Jason Farago

  • Gerhard Richter

    LATE JANUARY, a bitter wind, and we are going to Auschwitz. Before the wide Birkenau gatehouse, alongside the train tracks to the crematoria, sit the presidents of Germany and Israel, the kings of Spain and the Netherlands; also some two hundred men and women wearing blue-and-white-striped kerchiefs or hats, very old: the last survivors. Marian Turski, ninety-three, a Polish journalist, standing at the gate, says almost nothing about what he endured here. Instead, he tells the assembly of the earlier humiliations of the 1930s, how people barred from shops and swimming pools soon became “people

  • View of “America Is Hard to See,” 2015.
    picks May 01, 2015

    “America Is Hard to See”

    If you saw the Whitney’s recent cycle of permanent collection shows uptown, notably Carter Foster’s “Real/Surreal” and Donna de Salvo and Scott Rothkopf’s “Sinister Pop,” you’ll be well primed for the shrewd, unpretentious, and often winningly provincial exhibition that inaugurates the museum’s on-the-money new home. The show’s early galleries think past boundaries of media—Imogen Cunningham’s double-exposed portrait of Martha Graham hangs next to a Charles Burchfield sunburst—and of race and gender, most persuasively via the juxtaposition of a blah abstract totem by Robert Laurent with a better

  • Left: Fondation Pinault director Martin Bethenod, curator Caroline Bourgeois, and François Pinault. Right: Danh Vo and Julie Ault. (All photos: Jason Farago)
    diary April 19, 2015

    Speaking in Tongues

    WAIT FOR THE BEGINNING and the end will have already come. Once, the art world’s more social participants only needed to get in for previews. Now even the previews are too late. The Whitney, officially opening May 1, has already had multiple parties in its new building. At the various Basels the dinner circuit can start a whole week before opening day. As for Venice: Mi dispiace, but I’ve already been and gone.

    Nearly a month before the vernissage of Okwui Enwezor’s biennial, I bounced into the Most Serene Republic with much of the Paris art mafia for the openings of two new exhibitions organized

  • Caleb Considine, Painting for Salammbo, 2015, oil on canvas, 20 x 24".
    picks April 17, 2015

    Caleb Considine

    In Gustave Flaubert’s novel Salammbô (1862), the cannonballs that fall on Carthage have been engraved with insults (“swine,” “vermin”) or else bitchy witticisms (“catch!”), and the victims they strike down have the abuses imprinted on their flesh. Hence the jagged backward writing carved on a cannonball in Caleb Considine’s small but riveting Painting for Salammbô, 2015, reads “I have thoroughly earned it.” The work depicts the piece of artillery in his Brooklyn studio next to a ratty sofa and a crumpled winter jacket. The couch, a Craigslist hand-me-down of woven brown and beige, seems undisturbed

  • Wolfgang Tillmans, Book for Architects, 2014, two-channel video installation, dimensions variable.
    picks April 17, 2015

    Wolfgang Tillmans

    The 450 photographs that comprise Wolfgang Tillmans’s slideshow Book for Architects, 2014, first seen last year in Rem Koolhaas’s Venice architecture biennale, pull off a neat trick: They turn down objectivity and subjectivity at once. Shot with no specialized equipment, his photos dissent from the pristine midcentury architecture photography of Ezra Stoller or Julius Shulman, but Tillmans muffles his own voice through spontaneous cropping, unmediated lighting, and indifference to scale. Many of the images come from London—and few artists since Hogarth have made that city look as vile as Tillmans,

  • Laurie Simmons, How We See/Ajak (Violet), 2015, pigment print, 70 x 48".
    picks March 27, 2015

    Laurie Simmons

    There is the problem of eyelashes. The six unnerving photographs that Laurie Simmons displays here feature interchangeable models against perky colored backgrounds: vapid, prosaic images from a fashion world where Vogue is no longer distinct from twelve-year-olds’ makeup lessons on YouTube. But the eyelashes: Overpainted on the upper lid, much too thick on the lower one. It takes a few seconds to notice—compliments to the dexterity of this maker’s hand—that the models’ eyes are actually clamped shut, and irises and pupils have been painted over their lids. What gives the game away are the

