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Kasper Akhøj

Nouveau Musée National de Monaco | Villa Sauber
17, avenue Princesse Grace
June 2–January 8

Kasper Akhøj, 63V52017, 2017, laser-exposed gelatin silver print, 20 x 16".

When Eileen Gray’s ill-fated 1929 architectural gem E-1027—a beautifully proportioned white modernist villa overlooking the sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, near Monaco—opened to the public in 2015, the controversial restoration project that started in 2006 and saw successive teams of architects and administrators undoing and redoing each other’s work was far from over. Taken on five separate visits to the site between 2009 and 2017, Kasper Akhøj’s black-and-white photographs chart the progress of such work at the house. Variously displayed individually, as pairs, and in constellations, the set of fifty-nine framed laser-exposed gelatin silver prints in varying sizes is based on the shots Gray, who was also an accomplished photographer, took herself upon the estate’s initial completion. Her images were used to illustrate a special issue of L’Architecture vivante, a magazine edited by her lover, the Romanian architectural critic Jean Badovici, for whom Gray designed the villa. The cryptic name E-1027 stands for their joint initials.

Delicate gray adhesive letters beside the photographs on view combine the reference numbers from Gray’s photos with the dates of Akhøj’s visits, calling attention to a corresponding shot from her portfolio, as in 63V52017, 2017. Yet for all his rigor, the remakes bear only a passing resemblance to the stylish originals. Mostly sold at auction in 1992, iconic furniture items that were an integral part of the interior design either are missing or have been replaced by replicas and stand-in objects, such as makeshift tables, dusty chairs, and sundry building tools. As well as pointing to the tentative and provisional nature of conservation at E-1027, Akhøj’s works are a poignant reminder that architecture rarely stays true to its designer’s original intention.

Agnieszka Gratza

Cameron Platter

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10 Lewin Street, Woodstock
October 19, 2017–November 25, 2017

Cameron Platter, Rainbow Thoia Thoing, 2017, wood, enamel paint, 8 1/2' x 24 x 24".

In 2013, South African artist Cameron Platter collaborated with weavers at ELC Art and Craft Center Rorke’s Drift, a storied art hub in rural KwaZulu-Natal province, on wool tapestries. Their abstract forms are based on digital collages the artist created from DVD covers for interracial pornographic films found online. Rather than amplify and ironize the noise of this libidinal media, Platter’s hand-spun tapestries obscure the source of his ludic play. His latest exhibition, titled “ZOL,” includes five colored-pencil drawings inspired by the same source material. It is the translation across media that energizes these works: The respective green and silver grounds of 93-asfAJIJJJJJJJ384-00z (Pink) and DE-39637619 (Skylar) (all works 2017) reveal an incremental method of filling in color; they are monuments to a determinedly slow studio process.

Platter came to prominence in the aughts with a repertoire of impudently Pop drawings and sculptures that were insistently figurative and often framed by gonzo narratives. His three enamel-painted wood sculptures displayed here lightly recall this earlier self. Reclining Figure Red Yellow Pink Closer (ohhhh) presents a bright yellow imitation of a plastic lounger, with an upright, noodle-like red piece evoking a human. Partly named after a 2003 song by R. Kelly, Rainbow Thoia Thoing  is a sculptural tower composed of the likenesses of two white deck chairs and four cinder blocks, painted black; the absurd juxtaposition of title and form successfully renders his enduring interest in collage and popular culture into a three-dimensional object. Pivoting between figuration and abstraction, nine drawings—of marks that almost become effigies and, in the case of Beware Beware, an elephant walking on its hind legs—are, first and foremost, smudged sites of uncluttered invention.

 

 

 

Sean O’Toole

“You & I”

A4 Arts Foundation
23‭ ‬Buitenkant Street, District Six
September 13–January 28

Goddy Leye‭, ‬We are the world‭, ‬2006‭, digital video, color, sound, 4‭ ‬minutes 52‭ ‬seconds.

