Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

  • 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

  • picks September 15, 2017

    Mira Schendel

    Toward the end of her life, Mira Schendel made a series of sculptural paintings more muscular than anything she had done before. Known as “Sarrafos” (Battens), 1987, the works each feature a pair of bold black bars that are joined together and jut out at sharp, irregular angles from white wooden panels. The gesso is spread so thick on these panels that they look, as her daughter once remarked, like the surface of the moon. Schendel herself described the “Sarrafos” as an attempt to convey aggressiveness, a series of intrusions to shake up the political and economic travesty that Brazil had become.

  • picks September 01, 2017

    Derrick Adams

    Eleven medium- to large-scale collages on paper by Derrick Adams wrap around the mezzanine of the library here, competing for the eye’s attention with a quotation from Langston Hughes, a wall sign reading “General Fiction,” and a whiteboard advertising ample family programming for the day. It’s a perfectly unusual place for an exhibition that tests out different ideas about abstraction, fashion, art history, patterning, biography, and the archival impulse.

    Adams is known for placing formal movements in art and architecture (Minimalism, deconstructivism) in playful dialogue with, say, the global

  • “MICHAEL RAKOWITZ: BACKSTROKE OF THE WEST”

    It seems almost inconceivable that Michael Rakowitz is only now receiving his first major museum show in the United States. Born in New York, based in Chicago, and obsessively drawn to the complexities of his own ancestry as the grandson of Iraqi Jews pushed out of Baghdad in the 1940s, Rakowitz has worked with remarkable clarity and consistency for more than twenty years. Named for a botched translation on a pirated Chinese copy of a Star Wars film, “Backstroke of the West” includes roughly a dozen projects dating from the late ’90s to the present, including drawings,

  • “HASSAN SHARIF: I AM THE SINGLE WORK ARTIST”

    International attention came late in life for Sharif, who was born in Iran, studied in London, established numerous community arts organizations in Sharjah and Dubai, and passed away last fall at sixty-five. He is routinely celebrated as the godfather of Conceptual art in the Gulf—a region the art-historical mainstream rarely recognizes as a place of formal innovation, critical thinking, or noncommercial gestures. But most recent shows of Sharif’s work (including his current showcase in Christine Macel’s Venice Biennale) have largely elided his early dematerialized

  • picks July 28, 2017

    “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85”

    In the mid 1980s, a group of about seventeen women came together in the regal Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene to create an avant-garde theater troupe named for an old B. B. King song and to needle the playwright Ntozake Shange, who had defected to Texas. The founding members of the Rodeo Caldonia High-Fidelity Performance Theatre described themselves as young, gifted, and black—but also weird, lonely, and in search of like souls, remembers the writer Lisa Jones, who penned the only two plays that ever made it into the collective’s repertoire. The work of Rodeo Caldonia was often outrageous,

  • diary June 12, 2017

    Beautiful Strangers

    FOR A GOOD FOUR DAYS in the first half of June, an army of beautiful women marched, sashayed, and drifted into the central German city of Kassel for the preview and opening of Documenta 14.

    Some were members of the actual Army of Beautiful Women, a continually growing band of the female-inclined and their howeverly gendered enthusiasts who have been initiated into a series of interrelated works by the artist Irena Haiduk. In material and conceptual terms, Haiduk’s project is to revive the design and manufacture of a durable uniform for the female workforce, taking numerous cues from the industrial

  • picks May 20, 2017

    “Meeting Points 8: Both Sides of the Curtain”

    At the heart of this iteration of the biennial exhibition Meeting Points is a black-and-white marble-tiled dance floor with a working water fountain, some great gaudy curtains, a few plants, several empty plinths, and amphitheater seating—all part of the stage, a staircase, the dance floor, a fountain, the curtain, a door, some plants and music, 2017, a single installation by Joe Namy. It also includes music when the time is right. Four colorful and deceptively exuberant textile collages from the 1980s by the pioneering feminist Gülsün Karamustafa punctuate the space throughout the lower floor

