Critics’ Picks

Fernando Bryce, The Decade Review (detail), 2019, ink on paper, dimensions variable.

Fernando Bryce, The Decade Review (detail), 2019, ink on paper, dimensions variable.

New York

Fernando Bryce

Alexander and Bonin
59 Wooster Street Second Floor
September 6–October 26, 2019

Milton Friedman appears kitty-corner to John Travolta in The Decade Review, 2019, a panoramic installation of 110 ink-drawn facsimiles of 1970s print media by Peruvian artist Fernando Bryce. The dust jacket of Friedman’s Free to Choose (1980), a pop organ of Chicago School economics, chafes against a South American movie poster for Saturday Night Fever (1977) featuring the fast-and-loose disco king Tony Manero. In Bryce’s matrix, the ad becomes a fraught document of both cultural and economic imperialism, reminding us that in the 1970s Chile became a portentous test site for Friedman’s crusading neoliberal agenda.

A self-professed “para-historian,” Bryce generates archival chance encounters of the sort Walter Benjamin called “lightning flashes”: fragmentary constellations of past and present that produce in viewers a shiver of urgency—or worse, tragic irony. Faisal, the Saudi king who orchestrated the 1973 global oil shock, appears on a Time cover; to the immediate right, a petrol-drenched water bird illustrates the National Geographic headline “Our Ecological Crisis” (yes, we were calling it that in 1970). Propaganda for liberation struggles in the Global South commingles with the cover of Edward Said’s 1978 treatise, Orientalism. A woman cosmonaut flanks Yasser Arafat. The Maharishi meets Adam Smith.

The Decade Review offers a global digest of the 1970s that is eclectically sourced yet materially homogenized through the artist’s handmade reproductions. By assembling an international paper trail for an era so relevant to our own, Bryce ruptures both presentist perspectives and the tunnel vision of American politics. Yet what does painstaking craft, paradoxically applied as a means of standardization, add to Bryce’s analytic strategies of appropriation and collation? In testing the conventions of our own period eye—trained by digital newsfeeds and charmed by the artisanal—his work turns the past into an unsparing mirror.