PRINT December 2015

Matthew Higgs

View of “James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas: The Devil and His Blues,” 2015, 80WSE Gallery, New York. Foreground, from left: untitled, ca. 1986; untitled, 1987; untitled, 1987. Photo: Jeffrey Sturges.

1 JAMES “SON FORD” THOMAS (80WSE GALLERY, NEW YORK; CURATED BY JONATHAN BERGER, MARY BETH BROWN, AND JESSICA IANNUZZI GARCIA) A pioneer of the Delta blues and a former gravedigger, Thomas (1926–1993) was also a visionary self-taught sculptor whose principal material was the “gumbo” of his native Mississippi. He fashioned this local clay into portrait busts, often using human hair (particularly in many less-than-flattering takes on George Washington), human skulls kitted out with dentures, and a menagerie of small birds and animals. This powerful exhibition, the largest and most thorough survey of Thomas’s oeuvre to date, was another example of the inspired and maverick programming at NYU’s 80WSE, which, under the leadership of Berger, has become one of the most vital spaces for art in New York.

2 SUSAN CIANCIOLO (BRIDGET DONAHUE, NEW YORK) This presentation of Cianciolo’s

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