Travis Jeppesen

  • Raymond Pettibon

    Alas, poor Pettibon! Poet sublime of cryptic fabulosity, inkpot noirist, and restless chronicler of the muck and ick that splatters so freely, then embeds itself like a cancer, forming the blackest recesses of American consciousness. His caustic wit cuts deep, even as it elevates him high above the tabloid trash-scape that feeds his dauntless foraging. Though the press release for his recent Berlin exhibition highlighted “new works,” the show, a dense mass of text-image amalgamations on paper, included some pieces dating as far back as 1981. But it doesn’t really matter, because Pettibon is

  • picks July 08, 2014

    Keith Vaughan

    “A Volatile Medium,” the title of this exhibition, is also how Keith Vaughan referred to gouache, the material and technique he employed increasingly in the last fifteen years of his life, following his 1962 retrospective at Whitechapel Gallery. He would often mix his gouaches with other materials, such as vinegar, to further increase the process’s volatility, finding a new sort of freedom in chaos and uncontrollability. As journal excerpts included in the exhibition reveal, Vaughan was something of an automatist, producing inspired studies of the male figure faster than his dealer could sell

  • picks July 02, 2014

    Geta Brătescu

    Although Geta Brătescu has been favorably compared to Louise Bourgeois—undoubtedly because of her gender and the longevity of her prolific output—a more apt comparison might be to Joseph Beuys in the sheer fervor of her fusion of the mythic with modernist abstraction. At the same time, her work is unburdened with the German meister’s pedantry—it is quite content to stand on its own. Having worked in solitude in her native Romania for much of the past century, Brătescu, born in 1926 and still going strong, was first brought to the attention of a larger audience when her work was included in the

  • James Benning

    Often misread as a structuralist filmmaker, James Benning is really more of a landscape poet. His work reflects a complete surrender to the mired totality of the natural world, yet he is ever mindful of humankind’s tinkerings and contaminations. In recent years, Benning’s oeuvre has extended beyond cinema—though, thankfully, he had not completely neglected it. His 2011 Two Cabins project was inspired by a perceived affinity between two philosopher-seekers of the American back-to-nature dream, Henry David Thoreau and Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski. On his own property in the Sierra Mountains of

  • slant May 22, 2014

    Critical Mass

    IN THE SPRINGTIME, Pyongyang is shrouded in a pale mist that gives the city an enchanted and ethereal quality. For a moment, especially when dawn breaks over the city and the sun becomes a distant perfect golden circle in the sky, you can almost forget that you’re in the capital of the most hermetic country on the planet. Such moments of reflection are few and far between—after all, you are never really alone here. The mandatory guided tours, the only possible means of traveling in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, may seem an imposition to free-spirited travelers used to doing their

  • film February 25, 2014

    Continental Drifts

    AS OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY in the States froze their buns off, Berliners were subjected to a freakishly premature arrival of spring this February. I imagine that those who only visit Berlin for the annual Berlin International Film Festival had a tough time gaining their whereabouts, as the city must seem naked without its blanket of snow. And with several hundred films on offer in a program rife with big-name gala premieres on the one hand, and debuts by mysterious unknowns on the other, it seemed that no overarching agenda would emerge for those bound to spend most of the month in the dark. So

  • film November 20, 2013

    Absent Presence

    IT BEGAN WITH AN ABSENCE. Invited to serve as jury president at this year’s DocLisboa, where his new film Manuscripts Don’t Burn (2013) would close the festival, Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof had his passport confiscated by the authorities to prevent him from traveling abroad. This event takes place three years after Rasoulof’s arrest in 2010 for carrying out propaganda against the state. Like many banned directors in Iran, Rasoulof has shot his latest films clandestinely, owing to threats by the ruling regime. Exile used to be the punishment for crimes against the state. As the outside

  • film April 05, 2013


    CHANGE IS IN THE AIR, but is it happening fast enough? Certainly the season begs for more: The freezing cold and snowy winds of the past two weeks in London have established that spring has no intention of working her magic anytime soon. No big shocker for anyone coming from Berlin, and an excellent reason to seek shelter in the warmer climes of the British Film Institute, where the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival traditionally makes its home.

    Jeffrey Schwarz’s long-awaited documentary on John Waters’s most famous star, I Am Divine (2013), opened the festival. With well-crafted documentaries


    FOR SUNG HWAN KIM, ideas are less the thing than stories. “I know that it doesn’t matter if things are true or not,” Kim begins in From the Commanding Heights . . . , 2007. “But this is a true story.” He launches into a narrative that starts out believably enough but grows increasingly fantastical, about a woman with a preternaturally long neck and a third ear on top of her head. As we hear his recorded voice, we see the artist’s face above a transparent sheet, which he draws on to illustrate the bizarre fable. From the Commanding Heights . . . jumps from one narrative mode and style to the

  • film February 26, 2013

    House of Style

    SELLING OUT IS HARD TO DO. One becomes known for a certain style, and then what? Several directors—Gus Van Sant and Wong Kar-wai among them—showed up to this year’s Berlinale with the sort of average pictures that made you yearn for their earlier, more definitively individual styles. But the best of the festival, as you might expect, arrived at the edges, with films like Richard Foreman’s Once Every Day and J. P. Sniadecki, Huang Xiang, and Xu Ruotao’s Yumen, both in the Forum Expanded program, traditionally the host of the more challenging modes of cinematic expression.

