Julia Bryan-Wilson

  • LOTTY ROSENFELD

    ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT and respected Chilean artists of her generation, Lotty Rosenfeld is best known as a founding member of CADA (Colectivo Acciones de Arte) and for an incisive solo practice that interrogated power and the occupation of public space during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Her work Una Milla de cruces sobre el pavimento (A Mile of Crosses on the Pavement), in which the artist turned traffic lines into crosses, or plus signs, or X’s, was first enacted on Avenida Manquehue in Santiago in 1979. This insurgent gesture, which she performed and documented throughout

  • Julie Mehretu

    FILLING TWO FLOORS of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at lacma with more than seventy-five paintings, prints, and drawings, Julie Mehretu’s midcareer retrospective is a muscular, exuberant knockout. Expertly curated by Christine Y. Kim with Rujeko Hockley, the show brings together works made over the past two decades to argue for the artist’s central place within contemporary art, tracing the development of a politics of abstraction—an abstraction that is insistently black, insistently feminist, and, I contend, insistently queer. Mehretu practices a form of history painting, with some of the

  • DISSIDENT BODIES

    RESISTANCE IS FUTILE: This is the lie authoritarianism always tells. No matter how absolute the regime’s power may seem, there are always ways to push back, to refuse, to subvert—although finding the interstices where action is possible may require immense courage and creativity. In a conversation focused on Latin America’s traditions of resistance, art historian JULIA BRYAN-WILSON and curator MIGUEL A. LÓPEZ survey queer, feminist, and indigenous practices that nullify the distinction between art and activism and locate spaces of possibility under conditions of impossibility. 

    JULIA BRYAN-WILSON:

  • passages December 24, 2018

    Robert Morris (1931–2018)

    HIS CONSTRUCTION of the sculptural platform for Simone Forti’s Slant Board; his naked embrace with Yvonne Rainer as they balanced on two tracks; his thwarted performance inside Column that led to a head injury; his process-based exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1970 and its abrupt closure as a gesture of solidarity with the New York Art Strike Against Racism, War, and Repression. His smug smile as he displays his penis in I-Body; his overwrought neo-expressionist series about nuclear war; his poster camping it up in a queer/Nazi pose; his active dismantling of wooden sheets to reveal a

  • “Outliers and American Vanguard Art”

    THERE HAVE BEEN long-standing troubles with the ways in which we categorize artists. Folk, outsider, visionary, self-taught, naive, grassroots: These words, by turns deployed, debated, rejected, and qualified, are weighed down by so much more than they delimit. Since the advent of modernism, such labels have been attached to various American artists who did not emerge via fine-art institutional pedigrees, and to diverse forms of artmaking that have been deemed peripheral to the prevailing aesthetics trafficked by the decidedly metropolitan, market-dominated centers of the self-proclaimed “art

  • Merce Cunningham

    MERCE CUNNINGHAM, one of the most celebrated and influential choreographers of the twentieth century, died at the age of ninety in 2009. In 2011, the Walker Art Center acquired his dance company’s collection of sets, costumes, and theatrical props, and in 2012, after a tour of farewell performances, the company was officially dismantled. Both the acquisition and the dissolution followed the scrupulous guidelines laid out in Cunningham’s groundbreaking eighty-nine-page Legacy Plan, which was publicly announced just weeks before his death. Keenly attuned to the paradoxes involved in preserving

  • Joanie 4 Jackie

    THE GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE in Los Angeles recently acquired the archives of Joanie 4 Jackie (J4J), the feminist video “chain letter” begun by artist, filmmaker, and writer Miranda July in 1995. Art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson, who worked on the project in its early years, spoke with July to reflect on its history, this accession, and the launch of joanie4jackie.com.

    JULIA BRYAN-WILSON: What was the motivation behind Joanie 4 Jackie?

    MIRANDA JULY: J4J was an underground network for circulating videos. I invited self-identified girls and women to make and send me short movies, and I would send

  • autonomous sensory meridian response

    THE THIRTY-FOUR-MINUTE VIDEO opens with a tight shot of rings embedded in a velvet display case. As a softly accented voice describes them one by one, a white woman’s manicured fingers stroke the black fabric of the case and tap gently on the metal bands and stones. The voice and hands belong to Maria, who is not selling these rings but rather providing a specific experience for her viewers known as ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response. A Russian-born expat now residing in the US, Maria is perhaps the most popular practitioner of the growing online phenomenon of ASMR videos; almost

  • Susan E. Cahan’s Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power

    Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power, by Susan E. Cahan.Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. 360 pages.

    WHEN THE EXHIBITION “Art AIDS America” was on view last winter at the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington, black activists decried the paltry number of black artists in the show: five out of 107, a low percentage that registered as wildly incommensurate to the disproportionately high rate of HIV infection and AIDS-related deaths among African Americans. On December 17, the Tacoma Action Collective staged a die-in: Protesters lay down on the ground in the museum, red

  • Sophie Calle

    In 1988, the French artist Sophie Calle, whose work has long plumbed the vicissitudes of power, purportedly received a promising overture. “An American bank invited me to do a project,” she states. “Their ATMs were equipped with video cameras that filmed clients as they went unsuspectingly about their business.” The surveillance tapes show miens of worry, boredom, and calm as the subjects perform the mundane task of withdrawing or depositing bills. For the past sixteen years, Calle has grappled with this footage in various contexts, trying to give shape to the prodigious quantity of the material

  • Zoe Leonard

    In Zoe Leonard’s “Sun Photographs,” 2010–, the artist sets out to depict some of the paradoxes of light. The series, selections from which were on view at Anthony Meier this past spring, features emanations from the sun captured in gelatin silver prints. A few of the images are anchored at their bottom edge by urban landscapes—buildings, antennae, branches—while others are centered on the glare itself as it dissolves into abstraction. Together they comprise a meditative encounter with the dualities that structure both vision and photography, as Leonard points her camera at the thing

  • “Agitprop!”

    Titles with exclamation points can come off like they’re trying too hard. This exhibition, however, might merit such enthusiasm, as its innovative premise connects past and present through a consideration of shifting definitions of propaganda. Twenty recent art and activist practices such as those of Chto Delat, Marina Naprushkina, and Dyke Action Machine will be placed alongside five case studies from earlier in the twentieth century, including considerations of the NAACP’s campaign against lynching and of Soviet