Rahel Aima

  • Vikram Divecha

    The heart of darkness, according to Vikram Divecha, can be found on the other side of the southwestern wall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Gallery 354 houses wooden figurines and ancestral objects from Melanesia. Its windows overlook Central Park but are screened over, and the room is dimly lit to protect its fragile contents; the darkness is especially apparent when one enters the room from the neighboring Greek and Roman galleries. Trying to photograph its contents, Divecha at first managed to shoot only blank images. This experience of failure is recounted through a meditative

  • El Anatsui

    El Anatsui is the decolonial artist par excellence, known for rejecting Western modes and materials in favor of sustainability and indigeneity. It is with no small irony, then, that he should end up showing in Qatar, a country known for precisely the opposite. Organized by Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu, this major exhibition debuted at Munich’s Haus der Kunst last year and will travel to Bern, Switzerland, and to Bilbao, Spain. Despite Enwezor’s posthumous credit as curator of the next Sharjah Biennial, “El Anatsui: Triumphant Scale” bears the romance of being the curator’s last completed

  • diary February 28, 2020

    X-Files

    “MASHA’ALLAH,” exclaimed my fellow travelers upon learning that I was headed from Jeddah to the holy city of Medina: the Pakistani driver, the jolly Saudi desk agent, my Sudanese seatmate with bloodshot eyes. When I explained, in broken Arabic, that I would continue on to Al ‘Ula, a speck of a town more than a hundred miles away, they were less impressed. In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman set up the royal commission of Al ‘Ula (RCU) to develop the backwater’s breathtakingly preserved, UNESCO-anointed carved rock art of the ancient Lihyan and Nabatean kingdoms into a premier tourist

  • diary November 08, 2019

    Gulf Clap

    “THIS CAMEL, we waited a long time for it to be born,” museum development specialist Karen Exell told members of the press one morning at the stunning new National Museum of Qatar, which opened this March. We were touring an installation on traditional Bedouin life, and here watching footage of the fuzzy creature lurch itself to its feet for the first time. The same might be said for the long-awaited museum, superbly designed by Jean Nouvel to mimic the angular planes of a gypsum rosette, or desert rose crystal, small specimens of which are available in one of two gift shops. Some of the floors

  • Amir Khojasteh

    “There are only two styles of portrait painting: the serious and the smirk,” declares Miss La Creevy in Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1838). The former, she adds, is to be used for professionals and public figures, and the latter for private individuals, “who don’t care so much about looking clever.” Amir Khojasteh’s darkly comedic paintings are decidedly in the latter camp, but none of his subjects are smiling. In his work, humans and horses alike bear the narrowed eyes of exasperated hindsight. They have #regrets, and they turn to face the viewer like Jim from The Office, with side-eye

  • slant October 25, 2019

    Malison Wonderland

    THE TALL, OLD MAN is in a pine-paneled room, wearing a blue jumpsuit that emphasizes his height. He stands self-consciously between two rows of boxed tomatoes that appear to levitate in midair. Underneath the picture is a caption: This image is cursed—the four little words that every JPEG wants to hear. On October 28, 2015, an anonymous Tumblr user paired the tomato farmer with this incantation, and the phenomenon of cursed images was born. Similar photos were dredged up from the 1990s, 2000s, and the far reaches of the internet, proliferating across copycat Tumblrs and, later, Twitter and

  • “AMERICAN ARTIST: MY BLUE WINDOW”

    Curated by Sophia Marisa Lucas

    Blackness and blueness are intimately entwined in America. There are so many blue screens of death. The tension between the two, between black visibility and the violence of surveillance, forms the foundation of American Artist’s practice. The artist’s change to their legal name, meanwhile, grants them anonymity even as it works to overwrite art history, to make the default American artist black. Technology, like humans, inherits all the prejudices of its precursors. American Artist’s second institutional solo show will extend their consideration of systemic bias

  • diary July 25, 2019

    Counter Culture

    “IT’S AN INTERESTING MOMENT FOR REGIONALISM,” writer-curator Leah Triplett Harrington remarked one night at dinner. We were catching a breather after Nic Kay’s moving, sinuous concluding procession through the predominantly black and Latinx neighborhood that hosted the inaugural edition of Saint Louis’s Counterpublic triennial. A ravey closing party followed in the stained-glass church turned punk club that housed Cauleen Smith’s Sky Will Learn Sky, a stunning video and banner installation. Harrington was referring to the spate of new biennials in American cities such as Cleveland, Atlanta, and

  • Abul Hisham

    The mostly pastel-on-paper paintings in Abul Hisham’s “Recitation” are full of narratives presented in medias res. On a small, scrubby island in Recitation 3 (all works cited, 2018), a snake coils around a tombstone. Its head disappears into the accordion-pleated murkiness that stands in for both sea and sky; its tail tapers to an elegant figure eight. Recitation 5—A hundred lights depicts the same grave, but water levels have risen, and we seemed to be observing it from the mouth of a cave, behind a screen of incense sticks. The works invoke a pair of eschatological Islamic concepts, the barzakh

  • picks April 18, 2019

    Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim

    The sleepy port town of Khor Fakkan nestles into a sliver of land curving along the Gulf of Oman, where mountain meets sea. There are no sunsets there. The craggy Hajar range dominates the bay and blocks off afternoon light, leaching the city of color. Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim responds to this diurnal grayscaling with a number of black-and-white papier-mâché works, clustered on one wall, whose blocky grids invoke the building facades of an overcast Khor Fakkan evening. The show’s title, “The Space Between the Eyelid and the Eyeball,” gestures as much to solar afterimages as to Ibrahim’s hometown,

  • Brian Belott

    If—or, rather, when—the next ice age comes, it might look a lot like Brian Belott’s exhibition at the Chinatown, New York, space of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. In this show, three industrial freezers—each Untitled, 2018, and parked in a back room of the gallery—housed a number of rectangular assemblages made from materials as disparate as mixing cups (arrayed in a rather vulvar way), hair gel, a hand massager, a weight from a grandfather clock, Jelly Bellies, and an abacus. Because the objects were vertically suspended and encased in ice, form gave way to brightly saturated color. The room was

  • picks November 02, 2018

    Stuart Davis

    Blue jeans, jazz, 1930s America; sailors and signage in New York’s Times Square, the stench of fish rolling off the river, and the plaintive sound of a trumpet snaking through the air. Stuart Davis, of course, was at the center of it all. But the artist’s pictures here aren’t the exuberant, hot canvases of his retrospective that took place at the Whitney Museum in 2016. This exhibition of spare, mostly black-and-white drawings and paintings, hung against smoky blue walls, features almost no color at all. Bebop drummer Art Blakey comes to mind—he said that “jazz washes away the dust of everyday