Martin Herbert

  • “Simon Starling: Metamorphology”

    Metamorphology, a term borrowed from Goethe’s protoevolutionary theory, is a persuasive catchall for Simon Starling’s practice, which is postmedium—and multimedia—yet full of research-heavy, labor-intensive, material transformations. This first major museum survey in the US will include, among eleven ambitious works from the past decade, a propped two-ton slab of Romanian steel titled after Brancusi’s 1923 Bird in Space, which Duchamp had likewise shepherded through US customs, duty-free, some eighty years earlier—but only after a

  • Ed Atkins, Ribbons, 2014, three-channel HD video, color, sound, 13 minutes 18 seconds.

    Ed Atkins

    Few young artists so instinctively grasp the zeitgeist as does Ed Atkins. In his films, computer-rendered avatars overflow with emotional monologues, and a virtuoso digital aesthetic is undercut by a fixation on flesh—death and decay are recurrent subjects. Staging near-simultaneous shows in London and Paris, the prolific British artist is set to present new works at the Serpentine alongside Ribbons, which debuted in Zurich this spring. The three-channel installation will also be the main event at the Palais de Tokyo. And yet the work

  • Mike Nelson, Quiver of Arrows (detail), 2010, mixed media, 10' 6" x 36' x 35'.

    Mike Nelson

    Mike Nelson evidently can’t forget the Amnesiacs, the biker-gang-esque posse (lacking the chromed hogs) whose mythology he created and who since 1996 have ghosted the artist’s fiction-rich installations. Two recent works included here are linked to that narrative: Gang of Seven, 2013, came from sessions of Canadian beachcombing, and Eighty Circles Through Canada (The Last Possessions of an Orcadian Mountain Man), 2013, includes 35-mm slides shot on jaunts through British Columbia. Quiver of Arrows, 2010, meanwhile, features midcentury Airstream trailers filled with Charlton

  • Alistair Frost, Out of Office Auto Reply, 2012, acrylic on linen, 39 3/8 x 31 1/2".

    OPENINGS: ALISTAIR FROST

    IF YOU HAVE ANY FAMILIARITY with Apple’s aesthetic, Alistair Frost’s painting Out of Office Auto Reply, 2012, will click immediately. It features the side-on speaker of the Mac OS volume icon, muted by an overlaid black cross whose faux-ragged “expressive” edging suggests—like much of the London-based artist’s Google-powered work—clip art. The immediate feel, then, is of a symbol dragged and dropped; the implicit definition of painting is as something lacking a voice, and the title proposes that not only was this nonstatement generated without human interaction but that the artist is

  • “Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing”

    “Curiosity” is a sobriquet that suggests the recondite and faintly déclassé: qualities, no doubt, that recommend it to the arcana-loving, culturally omnivorous New York–based magazine Cabinet and to its UK editor Brian Dillon, who’s curated this bursting Wunderkammer of an exhibition. Spanning contemporary art, anatomy, criminology, Cold War secrets, voyeurism, old-master drawings, and more, “Curiosity” is set to provide a bracingly broad definition of the value—and gratifications—of uncovered knowledge, its centuries-spanning time line hitching past ambitions

  • Gerard Byrne, A Man and a Woman Make Love, 2012, multi-channel projection, color, video, 19 minutes.

    “Gerard Byrne: A State of Neutral Pleasure”

    Gerard Byrne’s practice is a gently vertiginous one: We construe the present, the Irish artist suggests, in relation to a past we know only via suspect representations.

    Gerard Byrne’s practice is a gently vertiginous one: We construe the present, the Irish artist suggests, in relation to a past we know only via suspect representations. Accentuating this—sometimes through his actors’ inappropriate accents—Byrne engineers video installations that wonkily restage conversations pulled from broadcasting and magazine archives. He brings Brechtian unraveling and tangled temporality to bear on historical evidence that has been, to some degree, theatricalized or mediated at its source: an acted version of a future-predicting 1963 Playboy

  • Still from Luke Fowler’s All Divided Selves, 2011, HD video, color and black-and-white, sound, 93 minutes.

