Gilda Williams

  • Khadija Saye

    More than seventy people perished in the Grenfell Tower blaze of June 2017, when a fire began in a fourth-floor apartment and, owing to the building’s treacherously inflammable exterior cladding, rapidly spread to engulf the entire social-housing tower. Among the dead was British Gambian artist Khadija Saye, at home with her mother on the twentieth floor, presumably obeying the firefighters’ advice to stay put until help arrived. Only twenty-four years old when she tragically died, Saye was “on the cusp of something special,” as London Member of Parliament David Lammy said at the momentous

  • No Martins

    In the mid-twentieth century, Brazil’s multishaded racial democracy may have looked good compared to Jim Crow policies in the United States, but lately, bolstered by the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, the “tropical Trump,” racism in Brazil has violently worsened. In a country where about half the population is nonwhite, three-quarters of the victims of police killings are black.

    This was the grim context for the exhibition “Social Signs,” displaying four of Brazilian artist No Martins’s large, brightly colored figurative paintings. His black-skinned subjects include a defiant-looking mother standing

  • Joey Holder

    By the time female European eels complete their three-thousand-mile, one-to-two-year-long swim from the continent’s rivers back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn, they’ve devoured most of their own skeletons and muscle mass and basically resemble mobile sacks of eggs. Eels are semelparous, meaning they reproduce only once during their lifetime, investing all their energy, body weight, and existential drive (so to speak) in that single journey.

    Although European eels are critically endangered (their population is down by roughly 90 percent since the 1970s in great part due to illegal overfishing), Joey

  • Myra Greene

    Piecework refers to labor paid according to the number of items produced rather than the amount of time spent on the job. Often associated with the ruthless economic exploitation of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, this system saw entire families gathered at home sewing garments or packing fruit, united in the desperate attempt to make ends meet. Piecework is sadly making a comeback—thanks to its versatility in allowing employers to get around minimum-wage and other labor laws—as dramatized recently on-screen by a family of Seoul basement dwellers frantically folding pizza boxes to

  • Jade Montserrat

    A gallery today is mostly imagined as a three-dimensional space; instead, the artist, activist, and writer Jade Montserrat frequently activates her exhibition sites primarily as a valuable collection of walls, which she loads with messages and reflections about black British bodies—their overlooked history and experiences—alongside an urgent call for a renewed society built on affection, care, and ethics. Her performance/installation No Need for Clothing, 2017, featured the artist naked and hard at work, drawing with charcoal directly on the wall to compose an allover spread of brief enigmatic

  • Mark Leckey

    Amazingly, a life-size section of the M53 motorway bridge—complete with massive pillars, a ramp, and an overhead road—has been reconstructed in a darkened, hangar-size gallery at Tate Britain. Beneath such a bridge, located in the hinterlands of Liverpool, Mark Leckey played with his boyhood friends back in the 1970s. And there, he says, one very strange day, he encountered an inexplicable, spritelike magical creature.

    This supernatural encounter lodged indelibly in Leckey’s psyche and has loosely become the subject of Under Under In, 2019, one of three video works that comprise “Mark Leckey: O’

  • Nevine Mahmoud

    There are breasts, and then there are tits. With their supple glass curves and pointy resin nipples, the pair hanging temptingly on the wall here were definitely tits. The pinky-beige breast (Rosa Alptraum) and her deep-red sister breast (tamarind) (all works 2019) were convincingly smooth and perky, just begging for an illicit feel. Confronted by Nevine Mahmoud’s sculptures of fragmented erogenous zones, I sensed the conflation of two prohibitions: the taboo against touching an artwork in a gallery, and that of touching a stranger’s body. Both can be tempting; both must be resisted. I must not

  • Tracey Emin

    Tracey Emin’s first-ever solo exhibition, in White Cube’s tiny original gallery, was titled “My Major Retrospective 1963–1993.” Two years later, still a relative unknown, she opened the Tracey Emin Museum (1995–98) in a south London storefront. Emin has always thought big and scaled up, a tactic abundantly observed in this giant solo exhibition, “A Fortnight of Tears.” Sketchy, nude self-portrait drawings enlarged into some thirty big canvases; intimate handwritten notes magnified into the wall-size neon I Longed for You, 2019; tabletop clay figurines swelled into three room-size bronzes; and

  • Annie Ratti

    Wilhelm Reich spent a lifetime dodging persecutors—first the Nazis, then the FBI, then the American Immigration and Naturalization Service—but it was finally the US Food and Drug Administration that managed to capture and imprison him. The discredited German psycho-analyst believed he could heal the world by harnessing “orgone,” the life energy he believed was released in orgasm, whose suppression Reich claimed caused all mental and physical illness. Officially accused mostly of medical fraud—little more than quackery—Reich disproportionately infuriated both the international scientific

  • Beatrice Gibson

    If I had to select a favorite scene from the two unforgettable films in Beatrice Gibson’s exhibition “Crone Music,” I’d choose the closing sequence of I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead (all works 2018), which shows the artist and her five-year-old son, Obie, dancing wildly to Corona’s 1993 disco anthem “The Rhythm of the Night.” The film takes its title from a poem by CAConrad, who appears in it alongside Eileen Myles. Inspired by the final scene of Claire Denis’s 1999 film Beau Travail, which saw actor Denis Lavant breaking into a frenetic solitary dance to the same song before the mirrored walls

  • Korakrit Arunanondchai

    This was probably the closest you’ll ever come to being trapped in a cave with an androgynous paint-covered performer; multiple Thai demigods; a tribe of silent, dust-covered screen worshippers; a Southeast Asian Christian cult; and military relics from the Cold War. Seemingly populated by a cast of hundreds, Korakrit Arunanondchai’s mesmerizing three-channel film installation No history in a room filled with people with funny names 5, 2018, runs only about thirty-one minutes but feels epic. Accompanied by a haunting soundtrack of words and music designed by Aaron David Ross, and with lush

  • Diane Simpson

    My favorite art-world tweet last year came from critic Martin Herbert, who proposed a keyboard short-cut to instantly insert today’s oft-needed phrase, “under-recognized female artist.” This time-saving keystroke would have come in mighty handy this autumn in London, which enjoyed survey exhibitions by Amy Sillman and the late Anni Albers alongside this first-ever UK solo presentation by American sculptor Diane Simpson. An admired figure in the Chicago art scene, Simpson had her second solo exhibition in New York in 2013, thirty-three years after the first one. She has barely exhibited in Europe,