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.
The pictorial genre that lends this exhibition its title flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century, before photography made it redundant. “Interior portraits” depicted living spaces and their furnishings, devoid of yet suggestive of human presence. Built around historical works and archival materials, the installations on view by five contemporary artists can be seen as three-dimensional portraits of interiors.
Put center-stage, Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s and Nick Mauss’s contributions—Jean Cocteau . . ., 2003–14, and Concern, Crush, Desire, 2011—pay tribute to Cocteau and to his set and costume designer, Christian Bérard, respectively: apt references given their association with the Ballets Russes, based in Monte Carlo in the 1930s. Though parts of these hyper-detailed composite works have been shown elsewhere, they acquire new resonance here, framed by a variety of posters, paintings, and stage set models from the museum’s collection.
A surfeit of objects also characterizes Laure Prouvost’s video and sculptural installation Wantee, 2013, strikingly exhibited in a darkened interior. One of the spotlighted components of the piece portrays a painting of a cluttered interior scene, in part a mise en abyme that echoes one of the show’s dominant modes. Similar doubling effects, recurrent patterns, and destabilizing shifts in media course through the installations of Brice Dellsperger—in which seven Dan Flavin monochromes that appear in one of Dellsperger’s “Double Body” videos are placed beside screens projecting cult films that have been remade by the artist, who interprets each role—and of Danica Dakic, whose Isola Bella, 2007–2008, is named after a period wallpaper, which Dakic reproduced as a film poster and backdrop for a production she filmed in a Bosnian home for the mentally handicapped.
In the series of three videos that share the exhibition’s title, “The Great Metaphorist,” artist Guo Hongwei appears in his car, muttering a rapid-fire stream of surreal, off-pitch metaphors as he accelerates before pausing for a smoke. A policeman (played by an actor) stops him for a random check of identification papers, and Guo replies with absurd yet profound reflections on life. In another scene, two rappers appear in Guo’s backseat, where their tumultuous performance and lyrics—to the screeching of the mic—become metaphors for the artist’s mix of turbulent emotions. Later, a fortune-teller appears in the passenger seat, with Guo asking the oracle to discuss his commute home as a metaphor for his life.
Videos are not the only works in the show: In one installation, the covers of classic tomes have been replaced by silk-screen prints, with authors’ names substituted by Guo’s own. The piece subtly poses combative questions about media and the market: Is a book’s cover here—as art—meant to be purchased while its contents remain free? Elsewhere, a watercolor depicts Guo’s commute from home to studio, the map’s legend and markings depicting a world filled with almost novel-like narratives.
Gallery-goers here seem both curious and puzzled. Perhaps that’s because the show is meant for the artist himself more than for an audience. As a student, Guo yearned to be a storyteller, and now, after spending years immersed in a studio practice that’s traversed various visual modes, the prolific artist has apparently returned to his love of narration. Perhaps that early dream of his will finally be fulfilled.
Translated from Chinese by Dawn Chan.
Liu Xinyi’s recent exhibition continues his excavation of visual logic used for political ends. The artist was spurred by a 1958 speech by Nikita Khrushchev about his visions for Soviet rule in Hungary: Rather than empty revolutionary rhetoric, he asked, “Isn’t it better to have good goulash?” Mistranslated and mocked by Mao, the bastardized Chinese formulation became “Communism is stewed beef and potatoes.” With such displacements in mind, Liu takes on the imagery of now-defunct Socialist states. One Night Back to Wartime, 2014, for instance, is made up of twelve red stars arranged in a circle, evoking a clock’s divisions but more importantly representing the twelve post-Soviet states with red stars in their former emblems that now belong to the European Union or are applying to join. Every now and then, the stars light up all at once, jumbling the spirit of celebration and revolution but also hinting at danger. Surplus Value, 2014, presents bright ears of wheat made of foam: life-sized replicas of heraldic imagery from twenty Socialist states’ emblems; the desacralized symbols evoke ever-present questions of redistribution.
