Laura McLean-Ferris

  • The Pinacoteca Agnelli during the opening event. Photo: Andrea Guermani.
    diary June 06, 2022

    Italian Job

    I WATCHED as a battered gray car sailed off the Umberto I Bridge and into the hot spring air before landing with a terrific crash in the Po river below. Last Saturday in Turin, a large American and Italian crew had closed off part of the city to film Fast X, the tenth and finale installment in the Fast and Furious series, featuring a suite of muscular A-listers including Vin Diesel, Ludacris, Charlize Theron, Cardi B, Brie Larson, and Jason Momoa, among others. These are, for readers unfamiliar, lucrative and patently idiotic movies which celebrate fuel, family, and franchise with technically

  • Ken Okiishi, Vital Behaviors, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 64 minutes. Brian Altemus.


    “I FEEL A BIT, LIKE, DARKER TODAY,” says actor, model, and SoulCycle instructor Brian Altemus at the beginning of Ken Okiishi’s video Vital Behaviors, 2019. The premise is straightforward: Standing in front of the artist’s camera, Altemus replicates shots of himself on his Instagram feed. Okiishi, meanwhile, sits behind a mostly stationary lens, filming him for the duration of the roughly hour-long work. The setup is not immediately apparent, nor are the dynamics between artist and model; Okiishi interjects only sporadically, briefly. What is apparent, from the beginning, is that we are here to


    MEGAN ROONEY makes paintings, sculptures, poetry, and performance, though at present the Canadian artist’s signature works are large murals of softly bleeding colors that swim with bodily part-objects and coalescing faces. She produces these epic improvisations alone over a number of days on the blank walls of institutions and galleries. Lips and limbs materialize here and there, glimpsed in the depths of uncertain space, peeking from beneath washes of pale paint. Spidery eyes snap into focus, adorned with clumped-mascara lashes that spill wet gray streams of tears, close snoozily, or crumple

  • Jason Rhoades, My Brother/Brancuzi, 1995, carpet, wood, steel, small gasoline engines, tools, plastic, doughnut machine, mixed media. Installation view, 2017–18. Photo: Laura Wilson. © The Estate of Jason Rhoades.

    Jason Rhoades

    HOW WOULD JASON RHOADES’S desire to offend go down now, in this era of call-outs and open letters? Many of the late artist’s raucous installations are like elaborate exercises in trolling: They appear orchestrated to provoke, conjuring the specter of an overactive macho id, preoccupied by cars, power tools, guns, pornography, dick jokes, cum jokes, pussy jokes, religious jokes, junk food, and celebrity.

    The Brant Foundation—which has mounted a focused presentation of Rhoades’s work, including three major installations—has an obvious fondness for those who have at one time or another taken up the

  • Sondra Perry, IT’S IN THE GAME ’17 or Mirror Gag for Vitrine and Projection, 2017, video projection, color, sound, 16 minutes 21 seconds. Installation view.

    Sondra Perry

    The words “It’s in the game” are typically the aggressive opening credits of video games made by EA Sports, at least they were the last time I played one. The phrase’s use in the title of a recent video by Sondra Perry, the centerpiece of her debut exhibition at Bridget Donahue, reminded us that it is only half of the original slogan, which promises a Borgesian duplication of the world of sports: “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game.” Perry explores the implications of such doublings in IT’S IN THE GAME ’17 or Mirror Gag for Vitrine and Projection, 2017.

    Playing on a loop in the gallery, which

  • Irena Haiduk’s Nine Hour Delay: Introduction Poster, 2012, an advertisement for the Borosana shoe.


    A GROUP OF SIRENS glided silently around Kassel during the run of Documenta 14 last year. These were women balancing books on their heads in the style of the classic finishing-school posture exercise, cast by Irena Haiduk to form an “Army of Beautiful Women” for the performance Spinal Discipline, 2017, a component of the artist’s enigmatic contribution to the quinquennial exhibition. During the summer, this perambulatory team of female-inclined people wore a light, cap-sleeved garment called the ABW Pattern #3 Dress in a variety of shades. During the autumn months, when I visited, they wore the

  • Cathy Wilkes, Untitled, 2012, mixed media, dimensions variable.

