Harry Burke

  • Gudskul banner, Fridericianum, Kassel, June 11, 2022. Photo: Nicolas Wefers.

    Documenta 15

    “IDEAS ARE TO OBJECTS,” suggested Walter Benjamin, “as constellations are to stars.” This metaphor comes to me as I drift through the Fridericianum, which has been restyled as a school by the Indonesian collective ruangrupa, artistic directors of Documenta 15. Etched across the walls on its ground floor are notes and diagrams elaborating the pedagogical methods of Gudskul, an alternative art school devoted to collective practices and ecosystem studies. Founded in Jakarta in 2018 by ruangrupa with fellow collectives Serrum and Grafis Huru Hara, Gudskul is a kind of polestar

  • Giulia Essyad, Off-Colors, 2020, digital print on tarp mounted on concrete, mixed media.
    picks February 12, 2020

    Giulia Essyad

    “Violet, you’re turning violet, Violet!” yells Violet Beauregarde’s mother in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as Violet chews a stick of Willy Wonka’s magic gum. In an iPhone selfie printed on tarp (Off-Colors, 2020), on view in Giulia Essyad’s exhibition “Chocolate Factory,” the young Geneva-based artist depicts herself as Violet, her dark hair rippling like that of Botticelli’s Venus. Her skin is colored a purplish blue, her silhouette digitally accentuated. Referencing the iconography of “Violet fetish” kink (and sexualized obsession with body inflation), the gesture destabilizes

  • Photograph by Jill Posener outside Auto Italia. All photos: Harry Burke.
    diary January 18, 2020

    Private Eye

    “WE FOUND A CAFE with friendly staff and pleasant, inexpensive food,” recounts the unnamed, “flaneuring” narrator of Patrick Keiller’s 1994 film London, “but there was no sign of anyone writing poetry.” These words came to mind as I meandered around the preview for Condo London, a gallery-share initiative whose fifth iteration showcased seventeen local spaces and nineteen international counterparts. London elegizes a civic spirit vanquished by Thatcherism, and as the city buckles again under the intemperate cruelty of its former mayor’s prime ministership, its resonance endures—on Routemaster

  • Sadaf H Nava, Puddles of Blue, 2019, colored pencil on paper, 14 x 11".
    picks November 05, 2019

    Sadaf H Nava

    In Sadaf H Nava’s exhibition, a suite of seven modestly sized improvisational drawings hang on opposite walls of this narrow gallery—studies in porosity that scamper into the unconscious. In them, mostly women and femmes—who don ball gowns or fetishy ensembles in latex—caper between strange urban vignettes. They cram into Jacuzzi-like cylinders in Animalic (all works 2019) as two rearing mustangs arch above them, while in Puddles of Blue, composed with a hue of colored pencil that evokes lapis lazuli, water flows off of rocks and vintage umbrellas. Different kinds of fluid appear in a number of

  • View of “REPEATER,” 2019.
    picks October 21, 2019

    Julie Tolentino

    Julie Tolentino’s “REPEATER” proposes that an exhibition is a durational experience, and attests to the poetry of staying with it. The gallery’s sole window is papered up with foil, but pinpricks allow a starscape of buttery sunlight to filter in. Sculptural items (all from 2019) are grouped, in shifting constellations, around a central rectangle of scuffed, pearl-hued flooring. During my visit, a black trestle teetered, like a pommel horse, on two legs. Another, feathered with latex gloves, brooded nearby. A wiry cube, full of unactivated space, sat tilted on a mirror-bearing box on wheels. A

  • Performance by Frieda Toranzo Jaeger at KW.
    diary September 19, 2019

    Wings of Desire

    “THE LIGHT FROM THIS SCULPTURE IS PERFECT FOR SELFIES,” crooned Nicolas Endlicher, a DJ and cofounder of Herrensauna, a monthly queer techno party (its name translates to “male sauna”) at Tresor. It was the opening night of Berlin Art Week. We were at Julia Stoschek Collection, where WangShui debuted video installations intended to activate the “hallucinatory spaces” of transitional architectures. Around the corner at FRAGILE, I swapped notes with artist Dr. Lakra and dealer Ida Yang about the corporeal afterimage of techno—that midweek sensation of muscles still pulsing to the weekend’s BPM—as

  • View of “Chapter Four: Disappointment,” 2019.
    picks July 02, 2019

    Violet Dennison

    The centerpieces of Violet Dennison’s solo exhibition here are three large semispherical baskets, which rest on the gray-painted floor like upturned umbrellas. Bound in webs of monochromatic plastic, they present unexpected twists: Each node is an excerpt from “Disappointment,” chapter four of the young artist’s memoir. In the spirit of the exhibition’s delicate, existential humor, I can’t tell you who is disappointed, as the text is encrypted using knot cyphers that, while simple, are too quirky for a neophyte like me to decode.

    Installed along two walls is Divination 2, 2019, a sound piece

  • Hon Chi-fun, Untitled 04, 13, 14, 05, 1983, Polaroids, 4 x 3”.
    picks March 21, 2019

    Hon Chi-fun

    Hon Chi-fun (1922–2019), a self-taught artist, began making plein air landscapes in oil while working for the Hong Kong post office in the 1950s. In 1964, he cofounded the avant-garde Circle Art Group, which, through the abstraction of traditional Chinese aesthetics, innovated a cosmopolitan modernism. One of the earliest works in “A Story of Light,” a selective, four-decade survey, is the Pop art–inspired Bath of Fire, 1968. For this silk-screened acrylic work, Hon imprinted a delicate frieze of maps, photographs, personal letters, and poems—all indistinct, like oxidation or mold—into a triptych