Kate Sutton

  • 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

  • diary January 26, 2017

    Condo Camping

    IN THE SERIES OF LECTURES that now constitute A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf made the case that for a woman to write anything of substance, she must have access to resources—most notably, the titular claim to space—that could free her from the tedium of social convention. The argument was radical at the time in proposing the domestic sphere as a space for transgression and reinvention, rather than just a convenient place to keep your wife.

    Woolf may not be namechecked in the press release for Sadie Coles’s current group show, “Room,” but her thinking pervades it. Curated by Laura Lord, the

  • “Daniel Arsham: Hourglass”

    This show guides the viewer through three distinct environments: a cavern of crushed-amethyst athletic balls, an hourglass-filled gallery, and a Japanese Zen garden patrolled by a performer in the guise of its resident hermit-monk. In lieu of rocks, this figure tends to a garden of sculptures cast from everyday objects, which Daniel Arsham offers up like riddles for some future archaeologist to decipher. For these works, the artist forgoes the monotone grays of his earlier casts in favor of blue calcite, a startlingly vivid material Arsham began using

  • Garage Triennial

    A full century after the collapse of the Russian Empire, the Russian Federation still covers more than an eighth of the planet’s inhabited land—home to more than 170 ethnicities, speaking more than a hundred different languages. This astonishing diversity rarely figures into the country’s reigning cultural narratives, which tend to concentrate on the competing capitals of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The Garage seeks to expand this picture with its newly launched triennial. Under the direction of Kate

  • diary December 16, 2016

    Unfamiliar Territory

    “WE ARE LIVING IN AN ERA of cognitive capitalism, where maps are more important than actual territories,” Moderna Galerija director Zdenka Badovinac told the packed conference room last Thursday in Ljubljana. “Under these conditions, what’s important is not maintaining the integrity of a given territory, but rather widening the participation in mapping the world.”

    Badovinac’s words formed the thrust of the two-day conference at the Moderna, part of the run-up to this year’s Igor Zabel Award ceremony. Founded in 2008 to honor the late Zabel (a cultural critic and senior curator at the institution),

  • Wook-kyung Choi

    Silence can speak volumes. The eloquence of the unspoken may help explain the recent resurgence of interest in the artists of dansaekhwa (Korean for “monochrome painting”), a loosely affiliated group of painters working since the late 1960s, whose meditative, “empty” canvases elevate the organic pull of materials over the individual artistic statement. This type of work rose to prominence at a time when Korea was under pressure to formulate a new postwar cultural identity, bolstered by a narrative that was not reliant on either the Japanese occupation or encroaching interference from the West

  • picks November 25, 2016

    Carlos Reyes and Jo-ey Tang

    “Black door code 31A5 à gauche puis 2ème étage tout droit à gauche” (Black door code 31A5, then left, 2nd floor, then straight, then on the left), the trailing title of this otherwise lissome little show, plots out the path a visitor must now take to reach the gallery after a recent renovation relocated the building’s entrance. Carlos Reyes also lifted these directions to title each member of a quartet of blown-glass objects (all works cited, 2016), slender, stemlike sculptures that enact a shift in their unconventional negotiation of the space. Two drip vertically down toward the floor, while

  • diary November 14, 2016

    Eastern Block

    IN WHAT NOW SEEMS LIKE AN OMEN, I spent the Thursday before last huddled in a museum parking lot, watching a red sedan go up in flames.

    “What about all the toxins?” I asked.

    “They’re not blowing toward us,” replied artist Dalibor Martinis, waving his hand at the thick trail of black smoke. True. It was slithering up and away from us—toward observers on the terrace above.

    We had gathered at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb to watch Martinis set fire to the car as part of his series of performances The Eternal Flame of Rage.

    The sedan had been overturned pre-immolation, its belly exposed like

  • picks November 04, 2016

    Darius Mikšys

    For his series, “Pinocchio,” 2011–, Darius Mikšys delegates his exhibition space to other museums, which then collectively author installations or other artworks—their own real live boys, so to speak. This iteration couples Mikšys’s collaborations with London’s Hayward Gallery and Mexico City’s Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo. The Hayward crafted a two-pronged curatorial riff on its own public face; in keeping with the Pinocchio theme, the institution produced fifteen prosthetic replicas of the nose of its namesake, Sir Isaac Hayward, which were sent to the Kunstverein with the mandate that the

  • diary October 25, 2016

    Occidental Tourist

    THIS YEAR, the weeklong gap between Frieze and Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC)—out of respect, it turns out, for Yom Kippur—gave way to some less than respectful headlines, pitting the two fairs in a bitter battle for galleries. While many collectors did have to choose between the events, most of the press ran with what they were given, trading tallies of who was in, who was out, and whether the early Brexit wounds were enough to counter “what happened to Kim.”

