Amitesh Shrivastava

Project 88
Narayan A Sawant Road, Colaba, BMP Building, Gound Floor
August 10–September 30

Amitesh Shrivastava, Translators II, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 84".

Animals and humans appear in flashes then dissolve into ambiguous textures in Amitesh Shrivastava’s paintings. Their earthy palette, with highlights of blue and green, and thick brushstrokes leave the forms in a state of suspension between body and landscape. In Translators I, 2017, there is a forested terrain with cliffs, which could also be the furry backs of swiftly moving animals, fleeing or gathering for an attack. These two aspects of the painting seemingly pull in and out of focus, offering us muddled memories or a dream.

Exhibition didactics reveal that the scenes depict rural India, where low-ranking officers and opportunistic politicians (shown hearing pleas in Assignation, 2017, and delivering statements in Translators II, 2017) control the fate of the land and the people. Around them, crowds and herds gather, and there’s no knowing whether it is in anger or admiration: Is the toppled, plunging car in Trespassers II, the result of sabotage or an accident? Only the wild, furry-backed, and sharp-clawed creatures traverse the canvases with purpose. They are quick-witted interlopers among gangs and hordes making competing claims.

Shrivastava’s characters become sharper—and the narratives more linear—in his drawings. “Librarian & Anteaters,” 2016–17, is a fantastical series about a collaboration between hungry anteaters and a librarian facing a termite problem. A hopeful story, it offers a peaceful instance of coexistence within a show largely concerned with malaise and confrontation.

Zeenat Nagree

Lai Chih-Sheng

5F, No. 11 Songgao Road
September 2–October 8

Lai Chih-Sheng, 30 cm, 2017, polyvinyl chloride, 1 1/4 x 19 x 1/8".

If 30 cm (all works 2017), a common thirty-centimeter plastic ruler stretched and distorted by Lai Chih-Sheng, can be used to navigate “Between Dog and Wolf”––a title inspired by the French expression “entre chien et loup”—it suggests that our familiar methods of assessment are of no use in a site of uncertainty, metamorphosis, and transformation.

Lai creates minimal works that are often connected with the unseen labor behind producing a show and the display systems within a gallery: Placement notes and handmade marks from installation processes appear in Tape, paste filler and paint, while dust collected by cleaners from another exhibition was mixed with cement to create the concrete benches of Resting in the dust SL.

White Painting, a large canvas meticulously painted in acrylic, shares the same height of the wall it leans against; meanwhile the centerpiece, 8 cm inclination, features two facing gallery walls that are tapered on the same end to appear as if they’re on an eight-centimeter slope. The gap between the walls and the floor, typically for cleaning or for leveling artwork, is generally meant to be overlooked, but the artist mines this detail to foster new circumstances in the site of the gallery. And Trash Can, a semitransparent waste bag hanging from a white metal bin, which is printed with the text “LE CRÉPUSCULE,” alludes to the hour between dog and wolf, when anything is possible. Here, remnants and residues hold immense potential.

Daphne Chu

Latthapon Korkiatarkul

Gallery VER
10 ซอย นราธิวาสราชนครินทร์ 22 Khwaeng Chong Nonsi, Khet Yan Nawa, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon
August 5–September 30

View of “Latthapon Korkiatarkul,” 2017.

(Un)Composition” is the highly anticipated first solo exhibition from Latthapon Korkiatarkul, a young Thai artist whom many have considered a kind of a maverick since he burst onto the scene in 2010. His process-based works, riddled with serious, deadpan humor, succeed in projecting a healthy skepticism for the formulaic definitions and trite readings applied to art. By transforming familiar objects into eerily surreal entities—laboriously polishing an egg until it shines like marble, or scrubbing banknotes until they lose all individual markings—he has not only changed their appearances but also eradicated their connotations. He has put easy-to-overlook supporting elements such as walls and pedestals center stage, elevating them as artworks and thereby eliminating the apparent necessity and sanctity of art objects themselves.

In this latest subversive exercise in subtle material transformation, Latthapon tackles the classic medium of painting, using two different methods on two groups of canvases. His first approach resulted in high-finish readymades: White paint was painstakingly applied layer upon layer, built up into surfaces of shiny perfection. His second approach incorporated found objects: Chance elements—traces of dust, paintbrushes, hair, insects—were allowed to settle into the pigment, resulting in organic, disordered arrangements. Neither grouping of works suggest any human intervention.

There is something fascinating and mysterious about objects purposefully stripped of their meaning and value, as they are in Latthapon’s work. When there is no hiding behind any sociocultural references, art-historical traditions, political metaphors, or aesthetic principles, the viewer is instead invited to abandon contextual baggage and look inward. The blank-looking canvas performs as a mirror to one’s own being.

Narawan Pathomvat

Etti Abergel

Bar David Museum for Jewish Art and Judaica
Kibbutz Baram
February 25–October 31

View of “Archaeology of Others,” 2017.

For nearly four decades, Etti Abergel has been investigating and expressing a lineage of exile: Her parents, who were born in Morocco and fled to Israel in the late 1940s and 1950s, have struggled with their new location and identity. A sense of estrangement has been passed down to Abergel, despite her being born and raised in the Jewish state. Her current exhibition is a parting ceremony from her migrant identity.

A wooden bridge leads viewers through the length of the gallery. Without a real aim or purpose, the bridge, decorated with metal-can mobiles and plastic tote bags—materials the artist associates with migration and adaptation—directs the viewer to a wooden cabin. Titled Transitional Cell, 2017, this small meditative space seems to be a place for rituals. In it is a plaster-casted floor pillow installed near a large industrial porcelain plate, while the cell’s roof is partially covered with twigs taken from the artist’s hometown, Tivon. Portions of the walls are covered with expressive black vertical lines that look like scratches and feel like a silent scream.

