Titled “Posthumous Lives,” this is an exhibition of work by two artists who are very much still alive. Mitchell Anderson contributes High Zest, 2015–16, a stack of trading cards from Operation Enduring Freedom—the name of US military operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The packaging reads: “A portion of proceeds from this product will be contributed to charities related to the war against terrorism.” I’m sure glad we won that war and can finally stop enduring all this freedom; the sales from the cards were no doubt a major contributing factor. Elsewhere, Anderson shows a series of titanium-steel wall pieces, “A Symposium on ‘Alien,’” 2014–16, containing charts, etched via laser, deconstructing the 1979 film Alien.
Then there’s Jon Rafman, who has made two marble reliefs featuring two dragons fucking a car. In Dragons Fucking Car I (Relief), 2016, one dragon slides his dong into the exhaust pipe while licking the back windshield. The other dragon has just jizzed, greedily licking his own sauce off the front hood.
This is the language of dreams––which is to say, made of the stuff of real life, since reality is the main ingredient in our dream juice. This seems literalized in Rafman’s video Dream Journal (Wound Man Closet), 2016. You shut yourself up in this claustrophobically contained space––a box, actually––and watch the artist’s dreams animated before your very eyes. All sorts of things appear: Mel Gibson posing against a graffiti backdrop that reads “Legalize murder”; Britney Spears taking a piss. It could all be real––it is––and yet it’s not. It’s confusing, and reassuring because of that. Life is what happens when you’re too busy dying to really notice it. And anyway, the alien’s been inside us all along.
Monuments to white power and dominion have been a focal point of the culture wars gripping South Africa, prompting heated discussions about their survival. Yet Helen Pheby, the senior curator at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, doesn’t directly engage this ongoing volatility in “A Place in Time,” her guest showcase of fifty-two mostly new outdoor works by thirty-seven artists from Germany, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland, and the UK at this sculpture park northwest of Johannesburg. Inspired by the area’s fossil-rich landscapes, her survey of contemporary sculpture instead places these works in a continuum of human time by juxtaposing them against a museological display of archaeological fragments in a small gallery.
Richard Long’s Standing Stone Circle, 2011, composed of loose rocks found in the untended parts of the park, is a permanent installation. A literal outlier, it nonetheless animates Pheby’s central theme. Similar to Long’s remote piece, James Webb’s audio work There’s No Place Called Home, 2004–16, which plays foreign birdcalls from a tree in the landscaped garden, is subsumed by its organic context—a minority position, as most of the outdoor works are plainly legible as such.
Mary Sibande explores her long-standing interest in fashion in The Mechanism, 2016, a study of a mechanical sewing needle rendered at the scale of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s public works. Nearby, Nandipha Mntambo synthesizes mythologies in the outsize bronze figure Minotaurus, 2015. There is a corollary between this resolute figure and Thomas J. Price’s Mental Structure #19, 2014–15, a facsimile of a black male figure composed from Perspex and bronze that prefigures an encounter with Johan Thom’s Hanging Garden, 2016: two bronze feet set atop a glass vitrine on a wooden terrace covered in an off-white polyurethane sludge, its drained, white figure speaking to the changeable politics raging outside the park.
Cocurated by Leo Li Chen and Wu Mo, this exhibition focuses on the 1990s in China—a period between the social upheavals of the ’80s and the postmillennial so-called new era— and showcases the often-neglected lived experiences existing beside the grand social and political narratives that constitute crucial references.
In the 1990s, Beijing began fulfilling the demands of the Western art market, thus turning the capital into a hub of interpersonal networks that shaped a group of artists into cultural vanguards and antiheroes. Despite simplified frameworks and regional limitations to traveling abroad, the ideas of passive resistance and escapism managed to spread. For Red Light District, 1998–1999—made after the artist moved to Hong Kong—Yan Lei relocated neon signage used for brothels in that city to the entrance of a local art institution, ridiculing the hidden interests at play in a nascent system that encouraged budding artists to exhibit abroad.
Wang Youshen uses the newspaper Beijing Youth Daily, his place of work, as source material with which to juxtapose the media’s role as a symbol of power and its invasions into the individual sphere. As an echo, Leung Chi Wo’s Silent Music Plane 1967, 2016, presents the Life magazine covers of that year and contemporaneous revolutionary and pop songs to showcase the disparate forms of media that were pushed into the trenches of ideological battle.
