Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

  • 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

  • Gordon Parks

    In an untitled photograph from 1978, the model Iman casually rests her elbows on two tall stacks of ancient African artifacts. In another, from 1966, a young Muhammad Ali leans against a stairwell bannister in London, gazing intently toward the upper right-hand corner of the frame. In another still, from 1960, we see Duke Ellington through the television monitors of a recording studio. In 1957, the photographer Gordon Parks made a vivid color portrait of the painter Helen Frankenthaler, vamping for the camera on a drop cloth in her studio. In 1952, he shot the hand of Alexander Calder, reaching

  • picks February 23, 2018

    Huguette Caland

    A pair of oils on linen serves as the linchpin for this small but powerful exhibition of Huguette Caland’s drawings, paintings, caftans, and smocks. Both pictures show mischievous faces emerging from mounds of flesh. In Sunrise, 1973, a small male head peeks out from behind a face (or a breast) resembling a stylized mountain. In Eux, ca. 1975, an expanse of peach skin morphs into four women’s faces seen in full profile. This show in its entirety is just the four walls around one room. These are the only two paintings. But they work like an architecturally dramatic set of double doors, opening

  • picks February 16, 2018

    Susan Meiselas

    Susan Meiselas took her first photography class when she was in her early twenties, studying at Harvard and living in a Cambridge boardinghouse on Irving Street. Her final project from the course, “44 Irving Street,” 1971, matched portraits of her neighbors with texts that described how they saw themselves in her pictures. The wild card in the series is Meiselas’s own self-portrait, double-exposed, a ghostly trace over a sturdy wooden chair. This is the first image you’ll see if you visit Meiselas’s blockbuster retrospective, up until May 20 at the Jeu de Paume in Paris. And it’s the last image

  • picks February 02, 2018

    Thornton Dial

    In the art of the late Southern painter Thornton Dial, the notion of “relief” leads in several directions. Along one path, it was the word used in his lifetime (he died in 2016 at the age of eighty-seven) to describe his wild assemblages on canvas and wood, which were so heavily piled with found objects, oils, paints, enamels, and other compounds that they reach out several inches from the wall. In another sense—for an artist who was dealing with some of the more abject horrors of the world and described his approach to history in terms of tilling the soil—“relief” also suggests a kind of

  • Farah Al Qasimi

    A year ago in February, a white US military veteran in his fifties walked into a bar in the Midwestern town of Olathe, Kansas. The man scanned the crowd and spotted two brown-skinned men sitting together. He left and returned with a gun. He shouted, “Get out of my country!” and then shot them both. He killed one and wounded the other; a bystander who tried to intervene was also injured. The gunman then turned, ran out of the bar, and drove to another one eighty miles away. He was arrested after he told the bartender there that he had just shot two men he thought were Iranian. His victims were

  • picks January 26, 2018

    LaToya Ruby Frazier

    LaToya Ruby Frazier’s first show here is expansive, tenderhearted, and so cleverly slotted across three large floors of ascending exhibition space that you might actually laugh out loud when you arrive at the uppermost landing and realize the paces you’ve been put through to get there.

    On the ground floor, the looking is tough and requires real work. Frazier’s “Flint Is Family,” 2016–17, made up of twenty-four photographs, follows three generations of women—mother Renée, daughter Shea, and granddaughter Zion—as they course through the horrors of the Michigan water crisis, in which a toxic

  • 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