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Willem Boshoff

SMAC ART GALLERY | CAPE TOWN
145 Sir Lowry Road, The Palms
December 12–February 6

View of “Willem Boshoff: Reap the Whirlwind,” 2015–16.

A burnt-orange brick wall is the centerpiece of Willem Boshoff’s “Reap the Whirlwind,” an at times exegetical display of fourteen new assemblage works and sculptures that riff on this sixty-four-year-old artist’s career-long obsession with words as textural forms and linguistic ciphers. Measuring nearly fifty feet long by ten feet high, Word Woes, 2015, spans the entire length of one gallery wall and is composed of a grid of handmade bricks produced by rural artisans using Richmond clay and the services of a blindfolded donkey whose orbits powered their primitive mixing drum—a technique described in the South African playwright Athol Fugard’s 2005 short story “Johnnie Goliath.” Boshoff’s work is a tutorial in equivalences: Letters embossed on individual bricks spell out 290 English words that are also readable in Afrikaans but mean something completely different in that language. The work’s title further extends this wordplay, as it can be translated back into English as “become angry.”

This mood is not new to Boshoff’s work, with traces of rage and dissent evident in his early concrete poems from 1978 to ’80. Similar in tone to his controversial 2015 text work Racist in South Africa—listing various things that disgust him about his homeland, shown at the 2015 Venice Biennale—the piece Home to Roost, 2015, is an assemblage of compasses and calipers mounted on a ground of iron sheets reclaimed from a disused chicken coop. The title, which is spelled out in sand in an accompanying vitrine, references Ward Churchill’s post-9/11 tract, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens (2003)—offering further reflections on the artist’s enduring anti-imperialist position and the dominance of words as both animating idea and formal subject of his meticulously crafted pieces.

Sean O’Toole

Tony Oursler

LEHMANN MAUPIN | HONG KONG
12 Pedder Street, 407 Pedder Building
January 14–March 5

Tony Oursler, EUC%, 2015, wood, ink-jet print, LCD screens, USB flash drives, sound, 113 x 71.5 x 30.5".

Tony Oursler’s “PriV&te” draws on the artist’s long-standing concern with the implications of data’s encroachment on personal life, in particular Big Brother’s and big business’ yearning to map and identify the human face. This series of seven large and colorful head-shaped panels, four of which are inset with video screens that play animated composites of erratically moving facial features, borrows dots, grids, and numbers reminiscent of measurements used in facial recognition software to adorn each panel. The panels’ surface textures affect a sleek, glittery mood of hyperbolic sci-fi technology.

The mouths featured on four of the LCD screens make largely illegible movements, and occasionally visitors can make out audible fragments of sober sentences. Due to their random timing and plurality, these recognizable phrases sometimes overlap with and interrupt one another, creating a clamor with a psychological gravity. Oursler’s characters, who frequently sound tortured or who appear to be in the midst of inner turmoil, tend to exist in existential spaces, and this series is no exception, albeit with a technological leaning. The largest, most impactful work in the show is EUC%, 2015, a wooden panel held upright by black sandbags in a Brechtian nod toward its own theatricality. By riffing on facial mapping technologies, Oursler is gesturing toward our increasingly quantifiable personal identities. He seems to suggest that if anonymity is becoming null in the crowds of public life, interior privacy will surely be next. This is a message with particular resonance in Hong Kong, whose residents’ recent struggles with the distant Chinese central government are marked by an increasing inability to maintain anonymity when voicing dissent.

Elliat Albrecht

Antony Gormley

EVENT HORIZON - ANTONY GORMLEY
Central and Western districts
November 19–May 18

View of “Antony Gormley: Event Horizon,” 2015–16.

Recent public art in Hong Kong has tended toward the lighthearted. Florentijn Hofman’s giant inflated Rubber Duck floated in the harbor in 2013 and Paulo Grangeon’s sixteen hundred papier mâché pandas appeared in flashmobs around the city in 2014. Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon, 2007, is a more cerebral public art project and a response to the island’s condensed and vertical environment. The artist compares his installation to acupuncture: minor displacements realigning the energy of the urban habitat in a healing way.

Gormley’s thirty-one life-size iron sculptures are indexical copies of the artist’s body. Many are positioned on key rooftops throughout Hong Kong’s Central district, such as city hall, the Standard Chartered Bank Building, and the Central police station. In cosmological physics, “event horizon” refers to the limit of the known universe. Here, scattered across the cityscape, the works expand our understanding of how we interact with space and with others, and they question how the built world relates to an inherited earth.