The exhibition sketches one picture of 1990s China, with its representational images, dynamic perspectives, and unambiguous references. One can use contemporary experience to re-create the details and contradictions that made up daily life—particularly for ordinary people—in the ’90s. The exhibition serves too as a reminder of the rhythm of historical cycles: The ’90s belong not only to the past, but also to the future.
Translated from Chinese by Chelsea Liu.
Taiwanese artist Chou Yu-Cheng’s current exhibition, “Chemical Gilding, Keep Calm, Galvanise, Pray, Gradient, Ashes, Manifestation, Unequal, Dissatisfaction, Capitalise, Incense Burner, Survival, Agitation, Hit, Day Light. II” is the second chapter of a project by the same lengthy name shown at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in 2015. Its focal point is a panoramic wallscape comprising paintings and other objects, with an enormous, central sheet of accordion-folded, gold-colored steel. In the work’s Berlin iteration, viewers were encouraged to chuck rocks at its gleaming surface; in Hong Kong, dents in the metal are the only records of earlier blows. Alongside, paintings are assembled at odd angles on top of silver surfaces resembling the facades of steel refrigerators, while white-painted dishes, pyramids, prisms, and cylinders lie as if haphazardly stored on shelves. Fruits, earthly symbols of domestic life and death, decay over the course of the exhibition.
The most ethereal presences are several gradient oil paintings, their hues emulating those of daylight: Each canvas contains seamlessly blended pastel tones of the sky at dawn. Painted a pale blue gray, the gallery’s walls seem to coyly mimic the canvases when reacting to shifting light. It’s not uncommon for Chou to transform spaces: His 2004 exhibition “Molyneux” saw an entire gallery floor covered in a bird-of-paradise-blue carpet. The show’s verbose title (which all the works share) is loosely based on psychological conditions surrounding social interaction and compulsive capitalism. In the main wallscape, strips of irregularly bent neon, acting as fragments of graphs, signify Taiwan’s rapidly increasing housing costs, while pie charts refer to surveyed happiness levels of the country’s citizens. Prayerful regard of the sublime and outright violence are two of humankind’s most natural channels for alleviating societal anxiety. Chou’s installation aestheticizes them both, evoking the awe inspired by the early morning sky, as well as the pent-up frustration that leads to stones being thrown. What else remains but such primal coping strategies, when one is left to navigate an increasingly unaffordable and unwelcoming world?
In Günther Förg’s lifelong relationship with abstract painting, he embraced colors even if it included limiting his use of them. He played unwaveringly with the sense of proportion on his canvases. The paintings on exhibit here were made after 2007 and after he had established a reputation for lead paintings and monochromes. But unlike his earlier Minimalist works, these varicolored renditions are abundantly expressive. For instance, Untitled, 2008—a large, white-primed canvas on which the artist energetically scribbled blocks of pink and ocher amid occasional incidents of blue, yellow, and green—is redolent with something close to desire. Seemingly hasty in gesture, the blocks consist of vertical lines and look almost like rubbings or smears. They appear disparate at first, but their constancy across the painting’s surface and the repetitious pattern form a definite composition. As a result, this series of paintings, five in total, energizes the atmosphere in the room. In another untitled canvas also from 2008, no particular hue dominates, but rather Förg has prioritized the distribution of sky blue, orange-red, and deep purple as groupings laid atop other color variations. They cohere with rhythm, and the painting seems to move from left to right, guided by the bright scribbles.
Förg’s blocks are prolific and appear to quiver, sometimes breaking away from their flocks. Ultimately, it is the white priming of their background, like the white of an eye, that allows them to react so strongly to one another. As if on the verge of a precipice, the viewer’s gaze is torn from a soft pink to a pine green, back and forth and over again. Each canvas enacts its own pace as Förg exploits the suggestive interrelations between his colored rectangular shapes to create an aesthetic experience that engages all the senses.
After reading a blog post from curator Daniel Baumann titled “Who Is Hisachika Takahashi?,” Yuki Okumura set out to find the answer. The multimedia artist, born 1978 in Aomori, Japan, now based between cities in Western Europe, researched and eventually met with Takahashi, born in 1940, a former technician to Lucio Fontana and Robert Rauschenberg. The meeting led to Okumura and Takahashi working together. Both artists’ practices often employ collaboration to develop ideas concerning identity and memory. This exhibition constantly approaches but never quite answers the question of Baumann’s post. We learn about Takahashi but always through his collaborations and Okumura’s curatorial frame.
