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Ieva Kraule

kim? Contemporary Art Centre
Sporta 2, 1st floor
March 24, 2017–May 7, 2017

Ieva Kraule, Sophie, 2017, 3-D print, paint, steel, custom software, voice recording.

“If I am the mask then you must be the ‘true’ self hiding behind my insidious body, as for a mask to exist there must be something genuine for it to conceal,” utters Sophie, 2017, an automated mask created by Latvian artist Ieva Kraule to perform her written texts. Schematic, stripped away from any soft tissue that would conceal her hard mechanic body parts, Sophie resembles Maria, the robot in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Although detached from a body, Sophie manages to subvert the relationship between human and machine, between creator and a tool made to merely mediate the artist’s ideas. Machines are born of human desires and, at the same time, human limitations and insecurities, thus immediately gaining leverage in relation to their creators. Same for Sophie: She is immobile, mounted on a wall, and speaks in prerecorded voice between long pauses of mere motorized blinking, yet she becomes indispensible for the artist to communicate her thoughts. We see a mutual relationship, a double game, in which the machine shapes the same ideas that it later pronounces in the exhibition space.

Language is a recurring theme—a device, even—in Kraule’s practice, and it is explored through diverse materials, such as ceramics, metal, and texts. In this show, her linguistic concern is apparent in colorful metal lines reminiscent of fragmented letters, which are scattered throughout the gallery, and two other motionless ceramic masks mounted on a wall that have their mouths open yet remain silent.

Neringa Černiauskaitė

“Women’s Work”

South African National Gallery
Government Avenue, Company's Garden
February 20, 2017–April 30, 2017

Siwa Mgoboza, Les Etres D’fricadia (After Les Demoiselles D’Avignon), 2015, ink-jet print, 23 x 16 1/2".

In a 2009 performance titled Knitwit, maverick artist Barend de Wet, sporting a churchly suit and calling himself the “Knitting Bull,” loudly—like a lay preacher—implored his audience to “Knit!” In light of the sixty-four mostly contemporary works by thirty-three artists and collectives assembled for this concise survey of weaving, knitting, sewing, lace making, tapestry, beading, and embroidery practices, his entreaty was also a declaration of fact. De Wet is represented in this exhibition by Crochet (Shroud), 2013, a candy-colored knitted garment draped over a standing figure. It appears next to a color photograph by Siwa Mgoboza, Les Étres D’Africadia (After Les Demoiselles D’Avignon), 2015, a Picasso-parodying tableau with five black figures in costumes made by the artist from Shweshwe, a printed cotton fabric common in southern Africa.

Although mostly occupied with mapping the present, “Women’s Work” includes historical pieces that underscore the show’s thesis: Textile arts are often a collective endeavor and are encumbered by prejudicial, gendered assumptions. Africa, a large seventeenth-century wool-and-silk tapestry of Flemish origin that offers a hoary allegory of bounty and danger replete with the folkloric Queen of Sheba, is installed opposite two wool tapestries by Athi-Patra Ruga, The Glamouring of the Versatile Ivy, 2015, and Invitation . . . Presentation . . . Induction, 2013, both figurative works that portray the artist’s queer-influenced matriarchal reimagining of postapartheid history. A rectangular lace insert produced in the 1830s by a Cape Town slave known only as Melati smartly draws attention to the city’s history as a garment-making center—this once robust industry has been gutted by globalization. Zyma Amien memorializes this proximate history in two installations composed of found objects: Unpick, 2015, a display of atomized sewing-machine parts, and Paying Homage, 2016, three vintage sewing machines framed by vertical lengths of fabric decorated with sewing pins.

Sean O’Toole

Kirsten Beets

Salon Ninety One
91 Kloof Street, Gardens
April 5, 2017–May 13, 2017

Kirsten Beets, Suburban Magic, 2017, oil on board, 48 x 34".

Displayed in a window that faces onto a road trafficked by tourists, Kirsten Beets’s oil-on-paper painting Only the End of the World Again (all works 2017) depicts a tyrannosaurus rex, with its wimpy arms, attacking the sun-kissed Atlantic suburb of Sea Point in Cape Town. The real action, though, takes place in the painting’s foreground, where beachgoers, some shaded by umbrellas, sit staring at the ocean, oblivious to the nearby destruction. Eschewing the claustrophobic urban horror of King Kong and Godzilla films, Beets lightly deploys fantasy to obliquely comment on South Africa’s fraught social and environmental politics. Her oil-on-board Suburban Magic, a flatly painted study of a tiger—a species not native to this continent—seated on a plastic chair looking at an algae-ridden pool, offers another of her kooky engagements with white anxiety about place and belonging.

However, the bulk of her twenty paintings forsake comic-book flippancy in favor of an evolving abstraction. Drawing on personal photographs of picnickers, swimmers, and seaside revelry, Beets portrays groups of mixed-race subjects communing on geometric blocks of blue and green, surrogates for pools or parks. Her compositions recall the distant vantages of the Italian photographer Massimo Vitali, whose sublimated critique of leisure and political idleness she shares. A residue of the artist’s earlier interest in foliage and public gardens is evidenced in works such as Shade, featuring a white man in a botanical garden concealing a scarlet king snake. Confetti, a miscellany of carefully described leaves and blooms on a white ground, reiterates her interest in spatial abstraction while underscoring her technical facility with a genre whose origins date back to eighteenth-century colonial studies of this region’s strange abundance.

Sean O’Toole

“Dress Code”

Gallery MOMO | Cape Town
170 Buitengracht St
May 11, 2017–June 17, 2017

Sethembile Msezane, Chapungu- The Return to Great Zimbabwe, 2015, ink-jet print, 44 x 36".

The carnivalesque mood in Cape Town during the 2015 removal of a statue of colonial oligarch Cecil John Rhodes was well documented—a far cry from recent US news photos showing contractors clad in balaclavas and bulletproof vests removing Confederate bronzes in New Orleans by night. Among the many images of Rhodes’s effigy being hoisted off its pedestal, Sethembile Msezane’s color photograph Chapungu- The Day Rhodes Fell, 2015, represents a perspicacious act of witnessing. It shows the costumed artist, her arms outstretched, posed on a mobile plinth; tellingly, her back is turned to the events being witnessed by the large crowd. Msezane’s costume, a beaded headdress and feathered arm adornments, references a bird motif, once appropriated by Rhodes [for?], from stone sculptures found at Great Zimbabwe, a long-derelict settlement the artist visited for a performance and documented in the photograph Chapungu- The Return to Great Zimbabwe, 2015, also on view.

