San Francisco

A Matter of Fact: Toyin Ojih Odutola at Museum of the African Diaspora

In A Matter of Fact at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora, Toyin Ojih Odutola presents an elaborately conceived and completely imaginary history of the UmuEze Amara clan, as chronicled in a series of portrait drawings in pastel, charcoal, and pencil. A wall text in the main gallery states that these works were selected from the family’s extensive holdings of art and antiquities by the present Marquess (a title of nobility, sometimes spelled marquis, designating a rank below a duke but above a count). By focusing on this specific part of the fictitious family’s collection, the text tells us that the Most Honorable Jideofor Emeka and his husband Lord Temitope Omodele hope “[t]o engage visitors in the experience of life within a great Nigerian house as well as present an intimate family portrait beyond the public image of respectability.”

Toyin Ojih Odutola. The Marchioness, 2016; charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper; 77 x 50 inches (paper), 83 3/8 x 65 7/8 x 2 inches (framed). Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Toyin Ojih Odutola. The Marchioness, 2016; charcoal, pastel, and pencil on paper; 77 x 50 in. (paper), 83 3/8 x 65 7/8 x 2 in. (framed). Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Signing her name to this statement as “Deputy Private Secretary” to the family, Ojih Odutola sets in motion a story told in pictures: a graphic novel of sorts about indolent aristocrats surrounded by the trappings of wealth. In the brightly colored, high-ceilinged rooms she has imagined, gold becomes a framing device. It surrounds the many pictures hung everywhere, is woven into rugs and drapes, and even covers the molding that decorates most of the walls. There are gold buttons, watches, pens and piping, a gold cup and teapot, and even what appears to be a cloth-of-gold dress.

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New York

Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest at the New Museum

I admit that I’m late to discovering Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. However, given that she has been producing work since the 1980s, and only in 2016 has received her first major retrospective in New York, Pixel Forest at the New Museum, I may not be the only one. The exhibition as a whole is an immersive environment, where one can easily and pleasurably lose time—an attitude that fits Rist’s individual works.

Pipilotti Rist. Ever Is Over All, 1997; two-channel video and sound installation, color; 4:07 min; dimensions variable. Sound by Anders Guggisberg and Rist. Courtesy of the Artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Luhring Augustine, and New Museum. Photo: Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio.

Pipilotti Rist. Ever Is Over All, 1997; two-channel video and sound installation, color; 4:07; dimensions variable. Sound by Anders Guggisberg and Rist. Courtesy of the Artist, Hauser & Wirth, and Luhring Augustine, and New Museum. Photo: Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio.

Ever Is Over All (1997) first reeled me in—a video vignette that received extra pop-culture attention this year when one of Beyoncé’s music videos from Lemonade cited it. In Rist’s video, a White woman wears a light blue dress and red pumps. She grins euphorically as she struts down a sidewalk, carrying a cast-metal replica of a flower. She repeatedly swings the flower into the windows of parked cars, glowing all the while. A White female police officer passes her and nods approvingly. In this utopian wonderland, a (White) woman is free to move about public space as she pleases, with an expression of what might be a gesture of female rage. It’s a mixed bag (which Beyoncé’s video emphasizes): Are we expected to smile through the pain? Is our anger only acceptable when it is aesthetically pleasing?

Throughout the four floors, Rist’s recurring themes of gender, nature, and human bodies emerge through differing strategies in video and multimedia installations. Rist’s tactic of spatially manipulating the viewing experience repeats throughout. For example, a collection of Rist’s video pieces is viewable only by inserting one’s head into triangular boxes that protrude from the walls. There is no disembodied viewing here, as viewers must feel themselves move in order to watch.

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St. Louis

Amy Reidel: Radar Home, 11.8.13 at the Sheldon Art Galleries

Amy Reidel’s solo exhibition, Radar Home, 11.8.13, takes its name from the date her mother received a doctor’s call. A week later, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma—an incurable though treatable blood cancer. Though her mother has since recovered and is now cancer-free, this decisive moment in Reidel’s personal life unifies the wide-ranging works of painting, digital prints, video, sculpture, and installation on view at the Sheldon Art Galleries. Radar Home, 11.8.13 is poignant, but not depressing, as it evokes cautious optimism instead of despair. Reidel’s colorful palette and use of craft materials underscore the lighthearted humor in her work.

