Critics’ Picks

Hong Kong

Dean Sameshima

McNamara Art Projects
202, The Factory, 1 Yip Fat Street Wong Chuk Hang
November 3–December 22, 2017

For Peres Projects’ first Hong Kong presentation (in collaboration with McNamara Art Projects), the Berlin-based gallery is exhibiting thirteen new and older works by Dean Sameshima. Many of the paintings, photographs, and prints place queer desire in the context of quainter but more oppressive times: when, for example, to circumvent obscenity laws, pornography was sent to readers of athletic magazines as back-page connect-the-dots puzzles (Torso, 2006; A Portrait of Mike, 2006; Anything Anytime… Now Nothing, 2007).

Among Sameshima’s recent paintings, which he creates by projecting text onto canvas, is Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida: a report of the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, January 1964. Tallahassee, Florida. AKA The Purple Pamphlet. with annotations by J.J. Bertrand Belanger, 2017. The work features the preface of the notorious, eponymous document, which was ostensibly a study of the “growing problem of homosexuality” that claimed to be “of value to all citizens” concerned with the “moral climate of the state.” Ironies and absurdities such as this one are captured sharply; these are pointed and critical works by an artist well versed in the codes and survival tactics of his community. If his output comes across now as irreverent, even humorous, that is only because progress has been made.

But then there is the painting made up of two thin orange words on a background of forest green, an obscure textual reference seemingly doubling as a viewpoint on said moral climate of the state in 2017, where successive Novembers in the US have done little to lift liberal spirits. Those two words also make up the 2016 work’s title: Exhausted Autumn.