Ronald Jones

  • Frederick Kiesler

    The Frederick Kiesler exhibition at Tensta Konsthall was a testing ground for Sweden’s dedication to progressive democracy, and in this spirit, the exhibition sang the anthem of social reform, of things going from foul to fair. The venue is nested in Tensta, a suburban complex of nearly six thousand apartments, which sprang up as a direct result of Sweden’s 1965–74 Miljonprogrammet, or Million Program, an initiative to create a level playing field by giving those living on the social margins a middle-class home, and therefore a meaningful place to live. The konsthall opened in 1998, when Stockholm

  • Lisa Tan

    Ethnographers and anthropologists often occupy an in-between state known as “liminality.” Their dual roles—of participant and observer—become irresolvable. Something similar can happen with works of art. Think of Jasper Johns’s flags, endlessly asking, Is this a “painting” of a flag or a “flag” in place of a painting? They stand at a threshold. Denouement deferred. This suspension drags on in Bruce Nauman’s anguished Clown Torture, 1987, crushing you under its repeating silliness, an obsessive ritual: The fishbowl slips from the broom every time; the clown, the fool, never learns. The

  • Nils Dardel

    The January 1917 inaugural edition of flamman (The Flame), the Swedish art magazine founded by Georg Pauli, featured some of the artists who were by then already established as quintessential modernists, from Picasso to Kandinsky. Yet there were fresh names, too, including the Swedish painter Nils Dardel; among his better-known peers in the issue, Picabia is the one to whom he seems closest. And just as Dardel bumped up against Picabia’s style, the French artist seems to have caught Dardel fever in later works such as The Idol, 1940–41. “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that

  • Mika Rottenberg

    Mika Rottenberg is a serial absurdist, as amply demonstrated by her recent exhibition Sneeze to Squeeze,” which encompasses more than a decade of work. Take her most recent video, Sneeze, 2012. It’s a send-up, and simplicity itself: Three men in business suits, each with a farcically misshapen, pink-tinted nose, sneeze irrepressibly. These are men who have lost control, not only of their bodily reflexes but of the very substances their bodies expel. Each sneezing fit produces another unpredictable discharge: “Achoo!” and a bunny spews out; “Achoo!” and a steak emerges; “Achoo!” and a lightbulb

  • Spencer Finch

    Emily Dickinson sought the sacred in nature rather than in church. In one buoyant but sacrilegious poem, she “détourned” the Trinitarian blessing, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” making it: “In the name of the bee / And of the butterfly / And of the breeze, amen!” American artist Spencer Finch shares this spiritual reverence for nature, endlessly attempting to capture those ethereal moments in which nature overawes. Embracing paradox, his titles grasp at literal descriptions of ineffable natural experiences. He describes The Moment When Three Dimensions Become

  • picks June 18, 2012

    Jason Yates

    The barrel vaults in the room containing Jason Yates’s installation “Master and Servant” serve him well. Visitors enter the room through a large door, across from which Yates has set the work A Garden Where Nothing Grows (all works 2012) beneath the facing vault. Slits in this gray triptych allow slivers of daylight from a window behind the work to pierce the center section. The walls beneath the other three vaults are covered with wallpaper, in a squared-off pattern of black and white crosshatching, titled Sunset Since Sunrise. Finally, four tables, Black Monk Tables, are symmetrically arranged

  • Miriam Bäckström

    A revelatory moment in Miriam Bäckström’s impressive retrospective “The Opposite of Me Is I” was her documentary-style video Rebecka, 2004, in which she shifts between interrogating and directing the actress Rebecka Hemse. Hemse is an accomplished performer with a beguiling range of subtle expressions; in this case, they are charged with enigmatic allure by the ambiguity of her character. But when is this actress not performing? Is she ever being herself? “If I consider fiction to be more authentic,” she wonders, “why leave it at all?” Moments later, Bäckström asks pointedly, “When are you most

  • Will Kwan

    With all the current international economic woes from Ireland to Greece, from Japan to the United States, Hong Kong holds an exceptional position. Largely autonomous since the UK handed it back to China in 1997, the city has accumulated a surplus equal to eighteen months’ government spending. Statistics tell the story: The Hong Kong economy grew 5 percent last year; spending on education will increase 7 percent this year; retail sales grew 23 percent in the past year; and, even as the government predicts economic growth will slow down because of the sluggish world economy, the city’s budget

  • “De ou par Marcel Duchamp par Ulf Linde”

    In its highest form, cultural detective work yields spectacular deductions—equal parts tease and persuasion—permitting you to freely take a leap of faith just to see what happens were the speculation to be true. This was the case for “De ou par Marcel Duchamp par Ulf Linde” (Of or by Marcel Duchamp by Ulf Linde), an extravaganza of an exhibition organized by Jan Åman and Daniel Birnbaum with Henrik Samuelsson and Susanna Slöör, centering on Linde’s sixty years of sleuthing around Marcel Duchamp’s oeuvre. Linde, once an acolyte of Duchamp and now an authority on his work, proposes that

  • Andrea Zittel

    If you’re still drinking the Kool-Aid and believe in the lone genius maker of masterpieces—like Kirk Douglas’s van Gogh in Lust for Life—you get your kicks when the artist looks up wide-eyed as inspiration knocks on his back door. Eureka! And there it is, another new idea in the long succession of new ideas. But is that really the way creativity happens? Neuroscientists agree with philosophers: not really. Creativity and innovation are not single events but complex networks of many ideas and influences that take time to gestate. Ideas just seem to pop up out of the blue. Andrea Zittel’s

