Ian Bourland

  • 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

  • Yto Barrada

    Over the past decade, the work of the French-born, Morocco-based artist Yto Barrada has gradually revealed itself as recursive, with new projects incorporating the documentary images of the Maghreb and the Mediterranean that brought the artist international attention. At once chromatic and undersaturated, those ambiguously allusive pictures stand on their own, but Barrada has taken to redeploying them—along with her sculptural works, films, and videos—in broader thematic installations. Her most recent project, “Album: Cinematheque Tangier” (on view through May 18), is perhaps the

  • Jennie C. Jones

    Jennie C. Jones makes abstract work using paint, sound, and audio equipment such as acoustic panels and bass traps. Her multimedia exhibition “Directions: Jennie C. Jones: Higher Resonance” joins thirteen new works with a looped composition played through elevated speakers. The curved exterior gallery of the Gordon Bunshaft–designed Hirshhorn Museum—often an odd counterpoint to the austere rectilinearity of much of its collection—is made a virtue here, as Jones has converted its arced space into an acoustic chamber for music that seeps invitingly into the surrounding corridor.

    In the

  • picks April 28, 2012

    Carrie Schneider

    For her new collection of photographs, “Burning House,” 2010–11, Carrie Schneider returned twelve times to a small island in the center of a rural Wisconsin lake. On each visit, she hauled or canoed a small house with her, and then set it on fire before submitting it to the panoramic sweep of her lens. The resulting pictures are by turns unsettling, inviting, and enigmatic.

    While the exhibition’s press release assures us that Schneider’s take on the well-worn genre of landscape includes some deep performative element, and that the pictures hark back to Monet’s studies of light in the French

  • picks April 27, 2011

    Rénee Green

    For twenty years Rénee Green’s work has explored connections: between color and knowledge; among global networks (of people, ideas, materials); and between art and its audiences. In this sense, her latest exhibition feels like nothing new. And, in many ways, it is not––“Sigetics” is culled from her two-decade career and two recent surveys thereof. Indeed, the Elizabeth Dee Gallery feels reconfigured here as something of an archive in the process of its own creation, its boldly chromatic banners and framed prints recursively pointing us back to other moments, even as they intoxicate us visually.

  • picks April 24, 2011

    John Knight

    Entering Greene Naftali’s cavernous Chelsea space for this exhibition feels, in a word, underwhelming. The viewer is greeted by a large corporate font declaring AUTOTYPES—the first word of the show’s title—and a vitrined stack of gold-rimmed china plates (all works 2011). There is an inky square on the top plate’s surface, but those below remain hidden. A walk-through of the two rear galleries reveals plate after plate, mounted at eye level, each adorned with a similar black mass: Some look like aerial shots of military installations, others microchips, and a few ambiguous hieroglyphics. These

  • picks April 13, 2011

    “Found in Translation”

    One could be forgiven for coming to understand this wave of globalization over the past twenty years as a clash of civilizations doomed by religious and linguistic separation. The Tower of Babel scenario is a letimotif highlighted by everything from Hollywood film to the war on terror. Nonetheless, according to Édouard Glissant (among others), globalization has always entailed a process of translation that is not only necessary but productive. The latter view is the starting point of this show, which features eleven artists working with film and video.

    The art by this global cast can be at times