Ronald Jones

  • Jonas Dahlberg

    Were Jonas Dahlberg a film director, his camera work might be described as front and center or a little bit square—but that’s OK, because his work is otherwise flush with mystifying dramas. In his earlier three-screen video Three Rooms, 2008, domestic interiors simply melt into nothing. There’s no trace of special effects, you can’t believe your eyes, and then it’s over—chests, chairs, beds, all gone. You shake your head, you move on. Dahlberg doesn’t need to move the camera around; he positions you to experience his version of the Kübler-Ross model of five stages of grief, running from denial

  • Juhana Kristian Moisander

    Juhana Kristian Moisander’s exhibition “kiiras” is a case study in religious conviction—a topic that contemporary artists seldom broach, apparently seeing it as an intrusion on our properly secular ethos. The show’s Finnish title refers to an evil spirit, a contrivance between pagan and Christian beliefs, which Finns ceremoniously chase away every Easter. The exhibition ended with Holy Week, closing on Easter Day. Embedding his project within this season sacred to Christians, Moisander presented a drama in which love, desperation, and faith demand our attention and charge our emotions; kiiras,

  • Carl Michael von Hausswolff

    The arc of Carl Michael von Hausswolff’s thirty-year career suggests that at some impressionable age, he encountered Bruce Nauman’s 1967 spiraling neon The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, took it as the gospel, and never looked back: His oeuvre is pitch-perfect ecumenical esotericism. As composer, artist, and curator, von Hausswolff uses remote sensing devices, not least radar and sonar, to explore “electricity, frequency, architectural space and paranormal electronic interference,” as he puts it. In case you’re wondering, paranormal electronic interference means detecting

  • Lars Nilsson

    In 2004, Lars Nilsson created his masterpiece, the video In Orgia, which blithely leafs through shades of human experience—banality, fun, dread, passion, violence—somehow sparking a nostalgia for life that makes you feel lucky to be along for the ride. Then, except for one installation at Schloss Agathenburg in Germany the next year, the artist took an unprecedented six-year hiatus. Nilsson’s long break has ended with this new exhibition, “Ruins,” which, unlike In Orgia, is laser-cut around an endgame of dangerous emotions but has an irresistible moral icing. It’s no masterpiece, yet with an

  • Christian Boltanski

    Christian Boltanski is a romantic committed to a covenant between art and death. Inventory of Objects Belonging to a Young Woman of Charleston, 1992, for instance, impassively archived the mortal effects of a nameless dead woman. The title, subtly telling of a life cut short, serves the artist’s conscious effort to induce melancholic feelings that transform an anonymous death into a figure of myth. Boltanski’s dramaturgy borrows from earlier romantics, not least John Keats, who instructed that his tombstone carry only the inscription HERE LIES ONE WHOSE NAME WAS WRIT IN WATER. Indeed, Boltanski’s

  • Josiah McElheny

    The crafts should perhaps be thought of as the work of “citizen artisans” who manipulate clay, metal, thread, or glass with consummate skill to create exceptional objects out of common materials. The hard-worn distinction between fine-art elitism and craft’s populism is still taken for granted, but these terms are becoming confounded as crafts edge toward fine arts either out of strategy or desire. While artists pluck techniques from the crafts as necessary, craft practitioners have begun to interleave content from outside their normal purview, sometimes with beguiling results, as in the work

  • Helen Mirra

    In her installation Quarry (all works 2007), Helen Mirra uses her laconic touch to map a phenomenal expedition across time. Her means are modest: Handsome chunks of breccia, amphibolite, and serpentine rocks, collected above the Arctic Circle, nest on the artist’s own folded clothing. Dotting the gallery floor, like a sparse archipelago, the stones—mottled with living moss and lichens—seemed like an extemporized display of some naturalist’s homemade collection. Regarding past work such as the floor sculpture Sky-Wreck, 2001, critics have mentioned that Mirra owes a debt to Minimalism; perhaps,

  • Julia Margaret Cameron and Miroslav Tichý

    The work of both Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) and Miroslav Tichý could be described as sui generis—to say that their art is “of its own kind” is to wryly acknowledge that it once sat outside the boundaries of serious art. Cameron and Tichý’s common story, separated by a century, is that of most artists: They expect recognition, but it’s not in the cards.

    They didn’t fail for lack of trying. Cameron exhibited and marketed her photographs through the venerable art dealer Paul Colnaghi in London; in her lifetime, eighty of her prints went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Tichý attended

  • Felix Gmelin

    Felix Gmelin’s installation Tools and Grammar, 2007, is an atlas charting the way through a tangled thicket of emotion, from raw anarchy to nuanced compassion; it is a work of apocalyptic lyricism. To make this journey, Gmelin relies on a cast of characters and their art, literature, and politics: filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and V. I. Pudovkin, enlightenment writer Denis Diderot, Nazi art theorist Paul Schultze-Naumburg, and, the soul of the installation, the children in a German silent movie from 1926 titled Bei den Blinden (With the Blind Ones). Tools and Grammar is a walk-through montage of

  • Erik Krikortz

    “The day of individual happiness has passed” would be the perfect catchphrase for Erik Krikortz’s attempt to measure collective happiness, had it been he who said it, rather than Adolf Hitler. Happiness has long been a subject for deep thinkers and dark rulers. Aristotle called it a virtue; Hitler, something to be sacrificed for the greater good. In his ongoing interactive project, “Emotional Cities,” Krikortz invites his audience to log on to and register their day-to-day emotional states using a scale of seven faces, from frowning to smiley, each colored to represent

  • Yinka Shonibare

    If any dispute has defined the short life of the Musée du Quai Branly, it has been the standoff between beauty and ritual, aesthetics and ethnography. Should sacred, functional, and ceremonial objects from the civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, already removed from their native lands as a result of colonialism, suffer a further decontextualization and dilution of aura beneath Jean Nouvel’s seductive architecture and interior design? The museum’s president, Stéphane Martin, has called the museum a “neutral environment” with “no aesthetic or philosophical line.”

