Critics’ Picks

View of “Substitute Teacher,” 2010. From left: Brian Dettmer, Wagnalls Wheel, 2010; Michael Smith, Sears Class Portraits #1 (1999–2007), 2008; Paul Ramírez Jonas, Album Fifty State Summits, 2002; Andrea Fraser, Little Frank and His Carp, 2001.


“Substitute Teacher”

Atlanta Contemporary
535 Means Street NW
March 5–May 16

We typically think education occurs within the four walls of a classroom. But the impartation of knowledge can take many forms, as evidenced by the twenty artists and collaboratives selected by curators Regine Basha and Stuart Horodner for “Substitute Teacher.”

The show contains a good balance between the serious—like Lisa Anne Auerbach’s I Used to Be Part of the Solution, 2009, whose titular sentence has been knit into the sweater of a woven top-and-skirt set, or Luis Camnitzer’s Last Words, 2008, which transcribes the final phrases spoken by death-row inmates—and the humorous, such as the empty word-bubble paintings of Mira Schor. Viewers follow the personal quest of Paul Ramírez Jonas to climb the highest peak of every American state in Album Fifty State Summits, 2002, and hear Danielle Roney’s attempt to learn Arabic in her audio installation Library of Babel, 2010. Daniel Bozhkov recites answers to the standardized questions required by the US citizenship test as he hides under a bed in his video Flag, 2003. The show also includes thoughtful looks at how and what we learn, such as Brody Condon’s video Without Sun, 2008, a sampling of YouTube submissions in which participants describe their experience of an acid trip, and Andrea Fraser’s seminal video Little Frank and His Carp, 2001, which parodies the Guggenheim Bilbao’s exceptionally didactic audio tour of its architecture. Just as this show promises, these surrogate instructors and their fellow exhibitors will definitely leave viewers thinking.