Mark Harris

  • 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,

  • picks February 10, 2016

    Rose English

    What can describe our astonishment at those contortionist feats by Chinese acrobats? Bodies and objects just weren’t made for that! How do we account for what occurs between limbs, glass, and gravity as pyramids of stemware levitate over arms and legs? Ten years in the making, Rose English’s “A Premonition of the Act”—an installation of videos, glass vessels, photographs, text, and an opera sound track—suggests answers through a meditation on the polysemic capacities of language, written and sung, when experienced alongside photographs of unbelievable physical exploits.

    In a blacked-out gallery,

  • picks January 26, 2016

    Brian Griffiths

    It’s hard to imagine the kid who’d be thrilled by this collection of nine weirdly disparate and outsize dolls’ houses. The Tyrolean lodge, Miami villa, Japanese tea house, Georgian mansion, and clapboard hippy hangout are too clunky and melancholic for lasting fun and games, especially displayed atop so many secondhand tables. Moreover, they’ve been plastered with large mug shots of Bill Murray and are placed a good distance apart—as if embarrassed to be at a fancy dress party in similar costumes. Outside BALTIC, there’s a fifty-three-foot-tall image of Murray in a plaid jacket pointing a

  • picks January 14, 2016

    Raoul De Keyser

    Memento mori? Celebration? It’s hard to say. In “The Last Wall,” 2012, Raoul De Keyser’s final twenty-two paintings are hung here as they appeared in his studio when he died—hooks, nails, staples and all. With an additional twenty-six works from four decades, this exhibition manages to fill out the history of the private Belgian painter, for whom international success came late.

    With De Keyser, we always look onto a gray world lacking sunlight and intense color. Although his quasi-landscape paintings invariably appear slightly sullied and meteorologically estranged, their subdued color is always

  • picks August 10, 2015

    Jesse Wine

    Jesse Wine’s latest presentation is made up of just four polychrome works composed of some forty handmade clay tiles. These wall-bound pieces (each measuring some six by eight feet) have been installed around a large wooden bench that the artist borrowed from Tate Modern. Here, Wine, primarily an object maker, directs his eclectic and wry ceramic practice toward representing different kinds of paintings. There’s no mistaking these hefty clay panels for conventionally made pictures, however, as their textured surfaces are covered in gouge marks made by fingers and tools. With some humor, Wine