    It’s hard to

  • Klara Lidén

    Remember in Reservoir Dogs when Mr. Blonde—played by the unruly Michael Madsen—mutilated the bound and gagged police officer to the beat of Stealers Wheel’s bubblegum hit “Stuck in the Middle with You”? “Losing control, yeah, I’m all over the place, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right; here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” Klara Lidén does her own Mr. Blonde in Bodies of Society, 2006, a video in her exhibition “Unheimlich Manöver.” To an original score Lidén commissioned from the Swedish band Tvillingarna, jingly like carny music, she prances her own âme damnée dance and then,

  • Sophie Tottie

    There are twenty-four Truth Commissions in business around the world today. Undertaken by new political regimes that follow dictatorships guilty of systematic violations of human rights, they usually have no capacity to prosecute miscreants. They are great pretenders, playing their part in “regimes of truth,” where claims for an unambiguous version of reality are established, if not acted on. In her midcareer retrospective, “Fiction Is No Joke,” spanning more than a decade, Sophie Tottie serenely eviscerated truth systems, including her own, with the double edge of relativism, leaving it to us

  • Pipilotti Rist

    Otherworldly femininity, vivacious color, and trancelike fantasy sum up the qualities many viewers have found in the art of Pipilotti Rist. By now overused and hollowed out, whatever these terms once evoked seemed beside the point of her retrospective “Gravity, Be My Friend.” Eight installations (and fifteen videos available on demand in the installation Das Zimmer [The Room], 1994/2007) spanning Rist’s work since 1986 offered more perspective and substance than phrases like visual poetics can handle. Retrospectives are occasions to sharpen judgment and revise early conclusions. Here are a few:

  • Annika von Hausswolff

    A decade ago Daniel Birnbaum introduced Annika von Hausswolff’s photographs in the pages of this magazine, writing about the symbiosis they present between scopophilia and sadistic violence. Simple in conception, von Hausswolff’s early work was bare-bones, iconic, and an artistic success. As her work gained momentum it became more intricate, flirting with the inscrutable, but ultimately delivering the image of desire divided by loss. By the time of her 2005 show at Sweden’s Baltic Art Center, “The Construction of a Breakdown,” she was immersed in a flagrant affair with phenomenology; banal

  • Peter Johansson

    Peter Johansson argues for the inclusion of vernacular Swedish folk art as yet another of society’s “Others,” but in the same gesture sets inclusion at cross-purposes with itself; he problematizes it as deftly as Fred Wilson does. But where Wilson instrumentalizes rude ceramic pickaninnies as divining rods locating lost African-American histories and masked racial attitudes, Johansson scans day-tripper souvenirs such as Dala horses for traces of Swedish National Romanticism, a cultural movement that began in the late nineteenth century.

    The “otherness” Johansson reawakens is regional authenticity

  • Tris Vonna-Michell

    “I am in my mother’s room. It’s I who live there now. I don’t know how I got there.” The opening lines of Samuel Beckett’s Molloy capture Tris Vonna-Michell’s edgy amnesiac turns around the foibles of life, the crux of his installation Down the Rabbit Hole, 2003–2006. The twilit gallery was empty but for a desk, an ensemble of storytelling props, an enormous projection of an inverted slide showing the artist walking up a white staircase to a locked door, and the sound of Vonna-Michell’s soft voice. Over three weeks the artist sat behind the desk giving an account of himself, one visitor at a

  • Thomas Bayrle

    “I was a Maoist in 1968,” Thomas Bayrle told Hans-Ulrich Obrist in Guangzhou last year. But Bayrle’s Maoism was less a form of radicalism than a way to envision the compatibility between the revolutionary masses and a mass market. Already by 1966 Bayrle had produced kinetic sculptures he describes as “a mix of Western advertising and Eastern mass demonstrations. . . . I paid little attention to the ideological differences and jumbled together . . . Communist and capitalist elements and content.” How prophetic. Bayrle could not have known, but he shared a kinship with Henry Kissinger, whose secret

  • Dick Bengtsson

    Dick Bengtsson painted his last swastika in 1972. It materializes in the four closing panels of the Domburg Suite, which he fashioned after Piet Mondrian’s progressively abstract versions of a church façade in Domburg, Holland. The creditability of modern abstraction, as Mondrian and others conceived it, had long since reached its low-water mark: In 1964, Donald Judd declared, in “Specific Objects,” that relevance had become a stranger to painting and sculpture; Roy Lichtenstein’s Red Painting (Brushstroke), 1965, downgraded its emotional content to something reproducible at will; and with Joseph

  • Lei Xue

    Should an artist who is faithful to a particular regional culture and its legacies and practices seek recognition by complying with the standards of the cultural hegemon? It used to be imperative to assimilate to New York or some other international center to avoid the fate of being merely a “national” or “regional” artist. That changed with the rise of multiculturalism and the replacement of the desire for modern assimilation by postmodern differentiation as a strategy for power sharing. But then, in a further twist, some regional artists began borrowing the master’s tools to throw up their