Marcus Civin

  • picks December 17, 2019

    Ramiro Gomez

    One installation in Ramiro Gomez’s exhibition “Here, for a Moment” includes a street-side construction scene and a William Carlos Williams poem, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” (1960), written in marker on a large piece of worn cardboard. In the poem, itself a reading of a painting attributed to Bruegel, a farmer plows his field, oblivious to Icarus’s fall. Gomez’s Icarus has fallen as well: There he is, splayed out on the rocks next to Williams’s poem. Nearby, construction workers are setting up for their day. Before he died, Icarus might have imagined flying off to a good life. Now, the

  • VIew of “Justin Favela: Regeneración,” 2019.
    picks August 12, 2019

    Justin Favela

    In a field of golden corn, a crucified figure tips to the left, as if he might fall; resembling Jesus, this is likely the maize god, central to Olmec, Maya, and Aztec belief systems. Butterflies surround another patriarch, perhaps Jesus on a good day: He extends his huge orange-brown arms, offering an embrace. Between these two figures, a green creature surrounded by streaks of orange and yellow hovers over a fire as she delivers a child. Such is the scene in Justin Favela’s temporary piñata-style mural, made of tissue paper glued to cardboard, installed on the walls of an upstairs gallery at

  • Patty Chang, untitled quilt sections (work in progress).
    interviews April 15, 2019

    Patty Chang

    Well known for her fearless performances and wildly inventive narratives, the Los Angeles–based artist Patty Chang recently began listing her fears. This led to her soliciting other people’s lists of fears as well, which are related to other lists: One explores the range of a mother’s heightened sense of empathy; another imagines useful mechanisms designed to address, among other things, mental illness, existential distress, fear, and individual agency. These lists set the parameters for a new project that departs from Chang’s solo exhibition “The Wandering Lake, 2009–2017,” which was originally

  • Agnes Pelton, Return, 1940, oil on canvas, 30 x 26".
    picks April 12, 2019

    Agnes Pelton

    You can nearly hear the clean, spirited chime of the lemon-yellow bell at the top right corner of Agnes Pelton’s roughly three-by-two-foot painting Voyaging, 1931. That bell might be calling to a lighter yellow chain to the left, attached like a lure to what loosely resembles the wisp of a plant. All of this hovers above a dark-blue opening in the foaming green waters of some kind of supernatural tide pool. Or is it a mountain range? Return, 1940, shows a giant ghostly primordial bird contemplating its reflection in a shimmering mirage-like pond. The creature is magnetic, pulling in a wayward

  • View of “Memos and Memories,” 2018.
    picks December 05, 2018

    Bahc Yiso

    Bahc Yiso, the late Korean-born installation artist, arts organizer, writer, and teacher who spent his formative years under the name Mo Bahc as an art student at Pratt Institute and as the owner of the alternative space Minor Injury in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, appears deliberate and hopeful in this retrospective. Bahc died in 2004 at forty-six in South Korea, leaving behind mountains of notes, syllabi, press clippings, proposals, drawings, and sculptures that make the impossible seem less daunting if not achievable.

    For Honesty-2, 1996, created a year after he moved back to Korea, Bahc recorded

  • View of “Being Here with You/Estando acquí contigo: 42 Artists from San Diego and Tijuana,” 2018.
    picks November 09, 2018

    “Being Here with You/Estando aquí contigo: 42 Artists from San Diego and Tijuana”

    In 1988, one hundred guests witnessed the wedding-cum-performance of artists Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Emily Hicks. Gomez-Pena, standing on the south side of the US-Mexico border, and Hicks, standing on the north, held hands across the barrier to dramatize the symbolic potential of such a union. Thirty years later, a similar spirit is evoked in this exhibition, which feels consequential and geographically specific in its pairing of a group of forty-two artists from both sides of the border.

