Mark Godfrey

  • Steve McQueen, Grenfell, 2019, video, color, sound, 24 minutes 2 seconds. Photo: © Richard Ivey.
    film April 05, 2023

    In Plain Sight

    GRENFELL WAS FILMED in December 2017, about six months after the catastrophic fire of June 14, when seventy-two people were killed as the tower, a social housing block in North Kensington, London, was engulfed in flames. Steve McQueen’s film begins in darkness. The screen is black for an unusually long time, then suddenly filled with an aerial view from a helicopter. It’s a beautiful winter’s afternoon, the sun low in the western sky. The helicopter is flying over green fields and woodland. A city is on the horizon. The flight is smooth; the camera is fixed to the underside of the helicopter,

  • Petrit Halilaj, The history of a hug, 2020, steel, fabric, feathers, leather, wood from Kosovo, silicone, paint, hair. Installation view, Palacio de Cristal, Parque de El Retir, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Photo: ImagenSubliminal (Miguel de Guzmán and Rocío Romero).


    IN FEBRUARY 2020, a transparent envelope arrived through my letter box. There was no paper inside, just some tiny seeds. Stamped on the outside were the names Petrit Halilaj and Alvaro Urbano and a date: 26.03.20. It was an invitation to the couple’s wedding celebration, hosted within Halilaj’s installation in the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid’s Parque de El Retiro. The seeds hinted at what guests would find in the Palacio: monumental cloth flowers, lilies, tulips, poppies, carnations, and cherry blossoms, hung from the high glass ceiling to form a canopy. Each sculpture, made collaboratively by

  • “Uh-Oh: Frances Stark 1991–2015”

    From her celebrated video My Best Thing, 2011, to recent works integrating her Instagram posts, Frances Stark has been exploring the kinds of relationships that might spark up between an artist and strangers, whether on far-flung continents or in nearby LA neighborhoods that can feel just as distant. Entwining her personal circumstances with her works in ways that feel necessary (and never spectacular or crudely confessional), Stark presents a new model of what it means to be an artist today. This hometown survey will include Stark’s projections and videos along with her

  • View of “Frank Bowling: Map Paintings,” 2015, Dallas Museum of Art. From left: Texas Louise, 1971; Marcia H Travels, 1970.

    Melvin Edwards and Frank Bowling in Dallas

    “THIS EXHIBITION is devoted to commitment,” wrote curator Robert Doty in the catalogue for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1971 survey “Contemporary Black Artists in America.” He continued, “It is devoted to concepts of self: self-awareness, self-understanding and self-pride—emerging attitudes which, defined by the idea ‘Black is beautiful,’ have profound implications in the struggle for the redress of social grievances.” In fact, the Whitney’s own commitment to presenting the work of African American artists might not have been as readily secured without the prompting of an activist

  • Anri Sala, The Present Moment, 2014, HD digital video (color, sound, 21 minutes 30 seconds), nineteen-channel sound installation. Installation view, Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Jens Webber.


    FOR ANRI SALA, sound has always functioned as both an expressive medium and a register of memory, hauntingly subject to erasure. In the work for which Sala first garnered acclaim, the 1998 video Intervista, silence is the sensory analogue of historical amnesia, a condition the artist seeks to reverse, specifically by trying to find, and later re-creating, the lost sound track of a reel of 16-mm footage showing his mother speaking at an Albanian Communist rally, circa 1977. Since then, the artist has produced a series of videos in which sound becomes a means through which to investigate the

  • Charline von Heyl, Blotto, 2004, oil on linen, 78 x 82".


    LIKE A SOCIALIST INVESTMENT BANKER, a painter in a top MFA program circa 1990 was something of a living contradiction in terms. It’s no coincidence, argues curator MARK GODFREY, that artists JACQUELINE HUMPHRIES, LAURA OWENS, AMY SILLMAN, and CHARLINE VON HEYL all got their starts as renegade practitioners of gestural abstraction in the poststudio atmosphere that prevailed a quarter century ago. Challenging their own educations as well as the gendered connotations of their chosen field, Humphries, Owens, Sillman, and von Heyl established resistant positions poised between authenticity and appropriation. Here, Godfrey looks at the commonalities that unite his subjects, proposing that an adroit “fakery” of gesture and a new engagement with composition, agency, intention, and other erstwhile taboos inform the practices of all four painters—and have made them central to the art of today.


