Travis Jeppesen

  • picks September 11, 2017

    “Arena”

    With its focus on live art—including works representing virtually every analog and digital medium as well as a fair share of crowd-drawing interactive pieces—this exhibition brings together an assortment of Korean and Taiwanese artists who have little in common other than a will to defy the merely visual and engage the widest audience possible.

    While its curatorial theme and commissioned works may invite any number of heated disquisitions on the museum in the age of the selfie stick—here Michael Fried’s old gripe with “theatricality” in Minimalist art seems absurdly quaint—the show’s revolving

  • picks September 11, 2017

    Lucian Freud

    Throughout his long career, the painter Lucian Freud rarely experimented with other media. Among the chosen few was printmaking, but even that was limited to etchings. The current exhibition is devoted to this side of Freud, presenting fifty-one prints, plus three paintings, produced over a span of twenty-seven years.

    Even in this seemingly incompatible medium—his etchings, after all, are composed wholly of lines, whereas oil painting allows one to work with viscous areas of color—the figurative essence of Freud’s style is conveyed. Some of the prints are quite demented—A Couple, 1982, depicts

  • film September 07, 2017

    Only the Lonely

    TSAI MING-LIANG is one of the great charters of human loneliness. This month’s retrospective at the Kino Arsenal in Berlin allows you to consider Tsai’s cinema in its entirety (excluding his shorts and television features). You can watch the city of Taipei through the final decade of the twentieth century and to the present, as it begins to resemble the scripted expectations of a twenty-first-century metropolis, or the development of his small ensemble of players, notably Lee Kang-sheng, the handsome and mysterious leading man whom Tsai discovered working in a video-game arcade and has cast in

  • film June 27, 2017

    Shock and Awe

    BUSAN MIGHT BOAST the bigger international reputation, but among South Korean cineastes, the Jeonju International Film Festival is respected for its scrappy integrity and unapologetic penchant for experimental and independent cinema. In a year rife with political uncertainty—not only in the southern half of the peninsula, with its recent election and media-exaggerated tensions with the North, but across the globe—it is unsurprising that this year’s edition favored strong, polemical visions entrenched in the present sociopolitical quagmire.

    Among the local entries, the boldest statement was offered

  • film March 01, 2017

    Substance and Style

    DIEGO (JORGE MARTÍNEZ) has been reduced to the status of permanent patient. Dying of AIDS, he lies in bed in the apartment he shares with Miguel (Patricio Wood), a friend with whom he has little in common other than that Miguel once defended him from bullies when they were adolescents. In the depressed environs of contemporary Havana, Miguel has gone into a sort of internal exile. By day, he scrapes by as a dishwasher at a restaurant; at night, he gazes at a map of the United States in the kitchen, dreaming of escape, while in the bedroom, Diego holds court with his ferocious wit in gossip

  • film February 17, 2017

    Desert of the Real

    THE DESERT IS A LIVING ENTITY, a beast that threatens to consume all trespassers. Many who attempt to cross it on the journey from Mexico to the United States fail, leaving a trail of corpses—if the victims don’t disappear altogether. El mar la mar, one of the few highlights so far of the Sixty-Seventh Berlin International Film Festival, takes us beyond rhetoric and to the place itself: that vast, shadowless landscape littered with the detritus of those who have braved its hostile climes.

    El mar la mar was made by J. P. Sniadecki, who, together with Joshua Bonnetta (who also has a desert-themed

  • picks August 03, 2016

    “Myth and Nature. From Greece to Pompeii”

    Examples of ancient Greek painting are exceptionally difficult to come by. That “Myth and Nature. From Greece to Pompeii” opens with one of the more exemplary extant works alone makes it worth a visit. Tomb of the Diver dates from the early 5th century BCE and the fresco depicts a young man diving into the sea, symbolizing the transition from life to death. As in other works of Greek art from the period, the movement of nature is evoked through the barest of inferences: a wavy line for the sea, a few brushstrokes referencing the ground. It’s a testament to the idea that a lot can be said using

  • picks July 26, 2016

    Lukas Duwenhögger

    This is a big, museum-survey-style exhibition, long overdue. Lukas Duwenhögger is of course best known for his oil paintings, rendered in mustardy, muted pastels that never overstate, exercises in high kitsch that simultaneously operate as postcolonial takes on Firbankian faggotry, with cultural references to Duwenhögger’s adopted homeland of Turkey often woven in. In Garten am See (Lakeside Garden), 1995, a smartly dressed man leans against a tree on a hill, staring seductively outward at the viewer. Coming up the path behind him is a mustachioed man, who cruises him with a languishing stare.

  • picks July 13, 2016

    Lesley Vance

    To judge by size alone, you’d think these watercolors on paper were what is often described as modest, but they’re actually not. Gesture plays too great a role; instead, there is a dazzling viscosity—a sexiness, even. In one blue-and-yellow piece (all works untitled and 2016), the yellow is deployed sparingly, articulating petal and stem shapes against the blue background. The bumblebee shade stays true to the liquid nature of the medium, congealing and swimming in the center of the composition, while the cerulean that allows it to flourish has been disciplined into strict swaths.

    In other

  • picks June 30, 2016

    Andrew Dadson

    Seven large white monochrome canvases, all in portrait format. The paint is molded into shapes that jut out from the canvas, intersecting lines that imply letters. It’s as though the painting wants to speak, to form a word, yet it hasn’t fully fathomed how and so it sings instead. In Cut It, 2016, it’s a giant lower-case N taking up the entire body; elsewhere, an S and a T . . . stop? Or still, step, stay? We certainly don’t want to go away. These paintings compel, their loudness blares out at us. We can hear them becoming, even as we move past.

