Mark Harris

  • picks July 04, 2019

    Evelyn Taocheng Wang

    Evelyn Taocheng Wang’s annotated montage drawings, titled “Eight View of Oud-Charlois, No. 1–No. 8,” 2019, are nonplussed, if sympathetic, dissections of her very ordinary suburban Rotterdam neighbors: an elderly man walking his melancholic Pekingese, a puffer-jacketed family entering a supermarket, an indistinct group converging on a snowy street corner. Vignetted comments like “How come . . .” jar with the delicacy of these affectionately rendered banal scenes to indicate Wang’s uncertainty as to whether or not this is a world in which she ought to take part.

    This ambivalence toward the quotidian

  • picks October 18, 2018

    Paul Anthony Harford

    More by choice than out of neglect, Paul Anthony Harford rarely exhibited during his seventy-three years. Unwilling to part with anything, he accrued piles of meticulous drawings that candidly depict a melancholic and unassuming life in Southend-on-Sea and Weymouth, England—portrayals, perhaps, of Morrissey’s 1988 lyrics, “This is the coastal town / that they forgot to close down.” All but four of the twenty-seven graphite drawings here illustrate a thickset, jowly artist at home, sketching, lounging, cleaning, and sometimes haplessly venturing along the seafront. As if these were insufficiently

  • picks April 04, 2018

    Faith Ringgold

    M. NourbeSe Philip’s book Blank (2017) asks if the lack of words in English—and other colonial languages—that account for slavery’s depredations has led to white anger and incomprehension at Black Lives Matter. Enter Faith Ringgold, whose painted quilts are visual equivalents to anticolonial subversions of the English language. These meticulously crafted and celebratory banners combine piecework quilting, figurative acrylic painting, and written stories to recount African American histories and rich narratives of her own family life. Such hybrid visual approaches are so far outside the orbit of

  • picks March 27, 2018

    John Riddy

    What poetics suits depictions of a metropolis aging through incessant change? For John Riddy, photography of intense detail and finely tuned, lugubrious ochres and grays is one way to apprehend this weathering of modern cities. His pictures of Lower Manhattan and the dank brickwork of London’s Victorian railway arches take on a cinematic melancholy. In the charcoal-black walls of London (Lambeth Road 1–3), 2017, a century’s accretions of grime and soot recall an Andrei Tarkovsky set. The images are exhaustive exercises in locating richness within the inappreciable qualities of forlorn masonry.

  • picks January 22, 2018

    “Age of Terror: Art since 9/11”

    The “Age of Terror”—could there be a more dismal art show for the grimmest museum in London? And yet there are seemingly jaunty works to be found here, with Mona Hatoum’s Natura morta (bow-fronted cabinet), 2012, showing gaudy glass hand grenades resembling Christmas-tree decorations, and Jitish Kallat’s miniaturized security-line figurines—Circadian Rhyme 1, 2011—looking like an adult Playmobil set. Whether inadvertent or not, it is telling that this large fifty-piece show problematizes the representation of war. There is Cory Arcangel’s thrift-store find Bomb Iraq, 2005, an innocent-looking

  • picks December 19, 2017


    The Royal Academy is a step away from Soho, once the sleazy sex epicenter of London. Just when you’re struggling to find anything raunchy in that newly sanitized zone, along comes “Dalí/Duchamp.” This salacious pair make a good team. In the exhibition catalogue, we read Marcel Duchamp explaining that “eroticism was a theme, even an ‘ism.’” As if in hyperbolic response, Salvador Dalí fantasizes about oral sex, gazing at Duchamp as they vacation together near Cadaqués: “I eat Gala and an iron erection stops my copious peeing before it has finished.” Whoa! I just came in to check out the work, and

  • picks November 01, 2017

    “Melancholia. A Sebald Variation”

    From its visionary apologists we might think of melancholia as an exceptionally creative and redemptive form of despair. Yet the intense beauty of work by the likes of Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag, Julia Kristeva, Laura Nyro, and, for this exhibition, W. G. Sebald, is barely salvaged from the crash into painful states of mourning. At the end of the day this is still a hazardous depression that you wouldn’t wish on an enemy.

