Critics’ Picks

View of “Yto Barrada: How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself,” 2018.

New York

Yto Barrada

Pace | 32 East 57th Street
32 East 57th Street Second Floor
April 5–May 5

Pace/MacGill Gallery
32 East 57th Street 9th Floor
April 5–May 5

Pace | African & Oceanic Art
32 East 57th Street
April 5–May 5

Over the past fifteen years, Yto Barrada has made photographs, films, posters, prints, textiles, toys, mechanized models, games, collages, oversize blocks, fake fossils, and vast collections of sundry other objects that nearly defy categorization as art. She has moved through dramatic phases in the formal development of her work, lurching from humor and whimsy to a damning critique of colonialism, underdevelopment, and injustice. She has tumbled headlong into obsessions with historical figures, including members of her own family (her mother, her grandmother) and unknowable strangers (her mesmerizing account of the anthropologist Thérèse Rivière). She has collaborated with different people to learn how to do new things, such as running a film archive and dyeing cotton with plants. She has shared her work steadily, all over the world, and so it seems almost inconceivable that Barrada has only just now opened her first gallery show in New York.

It’s late, yes, but it doesn’t matter. “How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself” slots more than forty works into three floors, overtaking Pace, Barrada’s own gallery, as well as the related photography gallery Pace/MacGill and Pace African & Oceanic Art, which specializes in tribal objects. It’s a midcareer survey in miniature, conceived as a puckish form of institutional critique. Among the earlier works on view are two black-and-white photographs from Barrada’s 2006 series “Dormeurs (The Sleepers).” Her portraits of young men sleeping in and around Tangier, their bodies sprawled out in public, play with a deadly-serious tension between glorious nonachievement and the total exhaustion of clandestine migration and shift labor. Some of her newest works revisit Frank Stella’s famed “Morocco” series, 1964–65, but to do so, Barrada takes us on a necessary detour through the painters of the Casablanca School, as if to say, for posterity: Fair is fair.