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To the Pit of Things: On Patrick Nagatani and Mentorship

On October 25, 2017, I received an unexpected package in the mail, which, as I tore it open, revealed white letters over a gray-clouded sky: The Race: Tales in Flight. At the bottom, in bright red lettering, was the name of my mentor, Patrick Ryoichi Nagatani.

Rackstraw Downes: Paintings & Drawings

“So I said to the person I was with, ‘You know I think I’d like to paint the whole world on a postcard,’ and in a funny way, though I never thought about that remark until years later, that was what I did, in a way.”

Diana Thater

Inaugurating the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston’s new, 15,000-square-foot satellite location, called ICA Watershed, is a self-titled solo exhibition by Diana Thater, curated by Eva Respini with Cara Kuball.

The Racial Imaginary Institute:
On Whiteness

Balancing a heavy set of curatorial, editorial, and programmatic ambitions, The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII) pioneered a new breed of Biennial this summer that disrupted, disoriented, and dissected the social institutions upholding the monolith of whiteness.

The Otolith Group: A Lost Future

A Lost Future, at the Rubin Museum of Art, is a tripartite exhibition that forms part of the museum’s year-long exploration of “the future.” Curated by Beth Citron, the Rubin’s curator of modern and contemporary art, the show opened on February 23 and runs through January 28, 2019.

The First Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA): Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More

The former Faculty of Biology at the University of Latvia, today a museum teeming with formaldehyde-preserved creatures and taxidermic wildlife, is an apt venue for a group of artists who mine the Anthropocene epoch for signs of human folly and obsolescence.

Martha Rosler and Hito Steyerl: War Games

Given the ongoing political upheavals in the US, and the EU, what kind of artists’ work is relevant in an age of populist uprisings, when the far right is gaining power throughout the world? Martha Rosler and Hito Steyerl: War Games, one of the most important exhibitions of the year, offers compelling evidence in answer to such a question.

Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams

In theorist and historian Partha Chatterjee’s 1991 essay “Whose Imagined Community?”, Chatterjee challenges Benedict Anderson’s argument made in his book, Imagined Communities, that politicians in Africa and Asia selected their post-liberation national forms from existing models in the United States, Western Europe, and Russia.1 Chatterjee responds: if postcolonial nations are restricted to these models, then what is left for them to imagine? The late Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez’s works can provide an answer to Chatterjee’s question.

Yaara Zach: Unreasonable Doubt

Being the daughter of a disabled Israeli Defense Force (IDF) veteran, injuries and prosthetics were a typical element of Israeli artist Yaara Zach’s landscape. She spent many of her childhood Saturdays with her family at Beit Halochem’s (“A Warrior’s Home”) swimming pool in Haifa, a sports-rehabilitation center for disabled IDF veterans and their families. There, she would swim in the recreational pool while prosthetic arms and legs rested on the edge.

Chaim Soutine: Flesh

The title of this rich, tightly focused show of thirty or so paintings is somewhat misleading. “Flesh” could imply sexuality or sensuality, a Rubensesque or Boucher-like delight in the human body. But such corporeal delights could not be further from Soutine’s relationship with formerly living animals. No other artist has taken nature morte, the French term for still life, quite as literally, reminding us that once life has been drained from a living organism, it becomes inanimate—that is, lifeless, it becomes a thing. No other artist enacts the transformation of matter into art with as much ironic self-awareness as Chaim Soutine (1893–1943).

The Thomas Cole House, Olana, and Lyndhurst

Sleepy no more, the historic houses of the Hudson Valley have been invigorated with annual temporary exhibitions that enhance understanding of their fabrics and owners, and reward repeat visits.

Hope and Hazard: A Comedy of Eros

A buxom blonde nude with bright red lips plays joyously atop a white fluffy cloud, stars overhead. Beneath her cloud, crude blue lettering reads, “We are just complicated animals.” This neon sculpture, by Dan Attoe, casts a cool glow through a gallery that was once a farmhouse, highlighting the kind of tongue-in-cheek wit that animates much of Eric Fischl’s own work. In this multi-generational group exhibition, curated by Eric Fischl, representations of mankind’s most basic and everlasting instinct—the compulsion to copulate—waver from existential to carnal in a vein that is often ribbed with humor. While none of Fischl’s own work appears in the show, his taste is everywhere apparent.

