As implied by its title, “Neue Räume” (New Spaces) is the first show to take place in this newly refurbished space. Moreover, it is the first exhibition of Dorit Margreiter’s work at the gallery. These simple conditions led the artist to conclude that this blank slate is an artistic equivalent to that of a frontier, therefore requiring her to revisit the history of the Western genre. The result of this dryly hilarious reasoning, underpinned by her erudition in cinema history, is a short 16-mm film featuring a lone rider and his horse in a sublime landscape, titled Transfer (Monument Valley), 2016. Shot at John Ford Point in Monument Valley, Arizona, this film is both the centerpiece and the synthesis of the exhibition, which otherwise features a collection of works produced since 2015 spread across four rooms. Each element in the film nods to the central subjects of other pieces, including the nature of filmmaking, the sun, and equestrianism, just to name a few.
This show is bracketed by Experimental Noise (No.8) and Experimental Noise (No.9), both 2015. At first glance, these two large photographs seem to be pictures of a starry sky. However, they are in fact wholly digitally produced images that re-create the appearance of scratched and dirty film. These are essentially Photoshop filters that produce the effect of damaged photo negatives. Within their minimal visual language, they contain a poignant rebuke of both flawless digital images and the trend for tastefully aged and distressed products. More important, they point to the central concern of Margreiter’s practice: the act of image production and its attendant historical circumstances.
Neringa Černiauskaitė and Ugnius Gelguda are interested in putting concepts, temporal horizons, technologies, and other disparate and apparently unaffiliated elements into relation, as is demonstrated by their collective moniker, Pakui Hardware, under which the artists from Lithuania have been operating since 2014. Pakui is, according to the artists, the speedy attendant of a Hawaiian goddess; is one of the myths of our postdigital condition.
With Vanilla Eyes, 2016, the young duo presents an extensive installation accessible to visitors in the lower level of the museum. It is fascinatingly slick and overwhelmingly organic to the same degree. Its point of departure is its title’s double meaning in English: the wordplay on “vanilla eyes” and “vanilla ice.” The consonance of the two phrases expresses the relationship between the artificial and natural worlds—which are barely distinguishable today. The difficulty of differentiating between the authentic and the synthetic, between true and false, is also expressed in the two-part installation. A Plexiglas wall divides the space down the middle; at its lower edge a blue liquid (water? nutrient fluid of some sort?) rests in an elongated container. To its left and right are similar objects: a hose of the sort used to ensure germ-free environments; triangular stands with PVC prints on which there are images drawn from NASA’s digital archives; a small arrangement consisting of computer parts, neon tubes, and ceramic sculptures in cling wrap. Pakui Hardware plays with artificially produced surfaces whose appearance draws from the natural realm—a domain into which they also regularly wander back. There is no virtual reality, because there is no actual reality—such is one of their theses. Vanilla Eyes is an incubator for exactly this, our reality.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Gold leaf meets synthetic fiber, wood marquetry meets Formica, and steel meets oil paint: In the Winter Palace of the Belvedere, Sterling Ruby collides with the Late Baroque opulence marking the residence of Prince Eugene, field commander and diplomat for the Habsburgs. With works ranging from mobiles to sculptures to wall hangings, the artist not only contrasts the historic masonry on a material level with the everyday of the twenty-first century but also carries that past thematically into the now.
In the antechamber are two CANDLES,—both 2015, elongated fabric sculptures—one standing on end, the other laid flat—printed with a stars-and-stripes pattern. Neither the banality of these soft sculptures nor their seemingly peripheral presentation in the vestibule hides the fact that they provide the rhythm for the entire exhibition. Again and again, American pragmatism encounters European pathos, not least in the series “ACTS,” 2015–2016: colored liquid poured into urethane blocks painted violet, green, red, and blue, around which swirls the brocade on the walls of the Blue Salon, Eugene’s highest-ranking reception hall. Meanwhile, Ruby’s “MS” series, 2010—welded pieces of metal reminiscent of constructivist weapons—occupies a room dedicated to gold-framed battle scenes in oil on linen from the eighteenth century.
Ruby produced four “FLAGS,” 2016, specially for the exhibition: large-format quilts made of bleached denim and fleece that serve as emphatic counterpoints to the Green Salon and the Library Hall in which they hang. There is, however, no better place for them than the Winter Palace, which, with all its embellishments and decorations, here becomes a compelling intersection of art and handicraft. Opposites attract.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Let’s look at life as an exercise of mere accidents––a sequence of freak chances whose endless syntheses, movements, gestures, and replications make up the inertia of this revolving world. In 1963, upon discovering that his lithographic printing stone had broken in two, Robert Rauschenberg, who was at that time experimenting with printing processes, must have come to a similar conclusion, naming this erroneous work Accident. “Répétiton” is curated by Nicola Lees and Asad Raza under a similar pretense of resistance: mainly, that objects defy the stasis of the exhibition space and exist as an ever-fluctuating series of incomplete incidents and encounters. Joining selected works from the collections of Ljubljana’s International Centre of Graphic Arts and Moderna Galerija with new commissions specifically for this exhibition, Lees and Raza extend these works into desultory frames of signification based on disparate social receptions. This is aided by a group of outside curators who have been given carte blanche to rehang the installation weekly based on their own respective tastes.