Costumes and role-play are prevalent in this exhibition, which thoughtfully pairs emerging artists such as Msezane with gallery-stable artists such as Mary Sibande and Ayana V. Jackson, both represented by polished studio portraits of female protagonists. Rubber Sole Monument of Aspiration, 2009, is typical of Sibande’s no-frills documentation of her sculptures depicting baroquely costumed black women. Jackson’s umber-hued historical self-portraiture, on view in Tignon and Iqhiya, both 2015, builds a bridge to Maurice Mbikayi’s portrait The Political Aesthete, 2016, which shows the Congolese sculptor wearing an elaborate suit festooned with keyboard buttons. Francois Knoetze’s bodysuits are also fashioned from consumer waste but eschew sartorial elegance. Two pictures showcasing his junk costumes flank his short video Cape Mongo (Metal), 2015, a rambunctious eco-documentary framed by a passage through an unlovely Cape Town.

Sean O'Toole

“.com/.cn”

K11 Art Foundation Pop-up Space
G/F, Costco Tower, 33 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan
March 21, 2017–April 30, 2017

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2015, oil and screen-printing ink on linen, 69 x 60".

What do we mean when we talk about post-internet art? For curators Klaus Biesenbach and Peter Eleey, it is in part a question of geography. For this exhibition, they have selected eighteen works by Chinese and Western artists that explore how regional diversities and differences are informed by our digital age and consequently affect contemporary art practices. It represents the first sortie of an ongoing research partnership between the K11 Art Foundation and MoMA PS1. Many of the works, which range from Wang Xin’s virtual-reality installation The Gallery, 2014–, to Oliver Payne’s classical trompe l’oeil mural Untitled (Portal Painting), 2017, seem to find form and subject in between the digital and analog realms. In Aleksandra Domanović’s film From Yu to Me, 2013–14, the .yu domain becomes a tangible relic of the vanished country, Yugoslavia, where the artist was born. She reminds us of the fragility of universalizing systems in a period of nationalist retrenchment. An untitled 2015 silk-screen print by Laura Owens was created with an early twentieth-century cartoon of Nikola Tesla that lampooned the inventor’s prophetic World Wireless System. Over the purposely fragmented and pixelated image, Owen applied paint in thick, textural strokes. Finally, in a pair of surreal video pieces by Cao Fei (The Birth of RMB City, 2009) and Sondra Perry (Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation, 2016), each artist’s virtual avatar navigates urgent realities. Such clever juxtapositions throughout the show challenge the notion of the World Wide Web as a utopian space unencumbered by boundaries, territorial or otherwise.

Samantha Kuok Leese

“Ambiguously Yours: Gender in Hong Kong Popular Culture”

M+ Pavilion
West Kowloon Cultural District
March 17, 2017–May 21, 2017

Heels worn by Leslie Cheung during Live In Concert '97.

Caught between East and West, Hong Kong, with its distinctive business-fueled urban culture, has always been an emblem of the cultural hybridity of which Homi Bhabha writes. In Chan Koonchung’s words, that hybridity characterizes old Guangdong itself: half China, half foreign, neither fully ancient nor fully contemporary. In the 1980s and 1990s, Hong Kong’s popular culture—its flourishing film and television industries and its literary output alike—was no exception. Although its regional influence in Asia was far-reaching, a single-minded focus on entertainment often led to a stereotype of Hong Kong as a “cultural desert.”

M+ Pavilion’s new exhibition does not sidestep these criticisms, nor does it attempt to make popular culture elegant. Taking the notable phenomenon of gender ambiguity in Hong Kong’s popular culture as a starting point, the exhibition remains contained in size, using four distinct sections to explore experimental manifestations of boundary-crossing identities.

To emphasize Hong Kong pop culture’s golden age, the exhibition’s atmosphere takes on the lushness of the theme song in Tsui Hark’s Green Snake (1993). The splendor of singer Leslie Cheung appearing in red beads and high heels is case in point. So too are legendary stars Roman Tam, Anita Mui, Denise Ho, seen in costume with extravagant props, in multicolor scenes synonymous with Cantonese pop-music performances. The same period of film and television production further refined expressions of gender fluidity, as sexual ambiguity became a unifying feature of the scenes and stills of films ranging from Rouge (1987) to Peony Pavilion (2001). Similarly, Julian Lee and Wing Shya’s character photography, Alan Chan’s graphic design and urban periodicals such as City Magazine and 100 Most also become multivalent stagings of visual experimentation. Finally, works from M+’s collection, by artists such as Wilson Shieh, Ming Wong, Stanley Wong, and Ho Sin Tung, reflect how pop-cultural elements infiltrate contemporary art.

Strictly speaking, “Ambiguously Yours” is more than just an art exhibition: It exemplifies both M+’s ongoing ambitions to shape visual culture and its step toward adding popular culture to its taxonomy of interests. However, given that Hong Kong’s cultural identity and territorial status remain in flux, the exhibition falls short of providing multiple perspectives on gender fluidity.

Translated from Chinese by Du Keke and Dawn Chan.

Wu Mo (武漠)

Taryn Simon

Gagosian Gallery
7/F Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street
May 25–August 5

Taryn Simon, Animal Corpses (Prohibited), Animal Parts (Prohibited), Animal Skeletons (Prohibited), Animal Specimens (Prohibited), Butterflies (Prohibited), Snails (Prohibited) (detail), 2010, 15 archival ink-jet prints in Plexiglas boxes, dimensions variable.

