TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 2019

The Artists’ Artists

The Artists’ Artists

To take stock of the past year, Artforum asked an international group of artists to select a single exhibition or event that most memorably captured their eye in 2019.

Amy Sillman, Dub Stamp (detail), 2018–19, acrylic, ink, and silk screen on multiple sheets of paper. Installation view, Arts Club of Chicago, 2019. Photo: RCH Documentation.

SUELLEN ROCCA
Amy Sillman (Arts Club of Chicago)

My favorite part of “The Nervous System” was Dub Stamp, 2018–19, a piece made of many large works on paper installed in a horizontal band stretching across the ample length of the gallery. Hung from a slender metal line in the center of the space, Sillman’s drawings were free from the confines of traditional wall placement. Moving from paper to paper, the shapes, patterns, and marks formed a kind of abstract narrative. The many beautifully crude and linear figures, created in black ink or acrylic, and often layered over silk-screened patterns, were wonderfully bold and calligraphic.

Henri Rousseau, La charmeuse de serpents (The Snake Charmer), 1907, oil on canvas, 63 3⁄4 × 74 5⁄8".

CHRISTINE SUN KIM
“Black Models: From Géricault to Matisse” (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

This exhibition, about the history of black representation in visual art, was astonishing. While most visitors were surely familiar with some works in the show, the presentation of such a large variety in one place—precisely curated with the urgency the topic requires—created an impactful argument for reevaluating our understanding of the histories of black communities on and off the canvas. Seeing the show has certainly instilled in me a new drive to dissect how dominant perspectives present seemingly less dominant ones.

Jasper Johns, Farley Breaks Down, 2014, ink and water-soluble encaustic on plastic, 42 1⁄8 × 29 1⁄8".

ELLEN BERKENBLIT
Jasper Johns (Matthew Marks, New York) 

Surrounded by the work in this exhibition, I was reminded of the way America once felt to me—different from now but equally American. I was brought back to all the times I climbed around in my aunt’s attic in the 1960s and ’70s and dug through the things that she had kept from her time as an army nurse in World War II—her uniform, her badges, her manuals. Johns’s paintings evoked, on a cellular level, a horror that I was too young to grasp at that time—that of the war in Vietnam. I still can’t comprehend it after all these years.

XYLOR JANE
Cauleen Smith (MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, on view through April 2020) 

Smith’s brilliant multimedia works, deftly installed for her survey at MASS MoCA, induce full sensory awakenings. I was transfixed at the entry by Spin, 2012, a clip of a twirling figure set to music by Sun Ra. Reconfigurations of time, space, and scale moved me from room to room. I dug the enduring effects of H-E-L-L-O, 2014, in which a five-note sequence (G–A–F–F–C) is played by ten musicians on different bass clef instruments in nine locations in New Orleans. Check out the BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019, 2018–19, and be sure to grab a printed copy of Smith’s manifesto, “The Association for the Advancement of (Cinematic Creative) Maladjustment.”

Mick Jagger performing with the Rolling Stones at CenturyLink Field, Seattle, August 14, 2019. Photo: Logan Westom.

RODNEY GRAHAM
The Rolling Stones, No Filter Tour (CenturyLink Field, Seattle) 

I had never seen the Rolling Stones before and I rarely go to gigs anymore, but, given our ages, I knew this could be my last chance. In any case, I have a research interest in how old rockers are holding up, so I drove down to Seattle for the show. We had the worst seats imaginable. (I didn’t read the fine print on the $300 tickets: limited view.) I couldn’t see Charlie Watts at all, except when he came out for a bow, looking incredibly sharp. That man is a fashion icon! Keith Richards seemed really tired, but he played well. Ronnie Wood was highly energetic and super-competent, as expected, and Darryl Jones was solid. Mick Jagger was pretty incredible. He seemed so small and far away when he went down the runway exhorting the crowd to join in the woo-woos on “Sympathy for the Devil.” Yet when he turned to our part of the stadium, I felt I was being exhorted personally. I know that’s what pros do, but I really had a moment there.

Julie Becker, Researchers, Residents, A Place to Rest (detail), 1993–96, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo: Matthew Septimus.