    From Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, 1514, on through books, documentation, and artworks, this show reveals the artist’s studio as a site of catastrophe. Dürer’s remarkable

  • picks October 23, 2017

    Nicola Tyson

    Nicola Tyson’s forty-six figurative drawings and monotypes here radiate urgency from their fiercely scored lines, febrile contours, and abbreviated limbs. There are no aestheticizing filters here—the violent immediacy of scraped ink and obsessive pencil hatching is thrust against us in these pictures of uncomfortable, sometimes brutally modified bodies.

    The five large drawings along the back wall hit you first. Each shows a self-possessed and confrontational woman. In Great Pants, 2016, darkened whorls of scratchy pen lines suggest gouged eye sockets. Her mouth is a cancellation of broad slashes;

  • picks August 10, 2017

    “Dreamers Awake”

    You happily loosen epistemological moorings in this labyrinthine show—including more than fifty artists—that focuses on women’s entanglements with Surrealism. Curator Susanna Greeves wants to find out what changed about the female body, once represented by men as fetishized or unknowable, when women became Surrealist image-makers themselves. Adapted from Freud, the title might better have suggested that those dreamed about have risen up to subvert the dream. So many of these astonishing pictures and objects issue from waywardly unconventional, and often mischievous, imaginations that could hardly

  • picks June 16, 2017

    Sigrid Holmwood

    Sigrid Holmwood’s three rules for reinventing painting come from the Dark Ages: produce your own pigments, paint peasants, and paint like a peasant. She is the insurgent serf, even performing dressed like the characters in her paintings. As in works such as Peasants fighting with scythes (all works cited, 2017), these precapitalist scenes of bulbous-nosed, combative women resemble the roughly crafted depictions on medieval tiles and manuscripts. Initially, they do indeed look a bit revolting. Thick, brushy outlines sketch in the chunky figures and isometric forms that dispense with perspective,

  • interviews April 07, 2017

    Vinyl Terror & Horror

    Berlin-based Danish duo Vinyl Terror & Horror—Greta Christensen and Camilla Sørensen—are currently participating in the exhibition “Anger,” along with artists Martin Erik Andersen and René Schmidt, at the Horsens Kunstmuseum in Horsens, Denmark. For their installation Off Track, 2016–17, they present an untidy array of sounds and objects, which they discuss here. The show is on view through May 28, 2017.

    OUR APPROACH synchronizes well with the theme of this exhibition. We often work with ideas of destruction, violence, fear, and anger, which are usually expressed in a materially dark and humorous

  • picks March 16, 2017

    Jo Brocklehurst

    Throw a visionary, abundantly talented, half–Sri Lankan fashion illustrator into London’s 1980s anarcho-punk and fetish milieus, and you get these brazen oversize drawings that Jo Brocklehurst effortlessly generated during a high-octane career—almost as marginal as the lives of her demimonde subjects. The prejudice her mixed origins had attracted, typical of the insular 1940s and 1950s England of her childhood, must have warmed her to these countercultures, including those of New York’s gay and s-m clubs where she drew in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as the theater and dance scenes

  • picks February 28, 2017

    Mark Fairnington

    The acrid colors, immense scale, and alarming titles of Mark Fairnington’s four flower paintings here overflow with menace, making their hallucinatory rendering all the more disturbing. The Thing of Darkness and Sexual Anarchy, both 2016, are a little more than six feet—blooms you’d not want to encounter in a dim alley. The latter’s lurid vermilion vase holds purple calla lilies, suggestively painted to resemble intersex genitalia. In The Explosive Child, 2016, the shadows of pallid yellow and white roses are painted acid blue, while those cast by blindingly pink peonies in The Worm in the Bud

  • picks November 02, 2016

    “Kentucky Renaissance: The Lexington Camera Club and Its Community, 1954–1974”

    Lexington Camera Club produced thousands of photographs and numerous publications over its forty some years of activity, and this compelling exhibition reveals what an enthusiastically interdisciplinary practice, mutual support, risk taking, and a disregard for regional isolation can achieve. This group pushed itself to explore the limits of what counts as a photograph, and in the most surprising section of this show, we see thresholds of representation tested through camera movement, unfocused images, multiple exposures, X-rays, and abstractions.