Numerous items are housed within Library of Objects, 2017, a large shelving unit. Some, such as Footstool, 2015, and Knot, 2003, are taken from Abergel’s previous shows. Together, the works in this library offer a sense of fragility and obstruction: A broken bowl covered with plaster, ballpoint pens tied into a delicate nest-like structure, and dice trapped in plaster and placed under a glass cup are also on view. The exhibition concludes in the museum’s small archeological room, where Tape Measures, 2017, a chandelier of measuring tapes, hangs from the ceiling, as if scaling the artist’s virtues. It is a symbolic form of contemplation about one’s past choices, faith, and paths.

Naomi Lev

Marwa Arsanios

Beirut Art Center
Jisr El Wati, Building 13, Street 97, Zone 66
June 28–September 29

View of “Marwa Arsanios,” 2017.

You hear rushing water before seeing pristine mounds of earth with white infrastructural models atop them. Still beckoned by the sound, you see the video, Falling Is Not Collapsing, Falling Is Extending, 2016, from which it emanates. The film depicts a frothy white river foaming with contamination, and over the next eight minutes, you learn how real-estate oligarchs build dumps kilometers from Beirut’s center to devalue the land so they can buy it cheaper later. And then: Chirping birds and barren landscapes switch to machinery and apartments, indicating Beirut’s cyclical destruction and reconstruction of its territory.

Beirut’s current garbage crisis has the city at risk—many speculate it’s now too far gone to be saved. Artist and activist Marwa Arsanios addresses its devastating relationship to the recent real-estate boom, drawing parallels between the crisis and neoliberal economic projects from the 1990s. The concise, research-heavy installation is very aesthetically basic, featuring drawings, video, and architectural models that create a littered path across the narrow space. The works are unsettlingly literal. The dispersed mounds represent Beirut’s own actual floating: its trash fills the Mediterranean, while its buildings are supported by land extensions formed by waste.

Arsanios is proof of the consequences of how the non–mutually beneficial fusion of politics and ecology is reshaping the realities of a generation where pessimism is the new norm. The exhibition exudes the stillness expected from a dying landscape, but there may be hope yet, if Arsanios’s oversize scientific drawings are any sign: They depict the flora that has evolved to survive in the landfills. But looking around again at the mounds, you can’t help but think, “Was this really worth it?”

Katrina Kufer

Hilarie Mais

Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia
140 George Street, The Rocks
September 23–November 19

View of “Hilarie Mais,” 2017.

The work of Leeds-born, Sydney-based artist Hilarie Mais is minimal and meaningful. Since the 1970s, she has achieved renown both for creating painstakingly handcrafted abstract structures that study the aesthetic possibilities of geometrical shapes, and for embedding her work with autobiographical facts. Throughout history, circles and spirals have been related to life cycles and energies, just as grids have been linked to rationality. These connotations are present in “Tempus,” an ongoing series of monochromatic and multifocal constructions that the artist has created yearly since 2006. Particularly effective is Tempus 4, 2010, a palimpsest-like piece in which light and dark dots of different sizes form spiral and gridded patterns on a gray background.

Duality is also present in Mais’s “Mist,” 2010–12, a series of intricate grid constructions made of wooden sticks which are irregularly intersected by painted lines and patterns. There is a nuanced repetition in them that evokes perfection and predictability, but their organic construction leaves room for asymmetry and miscalculation. Every work pursues the beauty and mystery found in universal patterns, such as the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio. Indeed, the very essence of humanness is to err, and, in overcoming small failures, to create magnificent constellations—in this case, one built between the personal and the natural through a complex interplay of color, form, light, and shadows.

Claudia Arozqueta

Mauro Restiffe

Pinacoteca do Estado / Estação Pinacoteca
Praça da Luz, 2
August 5–November 6

Mauro Restiffe, Álbum(Tempestade, 2003), 1996–2017, silver gelatin print, 15 3/4 x 23 1/2".

The cover of a 1909 book titled Atlas do Brazil, photographed alongside documents and pictures on a desk, is the enigmatic opening image of this important panoramic exhibition featuring Mauro Restiffe’s work. Presented as a prelude to the show’s predominant scenes—a variety of bucolic landscapes, crowds gathered during historical events—the still life also introduces significant ways to read the work on view. It immediately evokes the artist’s archive, which prompted this exhibition, which gathers never-before-displayed photos, including a good number of intimate family portraits taken over the past thirty years. The notion of an atlas, referenced in the book’s title, is relevant as well, offering a conceptual path to understanding Restiffe’s interest in mapping the world without attachment to any particular genre.

The curatorial approach, devised by Rodrigo Moura, in which images from different epochs are each shown in several formats and settings, is reminiscent of Aby Warburg’s famous Mnemosyne Atlas (1924–29). For example, twenty-five paintings from two museums (Pinacoteca and MASP) are placed in dialogue with Restiffe’s analog black-and-white photographs. But paintings appear as well in many of his pictures—from Pieter Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow (1565) to unknown canvases depicted in domestic scenes. Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, ca. 1483, is here seen as a trivial image stamped on a shirt hanging from a clothesline. If the mirroring effect of images is what interests Restiffe most when he photographs paintings, the juxtaposition of canvas and photos sheds light on this strategy. A recurring object in his pictures, mirrors are even more abundant in the pieces on view. One appears, for instance, in the last work—an intriguing metapicture of two of his photos (each in turn depicting a mirror) drying in the darkroom. An interesting counterpoint to the Atlas do Brazil’s first image, it conjures the labyrinthine properties of photography in its attempts to map reality.

Nathalia Lavigne