    Once Every Day, Foreman’s

  • film February 15, 2013

    Crime Wave

    NAVIGATING THE HUNDREDS of films comprising the Berlinale is nerve-wracking—you always feel like you’re bound to miss the big one, whatever that may be. Lest your Berlinale experience become a marathon of unwatchables showcasing poly-mediocrity James Franco, the best survival tactic is to ignore the hype. Creatures of instinct, some of us simply can’t do otherwise; inevitably, when I bump into someone I know, I’ll be asked for tips, at which point I am left temporarily paralyzed by the retrieval process as my companion’s face forms an embarrassed smile. Because his films so often evince the

  • picks January 03, 2013

    “Vertigo of Freedom”

    Inside: We are shrouded in darkness—necessarily so, as most of the works are video-based and projected along the walls with a raised platform accelerating our path through the works, which can be better thought of as instances: i.e., what freedom might mean in a Europe finally finished with all its wars, both cold and hot. Jakup Ferri explains An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is No Artist, 2003, in a broken, elementary English that is nearly incomprehensible, yet movingly reminiscent of Gertrude Stein’s emploi of repetition, which seems to all the more enforce the abhorrence of linguistic

  • slant December 22, 2012

    Travis Jeppesen

    “Joan Mitchell: The Last Paintings” at Hauser & Wirth, London (February 3–April 28, 2012) The most unjustifiably underappreciated Abstract Expressionist, Mitchell painted as intensely as she lived. This intensity galloped to a defiant crescendo as sickness and death encroached, as the paintings gathered for this exhibition made ringingly clear, with their electricity, thick drunken lines, and preponderance of bright blues—primary color of vitality.

    Hai Bo’s “The Blind” at Pace Beijing (July 25–August 31, 2012) “[T]o see and have the color stay where color stays, to see and have the water lie

  • film December 12, 2012

    Family Portrait

    THE BIOPIC is not typically revered by serious cinephiles. Its generic restrictions as an exercise in hero worship or, worse, food for the celebrity lore–hungering denizens of the culture industry, tend to transform the most earnest endeavors into sentimental odes to Everymans. If the subject was recently or is still alive and well known, then there is little left for the critic to judge other than how much the portraying actor is “like” the actual person, thus debasing the dramatic art, reducing the creator of a complex character to that of a mere mimic.

    Indeed, against mimetic standards, it

  • picks November 07, 2012

    Oleg Kulik

    Oleg Kulik’s latest exhibition consists largely of photographs of the artist having sex with different animals. To be fair, Kulik makes these relations somewhat less shocking by becoming an animal himself; in his most famous performances, he is transformed into a mad dog, barking at and attacking bystanders. Video and photographic footage of one such performance features the nude artist roaming the streets outside a Kiev gallery on all fours, barking and lurching wildly at the scandalized audience. In the “Deep into Russia” series, all taken from a 1993 performance in a village called Dubrovky

  • film November 06, 2012

    Eternal Return

    ONE MORNING IN 1992, in a cornfield in northeastern Germany just over the Polish border, two Romany men, illegal immigrants from Romania, were shot and killed by local hunters who supposedly mistook them for wild boar. Investigation of the case was shoddy. Neither of the victims’ families was informed that a trial took place. The two killers were deemed innocent. Twenty years later—in a time when the two would be considered citizens of the European Union—director Philip Scheffner carried out his own investigation, resulting in Revision, one of the highlights of this year’s DocLisboa. Scheffner

  • film October 25, 2012

    Doc Holiday

    AS GARY INDIANA once observed, the best novels are essentially plotless, completely resistant to any effort one might undertake to submit them to the painful castration of synopsis: Indeed, maybe Borges got it right by implying that the best way to summarize a novel like Don Quixote would be to recopy it word for word. A majority of the filmmakers whose work populates this year’s program at DocLisboa would likely concur with these ideas. If you’re looking for a forum that’s going to interrogate the hell out of the notion that arises in your mind whenever you hear the term “documentary film,”

  • picks October 12, 2012

    António Bolota

    A round hole has been dug in the floor of the gallery’s front room, about the size of a foot bath. A perfectly round globe made of metal has been inserted into it. Or, not inserted—for the effect is more akin to an emergence: a silver ball of a world birthed from a cement inferno. Or, not emergence—for emergence implies movement, and the only movement is that which is reflected in the shiny, harsh, metalloid surface: namely, yourself and whatever other living beings happen to be in the gallery at that particular moment.

    This is the first of two new works by António Bolota. The Portuguese artist

  • picks October 01, 2012

    Andrej Dubravsky

    Painter Andrej Dubravsky’s summer studio is situated within walking distance of a lake in his hometown of Bratislava, Slovakia. Each morning, he would swim out to a small island which he’d explore by foot before returning back, emerging from the water only to dive into the day’s work. The resulting paintings, marked with a fluidity in their thin acrylicized surfaces that could have been spat straight from the mouth of the summer solstice herself, debuted in a 5 AM sunrise exhibition on the island the first week of September, where invited guests could trudge through weed-lined paths to discover

  • picks September 15, 2012

    “Mansudae: Landscapes from Pyongyang”

    Soldiers steadfastly guard the entrance to the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s largest and most important center of artistic production. The studio boasts four thousand employees, of whom approximately one thousand are artists and craftspeople. It is here where the famed bronze memorial statues of Kim Il Sung are made along with, in recent months, those of Kim Jong Il, whose deification throughout the country has been underway since his death last December. Foreign visitors to Mansudae are forbidden to enter those parts of the studio where the sacred