Gilda Williams

  • Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, La Cueva Negra (The Black Cave), 2013, HD video, color, sound, 20 minutes.

    Beatriz Santiago Muñoz

    The Hippomane mancinella, or manchineel tree, indigenous to Puerto Rico, is among the most poisonous plants on earth. One notorious example of its terrible powers was recorded in the nineteenth century, when dozens of German sailors ingested its fruit—also known as the “little apple of death”—and died horribly after enduring excruciating pain from internal bleeding. We are told of this tragedy in Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s Farmocopea (all works 2013), a willfully amateurish 16-mm film featuring images of Puerto Rico’s lush island landscape accompanied by subtitles about its bizarre flora.

  • View of “Steve Bishop,” 2013. Foreground: Focus, 2013. Background: If Everything has a Place then Place too has a Place VIII, 2013.

    Steve Bishop

    The title of Steve Bishop’s exhibition “An Escalator Can Never Break, It Can Only Become Stairs” hints that machines may lead “lives” of their own, which carry on even after the plug has been pulled. And indeed, the works in the show bore out this hypothesis. At the entry, on a temporary L-shaped wall dividing the gallery in two—creating a main exhibition space and a narrow corridor to one side—hung the monochromatic “painting” How Can One Thing in General Be Many Things in Particular?, 2012. This powdered-steel rectangle reproduces with precision the finely textured, nondescript gray

  • Paul Sietsema, Calendar Boat 1, 2012, ink on paper, 64 1/8 x 50 3/8".

    Paul Sietsema

    In “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” author David
    Foster Wallace narrates an excruciating, ill-fated voyage: a seven-night Caribbean cruise funded by his editors at Harper’s magazine. Over the course of this dense forty-nine-page essay, Wallace learns to differentiate between “rolling” and “pitching” at sea as he is overfed, tortured by incessant disco drumming, and generally exasperated. Many thousands of words too long for a glossy magazine article, excessively detailed, and structured in free-floating non sequiturs, this amazing text itself seems lost at sea: a novella-length

  • View of “Sarah Lucas,” 2012.

    Sarah Lucas

    There’s the briefest phase during early puberty when one’s hapless ignorance of firsthand sex is combined with an obsessive curiosity for all its obscene details, weirdly accompanied by a childish revulsion toward the whole stinking business. This is that awkward age when the frankest of questions (“What is cunnilingus?”) find their way to the dinner table, followed by the inevitable “Do you guys do it?” and the equally inevitable squeals of horror if even the most liberal of parents attempt a response. Terror and hilarity mix in fine proportion, fueling more queries, fits of laughter, and

  • Renee So, Drunken Bellarmine, 2012, wool, acrylic, oak-tray frame, 68 1/2 x 48 7/8 x 2 3/8".

    Renee So

    Until now, you may have given little thought to Assyrian beards. In fact, they are remarkable things, with tiers of spiral-like black curls perfectly aligned to produce an almost architectural construction with which to adorn the face of the Mesopotamian male. Renee So has evidently given considerable thought to the contours of Assyrian facial hair, along with other well-selected highlights in the history of human self-design: In the artist’s tabletop-size ceramic sculptures, a variation on this beard is doubled and formed from a repeated pattern of semispheres glistening in delectable metallic

  • View of “Alice Channer,” 2011.

    Alice Channer

    Cascades of white silk satin drop from ceiling to floor to form Alice Channer’s sculpture Tight Skin (all works 2011). Printed on the semitransparent fabric in delicate colors are enlarged images of snakeskin and lizard print, one borrowed from a stretched sleeveless undershirt, the other from a skirt. Set on either side of this curtainlike structure in Channer’s recent exhibition “Body Conscious” were two shimmering metal sculptures, each about human height. To the right, Shift is a lean, irregular steel cylinder, sizable enough to conceal a tall person standing inside—a beautiful woman,

  • Matthew Darbyshire, An Exhibition for Modern Living, 2010, mixed media, 8' 2 1/2“ x 11' 9 3/4” x 14' 9 1/8". From “British Art Show 7.”

    “British Art Show 7”

    “The best British art show ever,” gushed the The Guardian when “British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet” opened late last year at Nottingham Contemporary. Could the London outing of forty artists born or resident in the UK live up to the fanfare? Easily, it turns out. Perhaps any exhibition with Christian Marclay’s immensely popular video The Clock, 2010, is guaranteed success. Marclay’s splendid, twenty-four-hour work made of existing film clips displaying the actual time, thus becoming a functioning screen-size clock, relentlessly pictures not just ticking timepieces but our uneasy

  • Huma Bhabha, Bumps in the Road, 2008, mixed media, 60 1/2 x 66 1/4 x 80 1/4".

    Huma Bhabha

    Among the paradoxes in Huma Bhabha’s extraordinary sculpture is that although it feels fully in sync with our times—politically uncertain, historically self-conscious, formally experimental—the work transmits great timelessness. The three untitled, totemlike figures, 2010, that were in the front room at Stephen Friedman Gallery seem as ancient as anything ever erected on Easter Island. Solid, stony presences with roughly pitted surfaces that suggest hours of laborious masonwork, these partially blackened idols are mostly made of cork, pointing to an unexpected fragility: Were these

  • Michael Fullerton

    Just how many skills is a twenty-first-century artist expected to master? If Michael Fullerton is the measure, then—per his recent exhibition “Columbia”—the contemporary artist must be an expert researcher, writer, draftsman, storyteller, sleuth, technician, and sculptor. He must work with readymades, video, lasers, painting, printing, and wall text. He must be sociopolitically and historically astute—in Fullerton’s case, about Alan Turing, the brilliant computer-technology pioneer who, after helping Britain win the war with his code-cracking genius, was convicted of homosexuality and cruelly

  • Alice Neel

    Alice Neel’s magnificently independent art practice is remarkable for its allegiance to figuration at a time when abstraction dominated the New York world and for her intense portrayals of inner turmoil. Her work can verge on caricature, yet she is never condescending, never rushed. She can, however, be cruel, as in 1962’s mustard-colored, freakish portrait of gallerist Ellie Poindexter—one of the sixty works, painted between 1930 and 1984, in this exhilarating touring exhibition of Neel’s portraits (along with some cityscapes), curated by the Neel Estate’s Jeremy Lewison and organized by the

  • Tacita Dean

    Tacita Dean’s new film, Craneway Event, 2009, is a 108-minute edit of a three-day rehearsal that Merce Cunningham led with his dance company in late 2008. Set in a disused factory on San Francisco Bay, the film pays unabashed homage to the late, then eighty-nine-year-old dance legend, who directs from a wheelchair with immense dignity. He is ever attentive and respectful toward his accomplished dancers, who move in silhouette against a wall of vast industrial windows overlooking a busy port. Behind the dancers ferryboats drift by; a pelican flies past. The sun rises and sets on these quietly

  • Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

    Zebra finches are small, variously colored birds native to central Australia. They live in groups, enjoy plentiful singing, and often exhibit elaborate striped plumage and fanciful markings. In artist and sometime musician Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s recent commission, forty zebra finches occupied one end of the Curve, the Barbican’s semicircular, corridor-like gallery wrapped around the outside of a vast concert hall. Revisiting an idea explored in some of his earlier works, Boursier-Mougenot provided the birds with food, water, and grass—plus nine electric guitars and three basses, all plugged