Bad Weather, 2015, Will Benedict’s 120 prints shown originally in Tivoli Park as part of the 2015 Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana, shows graffitied messages of civil discontent, love, and affirmations of existence (“so-and-so was here”)––marks of human presence as fragile and transient as the posters that bear them. Arguably, the show’s pičce de résistance (pun intended) lies with choreographer Andros Zins-Browne’s Already Unmade, 2016, a series of unannounced performances occurring throughout the exhibition that take “choreographic objects” from his oeuvre and attempt to retract their finished status in real time. It’s a rehearsal that defies completion, which is here akin to death.
The legacy of the Anthropocene will be littered with parricide: We’ve killed God, and we’re systematically poisoning Mother Nature. How, then, will we account for the current atrocities on this planet? “The Invisible Hand,” the title of this outdoor exhibition curated by Natalie Kovacs, offers one idea, referring to Adam Smith’s concept of enlightened self-interest––a metaphysical force spurred by humankind’s persistent eye on the main chance and the collective effect of those pursuits on human affairs. The ambivalent universe on view, which takes place in the gardens of the Parc Tournay-Solvay, jostles between the utopian and dystopian, the rational and irrational. At the epicenter is global human crisis: Ein Goldener Berg (A Golden Mountain), 2014, Leonard van Munster’s sculpture in which a mound of gilded survival blankets used to rescue sea-thrown refugees––its apex peering out from the park’s central pond––serves as a towering body count (and perhaps just the tip of the iceberg) emerging from the depth of indifferent waters on which it is borne.
Fourteen profane sculptures by Joep van Lieshout are situated throughout the gardens and confront humanity’s relationship with itself and the planet through displays of questionable ethics that provoke the creation of new value systems. Witness, for example, three public acts of violation in fiberglass: Bad Man Kicking, Bad Man Hitting, and Bad Man Fisting, all 2002, life-size humanoid figures, stage politics of dominance and submission, portraying intimidation tactics through terror that exist on a level of global banality (they offered an uncouth playscape for kids the day I visited). Consoling only a little is van Lieshout’s sculpture Panta Rhei, 2011, a self-sustaining closed circuit of three Rodinesque thinkers communing via a shared cannula of thought and excrement. Here, Heraclitus’s ever-flowing stream of time begins and ends with humankind––a gruesome reminder that the hand that wipes one’s ass doubles as the hand that feeds.
On the campus of this contemporary kunsthalle on a rural Danish island, a late-nineteenth-century forge has been repurposed as a project space. For their installation piece you may cycle the layers without alteration, 2016, artists Amitai Romm and Jean Marc Routhier extend the idioms of site-specificity and artistic consultancy to the logos of neighboring businesses and organizations. They’ve collected around thirty, plus select bits of other found copy: words such as “Belladonna” and “Utopia” that, in the company of smiling water droplets or the emblem of the local TV Mřn, ring with overwrought romance. Between two quaint windows the artists have arranged translucent, stringy, 3-D-printed reliefs of the words and trademarks inside two overlapping rings of metal pipe—both copper, one coated with aluminum. The pipes form a Venn diagram, as if to plot these terms, quasiscientifically, between “Truth” and “Belief.” In their slim intersection, labeled “Knowledge,” there are no logos.
This wall piece is a plan for the rest. Two intersecting spheres are projected from two stacked points within the building; where the virtual form meets the physical, the artists mark the boundary with a strip of metallic tape—copper for the lower, aluminum for the upper. The imperfect, peeling, hand-cut curves follow the rough contours of centuries-old crossbeams and pavers, dip into crevasses, and seemingly penetrate the lichened roof. Wrapped under the edges of these circles and arcs, like embossed labels pounded into a vast schema, is a second copy of the logos. Like the installation as a whole, these tabs are the gothic match of premodern metallurgy and the present, gluey state of digital artisanship. And where any expert, artist or not, claims special, systematic knowledge of brands and their magic, they too combine the blacksmith’s crude results with the alchemist’s promises.
Louisiana has been very busy. This thrilling presentation of the museum’s recent contemporary acquisitions reflects an impressive variety of media by male and female artists of divergent nationalities, races, and ages. As dynamic and heterogeneous as the show is, the themes of playfulness and political engagement continuously run through the installations, which unfold throughout the entire museum and spill onto the grounds outside.
