Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

  • picks January 05, 2018

    Elizabeth Catlett

    The Senegalese poet Léopold Sédar Senghor once said that “everyone must be mixed in their own way.” That idea, according to the philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne, in his book African Art as Philosophy (2011), was central to Senghor’s belief that African art was the expression of an aesthetic, a philosophy, an entire cosmology, and that it would only have meaning if it were open to the world and had access to freedom. The art of Elizabeth Catlett seems to take up that line of thinking and push it further, producing it anew.

    For this show, titled “Wake Up in Glory,” twelve of Catlett’s sculptures

  • Cecily Brown

    In her marvelous writing on the art of Joan Mitchell in Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007), Maggie Nelson wrestles with several of the reasons why Mitchell’s paintings have proven so difficult to place in the established art-historical accounts of postwar American painting. Mitchell pushed her work too far into the wild realms of nature and human consciousness to fit the rigid formalist theories of Clement Greenberg. She labored too long on every canvas to count as the kind of action painter held up by Harold Rosenberg. She was unapologetically committed to the depths

  • “Francis Alÿs: Knot’n Dust”

    Francis Alÿs came to Beirut for the first time nine years ago, in December 2008, for a workshop organized by the upstart arts organization 98Weeks. At the time, he and the curator Cuauhtémoc Medina proposed walking the city as an artistic practice in and of itself. The Lebanese capital has changed dramatically since then, and Alÿs’s engagement with conflicts in the wider region—including major projects in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan—has grown substantially. The artist’s first solo exhibition at an institution in the Middle East ups the metaphorical

  • “Mounira Al Solh: I strongly believe in our right to be frivolous”

    Mounira Al Solh has established herself as one of the most exciting young Lebanese artists in a generation set to follow in the outsize footsteps of predecessors such as Rabih Mroué, Walid Raad, and Akram Zaatari. She did so through outrageous expressions of disaffection in videos such as Rawane’s Song and As If I Don’t Fit There, both 2006, which are about having nothing to say regarding Lebanon’s civil war and artists who quit, respectively. It was all an utterly charming ruse, of course, masking the artist’s deep and serious engagement with the

  • picks December 22, 2017

    René Magritte

    René Magritte and his wife, Georgette, never had children—that kind of production wasn’t high on the Surrealist agenda—but they did keep a menagerie of pets, including dogs and cats and much-beloved pigeons. In one of the most striking images in this closet-size but museum-quality show of Magritte’s little known photography, Georgette poses against a black background, her arms crossed high in front of her chest, a bird perched on each hand.

    Magritte’s Le rendez-vous, Georgette Magritte, Bruxelles, 1938, carries the same mischievous spirit, the same intimation of magic, that characterizes Surrealist

  • picks December 15, 2017

    “Interwoven Dialogues”

    For almost fifteen years, the Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj has been making loud, uproarious photographs pairing the conventions of historical West African studio portraiture with the accouterments of Arabic kitsch. The pictures are light and fun and quote knowingly from art history, pirated fashion, and the curious flotsam of globalization. People tend to love or hate Hajjaj’s work—a predicament not helped by his sobriquet, the Andy Warhol of Marrakech. But wherever you fall on the spectrum, you can probably agree that the work doesn’t quite play well with others.

    Perhaps it’s a sign that this

  • picks December 08, 2017

    Tunji Adeniyi-Jones

    In all but one of the eight large paintings on view in Tunji Adeniyi-Jones’s assured solo debut, a curvaceous, androgynous figure, or pair, floats in space, twisting and turning ethereally through dense vegetation, the coils of a serpent, or gentle foliage that may well be underwater. Adeniyi-Jones’s compositions pack everything into a shallow plane. What appears at first to be rougher, more gestural brushwork—in, say, the upper right corner of an otherwise super-smooth canvas such as Blue Dancer, 2017—becomes, with a closer look, an almost divine source of light filtering into the picture,

  • picks December 01, 2017

    Phil Collins

    In baghdad screentests, 2002, he auditioned everyday Iraqis for a nonexistent Hollywood movie, throwing Andy Warhol’s example into the harrowing pause between international sanctions and a catastrophic war. In they shoot horses, 2004, he filmed two groups of teenagers in Ramallah, Palestine, who danced for eight hours straight, treading delicately toward ideas of heroism, exhaustion, and collapse through tracks by Beyoncé and Bananarama. In marxism today (prologue), 2010, he added a Stereolab sound track to the discomfiting creep of nostalgia for a set of systems and structures that failed, for

  • Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

    WALID RAAD’S LATEST EXHIBITION at the Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Beirut features three solid bodies of work spanning the artist’s two well-established long-term projects, the Atlas Group, 1989–2004, and Scratching on Things I Could Disavow, 2007–, and including material from the lesser-known but equally clever series “Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut),” 1987–, a repository of sorts for Raad’s creative, off-kilter thinking about photography in relation to the endless cycles of destruction and construction afflicting his hometown of Beirut. It is a perfectly interesting and accomplished show, even if

  • Ahmad Ghossein

    For several years now, the artist and filmmaker Ahmad Ghossein has been splashing around in the psyche of Southern Lebanon, that swath of politically volatile, frequently war-ravaged, and always incongruously verdant countryside squished between Syria, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea. Think rolling hills, parasol pines, premodern poverty, Hezbollah, and the mini castle mansions of the nouveaux riches. In videos such as The Fourth Stage and the performance When the Ventriloquist Came and Spoke to Me, both 2015, Ghossein has delved into the ways the territory can be known, imagined, and

