Lauren O’Neill-Butler

  • interviews July 16, 2018

    John Akomfrah

    The London-based artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah has three solo exhibitions on view in the United States this summer: “Signs of Empire,” his largest US survey to date, is at the New Museum in New York through September 2, 2018; “Sublime Seas” is on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through September 16, 2018; and “Precarity” is at the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham, North Carolina, until September 2, 2018. Below, Akomfrah discusses his embrace of collage and the digital, and the timely thread of migration that runs throughout his work.

    THE STRANGE THING about having three shows

  • picks June 25, 2018

    “Rockwell, Roosevelt, and the Four Freedoms”

    On Juneteenth, Nikki Haley declared that the United States had left the UN Human Rights Council. You could see it coming. But to do it on that particular day, under the supercilious rationale that the HRC wasn’t “worth its name” because it has members “like China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Venezuela,” only served to underscore the US’s own past and present of slavery and torture, of cruelly separating parents and children.

    The still-emerging political project of human rights has been unfortunately stained by imperialist impulses, power-mongering, and greed. That truth quietly

  • interviews June 08, 2018

    Lynda Benglis

    Lynda Benglis was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1941 and arrived in New York shortly after graduating from Newcomb College in New Orleans. Then, as now, her visceral approach to viscous materials and mediums is singular and timeless. Here, Benglis shares key episodes from her life. An exhibition of her works dating from 1979 to 2017 is currently on view at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York until June 16, 2018.

    WHEN I MOVED TO NEW YORK IN 1964, there were race riots going on in Harlem. I attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School, and there I met a Scotsman named Gordon Hart. We both had arrived

  • picks June 03, 2018

    Paul Bonet

    Cartonnage is a term that denotes a material the ancient Egyptians used for their funerary masks and sarcophagi—layers of linen or papyrus mixed with plaster to protect the bodies of the hallowed deceased. In the (much) later invention of French bookbinding, cartonnage became a method of trussing precious pages. Across both traditions, embellishments and other graphic elements were added. These serial sets of symbols often pulse with aesthetic pleasures, which we know from studying the repetitious ciphers of early civilizations. The same kind of “reading” happens in this astounding exhibition

  • interviews April 10, 2018

    Elaine Reichek

    Everything old is new again, and vice versa. Elaine Reichek is a New York–born and –bred artist who has long engaged with some of the women of ancient Greek myths in her works, often via hand embroidery and digital sewing. Her latest exhibition, “Now If I Had Been Writing This Story,” which takes its title from a poem by Stevie Smith, features ten works from the past eleven years and is on view at the Secession in Vienna from April 13 to June 3, 2018.

    FOR THIS SHOW, I wanted to spotlight part of a long ongoing body of work. It consists of two series: “Ariadne’s Thread” and “Minoan Girls.” They’re

  • books April 06, 2018

    Moore Is More

    Written over a period of thirty-four years, mostly on the spur of assignments from various magazines, Lorrie Moore’s new book of collected non-fiction, See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary (Knopf, 2018), gathers together sixty-six articles that all sparkle with the same inimitable intellect one finds in her best-selling fiction. We recently spoke about the factors motivating her to write about books, politics, and prestige television, and what was gleaned from republishing her ideas. –Lauren O’Neill-Butler

    LOB: In your latest book, you tackle such an expansive constellation of

  • interviews March 14, 2018

    Catherine Christer Hennix

    Polymath artist Catherine Christer Hennix is known for her groundbreaking compositions, including The Electric Harpsichord, 1976, and Central Palace Music, 1976. A retrospective of Hennix’s visual work at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, curated by the museum’s curator Karen Archey and Blank Forms artistic director Lawrence Kumpf, is also currently on view through May 27, 2018. Here, Hennix discusses the exhibition and a recent performance (on February 16 and 17, 2018) that melded her mathematical interests with traditional practices of sustained pitches in just intonation.

