reviews

  • View of “Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth,” 2018. From left: Flag on Orange, 1958; Flag, 1958; Three Flags, 1958 Photo: Pablo Enriquez. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

    Jasper Johns

    The Broad

    AT AGE EIGHTY-EIGHT, Jasper Johns has come to occupy a unique position in American culture. Rivaling Bob Dylan for sheer unrelenting inventiveness, he persists in the form of an enigma, continuing to mine a vein by turns ultra superficial and maddeningly hermetic. Any attempt to summarize Johns’s significance runs immediately into contradiction: Indifferent to public attention yet virtuosic in his performance of artistic savoir faire, Johns is at once the iconic face of postwar American art and its most obscure, inward-focused contributor. A touchstone of queer art history—together with

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  • Meleko Mokgosi, Bread, Butter, and Power (detail), 2018, oil, acrylic, bleach, graphite, photo transfer, and permanent marker on canvas, twenty panels, this one 108 x 72".

    Meleko Mokgosi

    Fowler Museum at the University of California

    In a recent essay, theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak articulates one of the double-edged cruelties of oppression. “Crimes of identity are always collective,” she writes, “although individuals suffer grotesquely.” The formulation applies broadly, but Spivak penned those words with gender—“our first instrument of abstraction”—in mind, positioning the division of the sexes as prologue to the insidious ideologies of nationalism, colonialism, and religion.

    Spivak’s writing features prominently in the panoramic painting cycle Bread, Butter, and Power, 2018, installed at the Fowler Museum

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  • View of “Alison Saar,” 2018. Photo: Jeff McLane.

    Alison Saar

    L.A. Louver

    For Alison Saar’s most recent show at L.A. Louver, “Topsy Turvy,” she took as her muse the character of Topsy from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, recasting the slave girl of the Civil War–era novel as a figure for our time. The “wooly hair . . . braided in sundry little tails” remained, but here became an emblem of implacable defiance. In ten new sculptures and six related paintings on variegated supports pieced together from indigo-dyed seed sacks, vintage linens, denim, and one found trunk, Saar rendered Topsy with dark and sometimes patinated skin (the sculptures comprise admixtures

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  • Nicole Eisenman, Heading Down River on the USS J-Bone of an Ass, 2017, oil on canvas, 10' 7 1/4“ x 8' 9”.

    Nicole Eisenman

    Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

    If history painting aims to convey the course of empire through the depiction of mythic or moralistic episodes, then Nicole Eisenman’s canvas Heading Down River on the USS J-Bone of an Ass, 2017, is likewise a tribute to recent American history, our country’s progress allegorized as a one-way trip down a swampy cataract. More than ten feet tall, the work depicts a sailing vessel—the impossibly large jawbone of a donkey—with a torn sail, manned by a solemn piper, a ghoulishly pasty sailor, and a politician-like fat cat, who lurks in the shadows. Perhaps an update to Emanuel Leutze’s

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  • Kim Schoen’s Tell Me Who I Am, 2017, and I Am What You Say, 2017, each HD video, color, sound, 22 minutes.

    Kim Schoen

    Young Projects Gallery

    Superficiality and nonsense are words that readily come to mind in relation to Kim Schoen’s work. The artist revels in these conditions but does so in a philosophical manner, often mining even the most vapid subjects to an astonishing depth. Her previous solo exhibition at the Moskowitz Bayse gallery in Los Angeles was constructed around the topic of “book blanks,” objects that outwardly resemble books but are empty inside. An interest in the formal signs of meaning and intelligence, as observed from the outside, was no less evident in Schoen’s most recent effort at Young Projects. However, in

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