The surprise of glimpsing a human silhouette against the sky might be troubling to some observers—the connotation of suicide is unavoidable. For others, a game could be made of spotting all thirty-one. The project began in 2007, when it was reported that half of the planet’s population lives in urban centers, and it has toured several cities since. Gormley’s eloquent installation is a call to mindfulness in a hectic and densely built-up place, encouraging us to be still for a moment and look up.

Samantha Kuok Leese

Minouk Lim

PLATEAU, SAMSUNG MUSEUM OF ART
55, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu
December 3–February 14

View of “Minouk Lim,” 2015–16.

Minouk Lim has installed The Gates of Citizen, 2015, in the middle of Auguste Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, 1926–28, and The Burghers of Calais, 1889, which are parts of the museum’s permanent collection. The artist removed the doors from four shipping containers and recomposed them into an open passage, in which Lim set an audio system that plays popular songs along with the noise from various types of vehicles. Between the artworks that represent the pain and suffering of human beings on the one hand and the heroic sacrifice for the sake of the community on the other, the container gates aptly stand for the artist’s consistent concerns of dispersion, displacement, and loss, all of which underlie the collective experience of Koreans in the twentieth century.

As an artist living in a divided country, where old Cold War ideologies are still relevant and mutual mixed feelings of hostility and sympathy toward the other are deeply rooted in people’s minds, Lim believes that the meaning of community and the formulation of its solidarity prompt unavoidable questions.

The Promise of If, 2015, the exhibition’s title piece, is a two-channel video projection that shows the clips from the now legendary TV show Finding the Dispersed Families, 1983. In a broadcast lasting 453 hours and 45 minutes, the show aired over 100,000 messages on placards, presented by individuals hoping to reunite with members of their families that had been torn apart by war. Re-encountering the pain of separation and the overwhelming joy of reunion, Lim allows us to viscerally experience the numerous possibilities contained within the hypothetical worlds of “if.”

Jung-ah Woo

Wei-Li Yeh

TKG+
No. 15 Ln. 548 Ruiguang Rd. Neihu Dist., B1
January 2, 2016–February 5, 2016

Wei-Li Yeh, Three Places, for Marguerite Duras, #1 of 7, 2003, Kodak duraclear transparency mounted as light box, 35 x 42 x 5".

Three Places for Marguerite Duras, 2003–2006, consists of seven photographs taken by Wei-Li Yeh in an abandoned house next to his residence. The series documents four consecutive years, with every sequential photo captured from the same angle, and opens with Yeh’s blurred self-portrait. The series chronicles real or staged events as the artist returns to document the gradual changes and deterioration of the space.

The photographs are presented in various formats: printed on canvas, mounted on acrylic or as light boxes, or lying on a table. Their considered mounting and display highlights the materiality of each photograph as object. In Three Places, for Marguerite Duras, #2 of 7, 2004, a cracked and tarnished polyurethane coating over the photograph obscures the image of the abandoned house, with its collapsing asbestos ceiling panels and a hint of greenery beyond the window. The addition of the surface treatment discolors the photographic image in a manner not unlike memory.

The series is an homage to French novelist, screenwriter and experimental filmmaker Marguerite Duras and her stories of departure, loss, and rootless existence. Yeh blurs fiction and fact with a materials-based technique similar to that which Duras deployed as she “writes herself a stable world,” as Maxine Hong Kingston has described. Yeh, in his own way, attempts to make sense of being neither here nor there and coming to terms with his own in-betweenness—he was born in Taipei, moved to the United States as a child, and returned to Taiwan twenty years later. He stabilizes himself through revisiting and documenting his world in the photograph-object.

Daphne Chu

Maya Dunietz

THE CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART (CCA)
2a Tsadok Hacohen St. (Corner of Kalisher), The Rachel & Israel Pollak Gallery
December 31–February 27

Maya Dunietz, Thicket, 2015–16, earbuds, computer, fiberglass, wiring, dimensions variable.

“Sound Requires a Medium” comprises magical audio-physical installations made of ten thousand earbuds woven together into the hovering shape of a cloud, for a total of around twelve miles of wiring; a piano attached to reverberating contrabass amps; rotating wooden wheels that breathe into a bird-shaped mouthpiece; and a theremin-like instrument with a metal rod that you bite onto so that it vibrates the sound of a poem inside your head.

