TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT December 2021

TOP TEN

Erin Christovale is associate curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. She curated the group exhibition “No Humans Involved” (on view at the Hammer until January 9) and, with Meg Onli, cocurated “Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation,” which opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania in September and travels to the Hammer in February.

MF DOOM’s performance mask.

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MF DOOM

After his death was announced on the last day of 2020, the first day of this year was spent mourning the loss of the otherworldly emcee MF DOOM. Touted as the rap game’s metal-faced supervillain, Doom channeled lyrics with a level of virtuosity that would send your mind into a tailspin. Amplifying his comic persona, Doom costumed himself in a mask, cementing his enigmatic status as a living legend. Rest in power, a musical hero to so many of my generation.

Robert Colescott, The Angel of Mercy Carrys a Burned Black Body, 1966, acrylic on canvas, 78 1/4 × 58 1/4". © The Robert H. Colescott Separate Property Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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ROBERT COLESCOTT (MARGO VEILLON GALLERY AT THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN CAIRO; CURATED BY TERRI GINSBERG, DUNCAN MACDONALD, AND MATTHEW WESELEY)

In 1964 to 65, painter Robert Colescott was the inaugural artist-in-residence at the American Research Center in Egypt. He would return to Cairo in 1966 as the first visiting professor of art, and first African American faculty member, at The American University in Cairo, establishing its gallery and curating its first art exhibition. This show marked the first time the works he made during his residency returned to their origins. It centered a series based on his travels to the ancient Egyptian Valley of the Queens. Colescott’s sojourn in Cairo marked a major shift in his practice and a newfound sense of his own Blackness within a larger African diaspora. Viewing these works in person was revelatory. Titles such as The Angel of Mercy Carrys a Burned Black Body convey the power of Colescott’s towering figures, depicted in moments of transcendence within a psychedelic afterlife. What struck me is that you don’t see this style of gestural painting come back into Colescott’s practice until the 1980s, which I consider his golden era.

Precious Okoyomon, Every Earthly Morning the Sky’s Light touches Ur Life is Unprecedented in its Beauty, 2021, mixed media. Installation view, Aspen Art Museum, CO. Photo: Tony Prikryl.

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PRECIOUS OKOYOMON (ASPEN ART MUSEUM, COLORADO; CURATED BY CLAUDE ADJIL)

If you make the pilgrimage to the roof of the Aspen Art Museum, you’ll be greeted by a Black angel with a big red heart. They’ll introduce you to their community of indigenous and so-called invasive collaborators: that is, plant beings who occupied this land long before it gained resort-town status. They’ll tell you that Western art history has failed them, and they’ll remind you that all that is precious in this world is bright, blooming, and bursting with color.

On view through September 18, 2022.

View of “Look at We,” 2021, Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana. Building walls: Theresah Ankomah, Memory of the Present, 2020. Hanging: Theresah Ankomah, A walk through intimacy, 2020.

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LOIS ARDE-ACQUAH AND THERESAH ANKOMAH (NUBUKE FOUNDATION, ACCRA; CURATED BY KWABENA AGYARE YEBOAH)

In a Ghanaian art market currently dominated by male figurative painters, this two-person show featuring emerging artists Lois Arde-Acquah and Theresah Ankomah was incredibly ambitious and refreshing. Using recycled kenaf baskets obtained from local onion importers, Ankomah engulfed the foundation’s architecture with large-scale handcrafted and -dyed weavings, while Arde-Acquah generated a lush forest of cutout patterns made from synthetic leather. Both artists’ sprawling interventions suggested a culmination of labor rooted in the tactile traditions and ecosystems that continue to fuel the country.

Rozz Williams and Ron Athey, 1982. From Ewa Wojciak’s No Mag, no. 3 (1982). Photo: Karen Filter.

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RON ATHEY (INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES; CURATED BY AMELIA JONES)

To come out of a year of isolation into an exhibition covered in pulsating bodies in various stages of pleasure and pain, marked by blood, sweat, spit, and cum, reignited my spirit. Thank you, Ron, for your continual baptisms into the belly of the beast.

Wangechi Mutu, Histology of the Different Classes of Uterine Tumors (detail), 2006, twelve digital prints and mixed media collages, each 23 × 17".

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ZAKIYYAH IMAN JACKSON, BECOMING HUMAN: MATTER AND MEANING IN AN ANTI-BLACK WORLD (NYU PRESS)

Jackson’s scholarship has been critical to my recent curatorial work. This groundbreaking book considers how Blackness can coincide with notions of the nonhuman and animality through imaginative and emancipatory modes of being, invoking a future that breaches contemporary ideas of humanism through thoughtful research and cultural references that center Black women as a site of origin.

On My Block, 2018–21, still from a TV show on Netflix. Season 4, episode 2.

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ON MY BLOCK (NETFLIX)

This teen drama set in a fictitious LA neighborhood is brilliant, hilarious, and tragic all in one as four lifelong friends navigate high school romance, gang affiliations, stoner abuelitas, and a recurring cast of cholo gnomes.

rafa esparza, Vuela vuela (Fly Fly) (detail), 2021, acrylic on adobe, dimensions variable.

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RAFA ESPARZA (COMMONWEALTH AND COUNCIL, LOS ANGELES)

Witnessing rafa esparza’s practice grow over the years has been an honor, and his recent introduction of portraiture on adobe offers new insights into the imaging possibilities of a radiant and multifaceted Latinx diaspora. esparza’s solo show “keeping” was a conceptual love letter to the creative communities and collective memory that hold the artist, and was a reminder that brownness, like queerness, is best defined (and celebrated) on a spectrum.

Crack Rodriguez, DREAM TEAM (detail), 2020–21, basketball hoop, goal stand, woven nets, ink-jet prints, medals, HD video (color, sound, 24 minutes 58 seconds). Installation view, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, 2021. Photo: Juan Silverio.

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“INTERGALACTIX: AGAINST ISOLATION/CONTRA EL AISLAMIENTO” (LOS ANGELES CONTEMPORARY EXHIBITIONS; CURATED BY DANIELA LIEJA QUINTANAR)

Summoning the survival strategies of the Zapatistas, this group show, featuring a host of artists, activists, collectives, and poets based on either side of the Mexican/US border, felt like a radical resource center, generating alternative modes of convening amid ongoing political warfare and pandemic pitfalls. What I most appreciated about this show was the range of virtual programming, which made space for all participants to speak their language and/or dialect of choice, while simultaneously prioritizing the legacies and lived experiences of Indigenous peoples across the Americas through various translators and multilingual publications.

Zach Blas, SANCTUM (detail), 2018, still from the nine-channel HD video component (color, silent, indefinite duration) of a mixed media installation. Guest artist image for Mirror with a Memory podcast, episode 1, “Biometrics.”

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MIRROR WITH A MEMORY

This six-episode series hosted by artist Martine Syms is a podcast featuring a range of artists and scholars, from Lynn Hershman Leeson to Manthia Diawara to Sondra Perry, conversing about subjects like Glissant’s notion of opacity as a counterpoint to biometrics; policing technologies; and the impact of artificial intelligence and surveillance on contemporary culture.