Joseph Akel

  • picks December 12, 2019

    Duane Michals

    Duane Michals is a drama queen. Best known for black-and-white photographs featuring hand-scrawled marginalia, Michals’s fantastical images—staged, unabashedly gay, and frequently revealing of the mechanisms involved in their creation—eschew photographic veracity in favor of folly. And now, in what feels tantamount to a last act for the eighty-seven-year-old, Michals plays curator for a retrospective exhibiting his own work alongside items the artist has chosen from the Morgan’s permanent collection, in what is nothing short of a grand epilogue.

    “Illusions of the Photographer” spans six decades

  • picks July 24, 2019

    “African Spirits”

    Long before there was the selfie, there was the “autoportrait.” A world away from the Pictures generation, in 1975 Samuel Fosso set up a small photo studio in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, and photographed himself in the flashy disco styles of the time (tailored bell-bottoms and platform boots, natch). Fosso’s black-and-white “Autoportraits” series, 1975–78, was a gesture of self-fashioning, a response to outside influences that resulted in a uniquely African artistic expression. That sense of constructing and celebrating identity lies at the heart of Fosso’s images as well

  • picks June 02, 2017

    Alex Katz

    Even with the phenomenon of “manspreading” or the impending L train apocalypse, the New York subway-riding experience nevertheless continues to evince a gritty nostalgia among the city’s embattled daily commuters. Such sentiments are sure to be piqued by “Subway Drawings,” an exhibition of forty exquisite pencil-and-ink sketches by artist Alex Katz. Dating to the late 1940s, all of the illustrations—originally bound in small notebooks—were made by Katz during his commute on the E train from his childhood home in Queens to the East Village, where, at the time, he was a student at Cooper Union.

  • diary August 09, 2015

    Tempting Fête

    HIKING UP A PARTICULARLY VERTIGINOUS SECTION of Aspen’s Hunter Creek Trail, a breathless art collector lamented a private property development recently foiled by local ballot initiative. “Having recently returned from Cuba,” she declared, “there are only two communist states left in the world—China and Aspen.” With its notoriety as a winter—and apparently summer—playground for the uber-wealthy, such sentiments struck me as incongruous. Indeed, as we looked down from our rocky perch upon the hamlet below, with the newly built Shigeru Ban–designed Aspen Art Museum effulgent and the roar of incoming

  • picks June 12, 2015

    Elijah Burgher

    How do you summon a love that dares not speak its name? For generations of gay men, subversive amatory feelings were expressed through unspoken tokens and symbols—Oscar Wilde’s set favored green carnations affixed to their lapels, while in the 1970s, colored handkerchiefs were de rigueur for getting laid. For artist Elijah Burgher’s current show, signification of sexuality is wrapped in the cloak of esoteric practices, including the use of a mystical symbol known as a “sigil” and the invocation of a fictitious cult referred to as the Bachelors of the Dawn.

    Among the works exhibited, seven

  • picks May 12, 2015

    Ian Wallace

    There is a scene in Jean-Luc Godard’s masterpiece Masculin Féminin (1966) in which Chantal Goya leans over to the handsome Jean-Pierre Léaud and remarks, “You dummy, I love you.” Léaud’s attention, however, is held by the action playing out on the cinema screen before him. Not surprising for Ian Wallace, the symbolic separation of the sexes, a mediation of experience through film, and the foreclosed gaze of a desired subject are motifs as recurrent in his ongoing body of work as they are in Godard’s oeuvre.

