Grant Johnson

  • interviews July 30, 2019

    Matthew Angelo Harrison

    Matthew Angelo Harrison creates technically precise sculptures rich with art-historical allusion, mixing and interrogating touchstones as diverse as 1970s American Minimalism, Benin bronzes, and Adolf Loos. His work is currently on view as part of the Whitney Biennial at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art through September 22 and “Colored People Time: Mundane Futures” at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art through August 11. Below, Harrison discusses his sculpture Dark Povera: Manufactured Primitives, 2019, which is included in the Cranbrook Art Museum’s “Landlord Colors: On Art,

  • interviews June 18, 2019

    Lonnie Holley

    Lonnie Holley emerged as part of the American art world of the 1980s as a sculptor of evocative sandstone carvings and elaborate found object assemblage. More recently, Holley has expanded into sound with his albums Just Before Music (2012), Keeping a Record of It (2013), and Mith (2018). Below, on the occasion of a performance at the Dallas Museum of Art, as part of Soluna 2019, Holley explains the process of research and meditation that informs all of his creative work. Holley’s art is currently on view as part of “America Will Be at the DMA through September 15, 2019, and he continues to

  • interviews June 04, 2019

    Sheila Hicks

    For over seven decades, Sheila Hicks has devised a diversity of forms in fiber from the perspective of painting and photography, including weavings, sculptures, architectural commissions, and monumental installations. Her abstractions triumph and transcend hierarchies of medium, gender, and geography. Pioneering contemporary art’s global turn, Hicks embraced opportunities in novel exhibition, manufacturing, and design contexts in Latin America, Africa, India, Japan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, well before such engagement became the norm. Below, she reflects on her upbringing in the American Midwest

  • interviews May 03, 2019

    Akosua Adoma Owusu

    The Ghanaian American filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu blends whatever she needs to make her point—including found footage, narratives, and pop culture—into films that are by turns surreal and confrontationally explicit in their meditations. Below, Owusu looks back on the first decade of her career, a milestone marked by two upcoming projects: “Between Three Worlds,” a screening of her work at REDCAT in Los Angeles on May 6, 2019, and “Welcome to the Jungle,” an exhibition at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco, which will be on view from May 9 through July 27, 2019. The

  • books April 05, 2019

    After Life

    Rotimi Fani-Kayode, the protean “contemporary Yoruban artist,” is known for his photographs—approximately one hundred of them, taken over a mere six years—investigating queerness and the African diaspora. Born in Nigeria, he traveled to Washington, DC, New York, and London, where he participated in the sexual and punk subcultures of the 1980s before his death in 1989 at the age of thirty-four from AIDS-related complications. Here, Grant Johnson talks about the artist with Ian Bourland, whose Bloodflowers: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Photography, and the 1980s is the first monograph dedicated to the

  • interviews November 30, 2018

    Dayanita Singh

    The Delhi-born photographer Dayanita Singh published her first book, Zakir Hussain, in 1986. The eleven books that followed, including Museum Bhavan (2017), document and form the bedrock for Singh’s observational and omnivorous photography. Interested in the photobook’s relationship to other objects and infrastructures, Singh has increasingly drafted custom objects—from bespoke cabinets, cases, and desks to bookshelves and beds—to serve as mechanisms of display and logical extensions of her project. Her work is currently featured in the Fifty-Seventh Carnegie International at the

  • interviews October 30, 2018

    Edmund de Waal

    Writer and artist Edmund de Waal creates delicate porcelain vessels decisively arranged in meditative metal displays evocative of the conceptual intersection of Minimalist sculpture and modern craft. His work is currently on view in “the poems of our climate,” at Gagosian in San Francisco through December 8, 2018, and in “—one way or other—,” his first architectural intervention in the United States at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Schindler House in West Hollywood, California, through January 6, 2018, which he discusses below. 

    I’VE BEEN OBSESSING about the Schindler

  • performance September 21, 2018

    War of the Girls

    IN THE OPENING SCENE OF GRACIE GARDNER'S LATEST PLAY, ATHENA, the titular teenage fencer (played by Julia Greer) celebrates defeating her opponent Mary Wallace (Abby Awe) by letting out an animalistic scream. Watching Mary Wallace sob, Athena offers, “I get emotional too. Sometimes, after I lose? I’ll bump into a random person on the street, on purpose. And I won’t say sorry.” If the world demands we be either one kind of person or the other—winners or losers—Athena charts an emotional range, asking what is appropriate behavior for two young women, and what might be too much.  

    Choosing

  • interviews July 31, 2018

    Elaine Cameron-Weir

    In just the past year, Elaine Cameron-Weir’s diverse sculptural practice has adroitly conscripted materials including chemical lab equipment, World War II–era silk parachutes, frankincense, and labdanum, as seen in her works at the New Museum in New York and the Dortmunder Kunstverein in Dortmund, Germany, among other venues. Below, she discusses her site-specific installation A toothless grin. A STAR EXPANSION! GLOBE OF DEATH A graveyard orbit, 2018, which is currently on view at Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York, as part of the sculpture park’s “Outlooks” series of solo exhibitions,

  • interviews February 06, 2018

    Nina Chanel Abney

    Since appearing nine years ago as part of the influential exhibition “30 Americans,” the painter Nina Chanel Abney has established herself as an artist whose work uniquely fuses social commentary and formal play. Below, Abney discusses the evolution of her practice and her first solo museum exhibition, “Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush,” organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Currently traveling the country, the exhibition will be close to home for the Harvey, Illinois–born artist when it opens at the Chicago Cultural Center on February 10, 2018.