An uncomfortable portrait ushers viewers into American artist Taryn Simon’s first exhibition in Hong Kong: The single-channel video Cutaways, 2012 shows footage of the artist making prolonged eye contact with newscasters for Russian prime time. Simon was asked to stare in silence for several minutes after an interview on the network, so that the footage—which she obtained from the program’s producers—could be used in the editing process. The work sets the tone for several of Simon’s other projects on view, which use photography to illustrate controlling systems or authorities: At the center of the show, the piece Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015, dissects the symbols of power present at the signing of international accords. Simon carefully re-creates and photographs bouquets beside which powerful men stand during significant diplomatic deals. (The flowers are both markers of femininity and reminiscent of “impossible bouquets,” a seventeenth-century Dutch painting trope of flowers whose existence would be inconceivable in the seasons and climates of their settings.) She houses the images in large, wooden museum-cabinet frames with textual details of their circumstances inscribed into the panels. Other series examine, through photographs and meticulous research, the bloodlines of albino families in Tanzania targeted for their supposed magical powers, or the family members of a South Korean man believed to have been kidnapped by the government of the North. In the final room of the gallery, Contraband, 2010, comprises hundreds of photographs of items confiscated during Simon’s five-day stint with customs at JFK airport in New York. Among the objects are beans, weapons, sausages, pirate videos, sexual-enhancement drugs, and one dead bird; the work is a motley archive of desire, violence, and restraint.

Elliat Albrecht

“Energy Field”

Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MOCA Shanghai) | 上海当代艺术馆
People's Park, 231 Nanjing West Road| 南京西路231号人民公园内
January 21, 2017–April 14, 2017

Xu Jiang and Yuan Liujun, Farewell Song for Landscape, 2016, metal, elastic fabric, metal wire, 25 1/2 x 19 1/2 x 57".

In “Energy Plan for the Western Man,” 1979, Joseph Beuys spoke of the “chemical reactions, fermentation, color changes, decay, [and] drying up” that characterize his work. “Energy Field,” a transmedia exhibition at MOCA Shanghai, tests Beuys’s method in explicit and surprising ways. Could the curator have anticipated, for example, that Han Xia’s ASCII Mirror, 2015, a large projection of cascading green Matrix-like open code, would be complemented by the bright Mac OS X desktop screen appearing on the opposite wall, museum staff valiantly attempting to reboot the computer?

There is nothing sterile about the exhibition’s homage to a Conceptual artmaking genealogy. The show is filled with a haphazard, disorientating, and inviting collection of mostly videos and projections. In Yang Fudong’s My Heart Was Touched Last Year, 2007, the massive projection of what at first appears to be a black-and-white, Helmut Newton–esque photograph of a model, hair pulled back, her hand barely touching her cheek, turns out to be recorded footage, as evidenced by her breathing and the subtle motion of her lips; her humanness is exposed, a living tableau in a darkened, silent room. Zhenzhong Yang’s Disinfect, 2015, similarly plays off silence and darkness, with life-size figures projected against a black void, silently hurling pantomimed insults at the viewer in slow motion. It is hard to shake their collective gaze and even harder not to cringe and stare. Throughout the exhibition, screens mediate bodies. In Xiaolei Tian’s video Thirty Six Point Five Cenidgree Secnery, 2011, computer-generated breasts, hands, and other bulbous masses of flesh result in a hypnotic kaleidoscope of twisted forms. The screen opens possibility beyond itself, but, as Gilles Deleuze suggests, when we look up, the world tends to creep in.

Todd Meyers

Lu Song

Don Gallery 东画廊
Unit 302, 2879 Longteng Avenue
March 18, 2017–May 28, 2017

Lu Song, Stay, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 78 3/4 x 59".

Eleven paintings of tangled roots and palm fronds inaugurate the gallery’s new space in West Bund, Shanghai. This is Lu Song’s heart of darkness. In each of these works secrets and threats are concealed, and in the murky spaces separating bursts of vibrant color and wild foliage, something ominous dwells. Through its scale and rich contrasts of pinks and browns (the play of shadow and light at dusk? the mix of dirt and flesh of an unearthed body?), Oleander Pond, 2016, announces itself as the central painting in the exhibition. Lu’s world is a mangrove swamp or ancient forest––a place that invites and consumes. We walk into this world knowing that it will never let us leave, and even as we ponder we are already mired in quicksand or go missing in the underbrush where death or a thick silence awaits. Stay, 2017, is a final burst of light at nightfall, its leaves tipped with bright filament in blues and silvery purples. Jungle Boy, 2016, is a swirl of leaves seen from below, framed by a dizzying sky, an eclipsing vision of spinning drunkenness or head injury in this sylvan phantasm. The show, titled “Control Point,” draws us deeper and deeper into scenes where control is precisely what we forfeit.

Todd Meyers

Zhou Li

Yuz Museum, Shanghai | 余徳耀美术馆
No.35 Fenggu Road
February 25, 2017–June 4, 2017

Zhou Li, Lines – White Shadow No.2, 2016, mixed media on canvas 79 x 79".

In the pitch-black two-room gallery, Zhou Li’s cream-gray paintings on the walls glow in the dark. The opening work, Reflections in the Mirror, 2017—a drawing that turns out to be a light box painted black but for a single snaking line allowing light through—could be mistaken for a twisted neon tube. At the end of the second, bigger room, two paired, grand red monochrome paintings (the only instance of the hue in the show) titled Loving No1 and Loving No2, both 2017, provide a quieting emotional release, as a contemplative form of color-field painting, to a tumultuous inner journey conjured by over a dozen pale, abstract canvases abounding with gestural lines. These traverse the surfaces, bending on their way, or forming ovoid shapes that seem to quiver, swell, drift. Lines – the Shadows of the Shadows, No.9, 2016–17, for example, is one of the largest and busiest canvases on view; it is covered with lines and circles over an off-white background, except for a space in the middle. The work is reminiscent of a traditional Chinese landscape with mountains and water.

Li diligently embraces the spirit of historical Chinese scholarship—in the way her works aim at capturing the inner essence of their subjects—and applies layers of paint over months or even years, channeling the accumulating energy of her meditative approach onto her canvases. But the exhibition as a whole is also an immersive installation. Somewhere above in the dark, hidden speakers relay what sounds like a slow heartbeat—a muffled sound track solemnly amplifying the mystery of the darkness. The theatrics of the shadows and the hidden pool of emotions embodied by the canvas surfaces make visitors feel like they’ve invaded an inner sanctum.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

Vibha Galhotra

Exhibit 320
F-320, Old Mehrauli Badarpur Road, Lado Sarai
March 18, 2017–April 17, 2017

View of “[In]Sanity in the Age of Reason,” 2016–17.