Amy Reidel. Tumor Storm, 2016; loose glitter and colored sand on printed vinyl; dimensions vary. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: David Johnson Photography

Amy Reidel. Tumor Storm, 2016; loose glitter and colored sand on printed vinyl; dimensions vary. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: David Johnson Photography.

Several pieces are peppered along the hallway that runs from the entrance of the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Gallery within the Sheldon. Some are displayed independently, while others are clustered together. In Puking Roses (2016), fake roses are arranged in single file on a wall, vomiting tinsel that hangs like ringlets of green snot. Reidel’s grandmother is loosely painted on an irregularly shaped piece of canvas tacked to the wall in Pink Grandma and Kleenex Crown (2016). The subject’s hair is fluorescent pink and adorned with crumpled tissues and fake flowers. Two small assemblages, titled Tumors (2016), are beautiful conglomerations of handmade geodes, crystals, fake flowers, shredded snapshots, tinsel, and cut paintings. The works’ title and context shifts their beauty, and they become sinister knickknacks. One rests on a white shelf; the other hangs above like a Christmas ornament.

Halfway down the hallway, and to the right, a wide doorway opens to another part of the gallery, which is divided into three sections. Each one of these rooms has its own installation. In the center space, a large mandala of loose glitter and colored sand is composed with painstaking precision on a low, broad platform. The design of this work, Tumor Storm (2016), is roundish, asymmetrical, and organic—a composite of a colored MRI scan and weather radar. Multiple colors clash and complement each other as distinct shapes edge against one another.

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Citizenship, the Body, and the Ethics of Exposure

From our sister publication, Art Practical, today we bring you Michelle Weidman’s piece from “Issue 8.1: Art + Citizenship.” Weidman excavates the ethics of exposure, and the violation and consumption of black bodies, brown bodies, women’s bodies. She asserts, “We live in a society that relishes exposure—see nude photo leaks; the Kardashians; interest in diaries and private correspondence cloaked with the pretense of literary or political interest—and that does not value privacy equally for all.” This article was originally published November 10, 2016.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres. "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991; Candies individually wrapped in multicolored cellophane, endless supply; Overall dimensions vary; Installation view: More Love: Art, Politics and Sharing Since the 1990s. Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1 Feb. - 31 Mar. 2013. Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation

Felix Gonzalez-Torres. “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991; candies individually wrapped in multicolored cellophane, endless supply; overall dimensions vary; installation view: More Love: Art, Politics and Sharing Since the 1990s. Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Feb. 1 – March 31, 2013. Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation.

I. The ethics of exposure: our virgins and our whores

In May 2016, Chloe Sevigny shared an Instagram post of herself at the Met Breuer picking out a piece of cellophane-wrapped candy from Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) (1991), which is often understood as a representation of his lover’s body weight before his eventual death from AIDS-related illness. In all installments of this work, audience members are allowed to take a piece of candy diminishing the weight in the process. The post has 11,600 likes.

Sevigny occupies a unique place both on the fringe and at the center of American fame, and is for that reason an interesting representation of societal (double) standards of beauty, exposure, and self-possession. The story of her rise to stardom is the quintessential virginal origin story: She was merely walking down the street when she was discovered and thrust into the limelight. She never searched for fame; it found her, uncontaminated by aspiration. She was first labeled an “it girl” in a 1994 article in the New Yorker by Jay Mclnerney. The piece spends a lengthy paragraph breaking down her physical imperfections, ending with astonishment that people still can’t get enough of her.

Read the full article here.

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Shotgun Reviews

Ludovic Duchâteau: In Dreamland at A Stark Project

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Noah Sudarsky reviews Ludovic Duchâteau: In Dreamland at A Stark Project in Berkeley.

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Ludovic Duchateau. In Dreamland, 2016; installation view, A Stark Project, Berkeley. Courtesy of the Artist and A Stark Project. Photo: Hillary Goidell.

French sculptor Ludovic Duchâteau’s first solo show in the U.S., In Dreamland at Berkeley’s A Stark Project, is a polished articulation of his dystopian obsessions, which previously found homes in miniature scenes of domestic life cleverly ensconced inside otherwise ordinary-seeming briefcases and among tentacular silicon sculptures engineered with e-waste. Originally a game programmer, Duchâteau abandoned digital media at the height of the first internet bubble in favor of working with a broader variety of materials [1]. The result is particularly striking, evidenced by the ominous installation, In Dreamland.