Collectivism has been a major force in South African art pretty much since the New Group, a vanguard of white modernist painters, declared themselves, in 1938, “united against junk.” Rather than didactically survey artistic associations and cooperatives in their home country, though, curators Ziphozenkosi Dayile and Kemang wa Lehulere—both members of the influential Cape Town arts group Gugulective—opted instead to elliptically parse ideas and demonstrations of collectivity for this space’s inaugural exhibition. A ranging and worldly affair, “You & I” dutifully includes works by actual collectives, notably the Propeller Group’s video The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, 2014, an impressionistic documentary of funeral traditions and rituals in south Vietnam, and Avant Car Guard’s Die Verlore Kind, 2007, a granite and enamel tombstone commemorating artist Kendell Geers (who is still very much alive).

The disruptive potential of concerted action, however, extends beyond the tactics and strategies of artists voluntarily coming together. Yoko Ono’s instructional work Mend Piece, 1966/2015, a long table displaying broken china and various bonding agents, locates unity in audience participation—the artist’s Fluxus credentials seem incidental to an appreciation of this piece. By contrast, Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s short Fishermen (Études, No 1), 2007, offers community as something tantamount to everyday fact. Set on a Benin beach, the unembellished video portrays a group of fishermen’s futile struggle to pilot their rudimentary craft out to sea. Cameroonian artist Goddy Leye’s We are the world, 2006, pits individual resolve against a strain of grandstanding associated with world peace ideology: The video depicts the artist, haloed by stars and fruit, performing a nonchalant karaoke version of the 1985 charity song for which his video is named. “We are saving our own lives,” he provocatively sings.

Sean O’Toole

Kudzanai Chiurai

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
V&A Waterfront, Silo District, S Arm Road
September 22–March 31

View of “Kudzanai Chiurai: Regarding the Ease of Others,” 2017. Center: “Conflict Resolution,” 2012.

“You can’t escape politics,” Kudzanai Chiurai once said to CNN, not that anyone who has followed his meteoric rise to fame would ever accuse him of skirting the issues. Since gaining notoriety (and status as a political exile) for an incendiary portrait of Robert MugabeAbuse of Power, 2009—the thirty-six-year-old Zimbabwean multimedia artist has galvanized contemporary African artists to engage such thorny subjects as corruption, xenophobia, and internecine conflict. His arresting exhibition at this newly inaugurated institution, Cape Town’s first museum of contemporary art, brings together key bodies of work from the past decade or so, including excerpts from his 2012 series “Conflict Resolution” that were shown at Documenta 13.

In what might be a reference to Susan Sontag’s 2003 book on war photography, Regarding the Pain of Others, the show’s title, “Regarding the Ease of Others,” alerts us to the indivisible problem of subjectivity. Like Sontag, Chiurai is concerned with the gendered authorship of history and constructs alternative narratives. His glossy, highly stylized tableaux of fictional militant groups, where women are illustrated as central figures of influence, shine a light on the typically masculine poetics of power and war. Shrewd and often humorous lithographs and photographs of fictional African leaders in his series “Dying to Be Men,” 2009, and “Revelations,” 2011, explore what one might call the iconography of despotism—corybantic warlords and politicians replete with AK-47s, gold chains, and fur coats.

The selection of videos, photographs, drawings, posters, and paintings presented in this survey mount a sustained critique of the Christian and colonial narratives that still mark the political, economic, and social conditions of present-day southern Africa; together, they offer a coruscating meditation on power, paternalism, and patriarchy, while reflecting on symbols of democracy—and their misappropriation.

Genevieve Allison

“Trip of the Tongue”

Simon Lee | Hong Kong
12 Pedder Street, 304, 3F The Pedder Building
September 22, 2017–October 27, 2017

Elaine Cameron-Weir, Vault (detail), 2017, Stainless steel, dental phantom, rawhide, heating mantle, transformer, glass, and labdanum resin, 74 x 15 x 11".

For her first show in Asia, curator Piper Marshall brings together works by five artists, including painting, sculpture, drawing, and photography. Titled “Trip of the Tongue,” a layered malapropism of the idiom “slip of the tongue,” the exhibition sets out to explore the problem of language through pieces that manipulate, even celebrate, the deficiencies of human expression and perception.

The show is rigorously coherent, featuring a through line of dental imagery that, along with the tongue, constantly draws viewers’ attention back to the mouth, that imperfect instrument of language. Judith Bernstein’s charcoal text works provide the exhibition’s pivot. The titular word in Brain, 1995, barely legible through the artist’s frenetic scrawl, hangs opposite that of Teeth, 1995, whose forceful lines are more clearly defined. Here is the chaos of the mind, controlled—untidily—by the filter of speech.

