COLUMNS

  • True Colors

    How should Ana Mendieta’s story be told?

    HERE IS WHAT WE KNOW: In 1979, Ana Mendieta, a young, up-and-coming artist fresh off a solo show at the feminist co-op A.I.R. Gallery, met the older, more famous Carl Andre, a so-called founding father of Minimalism. The artists embarked on a romantic and, by several accounts, tempestuous relationship. In 1985, Mendieta died after falling from the window of Andre’s thirty-fourth-floor apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village. He was tried, and acquitted, for her murder. Now eighty-seven, Andre—still living, somewhat astoundingly, in that same apartment—has carried on with his career, exhibiting

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  • VILLA OF THE DAMNED

    John Ganz on “Casa Malaparte: Furniture”

    “OH, WE WILL NOT BE COMMENTING ON THAT” was the answer I got from a gallery representative at the opening of a show of furniture designed by the Italian writer and filmmaker Curzio Malaparte at Gagosian’s space on Park Avenue, New York. The “that” in question was Malaparte’s prominent membership in Mussolini’s National Fascist Party, a fact that is not mentioned in the press release. Instead, the text supplies euphemisms, calling him a “provocative writer” who was “notorious for his oscillations between the ideological extremes of the era.”

    The reason for this evasion is not hard to fathom: “Casa

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  • ARCTIC WARMTH

    Amin Alsaden on “ᐊᖏᕐᕋᒧᑦ/Ruovttu Guvlui/ Towards Home”

    A SOFT GRADIENT BECKONS. Evoking sunrise across a gallery wall, its pale orange fades into a delicate blush of pink. The atmospheric hues, connoting a clear morning sky over an open landscape, serve as the backdrop for a humble wooden structure. A freestanding, zigzagging wall, it is bare on one side, while on the other, the skeletal construction suggests a fragment of an interior, an armature for a dense agglomeration of artifacts—parkas, mittens, boots, and other personal and domestic objects indicative of a colder climate. The tropes and trappings of conventional architecture are absent.

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  • Peace and Quiet

    The Aichi Triennale mounts a restrained comeback

    WHEN CONFRONTED by a Japanese journalist about the scandal that haunted the previous Aichi Triennale, artistic director Kataoka Mami responded with: “This has been asked too many times,” and “Let the [current] exhibition speak for itself.” Leaving us “outsiders” stunned, these statements seemed calibrated to banish from our minds that now-distant conflict, when outrage over a sculpture commemorating Korean women enlisted into sexual slavery by the Japanese military forced the closure an entire section of the exhibition (ironically titled “After Freedom of Expression?”), let alone the myriad

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  • I Am Falling in Love

    EVERYWHERE THE WORLD we know is splitting in two. Each half in turn in two and so on without rest. Earth like a cell rotting or diffracting; it is not yet possible to tell. Beginning and end meet and merge. Apocalypses and infancy face to face. Fascism advances like a political corpse stubbornly taking the last steps before falling. Sometimes the dead assumes the form of a naked white guy with an antlers on top of the head, other times an Italian businesswoman, or a national-security neocon-feminist mummy; sometimes it speaks English, sometimes Russian, but always the abstract language of the

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  • Harvest Moon

    The 17th Istanbul Biennial’s audacious return to form

    “COMPOST IS SOMETHING where you bring in things together; but it’s also something that you need to leave alone, somethings have to take their own time and place,” mused David Teh, sitting next to his cocurators Ute Meta Bauer and Amar Kanwar at the press briefing of the seventeenth Istanbul Biennial. Compost, Teh went on, “is what gives this year’s biennial its character.” Their talk on September 12 ushered collectives, critics, curators, and “contributors” to this edition (instead of artists) into the Zeytinburnu Medicinal Plants Garden, a first-time venue for the exhibition. Afterward, a

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  • States of Mind

    Toward an alternative future for Jewish art

    WHO CARES ABOUT JEWISH ART, and where does it belong? The category has long faced a problem wherein work is either too Jewish—too niche, too religious, too rootless-cosmopolitan—or too secular, too queer, too political (often code for too anti-Zionist). Jewish spaces censor their own; non-Jewish spaces are afraid to engage. For artists, there’s often a question of what language one has to speak to obtain funding: a question of whether one can show up as their whole self. In her 2019 essay “Kaddish for an Unborn Avant-Garde,” Maia Ipp calls for a revitalization of the visionary in Jewish art,

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  • Beyond Repair

    Regarding torture at the Berlin Biennale

    IN THE TWELFTH BERLIN BIENNALE, images of Iraqi torture and sexual abuse victims have been blown up and arranged into a maze of crude entrapment. The walls of this maze reproduce the photos taken by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison and leaked in 2004, one year after the US-led invasion of Iraq. This edition of the Biennale is said to be centered on decolonial engagement, to offer “repair . . . as a form of agency” and “a starting point . . . for critical conversation, in order to find ways together to care for the now.” Yet the Biennale made the decision to commodify photos of unlawfully

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  • Shark Tale

    Resurfacing Winslow Homer’s most elusive painting

    WINSLOW HOMER loved a good repoussoir: Locking the foreground and background into a taut tug-of-war charged his small paintings with titanic vigor. Rocks, waves, boats, and leaping fish bound toward the viewer, while some kind of natural force draws the eye back into the painting. That push-and-pull is emotional as well as compositional: We do not know whether to sympathize with or ridicule his subjects.

    What, then, are we to make of the repoussoir in Winslow Homer’s The Gulf Stream, 1899: a dark, red-flecked wave swelling in the foreground and teeming with criss-crossing sharks? Based on sketches

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  • 26 Planned Parenthoods

    A quiet chronicle of Ohio’s human rights battleground

    IN 2015, there were twenty-six Planned Parenthoods in Ohio, and Jared Thorne photographed each one. Over dozens of weekends, the artist drove to every corner of the state, setting up a large-format camera and using 4x5 chromogenic film to create his spare, desaturated images. Many were made on Sunday mornings, the only time that anti-choice protesters would leave the site, presumably to attend church services.

    Without context, it’s difficult to know what one is seeing, which is the point: Planned Parenthood buildings are not designed to stand out, to make themselves a target. You’ve surely walked

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  • Happy Trails

    The High Desert Test Sites biennial rides into the sunset

    “THE SEARCHERS” marked the final iteration of High Desert Test Sites’ sun-scorched biennial in Southern California’s arid Morongo Basin. Since 2002, the nonprofit has worked with over four hundred and fifty artists on a dozen biennials, twenty-five solo projects, and countless events. Primarily, programming occurs around the rapidly growing cities of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Wonder Valley. HDTS 2015, though, absconded to Green River, Utah, and the edition I participated in, HDTS 2013, stretched seven hundred miles, with sixty projects from Joshua Tree to Albuquerque. Guest curator Iwona

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  • Sight Unseen

    Jarod Lew’s portraits of loss and love beyond the lens

    ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO, the photographer Jarod Lew uncovered details of his mother’s past that revealed something about his immediate family. From a text message sent accidentally by an older cousin, Lew learned that his mother once knew a person named Vincent Chin over thirty years ago. Lew Googled the name, immediately finding a 1982 article from the Detroit Free Press under the headline: “Slaying Ends Couple’s Dream.” Looking at the grainy photograph that accompanied the front-page story, Lew at once recognized the woman identified as Chin’s fiancé. The revelation was shocking as much for what

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