Melissa Ragain

  • passages March 19, 2019

    Jack Burnham (1931–2019)

    AS THE CLOUDS of Hurricane Sandy gathered, I sped north from Virginia to Maryland en route to interview Jack Burnham, the elusive curator of the digital art exhibition “Software” (1970) and the author of the influential Artforum essay “Systems Esthetics” (1968). We had begun our correspondence months earlier, when I tracked him down to request permission to reproduce one of his alchemical diagrams for a piece I was publishing on mysticism, systems theory, and ecological art. When he returned the signed permission form, he included a diagram, a Kabbalistic tree of life mapping the circulations

  • picks January 06, 2017

    “The Artist’s Museum”

    For the information-rich group exhibition “The Artist’s Museum,” various artists have arranged the work of others, mostly using video and still photography in order to capture and reorient their frequently modernist objects of interest. Carol Bove’s collection of brass, wood, and stone items paired with photographs recall René Magritte’s painting La traversée difficile (The Difficult Crossing), 1926, while Pierre Leguillon’s La grande evasion (The Great Escape), 2012, originally made for the Musée de la danse in Rennes, consists of mounted photographs sourced online. Many artists display their

  • picks October 13, 2016

    Carrie Mae Weems

    Responding to a 2015 article on the status of women in contemporary art, Carrie Mae Weems concluded that in order to resist the splintering of social movements into competing interest groups, “we need a narrative change. We need a new set of terms.” This miniretrospective of her work from the mid-1990s to the present has a lot going on but pays particular attention to her strategies of narration and staging across her many series. The play between image and caption explored most famously in “Kitchen Table Series,” 1990, is certainly the most well known of these strategies. On the entry ramp into