But teeth do not merely enable or represent communication. Their shape, size, and color, for example, can indicate a person’s class and culture, or a period’s social and aesthetic ideals. Elaine Cameron-Weir’s fascinating stainless-steel sculpture Vault, 2017, includes an altered dental phantom—a nightmarish model of the human jaw used in the early 1900s for training dentists. If there is an eerie allure to Cameron-Weir’s piece, it is echoed in Torbjørn Rødland’s photograph Enamel Floor, 2015. The vignette depicts dental prostheses alongside a swirl of ribbon or bandage. Both artists take the perfection inherent to a model or mold and, through their interpretations, make it perverse.

Samantha Kuok Leese

Toshio Matsumoto

Empty Gallery
3 Yue Fung Street, 19/F Grand Marine Center
September 9, 2017–November 18, 2017

Toshio Matsumoto, White Hole, 1979, 16-mm film, color, sound, 6 minutes 20 seconds.

The presence of White Hole, 1979, a short, abstract film by Toshio Matsumoto, at the entrance to the gallery space not only attests to a certain curatorial wittiness (a white hole, in physics, being an area of space-time that matter cannot enter from outside) but also sets the psychedelic tone for the retrospective of this Japanese experimental-cinema pioneer. White Hole examines Matsumoto’s metaphysical quests amid his study of the Upanishads. Such Hindu connections can also be found in Everything Visible Is Empty, 1975, a boldly hued work that consists of meticulously planned intercuts of kanji from the Japanese translation of the Heart Sutra, Hindu imagery, and eventually even planes of pure color—all set to a sound track that subtly evolves from analog South Asian music into those of a pure synthesizer.

Matsumoto’s masterful cult feature film Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) is another reference throughout the two-floored show: Excerpts appear in For the Damaged Right Eye, 1968, Ecstasis, 1969, and Expansion, 1972. The former most effectively manifests Matsumoto’s expanded cinematic practice, via its three projections juxtaposed to form a live montage accompanied by flickering lights. The work also hints at social and political concerns in addition to aesthetic ones. The Weavers of Nishijin (1961) is Matsumoto’s seminal experimental documentary work; reflections on consumerism, labor, as well as cultural and financial capital come through in images of artisanal kimono fabrics being produced in Kyoto.

Morgan Wong

Dean Sameshima

McNamara Art Projects
202, The Factory, 1 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang
November 3–December 22

Dean Sameshima, City Men: George Michael, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 57 x 41".

For Peres Projects’ first Hong Kong presentation (in collaboration with McNamara Art Projects), the Berlin-based gallery is exhibiting thirteen new and older works by Dean Sameshima. Many of the paintings, photographs, and prints place queer desire in the context of quainter but more oppressive times: when, for example, to circumvent obscenity laws, pornography was sent to readers of athletic magazines as back-page connect-the-dots puzzles (Torso, 2006; A Portrait of Mike, 2006; Anything Anytime… Now Nothing, 2007).

Among Sameshima’s recent paintings, which he creates by projecting text onto canvas, is Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida: a report of the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, January 1964. Tallahassee, Florida. AKA The Purple Pamphlet. with annotations by J.J. Bertrand Belanger, 2017. The work features the preface of the notorious, eponymous document, which was ostensibly a study of the “growing problem of homosexuality” that claimed to be “of value to all citizens” concerned with the “moral climate of the state.” Ironies and absurdities such as this one are captured sharply; these are pointed and critical works by an artist well versed in the codes and survival tactics of his community. If his output comes across now as irreverent, even humorous, that is only because progress has been made.

But then there is the painting made up of two thin orange words on a background of forest green, an obscure textual reference seemingly doubling as a viewpoint on said moral climate of the state in 2017, where successive Novembers in the US have done little to lift liberal spirits. Those two words also make up the 2016 work’s title: Exhausted Autumn.

Samantha Kuok Leese

“Scraggly Beard Grandpa”

Capsule Shanghai
Building 16, Anfu Lu 275 Nong, Xuhui District, 1st Floor
November 4–December 22

Rania Ho, Genus: Verduous Suburbanus Bucolia & Love Hate Relationship, 2017, rip-stop nylon, battery powered fans, video on portable monitor, dimensions variable.

