Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

  • picks July 16, 2018

    Ana Mendieta

    The major facts of Ana Mendieta’s life and work are well established. She was born in Cuba in 1948. Her family, at odds with Fidel Castro, sent her to the United States when she was twelve. A program run by the CIA and the Catholic Church landed her in foster care. She studied painting but was increasingly drawn to performance. Her materials included mud, feathers, blood, and her own body. She moved to New York and joined the feminist AIR Gallery. She met the minimalist sculptor Carl Andre, fell in love, and plunged to her death from the window of his apartment. She died at thirty-six but had

  • diary July 09, 2018

    Braving the Elements

    AROUND LUNCHTIME ON THE LAST THURSDAY IN JUNE, I found myself at a table on an outdoor terrace, facing an absurdly beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. Behind me was the kind of low-slung corporate resort hotel that is typical of La Marsa, one of several suburban tourist towns lying east of the Tunisian capital Tunis. I scanned the horizon from left to right. A thin dark line separated the deep blue sky from a vast expanse of light sparkling turquoise. It was a ridiculous sight, a shimmering paradise, laughable in its right-there realness. I was distractedly sharing a meal with about a dozen

  • picks June 21, 2018

    Bodys Isek Kingelez

    There are three key moments that keep the legend of Bodys Isek Kingelez burning. One is when the Congolese sculptor—maker of intricate paper objects known as “extrêmes maquettes”—quit his job as a schoolteacher in Kinshasa and began making art, feverishly, from paper, scissors, a razor, and glue. The second came when a Kingelez sculpture arrived at the Institut des Musées Nationaux du Zaire. The staff there refused to believe he’d made it himself and demanded he create another one onsite. He did, and they immediately hired him as a restorer. The third was his participation in the 1989 exhibition

  • picks June 12, 2018

    Anna Boghiguian

    Anna Boghiguian’s first museum exhibition in the United States comes curiously late in her life and career. Boghiguian is a legend in Cairo, the city where she was born, and her cluttered rooftop studio, occupied for decades and almost worryingly stuffed with materials, is a tiny windswept palace of wonders and curiosities. It is also a place to listen and learn, as she habitually unspools a good many lessons in literature and history. That sense of Boghiguian holding forth translates well in this show.

    “The Loom of History” fills a wide room in the New Museum’s ground-floor galleries. The walls

  • picks June 01, 2018

    “Multiply, Identify, Her”

    This lively exhibition of ten artists contributing portraits, videos, films, and photocollages winds its way around two muses. One of them, the artist Laura Aguilar, who recently died, is nowhere to be seen—her work is not included in the show—but the spirit of her challenging self-portraiture (for some pictures in her 1996 “Nature Series,” Aguilar would fold her enormous body into the shape of a large rock in a landscape) was an explicit inspiration for the curator, Marina Chao, and Aguilar’s sense of identity as necessarily plural, complex, and polyphonic provides a spacious conceptual blueprint,

  • Joe Overstreet

    Joe Overstreet’s experimental paintings from the early 1970s were made to be suspended from ceilings and tied to floors using a system of ropes and grommets. As a result, they occupy a good deal of three-dimensional space, and by design their shapes change every time they are installed, depending on how they are stretched out, draped, or crumpled. In some works, such as St. Expedite II and Untitled, both 1971, and Untitled, 1972, Overstreet has painted squares of canvas in solid colors—red, green, navy blue, deep purple—edged in contrasting stripes. Other works, such as the enormous

  • picks May 18, 2018

    León Ferrari

    In the mid 1960s, the legendary Argentinian artist León Ferrari caused a scandal when he took a life-size statue of Jesus and nailed it to a model of an American fighter jet. It was Ferrari’s way of protesting the Vietnam War. The piece, La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana (Western Christian Civilization), 1965, was made for a specific exhibition but whisked away before anyone could see it. It was included in a major retrospective of Ferrari’s work in 2004, but a local Catholic official denounced it as blasphemous and had the whole thing closed down. At the time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was

  • picks May 11, 2018

    Ala Younis

    Ala Younis walks such a fine line between art and nonart that it is thrilling to follow her, even through piles of meticulous (read: boring) research, to see where she’ll land. Ten years ago, Younis created a memorable installation of discarded sewing machines (and a related video), titled Nefertiti, 2008, delving into the history of manufacturing as a nationalist, notably unfeminist endeavor in Egypt. In 2015, she unveiled Plan for Greater Baghdad, which took a handful of old 35-mm slides, taken by the architect Rifat Chadirji, of a gymnasium—designed by Le Corbusier and named after Saddam

  • Moyra Davey

    The only coin ever made in the United States that can be picked up with a magnet is the 1943 steel cent. It was produced in a time of austerity at the height of World War II, when copper was being rerouted to munitions manufacturing. Steel pennies coated in zinc may have conserved necessary metal, but they caused all kinds of problems, too. They were unusually light. They were often mistaken for dimes. They got stuck in vending machines. They rusted quickly. A few years ago, someone gave the artist Moyra Davey a whole cache of them as a gift. They had aged weirdly and unevenly, having become by

  • “Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Sunset, Sunrise”

    As the sculptor Siah Armajani has noted, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian was the first Iranian artist of her generation to use cut-glass mosaics as a medium, as art without religious function. Farmanfarmaian was born to a family of ayatollahs, merchants, and Ottoman aristocrats. She studied painting and sculpture in Tehran and had wanted to move to Paris but ended up in New York via Bombay in the 1940s. She fell in with a crowd of artists. She made a disco ball for Andy Warhol. She returned to Iran in 1957 and apprenticed herself to local craftspeople. She experimented