Peering through the dark glass facade of this gallery, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s still under construction. Vibha Galhotra’s “[In]Sanity in the Age of Reason” brings the detritus of unsustainable urban development into the white cube. Galhotra’s practice has long concerned itself with the rapidly transforming ecologies of cities and rivers.

References to the artist Stanley Brouwn and climate-change expert Will Steffen are not merely theoretical here. A linoleum-based work titled Marks, 2016–17, which features footprints—as well as photos of people and vehicles leaving their imprints—harks back to Brouwn’s early experiments involving laying paper sheets on the road. In Acceleration, 2017, Galhotra represents one of Steffen’s climate-change graphs using ankle bells, or ghunghroos. A similar literalism is apparent in Breath by Breath, 2016–17, a series of photographs documenting Galhotra’s performance piece aimed at drawing attention to Delhi’s air pollution. She is shown against a variety of backdrops—fields, metro construction sites, and garbage heaps—collecting air with a large net. The most successful piece is the ten-minute film Manthan, 2015, in which four people in rubber suits are shown roiling in the slimy waters of the Yamuna River and submerging white sheets that become coated with black sludge. Set to Galhotra’s classical singing and with slow-motion, wide-angle aerial shots and close-ups of the river, the film has an elegiac quality. Its sequel, Remains, 2015–16, comprises the toxin-slathered sheets coated with resin, recording the contamination of the river. One is reminded of the environmental art of Ravi Agarwal, much of which is also centered on rivers.

The show’s real strength is in its curation. The white rubber gloves used to clean plant leaves in the video Cleansing, 2016, are mounted next to the screen on which it plays, and the rubble and building material spread throughout the gallery and around the works remind the viewer of the invisible processes, artistic and political, that led to the conception of the show.

Kamayani Sharma

“Stretched Terrains”

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
145, DLF South Court Mall, Saket
February 2–July 31

View of “Stretched Terrains,” 2017.

This ambitious show is part of a series at the museum that reconsiders modernism in postindependence India, in the era of decolonization and liberalism that is in crisis today. It showcases the work of eighteen artists, photographers, and architects through eight themed galleries. The first room, “Delhi: Building the Modern,” charts civic architectural projects that were part of the Nehruvian vision for a new India. The recent demolition of the Hall of Nations (1972), despite local and international outcry, makes the inclusion here of architect Raj Rewal’s original scale model and Madan Mahatta’s photographs of its construction particularly poignant memorials.

While the show foregrounds the well-known cadre of the Progressive Artists’ Group, it’s their lesser-known works that are most compelling, such as M. F. Husain’s vivid sketches and his film Through the Eyes of a Painter (1967). S. H. Raza’s paintings of cityscapes in Italy from the 1950s signal the beginning of his move toward the purer abstraction of his later works. A heavy velvet curtain provides a measure of privacy for viewing a room of F. N. Souza’s loving and thickly rendered paintings of women, some gazing impetuously at us with their skirts drawn up.

The inclusion of works by the late 1960s Bombay-based collective Vision Exchange Workshop (VIEW) artists Akbar Padamsee and Nalini Malani gestures toward the need to expand the Indian modernist canon to embrace photography and film. Ashim Ahluwalia’s 16-mm film Events in a Cloud Chamber (2016) strikes a wistful note by re-creating Padamsee’s lost film of the same name (1969). When Ahluwalia asks about Event’s score, Padamsee vaguely recalls “a Sarabhai woman” of whose death he was unaware—composer Geeta Sarabhai, a colleague of John Cage—which reminds us that there are some histories that remain occluded in our attempts to retrieve others, but that something beautiful can arise in reimaginings.

Sadia Shirazi

Juergen Teller

Blum & Poe | Tokyo
1-14-34 Jingumae, Shibuya, 5th Floor
February 4, 2017–April 1, 2017

Juergen Teller, Frogs and Plates No. 20, 2016, color photograph, 10 x 8".

What do Charlotte Rampling and William Eggleston have in common? Both can be found in this show of Juergen Teller’s large-format prints. Teller is also seen posing naked on the back of a donkey. In another image, Eggleston, with a cigarette in one hand and a camera around his neck, stands before a pink gorilla, whose gaze he attempts to reciprocate. In a third work, Rampling holds a fox in her hands while sitting barefoot in front of a wall of fair-faced concrete; a pair of shoes lie on a large ashtray beside her. These photographs seem simultaneously casual and staged—and this is classic Teller, just as one knows him from his portraits of other personalities in fashion, music, art, and culture since the early 1990s.

At the heart of this exhibition, however, are not silver-screen greats such as Rampling and artist grandees like Eggleston but rather frogs, countless frogs. More than thirty framed images of green, yellow-orange, brown to black, spotted, speckled frogs, supplied with warts or smoothly glistening, come across as awkward but, in a certain way, at one with themselves. They’re arranged on, with, and around white plates. The seemingly arbitrary hanging of these small-format images supports the multiplicity of the pictured creatures and at first doesn’t allow the search for a typology of frog forms to arise within the viewer. The exhibition space, with its open glass front onto the Yoyogi Park and its extension of the gallery into office spaces, completes the way with which the amphibians join the society of fox, donkey, and gorilla and communicate with the celebrities of this world. But the frogs are the actual stars of the show––every single one of them.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair

Tatsuo Miyajima

SCAI The Bathhouse
6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Kashiwayu-Ato
March 3, 2017–April 22, 2017

View of “LIFE (complex system),” 2017.

A permanent becoming—as opposed to an ultimate being—is a central theme in Tatsuo Miyajima’s latest exhibition, as high-flying as the topic may be. Throughout, Miyajima’s work elegantly conjures the river of time as the only constant. “LIFE (complex system)” presents three pieces sharing the same title in the main gallery: Life (complex system) no. 1, no. 7, and no. 10, all 2017. Together, they offer digital LED counters on circuit boards that are held in sterile steel casings and ordered into grids. Connected via a microcomputer and vein-like cables, these units react to one another; they are a self-moderating network of lighting signals, like an Ikegami Model (developed by the artist and professor Takashi Ikegami, a researcher of artificial life at Tokyo University). A program is constantly generating number sequences, which seem to evolve unpredictably on their own, each one almost like a living being.