    In the case of Wallace’s series “Masculin/Féminin,” 1996–, the artist also looks to explore

  • picks January 16, 2015

    John Waters

    “What do you call a feminine top?” John Waters posed to a captive audience one summer night on New York’s very own gay Xanadu, Fire Island. Smirking, he replied, “Why, a blouse, of course.” Having both written and directed such cult-classic movies as A Dirty Shame, Pink Flamingos, and Hairspray, the “Prince of Puke” has made a name for himself skewering contemporary culture and celebrating society’s misfits while gleefully offending conservative tastes along the way. And for his current show, “Beverly Hills John,” Waters once again turns his caustic eye toward the twin, rock-hard pillars upon

  • picks October 27, 2014

    “A Mouse Drowned in a Honey Pot”

    Memory is a tricky thing, but under the direction of Mexico City–based curator Magalí Arriola, the Modernist-inspired designs of architect Luis Ramiro Barragán offer three artists ample grounds for contemplation of the mnemonic. As one of several concurrent group shows in Vienna organized under the theme “The Century of the Bed,” this exhibition includes works such as Jill Magid’s Homage to the Square Josef Albers, Casa Luis Barragán, 2014. Referencing a black-and-white photograph of a screen-printed copy of an Albers that hung in Barragán’s home, Magid’s painting explores issues of authorship

  • picks October 01, 2014

    Ruth Laskey and Suzan Frecon

    Located on the bustling Mission Street thoroughfare between to-die-for taquerías and mango-laden fruit stands, this exhibition of works by Ruth Laskey and Suzan Frecon, both known for creations that eschew the bombastic in favor of a cool craftiness, is a meditative world apart. Painstakingly woven over a period of six months, the seven framed textile pieces from Laskey’s “Twill Series,” 2005–14, incorporate abstract, geometric forms that recall Navajo graphic motifs and Pomo Indian basket designs. Working on a diaphanous white linen ground, as in Twill Series (Caribbean Blue/Black), 2014, the

  • interviews April 10, 2014

    Roger Ballen

    Johannesburg-based artist Roger Ballen is well known for his photographic mise-en-scènes of marginal communities. Here, he speaks about his latest publication, Asylum of the Birds, which Thames and Hudson published this month. The book captures scenes in a suburban house outside of Johannesburg, South Africa—images that will be exhibited throughout 2014: at KuK, Aachen, Germany, from May 11 to June 22; at Musée Nicéphore Niépce, Chalon-sur-Saône, France, from June 21 to September 21; and at Circa Gallery, Johannesburg, from July 31 to August 20. Ballen also produced a film on this work, which

  • picks February 09, 2014

    Tammy Rae Carland

    There’s a moment in Stage Fright (1950), Alfred Hitchcock’s theater-inspired murder mystery, when the investigating detective played by Michael Wilding remarks, “I once had a cousin who had an ulcer and an extremely funny face, both at the same time.” Entertainment, it would seem, entails a necessary degree of anxiety. With her latest exhibition, artist Tammy Rae Carland returns to the subject of theatrical performance, once again evincing the heady charge of expectation and uncertainty that fuels the dramaturgical experience.

    While her last show, “Funny Face I Love You” (2010), elicited spectator

  • picks January 30, 2014


    Oh, to be gay in San Francisco. With HBO’s seemingly ersatz appropriation of Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City,” it’s easy to forget that, once upon a time, being fey in the City by the Bay was less about fitting in than it was about, well, sticking out. One of two exhibitions currently featuring the work of Jess Collins—or simply, Jess—in New York (the other at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery), “Looking Past Seeing Through” offers a mordant, abbreviated survey of works by the Bay Area magus of all things queer and fantastical.

    Several oil paintings included evince the artist’s

  • picks December 13, 2013

    Yamini Nayar

    Eschewing any media-specific appellation for her practice, Brooklyn-based artist Yamini Nayar constructs intricate, abstract architectural still lifes, photographing the tabletop assemblages from various angles before ultimately discarding them. Questions as to whether the dozen or so photographs exhibited are the final phase of Nayar’s latest project or merely documentation of her process come off a ponderous circumlocution that detracts from the dynamic effect of the images themselves.