In the life-size installation featuring epoxy resin and aluminum wire (among other materials), a boy inside a black tarp has fallen asleep reading a famous graphic novel, Akira (set in “Neo-Tokyo” in the aftermath of World War III). The science-fiction titles that are scattered around his makeshift campsite complete the post-apocalyptic literary symbolism. Next to the boy, a cryptic life form emerges from the tent, its gigantic tendrils scouting the empty terrain; this massive, encroaching root system may be a projection of the sleeping boy’s imagination, or perhaps it is all too real—a slithering alien creature seeking to occupy an already ravaged world and replace the frail remnants of a depleted humanity. Either way, viewers are confronted with a heart-stopping scene that belies the pacifying title of the work.

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New York Shotgun Reviews

Manifesto at the Park Avenue Armory

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Bai Yuting reviews Julian Rosefeldt: Manifesto the Park Avenue Armory.

Julian Rosefeldt. Manifesto, 2015; installation view, Park Avenue Armory, New York. Courtesy of Park Avenue Armory. Photo: James Ewing.

Julian Rosefeldt. Manifesto, 2015; installation view, Park Avenue Armory, New York. Courtesy of Park Avenue Armory. Photo: James Ewing.

This winter, the Park Avenue Armory presents the German cinematographer Julian Rosefeldt’s thirteen-channel video installation, Manifesto (2015). Drawing from more than fifty early writings of artistic legends like Claes Oldenburg, Kazimir Malevich, André Breton, and Sol LeWitt, the work weaves some of the most poignant thoughts of the 20th century into thirteen powerful monologues. Superbly performed by Cate Blanchett, each soliloquy corresponds to an aesthetic movement in the history of modern art, including Fluxus, Dadaism, Futurism, and Constructivism. Detached from their historical backgrounds and reimagined as contemporary realities, the dated manifestos are invigorated through the characters’ refreshing feminine voices.

The Armory’s artistic director, Pierre Audi, known for breathing new life into classic works, presents Manifesto as a cutting-edge, immersive art experience. The towering, 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall delivers an impressively theatrical aura. As I enter the cavernous space, I encounter a massive screen that displays images of flickering flames. In a soft voice, Blanchett recites excerpts from Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party. Following the map included in the playlist-like press release, I turn to the left. On another screen, unrecognizably impersonated by Blanchett, a homeless vagabond staggers along apocalyptic industrial ruins, debunking capitalism with words from Guy Debord’s Situationist manifesto; the press release provides all sources of Blanchett’s script and an introduction of Situationism in lay terms.

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Paris

Soulèvements (Uprisings) at the Jeu de Paume

What if the imagination made mountains rise up? Georges Didi-Huberman poses this question in Soulèvements (Uprisings), a new exhibition at the Jeu de Paume National Gallery in Paris. Throughout the museum’s galleries, contemporary artworks, books, historical documents, and photographs present a potent survey on the theme of social rebellions in the West, ranging from Victor Hugo’s call for the abolition of the death penalty (in the preface to his 1829 novel, The Last Day of a Condemned Man) to Maria Kourkouta’s 2016 video, Idomeni, March 14, 2016, Greco–Macedonian Border. In the latter, the artist documents the silent passage of groups of burdened refugees across the landscape—the kind of image that, through repetition in the worldwide media, has acquired a disturbing normalcy.

Dennis Adams. Patriot, 2002; C-print mounted on aluminum; 40.5 x 54 in. Courtesy of Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris. Photo: Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie.

Dennis Adams. Patriot, 2002; C-print mounted on aluminum; 40.5 x 54 in. Courtesy of Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris. Photo: Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie.

Based on Didi-Huberman’s extensive research, the exhibition guides the viewer into an iconographic exploration of what makes humans revolt. Apparently the answers are in the uninspired organizing themes—“Elements (Unleashed),” “Gestures (Intense),” “Words (Exclaimed),” “Conflicts (Flared Up),” and “Desires (Indestructibles).” The exhibition opens with Dennis Adams’s Patriot (2002), a large-format photograph of a red plastic bag floating against a white and blue background—a partly cloudy sky. Striking in its literal nature relative to the exhibition’s ethos, Adams’s work also exemplifies what the show achieves by requiring the spectator to imagine the possible curatorial narratives (which were previously and lengthily developed in a text that is absent from the show and only invoked in the aforementioned categories).

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