Shotgun Reviews

From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

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, Carlos Kong reviews From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art, 2017; installation view, San Francisco, CA. Courtesy of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Photo: JKA Photography.

From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art, 2016; installation view, San Francisco, CA. Courtesy of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Photo: JKA Photography.


Memories take no singular form. They exist simultaneously as the recollection of thoughts, sensations, and experiences. They stay alive in feelings and as images. That we even remember events not necessarily experienced by us is designated by the term postmemory, which forms the organizing concept of From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art, co-curated by Pierre-François Galpin and Lily Siegel at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Theorized by Columbia University professor Marianne Hirsch, postmemory connotes the memories a latter generation maintains in relation to the events and traumas that preceded it. Emergent from Holocaust studies, postmemory frames the process by which experiences that are so affective and beyond resolve become transferred across generations as memories. Without their direct encounter, such memories are inherited through family stories and gifted objects, and might manifest in imaginations, specters, and projections. Postmemory presumes the ethical commitment of addressing the past as well as the educational responsibility necessary for its persistence in the present. Traversing various styles and media, the artists in From Generation to Generation—from Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa—draw forth the inheritance of memory as contemporary art’s antidote to amnesia.

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From the Archives

From the Archives: Interview with Judith Bernstein

In our current age of doublespeak and “alternative facts,” Elspeth Walker’s candid interview with artist Judith Bernstein stands as a paragon of direct communication. As Bernstein says: “[I]t’s important to be true to what you want to say and how you want to handle that. You have to keep moving forward. You can’t just stay where you are. You really have to constantly keep moving in terms of what you want to say, how you are saying it, and reevaluating it. It’s a very tough road.” This interview was originally published on June 4, 2015.

Judith Bernstein. Voyeur, 2015; installation view, Mary Boone Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: John Reynolds. 

Judith Bernstein. Voyeur, 2015; installation view, Mary Boone Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: John Reynolds.

Since 1967, Judith Bernstein has provided a swift undercurrent to painting in New York. Until recently, despite her storied history in the scene, the grit, tenacity, and technically precise rebel yell of Bernstein’s work has largely gone under-recognized. On the occasion of her current show at Mary Boone Gallery, I sat down with the artist to discuss her newest work, the fantastic threat of the looming vagina, feminist recourse to power, and perseverance.

Elspeth Walker: When I first saw your actual paintings, I realized that I hope they upset men.

Judith Bernstein: Well, I do the work that I have to do. If the men are upset, if they’re not upset, if they love it, if they don’t love it—whatever. I don’t think about the reactions of other people. I am on my own trajectory. There are a lot of very angry women, but my work is about the continually changing dialogue between men and women and about women being much stronger, now.

EW: I feel the abrasiveness of your work is welcome and necessary.

JB: I think one has to be very direct, in all kinds of ways—in my case, genitalia and everything right in your face. I’ve found that directness is a metaphor for my life. My background was quite dysfunctional; I had to scream and yell to be heard. And for a long time I was not heard; I was not given a show in the New York gallery system for many years. I’m thrilled that now I can talk about what I want to say.

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Tenth Anniversary

“Powers of Ten”: Some Thoughts on Scale, Galaxies, Intimacy, and Authority—On the Occasion of Daily Serving’s Tenth Birthday

Our vantage point begins slightly above the ground, passing quickly across it and then down, already a step removed. Already surveyors, we are outside of the frame but implicated. The scene presented to us—which measures one square meter—is of two picnickers by a lake who lounge on a blanket strewn with an enviable spread of fruits, cookies, wine, and books.[1] This vignette is the opening scene for a much-adored artifact of midcentury modernism, the husband-and-wife duo Charles and Ray Eames’ 1977 film, Powers of Ten, described in the opening credits as “a film dealing with the relative size of things in the universe—and the effect of adding another zero.”

Charles and Ray Eames. Powers of Ten, 1977 (video stills); color video, 9:00. Eames Office.

Charles and Ray Eames. Powers of Ten, 1977 (video stills); color video; 9:00. Eames Office.

The first filmic iteration of Powers of Ten was produced in 1968 under the name A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe. The Eameses based the work on Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps, a book that the Dutch educator Kees Boeke wrote and illustrated some ten years earlier while he and his wife ran the Children’s Community Workshop, a school they founded on egalitarian Quaker principles and a nonhierarchical governance shared by students, teachers, and staff. The Eameses took Boeke’s instructional aide and made it move—made it a cinematic feat of optics at a time when the United States was increasingly pleased with its prowess in the “space race” of the late 1960s. The premise of the film, and the book, is quite simple: Beginning at ground level, the audience is taken on a journey of shifting magnitudes—first through space, all the way beyond the Milky Way, and then under the skin as deep as the carbon nucleus. Each frame is ten times further out, or in, than the previous one.
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San Francisco

Takeshi Murata: 1000 Years

Computer-generated images saturate our media, from films to advertisements to video games. However, rarely do we think of these images singularly—most commonly we encounter them within the context of their media environments. In 1000 Years, Takeshi Murata’s fifth solo show at Ratio 3 gallery, the artist asks viewers to consider these images in isolation, outside of their complex digital environments. Murata uses 3D-modeling software to construct high-resolution facsimiles of whimsical objects, which he then prints as photographs onto a slightly reflective paper. Consisting of a handful of photographs and one video, the exhibition’s sparseness belies its conceptual import, which is vast and nuanced. Part object, part image, part physical, and part digital, the works in 1000 Years situate themselves in the in-betweens, pressurizing notions of fact and fiction.