Analia Segal: Contra la pared

Analia Segal is a New York-based artist, but before she arrived in the States nearly twenty years ago, her life in Argentina was under the cloud of the Argentinian dictator, Jorge Rafael Videla, who took power when Segal was only seven years old. It was a time of extraordinary violence, and although the artist suffered no direct harm herself, she was marked by the general sense of disorder and genuine mayhem taking place. This deep sense of unease surfaces in, Analia Segal: contra la pared, which in Spanish means “against the wall” or “cornered.&rdquo.

Vincent Fecteau

Vincent Fecteau’s sculptures feel intimate but conflicted. Elegant in form but grimy in finish, his painted papier-mâché sculptures and photographic collage creations are painstakingly handmade—obvious in their materiality yet cagey in their references.

Patrick Staff: hatefull to the stomach, harmefull to the braine

The multimedia artist Patrick Staff has created two related bodies of work that use the rubric of contagion to critique systems of oppression. Using video, sculpture, and photography, Staff focuses in particular on the paradigm of health, as synonymous with heterosexuality and gender conformity, to highlight examples where LGBTQ modes of being are seen not just as a clinical pathology marked by social degeneracy, but as something transmittable.

Please Touch: Body Boundaries

A documentation of Yoko Ono performing her seminal 1964 Cut Piece lies at the center of Please Touch, Mana Contemporary’s expansive two-part exhibition on femininity, bodies, and consent. In the piece, Ono puts her body on the line, sitting solemnly on a stage, and inviting the viewers to participate in the performance by cutting off pieces of her clothing. As one observes the video, the tension grows: With each cut, the potential for violence grows. The audience members approach her with sharp scissors. With each piece of clothing taken, less and less stands between them and the artist’s skin.

Tony Oursler: TC: the most interesting man alive

Tony Oursler’s film TC: the most interesting man alive (2016 – 2018), made with avant-garde polymath and his long-time collaborator Tony Conrad (1940 – 2016), portrays Conrad as an interview subject in Oursler’s studio

Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s

Simplicity is the essential objective. Deceptively trouble-free

Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s

The quotidian fortune of being bull’s-eyed by a bird letting loose from on high supposedly augurs good luck, a sign that the splat was a chance operation. The deeper magic, of course, is that both pedestrian and the bird exist within a universal plane of consistency that somehow purposefully unites the bird’s flight with the walker’s groundedness. This may seem an odd analogy with which to introduce the prodigious sequence of painterly operations brought into intentional coincidence by Alex Katz over his long professional lifetime, yet it does concur with his stated notion of getting at a sense of “figure-in-ground” in his work.

Summer of David

“Memory figures large in David’s life: As a young adult, because of the images he has to overcome in order to heal from his past,” writes Amy Scholder in her introduction to In the Shadow of the American Dream: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz. Scholder

David Wojnarowicz

August through September is Wojnarowicz’s season here in New York

David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night

My partner and I were recently tested for HIV at a local clinic that doubles as a thrift store. The test was free, and our negative results were instant.

The Water Lilies: American Abstract Painting and the Last* Monet

At different points in history, contemporary artists have led revived appreciations for earlier painters or styles. Plentiful examples include the rediscovery of El Greco through the eyes of the German Expressionists, new excitement for the work of Frans Hals by a number of Impressionist painters, and the rekindling of attention to the later periods of Francis Picabia during the heyday of Neo-Expressionism.

Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism

It’s good to be reminded of our own impermanence. Even better when it’s done with grace and sorcery. The term “hot mess” has that effect, calling to mind the fact that we can be at once ravishingly beautiful and totally disheveled.

Richanda Rhoden

Another day, another famous artist’s wife discovered to have been an artist herself. This time it’s Richanda Rhoden, a Native American painter mostly known for being married to the sculptor John Rhoden. Though she painted every day until her death—just shy of her 100th birthday—in December 2016, this exhibition at Soloway Gallery in Williamsburg is the first exhibition of Rhoden’s work.


A show at turns multicolored and monstrous, “SEED” opened at Paul Kasmin on the eve of the summer solstice, with a packed house.

Jonas Mekas: Notes from Downtown

The understated exhibition, Notes From Downtown is a victory lap around the tail end of a divine comedy for Jonas Mekas’s.

13th Forum Expanded Exhibition: A Mechanism Capable of Changing Itself

What exactly is a mechanism capable of changing itself? A mechanism capable of manufacturing its own metamorphosis? Perhaps it is a mechanism that could change itself, possess chameleonic properties, an ability and willingness to ingest multiple terrains.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2018

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