Joseph Akel

  • picks August 28, 2020

    “Intimate Companions”

    Misfits have a habit of finding their way to Provincetown, Massachusetts. The former Cape Cod whaling outpost became a thriving colony dégagé for the avant-garde and sexually outré during the early twentieth century—a legacy that continues to draw the queer creative set to the seaside town. “Intimate Companions,” a group show organized by curator Joe Sheftel, takes its cues (and title) from David Leddick’s 2000 “triography” of painter Paul Cadmus, photographer George Platt Lynes, and New York City Ballet cofounder Lincoln Kirstein, all of whom were Provincetown habitués. The show, which features

  • 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