COLUMNS

  • performance art and politics in Romania

    OF THE VARIOUS TYPES OF NEGLECT, one is almost kind: letting something be, even freeing it by virtue of abandonment. Another form is aggressive, a traumatizing and annulling intervention on the part of a powerful entity imposing silence and erasure on a less powerful one. Neglect, first the one variety, then the other, forms the backdrop of contemporary Romanian art, and performance in particular.

    Following the 1989 revolution, eager to reframe more than reform its structures of power, the Romanian state assumed a mostly laissez-faire position in the administration of its culture. Through two

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  • Doug Ashford

    Both pedagogue and painter, Doug Ashford is a founding member of the collective Group Material, whose radical work defined an era of activism in art. In his current solo practice, Ashford explores the means by which abstraction—despite its historical baggage—might still be an effective and empathetic tool for social reform. Curator Maria Lind sat down with Ashford to talk about his recent work, including his installation at Documenta 13, and the ways in which such projects continue and extend his earlier activist ideals.

    MARIA LIND: A highlight for me from last summer’s Documenta 13

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  • Relational Ascetics

    THE MAHA KUMBH MELA, a fifty-five-day Hindu festival at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati rivers in northern India, is said to be the largest gathering of humanity on earth. From the masses of poor and middle-class Indians seeking a purifying immersion in India’s holiest river, to the armed companies of ash-dusted (and hash-fortified) ascetics eager to display the might of their holy orders, tens of millions of pilgrims converge on the stately city of Allahabad, which hosts the festival every twelve years.

    It’s a scene that’s impossible to ignore, and an essential

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  • Robert Farris Thompson

    Robert Farris Thompson is one of the founding scholars of contemporary Afro-Atlantic and African studies. His landmark writings on topics such as Afro-Cuban dance and Yoruba sculpture posed a newly systematic understanding of cultural forms and meanings not merely as points on a historical continuum but as dynamics of transmission, movement, and change. These groundbreaking texts, composed between the 1950s and the present, were gathered for the first time in his 2011 volume Aesthetic of the Cool. Here, Thompson is joined by Kellie Jones, whose own collected writings, EyeMinded: Living and

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  • Rhonda Lieberman

    FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE RIDICULOUS:

    “Matisse: In Search of True Painting” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dec. 4, 2012 – March 17, 2013); “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Feb. 28 – June 3, 2012). Any opportunity to see Matisses from out of town is a treat and this show, which emphasizes his serial treatments of various themes, including photos of his tableaux-in-progress, is a stunner. In a landscape dominated by so much “relational” art and performance, Matisse’s drawing, composition, and painting chops—and of course his color choices—hit

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  • Angie Baecker

    IN A YEAR OF major political transition across the whole of Asia, contemporary art programming was defined by a trend toward metanarrative. In Taiwan, the 2012 edition of the Taipei Biennial was an intellectually exuberant affair that confronted modernity as a global syndrome while also considering Taiwan’s specific position within it. Curated by Anselm Franke and themed “Modern Monsters / Death and Life of Fiction,” the biennial gave voice to narratives marginalized against the juggernaut of a rising mainland China. Kao Chung-Li’s The Way Station Trilogy, 1987–2012, is a video biography of the

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  • Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

    DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF NOVEMBER, the Spanish-born, Cairo-based artist Asunción Molinos Gordo invited a top chef to create haute cuisine from the best Egyptian produce that money could buy, and then offered six dishes to neighborhood diners for just five Egyptians pounds apiece (around eighty cents). This was the opening act in Molinos’s four-part, monthlong art project titled El-Matam El-Mish-Masry (The Non-Egyptian Restaurant), a site-specific installation doubling as a performance that was conceived for the five-year-old art space Artellewa. Located in the depths of a sprawling informal

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  • Travis Jeppesen

    “Joan Mitchell: The Last Paintings” at Hauser & Wirth, London (February 3–April 28, 2012) The most unjustifiably underappreciated Abstract Expressionist, Mitchell painted as intensely as she lived. This intensity galloped to a defiant crescendo as sickness and death encroached, as the paintings gathered for this exhibition made ringingly clear, with their electricity, thick drunken lines, and preponderance of bright blues—primary color of vitality.

    Hai Bo’s “The Blind” at Pace Beijing (July 25–August 31, 2012) “[T]o see and have the color stay where color stays, to see and have the water lie

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  • Beau Rutland

    I’M TEMPTED HERE to list off some of the great monographic undertakings of 2012. They were certainly satisfying, but the year’s instances of artists refusing to supply demand seem to be more memorable in the end.

    What should have been a staid pairing of two bastions of art history, “Rembrandt and Dégas” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art left a surprisingly earnest impression of the young modernist, who defied academic standards by looking to the Dutch master’s penumbral canvases for inspiration. The resulting exhibition included several self-portraits of a vulnerable artist worried over what he

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  • John Beeson

    FROM THE DRONING CHORDS of Sonic Youth’s 1984 “Death Valley ’69” that echoed down the pitch-black entry hall to the sinking feeling in my stomach brought on by Richard Kern’s Fingered, 1986, KW’s “You Killed Me First” kept a firm hold on me. My hesitations about the exhibition’s dutifully spray-painted walls aside, the eighteen films on view told a brilliantly fucked-up story of twentysomethings on New York’s Lower East Side in the 1980s and their spite for their parents’ generation’s counterculture-turned–dominant culture. The filmmakers’ assaults on their own bodies––complemented by plenty of

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  • Travis Diehl

    THE FIRST ARTIST was probably a trickster scratching footprints in the dirt—or so wrote British Minimalist Bob Law in his 1964 essay “The Necessity of Magic in Art.” Fast-forward to Los Angeles in 2012, where the “tricksters” of the 1960s and ’70s exerted an unusual gravity. At Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon’s “Ends of the Earth” at MOCA Geffen, the sound track of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson’s Mono Lake, 1968–2004, overwhelmed the industrial-scale gougings with schmaltzy piano arpeggios every fifteen minutes, while for gutsy simplicity nothing came close to Agnes Denes’s tubular map

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  • Brian Droitcour

    THE BEST PAINTING OF 2012 was the botched Jesus, the inexpert restoration of a nineteenth-century religious fresco. You can Google the restorer’s name and the location of her church if it matters to you; the painting interests me as one that unfolds online, shared and liked and collaged by thousands of nameless users. I suspect it went viral for the same reason that videos like Double Rainbow do: It expresses a selfless, raw awe at beautiful mysteries. Early twentieth-century biology demonstrated that a tick perceives nothing but its thirst for blood and the body temperature of animals that can

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