The titular grandpa is missing from the works gathered in this group show of twelve artists who spent time working at the art collective and gallery space PRACTICE in New York from 2015 to 2016. Curated by PRACTICE founders Wang Xu and Cici Wu, the show presents different tensions around the idea of folding the familiar into the foreign in daily life abroad, wherever abroad happens to be.

The sense of shadowy interiority of Irini Miga’s installation Landscape for a Thought (all works cited, 2017), a ceramic cone placed in a tiny triangle cut into the wall, is amplified by João Vasco Paiva’s The Last Kauai Oo Bird I and II, featuring tennis shoes carved from blackened lava stone from Bali, lonely remnants of owners who have disappeared or been extinguished. Rania Ho’s playful battery-powered inflatable nylon suits in the outdoor garden make the fragile cement scaffolding of Yunyu “Ayo” Shih’s Before It Happens––which resembles a partition wall, installed near the entrance of the exhibition––much more halting.

There is something about the traffic of ideas and artworks between China and the United States that remains wonderfully understated in “Scraggly Beard Grandpa”––here, we find no thesis on expatriation. One leaves, one returns, and, somewhere along the way, one picks up friends to work and think alongside.

Todd Meyers

Amitesh Shrivastava

Project 88
Narayan A Sawant Road, Colaba, BMP Building, Gound Floor
August 10, 2017–September 30, 2017

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

Yokohama Triennale 2017: “Islands, Constellations, & Galapagos”

Yokohama Museum of Art
3-4-1, Minatomirai, Nishi-Ku
August 4, 2017–November 5, 2017

Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall
1-6 Hon-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa
August 4–November 5

Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse No.1
〒231-0001 Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Naka-ku, Shinkō, 一丁目1
August 4–November 5

The Propeller Group, AK-47 vs. M16, 2015, fragments of AK-47 and M16 bullets, ballistics gel, vitrine, single-channel digital video. Installation view, 2017.

With thirty-eight artists and two collectives represented, the 2017 Yokohama Triennale is kitted out in cheap plywood scaffolding and furniture, courtesy of architect Teppei Fujiwara, in aid of its mission to tackle flotsam, jetsam, and aftermath. The show holds all this up as if to query whether, in a future comprising a bit of land, some people, and quite a lot of ocean and trash, we might want to prepare ourselves ahead of time and learn how to read today’s excess and tragedy to anticipate tomorrow’s reality and refuse.

Reappearances and returns make a strong case here for a circulation that fosters less redundancy and more contextual elaboration. The collective Don’t Follow the Wind, whose inaccessible, Fukushima-based 2015 group exhibition has been written about before in these pages, is now made accessible via A Walk in Fukushima, 2016–17, a 360-degree video experience of what has been, since the 2011 nuclear-plant disaster, an uninhabitable area, with crafty headsets made in collaboration with artist Bontaro Dokuyama and three generations of a Japanese family who live in a zone deemed “safe to live” by the government but still subject to restrictions due to its proximity to a radioactive locale. Fresh off its turn in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s video The Island, 2017, shows up next to an array of works by the Propeller Group, a collective of which Nguyen is a principal member (a context that American audiences might have benefitted from knowing about). The Group offers AK-47 vs. M16, 2015: fragments of bullets from both weapons encased in ballistics gel, protected by a vitrine, as well as a digital video of the same and a surreal series from 2013 of oil- and embroidery-on-canvas portraits of Lenin as various Leonardo DiCaprio–played characters in Hollywood studio pictures of recent vintage.

Artworks are shot through real-life channels and media streams, taking damage and inflection as they pass on. See Japanese artist Mr.’s anime-girl—a superior technology if there ever was one—installation extravaganza My Apologies, 2017, which brings out the latent apocalyptic timbre of a shy geek’s fantasy, complete with a Giacometti-esque statue of a kawaii miss. Ai Weiwei (I know, I know) puts in his two cents via Safe Passage, 2016, two columns wrapped with life jackets—recovered from actual refugees fleeing regional destabilization, though whether the items hail from the successfully emigrated or the lost at sea seems intentionally ambiguous—looming outside a large window of the Yokohama Museum, perhaps the most drastic image of recycling attempted in a triennial yet.