While the works appear to be humorously tackling political themes, the artist attempted in one interview to distance the work from such an interpretation. In part, Liu wants to avoid the straightforward yet shopworn role of the “dissident” which Chinese artists are offered in the West. Moreover, he eschews preset goals, instead opening up a space of experimentation where the ordinary visual logic of political imagery is disrupted and hidden possibilities are uncovered through juxtapositions and displacements.
Sex is messy. Establishing a correlation between high population density and a diversity of carnal urges, “Ten Million Rooms of Yearning. Sex in Hong Kong” is a five-venue show spread across town that addresses an arguably decreasing local libido, through the aesthetics of the crowded and the homoerotic. More generally, it open-mindedly speaks to the nonmainstream practices of BDSM, Internet sex, and paid sex. Works by thirty-nine artists in media including painting, drawing, photography, digital animation, video, sculpture, print, and installation—mostly overtly phallic—give the exhibition a messy, overcrowded thrift-store feel.
Weaving together political concerns, those of sexual identity in particular, there are, for instance, the paintings of Agung Kurniawan and mimeographs of Hou Chun-ming in the Sheung Wan Civic Center. Addressing the tensions inherent to colonial history, as well as issues of national identity, the works employ allegorical, ingenuous graphics to depict fornication between virile, sometimes dismembered bodies. Over in Connecting Spaces, in Roee Rosen’s film Tse, 2010, political extremism is exorcised through willful pleasure: Two members of the Israeli BDSM community engage in flogging, ultimately prompting the sub to spit out quotes by extreme-right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman. More personal pursuits are also explored. Hito Steyerl’s Lovely Andrea, 2007, a video documenting its subject’s quest in Japan to find a twenty-year-old bondage photo in which she modeled, emphasizes the erotic value of limitations and life’s randomness. Ultimately, the show encourages individuality. In the cheerful video excerpts from The Trilogy of Sinai: Sex Love and Hope, 2013, Dr. Petula Ho Sik-ying interviews Hong Kongers in public spaces: for example, a wife who hopes to dissuade her husband from having sex with her by charging him for it; a recently postoperative transsexual giggling over her new vagina; and a churchgoing man acknowledging the importance of sex for a successful Christian marriage.
Avoiding sensuality, courtship, and sexiness in favor of themes of loneliness, passive violence, mismatched relationships, politics, and freedom of choice, this emancipated exhibition acts as a release, thanks to the liberation only full disclosure can bring.
The exhibition “Mapping Asia” is a unique response to one of the most frequently posed questions at Hong Kong’s Asia Art Archive: How is “Asia” defined? “Mapping Asia” takes up the conundrum from diverse vantage points, from artworks, performances, and talks, as well as materials from the archive.
Boundaries are fluid, culturally and physically. A newspaper clipping from November 14, 2013—“The World’s Newest Island” from the South China Morning Post—reports on the creation of a new landmass off the coast of Pakistan. The troubled legacy of partition, meanwhile, is referenced in Naeem Mohaiemen’s Kazi in Nomansland, 2009, which comprises stacks of postage stamps issued by India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh depicting poet and activist Kazi Narul Islam, each country competing to claim him as its own.
A display of Han through Yuan dynasty ceramics bearing Islamic and Roman stylistic influences complement Francisco Camacho’s film A Parallel Narrative, 2014, which examines early links between China and pre–Hispanic America. Predating even the celebrated voyages of adventurer Zheng He, the film postulates the location of Fousang, first visited by the monk Hui Shen in the seventh century.
In deft shorthand for the persistent debates surrounding Orientalism, the exhibition includes the song “Getting to Know You” in a scene from The King and I (1956). While the clip ends with a clumsy exchange between Anna Leonowens and the King of Siam over slavery and Abraham Lincoln, Anna’s primly catchy song reminds us that, after all, Asia is a continent we’re still “getting to know.”