The exhibition could not have been installed in a better place than SCAI the Bathhouse. It is unlikely that philosophical problems were ever solved in this building, which served as a public bathhouse for more than two hundred years. Yet, surely, many thousands of life stories were written here. Two installations by Miyajima at the entrance make clear the extent to which they’re connected to the space, and the space to Tokyo. In Time Waterfall, number sequences pour down over an LED panel, recalling advertisements on giant displays in the commercial centers of the city, and numbers similarly flash in Time Bagworm No. 1, a tangle of cables that hang from the ceiling. These wires, however, evoke the improvised power lines in the city’s Yanaka quarter.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair

Agatha Gothe-Snape

Mori Art Museum
6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower 53F
February 4, 2017–June 11, 2017

View of “Agatha Gothe-Snape,” 2017.

On the fifty-third floor of Mori Tower—the tallest building in the Roppongi district—to be unable to look out over Tokyo is agonizing. Agatha Gothe-Snape must have felt similarly when she conceived her exhibition for the almost windowless space of the Mori Art Museum. She explores the notion of the window as a metaphor for that which both joins and separates, an element which contributes to the site-specificity of her installation. The spectrum of works on view, which grew from her research in Tokyo, includes videos, digital prints, and sound recordings, as well as sculptures and other spatial elements, such as a pair of moving curtains that hang side by side slightly offset from one another—SCREENTONE (OBSCURE LANGUAGE) and SKINTONE (CMYK) (all works cited, 2017)—which function as a shifting stage for performances and as part of a unified installation.

An industrially manufactured handrail that can be found in various locations in the Roppongi Hills serves as a model for the three-part work THIS MEANDERING HAND. When uncoupled from its original context and transferred to the exhibition space, it takes on sculptural qualities. In GRADUALLY, THIS.PPTX and OOOOOOOOOO.PPTX, various interviewed subjects, many of them affiliated with the museum (including the show’s curator, Haruko Kumakura), were asked to observe the city landscape from high up in the tower for ten minutes, and then to render it from memory. Their responses are discussed in the texts displayed as projected slides. The results present not only a subjective view from an imagined museum window but also a multitude of views of the museum itself.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair

Yao Jui-chung

Tina Keng Gallery | Taipei 耿畫廊
No. 15, Lane 548 Ruiguang Road, Neihu District
February 18, 2017–March 26, 2017

View of “Yao Jui-Chung,” 2017

Since 2007, Yao Jui-chung has been developing a distinct style of shanshui painting that challenges the literati’s cultural authority on the genre. Using ink pens, acrylic paint, and gold leaf on thick handmade paper, the artist emulates the motifs and compositions of master landscape works but instills them with a set of aesthetic principles that subvert literati dogma. While traditional landscape painting values simplicity, restraint, and the mediation of the painterly subject’s pure essence, Yao’s shanshui celebrates decor, minimizes negative space, and features a fleshy mountain style that resembles anatomic muscle tissues (reminiscent of his 1997 figurative drawings). In this exhibition, he presents twenty-four new shanshui paintings that continue to imbue classic landscape forms with absurd and whimsical sensibilities.

The paintings hang on color-coordinated walls, creating a lighthearted undertone that complements the show’s overarching narrative theme of daily leisure. The central piece of the exhibition, Eight Days a Week, 2016, is a panorama of forested land in which a dozen influential members of Taiwan’s arts circle—all friends—play mah-jongg, bathe in saunas, and perform other idle activities. In an adjacent room, the series “Baby,” 2017, presents vignettes from the artist’s family life, composed to resemble the silhouettes of his daughter’s favorite cartoon characters. While it is not unusual to depict idyllic life in traditional shanshui painting, Yao’s confessional portrayal of middle-class pleasures exemplifies a daring shift in his artistic temperament. Better known for his conceptual interrogations of historical grand narratives, he has created a new body of work that intimately reveals himself as both an artist and a family man, as someone who finds inspiration in cool, intellectual provocation and domestic comforts. Through the act of drawing, Yao honestly mediates on paper the possible union between art and life.

Sheryl Cheung

“Meeting Points 8: Both Sides of the Curtain”

Beirut Art Center
Jisr El Wati, Building 13, Street 97, Zone 66
April 12, 2017–June 4, 2017

Nile Sunset Annex, Dreams Duplicates and Display Paraphernalia, 2013–17, mixed media. Installation view.

At the heart of this iteration of the biennial exhibition Meeting Points is a black-and-white marble-tiled dance floor with a working water fountain, some great gaudy curtains, a few plants, several empty plinths, and amphitheater seating—all part of the stage, a staircase, the dance floor, a fountain, the curtain, a door, some plants and music, 2017, a single installation by Joe Namy. It also includes music when the time is right. Four colorful and deceptively exuberant textile collages from the 1980s by the pioneering feminist Gülsün Karamustafa punctuate the space throughout the lower floor of the show. The upper half is a seeming explosion of pastel plush toys and aluminum foil, called Dreams, Duplicates and Display Paraphernalia, 2013–17, which is in fact a huge installation by Nile Sunset Annex of works by close to thirty artists, including Doa Aly, Mahmoud Khaled, Sarah Samy, and Take to the Sea.

“Both Sides of the Curtain” marks a radical change in the style and ethos that has characterized Meeting Points more or less consistently since its founding by the Cairo- and Brussels-based curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh, under the umbrella of the Young Arab Theatre Fund (YATF), in 2004. Gone is the emphasis on touring performance and dance works throughout the Arab world meant to reestablish the cultural links that had been broken by bad politics. Gone too is the idea of representing what a rather large region in the east or south wants to say to the north or west. This is not to say that Meeting Points was ever naive, just that the current environment is tougher, more cynical, and demands more work. Visitors might see this show as pretty or lite, but that’s only because they are not looking hard or long enough.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Maha Maamoun

Sursock Museum
Greek Orthodox Archbishopric Street, Ashrafieh
February 24, 2017–June 12, 2017

Maha Maamoun, Night Visitor: The Night of Counting the Years, 2011, digital video, color, sound, 8 minutes 30 seconds.