Representative of such works is American Alex Da Corte’s Pop-infused multimedia installation Delirium – The Foolish Virgin, Scene I, 2014, which blends bright neon colors with sensuous materials and patterns to create an alternate universe reminiscent of a dreamlike disco hall. On the other end of the spectrum is Vietnamese American artist Tiffany Chung’s Finding One’s Shadow in Ruins and Rubble, 2014, which consists of thirty-one hauntingly beautiful, glowing boxes sitting on the bare gallery floor, which illuminate scenes of destroyed Syrian homes. The exhibition’s selection of works on paper is particularly strong and includes British artist Simon Evans’s detailed drawing collages, such as In the Arena of Vanguard Cities, 2013, which creatively relates the topography of cities to personal thought. Scandinavian artists are also well represented in the show. Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s short film Me and My Mother, 2015, combines humor and absurdity to probe one of the most natural familial bonds. The video portrays the artist and his mother as she spits on him over and over in fascinatingly visceral detail.
Showing concurrently with “Illumination” is “Fire Under Snow,” an exciting collection of recent film and video acquisitions, which also includes playful and politically provocative works. Not to be missed is an all-encompassing and masterful installation of William Kentridge’s breathtaking The Refusal of Time, 2012.
Data to computer scientists is as concrete as atoms to nuclear physicists or DNA to biologists. Although generally considered in abstract terms, these elements function as the foundational building blocks of our perceptible world. Take digital images for example: What we see on screen are not apparitions but tangible visual information. From this standpoint, artist Andrey Bogush dissects digital photography as material that can be calculated, coded, and manipulated. For his exhibition “When Everything Is Over So We Can Discuss,” Bogush renders quotidian photographs—shot while working at home or in nature—with digital patterns and hazy swaths or scribbles of color. Pulling these images off the screen and into sculptural space, Bogush printed them on industrial vinyl and has hung them as rippled curtains lining the walls or as flat carpets on the floor. Using similar tropes as artists such as Alice Channer or Lucas Blalock, Bogush features warped, shifted, deleted, and replicated details captured in metamorphoses. For example, elongated appendages are overlain with nebulous blobs of purple and diffused gray in Proposal for Hand, Content Aware Fill and Violet, 2016, while visually fractured and partially replicated fingers and textiles are seen in Proposal for Hand, Phone and Duplicated Curtain, 2015.
Representing digital tools of production, smart phones and laptops are combined with plant matter that makes appearances throughout. At times, images are reconfigured and juxtaposed as floating screens cut and pasted at angles, then flattened onto gradient layers, collapsing the visual depth of the foreground and background. Life experienced daily on-screen bears equal weight to that captured in physical space, and as distinctions begin to blur, digital life for artists like Bogush has long become second nature.
This open-air museum, like all others, is an elaborate fiction. Confined to an island and only accessible by a footbridge, the place—with its traditional wooden buildings, original furnishings, and costumed interpreters—appears to be caught in a time warp. Commissioned by the nonprofit Checkpoint Helsinki and curated by Joanna Warsza, “Finnish Landscape” features ten local and international artists subjecting this bucolic yet artificial landscape to critical scrutiny. An outline of Seurasaari looks like an elongated leaf in Erik Bruun’s arresting graphic design created for the poster of the exhibition, which takes its title from a sonnet penned by Bertolt Brecht during his exile in Finland
One of the more playful interventions, Ilya Orlov’s A House with the View, 2016, has a mechanized, naked male mannequin shielding itself with a round, rotating landscape painting—one of the artist’s own—as if it were a fig leaf. The negative space made in freshly dug-up ground for Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Jumana Manna, and Haig Aivazian’s piece Accounts of Things and People That Have Been Moved, 2016, acts as a poignant reminder that the wooden structures housed on this island were wrenched out of their natural environment in order to be preserved here.
Presented in archival boxes throughout six guest rooms of different houses on the island, Liisa Roberts’s series of photographs titled “Remnants,” 2011–16, all taken at the Tapiola housing estate, a utopian garden city built in the 1950s, alludes to the practice of storing objects in the houses at Seurasaari for the winter, only to bring them out again in the summer. Such cycles inform Kader Attia’s video installation Mimesis as Resistance, 2013–16, featuring a lyrebird, which has the ability to imitate all natural and unnatural sounds, including that of its own unmaking.
