Ian Bourland

  • Whitfield Lovell, Grandmother, 1988, oil stick and charcoal on paper, 38 x 50".
    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

  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Mirror Study (Self-Portrait)_Q5A2059, 2015, archival pigment print, 32 x 24".
    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

  • Rashid Johnson, Antoine’s Organ, 2016, black steel, grow lights, plants, wood, shea butter, books, monitors, rugs, piano, 15’ 8” x 28’ 2” x 10’ 7”.
    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

  • Wangechi Mutu, Throw (detail), 2016, paper, ink, dimensions variable.
    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

  • View of “Chris McCaw,” 2016.
    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

  • Toyin Ojih Odutola, The Guilt of Looking, 2014, graphite pencil on black board, 20 x 30”.
    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

  • Talwst, Por qué, 2014, mixed media,
3 x 2 x 2 1/2".
    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

  • Gustav Metzger, Liquid Crystal Abstraction, 1965–2013, HD video projection, dimensions variable.
    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

  • Seung Woo Back, Utopia #11, 2008, color photograph, 80 x 60".
    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

  • Adam Golfer, Ben Gurion's House (Tel Aviv), 2015, digital C-Print, 30 x 40".
    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

  • View of “Chris Ofili: Night and Day,” 2014.
    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, parrottree—building for bigger than real, 2014, mixed media. Installation view.

    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