This museum is an ironically fitting setting for Maha Maamoun’s Night Visitor: The Night of Counting the Years, 2011, a film constructed from YouTube clips the artist compiled in the months following the initial uprising of the 2011 Egyptian revolution during the Arab Spring. The work documents a series of trespasses on the part of liberated Egyptian civilians into the hitherto hermetically sealed, intensely defended spaces of the state’s security wing, responsible for many brutal abuses under the auspices of President Mubarak’s draconian Emergency Law. The revealed gilded interiors, with their expensive Baroque furniture and gold-framed photographs of suited government functionaries, mirror the Belle Epoque architectural trimmings of the Sursock Museum, an unintended parallel that becomes all the more troubling once the video descends into bare interrogation chambers festooned with the graffitied prayers of past torture victims.

Exhibited alongside this piece is Dear Animal, a 2016 narrative film shot in Cairo and India that is based on a series of letters by Azza Shaaban and a short story by Haytham El-Wardany about a drug dealer who transforms into a goat. Shaaban, a filmmaker who participated in the Arab Spring demonstrations, wrote the letters from the perspective of being caught between human and dolphin forms as a kind of of therapy. The dreamy and often quite beautiful film, which departs dramatically from Maamoun’s earlier video collage methods, comically shifts between narrative, temporal, and spatial registers, presenting a familiar world made strange through subtle transformation and quiet reactions to sociohistorical trauma.

Dan Jakubowski

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan

Green Art Gallery
Al Quoz 1, Street 8, Al Serkal Avenue, Unit 28
March 13, 2017–May 6, 2017

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, The Relic, 2016, wood, bronze, and marble mosaic, bronze hands, each 30 x 7 3/4“; wooden blocks, each 6 1/2 x 2 3/4 x 2”.

Writing on marble is not easy, but the title of Hera Büyüktaşçıyan’s latest solo exhibition, “Write Injuries on Sand and Kindness in Marble”—a proverb found in many cultures, including Gulf countries and France—seemingly ignores this fact. In fact, marble emerges as a deceptively attractive menace, an elusive signifier of slippery semiotic value, in such works as Chanting if I live, forgetting it I die, 2016, a kinetic sculpture that features a row of moving piano-key-like off-white marble slabs on a simple plank of wood. Compared to an earlier, larger wooden version twice exhibited in Istanbul, whose motion-activated “keys” together resembled a pier, these levers are short and narrow; their significantly quieter mechanism, as a result, harkens back to a transcultural history of automata for the world’s elite across ages. However, implying a similar loss of ground with the uncoordinated movement of individual slabs, the work also constitutes an eerie overture about the past of Al Quoz, where the gallery is located, as a former marble factory.

In this narrative, The Relic, 2016, overturns the prevailing disappearance of laborers’ traces from the end products of grand projects by allowing small mosaic pieces to leave their imprints on bronze-cast hands. The work is a sly take on the myth that builders who worked on Taj Mahal lost their fingerprints from sanding marble. With the same laborer-commissioner relationship in mind, the monumental Everflowing Pool of Nectar, 2017, reverses the tiling pattern and water-current flow in the titular, sacred pool in Amritsar, India, through eight thirty-two-foot-long scrolls with large circumflex marks pointing upward. The installation is vaguely Situationist in its bicolored, geometric demarcation of space, and upon closer inspection, its circumflexes reveal manually reworked details of Byzantine, Mughal, and Italian illustrations of builders and building. And so against the tide of history, Büyüktaşçıyan’s deeply political claim surfaces once more: that artisans—not rulers—are, in her words, “the main pillars of . . . representation.”

Gökcan Demirkazık

Sara Rahbar

Carbon 12
A1 Quoz 1, Street 8, Alserkal Avenue, Unit 37
March 9, 2017–May 10, 2017

View of “Sara Rahbar: Salvation,” 2017.

Dove-gray walls have an unexpectedly soothing effect in this exhibition of Sara Rahbar’s disembodied bronze appendages—eight sets of life-size cast arms and legs, and one head, displayed on the floor, on plinths, and weightlessly hanging from walls—with one lone flag in the corner. The lack of more forceful white walls doesn’t appear gimmicky; instead, it provides an emotionally neutral base for Rahbar’s confrontational, discomforting references to unspecified acts of violence. But the aggressiveness is just a front. The subtle juxtapositions employed discreetly temper every harsh note with an element of fragility: The clenched fists and curled toes indicate torture, fear, discrimination, and lack of safety, but paired with unfurled fingers and outstretched arms trying to wrangle the feet back together, the longing for salvation is unmistakable.

Despite the indestructible medium, paradoxical tone, and (literal) cold shoulder, the urge to touch these works is strong. This push and pull embodies the complexity of vulnerability, which Rahbar further broaches through two modes of phenomenological identification—the universality of suffering, and shared limbs and mannerisms—plunging you into unwelcome memories and acknowledgements of global states of anguish with bleak resolutions. Here, the significance of the American flag-like Flag 53, Shelter Me, 2016, rears its head. A meticulous, orderly assemblage on tarp of objects Rahbar carefully collected—such as a knife, bullet belts, and nametags abandoned by soldiers after war, as well as coins and Bedouin-style metal jewelry—bluntly outlines the items and cyclical conditions that sustain, define, and destroy humankind. While Rahbar’s theme may not be fresh, this wound is, and it needs a healing touch.

Katrina Kufer

“Artist Run New York: The Seventies”

Jean-Paul Najar Foundation
45 Alserkal Avenue
March 10–June 30

Gordon Matta-Clark, Office Baroque, ca. 1977, C-print, 37 x 47".

America has never been hard to see in the Gulf, but until recently, its artists have been. Save for the odd institutional retrospective of works from overseas, Dubai’s art scene has mostly been dominated by the regional and the contemporary. The city predicates its self-mythology on a fetishization of the new (newer! newest!), and galleries follow suit. Yet just as decades of rapid expansion have given way to an embrace of infill architecture, so too has the art world begun to look backward, with a spate of historical—particularly Western-focused—shows. With a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates film, performance, experimental music, and archival material, this exhibition is one of the few that lands.

