Kaya Genç

  • Zehra Doğan

    Zehra Doğan’s work chronicles, defies, and transforms the twenty-seven months she spent in Turkish prisons. Doğan was a twenty-seven-year-old reporter—and founder of JINHA, a feminist news agency—when, in 2016, she made a digital-tablet drawing based on a news photograph of Turkish soldiers posing with machine guns. In the background, it shows Nusaybin, a town caught in the crossfire between Kurdish militants and Turkish soldiers and reduced to rubble. As crimson Turkish flags flutter ominously over its ruins, shadowy security personnel seem to emerge from vehicles resembling scorpions in the

  • picks February 23, 2021

    “Crystal Clear”

    For “Crystal Clear”—a group show inspired by philosophers Bruno Latour and Byung-Chul Han’s writings on the “climatic regime” and the false ideals of transparency, respectively—Elena Sorokina, curating from Paris, has partitioned the gallery with textile works, among them Paul Maheke’s The River Asked for a Kiss (To Pateh Sabally), 2017, a memorial to a Gambian refugee who drowned in Venice while onlookers filmed his death. The four digitally printed, diaphanous curtains recreate Sabally’s watery grave, and evoke the entirety of Suicide’s Note, the 1925 poem by Langston Hughes: “The calm, / Cool

  • Sarkis

    In 1928 German art historian Aby Warburg reflected on how humanity’s “treasure of suffering” becomes a human possession. Warburg’s term—in German, Leidschatz—crystallizes the aesthetics of Sarkis, a pioneer of contemporary art in Turkey. Sarkis’s grandparents had settled in Istanbul in 1915 after the horrors of the Armenian Genocide led them to flee Eastern Anatolia. His father was a butcher, and one day, while helping him work, Sarkis noticed a reproduction of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, 1893, on the paper used to wrap a piece of meat; his immediate feeling of identification with the howling

  • Mehmet Sinan Kuran

    Mehmet Sinan Kuran received no formal art education. He worked as a bootlegger in the 1980s, when he was in his twenties, and, identifying with Charles Bukowski, filled notebooks with grim sketches of the denizens of Istanbul’s bohemian quarters. “Painting is a mode of writing for me,” he said in 2013. That year at Istanbul’s Çağla Cabaoğlu Gallery, for his first solo show, Kuran displayed notebooks that abounded with miniature pen-and-ink drawings in the style of Edward Gorey. They featured disembodied limbs and Surrealist props—wandering eyes, animals in colorful costumes—as well as quotations

  • interviews September 14, 2020

    Stéphanie Saadé

    Stéphanie Saadé often traces her nomadic upbringing in her installations—spare and evocative meditations on memory, movement, and space. Like that of her “home” city of Beirut, Saadé’s past year in the Lebanese capital has been turbulent: The birth of her first child was closely followed by the explosion last month at the city’s waterfront that left 181 people dead and an estimated 300,000 homeless. Around the time of the blast, Saadé was developing a project for “A Few In Many Places,” a collaboration between artists and local shop owners from Montréal, Philadelphia, Berlin, Istanbul, and the

  • Cevdet Erek

    Architectural interventions and sonic experiments are components in the work of Cevdet Erek, an Istanbul-based artist and drummer with the rock band Nekropsi. For Room of Rhythms, 2010–12, at Documenta 13 in 2012, Erek installed a monolithic tower of black speakers in the upper floor of Kassel’s C&A department store, transforming the vacant space with overlapping beats and the speakers’ gridlike sculptural presence. His SSS, Shore Scene Soundtrack, 2012, winner of that year’s Nam June Paik Award, comprised a synthetic carpet and an instruction booklet that explained how to caress its surface to

  • picks June 18, 2020

    Berkay Tuncay

    Istanbul-based artist Berkay Tuncay studied archeological conservation as an undergraduate and wrote a dissertation on Net art during graduate school. Fitting, then, that he would go on to deploy a variety of mediums to critique and historicize the future relics of today’s internet culture—ASMR videos, Facebook memes, meditation apps. Adam Curtis and Martin Parr inspired the anthropological aesthetics of his works, which include iPad-sized clay tablets depicting Kanye West’s tweets in Sumerian cuneiform font, visual poems rendered as captchas, and a sheet of Plexiglas that lists the record views

  • Aslı Çavuşoğlu

    One of Aslı Çavuşoğlu’s earliest works, Dominance of Shadow, 2004, engaged with Istanbul’s increasingly privatized public spaces via eighteen billboards advertising an imaginary Hollywood film that the artist installed throughout the city. Her poster featured a collage of Renée Zellweger, a made-up blurb from the Washington Post, and other elements used in promoting blockbusters. Some of the billboards remained on public view for years.

    Çavuşoğlu’s latest work pondered political graffiti, specifically that which promotes a similarly elusive objective: a Communist revolution. The show’s title, “

  • Neriman Polat

    Neriman Polat’s photographs, videos, and sculptural installations explore the links between self-discipline, self-presentation, and imagemaking. In the 1990s, Polat worked as a teacher, a job that acquainted her with Turkey’s high schools, and, especially early on, children were the locus of these investigations. The photographic diptych Untitled, 1996—the earliest work on view in “Mührü Kırmak” (Breaking the Seal), a recent presentation of the artist’s makeshift videos and photocollages from 1996 to 2019—comprises a pair of ID-style photographs of a red-haired teenager. The two photos are nearly

  • Nilbar Güres

    Both the possibilities and the constraints of gender and sexuality underlie Nilbar Güreş’s practice. Born in Istanbul in 1977, Güreş was a connoisseur and collector of textiles from an early age and studied the teaching of art, design, and textiles at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. For her installations, videos, and fabric sculptures, she engages with artisans, celebrates local crafts, and depicts conflicted, fluid, transitioning bodies that bend to fulfill their desires and, in doing so, become works of art. Menstrual blood, gender-reassigned sex organs, and human totems populate her

  • Nejat Sati

    Since his debut exhibition at Istanbul’s Apartment Project a decade ago, Nejat Sati has become a rarity in Turkey’s installation- and video-dominated art world, thanks to his devotion to canvas and paint. Out of all the forty-two works in his earlier shows—“Hypoglottis,” 2010, and “State of Mind,” 2012—only two were mixed media: Tongue, 2010, a sculpture made from colorful pills, and Totem, 2012, an installation comprising one hundred paint cans lined up end to end to form what looked like a pipe. Acrylic abstractions with a metallic sheen made up the bulk of his early shows. Energetic in their

  • Zeyno Pekünlü

    In a show at New York’s SculptureCenter this past winter, the midcareer Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu exhibited a 128-hour-long film amassing twelve years of her digital life as stored on numerous cameras, phones, computers, and hard drives. This documentary approach to tackling the everyday amid Turkey’s turbulent trajectory intersects with the performative aesthetics of Zeyno Pekünlü, a Turkish artist a decade younger than Cennetoğlu. Pekünlü’s latest Istanbul exhibition also centered on a large video canvas: the nine-hour İş (Work; all works 2019), which portrays her daily routine.

    A gray