In a timely exhibition of a new series of works, created from stickers, trinkets, and other ephemera, Tibetan-born artist Gonkar Gyatso explores the impact of global mass-media culture on his homeland’s traditional identity, and offers a comment on both Chinese and American hegemony. The collage Zhong Guo Da Ma (Big Momma China) (all works 2014) feels especially relevant. The collage consists of four stylized Chinese characters that spell out its title. The words, made of aluminum and Plexiglas on Dibond, appear on diamond-shaped paper backgrounds. Each composition is adorned with the kind of gaudy bric-a-brac that might typically feature the sort of “Made in China” stickers bordering the piece.
Certain motifs recur throughout: champagne flutes, rubber ducks, and dice among them—representing, perhaps, the hypocrisy, immaturity, and unpredictability associated with the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership. Similar works spell out other expressions that have been popular in the Chinese mass media, such as Di Gou You (Gutter Oil) and Lao Hu (Tiger)—the latter referring to a member of the nation’s ruling class—and the works’ import derives from Gyatso’s selection and juxtaposition of these phrases.
America doesn’t get off lightly either; the words “Drone,” “FML,” and “Prism” appear side by side, references to the military and to Internet slang that slyly subvert each other, their frames ornamented with a gold-painted bald-eagle crest, Barbie dolls, and red-white-and-blue bunting, respectively. Gyatso’s works, with their color and bling, might seem playful at first glance, but they’re also the result of a serious and long-term meditation on the future of a modern Tibet, which faces repression and conflict on one hand and the shallow misappropriation of its cultural legacy on the other.
Contradictions abound when street-art interventions turn up in a gallery space. But South African–born, Berlin-based artist Robin Rhode succeeds in this context, bringing genuine impulsiveness to his first Hong Kong show. Mainly focusing on process, the exhibition, which includes video, photography, and animation, found its rationale on opening night, when Rhode galvanized the huddled crowds with a performance titled Car Wash, in which he drew a car on an empty black wall with chalk. Running back and forth, he embraced a gestural approach, evoking an admixture of capoeira and warm-ups for hip-hop combos. Unfazed by the enthralled audience, Rhode at first pushed people aside and treated them as props, later letting them participate by encouraging them to clean the drawing. Left behind will be a video of his improvised choreography, chalk and a shoe-shine box on the floor (which Rhode had used to draw two black circles representing tires), and a bucket.
More traditional testimonies to his performative approach are found in the multiple framed photographic installations on view. For instance, the poetic Fountain, 2014, is made up of fifteen serial photographs capturing the back of a Buster Keaton–like character on a stepladder who is pouring champagne over a white wall illustrated with a sketch of a Champagne tower. In this and other mise-en-scènes, Rhode creates trompe-l’oeil effects that are charmingly outdated but also fresh and irresistibly enticing.
This exhibition presents a series of Cai Guo-Qiang’s unsettling new works that draw attention to the current environmental crisis facing China and the rest of the world. Many of the pieces, which range from large-scale gunpowder drawings to installations incorporating porcelain, pools of ink, and sculptures, were created specifically in response to the museum’s past as a coal-fired electrical plant, a precursor to China’s present industrialization.
Dominating the main hall is The Ninth Wave, 2014, an installation of ninety-nine life-size animals made of Styrofoam and wool keeled around the sides of a fishing boat from Quanzhou as if they were seasick. A Noah’s Ark reimagined for contemporary China—without much sign of the dove. A drawing made with gunpowder and stencils, The Bund Without Us, 2014, renders a dystopian vision of Shanghai’s landmark Bund promenade, with alligators swimming in the Huangpu River while its banks burn. Head On, 2006, originally commissioned by Deutsche Bank, is a frozen tableau of ninety-nine wolves hurling themselves against a glass wall and limping back to the start, as if representing the cyclical mistakes of history.
