Ian Bourland

  • picks June 05, 2020

    Ming Smith

    In 1976, Ming Smith composed a multimedia print called America Seen Through Stars and Stripes, New York City, New York Painted, as part of an ongoing series in which the photographer overlaid her signature multiple exposures with streaks of paint. The crimson and white here amplify the cascading American flags that enmesh a black figure who, in turn, gazes coolly outward from behind mirrored shades. By adding layers of exposure and pigment, Smith took what might have been a lyrical scene in the vein of Helen Levitt and infused it with the turbulence of an era in which questions of race and

  • interviews October 10, 2019

    Maren Hassinger

    Maren Hassinger very nearly became a dancer. As it happened, two fortuitous turns in her education in the 1970s led her to create sculptures hewn of fibrous metal and knotted detritus. From her early work in Los Angeles—including the 1979 installation of twelve wire rope “trees” near the Mulholland Drive exit ramp—to her recent “mandala” of repurposed pages from the New York Times, questions of ecological and spiritual consciousness have long underscored Hassinger’s practice. She is known for works in a range of media as well as for her collaborative bent. Following last year’s retrospective at

  • picks April 04, 2019

    Harald Sohlberg

    When pressed to come up with an iconic Norwegian Expressionist, one usually arrives at Edvard Munch, he of The Scream. But there is a strong case to be made that the painter laureate of the north is Munch’s contemporary Harald Sohlberg. This densely hung exhibition is his first retrospective in England and concisely runs from Sohlberg’s early experiments with Symbolism to his sui generis depictions of the hibernal Nordic landscape, all shimmering with quiet energy.

    As curator Kathleen Soriano notes, Sohlberg argued that he developed his oeuvre independent of external influence. “Painting Norway”

  • David Goldblatt and Peter Magubane

    This was long slated to be David Goldblatt’s year: He was the subject of a career-defining retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in the spring and of a biographical documentary at the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa in July, and he featured in the inaugural group show of the A4 Arts Foundation near Cape Town in September. The anticipation surrounding these appearances gained new poignancy this past June, when the South African photographer died at the age of eighty-seven. While “On Common Ground: David Goldblatt and Peter Magubane,” was a fitting tribute, it also marked

  • picks October 08, 2018

    John Chiara

    John Chiara is mainly known as a West Coast photographer. His pictures of California elaborate a tradition nearly as old as photography itself, taking in the state’s sublime expanses of earth and concrete. They carefully balance rich detail with compositional ambiguity, imbuing the more epic aspects of the landscape genre with a sense of poetic restraint.

    In this show, Chiara trains his eye on the streets of Manhattan, revealing hidden surfaces that might otherwise escape notice amid the hustle of daily life. Like many of his nineteenth-century forebears, he is a polymath—the artist designed a

  • interviews October 02, 2018

    Zina Saro-Wiwa

    Over the past decade, the Brooklyn-based artist, filmmaker, and curator Zina Saro-Wiwa has developed a multiplatform career. Since 2014, she has led the contemporary art gallery Boys’ Quarters Project Space in downtown Port Harcourt, Nigeria. “The Turquoise Meat Inside,” her first solo gallery show in London, features recent and ongoing video works and photographs set in the oil-producing Niger Delta. The exhibition is on view at Tiwani Contemporary until October 27, 2018.

    I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED in using food as a way to explore the self. Globally, not much is known about African food

  • picks April 30, 2018

    Fazal Sheikh

    For nearly thirty years, photographer Fazal Sheikh has traveled a world linked by the flows of the Indian Ocean, documenting displaced people. While some of these places—Kenya and Pakistan—connect to Sheikh’s own family history, his sitters are those fleeing crises in neighboring states. This exhibition, titled “Common Ground,” draws many of such projects together to create a dark, if vital, atlas of the shifting borderlands that characterize the present.

    Many critics, including Okwui Enwezor and Teju Cole, have cautioned that portraits of vulnerable populations or of postcolonies in peril amount

  • picks October 06, 2017

    John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres

    For decades, John Ahearn has worked to expand the scope of the New York avant-garde, connecting it with points beyond the downtown scene, first as a member of Collaborative Art Projects in 1977 and most notably through a long-term partnership with Rigoberto Torres, who as a teenager saw Ahearn’s work in the windows of the South Bronx art space Fashion Moda. Together, they began casting sculptural forms using live models—mostly people from the communities in which the artists worked and traveled.

    This exhibition, with works done by Ahearn and Torres both collaboratively and individually, draws

  • picks May 26, 2017

    Whitfield Lovell

    In what has already proven to be a remarkable few seasons of black figuration—such as Henry Taylor at the Whitney Biennial or Kerry James Marshall at the Met Breuer—this exhibition of thirty-one large-scale works on paper by Whitfield Lovell is disarming and quietly powerful. The artist is well established: Born in 1959, he is part of a generation of artists that came up somewhere between the polemics of the Black Arts Movement and the turn toward greater inclusion in the art world during the 1990s. Accordingly, the images here, made between 1987 and 1998, seem out of step with a lot of work

  • picks March 03, 2017

    Paul Mpagi Sepuya

    Paul Mpagi Sepuya is self-consciously part of a deep lineage of queer cultural practice. His process journals reveal his engagement with Bruce Nugent and other gay writers from the past century, and his intimate color portraits call to mind earlier photographs by Lyle Ashton Harris, Peter Hujar, and Rotimi Fani-Kayode. The writer and critic Hilton Als included Sepuya in his 2016 exhibition on James Baldwin, poetically situating him as one of Baldwin’s creative “children.”

