“Traversing Expanses”

SA SA BASSAC
Sothearos Boulevard, #18, 2nd Floor
July 18–September 6

View of “Traversing Expanses,” 2014.

The three artists in this exhibition were born in Cambodia and in refugee camps on the Thailand-Cambodia border before, during, and after the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. All three were subsequently raised abroad, and in this exhibition, as transnational artists showing in Phnom Penh, each aptly investigates the force of history and memory to unsettle a sense of self in the present. For instance, Amy Lee Sanford’s prints and video relate fragments of her father’s 1974 letters to her—he arranged her migration to the US prior to the emergence of the Khmer Rouge—in a personal, meditative process that keeps their relationship potent, despite his having disappeared in Cambodia in 1975. While her methods mitigate voyeuristic consumption by fracturing coherent narratives, the details of the letters do prove most compelling, particularly in their references to Kissinger and Vietnam. Meanwhile, Pete Pin and Seoun Som both evoke rituals that aim to shift the personal to the collective. Pin’s photographic prints are based on a relational project where he meets Khmer refugees in the US and asks each person’s family to choose a memento, which Pin then juxtaposes with portraits of the survivors. Som layers images of traditional Khmer rituals with American equivalents on sheer fabric.

The featured works are rhizomatically connected to Cambodia’s histories and genealogies of international contemporary art. While debates on what constitutes the latter have yet to reach critical mass, we are here reminded of differential stakes in time, memory, and politics as well as the diverse, if not uneven, methods that can attend with these.

Brian Curtin

“The Way of Painting”

TOKYO OPERA CITY ART GALLERY
3-20-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
July 12–September 21

Shimon Minamikawa, 4 paintings, two legs (detail), 2013, water paint on board, 6 x 15’.

Against the ever-debated status of contemporary painting (“zombie formalism,” etc.), the twenty-four artists in this exhibition make one thing collectively clear: There’s simply no stopping them. The artistic arguments they support are various and decentered, but their works manifest tendencies that might generally be described as, for instance, “formalism meets Pop” or “neo-Surrealism,” while also displaying and negotiating conceptual challenges of the post-medium condition, the nature of the uncanny, and a reverence for manga. As the works link to one another through subtle formal and material dialogues, the featured artists remix a broad vocabulary of painting discourses, developing their own aesthetic through differences and variations in our digital age of copy-and-paste.

Shimon Minamikawa’s 4 paintings, two legs, 2013, comprises two billboard-like structures: Four piercing neon-pink panels open the exhibition and are echoed by a silver sister work in the middle of the show. Meanwhile, Shinichiro Kano’s paintings depict enigmatic games of chance operations (as in plot [12615], 2011). In Yui Yaegashi’s series of small canvases, it feels as though an abstract informational interface gazes back, while the semiabstract abandoned landscapes of Asuka Yokono’s works unfold through reduced strokes via a pulling effect that evokes a black hole (see curve, 2014).

Facing the revival of 1960s-era Japanese art in Japan and abroad (as with recent exhibitions at MoMA and the Guggenheim in New York), the exhibition opens up perspectives on painting’s legacy in this country. More important, it raises consciousness of a new generation tackling often-impenetrable images in our mediated, everyday reality.

Gabrielle Schaad

“Confidence-Building Measures”

PETACH TIKVA MUSEUM
Yad Labanim, 30 Arlozorov St.
May 22–September 6

Yasmeen Godder, CLIMAX, 2014, performance view, Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Petach Tikva, Israel.

The Hebrew title of this exhibition (“צעדים בוני אמון”) translates into English as “Confidence-Building Measures,” a term to which the world of international relations refers as CBMs. Developed during the Cold War, CBMs are strategies designed to increase trust between hostile parties through the establishment of common ground. A similar drive to reduce tension between warring factions—with others, with the environment, or within the self—is the basis for this ambitious show. Including thirteen artists and choreographers working from the early twentieth century to the present, “Set in Motion” surveys work that deals with the body as social agent and dance as social action.

The exhibition’s centerpiece is a new commission by Israeli choreographer Yasmeen Godder, CLIMAX, 2014. The three-hour tour-de-force—the only live performance in the exhibition—includes seven dancers enacting a tension-filled, stripped-down group tango that incorporates props from Godder’s previous performances. From this center, the exhibition expands figuratively and literally into other galleries, incorporating a wide, almost unwieldy range of leitmotifs from the metaphysical to the political.

A glimpse into the history of modern dance is provided through video documentation of German Expressionist dancer Mary Wigman, as well as a digital screening of Babette Mangolte’s photographs of performances by Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, and Steve Paxton. Homage takes a twist with Mike Kelley’s Test Room Containing Multiple Stimuli Known to Elicit Curiosity and Manipulatory Responses, 1999, a videotaped dance based on primate psychological experiments choreographed in the manner of Martha Graham. The convergence between amateur dance and popular culture is explored in Dan Graham’s Rock My Religion, 1983–84 and Tracey Emin’s Why I Never Became a Dancer, 1995, as well as in a brief excerpt from the first season of HBO’s Girls, in which Lena Dunham’s character Hannah rocks out in her bedroom. Israeli artist Nevet Yitzhak’s shrine-like installation explores the similarities between the traditional Ivory Coast dance Mapouka and today’s twerking trend, while Alona Harpaz films the continuation of Israeli folk dance tradition in Kfar Saba’s sports arena. Actions in Israeli-Palestinian border zones are encapsulated in Arkadi Zaides’s Capture Practice, 2014. Zaides isolates and reperforms actions filmed by Palestinians of Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Territories. By detaching these movements from their everyday exchanges, he reveals their inherent violence.