The annual summer group show here always offers a considered and nonhierarchical interweaving of historical and contemporary art works. This year’s offering, “Bibelot,” meaning a treasured ornament, is no different. An eclectic array of artists and pieces are presented, such as a carved boar’s skull and four shell necklaces created by cannibal tribes in Borneo and Tanzania, respectively. The exhibition opens with Goshka Macuga’s Boy, 2007—a tree hung upside down with shoes attached to the bottom of two branches—paired with two nineteenth-century wooden chairs from Crete. In another room, Daniel Subkoff’s ongoing “Hanging Out” series is represented by works commissioned for this show, including Lunar Harmonics, 2016, consisting of four unprimed canvases with cutouts to hold stones and minerals, some of which were found on Hydra. The piece feels like an homage to Hydra, an island that has influenced many, including Martin Kippenberger, whose work here is an ashtray made from a laminated book cast in resin.
Object, artifact, and decoration become so enmeshed that boundaries begin to melt, such as in one 1974 painting by Vassiliki Pikoula, a naive painter who was hired as a cook in art dealer Darthea Speyer’s Hydra vacation home in the 1960s. It features Darthea Speyer and James Speyer dressed in Parisian style and holding champagne floats but rendered in a quintessentially folk manner. The painting is visible in the mirror of Mattia Bonetti’s desk, Ballerina, 1989–90, that opens up to reveal compartments in which objects by Meret Oppenheim sit with Chloe Wise’s Monogamy, 2015–16, two plastic glasses filled with fake seafood pasta. In this encounter, history’s treasures stand in proximity not only to those of the present but also to objects from the historical—and cultural—margins.
Rallou Panagiotou, the deft curator of this show, has a soft spot for a modernism weathered by the sea, as encapsulated in the Morandi-esque ceramic vessels that emerge out of what feels like a salty surface in Aliki Panagiotopoulou’s canvas mounted on powder-coated metal, titled Still Life, 2016. In this exhibition, which evokes the essence of a Greek island summer, sight and sound have been translated into representations—from Margarita Myrogianni’s photographs of a sea view taken through a summer-house window on Tinos island to Alan Michael’s impressive painting of a hyperreal seascape rendered as a curl across a large, raw canvas.
There is a sense of play here. Natasha Papadopoulou’s pair of puzzles feature two bare behinds with chunks of each cheek interlocking with the other. These works speak to a vital aspect of the Greek island experience: the sense of bodies on top of bodies, as sweat intermingles with the hot air. But Panagiotou does not allow this exhibition to fall into pastiche. She pays homage to the island’s ancient past and its holiday-infused present through an elegant series of paintings—including Jack McConville’s Instant Service, 2016, which features classical female figures alongside ice-cream cones, and Sofia Stevi’s Finders Follow, 2016, which features the abstract shapes of women’s backs. A feminist slant continues in Helen de Main’s screen prints of covers of the feminist magazine Spare Rib, while Rhianna Turnbull’s collage presenting four figures meticulously chosen from magazines and placed in simple juxtaposition brings it into a queer yet familiar and familial frame of reference. In keeping with the spectrum between the past and the present is Panagiotou’s aluminum cast of Medusa painted in Volkswagen-vanilla car paint to look ceramic and an abstract figure carved out of the trunk of a cedar tree by David Adamo. In both cases, nature becomes form, and form becomes the myth you live in.
The exhibition “A World Not Ours” reflects on the powerful concept of a homeland. For The Persecuted, 2015, asylum seekers captured on the move by photojournalist Yannis Behrakis are presented as newspaper clippings with headlines announcing one tragedy after another, alongside a slide show of lush, emotional portraits. By contrast, Giorgos Moutafis’s black-and-white photos of refugees in limbo for Europa, Europa, 2016—taken with a disposable camera and displayed in light boxes—take on the soft, romantic sheen of a remote past like family portraits.
In Marina Gioti’s video Saint Marina, 2016, the artist’s elderly aunts recall their family’s traumatic 1922 expulsion from Asia Minor to Greece, first Samos and then eventually Piraeus, where they were spurned as “refugee wasps,” evoking the reception such interrupted lives often receive, even among people of the same ethnicity. Tanja Boukal’s Memories of Travels and Dreams, 2016—an advertisement for the ferry from the Turkish port Kuşadası that is framed by mock postcards of the detritus of deadly migrant boat crossings, the price of the trip either €35 or €3,000 depending on who you are—reveals an absurd, and devastating, disparity between dream and reality.
Historical amnesia—and its sibling selective memory—is the most serious malady of modern society: We forget that migration has long been the norm. The show’s titular film, Mahdi Fleifel’s intimate 2012 documentary about life in Ein el-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon that has gradually become permanent, examines three generations of exiles, acknowledging their stark differences as random twists of fate, and hints at how hopelessness can easily breed extremism. “I love my country,” says the Syrian mother who narrates her journey to Samos in an interview taped by activist Sallie Latch. “It wasn’t our choice.”