    FOR THE PERFORMANCE of

  • picks March 09, 2018

    Kay Rosen

    A deranged band of outlaws has taken over the US administration, and this is increasingly the case all over the world. Their collective nihilism is the reigning new world disorder. So how about some fun to counter their skeptical notions of truth, a little humor to keep us afloat while they propagate alternative facts, and some of our word games? For nearly five decades, Kay Rosen’s work has tested the limits of language, and her latest exhibition continues this by gathering recent pieces that walk a fine line between protest paraphernalia and linguistic innovation—the invention and introduction

  • Mirtha Dermisache

    Mirtha Dermisache’s artist’s books and myriad works on paper all sparkle with the suggestion of glyphs and characters that we might be able to discern if we only had the right key to crack their code. Yet, ultimately, none are legible. The under-known Argentinian artist, who passed away in 2012, always referred to her pieces as “writings.” Does it matter if we can’t read them?

    Dermisache titled and grouped her works according to their easily recognizable format—Text,  Book,  Letter, Sentence, and so forth—and all play with the architecture of language through invented lexical and

  • music February 23, 2018

    Glissando Through the Blues

    MORE THAN A FEW ASPECTS of Alice Coltrane’s life and music stand out as singular, epic, genius—and, sometimes equally, tragic. Her husband, John, passed away from liver cancer in 1967, and as a widow at just twenty-nine she raised their four children on her own, never remarrying. Throughout, she maintained a brilliant and groundbreaking solo music career. I could go on. She’s the kind of inspiring person we need to keep celebrating, and so we do.

    The Coltranes were wedded in 1965 in Juárez, Mexico, and their short time together looks, on the surface of things, as if it were pretty blissful. At

  • picks January 12, 2018

    Patty Chang

    For more than twenty years, Patty Chang has consistently put her body on the line. From her early Riot Grrrl–tinged performances and videos to her later filmic investigations, she’s always been in her work, and not just via some dreary collapse of art and everyday life. I mean, in it—exposed but viscerally aware of her vulnerability. This ethics infuses her output with a buoyancy, even while she throws anchors into deep, murky waters. It’s certainly the case in her current retrospective, which weaves together various pieces from her epic eight-year multimedia project, The Wandering Lake,

  • interviews November 28, 2017

    Alejandro Cesarco

    Alejandro Cesarco is a Uruguay-born, New York­–based artist and the director of the nonprofit Art Resources Transfer. His current solo show, “Song,” at the Renaissance Society in Chicago features a range of old and new works, and at its heart is the video Revision, 2017, which Cesarco discusses below. The exhibition is on view until January 28, 2018. Cesarco also has a show at Galleria Raffaella Cortese in Milan, “The Measures of Memory,” which is on view from November 29, 2017 to February 28, 2018.

    THE FIRST THING YOU SEE when you walk into the exhibition at the Renaissance Society is a

  • picks November 24, 2017

    “Charles White—Leonardo da Vinci.”

    What if all exhibitions were like this one—shrewd, focused, and rounded out by Vedic natal charts? For the “Artist’s Choice” genus here, David Hammons has paired Black Pope (Sandwich Board Man), 1973, a monumental work from the museum’s collection made with oil wash on board by his great Los Angeles–based teacher Charles White, with a powerful, complete sketch by Leonardo da Vinci: a small brush-and-ink study on paper, The drapery of a kneeling figure, ca. 1491–94, on loan from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Though they were made some 450 years apart, the coupling inspires chills, like a poignant

  • diary October 12, 2017

    Volcano Lovers

    THESE DAYS, most flights from New York to Iceland’s main airport are red-eyes that land just before dawn. The benefit, until the darkness lingers longer, is that you’re forced to reckon with the rocky landscape through an astonishing sunrise. Last weekend I watched that crimson blaze lift over mountains and slowly illuminate the treeless, moss-covered terrain as my bus puttered along a winding and empty highway to Reykjavik’s eighth edition of Sequences, a ten-day biennial spread out across the city. It was shocking.

    Not so shocking: The show’s “honorary artist” was Joan Jonas, whose recent work

  • interviews August 29, 2017

    Alexandra Schwartz

    Alexandra Schwartz is a New York–based independent curator and the author of Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles (MIT Press, 2010). Her latest exhibition, “As in Nature: Helen Frankenthaler Paintings,” is on view at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, through October 9, 2017. A related exhibition, “No Rules: Helen Frankenthaler Woodcuts,” curated by Jay A. Clark, is also on view at the institution through September 24, 2017.