  • “MOHAMED BOUROUISSA: URBAN RIDERS”

    In 2014, the Algerian-born, Paris-based artist Mohamed Bourouissa began a long-term project about black cowboys in northern Philadelphia, producing a slew of videos, photographs, drawings, and sculptures. He spent the better part of a year with the young men of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, not only capturing a world that belies the mythology of the white western cowboy but also earning the trust of the riders—to the extent that he and they were able to create new works together, such as ritualized costume competitions and “horse-tuning” events, which borrow

  • diary April 12, 2017

    Learning Curves

    LET’S SAY YOU LIVE IN TWO DIFFERENT PLACES. Maybe you were born in one city and live in another. One is cold, orderly, efficient, and peaceful; the other is hot, chaotic, wildly corrupt, and untenable. You endlessly set them in dialogue, sure that something meaningful will be made from the echo back and forth, the jagged path, and the way you move between them.

    If you’re lucky, your exile is of your own choosing. You haven’t been forced out by war, disaster, or economic collapse. But in that case, you have temptations to avoid (exoticism, exploitation) and tricky questions to answer. Who are you

  • diary April 03, 2017

    Downtown Express

    LAST WEEKEND, I took a walk through downtown Cairo with the writer and novelist Yasmine El Rashidi. In the years I’ve known it, the neighborhood has always demanded that you move in a particular way: jaunty, quick, cutting across wide avenues into narrow alleyways, angling for a space between cars, garbage, and throngs of other pedestrians, looking for a way through.

    This day was no different, but something had changed. We stopped for lunch with Mai Elwakil, part of the resilient little arts institution Medrar for Contemporary Art, and Jenifer Evans, culture editor of the über-critical online

  • picks February 03, 2017

    James Coleman

    Every hour, a drama plays out across a pair of huge screens in a project room strewn with cables, audio equipment, and some folding chairs. Frequently, the two screens subdivide into eight. Occasionally, the smaller screens go black, show vivid distortion, and clear to reveal a setting, or an actor: one of eight members in a theater company who are rehearsing a play in a space that looks like a former slaughterhouse. The action builds in fragments. About halfway in, one of the actors is shown frantically searching for something throughout multiple screens. Soon after, he appears on a single

  • Hassan Khan

    Of the many organizing principles through which to present the work of Hassan Khan—moving chronologically from early to recent work, for example, or arranging disparate mediums into thematic clusters related to recurring ideas of power or dreams—portraiture would appear the least obvious. Since the late 1990s, the Egyptian artist has made a slew of videos, photographs, installations, animations, sculptures, and performances that deliberately resist—even defy—categorization. He is a musician who pays close attention to the vicissitudes of shaabi, literally “of the people,” a

  • Saba Innab

    Seven terrazzo columns run diagonally across a narrow room, each one standing slightly taller than the one that came before. Behind them stands a large piece of a perforated concrete wall (the kind used in Mediterranean buildings to shade exposed stairwells and balconies), its pattern of circles-in-squares hinged on a metal structure and cut like the head of an arrow, pointing inward. Together, the columns and wall—discarded objects of demolition, altered by the artist—form a single installation, Then We Realized, Time Is Stone, 2016, which makes up roughly half of Saba Innab’s most

  • diary October 11, 2016

    Temple Talk

    CYNTHIA ZAVEN IS AN ARTIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANIST with wild curly hair and a steely demeanor. She is exceptionally talented and extremely busy, frustrating from a critic’s point of view. She teaches at a conservatory in Beirut, scores films, and travels constantly. She makes work when she wants to, when she has time. Her installations are slow, serious, and ephemeral. They can be captivating in the context of an exhibition but almost impossible to write about afterward. Zaven has no gallery, doesn’t sell, and seemingly feels no pressure to produce. She is adept at keeping the demands of the