MONICA MAJOLI
Julie Becker (MoMA PS1, New York) 

This revelatory survey exhibition of rarely seen work slowly unfolded in the labyrinthine mode favored by the late artist. I wandered through it, pulled into Becker’s murky, dreamlike maze of rooms (or ruins). Clichéd cinematic fictions, spotlit miniature clues, perceptual traps, and symbolic culs-de-sac merged into one acutely melancholic tenor pervading her oeuvre. In Becker’s psychological dioramas, the present seems inescapably lost to history. Los Angeles Past, a site perpetually lacking an inside, acted as a hologram into which she projected a rickety interior world. Becker harnessed the nowhere and everywhere of Hollywood—its bleak fantasies and illusions—with discomfiting clarity. In its nearness, her own heroic and tragic story is made more and less real, marked belatedly by time.

Albert Oehlen, Fn 33, 1990, oil on canvas, 109 × 85". From the series “Fn,” 1990.

ANDREJ DUBRAVSKY
Albert Oehlen (Skarstedt Gallery, New York) 

This show gave me hope. I saw Oehlen’s exhibition the very day after I arrived in New York City from the Slovakian countryside. While walking the hot and overcrowded streets of the Upper East Side, eating pricey food, feeling sweaty and still jet-lagged, I wondered why I was there at all. Seeing this German painter’s monumental works, drawn from the “Fn” series of 1990, refreshed my mind. What are the fragments of human eye, or the hammer and sickle, about? Does it matter? Almost thirty years ago, the murky brown and yellow tones of these pieces rendered the whole debate about abstraction versus figuration ridiculous and pointless. The only relevant thing here is the fascination induced by the painting itself.

View of “Icaro Zorbar: Missing the Ghost,” 2019, Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá.

BEATRIZ GONZÁLEZ
Icaro Zorbar, “Extrañando al fantasma” (Missing the Ghost) (Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá)

An exhibition of haunting works of light that breach the darkness. Aware of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá’s economic situation, Zorbar captured the disaster of this institution and exalted it by turning it into the subject of his art.

Translated from Spanish by Kiara Alvarado.

Étienne Szeemann’s permanent-wave machine, ca. 1925–29. Installation view, Galerie Toni Gerber, Bern, Switzerland, 1974. Photo: Balthasar Burkhard.

ELLIE GA
“Harald Szeemann: Grandfather; A Pioneer Like Us” (Swiss Institute, New York) 

July 19, 2019. Yesterday I saw a restaging of an exhibition from the 1970s by a now-famous curator. He installed framed documents, letters, combs, and wigs in his Bern, Switzerland, apartment to make an exhibition about his grandfather—a hairdresser who invented one of the first permanent-wave machines. In one corridor hung several prints of a photo of the grandfather alongside typewritten statements from family members. One wrote to the curator, “You are just as egotistical as him. When he was alive you never cared about him very much. But now you are doing an exhibition.”

Cy Gavin, Untitled (Glade), 2019, acrylic and oil on denim, 56 × 118 1⁄2".

TM DAVY 
Cy Gavin (Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York)

Looking for Cy Gavin in his twilit woods, I dance to his bootprints as their song becomes land. The movements of his arm are there, cascading into rock, and here, frozen as the waterfall. I am melting. As moon he hovers, heroic transmutation of body and light. I follow, so high and wide, near and far, swooning in the violet blue cold. I am lost, a sigh. Trees laugh. He is everywhere and yet out of reach, just beyond the red paint radiating sky. Heaven is winter on a Harlem wall.

Guadalupe Maravilla, Milagros #3 (detail), 2019, oil on tin, sequin embroidery, drawings, magnets, candle, 28 × 25".

NATALIE BALL
Guadalupe Maravilla (Jack Barrett, New York)

For his show “Saga,” Maravilla used installation, drawing, performance, and autoethnography to reframe the indigenous experience under the policies of the United States of America. Works such as Tripa Chuca #2 (Border River), 2019, paired Maravilla’s own mapping system with skin-like painted handmade tortillas to conjure borderless places and times. The lines of his drawings extended unapologetically off the paper and onto the gallery’s walls, while the materials in his sculptures—water jugs, a car seat, a headdress—recalled the body. Maravilla led me to think about indigeneity through my own personal experience of the presence of settler colonialism and its constant refusal by indigenous peoples.

Sean-Kierre Lyons, Charlene, 2019, felt, velvet, 39 × 34 × 53".

DIAMOND STINGILY
Sean-Kierre Lyons (Larrie, New York)

I nominate Sean-Kierre Lyons. Their show “Mmhhmm,” which reflected on childhood with a refreshing, carefree attitude, was honest, genuine, and fun with hints of sadness.