  • Marwa Arsanios, OLGA’s NOTES, all those restless bodies, 2014, HD video, twenty-three minutes.
    picks March 20, 2015

    Marwa Arsanios

    The showstopper of “Here and Elsewhere,” last summer’s exhibition of contemporary Arab art at the New Museum, was this Lebanese artist’s Have You Ever Killed a Bear? Or Becoming Jamila, 2014, a knotty consideration of the interwoven terrain of cinema and politics. Becoming Jamila has its roots in back issues of the pan-Arab culture magazine Al-Hilal—which, during the Algerian War, frequently praised the revolutionary Djamila Bouhired as a model of Arab womanhood. Bouhired became a character in Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film The Battle of Algiers, and the actress in Arsanios’s video is preparing

  • Charline von Heyl, Untitled (3/95, I), 1995, oil, acrylic, charcoal on canvas, 70 4/5 x 78 3/4".
    picks March 13, 2015

    Charline von Heyl

    Now that the Met’s presentation of Leonard Lauder’s Cubism collection has come down, we can safely say that the most vital collision of forms currently on view in New York takes place in Untitled (3/95, I), 1995, a firecracker from this German artist’s early days. Charline von Heyl paints a seafoam easy chair from the side, its feet resting at the bottom of the composition, its right face scored with dark-blue hatches and white crosshatches, the latter as smothering as a fisherman’s net. Overtaking the top half of the canvas is a painter’s palette, the thumbhole cloned twice over. Unlike the

  • Simon Menner, Untitled, 2011, pigment print, dimensions variable. From the series “Images from the Secret Stasi Archives,” 2011.
    picks February 20, 2015

    “Watching You, Watching Me”

    The only way to understand the full extent of the revelations of Edward Snowden—the disregard for law, the imbrication of governmental and corporate power, the simultaneously awesome and pointless data harvesting—is to put your own grievances to one side and look from the position of the surveillant. For more than two years, the German artist Simon Menner combed through the archives of the Ministry for State Security and unearthed disturbing, at times bitterly comic photographs of Stasi agents trying on disguises (mustaches, hairpieces, fur coats with flared collars) and practicing hand signals:

  • View of “David Tudor and Composers Inside Electronics: Rainforest V,” 2015.
    picks February 20, 2015

    David Tudor

    In 1968, commissioned by Merce Cunningham to write the score for the dance work RainForest—which also featured flying Mylar balloons by Andy Warhol—the composer David Tudor hooked up everyday objects to homemade transducers. Rather than “playing” the objects, Tudor allowed them to emit their own resonances, which sounded like birdsong, cicada chirps, and ambient ringing.

    That critical reversal in electronic music, using speakers not as a mechanism for amplification but as the source of the musical signal, retains its thrill a decade after Tudor’s death in 1996. Rainforest V, 2015, credited here

  • Amy Balkin, A People's Archive of Sinking and Melting, 2012—, mixed media, dimensions variable.
    picks February 13, 2015

    “Lenin: Icebreaker Revisited”

    Is an art of climate change as beyond our reach as a politics of climate change, too large and too comprehensive for the brains of our little ecocidal species? Not for the Bay Area artist Amy Balkin—one of the nine artists in this exhibition curated by Olga Kopenkina—whom visitors to the last Documenta will recall for her effort to list the earth’s atmosphere as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and who has spent the last three years collecting ephemera from sites worldwide where environmental disaster is already dreadfully fathomable. The array of objects that constitute her essential A People’s

  • Jesús Rafael Soto, Ambivalencia en el espacio color no. 12, 1981, paint on wood and metal, 61 1/2 x 41 3/4".
    picks February 06, 2015

    Jesús Rafael Soto

    Of all the postwar tendencies that have been rejuvenated, kinetic art seemed the least likely to return to favor. Yet in recent years, and most notably with the Guggenheim’s retrospective of the ZERO group, the genre is getting another eye-twisting look. The work of Jesús Rafael Soto, seen in that exhibition and now the subject of this bracing miniretrospective, refuses the easy pleasures of Op art. His three-dimensional painted grids and immersive environments of painted rods sit more comfortably among sculptures by his Nouveau Réaliste and ZERO contemporaries—and not only because this output