It’s strange to see Conceptualism treated like the Parthenon, but here we find a fragment of that globalizing movement subject to repatriation of a kind: a survey of internationally trained mostly Norwegian artists of the 1970s and ’80s, brought home together by the state under the sign of heritage.
Aggressively curated, wall to wall, the gluttonous and satisfying show is dominated by a twelve-foot sphere of felt (Inghild Karlsen’s Pustende ballong [Breathing Balloon], 1988); the startling abjection of a shin-high case of neatly gridded decomposing loaves of bread (Bĺrd Breivik’s Moldy Bread, 1971/1974); and Oddvar I. N. Daren and Lars Paalgaard’s Humus line, 1984, a mound row made of ash and garbage flanked by speakers and a television naming the materials—recalling, with baroque elaboration, Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs, 1965.
Sardonically distorted echoes of such orthodox-Conceptualist icons also ring in the quieter works beyond—among them, Daren’s Measuring the Depth of the Snow, 1981, which documents the artist standing in an incrementally deeper hole beside the corresponding blocks of snow he has extracted—a clear (cold-region) Mono-ha appropriation; and Carl Andre’s bricks imagined as a faulty demonstration of Pythagoras,1978, by Paul Brand, in which a triangle is negatively formed by squares (we get the concept at a glance until we realize bricks are oblong, making their numerical relationships a rabbit hole).
All the ice, wool, and revisionism here inflect the exhibition’s title, “Silent Revolt,” as against not just commoditized aesthetics (as a more familiar narrative would have it), but also perhaps as national particularities against the purportedly universal character of Conceptual art itself, a conflict Zoë Sutherland convincingly chronicles in a recent essay for the New Left Review.
In Poland, pickle juice is traditionally thought to be an effective hangover cure; and if the nation’s extreme right-wing PiS party seems drunk on their newly acquired power, then Slavs and Tatars’ playful symbology suggests a remedy for their staggering nationalist rhetoric. In the center of the main gallery, a bar serves both juice and a dose of political commentary. Three varieties are offered: traditional cucumber, delicious mushroom, and a garlic so pungent that many might likely decline on the basis of scent alone. After downing a shot or two, visitors are free to take in the other works, which include Pan Chrzan (Mr. Horseradish) (all works 2016), a woolen rug depicting a cartoonish conjoined-twin horseradish root with one end menacing the other, and the banner Hammer and Nipple, featuring long cucumber breasts that leak milk-white letters spelling out, in Polish, “Sour on power: the tits of government only provide kefir.” Hanging above it all is the large vinyl print Life Is Like a Cucumber: One Day in Your Hand, One Day in Your Ass, which shows a cucumber-thumb thrust between the index and middle fingers of a fist, a gesture that translates to “You aren’t getting anything.”
This country has a history of political rebellion as satire—the Orange Alternative for instance, operating mainly during the 1980s, created happenings that burlesqued authority through various hijinks, including dwarf-themed graffiti and cardboard mock-military parades. Slavs and Tatars’ slick presentation contrasts with the DIY aesthetic of protest objects made during the material scarcity of Communist rule, but the sentiment is the same: Perhaps the only way to counter the recklessness of the current government’s actions is with absurdity.
With works by twenty-three artists from fifteen countries, “The Travellers” spans space, time, and media. Though its primary motifs may at first seem facile—postcards, trains, and islands all make repeated appearances—the subject matter is consequential. These works reckon with questions of mobility: How can an experience be captured? What constitutes authentic cultural representation? And who has the agency to wander?
Most works are overtly political, like Sislej Xhafa’s Barka (Boat), 2011/2016, a fifteen-foot boat made from shoes found on the beaches of Lampedusa, Italy. The diversity of the empty footwear underscores the heterogeneity of those who are desperate to secure a better life via emigration. Vesna Pavlović’s Fototeka (Photo Archive), 2013/2016, projects images of Josip Broz Tito’s international travels onto a gray synthetic curtain, evoking a contrast between the easy mobility of the Yugoslavian dictator and his captive citizenry. An Ecuadorian bus is festooned with symbols and abbreviations in Dushko Petrovich’s acrylic-on-paper El Oso Carnal (The Carnal Bear), 2013/2016, which presents a personal summary of migrations that define the artist’s life.
Despite the gravity of the topic, humor is still evident. Wojciech Gilewicz’s video Painter’s Painting, 2015, shows the artist working on plein-air paintings in unlikely locations: at a weight-lifting gym, proximate to a food stall, inside a phone booth. Viewers only see the canvas from the back, so there is no confirmation that the artist is actually re-creating these scenes, but no matter––what’s important is the sense of trying to capture a fleeting vista. It’s a gag, but at its core is the legitimate issue of how to see and record the world as we move through it, and as it moves through us.