Air of Heaven, 2014, however, is the most disquieting piece. To see it, visitors must exit the museum, and they aren’t allowed back in. Inside the dark disused chimney of the plant, three baby dolls sit on a mechanized swing. With their features distorted and heads tilted up toward the chimney’s shaft, they are almost stereotypically horrific. Compared to the previous works’ nuanced commentary, this one comes across as a raw cry for reflection and compassion for Earth’s most vulnerable creatures. A fitting closure, then, to an exhibition displaying a bare critique of the ruthless surge of modernization and its costs.
“CUT | OFF” is made up of two seemingly divergent series of works. One consists of realistic drawings of diminutive cacti framed by primary geometric shapes on top of a much larger grid of meticulous lines in chromatic gradation. Zhang Ruyi's use of abstract colorism and rational coolness could be seen as part of a broader tendency in painterly practices in China (with variants on the theme being offered by Dong Dawei, Li Shurui, Xie Molin, Chen Jie, among others)—a trend that looks a bit like a domestic Chinese assimilation of and fascination with post-painterly abstraction and Color Field.
The other series is made up of concrete sculptures, buttressed internally by wires and shaped into rectangular forms of various sizes that seal off the windows, doorways, and indeed one whole room. Of course, artists in China are no strangers to such spatial interventions, but this one is as much inspired by its domestic antecedents as by works of the British artist Rachel Whiteread. For Zhang, her materials not only highlight the oft-ignored structural fundaments of buildings but also (as for Whiteread) foreground negative space and absence. By blocking out the lights and sounds of the external world, she shifts focus squarely to the space, grain and texture, and heightened bodily sensation. Concrete serves as a metaphor for a stance of stubborn resistance and slowness—a metaphor that resonates with the durability of the cacti that have so entranced the artist, as well as the sheer expenditure of time and labor required to create her works.
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 , 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.
In one photograph from the “Workers” series by Sebastião Salgado, a woman raises a shovel above her head (Worker on the canal construction site of Rajasthan, India, 1990). A scarf with light shining through it is draped over her head and across her body; she wears metallic cuffs with tassels on her arms and more jewelry on her neck, fingers, and nose. Salgado has captured her mid-effort: The scarf billows, and the tassels lift with her movement. The woman’s face is full of strength and story.
Salgado’s photographs are uplifting and grand, evidence of the compassion and wonder with which he treats his subjects and of his readiness to view the ordinary as heroic (in this case, the laborer as goddess). His focus on black-and-white photography adds to the epic feel of his works. By leaving the color of various objects in his compositions ambiguous, Salgado allows for a degree of interpretation on the part of the viewer. So a vibrant scene of a crowd on a platform in Church Gate Station, Bombay, India, 1995, might take on a different significance when the subjects appear to all be wearing white, the color of mourning.
Fifty-three gelatin silver prints are on display at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, spanning twenty years of Salgado’s career, with selections from his latest series “Genesis” alongside older collections such as “Migrations,” “Workers,” and “Other Americas.” The exhibition coincides with a large-scale presentation of 245 photographs from “Genesis” at the National Museum of Singapore. This series is the outcome of an eight-year expedition during which Salgado travelled to some of the most remote regions on Earth to document the impact of globalization on landscapes, human tribes, and wildlife. It is a majestic and soulful paean to the planet.
“Secretly, Greatly” presents artworks by the three finalists of the reality-TV competition Art Star Korea, which premiered in late March. The show gave fifteen artists the opportunity to compete for substantial rewards: a cash prize of $93,000 and a solo exhibition at a prestigious gallery in Seoul. The show also set no restrictions on the contestant’s age, education, or occupation, which resulted in over four hundred applicants. The final three—Hyeyoung Ku, Jae-hyun Shin, and Byung-seo Yoo—survived the ten episodes, in which they underwent art-school style criticisms by five judges after each weekly “mission.”