    Cathy Wilkes

    Replete with sticky materials summoning childcare and motherhood, a selection of Cathy Wilkes’s most potent works from the past twenty years is installed in her first major survey, awarded to the artist as the inaugural winner of the Maria Lassnig Prize. Incorporating found objects from the Glasgow area (where the artist is based) into assemblage, painting, and sculpture, Wilkes’s work elicits a deep form of attention that defies the tyranny of forgetting, overlooking, not noticing. In a vitrine near the start of the exhibition, lying next to a carved, wooden bird ornament flipped supine so that

  • Stefan Tcherepnin, Glam Flying Fox, 2017, faux fur, synthetic leather, 61 x 68 x 12".

    Stefan Tcherepnin

    In recent years, artist and composer Stefan Tcherepnin’s work has featured a number of “Cookie Monsters,” who appear again and again in his performances, videos, and sculptures. These “bad” copies come in a range of colors, with googly eyes askew, and sloppy, sagging fur. I’m told that one might represent the Sesame Street character’s “evil Russian twin,” though each also resembles a bootlegged Times Square costume. In other words, we’re looking at a “poor man’s Cookie Monster,” with more pathos than the original. These monsters, however, also carry with them a more adult form of comedy—confused,

  • Alvin Baltrop, Self-portrait (looking away), 1975–86, gelatin silver print, 3 3/8 × 5".

    Alvin Baltrop

    Alvin Baltrop’s photographs of the derelict piers beyond the West Side Highway in Chelsea and of the bodies of the men who cruised the dilapidated architecture for sex and other forms of illicit intimacy during the 1970s and ’80s were rarely exhibited during his lifetime. Over the past decade, thanks in part to the work of art historian and curator Douglas Crimp, who has included the artist in several exhibitions and wrote an essay on Baltrop’s photographs for this magazine in 2008, more attention has been paid to the photographer’s formal, graceful images, which were assembled by Crimp for an

  • Quintessa Matranga, Sleeping in My Dreams, 2017, oil on canvas, 18 × 24".

    Quintessa Matranga

    The recurrent motif in “Me at 3AM,” Quintessa Matranga’s recent show of seven small, anxious oil paintings, was a thick quilted comforter, which acts as a barrier between a human figure and the ominous, threatening world that she inhabits. Painted on the New York–based artist’s bedroom floor, these small, deliberately impoverished works of teen surreality summon a youthful, sequestered world. In Sleeping in My Dreams (all works 2017), a bed is hoisted into a black night sky; sandwiched between the mattress and a comforter is a young woman, secured in place by a chain. She is elongated and

  • Michaela Eichwald and Max Schmidtlein, Frank und Pflaumi haben einen Traum (Frank and Pflaumi Have a Dream), 2017, acrylic on auto upholstery headliner fabric, 50 3/4 × 116".

    Michaela Eichwald

    In recent years, demonstrating one’s own insouciant flexibility, whether professional or personal, has been a matter of economic survival; thus, the shrug emoji has reigned. We are all implicated in variously exciting or pernicious networks: What to do about it? Painting, in its dominant German/American vein—at least the type associated with the Cologne–New York axis and identified by David Joselit in 2009 as “networked”—has demonstrated commitments to awkward states such as ambivalence, and to its own poverties. Michaela Eichwald’s exhibition of paintings at Reena Spaulings Fine Art

  • A. K. Burns, Living Room, 2017–, wood, metal coils, plastic webbing, underglow lighting, two-channel HD video (color, sound, 36 minutes). Photo: Maris Hutchinson.

    A. K. Burns

    In recent months it has been dispiritingly difficult to visit exhibitions without applying the lens of American politics, but “Fault Lines,” A. K. Burns’s show at Callicoon Fine Arts, couldn’t have been read without it—literally. Language was a focal point of the presentation: Steel fences featured the Rusmfeldian terms knowns and unknowns; a cast-concrete foot on a rebar leg bore the words YOU’RE FIRED; and a similar hand gracefully offered a gold-plated brass IUD in Hand Out (She Was Warned), 2017, its title echoing the silencing of Elizabeth Warren as she opposed the nomination of Jeff