Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

  • “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

  • “The Arab Nude”

    THE SUMMER OF 2016 was not a particularly auspicious time in the Arab world for art deemed sexually explicit. It was in many ways a terrible season all over the world, marked by intense spasms of violence. It was also a summer when the strain of living in close proximity to so many grueling conflicts and situations (the protracted wars in Syria and Iraq; a revanchist military dictatorship in Egypt; an unrelenting refugee crisis sending men, women, and children to their deaths on the Mediterranean Sea; a violent coup attempt and crackdown in Turkey; and the hyperconservative, medieval ideologies

  • “Basim Magdy: The stars were aligned for a century of new beginnings”

    Rainbows, prisms, and a bouquet of tulips with playful faces drawn on their petals. Industrial wastelands and barren cityscapes. Soldiers, superheroes, skeletons, and a giant squid paired with a rocket. Basim Magdy’s first-ever US museum survey offers an introduction to the Egyptian artist’s sprawling, cheerfully sinister visual vocabulary via thirty-six works from the past decade, including drawings, paintings, films, photographs, and installations that reveal a perpetual remixing of tragicomic iconography. Magdy’s materials (gouache, spray paint, pen, Super 8 film dyed

  • picks August 16, 2016

    “Let’s Talk About the Weather: Art and Ecology in a Time of Crisis”

    When this museum reopened last year after a long and painful renovation, it had transformed like a butterfly. The old cocoon was dainty and provincial. The new creature was colorful and strange—and also quite big, nearly five times its previous size, featuring an 8,600-square-foot exhibition hall, with double-high ceilings, plunged two stories underground. Before now, the museum had filled that cavernous new space with a major survey of nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings (primarily) about Beirut, and a smaller, more intimate monographic exhibition for a largely unknown Lebanese modernist

  • picks August 15, 2016

    Rania Stephan

    Rania Stephan’s gallery debut comes at a point when a midcareer museum survey might have made just as much sense. She is better known as a filmmaker. Her work began migrating only recently from film festivals to exhibitions. Stephan got her start in the 1990s, as an assistant director to the filmmakers Simone Bitton and Elia Suleiman. In parallel, she developed her own work along two very different paths. On one side, she makes quick, powerful slice-of-life documentaries. On the other, she composes essayistic videos that toy with notions of memory, montage, and the obsolescence of materials such

  • picks August 12, 2016

    Danny Lyon

    Moving deftly through all the major stages of Danny Lyon’s work to date, “Message to the Future” touches on police brutality, civil rights, sexual ambiguity, wayward masculinity, violence heaped upon immigrants and the working class, and the strange, shifting sands of democracy in the United States at a time of near-frantic discontent. It is, in other words, timely and prescient in ways that no one involved probably imagined it would be in the summer of 2016.

    The artist’s emotional range here is vast and volatile: In one image, Stokely Carmichael smolders in anger. In another, James Baldwin turns

  • Bucharest Biennale 7: “What are we building down there?”

    Some of the most interesting thinking about biennials today is coming from curators who are abandoning standard exhibition formats, staging a season of performances, for example, or a series of talks instead. The team organizing the seventh Bucharest Biennale is making one such radical departure, shifting the focus away from traditional venues and on to twenty-one advertising billboards scattered throughout the city. For the Brooklyn-based Van Tomme, the decision is partly practical and mostly conceptual, a bold response to the strange, multifaceted phenomenon of

  • passages April 22, 2016

    Leila Alaoui (1982–2016)

    LEILA ALAOUI’S BEST-KNOWN WORK is a series of photographs called “The Moroccans” (2010–14). Each picture shows a man or woman wildly dressed, dramatically lit, and set against the same black background, eyes locked on the camera. As portraits go, the images in “The Moroccans” are intense. Alaoui’s subjects stare down the lens with a look of playful or defiant challenge. They rarely smile but always sparkle—whether in the confidence of their pose, the glint in their eyes, or their dazzling array of costumes and accoutrements. Taken together, the series offers a jumble of facts and attitudes to

  • Marwan Rechmaoui

    A clocktower, a lighthouse, a mosque, an aerial view of a public park, a racetrack, a forest of pine trees, a branch of jasmine blossoms, a disused cinema, a derelict hotel, a Ferris wheel, a cemetery, another mosque, a newspaper building, statues of a former president and a poet and a painter, the logo of the first department store to employ women in the Middle East, the fortresslike headquarters of the Druze community in Lebanon, and a stacking sculpture by the inimitable modern artist Saloua Raouda Choucair, one of the few public artworks of note in Beirut: All of these things—and many

  • film March 09, 2016

    Come Undone

    IMAGINE. A shitty day in the loud, aggressive city you adore and deplore. You’re trying to work out a mess of impossible problems in your head when suddenly, in a place of some eighteen million people, you see someone you know. In fact, someone you once loved. And seeing her now, sitting alone in a café across the street, you realize you still love her. And so shitty is your day that you think, what the hell, and you call her. And then, holding the phone hopeful to your ear, you wait, feeling better already, about to smile at the sound of her voice. Or not. Because what happens next? She looks

  • Walid Raad

    SINCE THE LATE 1990s, Lebanese artist Walid Raad has embarked on two major long-term projects, each generating a wealth of videos, installations, performances, sculptural objects, and photographic prints. The first, known as the Atlas Group, concerns the recent history of Lebanon, including the country’s devastating fifteen-year-long civil war and the stalled and controversial reconstruction of its capital, Beirut. The second, titled Scratching on things I could disavow, 2007–, considers the fraught processes by which institutions are shaping the categories of modern and contemporary Arab

  • Marrakech Biennale 6: “Not New Now”

    The Marrakech Biennale’s first eleven years have been quite a roller-coaster ride. Now the Palestinian curator Reem Fadda, an art historian by training, is stepping in to give the event a sounder structure and a wealth of new ideas. The sixth edition is set to explore the legacies of decolonization and the efforts and failures of the once-grand Pan-Arab and Pan-African projects, as well as the tensions between futurism and nostalgia that often underlie political urgency and civic responsibility. Fadda is organizing a tight exhibition—three venues, fewer than fifty

  • diary November 29, 2015

    So You Think You Can Dance

    AT THE END OF MAO II (1991), Don DeLillo’s prescient yet strangely underappreciated novel of art, terrorism, and mass hysteria, a New York photographer named Brita turns up in Beirut’s southern suburbs to photograph a shadowy militia leader called Abu Rashid. It’s the later stages of the civil war, and Brita is on assignment, winding her way through destroyed buildings and a stubbornly vibrant street life. “Her driver is a man about sixty who pronounces the second b in bomb,” writes DeLillo. “He has used the word about eleven times and she waits for it now, softly repeating it after him. The

  • diary October 29, 2015

    Sudden Bloom

    IT’S LATE ON A WARM FRIDAY EVENING and I’m wandering around a new addition to an old museum, feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland. For all the years I’ve known it, the Sursock Museum has been a quaint but sleepy place to visit, housed in an ornate little palace on a quiet tree-lined street in one of Beirut’s wealthier, historically Greek Orthodox neighborhoods. Built at the end of the Ottoman Empire, the pile belonged to an aristocratic family whose patriarch, after the formation of the Lebanese state, donated the building to Beirut—on the condition that it become a museum after his death,