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Abstraction in the Black Diaspora

A signal feat of Abstraction in the Black Diaspora and other similar efforts that draw attention to formally adjacent but culturally distinct iterations of artistic practice is that they dislodge entrenched hermeneutic methods that are part and parcel of the dominant narratives themselves.

Rafael Domenech: Bad infinities: laboratory of fragments

In the book Thinking: The Ruin (2010) the contemporary Lebanese writer Jalal Toufic offers a paradoxical definition of ruins as “places haunted by the living who inhabit them.” It is through this notion of ruins that he approaches his own city, Beirut, and the trauma of civil war.

Louise Fishman: Ballin’ the Jack

What a brilliant cacophony of abstract gesture, I think to myself while taking in Ballin’ the Jack, Louise Fishman’s first solo exhibition at Karma Gallery in the East Village. The oil paintings on view in the main gallery revel in their messiness: thick strokes of paint crash into each other, clashing colors fighting for dominance, while the white gesso underneath reveals itself as a seductive promise of transcendence.

Donald Judd

From a distance of decades, it’s easier to see Judd’s veiled polemic for what it was: opinion masquerading as analysis and intuition supported primarily by his own practice. At the same distance, through two major exhibitions, it’s possible to see and feel intensely what Judd accomplished.

Tanya Aguiñiga: Extraño

Aguiñiga is a staunch advocate for the power of interdisciplinary artmaking to facilitate the exchange of ideas about the borderlands and challenge zeitgeist narratives.

Gina Osterloh

By obscuring, reframing, and multiplying representations of her body, the artist disrupts our gazes and deductions. According to Osterloh, her experiences as a mixed-race Filipino American have shaped her photographic explorations around observers’ perception of different identities

Shahzia Sikander: Weeping Willows, Liquid Tongues

This museum-scale exhibition is bookended by a pair of gargantuan videos, Reckoning (2020) and Parallax (2013); throughout the static works in the show there is the impression of a constant flux of movement that makes animation seem a natural trajectory.

Tau Lewis: Triumphant Alliance of the Ubiquitous Blossoms of Incarnate Souls

Lewis’s most recent body of work, Triumphant Alliance of the Ubiquitous Blossoms of Incarnate Souls (T.A.U.B.I.S) demonstrates a new chapter in the development of a still-young artist. Emotionally intelligent and technically sophisticated, this body of work represents a period of intense production for Lewis.

Shari Mendelson: Animals, Idols, and Us

Shari Mendelson’s hauntingly beautiful sculptures—some part human, part animal, part divine—transport the viewer down the timeline into other worlds and dimensions. Their fragility and translucent luster are reminiscent of glass from antiquity and make us forget their humble origins.

Interiors: hello from the living room

The COVID epidemic has made us acutely aware of interior spaces and their metamorphosis from living space into working and recreational spaces. But this fascinating show also reminds us that these multi-use spaces are saturated with sin.

Leilah Babirye: Ebika Bya ba Kuchu mu Buganda (Kuchu Clans of Buganda) 

Entering Leilah Babirye’s show at Gordon Robichaux feels like walking into a solemn space loaded with gravitas—a regal court of yesteryear or, at least as I imagine it, Brancusi’s studio. This is another way of saying that the 39 wooden and ceramic works and the handful of monotype prints on view here command an extremely powerful sense of presence.

Sari Carel: The Shape of Play

As a mother, Sari Carel spends long hours in playgrounds. The Shape of Play (2020), her recent public art installation situated at Waterfront Park in Boston’s North End, was inspired by moments of observing children play and listening to the sounds produced in various playgrounds.

Susan Bee: Anywhere Out of the World: New Paintings, 2017–2020

Susan Bee is creating new mythologies to help grapple with a collapsing universe. In Anywhere Out of the World she embraces archetypes and iconic images to reinterpret societal and personal struggles.

Cecily Brown

It is a good moment for Cecily Brown. The Blenheim show is a critical smash—though tantalizingly inaccessible as Britain locks down again. The Brooklyn Museum just acquired via gift Triumph of the Vanities II (2018), one of two grand canvases that recently hung at the Metropolitan Opera. Her impact on younger artists is more and more evident on gallery walls. This exhibit shows her impressive restlessness, resolve, and energetic mind in equal measure.

Titus Kaphar: From a Tropical Space

In comparison to Kaphar’s earlier work, these enigmatic new paintings are asked to bear a heavier burden of direct narrative, and the lack of an obvious relation between the absences and presences that Kaphar highlights here leaves us with a new and unfamiliar kind of disorientation.

Companion Pieces: New Photography 2020

The latest iteration of MoMA’s New Photography exhibition cycle comprises works from eight artists and takes place entirely online. Companion Pieces asks the viewer to look beyond initial reactions and delve deeper into our reading of images.

Mary Jones: Attachments

Jones’s paintings are painstaking explorations of the disjunction between the world as it comes to us through our senses—the information we consume during our waking hours—and the world of our interiority—memories, imaginings, and reflections.