Paige K. Bradley

“Urban Ritornello: The Archives on Community”

Ilmin Museum of Art
139 Sejongno, Jongno-gu
September 15, 2017–December 3, 2017

View of “Urban Ritornello: The Archives on Community.” Front: Yi so-ra, Folk song Researcher’s Archive, 2017. Back: Kim Soyoung, Performing Diaspora Archive, 2017.

Curating a strong thematic exhibition often demands archival research on said theme—and if that theme is the wide-ranging and multilayered concept of “community,” the curator’s research likely extends into cross-disciplinary scholarship on history, sociology, philosophy, ethnography, anthropology, and urban planning, among other subjects.

Instead of showcasing the final outcome of such investigations, however, “Urban Ritornello: The Archives on Community,” curated by Juhyeon Cho, presents the source materials from the archives of participating artists and scholars across the three-story museum. For the show, thirty teams of researchers and artists provided their own references in diverse media. The installation simulates actual studies and reading rooms, so that viewers can take a seat at a desk; browse books, notes, and sketches; listen to recordings; watch films; and even rearrange the materials on hand at their own will.

Ritornello here refers to Felix Guattari’s definition of the word as the “people’s chord.” In defiance of history’s conventional framing, the curator interpreted Guattari’s concept as the capacity of individuals to create a communal society by sharing their “natural and instinctive physical state” through sounds, songs, dances, and conversations. The collaboration of experts and the intervention of the public in the exhibition ultimately yield an optimal site of knowledge production that heightens our understanding of the community.

Jung-Ah Woo

Lai Chih-Sheng

ESLITE GALLERY 誠品畫廊
5F, No. 11 Songgao Road
September 2, 2017–October 8, 2017

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

“Spectrosynthesis: Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now”

Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei
No.39, Chang'an W. Rd., Datong Distict
September 9, 2017–November 5, 2017

Su Hui-Yu, Nue Quan, 2015, two-channel video installation, color, sound, 9 minutes.

This is the first major museum exhibition focusing on LGBTQ issues in Asia, and it is apt that it is being held in the capital of the first Asian country to move toward legalizing same-sex marriage. Taiwan is a complex and ever-evolving society—remarkably more open to the progressive values of the global Left than its surrounding nations in East Asia, while at the same time wedded to traditional notions of what constitutes family, as could be expected in a country molded by Confucian values.

The local polarization of cultural values is addressed directly in many of the works and makes itself felt indirectly in the presentation broadly. To wit, seemingly innocent works such as the videos Nue Quan, 2015, by Su Hui-Yu, and Jun-Jieh Wang’s Querelle-inspired Passion, 2017, which both feature no nudity but rather the mere implication of sex, require a stamp on the hand signifying one is over the age of eighteen to be admitted into their installation by docents stationed outside.

Given that Asia is a massive continent with a diverse array of traditions, seeking a unified aesthetic or even a solid set of issues would be a slippery endeavor, and what this exhibition does best is to point to an array of fractured potentialities comprising a terminally incomplete queer aesthetic. In particular, that aesthetic in progress is enriched by the contributions of diasporic artists such as Ho Tam, whose photographic zine series Poser, 2013–, mates the perennial outsider’s gaze with a 1990s punk attitude, and Ming Wong, who re-creates Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film Death in Venice, playing both of the main characters, Aschenbach and Tadzio, in a hilarious and potent attack on the unquestioned whiteness of the Euro canon.

Travis Jeppesen

Latthapon Korkiatarkul

Gallery VER
2198/10-11 Soi Taweewattana (Narathiwat 22), Chong Nonsi, Yannawa
August 5, 2017–September 30, 2017

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, 2017–October 31, 2017

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

Tamir Zadok

Tel Aviv Museum of Art
27 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard
September 19, 2017–December 16, 2017

Tamir Zadok, Art Undercover, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 27 minutes.

Nothing is what it seems in Art Undercover, 2017, the centerpiece of Tamir Zadok’s solo exhibition. The video traces the artist’s quest to find a lost oil painting by Charduval, purportedly a French artist who lived in Egypt in the early 1950s. With only a poor black-and-white reproduction of the piece and some anecdotal evidence, Zadok heads to Cairo to see the collection of the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art—what follows is a chronicle that reveals more via its meandering progression than any conclusive discoveries.