    UNDVIDED ATTENTION: THE ART OF LUKE FOWLER

    LUKE FOWLER’S All Divided Selves, 2011, a ninety-minute film centering on the once-notorious “antipsychiatrist” R. D. Laing, divides documentary filmmaking against itself. Assembling archival footage of Laing, his critics, and his freewheeling treatment sessions, the Glasgow-based artist offers an intricate composite of clashing opinions and incompatible filmic registers, weights and counterweights. For seemingly every clip of Laing calmly unpacking his thoughts on, say, schizophrenia and the military-industrial complex to a (typically hostile) interviewer, there’s a fusty mainstream psychiatrist

  • Goshka Macuga, The Nature of the Beast, 2009, Guernica tapestry, wood and glass table, 16 leather and metal chairs, bronze and wood bust, dimensions variable.

    “Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A”

    Goshka Macuga’s category-confounding strategies of playing artist-as-curator, unearthing an institution’s history, and displaying otherwise concealed information reflect her upbringing in Communist Poland— a politics of exposure, she’s said.

    Goshka Macuga’s category-confounding strategies of playing artist-as-curator, unearthing an institution’s history, and displaying otherwise concealed information reflect her upbringing in Communist Poland— a politics of exposure, she’s said, directs her research-based practice. In 2011, Macuga installed Family—a remake of a censored Oscar Bony sculpture—in the spot in Warsaw’s Zache˛ta National Gallery of Art where Maurizio Cattelan once exhibited his meteorite-struck pope. For The Nature of the Beast, 2009, Macuga set up a meeting space for political

  • Anja Kirschner and David Panos, He Doesn’t Know You Don’t Love Him, 2011, stills from a two-channel color video, 33 minutes. From the installation Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances, 2011.

    AFTER EFFECTS: THE ART OF ANJA KIRSCHNER AND DAVID PANOS

    ALTHOUGH ANJA KIRSCHNER AND DAVID PANOS’S 2009 video The Last Days of Jack Sheppard is set in the early 1720s, its chaotic mise-en-scène is a familiar one. We are in London in the wake of a financial boom fueled by contagious speculation. Fortunes have been made virtually overnight, although a subsequent stock market crash has just as speedily vaporized them. Inequality in the distribution of wealth is extreme, but social mobility is also, for a few, increasing—controversial celebrities transfix the public, their antics popularized in part by new technologies that circulate information at

  • Jimmy Robert, Untitled (detail), 2005, color photographs, charcoal, paper, wood, overall 12' 5 3/4“ x 6' 10 5/8”.

    “Jimmy Robert: Vis-à-Vis”

    Gear-shifting between photography, film, video, and performance, and powered by quietly interrelated thematics—bodies, ephemerality, gesture, theatricality—Jimmy Robert’s mercurial practice resists speedy parsing.

    Gear-shifting between photography, film, video, and performance, and powered by quietly interrelated thematics—bodies, ephemerality, gesture, theatricality—Jimmy Robert’s mercurial practice resists speedy parsing. But the forty-five works in this show—the artist’s first major US exhibi- tion, spanning 2004 to 2012—should lay out Robert’s main concerns. For now, countenance that what connects the Guadeloupe-born artist’s photographic-sculptural hybrids (folded, bent, curling, or collaged images of people, with faces frequently obscured) and performances

  • Ed Atkins, Paris Green, 2009, stills from a color HD video, 7 minutes 37 seconds.

    OPENINGS: ED ATKINS

    ONE WAY OF UNDERSTANDING high-definition digital video is via statistics: If the pixels-per-image count is anywhere above 920,000, it’s high-def. But a more nuanced characterization, and one less likely to be repurposed for advertising copy, appears in Ed Atkins’s unpublished 2011 text “Some Notes on High Definition with Apologies to M. Blanchot.” “High Definition (HD) has surpassed what we tamely imagined to be the zenith of representational affectivity within the moving image,” the twenty-nine-year-old London-based artist writes, “presenting us with lucid, liquid images that are at once both

  • Zarina Bhimji, Your Sadness is Drunk, 2001-2006, color photograph, 50 x 63”.

    Zarina Bhimji

    Nominated for the Turner Prize in 2007, filmmaker, photographer, and installation artist Zarina Bhimji nevertheless remains a hazily contoured creative presence.

    Nominated for the Turner Prize in 2007, filmmaker, photographer, and installation artist Zarina Bhimji nevertheless remains a hazily contoured creative presence. That’s perhaps due to the delicacy of her work, which dusts for traces of human occupation in landscape and architecture: Her film of a verdant Ugandan vista, Out of the Blue, 2002, for example, countersigns its imagery with the nondiegetic sounds of voices and crackling fire, hitching together the story of Idi Amin’s 1972 expulsion of his country’s Asian citizens—the artist among them—and the