High windows flood the gallery with light, washing out a projection of Babette Mangolte’s 1978 film Water Motor. Trisha Brown’s movements are as fluid and beautiful as ever, but with the show opening nine days before her passing, it feels like an elegy. The short performance plays once in real time, then repeats in slow motion. It serves as a synecdoche for the show, which bypasses treacly nostalgia in favor of a distillation to gesture and a singular moment. Line is a leitmotif, recurring in spare drawings from Robert Grosvenor, Richard Nonas, Richard Tuttle, and John Torreano. Despite their formal synergies, the works here consider how a space, especially one outside the gallery system, becomes a place. It’s a sentiment echoed in Tina Girouard’s suspended fabric panels and Gordon Matta-Clark’s photographs of rewardingly lyrical incisions into abandoned office buildings, while Richard Landry’s photographs convey the spirit of friendship that underscored these artists’ various collaborations. This show arrives at a time when the local art scene struggles to translate commerce to community. Maybe we could take a few notes from the era documented here.

Rahel Aima

Julie Fragar

Sarah Cottier Gallery
23 Roylston St, Paddington
March 15, 2017–April 13, 2017

Julie Fragar, Too Much and Not Enough Water Under the Bridge (detail), 2017, oil on paper, 35 x 27".

Julie Fragar’s paintings have long documented her intellectual restlessness in thick paint and subdued hues. However, increasingly, her works have taken shape around the imagined narratives of others. In this restrained and absolutely compelling exhibition are seven small oil paintings on paper that were made in response to the artist’s observations of Supreme Court trials in Brisbane, where Fragar currently lives. Each piece, created entirely from memory, reflects on a particular case that she saw unfold over time, and the works’ intimate scale focuses attention not on the sensationalism of the crimes but on the delicacy of each composition, which, through a layered, montage-like effect, pack a lot of visual information. Too Much and Not Enough Water Under the Bridge, 2017, is a highlight; it depicts a bridge in a lush tropical forest with an enormous fish in the water and a distorted, ghostlike portrait suspended in the foreground. While it is impossible to glean a specific story from the work, it nonetheless suggests the artist’s voyeuristic processing of a series of events, with a tinge of sadness and a sense of the grotesque.

Man Tortures Woman in Cheap Motel, 2017, is similarly understated, even if its title is not—a muted off-white portrait of a bald man who stares back at the viewer is overlaid with numerical figures reminiscent of a receipt’s minutiae. All the works here have a sophistication that speaks of an artist at the top of her game, with inventive formal arrangements that seem unburdened by her profound sense of empathy for victims and perpetrators alike.

Wes Hill

Biljana Jancic

UTS Gallery
University of Technology, Sydney, Level 4, 702 Harris St, Ultimo
February 28, 2017–April 28, 2017

Biljana Jancic, Surface Tension, 2017, two-channel video, aluminum, chromakey tape, dimensions variable. Installation view.

A glass box with a concrete column at its center is flanked by two windowed walls—this is the Brutalist-style space that hosts the most recent site-specific installation by Biljana Jancic, an artist who creates compositions that respond to the architectural features of a given environment. Surface Tension, 2017, uses projections and reflections, made with light and duct tape, to explore this cubic space. Plants and shadows of a louver extend over the central white wall. Combined with those of visitors, the shadows seem natural, as if coming from the distant brise-soleil of the courtyard, but they are the byproduct of a film projected in two channels. This compelling optical illusion leads to an ambiguous atmosphere: an intermediate space between indoors and outside.

Emerging from these projected shutters and expanding across the concrete floor is a thick line of flat stripes made with bright-silver aluminum tape. This intersects with another type of tape that marks in gray the space’s interaction with light, while a line of blue tape emerges from a corner to cross the entire gallery floor and then climb up one wall to trace the surfaces of the outdoor stairs. Jancic’s enveloping installation plays with form, materials, and physical experience, making viewers conscious of the transitional dynamics and features of this site. A storm of lines that has as its eye a column witnesses the repeated modular elements and crossed relations that occur within.

Claudia Arozqueta

Sarah Contos

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
8 Soudan Lane, Paddington
May 18, 2017–June 17, 2017

Sarah Contos, 20th Century Sunrise (Gloria #3), 2017, screen print on canvas and metallic fabric, aluminum, 40 1/2 x 34 x 9".

In the work of Sydney-based artist Sarah Contos, mystery and camp are treated with an Old Hollywood glamour that Warhol would have been jealous of. Having had a career as a set designer, Contos is now essentially a sculptor; however, also included in the show are three outstanding screen prints—Before Transcending Moonlight (Gloria # 1), Eclipsing Hollywood (Gloria # 2), and 20th Century Sunrise (Gloria #3) (all works 2017)—each featuring a publicity headshot of the actress Gloria Swanson from a different phase in her career. Best known for her role as the pitiful, forgotten silent movie star Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950), here a melodramatic Swanson is accompanied by draped, folded, and pleated silk-screened sheets of metallic fabric, at once suggesting celluloid film and well-worn movie magazine posters. Contos extends her fascination with the line between classical and retro in Fragonard—a hollow frame, resembling a mirror, composed of aluminum and pink, green, black, and purple metallic fabric—and Cocktails and Dreams, a shiny freestanding sculpture of a large straw and a fanlike decoration that looks as if it were modeled on a bad 1980s cocktail.

Contos wears her influences on her sleeve, with her works bringing to mind the Australian artists David Noonan and Hany Armanious—both represented by this gallery—as well as the enigmatic bricoleurs Isa Genzken and Rachel Harrison. A testament to her background in theater, the show’s real strength is the artist’s installation design, which intelligently balances elegance and impulsiveness, like many of the works themselves. As Warhol knew very well, it takes a lot of skill to look this nonchalant.

Wes Hill

Angelica Mesiti

Artspace, Sydney
43 - 51 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
May 4–July 9

Angelica Mesiti, Relay League, 2017, three-channel video, color, 8 minutes.

“Calling all, this is our final cry before our eternal silence”: This was the last Morse code message sent by the French Navy as a way to mark its retirement of the communication system in 1997. Twenty years later, Angelica Mesiti draws on these poetic words in her latest exhibition, “Relay League,” a journey following a message’s different stages of translation through nonverbal forms of communication.

