Kate Sutton

  • 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

  • picks April 02, 2017

    Rostan Tavasiev

    It’s hard to take Rostan Tavasiev seriously as an artist, if only because for nearly two decades his medium of choice has been the stuffed animal. If myriad “love hours” imbued Mike Kelley’s mangled toys with a crude, bodily aura, the plush animals favored by Tavasiev radiate the chemical-scented clean of the disposable impulse purchase. The artist’s paintings and installations tend to operate on the level of a knock-knock joke, with a sweet, sanitized stupidity that deflects from the compositions’ darker implications. For instance, in the 2009 installation Future, a herd of tiny flame-maned

  • Cécile B. Evans

    Ask a robot, “What’s the weather like?” and you risk the response, “What’s the weather?” This punch line repeats throughout Cécile B. Evans’s growing oeuvre, which explores the psychological repercussions of the increasing encroachment of artificial intelligence into a terrain previously thought to belong exclusively to the human soul. Using videos, installations, holograms, and now what she calls an “automated play,” Evans questions our expectations regarding our relationships with machines as the latter learn to mimic us more and more, paradoxically gaining power through the simulation of

  • diary March 31, 2017

    First Time’s a Charm

    WE CAN’T SEEM to get enough of the White House exploding—at least as moviegoers. No disaster flick is complete without a CGI medley of world monuments meeting their improbable ends, one after the other in a crescendo of increasingly bombastic catastrophes.

    But synchronized destruction packs far less thrill when the effects don’t have to be faked. On April 25, 2015, Nepal was jolted by an earthquake that claimed 8,800 lives, leaving nearly 3 million people homeless and toppling countless centuries-old heritage sites. Within seconds, the catalogue of the country’s sacred temples and central tourist

  • diary March 14, 2017

    Rainbow Connection

    A SALTSHAKER, A BRACELET, and a romantic folklorist painting of a prophetic bird walk onto a wooden stage: That’s the premise of Taus Makhacheva’s Way of an Object, 2013, a marionette show featuring replicas of three items from Dagestan’s Gamzatova Fine Arts Museum engaging in museological debates as they bemoan their fate as passive exponents wrenched from their original contexts. While the traditional Avar “horned” salt box and Kubachi wedding bangle mourn the loss of their specific cultural use-value, the miniature Viktor Vasnetsov painting whines that it’s the one who should really be

  • diary March 03, 2017

    Future Offerings

    WHEN THE PINCHUKARTCENTRE first announced the Future Generation Art Prize in 2010, the competition’s name was met with some cynicism, if only because, in the context of the art world at that time, the “future” was dubious at best—a few laps around Art Basel’s Statements section followed by a fiery demise at Philips and then maybe an embarrassing afterlife hosting Miami parties for struggling luxury brands.

    Nearly seven years later, “the future” invites a different cynicism. Not to be one of those Americans who makes everything about Trump, but . . . Suffice to say, just a month into his official

  • Yuri Pattison

    Last fall’s release of Apple’s new iOS 10 operating system touted a curious new feature: Bedtime. True to its title, the app simply encourages users to get a full night’s rest by alerting them when it is time to go to bed. Users’ personal sleep logs can then be analyzed using Apple’s HealthKit. In effect, the software tracks one’s bodily needs—to the extent that they can be accurately registered by an iPhone—and charts them as a kind of productivity.

    The increasing outsourcing of biological function provided the subtext of Yuri Pattison’s “sunset provision.” The exhibition was originally

  • picks February 23, 2017

    Vlado Martek

    A popular strategy in the recent expansion of the art-historical canon is to position overlooked artists as shaman-like figures, in the Beuysian mode. This shorthand instills an automatic reverence for the misunderstood genius, elevating his or her every gesture to the sacred status of an “artistic action,” thereby reducing the need to establish or address in any real depth the particular context or concerns the artist was engaging.

    Vlado Martek rebuffs this opportunistic absolution in a new set of collages. Instead of embracing the role of the “total artist,” Martek—a fixture in the Yugoslav

  • picks February 09, 2017

    Tschabalala Self

    In 1992, Silverfish’s Lesley Rankine snarled the mantra that would launch a thousand T-shirts: HIPS. TITS. LIPS. POWER. The slogan took the carving up of female flesh and reversed it into a roll call for the reservoirs of strength built into a woman’s body.

    Tschabalala Self’s portraits perform a similar inversion, defying dominant tropes in popular representations of the black female body. They do this by dismantling those same bodies and reassembling them in ways that transform their perceived vulnerability into blistering inviolability. Self’s “paintings” (as the artist chooses to refer to her