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015, three-channel HD video, color, sound, 48 minutes.

JUDY CHICAGO
“The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement” (Phillips Collection, Washington, DC) 

I am always interested in Massimiliano Gioni’s thought-provoking exhibitions. When I went to DC with my husband, the photographer Donald Woodman, for the debut of my most recent work, the only show we saw was “The Warmth of Other Suns,” curated by Gioni and Natalie Bell. Although the exhibition was a mixed bag, John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea, 2015, is one of the best videos I have ever seen. The piece’s use of archival and contemporary footage to obliquely communicate white privilege’s arrogance, the horrors of slavery, and the widespread mistreatment of nonhuman creatures is riveting, excruciating to watch, and deeply meaningful.

Imani Elizabeth Jackson and S*an D. Henry-Smith torching sorrel for fried oyster cakes at “The Pearl Diver’s Revenge,” Bar Laika, Brooklyn, June 4, 2019. Photo: Danny Sadiel Peña.

ELIZABETH JAEGER
mouthfeel (Imani Elizabeth Jackson and S*an D. Henry-Smith), “The Pearl Diver’s Revenge” (Bar Laika, Brooklyn, NY)

A night of gustatorily, historically, and metaphorically profound poetics, “The Pearl Diver’s Revenge,” hosted by Triple Canopy, offered five sea-flavored courses and a reading whose depths I may never fully reach. One recipe in the artists’ cookbook involves dissolving a pearl into cane vinegar, for both taste and allegorical resonance. The artists’ dishes honor the influences of their forebears and suggest a continuation of culinary experimentation. After finishing the oyster-shell dashi, each guest was offered a pearl of salt. Facing one another, the artists spoke about the complexities of addressing the evanescent and yet ever-present history of the transatlantic slave trade and about the abuse of enslaved Kru pearl divers. A memorable note: “It is important to let taste linger, to wrestle with closure.” The final course, grapefruit and seaweed ice creams, was sweet and distinctly salty.

Liz Johnson Artur, Burgess Park (detail), 2010, C-print, 20 × 24".

HAMISHI FARAH
Liz Johnson Artur (South London Gallery)

We often imagine what a black art world might be like, but Liz Johnson Artur has done the work for us. I didn’t believe representation could be a tool for liberation inside art institutions, but the photos in “If you know the beginning, the end is no trouble” made me forget where I was. Her subjects gazed warmly through her to meet me, and the cadaan folk in the gallery disappeared—I was among friends, neighbors, and family. I felt loved.

ROE ETHRIDGE
Kai Althoff (Tramps, New York)

Althoff’s show at Tramps, which had the feeling of a postapocalyptic renovation in reverse, placed a wedge in its context. The venue’s floor was covered with raised umber paper that would pop and tear as you approached a painting to inspect a barely visible detail, while the work itself, hung on commercial, super-graphic slot walls, snuck up on you with the simultaneous pleasure and terror of something whispered into your ear. People had strong opinions about the exhibition’s role in Chinatown’s gentrification. But as I tried to figure out what I was looking at, trains rolled overhead, and everything became more noise that I needed to look through to remind me where I was: in Chinatown, under the Manhattan Bridge.

Paul Cadmus, Herrin Massacre, 1940, tempera and oil on panel, 35 1⁄8 × 26 3⁄4".

ANDREA BLUM
Paul Cadmus, Herrin Massacre, 1940 (David Zwirner, New York)

Last spring, while visiting the eye-opening exhibition “The Young and Evil,” curated by Jarrett Earnest, I bumped into painter Wayne Gonzales in front of Herrin Massacre, a 1940 work by Paul Cadmus depicting a riot between labor union members and a group of strikebreakers—the sexy dead guys being the latter. I have never been particularly interested in Cadmus’s work—it’s a bit over-the-top for my taste—but Wayne and I spent thirty minutes discussing this painting: its compositional reference to Michelangelo’s Last Judgment; the pastoral landscape; eroticism and violence; and the political climate of the ’40s relative to that of today.

Dyani White Hawk, Untitled (Silver and Grey), 2017, acrylic, oil, vintage and contemporary beads, and thread on canvas, 18 × 18".