Chelsea Haines

Luciana Kaplun

THE CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART (CCA)
2a Tsadok Hacohen St. (Corner of Kalisher), The Rachel & Israel Pollak Gallery
July 16–September 6

Luciana Kaplun, Gilda, 2014, color, sound, 18 minutes.

The protagonists of Gilda, Luciana Kaplun’s latest film, are silent, anonymous faces of foreign workers whose legal status is questionable. The 2014 film homes in on Latin Americans who clean Israeli homes and businesses, among them cleaners of the CCA itself, following workers as they begin their daily chores. A young man dressed in white arrives at a luxurious house in Tel Aviv, another at a triplex, and a woman cleans offices in the Haaretz newspaper building. Amidst a monotonous rhythm of work, their activities suddenly transform: The first young man, folding washed clothes, calmly tries on an elegant women’s blouse and the other man enacts a striptease in a leopard-print G-string, while the woman creates sculptures from office supplies.

Kaplun’s video invokes the latent fantasies conceived during tedious and repetitive labor via two simultaneous storylines, one depicting the protagonists working and another showing them joining forces in an improvised temple that they have erected in a small space. These overlapping narratives might reflect the ambiguous nature of the title itself: Gilda, the name of an Argentinian pop singer, also translates as “guild” in Hebrew. The temple might be the location in which the “guild” organizes itself as such, where its destitutions are replaced by commitment and devotion. Gilda’s hit song “No Me Arrepiente de Este Amor” (I Do Not Regret This Love) becomes the sound track of their daily routine. As behaviors become more unpredictable, connections between class and gender are revealed, as are the sweeping economic forces that fuel globalization.

Rotem Rozental

“The Walters Prize”

AUCKLAND ART GALLERY TOI O TāMAKI
Corner of Kitchener and Wellesley Streets, P.O. Box 5449
July 12–October 12

Simon Denny, All You Need is Data – The DLD 2012 Conference REDUX, 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable.

In 2012, the Walters Prize judges were criticized for selecting a short list of works few had actually seen in person. It was a sign of globalization’s impact on New Zealand art; all four of the projects had been shown overseas. This year’s short list, by contrast, contains only one offshore work: Simon Denny’s All You Need is Data – The DLD 2012 Conference REDUX, 2013, first exhibited at Kunstverein Munich. Denny’s massive installation is effectively a walk-in conference program, in which he cuts and pastes details of every session from the titular gathering and turns them into ugly inkjet prints on canvas. Its commanding scale is emphasized by the fact that it is also the only short-listed work to physically occupy the Auckland Art Gallery in its entirety. By contrast, Maddie Leach’s project, which transformed a barrel of oil into enough energy to create a 2.4-ton block of concrete, exists largely as website documentation. Kalisolaite Uhila’s Mo’ui tukuhausia, 2012, restages a performance in which the artist lived homeless for a spell. And Luke Willis Thompson’s work takes the form of a journey: Gallery visitors are invited on a taxi ride across Auckland to a run-down house, without any clues as to what, or who, they’ll encounter. Thanks to curator Stephen Cleland, doing an outstanding job with such an ephemeral brief, the Auckland Art Gallery’s difficult top floor is the best it’s ever looked. In September, Charles Esche will arrive to pick a winner. Based on the scale, bravery, and ambition on display, he has a very tough task ahead of him.

Anthony Byrt

Eduardo Costa

MUSEO DE ARTE MODERNO BUENOS AIRES (MAMBA)
Av. San Juan 350
May 10–September 14

Eduardo Costa, Mujer joven que acaba de lavarse la cara con jugo de limon (Young woman who just washed her face with lemon juice), 1998–99, solid acrylic paint, dimensions variable.

In 1968, Vogue published Richard Avedon’s photo of star model Marisa Berenson wearing a twenty-four-karat golden ear made by Eduardo Costa, a young Argentine artist living in New York. This was one of Costa’s many “Fashion Fictions,” wearable sculptural items that appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and other magazines in Latin America and the US. Like the media art he produced in Buenos Aires in 1966, these were conceptual works about cracking the media’s codes. The first large room encountered by visitors contains documentation of Costa’s “Fashion Fictions,” along with mannequins wearing clothing designed by nineteen contemporary artists for the Fashion Show Poetry Event staged at the May 2014 opening. There are also photos of the original Fashion Show Poetry Event, a performance organized in 1969 in New York by Costa, John Perreault, and Hannah Weiner with models wearing designs by Marisol, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and others. The other two galleries introduce viewers to Costa’s paintings, as well as sound, film, text, and video pieces.

Although the exhibition is not a retrospective, it gives a sense of the complexity of Costa’s work, which has developed in dialogue with teachers, friends, and collaborators in Buenos Aires, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. Conceptualism, pop, performance, Neo-concretism, the Afro-Brazilian tradition, and avant-garde writing: He has brought all of these together in surprising ways over the past fifty years. The show lacks key works, such as his “Talking Paintings”—and documentation of his role in street and theater performances is also absent. But the exhibition still allows for a rich experience of Costa’s nomadic, syncretic art.

Patrick Greaney