The current exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art was the site for the concluding episode and features the final three works. Wearing a blood-red chiffon gown and a silver wig, Ku enacted Sincereness of the Tilted Stage (all works 2014) a spectacular performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor. Yet the tilted stage and the muffled sound revealed that she was not actually acting as conductor, only imitating one. Alongside four kinetic installations that addressed both personal and political issues, Yoo offered Artist’s How Are You?, in which he set up a desk and two chairs to discuss the meaning of art in contemporary society with visitors. For Shin’s Trailing: Drawing Performance in Fifty Days, which comprised video, installation, and live performance, he additionally prompted visitors to consider solutions to a nuclear disaster. Hailing from Yangsan, a town near the Gori nuclear power plant in Korea, Shin examined how this decrepit facility represents an immediate source of acute anxiety. On a screenlike piece of canvas, he wrote the names of residents living within an approximately twenty-mile radius of Gori. Yet soon after, the names disappeared as the ink dried out. The work stands as a countermemorial, and, in the end, Shin won the competition.
Ku will perform the piece every Saturday afternoon until the end of the show. Yoo is determined to be present at the desk every day, and Shin intends to keep writing the names onsite while the museum is open and until this exhibition ends.
Chosil Kil is an artist who prefers encounter over explanation. The press release for “Kiss & Fly,” her first solo show in her homeland of South Korea, begins: “You are a braver lover in your second language.” Fluency allows feelings to be obscured by more nuanced vocabulary.
The gallery entrance provides visitors with an immediate view into both the lower and mezzanine floors of the split-level space. The steps to the lower level are blanketed in pink rose petals and palm-sized statuettes of frogs, potential princes alternately dashing, plucky, and absurd. Inside the lower gallery, a trio of stacked white blocks loom like icebergs, luring the viewer in for a closer look. As the viewer approaches, he or she is showered with petals by a performer stationed on the balcony. The piece is called Yours, Febreze Brothers (all works 2014), a title that slaps hygienic concerns on a scene that could otherwise seem straight from fairy tales. Kil’s spell has been cast.
The mezzanine belongs to the visual palliative of Ducks and Drakes, a congregation of coral-colored helium balloons anchored in place using rubber-banded stacks of one hundred coins. Other, loose coins litter the floor, giving the space the feel of a wish pond. The floating assembly flocks around one of Kil’s series of “Doubles,” a wall-mounted sculpture whose anthropomorphic small aluminum circle perched atop a large leather panel ends up looking like some kind of flaneur there to admire the ladies. The staging is repeated with slight variations on the first floor. Applying a kind of visual precision to whimsy, Kil proves her mastery over form, but lets the question linger: Is it love or just beginners' grammar?
For this exhibition, artist Nevet Yitzhak was invited to browse the collections of the Museum of Islamic Art. Yitzhak selected a number of objects, including some associated with liturgical practices and others with more everyday functions. Among them were a piece of cloth, a sword, and an illustrated manuscript. Photographic reproductions of these objects, originally used for the collection’s cataloguing system, have been reinterpreted into the video collages that are screened on the gallery walls, orchestrated to create a composition onto the space itself.
In the collages, the original colored photographs have been desaturated and enlarged to a ratio of 1:100. Each image becomes the subject of animation and three-dimensional digital models that reconstruct a possible history for that object, providing it with an imagined narrative, amassing literary sources and allusions to early cinema’s fascination with the Orient. For example, in a single projection an ornamented three-dimensional wooden chest opens and reveals itself to be an old television set broadcasting the 1950s quiz show What in the World?, hosted by Dr. Froelich Rainey of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Every week on the show, a panel of experts would try to identify archeological objects submitted by viewers. In one moment of failure, these authorial figures cannot decide if the object they are holding is meant for writing, ritual, or as a musical instrument. Their archaic approach to the object and its analysis is rephrased through the framing of the chest as an archeological exhibit in and of itself.
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.