NICHOLAS GALANIN
Dyani White Hawk (John and Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art, Reno, NV)

A member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, Dyani White Hawk makes paintings that interrogate and interweave the trajectories of modernist abstraction and Indigenous American artistic practice. In titling her solo exhibition at the Lilley Museum of Art “See Her,” White Hawk honored the artistic contributions of Native American women, whose work remains unacknowledged by the many artists it has influenced.

Daniel Lefcourt, Terraform (Cloud Base), 2018, pigment and acrylic polymer resin on canvas, 56 × 80". From the series “Terraform,” 2018.

GREG PARMA SMITH
Daniel Lefcourt, “Terraform” (Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York)

Lefcourt’s apparently ice-cold, algorithmically rendered paintings paradoxically unearth vital questions about formlessness and uncertainty. A plotter-guided line, dragged by machine across the surface of the canvas, extracted and extruded delicate tonal information about embedded mineral deposits—that is, paint stains. Like the vast landscapes of the Hudson River School, but with the human–God axis replaced by a material–digital one, these works probe the limit of any attempt to appropriate nature’s generative and entropic behavior. Funny and sad, the show made me think about painting, information, land, and life on our planet.

Screen capture of Ryan Kuo’s 2019 Faith artificial intelligence application.

DEFORREST BROWN JR.
Ryan Kuo, Faith (Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY)

Faith is an AI assistant developed by media artist and programmer Ryan Kuo during his technology residency at Pioneer Works. Kuo’s recent practice positions user-interface design as a programmatic mirror, imagining and iterating everyday American conversations rooted in whiteness and Christian fundamentalism. The AI assistant replies to user input with a level of precision meant to retain its own neutrality and avoidance of objecthood while inverting the usual conventions of productivity software. When speaking to Faith, the user feels implicated in, or extracted from, the narratives the bot projects and weaves for its own security and comfort.

Suellen Rocca, Beware of My Mouth, 1981, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 14 × 11".

MARLENE McCARTY
Suellen Rocca (Matthew Marks, New York)

Hidden Danger Lady. Beware of My Mouth. Rehearsal of Descending and Ascending the Ladder. Neatest Garbage. Rocca’s titles function as elements of her drawings commensurate to the protuberances, hirsutism, mutagenic growth, anthropomorphism, and wonderment that commingle in her fragile graphite-and-colored-pencil compositions. Existing beyond the physical boundary of the page, Rocca’s inscriptions rupture distinctions between inside and outside, twining the artist’s body with her psyche. Drawing emerges as a powerful medium, no longer the secondary, the less-than, in service to painting and sculpture. A rare and audacious stance.

Audio guide for “Projects 195: Park McArthur,” 2018–19, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

TUESDAY SMILLIE
Park McArthur (Museum of Modern Art, New York)

“Projects 195: Park McArthur” repeatedly points to questions about how artworks and their contexts are made accessible to museum visitors. I watched as the conflicting visual cues of this exhibition’s massive title, which spilled across two walls, and its often nearly vacant gallery confused visitors expecting to see art. The core
of the exhibition was a forty-five-minute audio guide, an apparatus ignored by many visitors and not meant to be seen. Still available online, it provides descriptions of the exhibition space and works on view, as well as of related objects and spaces both real and imagined. While following the established format, McArthur’s audio guide supersedes its traditional function through an exploration of the museum’s physical and financial accessibility: Who gets invited to participate, and how is that invitation signaled?

Caspar David Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822, oil on canvas, 17 1⁄4 × 14 1⁄2".

ART & LANGUAGE (MICHAEL BALDWIN AND MEL RAMSDEN)
Caspar David Friedrich (Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin)

Visiting the Alte Nationalgalerie in the company of René Schmitt: a room filled with paintings by Caspar David Friedrich. His are paintings that make the viewer search insecurely for a place to stand—somewhere that puts you in the picture, so to speak. Of particular interest was Friedrich’s Woman at a Window, 1822. As a teenager, Mel made a study from a reproduction of this painting. Years later, he gave this drawing to Tom Baldwin, Michael’s son. With his phone, Mel photographed Michael standing in front of the picture, as if also looking through the window. He sent the picture to Tom. This was some sort of collaboration with the painting. Well, we’ve made our work out of (often strange) collaborations.

View of “May You Live in Interesting Times,” 2019, Arsenale, Venice. From left: Jimmie Durham, Great Dane, 2017; Jimmie Durham, Bison/Wisent, 2017; Jimmie Durham, Brown Bear, 2017. From the 58th Venice Biennale. Photo: Andrea Avezzù.

