Kate Sutton

  • diary April 16, 2018

    Don’t Panic!

    DUBAI—THE GREAT DESERT CAPITAL of Starchitecture-on-Speed and the distinct Khaleeji brand of Hypercapitalism-as-Luxury-Entertainment that artists Fatima Al Qadiri and Sophia Al Maria famously dubbed “Gulf Futurism”—is starting to show its age. In an era when every other province has a bargain-bin Zaha Hadid or two, the skyscraper archipelagos and manmade islands just look… well, dated. As theorist and first-time visitor Mi You so pithily put it, “This feels like a Little China.”

    Where once desert sandscapes readily lent themselves to fantasies of Life on Mars, now “the future” has taken on more

  • Sanya Kantarovsky

    Amid the public displays of penitence in the #MeToo era, the knee-jerk qualifier “as a father” has been particularly maligned for its implication that parenthood is somehow a prerequisite for possessing respect for human dignity. At the same time, there is a specific torment to being a parent in a moment when the monsters under the bed have been revealed as more than just shadows, and the helplessness of the child is openly matched by that of the parents, who can never fully shield their offspring against the abuses rampant in the world.

    Sanya Kantarovsky mined this double vulnerability in his

  • picks February 10, 2018

    Teresa Margolles

    World’s Fair pavilions are designed to create a lasting impression of monumental (though ultimately momentary) grandeur. As such, their architects rarely account for an afterlife. Take Zagreb’s French pavilion, a striking cylindrical building that alternately suggests a birdcage and a zoetrope. Designed by architect Robert Camelot for the 1936–37 fair, the structure was consigned to an ambiguous life as “storage space” up until its recent renovation. This phrasing strategically obscures the building’s brief turn in 1941 as an impromptu detention center for Croatia’s fascist-sympathizing Ustaše

  • Jasmina Cibic’s NADA trilogy

    IN HIS LEGENDARY German pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe kept his spaces bare, pairing prototypes of the celebrated Barcelona chair and matching stool he designed with Lilly Reich with one other object: Der Morgen, Georg Kolbe’s 1925 sculpture of the goddess of dawn, which was reverently stationed on a small pedestal in one of the two reflecting pools flanking the building. This juxtaposition of high-modernist design and the classical female nude would become a recurring motif within Mies’s interiors, with coquettish statuettes from colleagues

  • the 4th Ural Industrial Biennial

    One of the more resilient myths of cinema history holds that at a screening of Auguste and Louis Lumière’s 1896 film L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station), the fifty-second reel of a locomotive engine pulling into the station incited a stampede out of the theater by audience members unfamiliar with moving images. This legend provided the point of departure for curator João Ribas’s exhibition “New Literacy,” the main project of the Fourth Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art. In surveying the semiotic stumbles and surges enabled by new forms

  • picks December 08, 2017

    “Starless Midnight”

    In November 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accepted an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University with a powerful improvised speech that railed against three “great and grave problems that pervade our world”: racism, poverty, and war. On the fiftieth anniversary of this speech, “Starless Midnight” confronts King’s hard-won insights with contemporary realities. Curated by Edgar Arceneaux and Laurence Sillars, the nine-artist show opens with the heartrending juxtaposition of Louis Cameron’s NOW!, 2016, a black wall branded with the one-word call to arms, against Karon Davis’s Waiting Room,

  • picks December 08, 2017

    Anna Conway

    In contemporary usage, ideas of luxury and aspiration tend to draw upon the same visual vocabulary. Architecturally speaking, this means the cool, clean lines of midtown modernism, accentuated by an expensive-looking emptiness. After all, true luxury implies exclusivity. For it to matter most, it must be yours, and yours alone.