    Thankfully, Paris didn’t seem too concerned with imaginary scores against London, focusing instead on the things it can

  • diary September 14, 2016

    Seoul Cycle

    EVERY FOUR YEARS, the Olympics leaves a trail of heated debates as host nations are left to reckon with unpaid bills and abandoned stadiums. Culturally, however, the Olympics can effect more positive changes, encouraging evolving scenes to take stock of their own narratives. Take South Korea. “The 1988 Seoul Olympics really marked the first time we were able to see a lot of major international artists here,” recalled Hyun-Sook Lee, founder of the Seoul-based Kukje Gallery. Kukje, I learned, simply means “international,” a tag Lee earned by introducing local audiences to artists like Joseph Beuys

  • passages July 22, 2016

    Bill Berkson (1939–2016)

    “WE DO NOT RESPOND OFTEN, REALLY,” Frank O’Hara once noted. “And when we do, it is as if a flashbulb went off.”

    No stranger to bright lights, Bill Berkson—O’Hara’s protégé, collaborator, and traveling companion—quoted the elder poet’s line in “Critical Reflections,” a 1990 essay for this magazine. The piece, a manifesto of sorts, lamented an art criticism where words let go of the heady rush of looking, listening, and taking it all in, to slip instead into a kind of joyless airplane mode. No flashbulbs now, just the flutter of a smartphone, endlessly dividing our attention.

    Bill wasn’t about to

  • diary July 19, 2016

    Brexit Wounds

    WHEN THE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY Lancashire patron Henry Blundell found himself flummoxed by a newly acquired sculpture of a sleeping hermaphrodite, he simply indulged in a little sculptural reassignment surgery to produce the sleeping Venus he desired. For a collector of antiquities, he was, peculiarly, not precious about the past.

    While Blundell’s tastes may smack of small-mindedness, Lancashire’s neighboring city of Liverpool—now home to his collection—prides itself on its own flexible appropriation of global history. In an age of rapidly spiking nationalism, the city is emphatically multicultural.

  • Köken Ergun

    In a 2013 advertisement for the eleventh annual Turkish Language Olympics, students, styled like life-size versions of the fetishistically multicultural automatons from Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride, gather around a picnic table in a grassy field. A Slavic-looking boy in an embroidered peasant blouse lifts a lid on a tureen, takes an approving sniff, and then announces in stilted Turkish, “Radishes, right?” An African girl in a purple hijab turns to her seatmate, who is sporting a Mongolian loovuz. “It is similar to your national dish,” she remarks, using the same formal Turkish.


  • diary May 24, 2016

    Bay Watch

    “DISRUPT” MAY BE SILICON VALLEY’S favorite verb. Coined in the 1990s, the phrase “disruptive technologies” evokes the elimination of middlemen and the ousting of market juggernauts. But two decades later, we’re learning that the “empowerment” encouraged by such disruption isn’t always equally distributed. (Just Google “AirbnbWhileBlack.”)

    If anything, what’s been “disrupted” most in the Bay Area are communities. Skyrocketing rents have notoriously pushed former city dwellers out to the last stops on the BART lines, only to have the displaced drive back into the city every day to Uber around the

  • picks May 16, 2016

    Andreas Angelidakis

    In Madame de Staël’s 1807 classic, Corinne, the Italian heroine treats a visiting Scottish nobleman to the view from Rome’s Capitoline Hill, with the caveat that “readings in history . . . do not act upon our souls like these scattered stones.” The conviction that our antiquity must be experienced firsthand was one of the primary motivations behind the Grand Tour, an itinerary popularized in the late seventeenth century that sent well-born Europeans off in search of the supposed origins of Western Civilization, as if the future of the present lay squarely in the past.

    Andreas Angelidakis’s

  • “Shahzia Sikander: Ecstasy as Sublime, Heart as Vector”

    Drawing from the Indo-Persian tradition of miniatures, Shahzia Sikander makes paintings, installations, and animations that testify to the artist’s deep faith in the power of transformation. Her work uproots political and religious iconography to dismantle cultural tropes; take, for example, the animation SpiNN, 2003, which abstracts the hairstyles of gopis (female devotees of Krishna) into a flock of small black silhouettes that swirl around the screen like a murmuration of starlings. This whirlwind reappears in the three-channel video Parallax, 2013, where

  • diary April 12, 2016

    Crisis Management

    IN HIS TUESDAY op-ed for the New York Times, U2 frontman/iTunes spammer Bono encourages readers to “think bigger” about the refugee crisis, even going so far as to suggest a new Marshall Plan. “For as hard as it is to truly imagine what life as a refugee is like, we have a chance to reimagine that reality—and reinvent our relationship with the people and countries consumed now by conflict, or hosting those who have fled it.”

    It is also difficult to make artwork about this kind of crisis. After all, it’s a very fine line that separates empathy from insensitivity. One solution is to allow asylum

  • diary March 23, 2016

    Pay It Forward


    The question may be inescapable on social media, but I wasn’t prepared to hear it from the gate agent of my Doha-Dubai shuttle. Not sure how my response might impact my boarding (can you even “Feel the Bern” in Arabic?) I went with the best answer for these troubled times: “Not Trump?”

    The fact that an airport attendant in Qatar would be so keyed to the US primaries—something that, at least up until this year, most Americans couldn’t care less about—is a powerful reminder that the future at stake come November doesn’t just belong to America.

    This collective fate was