Noemi Smolik

  • Thao Nguyen Phan

    Thao Nguyen Phan’s “moving images”—as she prefers to call her video projections—are gorgeous and profoundly disturbing at once. Dare to watch them with unguarded eyes, and they will worm themselves into the deepest recesses of your memory, rising up time and again as a reminder that beauty is sometimes inextricably alloyed with sorrow. Born in Vietnam in 1987 and based in Ho Chi Minh City, Phan was studying painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago when she started to experiment with film. An encounter with the work of Joan Jonas, who would later become her mentor, encouraged her

  • Anna Gaskell

    Anna Gaskell first became known in the late 1990s for enigmatic photos of young women and girls—images that imply a narrative yet elude attempts to give them a meaningful interpretation beyond their evident but nonspecific allusions to Alice in Wonderland. The throughline to these pictures is almost impossible to describe but has to do with what one might call their latent pedophilia-tainted aura, which makes them at once seductive and disturbing.

    Gaskell’s most recent works, all made in 2019, are drawings that likewise have a disturbing effect although one can’t immediately say why. They, too,

  • Edith Dekyndt

    Composed of everyday objects such as refrigerators and a sofa, Edith Dekyndt’s new installations often suggest a sober-minded approach to artmaking in the tradition of Minimalism. They even resemble some strains of Minimalism in their engagement with the space around them and the playful irritation of our relation to the objects on view. The comparison ends there, however. Dekyndt’s works are not neutral artifacts made of industrially manufactured staples placed in arrangements that emphasize form and the interaction between a work and its setting. On the contrary, the artist charges—indeed,

  • Zhanna Kadyrova

    Communist-era statues remain a divisive issue in the former Soviet empire. In Prague, for example, a controversy recently flared up over the monument to the Soviet general Ivan Konev, who liberated the city from the Nazis in 1945 but also led the brutal suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and was involved in preparing for the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968. The municipal administration had the statue veiled to protect it from vandals, then voted to have it removed this past September. Supporters and opponents of Konev have held rallies at his feet. To avoid

  • Anna Daučíková

    What makes Anna Daučíková’s work so fascinating is its severe, even acerbic lucidity on the one hand, and its poetic refinement tinged with eroticism on the other. Both qualities were on display in the new piece that Daučíková, the recipient of the 2018 Schering Stiftung Art Award, created for the exhibition of her work at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Titled Expedition for Four Hands and Accompaniment, 2019, it consisted of several sheets of engraved glass, a publication commemorating the late Greek human-rights activist and drag queen Zak Kostopoulos, and a three-channel projection.

  • Susanne M. Winterling

    An almost magical radiance filled this exhibition. Susanne M. Winterling’s color photographs are luminous—yet what do they show? Cosmo Algae, 2019, for instance, depicts a hand with what appears to be a marble resting in its open palm—a magical sphere? And yet her recent show “Schwerkraft und Atem” (Gravity and Breath), subtitled “Contra-points,” had a fairly mundane theme: nature. It’s one that Winterling has explored for years. She has worked with scientists, delving into the eerie world charted by marine biologists, and trained her attention on the tiniest microorganisms, such as dinoflagellates.

  • Nil Yalter

    Half a century ago, Nil Yalter broached issues that others dare not touch even today—female genital mutilation, for example. Her video The Headless Woman or the Belly Dance, 1974, shows her writing on her body, the text spiraling over her naked belly an excerpt from the French poet and historian René Nelli about the clitoris as the center of female sexual pleasure and the persistent practice of cutting it. Then the artist, a native of Cairo who was raised in Istanbul, performs a belly dance, her marked-up torso epitomizing the contrast between the oppression of female sexuality and the aggressive

  • Trisha Donnelly

    The invitation Trisha Donnelly designed for her show exemplified what her art is about: One side was taken up by an image showing a composition of colorful splotches with a yellow bar at its center, looking like a piece of masking paper streaked with splotches of watercolor. The other side was black, with red bundles of rays in the upper half; a luminous pink emblem near the bottom-right corner resembled an intricate neon logo that compressed the details of the exhibition to the verge of illegibility. The card’s aesthetic was undeniably cool, but it demonstratively didn’t cater to our curiosity.

  • picks March 08, 2019

    Keti Kapanadze

    The international art scene has been acquainted with artists from Georgia for several years now, but an earlier generation active since the late ’70s remains largely unknown. Among them is Keti Kapanadze, who was one of the first women to question her role within the male-dominated milieu of the socialist realist style in Georgia, a former Soviet Union republic. The conceptually informed work of Kapanadze—who left Georgia for Bonn, Germany, in 2000—encompasses photography, performance, and installation, and a selection of her multifaceted practice is on view in this exhibition. In the three-minute

  • Jakub Jansa

    Prague has always been a city of the most absurd stories, from the tale of the golem—an animated anthropomorphic creature made of clay by Rabbi Loew in the sixteenth century—to Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis (1915), in which a human being turns into an insect. Storytelling and transformation are also key elements in “Club of Opportunities,” a series of performance environments the young Czech artist Jakub Jansa has been producing since 2017. To date, there have been five episodes, which have been presented in Prague, in Athens during last year’s Biennale, at Pioneer Works in New York,