    To call them monochromes is wrong, too. Or at

  • picks June 29, 2016

    Joe Bradley

    Joe Bradley continues to push the medium of painting into new semantic territories. Many of the works here consist of pieces of canvas stitched together, affixed to larger, stretched canvases. In Biddeford, 2016, four bits of stained off-white canvas cling to a cleaner, white one. Each hosts a colony of stains: red, pink, and green splotches, the aftereffects of painting, stretched to become painting itself.

    Then there’s Eric’s Hair, 2016: an AbEx waterfall for the neon age. The work is vertically split into two sections; the left side is further divided, horizontally, with a purer brighter white

  • picks June 27, 2016

    Mitchell Anderson and Jon Rafman

    Titled “Posthumous Lives,” this is an exhibition of work by two artists who are very much still alive. Mitchell Anderson contributes High Zest, 2015–16, a stack of trading cards from Operation Enduring Freedom—the name of US military operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The packaging reads: “A portion of proceeds from this product will be contributed to charities related to the war against terrorism.” I’m sure glad we won that war and can finally stop enduring all this freedom; the sales from the cards were no doubt a major contributing factor. Elsewhere, Anderson shows a series of

  • picks June 06, 2016

    Yi Dai

    By the end of the century, the Marshall Islands will no longer exist. Owing to the rapid pace of sea level rise, they will be submerged underwater and more than seventy thousand inhabitants will be displaced. Yi Dai’s current exhibition is rooted in both the nefarious past––a couple of the islands were used as testing grounds for the nuclear bomb by the US military––and the uncertain fate of the country, where the artist worked as a volunteer five years ago. The series “Catalogue of Light,” 2016, serves as the recurring motif throughout the exhibition; it consists of sixty-three small wood

  • diary May 27, 2016

    Creative Writing

    FOR THIS YEAR’S London Craft Week, one of the clear highlights was a live performance by Wang Dongling, perhaps the greatest, or at least most famous, living Chinese calligrapher. Having caught about half an hour of sleep after the opening of my own exhibition of calligraphic works at Exile in Berlin, I hopped on an early morning flight to the city on the Thames to see the master’s first public performance in London in more than twenty years.

    Wang is a professor of calligraphy at the Fine Art Academy in Hangzhou and one of the foremost contemporary practitioners of the ancient art. His style is

  • picks May 26, 2016

    “The Presence of Absence”

    Curator Cathryn Drake has brought together three artists, each of whom inhabits geographically marginal places in Europe, for an intriguing meditation on the roles played by identity, memory, and resistance in the writing of history and the constitution of the present. Petros Efstathiadis, who is originally from a village of some 400 inhabitants in the contested region of Greek Macedonia, returns to his home for a prolonged period each year in order to make videos and photographic projects in collaboration with his neighbors, effectively authoring his own theater of the absurd. In the video Shit

  • picks May 23, 2016

    Horst Ademeit

    For more than forty years, Horst Ademeit dedicated his life to tracking his obsession with cold rays, a form of radiation he believed was poisoning the immediate environment around his small apartment in Düsseldorf. Ademeit attempted to combat the rays by eating sand and cigarette ash, inserting knots of nylon into his ears, and attaching lengths of copper wiring to his body.

    As hardly anyone besides him believed in the existence of this subtle but noxious form of pollution, he began to rigorously document its existence with the technology at his disposal––namely Polaroid photographs, on whose

  • picks April 25, 2016

    “Easy Virtue”

    These days, the Van Gogh Museum is full of whores. “Easy Virtue,” which focuses on prostitution in nineteenth- to early twentieth-century French painting, is a historical exploration of a trade under scrutiny. The subject of Édouard Manet’s Plum Brandy, ca.1877, rests her head in her hand at a café table, the full glass before her suggesting she has just sat down. In her left hand dangles an unlit cigarette, awaiting a light from a potential client. Her skin is the same shade of pale, withered pink as her dress, but it is her tired, blank eyes that draw us in.

    Learning how to read the signs of

  • picks April 20, 2016

    Robert Indiana

    Love can be a difficult thing to stomach or otherwise endure, and so it is somewhat unsurprising that love is the word that has both made and destroyed Robert Indiana’s artistic legacy. Copies of Love, 1966, can be found in sculptures, T-shirts, and stationary the world over; as the design was never copyrighted, many have the erroneous impression that it enabled Indiana to sell out. The reality, of course, is that the work’s commercial success outside the confines of the art world effectively diminished his seriousness as an artist. Fellow Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist

  • picks March 31, 2016

    Joseph Grigely

    In 1992, Joseph Grigely discovered the abandoned archives of Gregory Battcock, the great 1970s art critic who was murdered in his holiday apartment in Puerto Rico in 1980. In a small series of vitrines containing an edited selection of Battcock’s papers, and with some framed posters and an abstract painting from his early art career hanging on a wall, Grigely tells a story that leaves us wanting more. Excerpts from banter and rant-filled essays and reviews make us nostalgic for a time when art criticism was practiced as a literary form. In one, Seth Siegelaub is described as “a pleasant sort of

  • picks March 30, 2016

    Mary Reid Kelley

    Like a lot of artists of late, Mary Reid Kelley’s practice is essentially writing-based. In “The Minotaur Trilogy,” 2013–15, the series of videos made in collaboration with husband Patrick Kelley that comprises the core of this exhibition, the endearingly nerdy Reid Kelley plays all the characters in a black-and-white cartoon poets’ theater straight out of Ancient Greece, spouting verse boldly—and cleverly—penned in heroic couplets. She’s selected as her subject the half-man, half-bull figure from Greek mythology that has been called upon as muse by artists throughout the ages, most memorably,