Travis Jeppesen

  • 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,

  • picks March 23, 2016

    “The Way Things Go”

    Watching Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s film The Way Things Go, 1987, it seems like a prescient indicator of the twenty-first century’s concern with speculative realism. Inanimate objects seem to be magically endowed with human agency in the film, their movements and interactions setting off a chain reaction: A tire rolls over a series of seesaw ramps, eventually bumping into a miniature car carrying a lit candle, which is propelled forward into a set of firecrackers, which then explode, lighting a nearby fuse, and flames spit forward, igniting a patch of oil . . . and so on for half an hour.

  • picks March 18, 2016

    Pil and Galia Kollectiv

    Reflecting their research into R.D. Laing’s anti-psychiatry movement, the latest work by the London-based Israeli duo Pil and Galia Kollectiv, titled Progress Report from the Strategic Sanctuary for the Destruction of Free Will, 2016, is an exhibition and ongoing piece. On the ground floor, a monitor screens scenes from a film being made—on the day I visited the gallery, I watched performers dressed in neo-futuristic costumes of white cardboard outlined in black, re-enacting the jerky, robotic movements taken from video footage of patients undergoing psychedelic counseling and other forms of

  • picks March 18, 2016

    Steve Reinke

    In spite of the severe challenges posed by this gallery’s Berlin premises—as a model of a haute-bourgeois Altbau (old building) apartment, great, but as a place for showing art, it sucks—Steve Reinke has managed to pull off a pretty good show consisting of drawings, needlepoints, and a selection of the films for which he is best known, as well as two new ones: Boy Needs a Friend, 2015, and Welcome to David Wojnarowicz Week, 2016. The title of the show, “The Genital is Superfluous,” serves as a sardonic indication of Reinke’s always intriguing lo-fi collage technique. Stream-of-theory voice-overs

  • picks March 08, 2016

    Dong Qichang

    The late-Ming-dynasty painter Dong Qichang was a great synthesizer of earlier styles, and so it makes sense that the current exhibition, at the world’s foremost collection of classical Chinese art, sheds equal light on his activities as a collector and connoisseur, as these pursuits were inseparable from his own artistic output. For instance, his small painting Exotic Peaks and White Clouds, ca. 1611—which consists of a solitary pointed peak rising above a bed of mist, while below is a blurred conglomeration of trees and some implied thatched houses—can be compared here with the innovative “

  • picks March 02, 2016

    Simon Fujiwara

    Simon Fujiwara’s exhibition “White Day” showcases a number of his projects from recent years together with archival objects from assorted collections, in a large-scale presentation that seems to want to annihilate the boundary separating creation from curation. An antique mask of Stalin is situated in the same room as a fan made after Japan’s defeat in World War II, from currency used by the Japanese during their wartime occupation of the Philippines. Elsewhere, Fujiwara plays the role of commissioner, as in the series of oil paintings titled “Lactose Intolerance,” 2015, depicting glasses of

  • film February 26, 2016

    Life, or Something Like It

    “I WANT TO THROW KING KONG off the Empire State Building!” shrieks Sion Sono in A Man’s Flower Road, an epic of shrieking, absurdist retardation from 1986. The film was recently restored for “Hachimiri Madness,” a series of Japanese “punk” movies from the 1970s and ’80s, an indisputable highlight of this year’s Berlinale.

    Okay, so maybe not all of the series’ films directly reference the noisy punk and garage rock that their makers were listening to at the time, but it doesn’t matter: They are great odes to youth, or at least that period when the contents of the self are often uncontainable and

  • film February 21, 2016

    Genius Bar

    EXCUSE THE FRAGMENTARY NATURE of the following ruminations, but I am now halfway through a ten-day binge of jet-lagged cinematic submission, synaptically haggard and synesthetically nullified, yet somehow alert enough to grind out a few words on my laptop. So trumpets and timpani if you please, here are some first impressions of the sixty-sixth Berlin International Film Festival:

    Lots of films about artists and writers (mostly writers), in both documentary and biopic format, including Emily Dickinson, Robert Frank, Oda Jaune, and Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, to name a few. Many seem less

  • picks February 09, 2016

    Philippe Garrel

    Philippe Garrel was a teenage filmmaking prodigy—he wrote and directed his first feature at the age of sixteen, under the influence of the 1960s films of François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. Since then, Garrel has made over two dozen more features, with the latest—L’ombre des femmes (In the Shadow of Women, 2015)—premiering last year at Cannes.

    In Seoul, Garrel is being honored with a cinematic retrospective that includes many of his early and more obscure films, as well as an exhibition at one of the city’s most prestigious contemporary-art institutions. The latter consists of three works

  • picks February 04, 2016

    Michel Verjux

    You walk up a flight of stairs to access the gallery and as you enter, you are nearly blinded: this is Face à face/à revers (source au sol) (Face to face/to back [ground source]) (all works 2016) by Michel Verjux. A circle of white light is projected onto the same wall as the entrance, and when the door is opened to allow visitors in, the circle breaks and the light projects into the hallway or onto you as you walk into and through it.

    Verjux makes sculptures with light. Nothing else is needed. Is this a reduced means of expression? No: With a circle, one can say everything. A circle, after all,

  • picks January 27, 2016

    Markus Bacher

    Markus Bacher’s latest exhibition consists of five large-scale multipaneled paintings. The most successful of these is the triptych “Vagabond” (all works 2015), with a reduced palette of mainly black and white. In the center, an Edvard Munchian splatter-smear of a figure frowns haltingly against a background blur—the smoke of a hostile crowd? It would fit the painting’s overall heavy existential burden. The other two panels are abstract, as they tend to be chez Bacher; the larger one on the left is a white powdery peach with a grimace of yellow and two black stripes on the bottom while the

  • picks January 04, 2016

    Markus Lüpertz

    For his current exhibition here, Markus Lüpertz spent many hours at the museum—which holds Berlin’s collection of classical sculpture—fixedly making drawings based on one work in the collection: a wooden Apollo, 1615–16, by Ludwig Münstermann. And, indeed, you can see why: The figure’s curved, moon-shaped face, with its look of alarm accentuated by a pointy beard, is almost overbearing in its expressiveness.

    It is no coincidence that Münstermann first became a subject of interest among German art historians during the height of Expressionism, and it is also unsurprising that Lüpertz, one of the