PRINT December 2016

David Adjaye

Steve McQueen, End Credits, 2012/2016, sequence of digital scans, black-and-white, sound, 12 hours 54 minutes; sound element: 19 hours 23 minutes. Installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photo: Ron Amstutz.

1 “OPEN PLAN: STEVE MCQUEEN” (WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY DONNA DE SALVO WITH CHRISTIE MITCHELL) The power of this show was a testament both to McQueen’s cinematic genius and to the intelligent design of the Whitney’s fifth floor. The largest column-free space to display art in New York, it is flexible and accommodating, the ideal space for McQueen to unfold his haunting End Credits (2012), a nearly six-hour film composed primarily of close-up images of documents from the FBI’s file on the performer and activist Paul Robeson (1898–1976). The austerity of the space enhanced the effect of the oversize screens and clinical narration, creating a truly immersive experience. The details of the agency’s ruthless and painstaking surveillance of Robeson may be obscured in the heavily redacted documents, but in the context of today’s political climate, the film’s message resounds with alarming clarity.

2 CHUCK BERRY’S CADILLAC The legendary rock ’n’ roller famously drove himself to concerts throughout his career, choosing from a fleet of cars that included this candy-apple-red 1973 Eldorado. One of the highlights of the collection of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC (which I had the honor to design), it joins items ranging from Emmett Till’s casket to Carl Lewis’s Olympic gold medals. Sometimes haunting, often joyous, and always emotive, these objects together tell a powerful and complex story without ever collapsing into simplistic narratives.

3 THEASTER GATES (HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN, WASHINGTON, DC) The power of Gates’s work lies in his unparalleled ability to combine a wide range of elements into a cohesive, resonant whole. This first performance in his “Processions” series, 2016–, used the Hirshhorn’s distinctive form to great effect, with Howard University runners circling the galleries while Gates and the musical ensemble Black Monks of Mississippi guided the audience through the collection via emotive chants. Collaborative, inviting, and radical in its celebration of black bodies and culture, this performance laid bare the soul that permeates Gates’s best work.

4 RICHARD AVEDON (BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE, PARIS; CURATED BY ROBERT M. RUBIN AND MARIANNE LE GAILLARD) Exploring the ways in which French culture permeated the work and life of Avedon, this exhibition presents a fresh perspective on the work of the well-known photographer. While it’s always a thrill to see Avedon’s take on recognizable stars—the never-before-exhibited photographs he captured on the set of Funny Face (1957) are particularly enjoyable here—it is his uncanny ability to capture emotion in its raw, profoundly human state that makes his work endlessly viewable.

On view through February 26, 2017.

5 “REPORT FROM CITIES: CONFLICTS OF AN URBAN AGE” (15TH VENICE ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE; CURATED BY LSE CITIES) LSE Cities, a research center run by the London School of Economics and Political Science, has been a crucial contributor to our understanding of the increasingly rapid urbanization of our world. The center’s elegant exhibition at this year’s Architecture Biennale foregrounded the ways in which existing cities have struggled to accommodate explosive growth, highlighting two troubling trends: the proliferation of low-density development and the increasing inequality of access to public services and other resources. With engaging animations and digestible statistics, the show offered clear insights into the often-overpowering impact of planning decisions on contemporary urban life.

Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Painter), 2009, acrylic on PVC, 44 5/8 × 43 1/8".

6 TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA (MUSEUM OF AFRICAN DIASPORA, SAN FRANCISCO; CURATED BY EMILY KUHLMANN) Odutola was already recognized for her black-and-white self-portraits, but her new show reveals that those were just preludes to a vast narrative in the making. These pastel and charcoal drawings, still instantly identifiable as Odutola’s, invite the audience to reassess deeply held perceptions about class, wealth, and race, offering revealing insights about the lives of those who are apparently invisible.

On view through April 2, 2017.

7 LORNA SIMPSON (SALON 94, NEW YORK) Simpson’s third solo exhibition at Salon 94 was nothing short of breathtaking. This body of compositions and collages—which intelligently combine printed photographs, ink, and acrylic—displays a masterful confidence that speaks volumes about the current stage of the artist’s career. She continues to draw from the meditations on culture and identity that have shaped her oeuvre while raising important new questions about mark-making, symbolic notation, and the nature of painting itself.

8 “MAKING & UNMAKING” (CAMDEN ARTS CENTRE, LONDON; CURATED BY DURO OLOWU) Although he is widely known as a fashion designer, that moniker captures only a fragment of Olowu’s vision. I have long admired his cross-referential, hybrid aesthetic, which he translated seamlessly into a curatorial approach for this show. Bringing together paintings, photographs, jewelry, tapestries, and ceramics from more than seventy international artists, he deftly wove apparently divergent works into a fascinating perspective, allowing new connections between art, craft, and sculpture to emerge.

9 FREDERICK KIESLER (MUSEUM FÜR ANGEWANDTE KUNST, VIENNA [MAK]; CURATED BY DIETER BOGNER, MARIA LIND, AND BÄRBEL VISCHER) The strongest show on Kiesler I’ve seen, this exhibition expertly presented the central tenet of this visionary’s practice—specifically, his desire to escape gravity. By putting his work—including a full-size reconstruction of his famous futuristic City in Space, 1925—in dialogue with contemporary artists, this show revealed Kiesler’s approach to have been instrumental in establishing today’s conversations about construction, modernism, and design across an incredible diversity of disciplines.

10 KERRY JAMES MARSHALL (MET BREUER, NEW YORK; CURATED BY IAN ALTEVEER, HELEN MOLESWORTH, AND DIETER ROELSTRAETE) This exhibition—the largest museum retrospective of Marshall’s work to date—proves conclusively that he is the master American painter. Taking in the nearly eighty career-spanning works, you experience palpably the power of his intellect and his authoritative command of the history of painting. By the sheer force of his talent, his works initiate much-needed conversations about visibility, history, and culture.

On view through January 29, 2017. Co-organized with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

In 2000, David Adjaye founded Adjaye Associates, which has offices in London, New York, and Accra, Ghana. His most recent project, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened last month on the National Mall in Washington, DC. His work was featured in a 2015 retrospective exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Art Institute of Chicago.