    As with the large color photograph Chrysalis, 2013, Nayar deftly plays with the planar distortion and ambiguous

  • Henry Taylor

    History, as we know, repeats itself—a truism Henry Taylor evinces with mordant effect for his recent exhibition at Blum & Poe. Incorporating the grand loose paintings and rough-hewn assemblages for which he has become known, Taylor revisited familiar narratives surrounding the African American social and cultural experience. Installed, the work spread across three rooms, accessed through as many frostedglass- paned institutional doors (specially installed for this show), labeled variously PRINCIPAL, PROBATION, and DETENTION.

    Passing through the first door (PRINCIPAL), the viewer was confronted

  • picks February 12, 2013


    Whether sacred or profane, taboos often focus their proscriptions against perfomativity and the bodies that enact them. “Taboo,” a provocative exhibition of contemporary Australian and international artists, whose works are presented alongside various archival ephemera––newspaper clippings, postcards, and photographs––attempts to lay bare the moral impositions wrought by collective institutional bodies upon individual ones. Of Wiradjuri aboriginal descent, the show’s curator, Melbourne-based artist Brook Andrew, knows firsthand the insidious nature of cultural and moral repression.

    South African

  • picks November 25, 2012

    Conrad Ruiz

    Dominant artistic means have changed since the 1960s, when a healthy penchant for all things experimental first drew the art world’s sun-loving dreamers to Southern California to draw inspiration from its beaches and freeform scene. A similar easygoing ethos can be found in Los Angeles-based artist Conrad Ruiz’s latest show “Juice.” Known for his vibrant large-scale and often comical watercolors, in the current exhibition Ruiz dips his toes into the deep end of abstraction.

    In Punch Monster (all works cited, 2012), a flurry of hatch marks in sanguine hues of crimson evokes the dynamism of a

  • picks May 29, 2012

    Adam Henry

    The first cut, the saying goes, is always the deepest. And for his debut New York solo show, Adam Henry cuts right to the bone. A lambent play between surface and material, the works making up “In Spectral Form” confront the finitudes of the planar field while simultaneously foregrounding the infinite probabilities born of its rupture.

    Bearing the marks of excision and accumulation, several pieces in the show reference Henry’s background in collage. As with Untitled (cpt #3), 2011, and Untitled (cpt #4), 2012, looped and woven segments of canvas irrupt the surface image while exposing the gallery

  • interviews May 15, 2012

    Paul Mpagi Sepuya

    Paul Mpagi Sepuya is a Brooklyn-based artist. His forthcoming publication Studio Work documents the art he made during his residency last year at the Studio Museum in Harlem; the book will be available through D.A.P. starting this fall. Select pieces from that residency are featured in the group exhibition “Surface Tension” at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, which is on view until June 24.

    I HAD BEEN READING Brian O’Doherty’s book Studio and Cube, and was influenced by his concept of time, for instance how elements of perception and so on can be very different in the studio, as opposed

  • picks April 17, 2012

    Stan Douglas

    “I feel the same way about disco,” Hunter S. Thompson once quipped, “as I do about herpes.” Indeed, the decade of jive is often relegated to a less than Periclean position within our cultural history. However, time, as the maxim goes, is what you make of it, and for artist Stan Douglas’s latest show, “Disco Angola,” the halcyon age of disco proves to be golden.

    The suite of meticulous tableaux vivants that make up this exhibition—eight large-scale color photographs in all—invite parallels with his Vancouver School cohort Jeff Wall. As with his 2011 exhibition, “Midcentury Studio,” Douglas here

  • picks March 26, 2012

    Bill Jenkins

    Our knowledge of the past is founded, quite directly, upon the trash heaps of history. And while archaeologists are content to dig for the cast-offs of bygone epochs to better comprehend man’s past, there are those, artist Bill Jenkins among them, who find revelation in the refuse of more contemporary origin. Though the maxim about one man’s trash may seem clichéd, the spoils of Jenkins’s first New York solo exhibition are nothing short of treasure.

    In Long Ending, 2011—a piece that shares its title with the exhibition—a discarded air filter transforms a density of captured air pollutants imbedded