PRINT December 2018

Lanka Tattersall

Adrian Piper, LSD Self-Portrait from the Inside Out, 1966, acrylic on canvas, 40 × 30". 

1 ADRIAN PIPER (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY CHRISTOPHE CHERIX, CONNIE BUTLER, AND DAVID PLATZKER WITH TESSA FERREYROS) Surveying the conceptual rigor that Piper applies to her minefield-slash-universe of work gave me a huge dose of critical pleasure. Moving from her acid-inflected paintings of the 1960s to the swaggering and incisive Mythic Being (a male persona Piper adopted in the ’70s), and continuing through decades of her meticulous and uncompromising analyses of race and power, I was reminded to question my assumptions, and to embrace—to dance with—complex and sometimes uncomfortable political and cultural positions.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s portrait of Simone Landrum at home with her sons, Dillon (left) and Caden, during her pregnancy, November 2017.

2 LINDA VILLAROSA, “WHY AMERICA’S BLACK MOTHERS AND BABIES ARE IN A LIFE- OR-DEATH CRISIS,” WITH PHOTOGRAPHS BY LATOYA RUBY FRAZIER (NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, APRIL 11) An unsettling, urgent, and deeply instructive piece of journalism—essential reading for everyone thinking about race, gender, health care, or inequality. Villarosa explores why black women are at least three times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related causes in the United States, a crisis that cuts across socioeconomic differences. Frazier’s photographs document the relationships among a mother, her children, and her doula, and capture how expanded forms of family can effectively support a healthy birth in the face of profound risks.

Haegue Yang, Series of Vulnerable Arrangements—Seven Basel Lights, 2007, mixed media. Installation view, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2018. Photo: Šaša Fuis. 

3 HAEGUE YANG (MUSEUM LUDWIG, COLOGNE; CURATED BY YILMAZ DZIEWIOR WITH LEONIE RADINE) Yang’s appetite for construction was on dazzling display in her first museum survey. She transforms mundane objects such as lightbulbs, venetian blinds, scent emitters, and hardware-store catalogues into intricate meditations on questions such as: What does it mean for a nation, or a self, to be divided? How can misinterpretation be rendered productive? What is the purpose of crafting physical objects—made with stubborn, obsessive precision—in an increasingly wireless world?

Nick Mauss, Transmissions, 2018. Performance view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, March 20, 2018. From foreground: Quenton Stuckey, Brandon Collwes, Kristina Bermudez. Photo: Ron Amstutz.

4 NICK MAUSS (WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY SCOTT ROTHKOPF AND ELISABETH SUSSMAN WITH GRETA HARTENSTEIN AND ALLIE TEPPER) This show offered many things: a framework for thinking about queerness, ballet, and the social milieus of avant-garde New York from the 1930s to the ’50s; the drawing of lines of vision in space; an articulation of the disjunctions created by temporal distances. Mauss combined live dance with an exquisite interweaving of artworks (both historical and contemporary) and archival materials. Moving through the galleries, I ricocheted among an engrossing queer-dance-history lesson, a densely knitted gossip session, and a layered rumination on bodies and movement.

Simone Forti, Huddle. 1961. Performance view, Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 13, 2018. Martita Abril (top), Vanessa Vargas, Alexis Ruiseco-Lombera, Lindsay Londs Reuter, Samuel Hanson, Christiana Cefalu, Elizabeth Hart, Laura Pfeffer, Miguel Ángel Guzmán. From “Judson Dance Theater.” Photo: Paula Court.

5 JUDSON DANCE THEATER (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY ANA JANEVSKI AND THOMAS J. LAX WITH MARTHA JOSEPH; PERFORMANCES PRODUCED BY LIZZIE GORFAINE WITH KATE SCHERER) I am so grateful to this exhibition for reminding us how radical it was for the artists associated with Judson Dance Theater to focus on quotidian gestures and temporalities—and for proving just how grand the movements of daily life continue to be. This generous show brings together live iterations of pivotal, ephemeral performances by Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, and Simone Forti, to name a few, with moving images and static objects, allowing history and the present to rub shoulders.

EJ Hill, Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria, 2018, mixed-media and performance. Performance view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, June 10, 2018. EJ Hill. Photo: Brian Forrest.