  • “74 million million million tons”

    In the past few years, Lawrence Abu Hamdan has made vital contributions to the developing discourse around questions of evidence, narrative, and atrocity, while outgoing SculptureCenter curator Ruba Katrib has offered deeply compelling curatorial investigations of the vexed status of artistic materiality; pairing the two promises a most intriguing show. This exhibition brings together ten artists (and artist groups) who are working in the space between an occurrence and the consensus that forms around it. That gray area is predicated on ambiguity

  • film April 30, 2018

    Seeds of Change

    ONE DOESN’T NEED to go far to find a meaningful connection between art and serious farming, especially when the art in question is driven by political urgency. The example of John Berger, the poet, critic, and painter who lived half his life on a remote working farm in rural France, is close enough. For the past ten years, the Palestinian artist Jumana Manna has been making dazzling films and quizzical objects about the historical strata and lived experience of cities, namely Jerusalem. Her works draw upon many sources and experiment with many genres, but virtually all of them are urban—with

  • picks April 27, 2018

    Ghada Amer

    A handful of new ceramics hang high on the walls of Ghada Amer’s latest exhibition. One might describe them fairly and accurately as large, misshapen bowls. Amer is famous, of course, for her paintings that layer the very masculine gestural language of Abstract Expressionism (all splashes and dashes and drips of paint) over delicate embroideries and tangles of thread, which yield to even fainter stencils of women in autoerotic poses, taken straight from softcore porn. But ever since the 1990s, Amer has been making three-dimensional objects, too. To make a sculpture of a wedding dress, she once

  • picks April 20, 2018

    Yto Barrada

    Over the past fifteen years, Yto Barrada has made photographs, films, posters, prints, textiles, toys, mechanized models, games, collages, oversize blocks, fake fossils, and vast collections of sundry other objects that nearly defy categorization as art. She has moved through dramatic phases in the formal development of her work, lurching from humor and whimsy to a damning critique of colonialism, underdevelopment, and injustice. She has tumbled headlong into obsessions with historical figures, including members of her own family (her mother, her grandmother) and unknowable strangers (her

  • Peter Hujar

    In one of the most enduring passages from Teju Cole’s 2011 novel Open City, the protagonist, a young man named Julius who has recently arrived in New York from Nigeria to complete a psychiatry fellowship, takes a series of ever-longer walks around the island of Manhattan. His observations are cool and detached until he hits upon a singular and exasperating fact: This is a place surrounded by water that has totally turned its back on the flow of its rivers and the ocean beyond them. “The shore was a carapace,” thinks Julius, “permeable only at certain selected points. Where in this riverine city

  • picks March 30, 2018

    “Bordering the Imaginary: Art from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and their Diasporas”

    In the spring of 1863, the southern photographers McPherson and Oliver took an indelible portrait of a man who had escaped from a Louisiana plantation and sought refuge in a Union camp. It was at the height of the American Civil War. The man, his full name lost to history, was known as Slave Gordon, or Whipped Peter. McPherson and Oliver photographed him with his back turned three-quarters to the camera, elbow bent, a fist to his hip. Six months before crossing a river and rubbing his body with onions to throw off search dogs, Gordon had been brutally beaten by an overseer. Scars gouge his back.

  • picks March 23, 2018

    Taysir Batniji

    The Gaza-born, Paris-based artist Taysir Batniji has made so many orderly sculptures and austere installations—all of them clever and conceptual, with emotionally charged references to art history and the Palestinian condition—that one can easily forget that the foundation for all of his work is and always has been photography. This exhibition, titled “Home Away from Home,” is both dense and expansive, with more than a hundred artworks, the majority of them photographs. These color images include portraits, landscapes, and the kind of accidental or abandoned still lifes that are Batniji’s

  • picks March 09, 2018

    Eduardo Terrazas

    The artist Eduardo Terrazas is famous, of course, for his part in the urban design of the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. That year’s games are legendary: Remember the raised fists of African American sprinters on the winners’ podiums; George Foreman knocking out a Russian boxer and waving an American flag; the boycott of South Africa; and, just days before the festivities began, the government’s massacre of Mexican students. Remember too the indelible “Mexico 68” logo, melding optical illusion, modernism, and folk art. Born in 1936, Terrazas had trained as an architect and urban planner. His

  • picks March 02, 2018

    “Baya: Woman of Algiers”

    Some two dozen women are currently haunting the lower floor of the Grey Art Gallery. They aren’t exactly ghosts or malevolent spirits. Neither are they just figures in the normal painterly sense, although they are painted, gorgeously, in twenty-two gouache-on-board works, wearing outrageously patterned dresses below complicated hair. They are the women of Baya, the Algerian artist of Berber and Arab heritage who was orphaned at five, adopted by a wealthy French patroness, and dropped into the heart of the Parisian avant-garde in the aftermath of World War II. She wanted to be known by her first

  • DISTANT SHORES

    ON A CRISP MORNING this past summer, before the streets had wilted under the humidity and grime, I picked my way through the strange corporate wilderness and crowds of office workers of midtown Manhattan to find the studio of Ahmed Morsi. An Egyptian painter of both rumor and renown, Morsi has lived in a modern townhouse on East Forty-Eighth Street since 1974. He is totally out of place yet firmly present in this most improbable of neighborhoods, making paintings that act as portals to other worlds, bringing multitudes back to these shores in the form of ghostly traces.

    Morsi, who turns eighty-eight