Sarah Lookofsky

  • picks May 19, 2017

    “Soft Skills”

    Martha Rosler’s text and image work Know Your Servant Series, #1: North American Waitress, Coffee Shop Variety, 1976, includes a list of remarks concerning the ideal female server, suggesting that she should be forthcoming but in the background, kind but impersonal, and a hard worker who never breaks a sweat. This group exhibition plays up such contradictions of feminized work while emphasizing its performative aspects and the real labor it requires to produce pleasure for others. Here, pieces associated with second-wave feminism such as Rosler’s are positioned alongside younger artists’ output

  • picks January 17, 2017

    “The Society Machine”

    The Swedish welfare state is internationally famed as egalitarian and progressive. Less acknowledged is the fact that it was co-constituted with the birth of industrial society in the country, which lifted it out of poverty and created the wealth necessary for redistribution but also engendered a multitude of political, cultural, and ecological changes. This exhibition’s title, “The Society Machine,” furtively evokes the churning of gears behind social cohesion, while the curation juxtaposes contemporary artworks with objects from various collections—normally separated into natural-, industrial-,

  • KwieKulik

    Mobility—of both people and art—was the primary focus of a recent show of the Polish team KwieKulik, composed of Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek, who collaborated between 1971 and 1987. Several works in this show, “The Monument Without a Passport,” referred to travel restrictions imposed on the couple by the Polish government. The ban was occasioned by documentation, in a Swedish exhibition catalogue, of works (A Bird of Plaster for Bronze – Malmö, 1974, and Man-dick, 1968–74) by both artists that, like other works for which KwieKulik are well known, found the pair using their official

  • picks April 08, 2016

    Nasreen Mohamedi

    In her landmark essay on the grid, Rosalind Krauss outlined the form’s reductive modernist ontology, and its exemplary capacity to align the work of art with its material support. In several diaries presented in Nasreen Mohamedi’s inaugural exhibition here, some of the artist’s supports are commercial notebooks, whose ready-made matrices she used to create linear inked compositions sometimes interwoven with strings of words that read like poetry.

    The strong showing of Mohamedi’s signature drawings, which have been steadily gaining international attention, however, departs from Krauss’s reading.

  • picks March 13, 2015

    Barbara T. Smith

    There was a time when the words “Orange County art scene” did not summon images of Real Housewives and dolphin statuary. In the 1960s and ’70s, Southern California was a hotbed of experimentation, resulting principally from the preponderance of art schools there that fostered a multiplicity of practices, ranging from the ephemerals of Conceptual and performance art to the endurance of sculptural form. Barbara T. Smith—who attended two of the most defining institutions in the region during that period, Pomona College and University of California, Irvine—has consistently engaged both ends of the

  • Cristiano Lenhardt

    The idea that an object exists only because the force holding it together is stronger than the force pulling it apart was the stated subject of Cristiano Lenhardt’s recent solo show “Matéria Superordinária Abundante” (Superordinary Abundant Matter). Citing this entropic premise as fundamental to the cultures of the indigenous inhabitants of Brazil, Lenhardt composed a show concerning the precarious balance between the made and the unmade that nothing and no one can achieve except temporarily.

    In a departure from his prior preoccupations with film and printmaking, Lenhardt culled commonplace

  • picks December 23, 2014

    Judith Scott

    In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince, the narrator recounts testing grown-ups by presenting them with a drawing of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Most adults recognize it as a hat, causing the drawing’s maker to never again discuss “boa constrictors, or primeval forests, or stars” with them, but instead “bridge, and golf, and politics, and neckties.”

    Judith Scott’s sculptures give a sense of shape-shifting between things like hats and processes like boa constrictors swallowing elephants. They are typically amorphous forms—mostly large yet small enough that they could still be

  • Mariana Castillo Deball

    The visual techniques of colonialism—and their tenacious legacy in the present—were the focus of the Berlin-based Mexican artist Mariana Castillo Deball’s recent show “Vista de ojos” (View of the Eyes). Three larger-than-life photographs propped against the walls of the main gallery space all bore the title UMRISS (Outline), 2014. Each photograph depicts a mask, either facedown or in reverse, on a brightly colored gradated background. The images were inspired by an international advertising campaign from the 1980s for the antipsychotic drug Stelazine that featured masks from a variety

  • picks September 12, 2014

    Harun Farocki

    In the rear gallery, a film documents a young, naked woman with a billowy 1980s hairdo and slip-on heels who reclines stiffly, her back arched, on a small stage. She has pillows below and around her, but they don’t provide support. Photographers and assistants dart around the platform, adjusting her body parts and the pillows while providing running commentary of the scene. The edges of the platform are rough and unpainted; at its periphery are big lights and a camera, tools, other people, and a dog. After the shoot, the girl has trouble standing again as the lights are shut off. The film is

  • picks November 13, 2013

    Jill Magid

    Ours is no doubt an age of privatization as increasingly anything can become subject to private purchase. This transfer of ownership does not only entail the object of sale but also involves ever more elaborate ways of limiting access to its abstract manifestations. Jill Magid has often probed the amorphous definitions of public and private and the liminal zone where they intersect. Her most recent exhibition takes on the legacy of the Mexican architect Luis Barragán, celebrated for his colorful rendition of modernism.

