Emily LaBarge

  • 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

  • Charles Gaines, Face #16, Naoki Sutter-Shudo (Japanese/French/Swiss German), 2020, acrylic paint, acrylic sheet, ink-jet print, 66 1⁄2 × 55 1⁄4 × 8". From “Numbers and Faces: Multi-Racial/Ethnic Combinations Series 1,” 2019–20.

    Charles Gaines

    Generous is not typically a word associated with Conceptual art, but it’s precisely how I would describe the work of Charles Gaines: critically, provocatively, radically, sometimes paradoxically, but never submissively, generous. “The subjective imagination is an ideology, it’s not a fact,” the artist has said. He has also observed that the categories and universal paradigms, including “the creator,” in which we find ourselves inscribed are both constructed and arbitrary. In Gaines’s work, the challenge to systems and structures is necessarily inward- and outward-looking at once: The eradication

  • Erin O’Keefe, Circle, Circle, 2020, ink-jet print, 32 × 40".

    Erin O’Keefe

    The wrongness of images, or our apperceptions of them: What appears to be a painting is actually a photograph. What appear to be two-dimensional painted lines, curves, rectangles, arabesques, planes of color, or abstract geometries with trompe l’oeil shadows are in fact three-dimensional objects carefully arranged, brightly illuminated, and flattened into a beguiling single plane by the lens of a camera. “I’m interested in finding/discovering/choreographing moments of uncertainty that exist in the image, but not in the ‘real’ spatial condition,” says Erin O’Keefe, erstwhile architecture professor

  • Nancy Holt, Points of View, 1974, four-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 44 minutes. Video unit: 78 × 48 × 48".

    Nancy Holt

    STAR EARTH SKY WATER MOON SUN, reads Nancy Holt’s The World Through a Circle, ca. 1970, a sheet of white paper on which these typewritten words—read in either direction and starting in any location—form just that: a circle, one of the artist’s favorite forms. A HOLE THROUGH THE EARTH, EITHER WAY / DRAWING IN A GLANCE / AND THEN A SECOND LOOK / AND MORE, reads a poem beneath. THE WORLD FOCUSES / AND SPINS OUT AGAIN, SEEN.

    Although we know artists’ lives feature no straight lines, no this-therefore-that, no easily charted evolution, we can be tempted to read their early efforts as harbingers of

  • Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy, c. 1620–25, oil on canvas, 31 1/2 × 41 1/2".
    slant December 18, 2020

    The Blazing World

    HEIC ARTEMISIA

    the tombstone of Artemisia Gentileschi is said to have read. Clear and simple, forgoing the usual embellishments, such as names of father, husband, and children, dates of birth and death. HEIC ARTEMISIA, or HERE LIES ARTEMISIA.

    Artemisia: now commonly referred to by her first name only (Madonna! Cher! Beyoncé!), in order to avoid confusion with that other famous Baroque Gentileschi pittore, her father, Orazio. In life, she also went by the surname Lomi, a nod to the traditional artisans of her Tuscan heritage, which she thought might endear her to the powers and patrons of Florence,