    THIS SHOW gives the viewer a

  • interviews January 30, 2018

    Ann Carlson

    The choreographer Ann Carlson has directed attorneys, undergraduates, and goats, and has staged her work in swimming pools, hotels, and aboard trains. In 2009, she discussed Meadowlark, her collaboration with the video artist Mary Ellen Strom, for this column. As reported by the New York Times, her latest performance, Doggie Hamlet, 2018, has been targeted by efforts to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. Here, Carlson talks about the work and its presentation at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance at Will Rogers State Historic Park in Los Angeles, February 3–4, 2018.

    DOGGIE HAMLET

  • Keith Mayerson

    Disparate faces in the crowd—those of the Dalai Lama, Anne Frank, and LeBron James among them—peered out from the more than 140 paintings dating from the late ’90s to the present that filled the walls of “My American Dream,” the first solo museum exhibition of Los Angeles–based artist Keith Mayerson. Mayerson’s compositions, which appropriate images from found photographs, films, and comic books, as well as document personal events from the artist’s own life, might be aptly described as “faux folk” for their familiar, pop subject matter and naive approaches to naturalism and figuration.

  • interviews November 02, 2017

    Xavier Cha

    Xavier Cha is a New York–based artist. Her latest work, Buffer, 2017, was made during her Harkness Foundation for Dance residency at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) this year, as part of Performa 17. The piece is on view at BAM through Saturday, November 4, 2017.

    IN A STRUCTURAL SENSE, Buffer is an analog representation of consuming digital media, but it doesn’t have to be that specific. That’s just the surface structure of how it’s built. It alternates between three channels, or switches between tabs on a viewing device, and some of the scenes buffer or pause or loop or freeze. Then it

  • interviews October 24, 2017

    Barbara Chase-Riboud

    In addition to her work as an artist, Barbara Chase-Riboud is an acclaimed poet and novelist, recognized for her historical novel Sally Hemings (1979), which challenged official American history. In 1969, Chase-Riboud began her series of twenty “Malcolm X” stelae, monumental sculptures made up of metal and fibers such as silk, rayon, and cotton. She completed the series in 2016. Fourteen of those works are currently on view in her solo show at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York through November 4, 2017.

    BY THE TIME I began the first four “Malcolm X” stelae in 1969, I was already past my

  • picks July 21, 2017

    “Material as Metaphor”

    In a shop window, an assortment of quirky, fuzzy spindles that recall drawings by Ernst Haeckel or Dr. Seuss dangle and sprout in Joel Allen’s Hooked on Svelte, 2017. Inside, Lloyd Hamrol’s Cascade, 2017, a stack of flat disks cut from gray industrial felt, slips from standing to lying supine, recalling the tension and release of Robert Morris’s work. The sharp contrast between these pieces exemplifies the diversity of the exhibition as a whole. Surveying recent work in fiber art by eleven artists, the show demonstrates how the variety of practices under its umbrella has always made the genre

  • picks May 19, 2017

    Peter Shire

    In an iconic 2001 essay by Jules Prown, the careful study of a teapot reveals the values of the Revolutionary War–era United States, a “symbol of the act of giving, of charity,” not to mention serving as “a structural metaphor for the female breast.” What would happen if we took Scorpion (Black) Teapot, 1996–2013, or any of Peter Shire’s many other teapots here, not only as evidence of an artistic repetition compulsion but as psychic condensations of our own cultural unconscious, soothing decanters for our postmodern hangover? The artist’s titles often index a modernist legacy, as in Early

  • Greg Ito

    Behind an arch made from a plywood room divider whose patterned incisions gave the effect of palm fronds, candles flickered in a purple haze created by the tinted tubing that lined the rim of the pink gallery walls cradling Greg Ito’s “Soothsayer.” The screens prepared one to see the exhibition as a rebus. They evoked the folding screens of a psychic’s reading room and made a sculptural pun on the mystical art of “palm” reading. With a sleight of slender white hands and decorative élan, this glamorous installation, grounded by three handsome paintings, made fashion of fate. Out to Sea (all works

  • picks June 28, 2016

    Jon Pestoni

    Look at any one of Jon Pestoni’s funky abstract paintings by itself and you’re likely to miss the point. Luckily, this small survey offers thirty-one works that demonstrate the value of repeating oneself and the playful charge between repetition and difference. In Underbite, 2014, a brushy rectangular field of royal purple fills the center of the canvas. Obscuring the shapes below it, only brief passages of color show through its veil. At the edges we get snatches of figuration, such as leaf and tooth shapes described by graphic black outlines. To the right of that painting Accordion, 2015,

  • picks June 24, 2016

    Roberto Burle Marx

    At the entrance to this exhibition, one is seduced by a real garden of yellow bromeliads and pulsating, patterned walls, inspired by the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Burle Marx is known for his animated biomorphic designs, such as the graphic pavement along Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, and the scintillating, verdant discotheque that is the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park—gigantic modernist arrangements that simultaneously disrupt and compliment their surroundings.

    Burle Marx’s site plans, such as Design for the Minister’s Rooftop Garden, Ministry of Education and Health, Rio De

  • Alice Könitz

    The black foamcore neck of Periscope, 2016, extended out of the skylight of an otherwise empty room, its mirrors visible thanks to a circular cutaway at the base of the tube, which rested atop a spindly pedestal with thin metal legs and two royal-purple shelves. The pedestal indicated the work was a tool and a sculpture, and neatly summarized the ambivalent status of all of the objects in Alice Könitz’s “Commonwealth,” named for the gallery in which it was situated. Könitz used this loaded term as a springboard to assemble a collection of “social sculptures” that echoed the artist-run gallery’s