ALAN MICHELSON
Jimmie Durham (Venice Biennale)

Durham’s fierce (and silly) menagerie in Venice hearkened back to his early work: tenderly embellished animal skulls with turquoise eyes staring with rage or bewilderment at the predicament that Western civilization had landed them in. Happening upon his Brown Bear, 2017, was hardly less intense than happening upon one in the wild, where for a few minutes everything’s up to the bear and not you. With pipes or lumber for legs, cast-off furniture for torsos, and old blankets and clothes for fleece, Durham’s entire flock, like most large mammals these days, faces an uncertain future with brio and heartbreaking acceptance.

Adam Martin, I’m a Totally Ticklish Kid, 2019, digital C-print, 5 × 7".

DANICA BARBOZA
Adam Martin, “Competitive Endurance Manipulation” (Gandt, Queens, NY)

Some anticipation of titillation was justified on entering Martin’s second solo exhibition, “Competitive Endurance Manipulation” (also the debut of Gandt gallery, the brainchild of artist Marc Kokopeli in collaboration with Matthew Langan-Peck). A visitor-activated audiovisual installation allowed viewers to pace their engagement with the central narrative, the true tale of Martin’s encounter with an underground industry led by a figure who vengefully exploited virile male youths to produce fetish films involving erotic or endurance-based tickling. Defiant of ticklish subject matter, Martin’s reflections were socioeconomic; his and Kokopeli’s take on the (by now widely understood) relationship between today’s Angry Young Men and the embattled patriarchy was sobering and distinctive.

Paulina Peavy, Noah, Legume Genesis, 1953, watercolor on paper, 17 1⁄2 × 12".

JANE KAPLOWITZ
Paulina Peavy (Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York)

Thank you, Andrew Edlin Gallery and curator Bill Arning, for bringing us Paulina Peavy. Peavy’s paintings are beautifully crafted, futuristic, jewellike wonders: perfect offerings for UFO crews. Equally interesting is how they were made: In order to paint, Peavy donned a gown and mask, the better to communicate with Lacamo, her mystical teacher from the future, whom she met in the 1930s during a séance in Los Angeles. Many have noted that these paintings are in step with those of other female artist-spiritualists who went unacknowledged until recently, such as Emma Kunz and Hilma af Klint. The question of why women of Peavy’s generation felt the need for an abstract spirituality in their work, like Emma and Hilma a generation before, is fascinating to me.

Gretchen Bender, Reality Fever, 1983, video, color, silent, 6 minutes 20 seconds.

SARAH SZE
Gretchen Bender (Red Bull Arts, New York)

Bender’s work is a vivid reminder of the radicality of the art of the ’80s even as it remains fiercely contemporary, eerily predictive of the image saturation of the following decades. First adept at printmaking, the age-old trade of images, she expanded to a vast palette of tools and materials, juxtaposing low-budget printmaking techniques with high-end animated computer graphics. Take Reality Fever, 1983, a single-channel video in which she prints imagery on Mylar sheets and tapes them to a television, recording the collaged imagery and editing in her own graphics (which she would later acquire, like objects, from advertising trade fairs for large corporations). Technology is the most ephemeral of art materials, with its ever-accelerating evolution, and here it is thoughtfully restored, hitting a complex note between past, present, and future.

Promotional image for Nour Mobarak’s Father Fugue (Recital, 2019). Photo: Nour Mobarak

PATRICK STAFF
Nour Mobarak, Father Fugue (Recital, 2019)

Father Fugue features a labyrinthine dialogue between Mobarak and her polyglot father, who lives in a care facility in the Lebanese mountains. Through half-remembered familial anecdotes, tongue twisters, and gossip, they talk and sing, switching among Arabic, French, English, and Italian. They haphazardly connect in that disarming way specific to the experience of living with someone with a degenerative cognitive disease. At one point, Mobarak’s father declares, “Artists are so cruel.” When she asks him why he would say that, he repeats the phrase over and over, each time more determinedly than before. It’s a beautiful, complicated record. It really fucked me up.

Henrik Olesen, Glass Box Low, 2019, glass, glue, metal brackets, 16 × 24 3⁄8 × 7 7⁄8".

BERNADETTE VAN-HUY
Henrik Olesen (Galerie Buchholz, New York)

Just stepped in the door, my attention is not even attuned yet, a glimpse of what’s around enters my vision, and I’m hit with a blow of force.

