Frances Richard

  • Futurefarmers

    In 2010, for a project in Abruzzo, Italy, the Futurefarmers art collective built a wooden contraption with a big central wheel. Steered from behind with a shaft similar to the beam of a plow and topped by a bucket- or kitelike appendage made of sticks, the wheel was powered by people walking hamster-like inside it. Trundling around the countryside like a cross between a tractor, a moon rover, and a gargantuan toy, the vehicle—titled This Is Not a Trojan Horse—was a conversation piece, designed to get weather-beaten local farmers, kids, and anyone else who might troop after it to talk,

  • Francis Cape

    A bench is a minimal form. A plank supported by two legs (or in some instances by four), maybe braced with crosspieces, a bench is hard and narrow, typically backless, conducive to sitting upright. Comparatively easy to build and a leveler of hierarchy, such furniture takes on particular resonance when used, as it has been for centuries, in vowed communities, where the mundane facts of simplicity and nonluxuriousness plus the lack of precedence for seated members take on symbolic value. A bench is a social sculpture, and this is why it interests Francis Cape.

    Cape trained as a woodworker, and

  • Doug Aitken

    Imagine that you are wandering through an old warehouse. It’s near the river in an ex-industrial zone; it might have been a taxi garage once. What’s that dripping sound? Why is it so musical? A hole has been gouged in the concrete floor. It is filled with milky water and has apparently been miked; a rig of pipes and spigots in the rafters is releasing timed drops into the pool. Amplified, they reverberate as if struck on a postapocalyptic xylophone. Concentric ripples shiver on the surface of the toxic-looking puddle and throw reflections onto the black ceiling, a synesthetic extension of the

  • Nayland Blake

    Get together, reuse, remember, give something away: These are feel-good values, even if rubber bondage masks may be among the souvenirs. Nayland Blake’s recent pair of shows played ebulliently with innuendo. But “FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX!,” a group of interlocking installations at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, really did mean to proffer a tool kit for sustaining communal pleasures. Running concurrently at Gallery Paule Anglim, a miniretrospective—comprising just four works—was titled “Not Drowning, Waving.” Twenty-six years into his career and counting, Blake inverts Stevie Smith’s darkly

  • “Meret Oppenheim: Retrospective”

    It behooves the twenty- first century to look and look again at pioneering assemblagist and feminist provocateuse Meret Oppenheim (1913– 1985). Her famous “Object,” aka Le Déjeuner en fourrure, which she produced at the astonishing age of twenty-three, will not travel to this retrospective. But some two hundred items will, including paintings, drawings, photographs, fashion designs, and sculptures—for example, versions of her Urzeit Venus, a hermaphroditic fetish, drafted in pen and ink (1933) and sculpted in terra-cotta (1962) and bronze (1977). The catalogue

  • Sharon Hayes

    Sharon Hayes’s ambitious show was set amid wooden dividers, platforms, and stair-units. Designed by Hayes and her frequent collaborator Andrea Geyer, the mise-en-scène was a cross between speaker’s corner, radical-history library, and trade fair—mixed, of course, with major-museum exhibition. (The show was curated by Chrissie Iles.) Hayes’s art, here as in the past decade, explores oratory, confession, re-performance, and the erotics of public talk. We need all the intelligence we can muster on such subjects, and hers is considerable. Still, results were mixed.

    Arriving visitors were confronted

  • Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith

    Between 1994 and 1997, Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith produced sixty-odd hours of two public-access cable-TV shows, Cash from Chaos and Unicorns & Rainbows. Their recent exhibition condensed it all to 458 minutes. The installation looked like a children’s playroom crossed with a media-conglomerate viewing room mocked up by IKEA. Walls were painted glowing blue-screen blue, with a mural of test-pattern color bars at one end. Oversize red beanbags, gray-and-red hanging pod-chairs, and red shag carpet invited visitors to veg out before eight cube monitors on the floor. It looked innocuous, but

  • Mary Kelly

    Mary Kelly’s first solo show in New York since 2005 was an occasion, though the work deviated not a jot from the Conceptualist-feminist trajectory established by the artist in the 1970s. Visually, the affect was cool, perfect—a mood contrasting, deliberately, with the works’ approach to issues of violence, memory, and the power of the voice. This conundrum of clinical austerity enframing messy intergenerational feeling hinges on what Kelly calls “the political primal scene.” How and when do we develop historical desire? What trauma exposes our sociopolitical origins?

    Four items were on view.

  • Rashid Johnson

    Suppose that there are three kinds of grooves. One you make by raking an implement through a semiresistant substance. One takes hold when a great song plays. And one you get stuck in. Rashid Johnson’s show had them all.

    His exhibition, titled “Rumble,” comprised eleven assemblages distributed along the painting-to-sculpture spectrum, plus a short film. Johnson has for several years been making wall-based and freestanding consoles presenting particular kinds of fetishistic objects, like altars crossed with rec-room entertainment centers and boutique displays. Just one piece in the current group—

  • Jess

    The painter and collagist Jess (1923–2004) had a poet in his life, of course. On New Year’s Day, 1951, he exchanged vows with Robert Duncan, sage of the San Francisco Renaissance, and they lived together for nearly four decades. But the poet that Jess’s early paintings—nineteen, made between 1950 and 1966, were exhibited here—brought to mind, for me at least, was Frank O’Hara, specifically his “Memorial Day, 1950”: “Fathers of Dada! You carried shining erector sets / in your rough bony pockets, you were generous / and they were lovely as chewing gum or flowers! / Thank you!” Jess

  • Robert Graham

    “Imagine a bevy of beach bummerettes,” wrote Robert Pincus-Witten in these pages in 1968, “in sunbleached tresses and wet T-shirts [who] had stumbled into Giacometti’s The Palace at 4 A.M. [1932].” He is describing tabletop sculptures by the Californian artist Robert Graham (1938–2008). Graham’s dioramas, made between 1965 and 1971, are populated by hyperrealist wax figurines, nearly all female and mostly scaled at one inch to one foot. They are housed in Plexiglas boxes reminiscent of Richard Neutra bungalows as decorated by a slapdash Richard Diebenkorn, with interlocking rectilinear daubs of

  • Andrea Bowers

    Published in Berkeley in 1973 and edited by Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie, The New Woman’s Survival Catalog is a gazetteer of second-wave feminism, a directory of the era’s woman-run bookstores, law firms, credit unions, health clinics, and more. Andrea Bowers, whose documentary practice consistently considers grassroots activism, takes the Catalog as the context for “The New Woman’s Survival Guide,” her latest project. Or is it the project’s pretext? Or simply its text? That is, does gallery-based art borrowing content from an almost-forty-year-old activist sourcebook produce an independent