The first show in Poland dedicated to El Hadji Sy, the Senegalese artist and activist, focuses on the performative and socially engaged side of his practice. Some of the works also familiarize us with artist’s interest in the intersection of spirituality and nature, for instance, the painting Vegetal Ancestry, 2013, in which the lips and neck of a man’s profile become leafy plants. On display is a rich repertoire of sculptures, paintings, and works on jute, some of them realized during artist’s residency at this venue. Many pieces remain linked to the documentation of performances in which they were originally featured. One such work is Slave Boat, 2015, completed in Warsaw and included in a performance Three Keys, 2015, staged in the courtyard of Ujazdowski Castle. Inside the boat made of jute, a print is visible that captures the soles of feet arranged in several rows. This intervention commemorated enslaved Africans who were taken from their homeland and transported in harrowing conditions on overcrowded boats to the Americas. The performance also explored the meaning of water and travel in a broader, spiritual context. In another ephemeral action, Fractured Memory, conducted at the Museum of Photography in Antwerp in 1999, the artist pointed to the fact that Africa and its cultural activities, including performance and storytelling, still suffer from a lack of recognition. To change this dynamic, he puts these ephemeral forms at the center of his compelling practice.
Since its beginnings, the pictorial world of José Diaz’s work has been deeply imbued with both historical references and a recognition of the digital age’s ardent circulation of images. His subject is the city and, more specifically, the experience of his hometown, Madrid. It is a longtime point of reference in his abstract output and one that has evoked issues as varied as Spain’s Baroque tradition and the smoke-stained tunnels of the city’s ring road. The once dark and densely layered surfaces of older paintings give way now to an unprecedented clarity. His city is still his backdrop, but his current practice—rooted not so much in materials as in data—is closer to the flow of the spontaneous than to the weight of the inherited.
A half dozen new paintings on display convey a sense of immediacy, with abstract strokes relentlessly forming images that seem loosely attached to their canvas surfaces, as if eventfully performing against some neutral background. They derive from Diaz’s airy touch. They form and deform as he systematically adds and subtracts, perhaps evoking parcours in a twenty-first-century city where nothing prevails, where everything can be eroded by the slightest breeze. If rootlessness defines contemporary life, it also underpins a pictorial practice that privileges action over results, gerunds over past participles, language over concept.
Pink stains flash across the canvas in many of the works. They refer to the frantic emergence of digital paraphernalia in daily life: neon streetlights, or perhaps the path one walks as recorded by a GPS-driven phone app. The works also touch upon Diaz’s biography, as they portray frenetic estrangement in a city that ultimately remains his very own.
A plumb line suspended from the ceiling, brushing the surface of a black pool of ink, 90ş, 2016, and a faint pencil line across the wall, like the projection of a blueprint, 1° (below this line is half of the universe. Above this line is half of the universe), 2016, have the appearance of coherence and stability. But the line trembles, the ink splashes, and the horizontal line inclines almost imperceptibly. These pieces, by the Swedish artist Jesper Norda, open “Banish the Incoherence,” an exhibition of six artists whose work relates to urban space and inhabitance.
Norda’s mock-scientific mappings soon give way to a different kind of value system: that of affect and poetics. In a series that collages photos, writing, and painting, titled “Cm by cm, meter-by-meter, km by km,” 2012–15, Lisa Torell transforms the outdoor furniture of New Belgrade’s social-housing estates into tender witnesses to modernist utopian ideas and the histories of the everyday that layer over the structures’ surfaces. “I was close enough to touch them. But I never did. Just looking was enough,” reads an inscription below two chipped concrete flowerpots with a cloud of beige paint hovering over them in Figure 0191.
In Savage Messiah, 2011, a fanzine-style psychogeographic journey of London’s rougher areas, by the British artist Laura Oldfield Ford, the antiflaneur figure developed throughout the show becomes the vehicle for an explicit critique of the violence, segregation, and layers of access in that city. Collages of photocopied typewritten pages take us through the East End soaked in rain and high on drugs, with one reading, “We’re totally wrecked,” and “ESTATE AGENTS UP AGAINST THE SOUTH FACING WALL.” The maps that emerge here are thicker, wilder, sensitive, and intense—not even worth calling incoherent, because coherence was a limp measure of the urban thicket anyway.
The phrase “Swedish design” usually conjures a range of hugely popular stylistic conventions rather than works by individual designers. Therefore, this show’s effort to locate the emergence of the style in its original context between the 1930s and the 1960s, while highlighting the vital roles played by female designers, is helpful toward gaining deeper insight into one of the most dominant influences in our built environment today.