Viewers eventually learn that the artistic persona of Charduval provided cover for an Israeli intelligence agent named Shlomo Cohen Abarbanel while in Cairo. What better role than that of “artist” to avoid tricky questions about one’s agenda when traveling or living abroad? As Zadok searches for traces of the “French” painter’s legacy in Egypt, he begins to perform a variety of stealth research tasks himself. With a fresh haircut and a new suit, he approaches a Western curator at an exhibition opening about presenting his own work in Egypt. At first hesitant, the curator becomes more receptive once Zadok subtly switches the accent on his name, changing its pronunciation from the Hebrew, Tamir Zadok, to the Arabic, Tamer Sadek.

The artist’s earlier work also plays with the boundaries between political realities and fictional narratives, such as in Gaza Canal, 2010, a mockumentary (also on view) of an Israeli-run visitor center in Gaza built after the Israeli government pushed the territory into the sea. This Swiftian satire gives way in Art Undercover to internal reflection about art, nationalism, authenticity, and the mixture of exhilaration and trepidation that accompanies border crossings and secret missions of all kinds.
 

Chelsea Haines

Marwa Arsanios

Beirut Art Center
Jisr El Wati, Building 13, Street 97, Zone 66
June 28, 2017–September 29, 2017

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

Lamia Joreige

Marfa'
1339 Marfa’ District
October 10–December 29

View of “Lamia Joreige: Under-Writing Beirut,” 2017. From left: The River 8, The River 7, The River 9, all 2016.

“And yet the moment finally came when the city no longer resembled itself”: With these words, Franco-Lebanese historian Samir Kassir described his civil-war-struck hometown of the 1980s in Beirut (2005), a book widely accepted as the definitive monograph on Lebanon’s capital. Lamia Joreige’s ongoing three-part project Under-Writing Beirut, 2013–, perhaps can be best explained as a painstaking attempt to recover traces of how the city was, and still is, in the process of undoing itself.

This exhibition brings together works from its second and third chapters, focusing on the transformation of the outlying Beirut River and Ouzaï areas. While a documentary impulse is strong in the three-channel video reportage After the River, 2016, and in the superimposed aerial period photographs of the series “Ouzaï, Cartography of a Transformation,” 2017, Joreige is most eloquent in works with relative poetic license. Mixing wax, pigments, pastels, and crayons, her delicate, impressionistic drawings demonstrate a curious evolution from year to year, neighborhood to neighborhood.

Although a faint outline of the Beirut River or the Ouzaï shore is visible in all her works on paper here, the drawings dated to 2016––tinged with reds and sickly yellows––from a series titled “The River,” 2015–17, turn the stream into a blood vessel susceptible to storing puss in bulbous pockets. On the other hand, the 2017 “Coastline” series furnishes barely connected ghostly explosions along the waterfront with less spindly flowers of evil that remain witnesses to the neighborhood’s experience of war, forced migration, growing religious conservatism, and pollution. The orientation of the area around the seashore is tilted ninety-degrees clockwise in the sculpture Ouzaï, 2017, but given that here the main arteries are cast in golden alloyed metal, the district takes on a zoomorphic form, ready to dart off, reminding one of how much is still in flux here.

Gökcan Demirkazik

Jacob Hashimoto

Leila Heller Gallery | Dubai
Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
September 21, 2017–November 4, 2017

Jacob Hashimoto, The Eclipse (detail), 2017, cotton, paper, bamboo, silk-screen print, dimensions variable. Installation view.

The Eclipse, 2017, a large-scale installation of black and white paper circles, dangles from the gallery’s ceiling in a heavy cloud formation. This fragile work offers a soft shadow play that belies its ominous presence. The undulating mass seems to hang in wait: It is both menacing and beckoning. It is a monumental embodiment of the sublime—terrifyingly beautiful—and also indicates Jacob Hashimoto’s inclination toward the technological age.

The rest of the works in this exhibition present an aggressive aesthetic dissonance that interrupts any individual narrative. Across two of the three gallery halls, a series of mostly small rectangular wall reliefs of frenetic layers of lurid polygons portrays patterns, clouds, and trees that evoke overcrowded metropolises and a deep, discombobulating dive into pixelated TV displays. These pieces, moreover, recall frozen chromatic shards of information on screens, perhaps in the midst of self-destruction. They are sedated only by Hashimoto’s use of thread to suspend the delicate paper forms and harness their energy.