What was in this glimpse? Mistake raised to technique (the gluey mess); nothing promoted to something (the empty glass box, the inconsequent piece of hardware); a frisson from the sense that Olesen had slightly shifted the universe (the gallery).

An effective act on our expectations, ideas, emotions, like a good fighter, gets you the moment you walk in the door.

Imani Robinson, Rearticulating Safety: Notes on Blackness and Regulation, 2018, digital video, color, sound, 30 minutes.

IMA-ABASI OKON
Imani Robinson (Laurie Grove Baths, London)

Robinson’s troubling, poetic lecture “Rearticulating Safety: Notes on Blackness and Regulation” was both a performance and a document thereof. In one choreographic gesture, wearing a GoPro around their neck to record the audience, Robinson transformed the camera into a visual apparatus that captured in order to free. Here was the phenomenon of the commodity that talks back. Not “speaking,” but talking back. The cognition was clairvoyant—a forensis for what is yet. Prophecy.

View of “Hannah Levy: Bone-in,” 2019, Jeffrey Stark, New York. Photo: Timothy Doyon.

HUGH HAYDEN
Hannah Levy, “Bone-in” (Jeffrey Stark, New York)

Nestled inside a subterranean space below a sparsely populated Chinatown shopping mall, Levy’s breathtaking sculptural installation appeared like a biofuturistic ship in a bottle. The stark white walls and slick glass-and-aluminum storefront combined to present an Apple store–style interrogation room inhabited by an oversize, surreal femur. Spanning the space diagonally from wall to wall, the unknown relic—composed of carved and polished aluminum with epoxied sand on each end—looked like it might have come from a bionic Titanosaur. Perhaps this was a postapocalyptic fantasy of the years ahead, when questionable technological innovations will come at the cost of organic life.

Yevgeniy Fiks, Ratn-Farband, 1960s, 2017, ink-jet print, 36 × 24".

PIETER SCHOOLWERTH
Yevgeniy Fiks, “Himl un erd (Yiddish Cosmos)” (Stanton Street Shul, New York) 

Moscow-born, New York–based artist Yevgeniy Fiks transformed the sleepy, unassuming Stanton Street Shul into a politicized, cosmic utopia by way of a deliriously inventive installation that cross-spliced the history of Soviet space travel with the diaspora of Eastern European Jews in the early twentieth century. Blending arcane historical facts with apocryphal fiction to form a libidinously rich, rebus-like display, the exhibition wove together a trove of Jewish-cosmonaut paraphernalia, a cache of extraterrestrial documentary photographs, and a collection of cryptic numerological diagrams. All of this cascaded elegantly along the upstairs balconies, seemingly metamorphosing the space into the vessel of a rocket ship while articulating a twisted Futurist narrative of the Yiddish Panarchist movement—a semifictional entity seeking communicative liberation through discursive liftoff into the inner space of a hermetic universalist language.

Jenny Holzer, IT IS GUNS, 2018, LED screens on trucks. Installation view, New York, 2018. Photo: Joe Carrotta.

HELMUT LANG
Jenny Holzer, IT IS GUNS 

Holzer is a cultural insurgent whose public works penetrate and shock their surroundings. I saw IT IS GUNS when it came through New York after having already followed its progress across America for some time. The project, which took place over a year and a half, consisted of militaristic-looking LED-illuminated box trucks displaying text related to gun violence that showed up unannounced, like a spray of bullets, in cities around the country. The urgency of the subject matter, coupled with the immediacy of the trucks’ presence—their menacing luminance—made for a literally moving protest that lingered in my mind long after they drove away. I am still mesmerized by the haunting phrases, which allude to deeply troubling current events.

View of “Collection in Transformation: Women in Front,” 2019, Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Photo: Edouard Fraipont.

VALESKA SOARES
“Collection in Transformation: Women in Front” (Museu de Arte de São Paulo)

During the week of International Women’s Day, paintings by male artists were hung facing backward on Lina Bo Bardi’s famous glass easels, leaving only work by women facing forward. The simple gesture, an initiative proposed by a group of female MASP employees from different departments, highlighted the artwork of women while simultaneously emphasizing the imbalanced gender representation in the museum’s collection. Such creative and relevant curatorial exercises should be encouraged not only at MASP—especially during a year when the museum has devoted its whole schedule to “Women’s Histories” and “Feminist Histories”—but also at any institution willing to look critically at their holdings.