    Ralph Eugene Meatyard joined the club in 1954

  • picks October 06, 2016

    Rod Dickinson

    Like a nightmarish excrescence, an eight-foot-high oak chest of drawers, with twenty-foot sides, is crammed into one half of an ornately paneled boardroom lined with carved crests and lit by a resplendent chandelier. A cluster of brass organ pipes protrudes from the top of the chest, which supports a six-legged platform for an octagonal windmill that brushes the ceiling some twenty feet up. Most bizarrely, the cabinet seems operated by levers jutting out on one side and is connected by elephantine tubes to three hooped barrels that sit on the floor.

    Meticulously fabricated, Rod Dickinson’s Air

  • picks September 21, 2016

    Dorothea Tanning

    An artist’s final works invariably provoke morbid speculation—think of Philip Guston’s The Line, 1978, in which a monumental hand stretches from the heavens to score the earth. It’s trickier with Dorothea Tanning’s flower paintings, her very last works, because she was anything but melancholic about them: “In painting these flowers my reward, then, was the simple delight that came with making them happen.” Apparently, in 1997, having stopped painting some years before, Tanning found a dozen unused canvases and worked on them in intense bursts of energy . . . then nothing more until her death in

  • picks July 11, 2016


    Can there be a sadder museum experience than visiting a former foundling hospital? From 1742 to 1755, lotteries determined the hospital’s adoption of illegitimate and impoverished children from desperate mothers. Dickensian London seems paradisiacal compared with William Hogarth’s gin-soaked, disease-ridden antecedent. Concluding her 2014 Hogarth fellowship at the Foundling Museum, Cornelia Parker has invited more than sixty participants to respond to the word “found.” Distributed among the museum’s historical exhibits, on-target pieces forgive the missteps that issue from an overly generous

  • picks June 28, 2016

    “Pittura Analitica: 1970s”

    Emerging from the combative tribalism of 1970s Italian art, a time of pitched street battles between radical activist movements in Milan and Rome, the term Pittura Analitica (Analytical Painting) classified a new rigor with which a loose grouping of artists overcame enervated and repetitive modes of abstraction. In this show, it’s clear that choices about actions and materials should be understood as painting concepts rather than evidence of self-expression.

    Enzo Cacciola’s 11-05-1975, 1975, is made up of cement dragged across canvas. Paolo Cotani’s Benda (Bandage), 1975, features the titular

  • picks May 09, 2016

    Sharon Hayes

    As if stepping into a time-warped consciousness-raising session, you are confronted with five video projections of multiracial performers reading from feminist and lesbian newsletters distributed in Britain and the United States from 1955 to ’77. The videos are projected at different scales across a makeshift plywood hoarding that traverses the gallery; on the back of it are pasted pages from the aforementioned publications. Sharon Hayes unearthed this occasionally harrowing material from archives in London and Philadelphia. Had you lived at this wild frontier of political advocacy, she seems

  • picks April 12, 2016

    “Frequent Long Walks”

    How do you walk around a show? In and out at high speed, zeroing in on a few key exhibits, or methodically evaluating each work in relation to some unifying idea? Or, as curator Christopher Green recommends, do you saunter through desultorily, surrendering to the journey without preconceptions?

    Showing sixteen divergent artists, Green prompts us to recall Robert Walser’s walking habits and attitude of attentiveness to small things. Walser’s ironic and paradoxical 1917 novella, The Walk, insists the stroller observe “a child, a dog, a fly, a butterfly, a sparrow, a worm, a mouse, a cloud, a hill,