Lauren O’Neill-Butler

  • diary June 26, 2019

    Blood Moon

    THE ISLAND PROCESSION began around 8 PM on a muggy night. A long queue of people ceremoniously walked—there are no cars here, only mules for transport—from the old town that hugs a crescent-shaped harbor up a steep, craggy road. After passing olive, pine, and cypress trees, and whitewashed buildings creeping up the cliffs, everyone arrived at a small structure overlooking the sea, with wind-whipped flags under a Sagittarius full moon.

    This is where Kiki Smith unveiled her winsome show “Memory,” for Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation project, in a small, erstwhile abattoir on the Aegean Sea. It was

  • “Monumental Journey: The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey”

    In many ways, this was a stunning show of firsts. It was the US debut of Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey’s iridescent daguerreotypes, gathering 120 of the earliest images of the Eastern Mediterranean, shot between 1842 and 1845. (Louis Daguerre introduced his groundbreaking photographic process only a few years before these pictures were taken, in 1839.) The images tracked the Frenchman’s voyage and his desire to document Islamic architecture, while also capturing the effects of all types of upheaval—for instance in his pictures of the Parthenon in Athens with its destroyed mosque and its

  • Helène Aylon

    In 1963, two years after Helène Fisch (née Greenfield) became widowed at age thirty, she was painting a mural for a community center when a newspaper reporter asked for her name. Spontaneously, she replied, “Helène Aylon,” offering a shortened Hebraic version of her first name for her last. This creation story is untold in the artist’s various exhibition reviews from the 1960s and ’70s, but I find it central to her often self-mythologizing work. Also essential: In those high and hard times, Aylon was raising her two children alone, struggling to be both an artist and a mother. But by 1970 she

  • LABOR OF LOVE

    ANGELA DAVIS IS RIGHT: Freedom is a constant struggle.

    George Michael, expatiating on freedom, had another good point: You’ve got to give for what you take.

    When the core members of fierce pussy give talks about their art, they usually begin by thanking Condé Nast. Joy Episalla and Carrie Yamaoka, who cofounded the New York–based collective with Nancy Brooks Brody and Zoe Leonard in 1991, were respectively working in the design departments at GQ and Traveler magazines in the group’s early days. During quieter moments around the office, they ran off hundreds of fierce pussy posters on the copy

  • film January 31, 2019

    Blank Canvass

    SPOILER ALERT (sort of): What Is Democracy? doesn’t deliver an answer to its titular question or a remedy for our bleak times in the United States. What the film offers instead is a peripatetic and sweeping glance at a centuries-old problem through a chorus of shrewd assessments. And by chorus, I mean to denote ancient Greece and tragedy. This isn’t a hopeful documentary—how could it be?

    In lieu of speaking primarily with philosophers as in her past films—Zizek! (2005) and Examined Life (2008)—here writer and director Astra Taylor gathers a divergent group of interviewees: young students in Miami,

  • Liliana Porter

    Following a yearlong renovation, El Museo del Barrio reopened its doors this past September. Its return felt like a rebirth uncommon in New York as of late: Rather than allowing itself to be seized and yuppified by financialized capitalism, this essential institution had instead seized and rethought its possibilities, community, and overall scope. Signaling this renewal is a survey of Liliana Porter’s oeuvre (on view until January 27), featuring thirty-five works from nearly fifty years, skillfully curated by Humberto Moro. By forgoing chronological order to focus instead on narrative themes,

  • interviews December 26, 2018

    Constance DeJong

    For four decades, Constance DeJong has demonstrated what language is capable of—how it can be more than just a delivery system for the conventions of novels and short stories. Her scrupulous writings, recordings, and performances are typically suffused with sensitivity and humor, confessions and criticisms. Below she discusses how “the movement of thought” across the mind is a source of structuring language for her and her new works in “Let me consider it from here,” a four-artist show on intimacy at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, which is on view through January 27, 2019.

    THIS IS THE

  • diary December 11, 2018

    Lure of the Local

    WELCOME TO THE DREGS OF THE YEAR, when all we want—or need, given the chaos of 2018—is something socially nourishing. And no, I’m not talking about Art Basel Miami Beach.