    Anna Conway attends to the slippages between the haves and have-nots with this able-bodied fleet of eight oil paintings. The images immerse viewers in the sleek surrealism of ad-ready landscapes, poured-concrete playgrounds for upmarket sedans or the kind of Arco-lit

  • diary November 30, 2017

    Once Upon a Time in the West

    A FEW WEEKS BACK, in the Great Awokening of the post-Weinstein news cycle, I noticed a question bobbing along the surface of my social-media streams: If “Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise,” why do we all still want power? What would it look like to wield power ethically? Is that even possible?

    The Saturday before Thanksgiving, the School of Visual Arts’ Steven Henry Madoff convened a weekend-long summit to address these issues. Titled “Curatorial Activism and the Politics of Shock,” the conference featured twenty-one international powerhouses, from Serpentine Gallery codirector Hans Ulrich

  • diary October 02, 2017

    Forest for the Clouds

    AS TITLES GO, “Clouds ⇄Forest,” Yuko Hasegawa’s for the Seventh Moscow Biennale, is lyrical, if a little typographically challenging. While clouds and forest may intertwine, the former will never know what it means to take root, just as the latter will never take flight. Hasegawa meant this as a metaphor for a generational shift between what she terms “Forest Tribes”—artists using more or less traditional media—and “Cloud Tribes,” the children of this recent rootless era of networked communications and digital technologies. (The CliffsNotes version might call this “89plus.”)

    Hasegawa’s brand of

  • Gorgona

    In a 1986 action titled Deposition, artists Josip Vaništa and Marijan Jevšovar and critic Radoslav Putar dutifully lugged one of Vaništa’s signature horizon-line paintings to a snowy forest outside Zagreb, Croatia, where they propped it against a tree. On return visits, the group would photograph the painting in its new environment, tracking the gradual damage to the snow-soaked canvas, until one day in the spring, when it disappeared altogether.

    Decades earlier, Vaništa, Jevšovar, and Putar had served as founding members of Gorgona, an artistic alliance that, like Deposition, left little but

  • diary September 11, 2017

    Now I Know How Joan of Arc Felt

    JOANS, GET OUT HERE with your skills . . . UP!

    The call-to-arms at the core of Adam Linder’s To Gear a Joan came from a pert, partially armored performer following a slow parade around the attic space of the Trevarefabrikken, an old cod-liver oil factory lately serving as a “social shelter.” Conceived as a “wearable libretto,” “activated” by the Stavanger-born vocalist Stine Janvin Motland, Linder’s performance will recur throughout the September run of this year’s Lofoten International Arts Festival, which kicked off the Friday before last in Henningsvær, a comely little fishing village roughly

  • “CHTO DELAT: WHEN WE THOUGHT WE HAD ALL THE ANSWERS, LIFE CHANGED THE QUESTIONS”

    Chto Delat is a group of writers, philosophers, and artists that takes its name, which translates to “What is to be done?” from the title of an 1863 novel by the political revolutionary Nikolay Chernyshevsky (a title lifted by Lenin for his own 1902 tract). Since its founding in 2003, the Saint Petersburg–based collective has applied the eponymous query to both the specific situation in Russia and the larger systems of global capitalism. For its first solo presentation in Mexico, Chto Delat tests what value a self-organized collective holds

  • Iván Argote

    You can tell a lot about a society by how it imagines its opposite. The term antipode derives from the Greek for having one foot facing the wrong direction. Its geographical usage—designating points diametrically opposite one another on the globe—stems from the ancient belief that the other side of the earth held a kind of netherworld, where everything was inverted, causing the men who lived there to walk backwards. 

    Iván Argote tests this theory, surveying a pair of modern-day antipodes for his twenty-two-minute video As Far As We Could Get, 2017. Urban antipodes are rare, with only

  • Geta Brătescu

    In a 2014 diary entry, Geta Brătescu compares the artist to an acrobat, reasoning that the two face a shared obstacle, daunting enough to name in uppercase letters: “SPACE.” The ninety-one-year-old Romanian artist has dedicated much of her seven-decade career to negotiating enclosures ranging from the confines of a blank page to the mutable gap between her thumb and her index finger. Her maneuvers frequently draw on the recurring motif of the studio—another concept that looms large for Brătescu. 

