Critics’ Picks

  • Karlheinz Weinberger, St. Petersinsel, 1964, black-and-white photograph, 3 x 3".

    Karlheinz Weinberger, St. Petersinsel, 1964, black-and-white photograph, 3 x 3".

    Karlheinz Weinberger

    SITUATIONS
    127 Henry St
    August 1–October 4, 2020

    In Karlheinz Weinberger’s photographs of sexy Swiss hooligans from the 1950s and ’60s, the line between innocent modeling and outright carnality can, strangely, become awfully fuzzy. These self-fashioned Halbstarken (a German word that translates to “half-strongs”) based their bad-boy looks on glamorous images of midcentury American machismo—think, for instance, of a hunky James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). In this presentation of the artist’s work here, titled “Together & Alone,” the photographer dotes on his butch subjects as they pose, drunkenly laze around in the woods, or make out with their girlfriends. And Weinberger’s boys really knew how to do it up: Check out their massive belt buckles emblazoned with Elvis, too-tight jeans scrawled with the words Texas and ranch, and the flies on said pants fastened by an array of chunky nuts and bolts. These men are obviously comfortable showing off, be they clothed or not. Yet this sense of easygoing masculinity lends the work an explicit homoeroticism.

    The portraits of nude men in this exhibition are actually tricks he’d pick up from around town. Weinberger’s subjects posed for him at his home, where the artist’s mother also lived. You can see her drab curtains as well as one of the ugliest end tables I’ve ever seen as recurring motifs. A fantastically kitschy fishing net makes several appearances in the photos, as if Weinberger were trying to re-create the schlocky nautical tableaux from Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorial. Most of his models aren’t muscle gods, but their personalities shine through: Take the dude who’s Donald Ducking it in a denim vest, or the lothario with spectacular mutton chops and an even more spectacular erection. These works—as erotic as they are sweet—celebrate a sexuality that, to my eye, feels surprisingly open, fluid, and radical.

  • Ina Archer, Hattie McDaniel: or A Credit to the Motion Picture Industry, 2003, four-channel video, photograph, handkerchief, tissue paper, doily, glass beads, dimensions variable.

    Ina Archer, Hattie McDaniel: or A Credit to the Motion Picture Industry, 2003, four-channel video, photograph, handkerchief, tissue paper, doily, glass beads, dimensions variable.

    Ina Archer

    Microscope Gallery
    1329 Willoughby Avenue
    August 21–October 4, 2020

    Murmurs of old Hollywood echo across the gallery in Ina Archer’s first solo exhibition here. But two entrancing noises stand out—a tolling bell and a percussive snap, which almost resembles a synth drumbeat. The former hails from a scene in the film Gone with the Wind (1939), when a pair of enslaved young men ring a giant bell signaling the end of day in the cotton fields. The latter, stretched out and on a loop, is the sound of Sidney Poitier slapping a “genteel” bigot across the face in In the Heat of the Night (1967).

    Archer masterfully samples America’s racist history in film and print while interrogating the legacies surrounding Blackness, racial appropriation, and dominion. In the multichannel video installation Hattie McDaniel: or A Credit to the Motion Picture Industry, 2003, the aforementioned bell creates a haunting soundtrack for Archer’s explorations of racialized labor via archival footage of McDaniel (the first Black woman to win an Oscar, for her role in Gone with the Wind) playing the all-too-accommodating housekeeper in a seemingly endless parade of movies. Archer inserts herself in the videos too and occasionally appears as a devilish maid, dusting away at computer screens.

    The show’s multimedia title piece, Osmundine (Orchid Slap), 2020, integrates a triptych of drawings with a small video projection of Poitier’s pulsating, resounding blow. Orchids fill both the clip and Archer’s graphite-and-ink compositions. The hybrid work uses horticulture as an insidious metaphor—the man Poitier strikes compares the maintenance of the finnicky, epiphytic plants with the time it takes to properly “cultivate” African Americans. Archer’s remixes emphasize the still-present and nefarious logic at play in colonial epistemology: that some bodies were born to be governed.