Throughout, new works by Okumura—playing on several by Takahashi as well as photographic documentation of him—are displayed alongside that artist’s old and newer output. Included is a series of US maps drawn from memory by the likes of Joseph Kosuth and Jasper Johns (From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States, 1971–72). For another playful work, Takahashi cut and sculpted the metal of a dried can of International Klein Blue paint, discovered in Klein’s former studio, into a bird—giving the cylindrical mass a set of wings. In a series of images opposite titled Hisachika Takahashi in Israel, 2016, Okamura, referencing Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953, has rubbed out all but Takahashi’s figure from photographs documenting his time working as Rauschenberg’s assistant in Israel. Takahashi in these images thus overshadows his famous employer.
Central to the exhibition is a video in which Baumann interviews Okumura, who plays the role of the older artist and relates stories from his life. Okumura’s interview and works interfere with and recontextualize Takahashi’s oeuvre, extending collaborative processes latent in the latter’s practice. Authorship, transience, and recollection emerge as themes from the various identity-obscuring works.
There is a silence around hegemony—a lack of diverse voices, born not of subaltern complicity, but of structural acceptance and, sometimes, forgetfulness. It is thus no surprise, in the global theater of art and film festivals, where hegemonic spectacle subsumes other projects into its main narrative, that an exhibition such as this one is so rare.
Curated by Singapore-based Siddharta Perez, the show features video work and experimental film by David Griggs, Gym Lumbera, Miko Revereza, Roxlee, Shireen Seno, Angel Velasco Shaw, Stephanie Syjuco, and Kidlat Tahimik—artists working in the Philippines or belonging to its diaspora. An incisive look at the country through the lens of American culture and Cold War policy, the exhibition imagines the Philippines as a “doubled” land and nation. For example, Syjuco’s abstract video work Body Double (Platoon), 2005, presents excerpts of Philippine jungle footage from Oliver Stone’s Vietnam film, Platoon (1986).
American tropes are recurrent in the other works presented, such as Seno’s video Shotgun Tuding, 2013, an appropriation of spaghetti western films; Tahimik’s Perfumed Nightmare, 1977, inspired by Voice of America radio broadcasts; and Grigg’s Where’s Francis?, 2013, a short film about two Filipino extras acting as severed heads in the film Apocalypse Now (1979). The satire and appropriation in the works rouse us with disquieting revelations, nowhere more poignant than in Where’s Francis?, when a protagonist, after thirty years of being stuck in the mud, claims that “Sheen had a heart attack and so now they forgot about us”—referring to actor Martin Sheen’s medical crisis that almost derailed the filming of Coppola’s classic.
Breaking the silence, “Double Vision” inspires an uncanny terror in the encounter with something insidiously familiar, returning our attention to the important, wordless, often forgotten implications of brushing against the soft power of a hegemonic culture.
“Artspectrum” is Seoul’s answer to the Whitney Biennial. Since 2001, it has supported emerging artists and showcased a broad spectrum of Korean contemporary art. This year, ten artists and artist groups are presented. For their contribution Art Spectral, 2016, the Okin Collective (Joungmin Yi, Hwayong Kim, and Shiu Jin) installed a wide wooden floor within the gallery and outfitted the space as a quasi-living room or lounge. They instruct visitors on how to enjoy it: Heat the pillow in the provided microwave, rest on it, read their publication (copies of which are scattered across the installation), and exercise your eyes by watching the simple movements of balls in a single-channel video. The book is a collection of writings by critics and curators on “vanishing” and “invisibility.” And through the work’s play on the exhibition title, Okin Collective refers to the unstable social status of the emerging artists in Artspectrum exhibitions, most of whom are required to “disappear” outside of the museum in order to pick up odd jobs to support themselves, giving their lives a ghostlike character.
Family Plan, 2016, suggests that this feeling of economic instability is shared by a generation. The artists, graphic designer Hyungjae Kim and information researcher Jaehyun Bahk, working as the duo Optical Race, collected and analyzed fiscal data about income, expenditures, and assets for single men and women in South Korea and set them alongside similar statistics for their parents. By pairing the different cases, they created four hundred virtual families whose combined incomes and assets are represented by color-coded circular mats arranged on the gallery floor. Visitors are inspired to stand on the circle that best reflects their own financial situation. The mats give an approximate location for their position on the social ladder and even project whether it would be possible for them to afford a proper wedding or sustain a family. Visitors to this high-profile exhibition may relax on warm rice pillows or enjoy soft mats on the floor, but these artworks manage to speak to the harsh reality outside the gallery.