A conversion of the ciphered text into a material medium can be found in Appel ŕ Tous / Calling All, 2017, a wind chime of metallic dots and dashes representing the message that, when slightly moved, also symbolically transmits the code through vibrations. Also musing on sound, body, and movement are three video works (together composing Relay League, 2017). In the first video, musician Uriel Barthélémi interprets the Morse code as a percussive score. In the second film, located at the opposite side of the gallery, dancer Emilia Wribon conveys something she sees to the visually impaired dancer Sindri Runudde via haptic exchange. In an adjacent room, the final video commingles all works: dancer Filipe Lourenco is performing Barthélémi’s composition as a dance, while Vesterlund, viewers gradually realize, is actually relaying Lourenco’s movements to Runudde, through choreographed touch. The four pieces that make up this show are arranged along a twisting path, in private spaces divided by screens that filter sound throughout the space. “Relay League” sends a message about the necessity of communication, using Morse code as visuals, sound, and touch.

Claudia Arozqueta

Benito Laren

Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat
Olga Cossettini 141, Puerto Madero Este
April 20, 2017–June 25, 2017

Benito Laren, Avistaje (Sighting), 1990, mixed media on glass, 22 x 55".

Argentinean artist Benito Laren’s unusual world is temporarily accessible in the anthological show “Fabularen” (a portmanteau of “Fabulous Laren”). On display at this private museum designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vińoly Beceiro, the exhibition , curated by Claudio Ongaro, highlights the output of one of the region’s most eccentric artists. At the margins of the art market—and of everything else—Laren is unclassifiable and truly original.

A rather retro vision of outer space, more informed by 1960s lunar landings than by contemporary space exploration, underscores Laren’s work. And the notion of life on other planets appears throughout delicate pieces in acrylic and collage on glass, a technique that the artist pioneered. Tributes to a range of artists and personalities whom Laren admires coexist in a strange remix, in which formal elements referencing early-twentieth-century Argentinean artist Xul Solar mingle with reproductions of Michael Jackson’s smile.

It’s worth mentioning that Laren himself—a true and tireless performer—importantly figures in his practice. He is the self-proclaimed “king of a one-square-meter country”—an empire he takes with him wherever he goes (mostly by standing somewhere in the city and drawing his territory around him)—and it is not uncommon to spot him in Buenos Aires wearing a Warholian white wig, and black shirt under a white suit “ŕ la Elvis,” as Laren puts it, and golden rings and chains in a nod to Mr. T.

These performative strands augment works in which humor and imagination are as key as the works’ colored paper, painstakingly selected and cut with surgical precision. Bright hues and renderings of space in the contexts of both art and galactic travel—the imaginings of an outer-space world—are the stuff of humor that marks an era. There is none of the post-military-dictatorship grotesquerie that characterized much Argentine art of the 1980s here; astir in these works, rather, are a philosophy of the absurd and a celebration of imagination as freedom typical of the 1990s and 2000s. In other words, they partake of a determination to embrace openness essential to artmaking after the return of democracy.

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.

Mercedes Pérez Bergliaffa

Hugo Aveta

Centro Cultural Haroldo Conti
Av. del Libertador 8151 C.A.B.A.
March 18–July 30

Hugo Aveta, Síntomas (Symptoms), 2015, 84 doors, dimensions variable.

The door may well be one of the most ingenious human inventions ever. How could we envision culture—or life itself—without the image of opening and closing doors, making way or blocking passage, and, most of all, isolating ourselves? Síntomas (Symptoms), 2015, an installation by Hugo Aveta, looks to the symbolic power of the door without losing sight of its function. The severe architectural block that rises up in the back of the gallery indicates what cannot be seen. Yet, as is often the case, the very act of imposing a limit is an invitation to cross it. And so one of the eighty-four doors laid out in a prism opens, and the visitor has access to an experience that this review cannot even attempt to convey.

The show, “La conciencia íntima de los objetos” (The Intimate Consciousness of Objects), consists of four installations, as well as photographs, videos, and drawings that Aveta has shown individually in different venues in Latin America and Europe. It is not coincidental that he has brought them together in this space, the location of a clandestine detention center during this country’s last military dictatorship. Though not overtly political, Aveta’s work demands constant engagement with memory, both individual and collective. What at first glance may seem like the staging of a closed metaphor immediately goes astray due to the marks that time has left on the objects and the drives that those same objects unleash in our own history. We find ourselves alone, then, in a sort of limbo.

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.

M.S. Dansey

Guilherme Vaz

SESC | Pompéia
Clelia street, 93, Pompeii
May 5–August 6

Guilherme Vaz and Carlos Bedurap Zoró, untitled, 1999, oil on canvas, 68 x 56".

With Hélio Oiticica, Cildo Meireles, and Artur Barrio, the artist and composer Guilherme Vaz was among the four Brazilian participants in Kynaston McShine’s 1970 “Information” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A retrospective of Vaz’s work took place last year at Rio de Janeiro’s CCBB, and this venue hosts another iteration of the show. It opens with two films for which Vaz created the sound track. One, Fome de Amor (1968), is a Nelson Pereira dos Santos–directed Nouvelle Vague–era work shot in Angra dos Reis and New York, and widely considered the first Brazilian film to feature musique concrčte. The score for the other, Brasiliários (1986), stems from a collaboration with director Sérgio Bazi and was inspired by a text from writer Clarice Lispector. Akin to much of Michelangelo Antonioni’s work, Bazi’s heralded film portrays a woman—Lispector as played by Cláudia Pereira—and her journey through Brasilia’s iconic modernist architecture.

Both of these films are accompanied by parts of Vaz’s composition scripts, as well as a vitrine with documents related to the artist’s music production over a number of decades as he moved between Brasilia, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro. It also includes correspondence with the late Bahia-based musician Walter Smetak, the now-defunct German Telewissen collective, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder collaborator Peer Raben. As part of a presentation of Vaz’s Crude, 2015, viewers are invited to improvise tonal arrangements by activating six wall-mounted paper sculptures featuring contact microphones. It all concludes with a series of sound and video works as well as six untitled paintings from 1999, the latter of which the artist produced in partnership with indigenous populations in central and northern Brazil.

Tobi Maier