    IN 1986, when she was a student in the famously theory-driven Whitney Independent Study Program, the artist Jacqueline Humphries presented a group of her abstract paintings to visiting professor Yvonne Rainer and received a silent shrug in response. The gesture, Humphries recalls, appeared to mean something like “Oh well—there’s nothing I can do for someone like you.” Humphries was taken aback to find Rainer at a loss for words, but from our vantage point the anecdote isn’t so surprising: There were no words, at that time, with which an ISP faculty member might credibly discuss

  • Still from Amie Siegel’s Provenance, 2013, HD video, color, sound, 40 minutes 30 seconds.


    AT A TIME when restitution debates rage, it would be easy to suppose that Amie Siegel’s film Provenance, 2013, is simply a denunciation of a trade that has seen the furnishings designed for the Punjabi city of Chandigarh by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret wrested from their original setting and sold by unscrupulous dealers into the luxury designer-furniture market in Western Europe and the United States. But Siegel’s work does not really push this agenda; rather, it concerns the vagaries of value as objects move across the world.

    Adopting the structure of the provenance list, the film moves

  • Frances Stark, Push After “Pull After Push”, 2010, mixed media on panel, 69 x 89".


    OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS, Frances Stark has created an extra­ordinary series of new works that stage frank, funny, and often bawdy encounters with figures ranging from avant-garde-film scions to dancehall stars. Through these interlocutions—some virtual, some actual—Stark has expanded her career-long cross-media exploration of the pressures and pleasures of life as an artist, one in which the confessional mode serves as a conduit to wry insights into the workings of the art world. Beginning with her acclaimed film My Best Thing, 2011, and continuing through more recent projects such as

  • All works: Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2011, silk-screen ink on linen, 10 x 8'.


    EACH OF THE EIGHT LARGE PAINTINGS—all Untitled, 2011—that Christopher Wool is showing at this year’s Venice Biennale is dominated by a bulbous central blotch, taller than it is wide. Yet it feels wrong to call these looming blotches “shapes”: They have very few of the characteristics that we understand as constituting shape, since the contours, sometimes defined, elsewhere disintegrate and become patchy, and each nonshape partially continues in a faint area to one side. The images recall Rorschach tests because there are suggestions of symmetry, but one quickly realizes they aren’t

  • Pino Pascali with Columba della pace (Dove of Peace), 1965, Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota, Japan, 1965. Photo: Claudio Abate.


    THE FIRST SUBSTANTIAL BODIES of sculpture Pino Pascali produced in the four short years of his mature career seem so different that they could be the work of separate artists. Pascali emerged in 1964–65 with a series of object paintings: canvases seemingly wearing bikinis, bearing bulging pregnant bellies, or pursing pouty lips—works clearly connected to the playfully sexual imagery of Pop. In 1965, he used automobile parts to make fake tanks, cannons, and bombs for the series “Armi” (Weapons), which was, fittingly, shown at Galleria Sperone in Turin, then Italy’s center of car manufacturing.


    Between the abundance of postwar Italy’s “economic miracle” and the ascetic bent of Conceptual art, the artist ALIGHIERO BOETTI took up the multiple implications of making and thinking, consumption and revolution, local and global. His remarkable oeuvre spans both laborious craft and humorous Duchampian gesture; he went so far as to rename himself Alighiero e Boetti in 1972, the “and” a nod to the doubled demands on artists to be at once star persona and withdrawn auteur. On the occasion of a major retrospective of Boetti’s work at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina (MADRE) in Naples, on view until May 11, Artforum asked critic and curator MARK GODFREY to examine the artist’s twinned and protean practices.

    IN 1967, ON THE CUSP of Arte Povera’s inception, Alighiero Boetti produced the editioned poster Manifesto, which featured a list of young Italian artists flanked by a grid of symbols. The reference to the Futurist Manifesto was unmistakable given this title, yet while Filippo Marinetti’s 1909 text had been published in Le Figaro to reach a large audience, Boetti created his Manifesto for private distribution, tacitly acknowledging that for a generation of artists emerging in the mid-1960s, the ambitions of the historical avant-garde were no longer worth even dreaming about. In the place of any


    WITH ONE EYE ON WALKER EVANS and the other on Eugène Atget, Zoe Leonard began in 1998 to document a passing era of material and retail culture. For her monumental archive of some four hundred photographs, cannily titled Analogue, 1998–2007, she took frontal photographs of small independent stores, first around her home in Brooklyn and then in other parts of New York and in Chicago. She was particularly attracted to shops with deteriorating signage, quirky window displays, and an often seemingly random array of products. Especially compelling to her were handwritten signs whose wording, frequently