  • Helga Hansdóttir and Magnús Pálsson

    In 2008, Dr. Helga Hansdóttir and Dr. Sigríður Halldórsdóttir published a research paper titled “Dialogues on Death: A Phenomenological Study on Views of the Elderly Toward Life and Death and End-of-Life Treatments” in the medical journal Open Longevity Science. The two geriatricians sought to document attitudes of the elderly toward life, death, and the kind of end-of-life treatment they preferred, in order to better understand how they had arrived at their beliefs. They carried out dialogues with men and women age seventy-two to ninety-one, and, in brief, discovered a common acceptance among

  • Anna Barham

    Using anagrams, Anna Barham has created a seemingly endless language network that riffs off the enigmatic words “Return to Leptis Magna”; the resulting phrases trail off into the nonsensical—“Repaint Lost Argument”—or just as often produce still enigmatic yet more resonant mutterings: “Interrupt Tonal Games,” for example. Occasionally there are phrases that appear to reflect on the network itself, e.g., “Patrol Strange Muttering.” Barham’s approach is an elastic hybrid of Sol LeWitt’s 1974 Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes and the playful nonsense poetry Hugo Ball performed at the

  • Mary Kelly

    In the New York Times of October 17, 1980, Hilton Kramer maligned Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, 1974–79—an installation of thirty-nine place settings for historically significant and mythical women—as “art so mired in the pieties of a political cause that it quite fails to acquire any independent artistic life of its own.” His parry against Chicago, and by extension the women’s movement, was as reckless as Clement Greenberg’s dismissal of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work as “pseudo-modern art . . . little more than tinted photography.” Such chauvinism would have been familiar to Mary Kelly,

  • Lundahl & Seitl

    Most accounts of Christer Lundahl and Martina Seitl’s Symphony of a Missing Room, 2009, cast it as magic realism: a mélange of fairy-tale hallucination and reality beyond doubt. At appointed hours an audience, limited to six, assembled and, once outfitted with special surround-sound headphones, heard a disembodied female voice directing them toward the museum’s Renaissance rooms, where they donned opaque goggles, which translated everything that they might have seen into nondescript shapes in light and dark. A furtive detour within the museum commenced; routine sight and hearing now supplanted,

  • diary November 26, 2010

    Special Effects

    JOKINGLY, BUT WITH EARNEST UNDERTONES, the return of the Swedish art world’s lost son Daniel Birnbaum came with expectations some dubbed the Birnbaum Effect. Between the anticipatory chatter, newspaper articles, and subterranean hearsay, the Moderna Museet’s new director comes off as a nearly celestial being from whom most anticipate miracles, and the continuous question on everyone’s lips is, What is he going to do? Naturally, in light of the international status Birnbaum is enjoying in the wake of his accomplishments at the Venice Biennale and Frankfurt’s Städelschule, a palpable suspense is

  • Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena

    By the time artists approach midcareer we are accustomed to seeing them repeat themselves; the clichés mount up and with the shtick comes a fatal lowering of energy. Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena could easily have gone that way. After all, his impressive photographic career is built, more or less, on a single conceit: the art of human deception leveraged against nature’s artlessness. Camouflage was usually involved; soldiers could often be seen disappearing into a landscape. “The South Will Rise Again,” Fabra Guemberena’s recent exhibition at Röda Sten, could simply have been an inevitable step

  • picks October 17, 2010

    “Thrice upon a Time”

    Advertisements for Magasin 3, which can be found throughout Stockholm, trumpet that it’s HARD TO FIND. EASY TO LOVE. If it’s your first time to the Konsthall, finding its location near the industrial harbor can be, let’s say, an experience. And as for “love,” it’s difficult to imagine what Stockholm’s cultural life would be without this privately held collection. “Thrice upon a Time” underscores the significance of the institution, which opened its doors in 1987 and has thrived under the guiding vision of director David Neuman.

    This exhibition of 66 international artists, and 202 works of art,

  • Tomás Saraceno

    The physicist Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, reasons that since biology is our era’s dominant science, “the dominant art form should be the design of genomes to create new varieties of animals and plants.” His view has a basis in the ever-increasing relevance and credibility of interdisciplinary research, where artists and designers will begin creating new transgenic life-forms using applied biotechnology. The work of artists such as Tomás Saraceno, with its interdisciplinary combinations of biology, arachnology (the study of

  • Christine Ödlund

    Christine Ödlund’s recent exhibition was tantalizing: finely detailed drawings showing scenes of strange vegetation, occasionally tinted in extraterrestrial pastels, and trance-inducing video animations of life-forms. The latter were lubricious in both senses of the term: slippery to the touch and salacious. Twenty-one works filled two darkened rooms, providing an experience with mystical verve. It’s not that Ödlund’s art is all New Agey sublimated sex, though there was plenty of that. Rather, my first thought was of poetry; Dorothea Tanning would fall for Ödlund’s works, not because they are

  • Matti Kallioinen

    Ever heard of “strange loops”? Well, you can understand this term the hard way—via mathematical concepts, specifically Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems—or the easy way, as a version of the question, Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Strange loops, in other words, are paradoxes: tangled hierarchical systems that, as you move through them, inevitably bring you back to where you began. This Möbius-like construct is the inspiration for Matti Kallioinen’s exhibition “Intelligence.” The artist has gained deserved attention lately, but if in past exhibitions affinities with Karl Holmqvist’s