Nelly Agassi presents a series of ink-jet prints, identical in their dimensions and display. The arrangement of the abstracted geometric shapes in each composition echoes both blueprints for unidentified architectural surroundings and humanly configurations, namely, female reproductive organs.
These ambiguous floor plans are driven by harmonious gestures that cannot be fully interpreted or materialized. The grid-like compositions repeat a constructive logic, as seen in Drawing No. 3 (all works cited, 2014) in which a circular shape functions as the center of an abstract structure, to which all else responds. A central form also anchors Drawing No. 1; abstract objects organize around it, perhaps creating an arena or a stage as seen from a bird’s-eye view. The form, positioned at the lower edge of the composition, might indicate a hypothetical audience’s location. Rendered as a pendulous appendage, its ambiguous presence marks an emptied space.
Since her emergence in the Israeli art scene in late 1990s, Agassi has used textiles and her own body in intimate video and performance works to confront feminine physicality, painful emotional moments, and societal models of behavior. This exhibition, however, marks a turning point in her practice and technique, commensurate with the transformations she has experienced in recent years, including becoming a mother, relocating with her family from Tel Aviv to Chicago, and establishing the new studio in which she has redefined her practice. The visceral directness of her past work is now replaced by seemingly opaque shapes that remain remote, yet equally captivating.
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.
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.
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.
Rosemberg Sandoval’s exhibition “Salvaje” (Savage) is a compact thirty-year survey that focuses on the Colombian artist’s experience of displacement and violence, which has inspired many of his installations and performances. Black-and-white photographs documenting the performances are displayed here, including four of Síntoma (Symptom), 1984, for which Sandoval used a tongue that he obtained from an unclaimed cadaver as a paintbrush and expired blood from a Red Cross bank as pigment to paint confrontational words on a wall, obscuring each, writing one atop the other, as he accrued a messy buildup yielding the finished work. However, it’s the short video excerpts from eleven different performances that make Sandoval’s radical works feel surprisingly immediate, such as Mugre (Filth), 1999, in which Sandoval carries and presses the body of a homeless man against the walls of the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, leaving behind smudges of dirt from his body and clothing.
Sandoval’s sculptures made of found materials also display his sharp sense of an object’s social and cultural connotations, as in Caribe (Caribbean), 1989–92, an old enamel jug sprouting glass shards, which he collected after the detonation of a car bomb. The juxtaposition of materials suggests that such incidents during the rival drug cartel conflicts in the 1980s and ’90s in Colombia were as commonplace as this domestic object. The transgressive nature of Sandoval’s work, his use of bodily materials and performances that have condemned inadequate government, continues to be relevant given the rampant inequality and violence in Colombia and across Latin America.
For a year, under the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, William Kentridge mentored artist Mateo López. Now the two exhibit in adjacent galleries (Kentridge in MAMM’s main rooms and López in the project space), and while López’s exhibit, “Constellations,” features two works made in collaboration with Kentridge, it focuses less on how the pair’s time together unfolded than on where López’s practice is and where it’s headed.
One of the two collaborative works is an animation: Titled Dictionary from K to L, 2013, the piece depicts a book whose pages turn to reveal the figures of Kentridge and López, pacing back and forth as if thinking, each always isolated from the other. The other work by both artists is the aptly titled figurative sculpture Brazo de Carbón (Arm of Carbon), 2013. Both signal new directions in the oeuvre of the younger artist, whose drawing practice has expanded, incorporating new techniques such as stop-motion animation as well as new approaches to the very material used in drawing—graphite—presented here sculpturally in its raw, natural state.
The studio continues to be one of López’s central themes, which the exhibition highlights through its inclusion of objects that recall a working area; an exhibited drafting table, writing desk, and stool are all on view, abutting—and merging with—López’s own drawings. The exhibition thus offers up a participatory situation, such that visitors, in a sense, become the artist himself, learning how to engage with and behave around the objects that inhabit his studio-like space.