The exhibition successfully strikes the right balance between being seductive and informative. The irresistibly appealing design objects are expertly displayed, while the informational texts, accompanied by carefully selected archival photographs and publications, anchor these artifacts in the time and circumstances of their production, from the advent of a scientific and egalitarian approach to design and homemaking in the 1930s to the new post–World War II social and economic order. Several examples here, such as Ingeborg Lundin’s glass object Apple, 1955, speak to how changes in industry during this era enabled women to enter previously male-dominated disciplines. The correspondence between artistic forms and society is evoked, for instance, by Finland-born Viola Grĺsten, who relocated to Sweden in 1944 due to a shortage of wool—her dazzling Oomph fabric from 1952 gave this show its name.
Because these designers’ primary objective was to integrate modern design into everyday reality as opposed to revolutionary grandstanding—for example, Lena Larsson pioneered flat-pack furniture—it is hard to fully grasp the extent of their influence. For a non-Swedish audience, what is most astonishing is how familiar the visual language of these pieces feels. This testifies to the extent in which these designers continue to define our sense of what constitutes the ideal living environment and, consequently, our notion of well-being.
Consensus is an exhibition in the middle of an uneasy break––the way someone might, midsentence, struggle to find a word. Upon entering, one comes to a kind of pause that takes the show past the limits of saying something: By not perspicuously speaking, it says volumes. Raha Raissnia filmed everyday life in East Harlem with a concealed camera to make Longing, 2015. By transferring the unsteady footage to 16 mm, then cutting it up, collaging it, and having collaborator Panagiotis Mavridis compose a deep, ambient sound track, Raissnia has created a preternatural portrait of the neighborhood. Katinka Bock’s series of sculptures “Zarba Lonsa,” 2015, makes use of verlan, the French slang that inverses syllables, in its title. The word verlan is itself an example of this, a turning around of the syllables in l’envers, meaning “the inverse.” The piece was based on exchanging goods with shopkeepers in the suburbs north of Paris: For example, Bock would offer something to a butcher in exchange for a piece of meat, which she would fold in ceramic and fire. The meat burning up in the kiln left an aperture in the ceramic, a trace of the trade. Dana DeGiulio’s Syntax for Queen Lear, 2016, is a multitude of fragments, cut-up images, and tape installed on both sides of a wall. Coming close to some kind of writing, or musical notation, it remains tantalizingly illegible. It makes up no constellation, no single image––precisely what the exhibition as whole grapples with. Sometimes a show may function outside the comfortable clarity of themes and instead leave enticing impressions.
Sequestered above the restaurant Nosh & Chow in Stockholm (designed by Barcelona-based Lázaro Rosa-Violán), renowned Swedish artist Ulf Rollof's current solo exhibition is the last installment in a trilogy that began in Mexico City. Yet these works were prepared in Ventura, California, where he now resides. A multifaceted creator, Rollof seamlessly glides between three distinct mediums—painting, glass, and paper. With a history of highlighting both the conditional and the existential while aspiring to be universally accessible, the artist now bombards his audience with stirring pieces—confirming that he has harnessed newfound energy.
The venue in which these carefully curated works subsist maintains traditional decor, alluding to Scandinavia’s keen aesthetics and ongoing interest in design. Rollof's Cinema Painting 4 Hands (all works 2016), among other striking oils on linen, is felicitously shown in a dimmer, more subdued setting, with the assistance of LEDs. This particular piece suggests a connection to the Renaissance spirit (rebirth, renewal) and the era’s exploratory, preliminary sketches for sculpture. The artist also displays new works: antique-glass objects penetrated by 9-mm bullets that nonetheless, against the odds, remain intact. This discordant act of shooting hints at collective vulnerabilities yet emphasizes a desire for change despite conflict. Influenced by his Southern California residency, Rollof exhibits framed cardboard signs such as Hungry Stranded, which were made by and purchased from homeless people he has encountered—going against any sort of human tendency to passively ignore the seemingly degenerate, fallen, or lost.
Differentiating between public and private spheres can be challenging. This group exhibition focuses on how one might successfully share a subjective experience when most individuals are conditioned to distance themselves from others. All four artists in the show experiment with documentary formats, spanning installation, video, painting, and cinematic offshoots. It is easy to oversimplify an observed experience in social media, where an influx of sensationalist explosions and a saturation of stimuli push one to absorb information. This show slows down processing and considers one human factor at a time.
Ylva Ogland’s “Transmutation” series, 2008–2016, consists of four diptychs depicting the artist with her father; these paintings are framed by a visceral red backdrop, which is the artist’s trademark. Johan Thurfjell offers a minicinema resembling an architectural model for his film Dobar Cú, 2014, in which a “dark wet hound,” as described by the artist, guards a secret underworld; Thurfjell also displays a cluster of soft-hued paintings titled Prolog, 2011, perhaps to be interpreted as film stills translated into another form. Most impressive was Magdalena Dziurlikowska’s video Corona Radiata (The Radiating Crown), 2016, which examines her personal struggle with pregnancy and miscarriage as a woman in her late thirties. Juan-Pedro Fabra Guemberena’s project “Noviembre,” 2014–, includes the delicate book Juan-Pedro and Vania Go to the Zoo, 1974, and a large-scale magazine collage, El Gurrumino, 2014. All works relay the sentiment that each person carries an intimate perspective worth acknowledging—one that often can be seen to parallel those of others, if examined.