    Curated by Stefan Gronert

    Louisa Clement first attracted my attention with a pile of glassy, inky-black stones on the floor—remnants from the process of detoxifying chemical weapons of the kind used in the Syrian civil war. The objects radiated a pure, lethal beauty. Then there were the sleek and sometimes disjointed mannequins she photographed with her iPhone, which possess a similarly terrifying allure, counterbalanced by their lifelessness and artificiality. This antagonism is the young artist’s guiding theme. For her exhibition in Hannover, which will include nearly one hundred works, she

  • “Alternative Theses”

    There’s a growing sense of discontent with contemporary art. It is too homogeneous, critics argue, and curators seem fixated on a narrow set of themes—migration, gender and minority issues, environmentalism—that make exhibitions predictable and their concerns inauthentic. But that’s hardly true of the art being made today in the young republics of central Asia. “Alternative Theses,” a show curated by Togzhan Sakbayeva at Esentai Gallery in Almaty, Kazakhstan, presented plenty of examples of fresh perspectives, with works by twenty-four artists of different generations from Afghanistan,

  • Mario García Torres

    Mario García Torres’s recent exhibition worked like a puzzle. The visitor encountered various parts that at first blush did not coalesce into a coherent pattern or image: Minimalist glass circles suspended from the ceiling (The Belonging Game [all works cited, undated]), a construction of bronze-rod triangles (An Impossible Crack in Reality), an animatronic plastic turtle crawling across the floor (So You), wandering spotlights that lent the setting a theatrical aspect, and—on several occasions during the show’s run—a performer: an elderly gentleman delivering a nonstop oration that

  • Sráč Sam

    In Eastern Bloc countries, socially engaged art has long meant something different from what it means in the West. Under Communist Party rule, such art had to conform to strict guidelines: Artistic autonomy, individualism, and the exercise of the imagination were all considered dangerous. It is for this reason that, when the Soviet empire collapsed in 1989, most artists turned to art that foregrounded subjective expression. They only became aware of their social responsibility later.

    The artist Sráč Sam has faced this responsibility for many years now. Far from the bustle of Prague, she runs

  • Louisa Clement

    On first glance, it was hard to say what was depicted in these glossy black photographs. They might be pictures of extremely complex devices, perhaps the kind used in scientific experiments, or they could be of fine machine parts or the dissected limbs of an insect under a microscope. These photos were puzzling in a way that made them uncanny, and like all uncanny things, they triggered curiosity and repulsion at once: Did you really want to know what these images show? It could be something unpleasant.

    But yes, you wanted to know. The subjects are mannequins that Louisa Clement photographed with

  • Christian Freudenberger

    In his recent exhibition “‘tic,’” Christian Freudenberger presented three paintings, all dated 2017 and Untitled, with differing parenthetical subtitles containing the French word that also named the show as a whole. Denoting, as in English, a nervous twitch or tremor caused by involuntary muscle contractions, the term may bring to mind a syndrome that disrupts everyday activities; the power of the unconscious, which eludes deliberate control; or any anomaly that calls normality into question. The titles are programmatic, because these three dimensions—the disruption of ordinary perception,

  • Claus Richter

    “Everything I do here I do with pleasure, and I admit I’m a bit ashamed of that,” says the Cologne-based artist Claus Richter. And a visit to his exhibition “Living in another world” offered a similar experience of guilty pleasure. I laughed at the kitschy plastic orchids in his Singing flowers/Omi Ursula (all works 2017), which hop up and down while singing in what sounds like a squeaky girl’s voice (actually the artist’s), and at the robot in Your little helper (Robot). The latter is a beat-up R2-D2–like mechanical butler whose loose wires hang out of its insides and which kept assuring me,

  • Wolfgang Plöger

    “To use a search engine is potentially a political act,” writes Paul Soulellis, founder of the Library of the Printed Web, in the brochure accompanying Wolfgang Plöger’s exhibition “Inherited Lies.” By using a search engine, Soulellis explains, we become involved, whether we like it or not, in an ensemble of hierarchies, preferences, parallels, and comparisons predetermined by algorithms. The moment we hit the “search” button, we subscribe to the order it imposes. But what does that order actually look like? Which hierarchies does it entail, which priorities does it implement, what does it

  • Dike Blair

    For more than three decades, the American artist Dike Blair has dedicated himself to an increasingly rare kind of painting. It’s been overshadowed on the one hand by neo- and post-expressionist styles feigning an authenticity that doesn’t exist anymore, that’s no longer possible, and on the other hand by a post-Conceptual approach whose practitioners often act especially cool to cover up the fact that they don’t actually believe in their jaded view of their métier. Blair, by contrast, is all about painting, and about seeing. That may not sound exactly thrilling, and it’s taken critics a long

  • picks December 05, 2016

    Moritz Grimm

    Eve is the name of humanity’s Urmutter, or first mother. Eve also stands for temptation. Both the original mother and attraction are motifs in the exhibition “EVA” by the young artist Moritz Grimm. The title of the show was borrowed from the artist’s partner’s mother, who died before Grimm could meet her. However, he did move into her furnished apartment. Enticement and the mother, especially of one’s own girlfriend, are subjects upon which many would founder. Not so for Grimm. For he turns the topic toward the fairy-tale-like, bringing the gruesome and the fantastic—which together constitute