    While Barragán’s personal archive is freely available at Casa Barragán in

  • picks October 04, 2013

    “Death of a Cameraman”

    A cell-phone recording filmed in Homs, Syria, in 2011 functions as the curatorial conceit for the winning entry for Apexart’s recent Unsolicited Proposal Program. A literal shot-reverse-shot culled from YouTube, the video depicts the moment when a cameraman catches sight of a gunman, shots ring out, the recording device tumbles, and cries penetrate a darkened screen.

    Displayed on a cell phone on the wall at the entrance to the exhibition, the hair-raising footage precedes a succession of five works by five artists—Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Harun Farocki, Rabih Mroué, Hrair Sarkissian,

  • picks July 24, 2013

    Francis Cape

    What if the things we hold and use were manifest condensations of the ways in which we live? Such is the logic of Francis Cape’s recent exhibition “Utopian Benches.” In the gallery are seventeen poplar benches, assembled in a setup that recalls a simple schoolhouse or a church absent of its congregation. Upon closer inspection, each bench reveals itself to be unique; some feature only the bare minimum components of four supports and a seat, while others—given the comparative austerity of their counterparts—have a subtly suggestive curve or the superfluous lathing of the legs.

    Trained as a

  • picks April 22, 2013

    Alexandre Kojève

    In a present where posthistorical, postpolitical, and, in the field of art, postmodern ideas prevail, looking back at a past theorization on the end of history hints at what retrospective reflections on our own contemporary might look like one day. Russian-born French philosopher Alexandre Kojève is best known for arguing that ideological history had come to a close with the French Revolution. From lecturing the likes of Bataille, Camus, Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre in Paris during the 1930s to becoming a statesman instrumental in laying the foundation for what would become the European

  • picks January 25, 2013

    “Double Crossings”

    Hans Schabus’s Los Angeles River Crossings, 2005, entailed walking the entire fifty-two-mile length of the waterway, documenting the more than one hundred overpasses that cross it. In a configuration of large tables in the gallery, this exhibition features a continuous map of the river from the desert to the sea, composed of isolated pages from the Thomas Guide—the ubiquitous map for getting a grip on the unwieldy sprawl of LA. Schabus has also installed a slide show featuring all the crossings, from pipelines to vehicular bridges. In a parallel venture displayed next to the first, the Center

  • picks December 11, 2012

    Rosemarie Trockel

    Rosemarie Trockel’s retrospective at the New Museum gives the German artist, celebrated in Europe but less known in the US, the thorough showcase she deserves. It is also a beautifully installed exhibition that finally and properly understands and utilizes the architectural frame that SANAA created for the institution five years ago.

    “Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos,” the title of the exhibition, alludes to a universe of too many parts that, though forming a system, cannot be coherently comprehended and interiorized by the mind. The futile museological model for attempting to grasp a material infinity

  • picks July 25, 2012

    Thomas Kilpper

    During the so-called cartoon crisis in 2005, the then Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen characterized the publishing and support of the caricatures of the prophet Mohammed as exemplary of Denmark’s signature defense of free speech. It was clearly this nationalist branding of speaking freely that prompted the German artist Thomas Kilpper’s contribution to the internationally curated Danish pavilion at the last Venice Biennale.

    Made up of large woodcuts—engraved with the likenesses of politicians, cultural personalities, businesspeople, and clergy from around the world, most of whom have

  • picks March 30, 2012

    Mary Ellen Carroll

    It is unclear what constitutes the public sphere in the United States—and even more so in Los Angeles. Apparently engaged in investigating this question, Mary Ellen Carroll’s current solo show presents Kruder and Dorfmeister, 1999–2000, Polaroids of every public library (at the time) in LA. The pictures are small, not always sharp, and black-and-white, thereby creating a formal conversation with the buildings themselves, which are also slight, forlorn, and generally rather unremarkable. Thus these structures are at pains to represent ideas of the public good out of which they were ostensibly

  • picks March 05, 2012

    Mary Kelly

    Mary Kelly’s seminal works operate as much as intellectual inquiries as material exercises, consistently probing the liminal bond between the subjective and the collective. Over the past decade, she has assembled large framed works composed of multiple lint sections, each one produced in her dryer’s filter screen. During repeated loads of white and black garments, vinyl letters (which are subsequently removed after the cycle is finished) in each screen are surrounded by millions of tiny felted fabric particles, resulting in a feminized cryptogram that––rather than engaging in the futile capture

  • picks February 28, 2012

    Sanja Iveković

    “Is this crumpled cockamamie on the floor supposed to be art?” Sneeringly uttered by a woman at Sanja Iveković’s retrospective, these words could not be more pertinent. The cockamamie is in fact the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, endorsed by 187 nations, with the exemption of a select few, among them Iran, Sudan, and the United States (which signed but did not ratify the document). Literalizing this sanctioned disregard, the artist has strewed throughout the exhibition crushed copies of the agreement, which yield a subtle sound track of scrapes and

  • picks February 03, 2012

    Peter Fend

    The question of whether art is capable of changing the world continues to spark polarizing debate. Common arguments against art’s capacity for such change usually do not make explicit the underlying directives of such pronouncements. If art cannot change the world, a typical subtext runs, it should withdraw from social and political arenas altogether. Peter Fend, known for melding the spheres of Conceptual art and science since the 1980s, situates himself squarely in the opposing camp, fermenting the link between saying and doing, and thereby providing a test case for the relationships between