Sylwia Serafinowicz

  • Taus Makhacheva, Baida, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 15 minutes 31 seconds. Installation view. Photo: Judita Kuniskyte.

    Taus Makhacheva

    The title of Taus Makhacheva’s exhibition “BaidÀ” is a pun: Without the accent on the A, the word refers to a name for a cheap boat used by poachers fishing in the Caspian Sea for beluga (European sturgeon), but with the accent added, it becomes Russian slang for a nonsensical or unbelievable story. The fish, an endangered species, remains the source of two treasured products: caviar and isinglass. (The latter, made from the fish’s swim bladder, is used to consolidate paint and is highly valued by art conservators.) Because of the sturgeon’s protected status, fishing for it is not only precarious

  • Nicolás Lamas, Untitled (Becoming Animal), 2018, used domestic refrigerator, vintage fur coat, 19 1⁄4 × 21 5⁄8 × 33 1⁄2".

    Petra Ferlancová and Nicolás Lamas

    Taking its title from a phrase coined by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in 1987, the exhibition “Becoming Animal” comprised two solo presentations by Petra Feriancová and Nicolás Lamas. Deleuze and Guattari’s idea saw the self as fluid and continually changing under the influence of relationships with fellow living beings, including animals; it countered a humanist perspective that was occasionally used to justify a colonial, aggressive approach to nature.

    Occupying a room and the front window of the gallery, Feriancová’s interpretation of “becoming animal” focused on the zoological terms

  • Spread from Marie Orensanz’s Nature, energie, forcez, 1987–89, marble, water-based paint, ink, 6 x 7 x 1 1/2".

    Marie Orensanz

    Marie Orensanz featured recently in “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985,”a major traveling exhibition organized by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Her first solo show in London focused on a selection of her works made between 1974 and 2015. When I visited the exhibition, it was a sunny early-spring morning. The paper and marble pieces, exhibited in a bright space, seemed all white, some of them with hints of light blue and green, at first difficult to fully perceive. These minimal interventions required my eyes to adjust and focus. Gradually, the details became visible: lines, single

  • Simon Roberts, Grenfell Tower, North Kensington, London, 19 June 2017, C-print, 48 × 60".

    Simon Roberts

    In 2007, Simon Roberts began his series “We English” by training his four-by-five camera on the English landscape and its inhabitants for the first time. Roberts spent several months in a mobile home, traveling across the country to investigate the relationship between the scenery, leisure activities, and English identity. He saw all three as complementary. As he revealed in a talk at Photofusion Photography Centre in London in 2014, his experience of England was informed by his own family trips and holiday activities in the open air, and by the long tradition of British portraiture set in

  • Jake and Dinos Chapman, The Disasters of Yoga (detail), 2017, eighty etchings from Francisco Goya’s “Disasters of War” (published 1863), glitter paint, this print 9 3/8 × 12 7/8".

    Jake and Dinos Chapman

    Jake and Dinos Chapman’s solo show “The Disasters of Everyday Life” channeled modern anxiety; the artists, known for their longtime dedication to the issues of organized violence, addressed the contemporary and historic imagery of terror. The exhibition consisted of a trio of works based on actual sets of Francisco Goya’s “Disasters of War” etchings (first published in 1863), as well as seven bronze sculptures of vests adorned with explosives: Life and Death Vests I–VII, 2017.

    In the series of etchings, Goya—a prominent figure in the Chapman brothers’ artistic output (they have bought six

  • View of “Monira Al Qadiri,” 2017. Photo: Andy Keate.

    Monira Al Qadiri

    Monira Al Qadiri’s playful and engaging show “The Craft” was packed to the brim with conspiracy theory–like clues and references. The first of two rooms was almost completely dark; in the gloom, one made out only a replica of a hamburger spinning over a tall plinth—a piece titled The End (all works 2017). But there was a soundtrack: a male voice reciting a passage about an unspecified genre of architecture that, although supposedly attempting to respond to its terrain and atmospheric conditions, failed to blend into its context. This architecture’s innovative forms made it look like something

  • View of “Rachel Pimm,” 2017. Photo: Charlie Littlewood.