    “The Studio: A Tireless, Ongoing Space” explored a place of possibility, suspended in a constant

  • picks July 27, 2017

    “Wormwood”

    Amid the B-movie monstrosities of the Book of Revelation lurks the Wormwood star, destined to hit the earth and poison a third of its waters upon impact. This doomsday comet shares its name with Artemisia absinthium (absinthe wormwood), the bitter medicinal herb responsible for absinthe’s curious coupling of extreme clarity and hallucinogenic stupor.

    Organized by Todd von Ammon, this group exhibition mingles decadence, delirium, and decay in a cocktail best sipped slowly. Associations with prophecies and poisons align in the forked tongues of Olivia Erlanger’s Slow Violence, 2016, a duo of

  • diary July 18, 2017

    Faded Memories

    IN AN AGE OF FRANCHISE ENTERTAINMENT, the best sequels might be those not planned too far in advance. Or so it seemed at last Friday’s opening of “FADE IN 2: EXT. MODERNIST HOME – NIGHT,” an exhibition that seeks to blur the lines between art and cinema.

    Organized by Swiss Institute director Simon Castets and curator Julie Boukobza and hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade’s Gallery-Legacy Čolaković, the show marks the inaugural outing of the freshly launched Balkan Projects, a Los Angeles–based cultural platform fronted by actress Marija Karan.

    The exhibition’s first iteration—“FADE

  • picks July 10, 2017

    Hans Op de Beeck

    In his films, drawings, dioramas, and immersive installations, Hans Op de Beeck weds a cunning compositional intelligence with a scenographer’s sleight of hand, telling stories through space. The artist reveals some of his tricks in the 2013 film Staging Silence (2), which spins an array of meditative miniature landscapes from tabletop arrangements of coffee-soaked sugar cubes, half-empty water bottles, and potatoes cut to resemble rocky coastlines. That human hands openly intervene within the frame—dei ex machina manipulating the humble elements on screen—only amplifies the sublime harmonies

  • diary May 30, 2017

    Harmonic Discord

    THE LATE JOHN BERGER once declared that “the opposite of love is not to hate but to separate. If love and hate have something in common it is because, in both cases, their energy is that of bringing and holding together—the lover with the loved, the one who hates with the hated. Both passions are tested by separation.”

    Kunsthalle Wien director Nicolaus Schafhausen invoked Berger’s words last Wednesday at the inaugural convening of the weekend-long opening for “How to Live Together,” a sprawling group exhibition bringing and holding together artists including Bas Jan Ader, Kader Attia, Goshka

  • diary May 17, 2017

    Politics by Other Means

    IN AN UNTITLED FILM shot in Mosul on October 31, 2016, Francis Alÿs trains his lens on a desert landscape suspended in the pink haze of a sandstorm. A tank slowly careens in the distance, armed soldiers milling about in its path. In the foreground, one of the artist’s hands holds up a small white canvas, while the other applies paint, mostly in sand tones with a daub of crimson to match the flag of the Peshmerga—the Kurdish army—flying atop the tank. Using the canvas as both picture and palette, the artist dashes out a composition in situ. “I was originally drawing with pencil on one side and

  • picks May 04, 2017

    Harumi Yamaguchi

    In the 1970s, fashion illustrator Harumi Yamaguchi attained cult status with her “Harumi Gals,” a series of popular print and television advertisements that helped usher in an era of loosening gender roles in Japan, while simultaneously reinventing Parco, the trendsetting Shibuya department-store chain later revered for its progressive ad campaigns. (This same company would bring us the visual sublimity of Faye Dunaway delicately nibbling at a hard-boiled egg for a 1979 TV spot.)

    Harumi Gals offered the epitome of late-1970s eye-shadow chic and nascent 1980s glamour, with full pouty lips corralled