  • diary November 27, 2017

    Lotus Position

    ASK ALMOST ANYONE IN NEW ORLEANS about Charles “Buddy” Bolden and they’ll tell you he was the king and, loosely speaking, the father of jazz. A cornet player who was active at the turn of the twentieth century, Bolden drank too much, lived too hard, played too loud. He was known for a syncopated squawk, weaving in and out of crowds gathered in the French Quarter on parade days and bursting onto the street at irregular intervals to blast his horn. Since he died, in 1931, at the Louisiana State Insane Asylum—twenty-five years after he suffered a psychotic break and disappeared from public

  • picks November 24, 2017

    Hayv Kahraman

    For more than a decade, the Baghdad-born, Los Angeles–based artist Hayv Kahraman has been making paintings in a style that is unmistakably her own, mixing elements of Persian miniature and Renaissance portraiture with a vaguely Japanese aesthetic. She works on raw linen and leaves ample space untouched. She paints women with ghostly white skin, red lips, strong brows, and calligraphic shocks of black hair. The figures in painting after painting always appear to be the same person, with subtle variations. Kahraman has arranged them into sacrificial scenes; cast them as evil marionettes; as one

  • picks November 10, 2017

    Valeska Soares

    “This is a true story,” begins the text on a page torn from the back of a book, humbly framed and inconspicuously placed at the start—or is it the finish?—of Valeska Soares’s first show here. Located on the second floor, the piece isn’t on the checklist. It both is and is not part of the show. It marks a new beginning and at the same time signals continuity, introducing the installation Epilogue, 2017, an epic variation on Finale, 2013. Finale consists of an antique dining table topped with mirrored glass and covered with dozens of dainty vintage drinking glasses, all of them filled with spirits.

  • picks November 03, 2017

    Mary Kelly

    Mary Kelly’s landmark installation Post-Partum Document, 1973–79, tracing out the early years of the artist’s life with her son, from his first consumption of solids to his acquisition of language, has been so consistently present in intellectual discourse that it is hard to imagine the history of feminist art without it. So crystalline was Kelly’s articulation of psychoanalytic principles that it is also easy to forget how prosaic the work really is. The soiled diapers give evidence that she did a good job weaning her baby. The record of his every utterance expresses the abundantly common

  • picks October 27, 2017

    Raghubir Singh

    Raghubir Singh’s first camera was a gift from an older brother, who brought it back from a trip to Hong Kong. Singh, fourteen at the time, used the camera to join the photography club at his Jesuit high school in Jaipur. He took pictures constantly and developed them in a rudimentary black-and-white darkroom. On one of his parents’ bookshelves, he found a book of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work in India and pored over it intently.

    Singh went to college to study history but dropped out. He needed to find a job. It was only after he applied to nearly every tea company in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and

  • picks October 20, 2017

    Marcia Marcus

    The twenty-three paintings by Marcia Marcus here deliver one knockout after another. In the oval portrait Nude with Mirror, 1965, a woman languorously appraises her own reflection. In Florentine Landscape, 1961, three ghostly, pale figures and a pumpkin patch appear like holograms beamed into an ancient garden. In Frieze: The Porch, 1964, three distinctly different pictures—a double portrait of the critic Jill Johnston and the painter Barbara Forst, a self-portrait of the artist in a billowing floral robe, and a picture of her as a child with her father—are all crammed together in a way that

  • picks October 13, 2017

    Jacob El Hanani

    Jacob El Hanani makes minutely detailed, dazzlingly obsessive drawings without the aid of a magnifying glass. Now seventy, he works in ten-minute bursts to avoid damaging his eyes. He spends months, even years, on a single composition. He uses ink on paper or a quill on gessoed canvas. These, at least, are the stable facts of El Hanani’s practice. Everything else about his art dwells in lush and disorienting ambiguity.

    Most obvious is the question of where the viewer is meant to stand in relation to El Hanani’s drawings. His second exhibition here covers four decades. The drawings are so faint

  • Waddah Faris

    In the fall of 1969, the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen traveled to Lebanon to perform in the Jeita Grotto, a series of limestone caves that span an underground river some ten miles north of Beirut. Stockhausen’s entourage included the pop singer Françoise Hardy, the gallerist and socialite Brigitte Schehadé, and the Surrealists Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, and André Masson. When Schehadé introduced Ernst and his wife to a young local who was hanging around the Saint-George Hotel, they asked him if he could show them more of the country.

    That young man was Waddah Faris, an Iraqi artist

  • picks September 29, 2017

    Ruth Asawa

    In her lifetime, the artist Ruth Asawa weathered storms of weak interpretation: whole seasons of lazy criticism that made too much of her positions as a wife and mother and not nearly enough of her contributions to modernism and abstraction. Asawa’s hanging looped-wire sculptures were a triumph of line and form, playing with weight, gravity, visibility, the continuity of multiple spheres and cones, and the ambiguity of inside and outside space. Critics in the 1950s read them as women’s work. They also attributed her style to a Japanese aesthetic that was assumed but unsubstantiated. Asawa was

  • picks September 22, 2017

    Meriem Bennani

    Meriem Bennani’s marvelous new video installation Siham & Hafida, 2017, sets up a dramatic, mischievously contrived showdown between two women at odds over the place and future of the chikha, a female singer or dancer in the lineage of aita, a form of vernacular sung poetry that winds its way throughout the modern history of Morocco.

    Hafida, brusque and to the point, represents an older generation of women who used their performances to entertain, bring audiences to the brink of ecstasy, and honor the subtle art of aita, but also to carry messages of revolt against French colonial rule. Colonial