    Rachel Pimm

    Rachel Pimm roots her practice in an awareness that we exist in the age of the Anthropocene—the new geological epoch, so named in the 1980s by ecologist and biologist Eugene F. Stoermer—in which human activity has become the most significant force affecting geological and atmospheric systems. Pimm’s work often deals with the relationship between nature and human-made products, and for this show, “Resistant Materials,” she focused on the curved tiles desigwned and produced since 2010 by the Netherlands-based company DTile.

    On its website, the company makes an unsettling claim: “If it

  • Duncan Grant, Bathing, 1911, oil on canvas, 7' 6“ x 10' 1/2”. From “Queer British Art 1861–1967.”

    “Queer British Art 1861–1967”

    The idea of encapsulating a nation’s history of queer art in a single show could easily have led to a neckbreaking curatorial endeavor going awry. What makes art queer or otherwise anyway? And how can one tell what is queer and what isn’t when examining a period in which socially unacceptable desires often had to be disguised, lest criminal prosecution follow? The press release for “Queer British Art 1861–1967,” curated by Clare Barlow, explains that the word queer was meant to express the “full diversity of sexualities and gender identities represented in the show.” Astonishingly, the show

  • View of “Sorel Etrog,” 2017. From left: Untitled, 1963–70; Homage to Cimabue Study, 1968. Photo: Will Amlot.

    Sorel Etrog

    Born in the small Romanian city of Ias¸i in 1933, Sorel Etrog rose to fame in his adoptive country of Canada, though he remains too little known abroad. To some audiences there, he is above all the author of somewhat cheeky public sculptures; to others, the director of the critically acclaimed experimental film Spiral, 1974, which led to a collaboration with Marshall McLuhan on the 1987 book Images from the Film Spiral. But no matter from what angle Etrog’s life and career are examined, they reveal the artist’s remarkable tenacity. Having survived the Holocaust, Etrog moved with his family to

  • Hal Fischer, A Salesman, 1979/2017, ink-jet print on vinyl, 6' 10“ × 14' 10” × 2".

    Hal Fischer

    A Salesman, 1979/2017, the central work that took up the entire back wall of the gallery in Hal Fischer’s exhibition “Gay Semiotics,” was originally installed as a billboard at the gateway to San Francisco’s Castro district, famously the center of gay pride activism in the 1960s and 1970s. Commissioned as part of a billboard exhibition organized by the Eyes and Ears Foundation and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, it shows a naked man on a bed sporting a moustache. He is lying on one side, in white sheets, in a pose that recalls such iconic female nudes as Manet’s Olympia, 1863.

  • Mahmoud Bakhshi, The Unity of Time and Place (detail), 2017, vintage cinema chairs, found objects, carpet, ink-jet prints, two HD video projections (black-and-white, sound, 2 minutes 23 seconds; color, sound, 4 minutes 15 seconds). Installation view.

    Mahmoud Bakhshi

    Mordad, the fifth month of the Iranian calendar, is the hottest time of year in the country. As it happens, both the coup d’état of 1953 and the start of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 occurred on the twenty-eighth of Mordad, or August 19, according to the Gregorian calendar. Mahmoud Bakhshi’s gallery-filling installation The Unity of Time and Place, 2017, evoked this chronological overlap and a place central to these events: Abadan, an oil-producing city in southwestern Iran.

    The artist approaches his story about revolutions by way of Gavaznha (The Deer, 1974), a film directed by Masoud Kimiai.

  • Edward Krasiński, Retrospective K140 (detail), 1984, ten photographs mounted on plywood, blue tape. Installation view. Photo: Roger Sinek.

    Edward Krasiński

    The oeuvre of Edward Krasiński (1925–2004), one of the most creative minds of the past century, is far from unfamiliar to me. Krasiński’s Warsaw apartment/studio was opened to the public in 2007 as the Avant-Garde Institute and quickly became a popular stop for art professionals visiting the city. His work was introduced to broader audiences in Poland through a retrospective at the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art in Kraków in 2008. Having visited both, I did not expect to find many surprises in Liverpool. Yet the exhibition, curated by Kasia Redzisz and Stephanie Straine, did amaze