Critics’ Picks

  • View of “Pine’s Eye,” 2020.

    View of “Pine’s Eye,” 2020.

    “Pine’s Eye”

    Talbot Rice Gallery | The University of Edinburgh
    The University of Edinburgh Old College, South Bridge
    February 29–May 9, 2020

    One possible translation of Pinocchio, the Italian children’s tale immortalized by Disney’s 1940 film, is “pine’s eye.” This animistic interpretation, with its evocation of nature looking back at—and judging—human activity, catalyzed the current group show here, which underscores the imbrication of ecological and decolonial thinking.

    Firelei Báez covers maps, diagrams, and book pages with intricate paintings that deconstruct the epistemological and material colonization of the Caribbean and celebrate resistant knowledge forms. A green-blue nebula partially blots out the floor plan for a sugar refinery, while the Ciguapa trickster figure of Dominican folklore, whose feet point backward to elude capture, weaves her defiant path across multiple panels. Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s films examine the interconnected effects of US military testing, colonialism, and tourism on Puerto Rico, and the island’s counterstrategies developed in response. Matrulla, 2014, follows Pablo Díaz Cuadrado caring for plants and animals in what remains of a 1960s commune, and Black Beach/Horse/Camp/The Dead/Forces, 2016, combines footage of a sea ritual at Vieques island, a former bombing range, with rhythmic shots of glittering waves and foam, which cast their own regenerative spell.

    Johanna Unzueta’s striking abstract mural referencing indigenous craft practices in South America dominates the opening room. It forms a powerful setting for the masks on view by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Alan Hunt and activist Beau Dick, which illuminate parallel modes of decolonial dissent between the “natural” and “human” structures of domination. The exhibition continues in the adjacent Georgian Gallery, and although the room embodies this damaging Enlightenment legacy, here the intervention feels less pointed than it might. Ana Mendieta’s drawings provide an important historical anchor, but they look slightly lost in separate niches along the powder-blue walls of the upper walkway, so that the architecture vividly—if perhaps unintentionally—demonstrates the endurance of ruling structures. However, Haegue Yang’s futuristic woven straw personages unequivocally occupy the ground floor, returning to the tactics of rerouting and displacement traced compellingly throughout.

  • View of “Marine Hugonnier: Travel Posters,” 2020.

    View of “Marine Hugonnier: Travel Posters,” 2020.

    Marine Hugonnier

    Ingleby Gallery | Barony Street
    33 Barony Street
    February 1–March 28, 2020

    Marine Hugonnier’s new works, shown in multiples, initially read as simple facsimiles of elegant advertisements from a well-known 1971 Pan Am rebranding campaign designed by Yvan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar and shot by Magnum photographers: alluring pictures of Argentine sunsets, the Hawaiian surf, and a South American rainforest overlaid sparingly with Helvetica type. The people shown in these large-format C-prints are backlit and anonymous: This could be you. A closer look reveals distortions and dips in resolution, variations in texture and hue resulting from a process in which Hugonnier printed different digital versions of the posters from the internet, tracking their virtual journeys by recording the where and when of their uploading, as in Pan Am Hawaii / Housed in Palo Alto, California - 06.09.2015, 2019. These flaws not only undercut the idyllic promise of the ads, but trace a shift from analog to digital, from the romance of air travel to ecological anxiety, staking out Hugonnier’s fascination with “the climate and temporality of an image.”

    A trio of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century oil paintings—two idyllic landscapes and a pomegranate still life, all accompanied by pre- and post-restoration condition reports—is included alongside the prints. Like the Pan Am pictures, these minor paintings are transient documents of leisure from another era. The reports outline corrections to irregularities, tears and stains, the effects of time. Although the two series are each other’s inverse––the prints diminished occurrences of an original, the restored paintings apparent returns to form––both speak to the loss of an ideal or uncompromised subject, one unpicking the melancholy in pixilation, the other the opacity of paint.