“The besieging gaze that angels cast on the city has been interrupted,” wrote artist İnci Eviner about Istanbul and her photographic series “Nowhere-Body-Here,” 2000, during a transitional period in her career when she steeped herself in cross-media experimentation and began merging the personal politics of her oeuvre with urban—even civic—concerns. “Who’s Inside You,” a long-awaited retrospective of Eviner’s work, with its imposing yet intimate architecture, could be a haunting maquette of this city without its guardian angels: It speaks to the way its denizens have been changing skins, so to speak, to cope with deep-rooted sexism, urban transformation, and police brutality.
Always underscoring the importance of drawing, Eviner takes up the role of a pathologist and cuts into the thick skin of a troubled society with her incisions in order to reveal grotesque ailments. A rare presentation of her groundbreaking series “Skinless,” 1996, features two stiff leather cardigans with sleeves too short and narrow for one to wear. Hand-drawn heads float on the copper-plated inside of one of the cardigans, seemingly propelled by their long dark hair. This frivolous anonymity is carried on to a shepherd’s cape—also leather—that boasts its own (drawn) nervous system with bulbous, erotic extensions on copper.
The large silver heels, black-and-white leopard-patterned loose pants, and albino politicians, so prevalent in Eviner’s photographic and video work, do not (yet) appear in her 1997 ink drawings Icarus and Defeated Icarus. However, the artist’s proclivity toward defamiliarizing superimpositions still emerge in these torso-less Icaruses: They spread their wings, perhaps inherited from the expelled angels of the city, but unidentified tentacles, which do not appear in the original myth, hold them back in midair. Despite this suspension, several ink drops make their way down, leaving behind straight, gravity-ridden lines that multiply the tragic hero’s fall.
The tenuous relationship between text and art is at the heart of Deniz Gül’s exhibition “Loyelow.” Titled the same, Gül’s book published this year—perhaps best defined as a novella—provides both an anchor for and a point of departure from the objects in the gallery space. The show, which ends with a short film, is held together by a shared potential of movement. The familiar green garden hose set on the floor, a semitransparent sink holding water, the generic blue tiles climbing up the wall, all share similar associations, forming a network between and among them. The installation placed in the center of the exhibition, Loyelow Fields (all works 2016) is a mesh of things that once were—cement casts of objects such as toy cars or shoes serve to remind one of the gap between an object’s image and its physical presence.
In the video Stardust, an antihero confronts an excavator that moves back and forth. Just like the man in the image, the viewer is fixed in place, experiencing the pain of this character’s immobility. The young man, looking at the violent movements of the machine, turning the earth literally inside out, appears to be frozen in a moment of indecision, wanting to move but not being able to. The opposite of the possibilities symbolized by the objects, the video pulls in another direction, making obvious the all too familiar failure of individual resistance in present-day Istanbul. But the latent potential of the individual, who just needs to be present until the sensational fictions wear off, is the remaining hope of Turkey following the attempted coup d’état.
“Dead-End of Bliss,” Yasemin Özcan’s first solo presentation at this gallery, is an object-theater of sorts that funnels mostly domestic objects into a Duchampian freeze, transforming their homely associations into uncanny proposals for survival in modern Turkey.
A quote from Brian Friel’s 1980 play “Translations” is incorporated into the title of Özcan’s To Remember Everything Is a Form of Madness 2/40 (all works cited, 2016): These words appear in Turkish on three ceramic tiles among a horde of others that are predominantly pink, cream, or floral patterned. Each tile serves as a metonymic device for individual homes furnished in a variety of styles by different social classes, thus stifling the viewer in an overdose of interiority. This archive is interested in our most intimate moments—the artist herself confesses that the installation features a tile from her own bathroom. The piece inevitably resonates with the collective sense of vulnerability prevalent in the country following the attempted coup, yet it also suggests healing is possible.
Good for One and Justice Tea Garden are installed across from each other. The former is a pan sized to cook for one—a gift to the artist—cast in brass with a stacked base approximately eight inches thick, an attempt to measure the emotional weight of living as a single woman. The latter features three identical cylindrical ceramic containers decorated with the same red flower, the type most commonly used on tea or sugar vessels in Turkey, and the Turkish words for “Justice,” “Tea,” and “Garden.” In a country where justice is indolently delivered at the laid-back pace of a garden tea, Özcan hints that patience may be a delicious virtue after all.