Maya Dunietz is a sound activist who composes and performs indie rock as well as avant-garde music. For her sound installations she creates specific objects and audio environments that use the bodies of visitors as instruments, rendering them into echo chambers within a meditative music box. This contrasts sharply with the bustling Carmel Market located right outside the CCA. There, peddlers compete for attention, busses hiss and howl, and the general level of noise pollution is high. Inside, we practice a different form of listening, one that unfolds in time and allows for genuine discovery. “Nature is a temple in which living columns sometimes emit confused words. Man approaches it through forests of symbols, which observe him with familiar glances,” Baudelaire wrote in “Correspondences” (1857). Dunietz’s installation transports us through that forest, deepening our ways of listening, using audio to create a community that strikes a different, more harmonious chord than that of the trembling environment outside.

Roy Brand

“4th San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial”

SAN JUAN POLY/GRAPHIC TRIENNIAL
Arsenal de la Marina San Juan, Puerto Rico
October 24–February 28

Karlo Andrei Ibarra, Remnants, 2011, green plantains, tattoo machine, wooden table, dimensions variable.

Steeped in the tension of Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, the physical dispersion of art into public space and the wholesale impact of economic and governmental breakdown characterize the 4th San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial. Presenting works from a variety of media that are all conceptually rooted in the conditions of printmaking—matrices, reliefs, mark making, and broad modes of dissemination—many of the triennial’s exhibitions are spread across the island, from the streets of San Juan to remote regions. Its most public project registers the contemporary spirit of decentralization not only spatially but also in the politics of the work: For Puerto Rican Master Printers, 2014, the young artist collective Printmakers by Printmakers pays homage to the legendary master printmakers of the island by wheat-pasting their life-size woodcut portraits throughout the city.

During opening events at the Arsenal de la Marina Española, one of the triennial’s central sites, some galleries were still awaiting the arrival of certain works. Several projects exploring site-specificity and questions about how global forces are felt on a local level flanked such voids. In a dark corner of the venue’s colonial building is Nicolás Robbio’s Puerto Rico, 6 AM, 2015, a sparse sculptural installation including a drinking glass, a magnifying glass, and overhead projectors whose refractions chart patterns that the blazing sun makes in the space as it enters through cracks in a worn door. In Karlo Andrei Ibarra’s performative installation Remnants, 2011, a tattoo artist inscribes passages from NAFTA on green plantains. Nearby, Alicia Villareal presents a grid of children’s desks bearing silk-screened maps and jigsaw-cut incisions in Engraving the Territory, 2009. In the context of this exhibition, the wood’s disturbing fault lines comment on the unsustainable fissures in national institutions and profit-driven geopolitics that continue to plague the island.

Liz Munsell

Carlos Bunga

MUSEUM OF ART AT THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF COLOMBIA
Carrera 45 No 26-85
September 23–February 27

View of “Carlos Bunga,” 2015–16.

Over the years, Carlos Bunga has developed a meditative response to architecture that takes the form of sculptural work and site-specific installation. At the National University Museum of Art of Bogotá, a building designed in the modernist tradition by Alberto Estrada, Bunga puts forth an array of propositions that work against and within—and from and toward—context. His installation adds and subtracts content, and it unveils itself to be blatantly rational while at the same time, undisguisedly and somehow unexpectedly, it portrays a sublimation of the contemplative. Never in Bunga’s work had I seen such a rapturous atmosphere, with such little means, as in his intervention in the main interior space of the museum, where two basic elements, a horizontal cardboard strip and a succinct yellow plane, provided an immersive and ecstatic experience. Cardboard is a recurrent material in Bunga’s work. In the previous room it is used to create formidable walls and corridors that radically transform the museum’s architecture, but here it is reduced to its slightest expression, like a plane folded back onto a line, or perhaps onto an idea of a line; such is its silent subtlety.

Bunga’s approach in this project is manifold. In post-Minimalist fashion and through tumultuous action, square concrete shapes have been removed from the floor of the courtyard and stacked nearby. He has also cleared a rectangular surface of grass off the lawn, and an equally reticular ambition is developed in the adjacent space, with cardboard boxes stretching almost endlessly, echoing the structure of the roof. This was a clear example of Bunga’s interest in the precarious transcription of minimal art, much indebted to his signature formalism in opposition to the accomplished yellow paint works that called upon a psychological understanding of space and produced a rather welcome perceptual complexity.

Javier Hontoria