Sue Coe: It Can Happen Here

The show’s title comes from Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, in which a populist fascist becomes America’s president. But the tone is entirely Sue Coe’s own. Throughout the show, she presents industrial pollution, racist politicians, sexist violence, and the slaughter of animals for food.

Diversity Billboard Art Project

10 artists present the theme “Make Our Differences Our Strengths” using 14 billboards, with six more locations to go up on December 28. Seeing the exhibition requires a long afternoon of driving on suburban roads, with the aid of GPS.

Luca Giordano: The Triumph of the Neapolitan Painting

This exhibition, which includes nearly 90 works, is an ambitious revisionist exercise. Known by the infelicitous nickname “Luca fa presto,” Giordano did paint quickly, creating more than 5,000 frescoes and paintings. To be so productive he had, as you might expect, an army of assistants.

Akeem Smith: No Gyal Can Test

Akeem Smith’s No Gyal Can Test is an exploration of the visual, sonic, and material culture emanating from dancehall, wherein the now globally exported form is understood from its social and political specificity and not simply for its unforgettable style.

Tjebbe Beekman: Symbiosis

We are looking at his great paintings of 2019, with their garlands and drums and death heads, like a festival and yet with a menace lurking beneath.

Billie Zangewa: Wings of Change

Parenthood is essentially a temporary arrangement, but one that can provide an abundance of joy even in the most ordinary moments. Billie Zangewa refines this muddle of emotion in eight fabric collages that make up her current exhibition.

Bruce Nauman

Having spent time with the newer works currently on display at Sperone Westwater, I suspect that they might be his most searching philosophical inquiries. That they were undertaken at moments of career retrospection, recovery from illness, and the care of and mourning for a partner make the underlying melancholy that I somehow always feel when reading Wittgenstein that much more palpable.

Anna Horvath: precarious dazzle

Like noticing nice light or composition on a walk through your neighborhood, the initial impression of Anna Horvath’s sculpture is at once serendipitous and matter-of-fact.

Genevieve Goffman: Here Forever

What future epoch do our own dreams precipitate? Goffman points to the importance of our collective fantasies, which are not only escapist pastimes, but dreams that race ahead of us, bearing on reality’s course.

Rodney McMillian: Body Politic

In an age that sees allegations of forced sterilizations of immigrant women at a Georgia detention center, and a de facto medical experimentation being visited upon essential workers who are forced to work in this pandemic without adequate safety gear, McMillian offers us a devastating message and reminder.

Baris Gokturk: Public Secret

Public Secret, the current solo exhibition of works by Baris Gokturk at Helena Anrather, presents a series of canvases displaying fragmented fiery landscapes, layered and scratched like an old street bulletin board or a peeled subway poster interrupted by the array of images underlying it.

Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings

Visitors seeking comfort in paintings of desserts will find old favorites like Pies, Pies, Pies (1961), but the larger body of Thiebaud’s works challenges us with levels of visual invention and expressive depth that link the visionary potential of comics to his disciplined investigation of the image and its material field.

Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver: Cinematic Illumination

For this MoMA exhibition, Gulliver and curator Sophie Cavoulacos bring Ginza to Manhattan, translating this vibrant installation to the museum space with intoxicating and transformative effect.

Orbits of Known and Unknown Objects: SFAI Histories / MATRIX 277

Jointly organized by SFAI and the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), the exhibition constitutes an Arcades Project—that is, if Walter Benjamin had a septum piercing, and wandered the streets of San Francisco instead.

Amy Sillman: Twice Removed

As it is, Sillman is a gamechanger. Her paintings and drawings reframe long-held notions regarding the look and emotional character of abstraction, a style that enjoyed its golden age in America a half century ago during the 1960s.

Tishan Hsu: Liquid Circuit

For the last four decades, Tishan Hsu has worked across sculpture, video, painting, and photography to consider the question: “How do we embody technology?”

Peggy Ahwesh: Heart_Land

“She said, the center cannot hold,” Marianne Shaneen narrates over meditative drone footage of Lebanon, Kansas projected on a split-screen. This phrase in the opening sequence of Peggy Ahwesh’s 2019 video installation Kansas Atlas (2019) is an apt description for the practice of the vanguard experimental film and video artist.

Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution

Full of wonders sacred and profane, the British Museum’s sweeping survey Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution aims to reveal the history and tenets of a mysterious, transgressive spiritual tradition that has been intertwined with Hinduism and Buddhism for nearly a millennium and a half.

Antoine Catala: alphabet

The French artist Antoine Catala has made breath and language the tether points of “alphabet,” his latest show, on view now at 47 Canal. alphabet (2020) consists of 26 sculptural renderings (all made in 2020) of each letter in the Roman alphabet according to the internet font Noto Sans. Constructed from coarse black polyester of the sort used for inflatable camping pillows, the letters are attached, respectively, to 26 lung-like apparatuses, which ventilate according to a server running a program Catala wrote.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2020

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