Melanie Gilligan

  • Mark Leckey

    On entering Mark Leckey’s exhibition “See, We Assemble,” visitors encountered the show’s video “trailer.” Before a video-production green screen sat an upturned speaker cone filled with puttylike cornstarch dyed the same bright color. Sound emanated from the speaker, causing it to vibrate and gradually solidifying the material—thus announcing a leitmotif that would run throughout the exhibition: physical transformations brought about through unseen forces. In the video, a Samsung logo drifts across slowly, made surreal by an electrical thrumming. Next, still images consciously depict various

  • “Reproductive Labour”

    Cinenova is a UK-based distributor of films and videos by women. Its complete collection—with works dating from 1920 to 2000 and ranging from artist’s films to documentary and educational videos to narrative feature films—was presented for viewing in the exhibition “Reproductive Labour: An exhibition exploring the work of Cinenova.” Visitors could choose works from shelves of VHS and U-matic tapes and DVDs and watch their selections in the dimly lit, editing-suite ambiance of the show. Throughout the space were film posters, flyers, and pamphlets promoting the works and activities of

  • Gustav Metzger

    AFTER A DECADE of producing abstract paintings, Gustav Metzger began a new phase of his career when, in 1959, he wrote his manifestos of “auto-destructive art,” aiming to harness the destructive powers of modernity for aesthetic experimentation. Importantly, such writings were from the start presented alongside formal pronouncements of intent: for instance, Cardboards, 1959, a group of found, flattened boxes; and Bag, 1959, a clear plastic bag, also found, filled with cast-off packing materials and fabric. The ancillary quality of these objects highlighted the processes in industrialized capitalism

  • Niki de Saint Phalle

    Attempting to revise preconceptions, this retrospective—spanning 1953 to the late 1990s—will focus on the darker, more brutal aspects of Niki de Saint Phalle's oeuvre in some 120 assemblages, paintings, sculptures, altars, and graphic works.

    The chirpiest-seeming of feminist art stars, French artist Niki de Saint Phalle is not often associated with bloodthirst: “In 1961 I shot at: daddy, all men, small men, large men.” This 1987 statement regarding her early Nouveau Réaliste Shooting Paintings—symbolic executions of the male art establishment—is a window into a lesser-known side of de Saint Phalle's work, which has been frequently identified with the grotesque friendliness and exuberance of her subsequent Nana sculptures. Attempting to revise preconceptions, this retrospective—spanning 1953

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

    13 SCHOLARS, CRITICS, WRITERS, AND ARTISTS CHOOSE THE YEAR’S OUTSTANDING TITLES.

    BRIGID DOHERTY

    I turned to Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume I (edited by Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg; Stanford University Press) in connection with my attempts to look differently at what is made of thinking (and writing) in the art of Hanne Darboven, whose work has often been regarded (to my mind erroneously, or mostly erroneously) as an instance of “Conceptual art.” Psyche—which comprises translations of the first sixteen essays from a volume of Jacques Derrida’s writing that originally appeared

  • Stephan Dillemuth and Nils Norman

    As the video I’m Short, Your House, 2007, closes, a voice tells us that today, “Not only do works of art end up as commodities, but there is also an overwhelming sense in which works of art start off as commodities.” The quote is from the Australian conceptual artist Ian Burn, but on-screen, the source of the voice seems to be a shadow in the shape of an animal head, made by a hand. Stephan Dillemuth and Nils Norman use simple means to create a caricatured realm akin to Karl Marx’s “inverted world where Mr. Capital and Madame Real Estate dance their macabre dance.” The setting of the video is

  • THE BEGGAR’S PANTOMIME: PERFORMANCE AND ITS APPROPRIATIONS

    FEW APHORISMS ARE MORE FAMOUS than the redoubtable “History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”—an observation typically attributed to Karl Marx. In fact, however, this assertion is merely a paraphrasing of the political philosopher. Opening his 1852 study of “bourgeois revolution,” The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx writes: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” What is obscured in the popularized adage, then, is