    SINCE I STARTED WORKING on this exhibition, almost every time I mention it to a female painter, she responds with delight. Speaking enthusiastically about her admiration

  • interviews August 22, 2017

    Tyree Guyton

    What is a monument? The Detroit-based artist Tyree Guyton has long asked this question, beginning with his ongoing site-specific installation The Heidelberg Project, 1986–, which has entailed transforming his childhood neighborhood into a living museum. Now, for Philadelphia’s citywide public art and history project Monument Lab, Guyton is creating The Times, 2017, a massive mural of caricature-styled timepieces on a former factory in the city’s Kensington neighborhood. The work will be on view at the Impact Services building on A Street and East Indiana Avenue from September 16 through November

  • picks July 28, 2017

    “So I traveled a great deal. I met George, Ebbe, Joy, Philip, Jack, Robert, Dora, Harold, Jerome, Ed, Mike, Tom, Bill, Harvey, Sheila, Irene, John, Michael, Mertis, Gai-fu, Jay, Jim, Anne, Kirby, Allen, Peter, Charles, Drummond, Cassandra, Pamela, Marilyn, Lewis, Ted, Clayton, Cid, Barbara, Ron, Richard, Tony, Paul, Anne, Russell, Larry, Link, Anthea, Martin, Jane, Don, Fatso, Clark, Anja, Les, Sue, and Brian.”

    One of the pleasures of this exhibition is seeing artists deviate from their typical mediums: Witness the suite of trance-inducing drawings by the filmmaker Jordan Belson, poet Joanne Kyger’s heady video that riffs on Descartes, and a series of low-res street photographs by the poet Tisa Walden. A romantic sense of freedom blossoms here, which could be linked to the fact that all of the featured artists hail from Northern California (and were alive during the Summer of Love fifty years ago). Also on view are brightly hued taxonomic paintings of nudibranchs on pitch-black backgrounds by Isabella

  • interviews June 05, 2017

    Georgia Sagri

    Georgia Sagri is an artist based in Athens and in New York. Here, she discusses Dynamis, 2017, her piece for Documenta 14, which entangles twenty-eight sculptures of organs, ten breathing scores, and six days of “demonstration / performance simultaneously and in continuum” with a chorus—featuring Nora Barbier, Sophia Djitli, Ioannis Karounis, Clara Marie Müller, Angela Stiegler, and Fernanda Valdivieso, Marianna Feher, Emma Howes, Lo-Yi Lee, Jaqueline Lisboa Silva, Hannah Peinemann, Deva Schule, and Catherine Woywod—and will take place from June 7 through June 12, 2017, in Athens and Kassel.

  • interviews June 02, 2017

    Amy O’Neill

    Amy O’Neill is a New York–based artist known for her works that sift through the ruins of Americana. Her latest exhibition, “Convex Cornea,” which she discusses here, features a new video installation, drawings, and the wall-based “Bean-Bag Flats” series. The show is on view at Kristina Kite Gallery in Los Angeles from June 3 through July 15, 2017.

    MY FATHER ONCE TOLD ME A STORY about a rumor that spread throughout his high school in western Pennsylvania. To commemorate the assassinated president, school officials had asked for the face of John F. Kennedy to be grafted onto the head of their

  • interviews April 25, 2017

    Edgar Heap of Birds

    For over forty years, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds has produced works that antagonize indigenous oppression and foreground his Cheyenne heritage. In recent monoprints, Heap of Birds merges political songs and anthems with his own writings—RED SKIN BOUNTY TIS OF THEE, reads one print in Genocide and Democracy, 2016, a piece he discusses below. That work is featured in “Reconstitution” at LAXART in Los Angeles, an exhibition that looks at the enduring legacy of identity politics and is curated by Catherine Taft and Hamza Walker. The show is on view through May 27, 2017.

    I’VE BEEN MAKING