Critics’ Picks

View of “Bill Bollinger,” 2011. Installation view, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein.

Bill Bollinger, Michael E. Smith, Yael Bartana

In the late 1960s, Bill Bollinger was considered by most critics as a leading post-Minimalist artist––his works were featured in the most illustrious shows at the time, such as the 1970 MoMA exhibition “Information.” Yet when Bollinger died prematurely in 1988, his work had already slipped into relative obscurity. This year, curator Christiane Meyer-Stoll, in collaboration with Rolf Ricke, organized Bollinger’s first traveling retrospective (it has visited the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, ZKM/Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, and the Fruitmarket Gallery). In doing so, Meyer-Stoll overcame numerous obstacles, including the necessity of re-creating some installations from available documents, as there is no complete archive of the artist’s work. The simplicity and power of a work like Cyclone Fence, 1968, a nearly fifty-foot piece of chain-link fence that twists to form a large wave, certainly justify the effort.

Wrestling with a site that is geographically and culturally foreign to him––the Mönchehaus in Goslar, a former monks’ residence in a medieval German town––Michael E. Smith, a young artist from Detroit, opted for a radical installation. It left a lasting mark on my mind. In nearly empty rooms with very little illumination, sculptures culled from detritus were placed in the corners, while monitors on the floor emitted a faint glare and an industrial hum. It evoked a panorama of ruins inhabited by ghosts.

In “ . . . and Europe will be stunned,” her video trilogy about an imaginary political movement that calls for the return of exiled Jews to Poland, Israeli artist Yael Bartana––the first non-Polish artist to represent that country at the Venice Biennale––mixes Holocaust mourning with a critique of Zionism, as well as words of peace and totalitarian visual rhetoric. Everything is fictitious but is presented as real; everything is invented but touches on authentic wounds. Bartana makes political art that does not offer the viewer a cause with which to identify, but instead instills doubts and cultivates ambiguity.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Simone Menegoi is a writer and curator based in Verona, Italy. He is a contributing editor to Kaleidoscope.