Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

  • Documenta 14 artistic director Adam Szymczyk surrounded by his team. (All photos: Kaelen Wilson-Goldie)
    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

  • Left: Aleya Hamza of Gypsum Gallery. Right: Writer Mai Elwakil of Medrar for Contemporary Art with Jenifer Evans of Nile Sunset Annex and Mada Masr. (All photos: Kaelen Wilson-Goldie)
    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

  • James Coleman, Working arrangement – horoscopus, 2004, video installation, color, black-and-white, sound, 54 minutes.
    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, The Portrait is an Address, 2016, mixed media. Installation view. Photo: Walid Rashid.

    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, Then We Realized, Time Is Stone, 2016, concrete, metal, terrazzo, dimensions variable.

    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

  • The six standing columns of Baalbek's Temple of Jupiter at night. (Except where noted, all photos: Kaelen Wilson-Goldie)
    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

  • Muhamad Arabi, Mahmoud el Zohbi, 1950, gelatin silver print, 3 1/8 × 5 1/8".

    “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, An Apology to a Love Story That Crashed into a Whale (detail), 2016, sixty-four C-prints on metallic paper, each 18 7/8 × 28 3/8".

    “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

  • Claire Pentecost, Amor Fati, 2016, polluted water from Lebanese sources, hand-blown glass, recycled paper, printed banner, dimensions variable.
    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

  • From left: Rania Stephan, Still Moving, 2016; 64 Dusks, 2010–16.
    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

  • Danny Lyon, Willie, 1985, gelatin silver print from film stills, 14 x 15''.
    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