    Misael Diaz and Amy Sanchez Arteaga, based in Santa Ana and Tijuana and working together as Cog•nate

  • picks May 31, 2018

    Jack Whitten

    “Odyssey: Jack Whitten Sculpture, 1963–2017” is a muscular first effort to assess the sculpture of an artist primarily known for his painting. During summer retreats in Crete, Whitten dedicated himself to sculpture. Two Central African Kongo nkisi figures—one from the nineteenth century, the other from the early twentieth—accompany this survey, along with a dozen other African and Greek referents the artist chose before his death earlier this year. In the Kongo tradition, nails driven into wooden nkisi figures—made to activate mystical forces—record disputes and treaties. Whitten embattled his

  • View of “Hein Koh: Joy & Pain,” 2017. From left: Hope and Sorrow, 2017; Eyes Without a Face, 2017; Eye Mouth Tongue, 2017.
    picks June 09, 2017

    Hein Koh

    By the front window in Hein Koh’s parlor-room exhibition is Three Lonely Hearts, 2017, consisting of lumpy, heart-shaped, spandex cyclopes’ heads cocked to the side, woebegone and piteous. From open-zippered orifices, the heads seem to have emitted glittery, puke-like, bubblegum-pink columns that have since hardened to hold them up. Nearby, The Triangle Twins, 2016, shows two gold creatures, each equipped with two dicks and pointy fingers emerging from shiny wall-bound pillows that read as portals. Two of the four floppy dicks are knotted together on the outside, as if this bond will provide

  • Adam Pendleton, if the function of writing, 2016, silk-screen ink on Mylar, 29 × 38".
    picks May 25, 2017

    Adam Pendleton

    In Baltimore—the southernmost northern city and the northernmost southern city, as some call it—Adam Pendleton evokes Malcolm X, who in his 1964 speech The Ballot or the Bullet rallied black people to resist the comprehensive conspiracy of American racism. “We haven’t benefited from America’s democracy,” he said. “Stop talking about the South. As long as you south of the Canadian border, you South.”

    As seen in one of Pendleton’s various floor-to-ceiling wall works, a reproduction of a historical installation of paintings by Holocaust escapee Marc Chagall appears to be disintegrating or reforming,

  • View of “Antoni Muntadas,” 2017
    picks March 09, 2017

    Antoni Muntadas

    Spanish artist and retired MIT professor Antoni Muntadas’s show, “Activating Artifacts,” includes two three-channel video projections, About Academia I, 2011, and About Academia II, 2017, that index the conditions of higher education in the United States through quotations from educational theorists, snippets of interviews conducted in 2011 and 2017 with liberal professors and students, and looping scenes of campus life—lecture halls full of empty chairs, a closed door with a sign that reads “Computational Materials Meditation Room,” and students in sweatshirts walking to class in the rain. A

  • Ragnar Kjartansson, Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Only He Who Knows Longing), 2015, mixed media, dimensions variable.
    picks November 14, 2016

    Ragnar Kjartansson

    Ragnar Kjartansson’s mid-career survey is on tour. Following a first showing at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, this US venue adds to the mix Woman in E, 2016, a daily performance originally conceived for a different show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. The titular woman wears a gold dress and stands on a round gold platform and rotates slowly, repeatedly strumming melancholic chords on an electric guitar. At the opening of the exhibit, the performer looked regal but stiff, constrained by her dress and pedestal that seemed to send up American triumphalism and mourn the continuing

  • Mickey Mahar in Anne Imhof's Angst 3. (Except where noted, all photos: David Kelley)
    diary October 28, 2016

    Balcony Scene

    TAKING A LATE FLIGHT from Baltimore to Canada, I read an English translation of Jean Genet’s 1956 play Le Balcon (The Balcony). I read Carmen recalling one of her clients’ infatuation with the color blue: “I was a Madonna to whom a Spaniard might have prayed and sworn an oath. He hymned me, fusing me with his beloved color, and when he carried me to bed, it was into the blue that he penetrated.”

    I read of sex workers and clients performing elaborate fantasies, playing within a play, pretending to be religious and political figures. I read the revolutionary upheaval that interrupted them.

    The next