    On Saturday December 8, an afternoon of overlapping talks, workshops, film screenings, and performances was brought together under the banner of “Access and Agency” at the Queens Museum in conjunction with “Queens International 2018,” the eighth edition of the truly local group show that spotlights a set of artists working in the most royal borough. This year, a lively intergenerational dialogue on abstraction, chance

  • interviews November 19, 2018

    Lorraine O’Grady

    Lorraine O’Grady’s longtime engagement with the diptych, as seen in her recent collage series “Cutting Out CONYT,” 1977/2017, which she discusses below, is highlighted in two solo exhibitions this fall: one is on view at Alexander Gray Associates in New York through December 15, 2018, and the other is at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia through January 13, 2019. “Cutting Out CONYT” is a radical selection from her earliest artwork, “Cutting Out the New York Times (CONYT),” 1977, now reworked and distilled into what she calls “haiku diptychs.” The eminent New York–based artist and critic

  • Orra White Hitchcock

    The American illustrator Orra White Hitchcock (1796–1863) was born, lived, worked, and died in and around Amherst, Massachusetts. She probably left the area only a handful of times. On the few occasions I stumbled, speechless, through this utterly germane celebration of her life and work, I wondered if that ability to stay in one place for so long had something, or everything, to do with her keen and pragmatic understanding of the synthesis between nature and the divine.

    Hitchcock’s prolonged sense of ecological time sang out strongly, providing a sharp reminder that it’s the already documented,

  • diary October 30, 2018

    Upping the Anti

    ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2018, thirty-three-year-old queer activist and performer Zak Kostopoulos was killed in the streets of central Athens. His attackers, who brutally beat him in a jewelry store, where he sought refuge after being harassed by three other men at a cafe, have not been charged as of this writing. And by attackers, I mean not only the two men who commenced the hate crime but also the police who continued to exert excessive and unwarranted violence toward Kostopoulos after (finally) arriving on the scene.

    More than 140 people involved in the Athens- and Kassel-based exhibition

  • interviews September 28, 2018

    Nancy Goldring

    For decades, the New York–based artist Nancy Goldring has sustained a profound interest in perspective and analytical representations of space. In tandem, she has fine-tuned her awareness of the ultimate fiction of both by homing in on a place and then disrupting it, via a destruction of the static, privileged monocular view. A solo show of her recent “foto-projections,” as she calls her multifaceted work, is on view at Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson, New York, through November 4, 2018.  

    ONE OF THE MAIN LINES OF INQUIRY that has driven my work for so many years concerns how to conjure

  • film August 30, 2018

    Rise, Resist

    DIRECTOR STEPHEN MAING might just be the next Laura Poitras. Poitras produced his previous short film, The Surrender (2015), on State Department intelligence analyst Stephen Kim’s prosecution under the Espionage Act, and she is the executive producer of his latest inflammatory feature, Crime + Punishment, an account of racist policing in New York and its ripple effects in Ferguson and beyond. The film focuses on two intertwined stories: the NYPD 12, a group of Latinx and black cops who stood up against racial profiling and filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, and a private investigator

  • interviews August 21, 2018

    Sue Coe

    “Sue Coe paints horror beautifully, ugliness elegantly, and monstrosity with precise sanity,” wrote Glenn O’Brien—RIP—in 1984 for the debut review of Sue Coe’s work in Artforum. The claim rings true today. Her anti-career career as someone “double-parked on the highway of life,” as she puts it, has been one of nonstop art as activism. “Graphic Resistance,” a survey of fifty works from the past forty years, is on view at MoMA PS1 in New York until September 9.

    I MAKE ART FOR PEOPLE ON THE FRONT LINES. That’s my family: a community of activists who are not artists but who want to use art as a

  • interviews July 24, 2018

    The Otolith Group

    The Otolith Group’s latest video, O Horizon, 2018, comes out of a long-standing research interest in Rabindranath Tagore and his founding of Visva-Bharati, a school in Santiniketan, West Bengal, India, which was meant to be a living laboratory and an experiment in art, life, and craft. Here, the founders of the group, Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar, discuss their motivations for shooting on location and the Tagorean ethics that animate the work. O Horizon made its debut at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, where it is currently on view through September 17, 2018. The work will travel to the

  • picks July 17, 2018

    Batia Suter

    “Ghost stories for adults.” That was Aby Warburg’s summation of his celebrated atmospheric atlas of found pictures, his “Mnemosyne,” 1924–29, and it’s a label I’ve always loved. But who doesn’t love Warburg? Batia Suter’s photographic work certainly feels like a tribute. For many years, the Amsterdam-based artist has similarly sourced images from diverse reserves—antiquarian bookstores to flea markets. She then constructs an intuitive edit from her vast troves, creating collections loosely based on her discoveries of themes and visual characteristics. Her meticulous bricolage often educes

  • 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