    This exhibition includes a handful of such portraits: black and white men, at times draped in rich fabric and posed in a

  • picks September 30, 2016

    Rashid Johnson

    The title of Rashid Johnson’s current exhibition, “Fly Away,” refers to a musical standard performed over the past century by gospel singers as well as sampled by Kanye West. For this show, the song was also played in the gallery by the pianist Audio BLK. While the inclusion of live music adds a new sensory layer to a career that, for years, has drawn from from a vast archive of signifiers of blackness, the work on display will seem familiar to many. The exhibition is largely given over to two series of paintings: “Untitled Anxious Audience,” 2016, featuring smears of black soap and wax on

  • interviews July 12, 2016

    Wangechi Mutu

    Wangechi Mutu is a Kenyan-born, New York–based multimedia artist. Her work is currently featured in the group exhibition “Blackness in Abstraction,” which is curated by Adrienne Edwards and will be on view at Pace Gallery in New York through August 19, 2016. Here, Mutu discusses Throw, 2016, the site-specific action painting, made of black ink and pulp from magazine pages, that she produced for the show.

    I’VE COLLECTED paper materials for my collage paintings for many years, and I realized recently that I had way too much in my studio. So I began to purge by shredding a lot of it and ended up

  • picks March 18, 2016

    Chris McCaw

    The first photograph was made in 1825. It is attributed to Nicéphore Niépce, a French inventor who originally dubbed it a “heliograph,” a direct index of the sun. This formulation proved popular into the 1850s, though Charles Baudelaire famously derided photographers as failed painters and “sun worshippers.” In “Direct Positive,” Bay Area–based artist Chris McCaw embraces Baudelaire’s vilification with an array of large-scale works made with handmade view cameras, military-grade optics, and vintage paper found on Craigslist and eBay or donated by friends.

    At first glance, many of the works, such

  • picks January 08, 2016

    Toyin Ojih Odutola

    When Toyin Ojih Odutola began consistently showing work in New York five years ago, one could not but be struck by the maturity of her approach—portrait drawing at the scale of painting and with the tonal density of a photograph. Her figures are on the surface black, but she depicts them on a sub- or extradermal level, as a sinewy interlacing of hair or musculature. This show demonstrates new possibilities within this framework, as Ojih Odutola continues to expand her scale, materials, and emotional register.

    A grid of modestly sized portraits at the front of the gallery will appeal to many, but

  • picks January 08, 2016

    “A Constellation”

    As its title, “A Constellation,” suggests, this show draws together a range of seemingly disparate practices by black artists and invites the viewer to connect the dots. This is a loose curatorial rubric, but its strength is in pairing now-canonical artists with their emerging peers, initiating a cross-generational conversation about materiality, gesture, and political ambition.

    It is worth seeing this exhibition for the opportunity to immerse oneself in the glow of work from a firmament that the Studio Museum itself fostered in the 1970s. Jack Whitten’s Psychic Intersection, 1979-80, evokes

  • picks September 25, 2015

    Gustav Metzger

    Gustav Metzger, theorist of “auto-destructive art,” is best known for his avant-garde experiments in 1960s Europe—the heyday of Fluxus and Situationism and an emerging environmental ethics. This exhibition, surveying more than fifty years of his work, demonstrates that Metzger’s practice and polemics are as relevant as ever.

    Like his Dadaist forebears, Metzger directed his practice toward destroying art from within, enacting what he called a “deep surgery” on its institutions. Working outdoors in 1961, he enlisted passersby to help make his Acid Action Painting, which involved literally dissolving

  • picks September 08, 2015

    “North Korean Perspectives”

    Any single project in this exhibition of a dozen international photographers would be notable for its blend of formalist and political investigation. But, taken together, the works yield a balanced—startling, even—mosaic of life in the Hermit Kingdom, which has drawn so much attention in recent years, with saber-rattling and basketball diplomacy.

    While each artist nominally works with a photographic approach, the show’s leitmotif is the difficulty of capturing reality in the DPRK. For example, David Guttenfelder’s square-format pictures demonstrate the banality of “official” North Korea—they are

  • picks July 31, 2015

    Adam Golfer

    Adam Golfer spent much of the last decade working commercially, taking pictures for magazines and newspapers. His current exhibition centers around A House Without a Roof, 2011-, his new monograph and the half decade worth of research and travel through which it was envisioned. It includes a 2014 film, Router, but the show’s core is a series of ten large-scale digital C-prints culled from Golfer’s four years of travel and interviews in Israel and Palestine. Although the artist is a careful reader of spatial theory (especially Goldsmiths’ Eyal Weizman), here the pictures elide didacticism, yielding

  • picks November 07, 2014

    Chris Ofili

    Any account of Chris Ofili’s career will invoke the scandal around his rise to prominence in the 1990s, when he merged large-scale figuration with old-fashioned base materialism. His Holy Virgin Mary, 1997, was nearly banned when it debuted at the Brooklyn Museum, but his “afro lovers” and resin-coated elephant dung would reappear, including at the 2003 Venice Biennale, where he turned the British pavilion into a nocturnal redoubt.

    Ofili’s American retrospective highlights his play of light and contrast and showcases a decade of new work, including forays into sculpture and theatrical design and

  • Nora Schultz

    Berlin-based artist Nora Schultz’s American solo debut, “parrottree—building for bigger than real,” featured a single installation of the same title, which referenced the monk parakeets that famously build elaborate roosts in the plentiful aeries of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. The rogue South American parrots are a reminder of both colonial encounters and local politics, as the late Chicago mayor Harold Washington once protected the birds from removal. Mimicking the parakeets’ repurposing of found materials for their nests, Schultz (whose work was recently featured in the 2012 exhibition