Hashimoto’s offering of dueling digital-analog experiences may feel like a threshold rife with an addictive feeling—all dopamine-inducing fun and games—but The Eclipse still looms in the corner. It is a reminder of the threat of unpredictability and of technology’s capacity to reproduce, replace, and, ultimately, erase.

Katrina Kufer

Ross Manning

Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
420 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley
August 5, 2017–October 28, 2017

Ross Manning, Bricks and Blocks, 2016, LCD TV, video camera, fluorescent lights, mirror, dimensions variable.

In this mid-career survey of Brisbane artist Ross Manning, everyday electronics—along with their prescribed, ubiquitous purposes—are deconstructed to show the fundamental wonders of light, movement, and sound. Many works brilliantly exploit the mechanics and science behind analog projectors, giving (a nearly obsolete) technology new life as kinetic sculptures and immersive installations. In the first room, the artist has constructed Spectra XIII, 2017, a free-hanging, kinetic assemblage of small electrical fans, connected to and propelling fluorescent lights that softly oscillate in opposing directions. The lights are colored to represent the basic additive RGB and CMYK color models of video screens. As a result of the sculpture’s movements, the fluorescent colors continuously mix on the surrounding walls, floor, and ceiling, mimicking in a rudimentary way the formulae used by color television.

Ross Manning’s practice spans visual art and experimental music. This exhibition, which mainly demonstrates Manning’s manipulation of modern electronics’ visual properties, also includes Wave Opus III, 2017, a large-scale percussion instrument made from a curtain of hanging aluminum tubes. Given its own room with spectator seating, this instrument-cum-artwork is operated by a mechanized rope that strikes the chimes, creating sounds that echo around the gallery space. On a grand scale, the pleasure of “Dissonant Rhythms” comes from the change of pace it offers: More often than not, technology is something one must keep up with or even anticipate, but Manning’s work encourages an audience to pause and simply appreciate what they already have.

Emily Wakeling

Hilarie Mais

Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia
140 George Street, The Rocks
September 23, 2017–November 19, 2017

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

“Something Living”

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
August 19–February 11

Philip Guston, East Tenth, 1977, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 1/2".

Philip Guston is the point of inspiration for this spirited group exhibition—specifically, his painting East Tenth, 1977, which this gallery shrewdly acquired in the early 1980s. Typical of his rather solemn, idiosyncratic experiments from this period, the work features a grimy New York sky above cartoon bottles, red-brick walls, and shapes reminiscent of Guston’s earlier Ku Klux Klan–type profiles. While the curatorial premise, detailed on a gallery wall, is fairly pedestrian—that contemporary artists have continued Guston’s obsession with “formless matter” and “living presence”—it becomes inconsequential for the works themselves. This is especially true of Dana Schutz’s Breastfeeding, 2015, Neo Rauch’s Gebot, 2002, and Jamian Juliano-Villani’s Boom Shot, 2015, all of which, although very different, share art-historical DNA, which might be described as a conflation of Neue Sachlichkeit and Surrealism. Schutz’s work in particular—an almost violent portrayal of breastfeeding—seems as if it could command the entire gallery space, showing a baby’s expressionless face as the stationary focal point amid an unshapen whirlwind of a mother’s slippers, feet, arms, and knees.

Schutz’s zaniness—symbolic of the twenty-first-century subject’s experience of being confronted by too many things at once—is echoed in Chris Ofili’s glittering decorative abstraction, Triple eye vision 2000–2002, 2002, and Katherine Bernhardt’s Lisa Simpson, watermelon, cantaloupe, cigarettes, and chapstick, 2016, which revisits Pop art in the wake of 1990s grunge. Rachel Harrison’s pinky powder-blue Paper Clips, 2016, and Arlene Shechet’s flesh-colored sculptures, Beginning Now, 2016, continue the exhibition’s punk-like treatment of the grotesque, underscoring Guston’s aesthetics of outrage, anxiety, and dejection as a peculiarly American sensibility.

Wes Hill

Mauro Restiffe

Pinacoteca do Estado / Estação Pinacoteca
Praça da Luz, 2
August 5, 2017–November 6, 2017

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