Demonstrating his dexterity across various media, Bae Young-Whan presents painting, sculpture, installation, and video in “Pagus Avium,” Platform-L’s inaugural exhibition. The first since his breakthrough solo exhibition at the Samsung Museum of Art in 2012, the show unveils new artworks that both reference and transgress Bae’s conceptual oeuvre.
Before one enters the first hall, the sound of large temple bells can be heard resonating throughout the space. The heavy, meditative repetitions are rousing, but they unexpectedly come from industrial-size speakers, amplifiers, megaphones, and loudspeakers hanging from the ceiling in Babel–1 (all works cited, 2016). Megaphone shaped pieces are also scattered on the floor near Speech, Thought, Meaning, a sculpture of a giant parrot hooded like a hunting falcon and perched atop a measuring stick. The non-standardized gold-color increments painted on the ruler are reminiscent of those that have appeared repeatedly in Bae’s past works. The parrot affirms the artist’s interest in birds as symbols of flight and captivity, a theme echoed upstairs in the four-channel video Abstract Verb—Can You Remember? On each screen a single, anonymous figure wearing a costume of bright orange fabric plumage dances energetically to the beat of drums. The dancer, whose face is obscured, spreads his “wings” in expressive gestures that strive to communicate without words. The viewer, moving slowly between the screens in observation, naturally becomes a predator.
Founded in 1948, the Ofakim Hadashim, meaning “New Horizons,” group of twenty-some artists hung together for well over a decade, and their embrace of such movements as Cubism, Surrealism, and biomorphism, among others, coincided with the formation of modern Israeli art. From the beginning, there was a dual imperative to acknowledge, even synthesize, the stylistic proclivities of an international art world and to form, through such appropriations, a distinctly national school. “A New Horizon for New Horizons” is the first comprehensive exhibition since 1966 to show the work of this cohort, and it complements the publication of a revised and annotated edition of Gila Balas’s 1980 monograph and exhibition history of the group.
The cracked surfaces of paintings and original frames evidence their hiatus from public view. To be sure, much has changed in the fifty years since, and this current outing makes clear both the historical ambitions of and the later developments in Israeli art inspired by their work. Installed chronologically, the show deftly reveals the move of so many individual practitioners from figuration to some mode of abstraction—as with Robert Baser and Joseph Zaritsky—and from a darker palette to one ever lighter, even sun-bleached, as in Raffi Lavie’s untitled painting from 1962. And yet, such supposed advances coexist with other notions of painting, sculpture, and works on paper, which admits the uneven reception of art from elsewhere—many of these artists, including Zaritsky, spent time in Europe—and the competing priorities within what had become a moribund style.
Still, much of the work feels vital beyond its historical importance. The fact that the last gallery houses works by contemporary artists contributes to this argument of generational passage and homage from within, paradoxically bringing the wider relevance of such forbearers into the present tense.
Darren Sylvester’s photographic and installation-based work transforms irony into sincerity, conflating commodity fetishism and ethereality in a way that recalls Jeff Koons’s well-honed aesthetic. The centerpiece here, from which the exhibition’s title is derived, is a more than ten-foot-wide photograph, Broken Model (all works 2016), which depicts a collapsed female model on a glittered stage, cared for by another model while three others stand in the background. Re-enacting a scene from Jean Paul Gaultier’s final womenswear show in Paris in 2014––where Canadian model Coco Rocha contrived a fainting spell––Sylvester exploits such theatrics to create a beauty-pageant version of a Renaissance tableau, at once touching and glamorously anemic. All five women appear again together in another large-scale photograph, Green Editorial, which shows them smiling straight into the camera with turquoise glitter-paint on their faces, referencing the joyous visages found in cosmetics advertisements.
In To Live––a sculptural installation of a catwalk covered with purple sand and an array of whole and halved coconuts made from bronze and porcelain––the clichéd images of tropical island life and the aspirational tone of high-end fashion become entwined, in a style that would not be out of place in a Louis Vuitton window display. Alluding to the artist’s recurrent use of modeling techniques, where scenes are re-created from everyday life and popular culture, the show avoids overt critique and wholeheartedly embraces artificiality and detachment to amplify uncertainty and polarize interpretation.