  • A Theatre Without Theatre

    The new prominence of performance in contemporary art has inspired many recent exhibitions dedicated to the medium. At macba, “A Theatre Without Theatre” offers an expansive overview of more than a century of crossovers between the visual arts and theater. True to today’s preference for defining performance broadly, the show features work—spanning 1883 to 2004 and ranging from manuscripts to paintings—by roughly 200 artists, poets, architects, dramaturges, and choreographers, and stretches its elastic concept to include not only Hugo Ball, Joseph

  • Gilbert & George

    Gilbert & George claim that “Most people who saw our last retrospective [in the UK] are dead,” but their influence on several generations of younger British artists is clear.

    Gilbert & George claim that “Most people who saw our last retrospective [in the UK] are dead,” but their influence on several generations of younger British artists is clear. The duo apparently lobbied Tate Modern for a retrospective, and the museum is now presenting the largest exhibition of their work to date (curated by Jan Debbaut), spanning the artists’ transgressive-conceptualist history from the early “living sculptures” to the present, including their postcard pieces, all forty-five “Pictures” series, and new works. Here, in Britain’s powerhouse of cultural tourism,

  • Stephen Willats

    Since the ’60s, London-based conceptual artist Stephen Willats has focused on concerns that are now ubiquitous in contemporary art: communication, social engagement, active spectatorship, and self-organization. Willats considered his work social research and used models from disciplines such as cybernetics and systems theory to describe and study social interaction and communication. These methods were used, for example, in postwar technocratic urban planning as a form of social control. Willats repurposed these models for opposite ends—to research life on the receiving end of such state-planned

  • Melanie Gilligan

    WHEN REVIEWING THE PAST YEAR IN LONDON, it’s tempting simply to start with the Tate Triennial, London’s recently instituted showcase of contemporary art in the United Kingdom. But to do so would provide insight less into any local trend than into a veritable condition of art-making everywhere. Triennial curator Beatrix Ruf (on loan from her post at the Kunsthalle Zürich) took appropriation as her subject, which she loosely defined in the catalogue as “the reusing or recasting of cultural materials”—hardly a uniquely British approach. That said, the technique was in ample evidence throughout

  • Yves Klein

    Stressing that Yves Klein's diverse ephemeral works are on a par with his celebrated monochromes and “Anthropometries,” the show considers his interventions and sound pieces alongside roughly two hundred drawings, manuscripts, photographs, films, paintings, and sculptures.

    Only two years after the Schirn Kunsthalle’s object-oriented Yves Klein retrospective, the Pompidou’s “Body, Color, Immaterial” seeks to correct the misconception that Klein’s performances, publicity stunts, and dabblings with “the void” were simply complements to his material production. Stressing that the artist’s diverse ephemeral works are on a par with his celebrated monochromes and “Anthropometries,” the show considers his interventions and sound pieces alongside roughly two hundred drawings, manuscripts, photographs, films, paintings, and sculptures. Given recent

  • picks March 20, 2006

    Hilma af Klint

    Around the beginning of the twentieth century Swedish artist Hilma af Klint used automatic drawing techniques to produce startling formal abstractions. Though her drawings and paintings comprise both these mainstays of modernism, and predate their first historically recognized appearance, she used the ostensibly “unmodernist” method of channeling many of these geometric and abstract forms during séances. Af Klint’s dedication to Theosophy (and later Anthroposophy), along with her gender, has for the most part disqualified her from the canon, despite the fact that many iconic modern artists were

  • picks January 10, 2006

    Larry Clark

    On view are selections from “Tulsa” and “Teenage Lust,” two of Larry Clark’s well-known early black-and-white photographic series. The former’s unsparing depiction of youth rebellion, drug use, and sex in the American Midwest has enjoyed widespread influence, even providing a visual model for Taxi Driver (1976) and Rumble Fish (1983). Clark began the series in 1963, photographing friends on afternoons spent shooting heroin in anodyne family living rooms; when he resumed work in ’71, anti-Vietnam dissent and sexual liberation had visited the town, and the halcyon mood of the previous photos was