6 EJ HILL, EXCELLENTIA, MOLLITIA, VICTORIA (HAMMER MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES) During the Hammer Museum’s terrific biennial of Los Angeles art, Hill, who is black, stood on a platform that at once evoked the podium from which two Olympic athletes famously gave the Black Power salute in 1968, a religious altar, and a slave auction block. The artist surrounded himself with photographs made in collaboration with Texas Isaiah and sculptural elements that addressed multifaceted themes of resilience. Written in white neon behind him: where on earth, in which soils and under what conditions will we bloom brilliantly and violently? Hill’s performance felt like the beginning of an answer to that question.

Christina Quarles, Din’t We, Didn’t We, Din’t I Have a Gud Time Now?, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 50 × 40". From “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon.”

7 “TRIGGER: GENDER AS A TOOL AND A WEAPON” (NEW MUSEUM, NEW YORK; CURATED BY JOHANNA BURTON WITH SARA O’KEEFFE AND NATALIE BELL) I wonder how people will perceive “Trigger” one hundred years from now. Will this exhibition mark the moment when traditional binaries finally started to dissolve? Or perhaps, disturbingly, will it seem like a long-gone utopian moment, when the self could be freely reconfigured? In either case, the messy, libidinal, critical, heartbreaking, and exuberant works by a cross-generational group of more than forty artists affirmed the myriad ways gender is now being reimagined, and lived.

Left: Amy Sherald, First Lady Michelle Obama, 2018, oil on linen, 72 1⁄8 × 60 1⁄8“. Right: Kehinde Wiley, President Barack Obama, 2018, oil on canvas, 84 1⁄8 × 57 7⁄8”.

8 AMY SHERALD AND KEHINDE WILEY’S OFFICIAL PORTRAITS OF MICHELLE OBAMA AND BARACK OBAMA The Obamas’ recent gifts to visual culture crack open every convention of presidential portraiture. Wiley’s vibrant painting presents a new model of stateliness. What I enjoy most about the artist’s vision is that it is so audaciously implausible—the riot of flora surrounding Barack, whose feet defy perspectival logic. It asks us to persist in imagining a different, more hopeful, reality. Meanwhile, Sherald’s depiction of the former first lady is mysterious and reserved. Michelle’s dress is colorful—evoking both Mondrian and the quilts of Gee’s Bend—but her skin is painted in grisaille, resembling a black-and-white photograph in which she sits like a commanding figure from the past, regarding the future.

Charlemagne Palestine, Brewster, 2018, divinity toys, piano, fabric. Installation view, 356 S. Mission Rd., Los Angeles. Photo: Brica Wilcox. 

9 CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE (356 S. MISSION RD., LOS ANGELES) Eighteen thousand used stuffed animals filled 356 S. Mission Rd. Some tumbled ominously from wooden coffins or sat in boats suspended from the ceiling; others were lovingly heaped on top of pianos. While these maximalist constructions astounded the eye, an equally captivating soundscape filled the air. Palestine, a composer and artist known for haunting arrangements for piano and carillon bells, evinced his dogged belief in the secular sacred. Idiosyncratic works of such deep reverie are rare, and welcome.

Chapman Way and Maclain Way,Wild Wild Country, 2018, still from a TV show on Netflix. Part 4. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho).

10 WILD WILD COUNTRY (CHAPMAN WAY AND MACLAIN WAY) This six-part documentary tells the story of how, in the early ’80s, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his complicated yet charismatic personal secretary, Ma Anand Sheela, turned a peace-and-love-fueled Indian cult into a heavily armed intentional community in rural Oregon. Antagonism—and some criminal actions—between the locals and the Rajneeshees ensued. In this cautionary tale about the dangers of all cults of personality, no one comes across as a saint.

Lanka Tattersall is Associate Curator at the Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. She is currently preparing a survey of the work of Tala Madani. Recently organized projects include “Real Worlds: Brassaï, Arbus, Goldin” and “Cameron Rowland: D37.” Her writing appears in exhibition catalogues such as Zoe Leonard: Survey (LA MoCA), and Kerry James Marshall: Mastry (Museum Of Contemporary Art, Chicago).