observed. Boredom, fatigue, entropy, meditation, transformation, transcendence: How might these states manifest in sculpture? Later, from memory, she molded their taut limbs and striving torsos in clay, using the studies to make resin molds, which she filled with concrete.

    Alongside other mixed-media works, nine of these concrete bodies—none of them whole—were scattered throughout Ji’s recent

  • Donna Huddleston, The Stand In, 2021, color pencil on paper, 39 1⁄4 × 28 1⁄4".

    Donna Huddleston

    “There’s something about drawing the female form that holds a certain psychological power for me and that feels a necessary element of my work,” Donna Huddleston has said. Her first exhibition with Simon Lee was replete with striking and enigmatic women carefully rendered in Caran d’Ache colored pencil, graphite, pencil, and metal point on paper. Placed against elaborately patterned backgrounds, in stylized otherworldly tableaux, and within tightly constructed interior spaces, these figures appear as characters plucked from a larger narrative whose whole remains at a mysterious remove.

    The show

  • Shilpa Gupta, Untitled, 2021, C-print, 16 1⁄2 × 25". From the series “Untitled,” 2021.

    Shilpa Gupta

    Is isolation art a new genre? (I hope not, but bear with me.) Or solitude art? Art of the disconsolate? (This would not be new.) Art of the vanished, the absent, the disappeared? (Neither would these.) The year 2021 spawned a lot of what we might reluctantly call lockdown art— “This art plumbs the depths of solitude”; “This exhibition champions creativity in confinement”; “This artist believes spring cannot be canceled”—and for obvious reasons. So Shilpa Gupta’s recent exhibition at Frith Street Gallery was a relief. Rather than teem with an individual’s consciousness, truisms about the meaning

  • Jennifer Bornstein, Big Head with House on Fire, 2020, gelatin silver print, 62 × 42 1⁄2".

    Jennifer Bornstein

    Like so many beguiling things, the works in Jennifer Bornstein’s recent exhibition “Ghosts” looked simpler than they were. Eight unique gelatin silver prints, large in scale (roughly five and a half by three and a half feet), they bore unembellished titles, among them Teacup, 2019; Two Houses on Fire, 2020; and Big Heads, 2021. But these are not what the photographs are of, not really—to the extent that a photograph is ever of anything at all.

    Teacup contains two images (though I began to think of them as dreams or hallucinations), one above the other: In stark profile, a cartoonish figure with

  • Janina Kraupe-Świderska, Pięć modlitw (Five Prayers), 1984, oil on canvas, 39 3⁄8 × 33 1⁄2". From “Cosmic Mothers.”

    “Cosmic Mothers”

    Why don’t more contemporary exhibitions ask questions about “the meaning of existence”? I mean it. There is (of course?) no meaning, but the visionary fortunes and futures we might hazard are many, which is to say the meaning is what we make, and the world we live in is part of this, made by us too. If we don’t accept what we’ve been given, told, circumscribed by, can we think and make our way out? Can we turn staid structures and beliefs on their heads to generate some brave new alterity with infinite horizons, first ideological and then, someday, practical, real?

    “Cosmic Mothers,” curated by

  • View of “Rita Keegan,” 2021. Photo: Andy Stagg.

    Rita Keegan

    In “Social Fabric Stories”—an index to the fabrics that decorate the impressive train of the garment at the center of the mixed-media installation Trophies Revised, 2021–, invited artists, friends, activists, educators, and archivists offer to Rita Keegan scraps of their own work: homages to times and art scenes past, present, future, and ongoing. These collaborators recall not only Keegan’s art, but also her work behind the scenes, helping to establish the Brixton Art Gallery, cofounding the print technology cooperative Community Copy Art, building the Women of Colour Index. They speak of

  • Erika Verzutti, Tarsila with Orange, 2011, bronze, acrylic paint, 10 1⁄2 × 13 3⁄8 × 10 5⁄8".

    Erika Verzutti

    “There are fingers everywhere,” Erika Verzutti has said of her work. In the Brazilian artist’s first solo exhibition in a British museum, which includes more than forty works made between 2003 and 2021, fingers really are everywhere—or have been: fingers impressed, poked, dug, smoothed, caressed; fingers gouged into concrete, Styrofoam, or clay, which is then cast in bronze. Verzutti’s bodily work wants to make its processes seen, known, even felt. “For me, that’s a desperate need to share the experience,” she said in a 2015 interview, “the contact with the clay: wet, smooth, firm, cold, and so

  • Chantal Joffe, My Mother in a Blue Shawl in her Doorway, 2020, oil on board, 72 × 47 1⁄4".

    Chantal Joffe

    Yes, it’s true, mothers are people too. “Most of the literature of infant care and psychology has assumed that the process toward individuation is essentially the child’s drama, played out against and with a parent or parents who are, for better or worse, givens,” writes Adrienne Rich in the 1976 study Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. “Nothing could have prepared me for the realization that I was a mother, one of those givens, when I knew I was still in a state of uncreation myself.” Almost half a century later, in writing, art, and film about motherhood, the experience