Takeshi Murata. Squirt Gun, 2017; pigment print; 29 x 40 inches. Courtesy of Ratio 3.

Takeshi Murata. Squirt Gun, 2017; pigment print; 29 x 40 in. Courtesy of Ratio 3.

At first glance, Murata’s images seem simple enough, but with time they perform a slow conceptual burn. Together with their simple titles, the images are almost didactic; for instance, Squirt Gun (2017) is an image of a teal plastic squirt gun. Floating without support in the center of the frame, the pistol’s barrel points outward and toward the viewer’s immediate right. Behind the toy, and slightly out of focus, is a two-toned cropped square that, when the eye finishes its geometry, easily becomes a window in a white room. Painstakingly rendered, the collision of lighting effects and pixels that Murata virtually commands creates the illusion of a giant 30-inch plastic toy. Almost. In describing it as such, the work begins to unfold into more conceptual gray areas: There is no plastic present in this photograph. There is no room, no toy gun, and no window. Squirt Gun’s formal simplicity plays on our perceptual assumptions of shapes and textures to create an illusion of an unlikely, tangible object. Read More »

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Los Angeles

Jibade-Khalil Huffman: Kush Is My Cologne at Anat Ebgi

Jibade-Khalil Huffman’s solo exhibition at Anat Ebgi, Kush Is My Cologne, lifts its title from a track on Gucci Mane’s 2009 major label debut, The State vs. Radric Davis. The allusion is one of many in Huffman’s exhibition that indicate his fixation with the popular nodes that drive contemporary cultural production, particularly, the profundity and cultural insistence of hip-hop in a world that often refuses to acknowledge the omnipresence of racism and anti-Blackness.

Jibade-Khalil Huffman. By The Author of Another Country and Nobody Knows My Name, 2017; transparencies in double light box; 35 x 31 x 6 1/8 in. Courtesy of Anat Ebgi. Photo: Michael Underwood.

Jibade-Khalil Huffman. By The Author of Another Country and Nobody Knows My Name, 2017; transparencies in double light box; 35 x 31 x 6 1/8 in. Courtesy of Anat Ebgi. Photo: Michael Underwood.

Resting in the far right corner of the main high-ceilinged gallery, Huffman’s film TFW (2017), with its hushed audio and manically edited visuals, draws the senses to the piece as a central locus. I park myself in front of the monitor, furiously scribbling all the references I can catch to peel apart the numerous audio and visual layers embedded into the film. TFW culls from popular culture, drawing its title from internet slang for “that feel when,” a meme that speaks to relationality and sociality. I glimpse snippets of Diana Ross attempting to grab the steering wheel of a car, Tommy Lee Jones playing teacher with superimposed lasers shooting from his tired eyes, a classroom of giggling Japanese students. Several animated motion-picture graphics of characters, which I assume are Huffman’s creations, are also inserted in various poses between photographic stills, grainy cellphone camera footage of a car driving down a road, a video of a young boy tenderly embracing a Spiderman piñata, and scenes from ’80s and’90s sitcoms. Sometimes the found footage is further manipulated, doubled, and transferred like ghosts. A Malcolm X interview is layered over the track of a consistently beating drum. Lines from Jay-Z’s “Young, Black, and Gifted” play: “I’m America’s worst nightmare / I’m young, black, and holding my nuts like, yeah / … / I grew up thinking life ain’t fair / … / There’s a different set of rules we abide by here.”

A little over midway through the loop, I wonder why I am so preoccupied with the task of tracing every reference, preventing me from contemplating the work as a single entity. I cool down, put my pen in my pocket, and let the video slowly expand. Huffman has stated, “I like working with media that already exist and exploding them with poetry.”[1] TFW utilizes the transformative capabilities of the appropriative sample, the repetition, the remix—postmodern ruptures that hip-hop has long championed and proliferated. Huffman, who is a published poet in the traditional sense, is preoccupied with this elastic reorganization of form and the utilization of language as material, which create meaning across disciplines.

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Interviews

This Is Not Iranian

From our friends at REORIENT, today we bring you Joobin Bekhrad’s conversation with artist Anahita Razmi. Bekhrad and Razmi discuss identity, underwear, and the Pakyan. Razmi states, “I like the idea than an identity is something that one constructs, something that is at all times flexible and changing.” This article was originally published January 3, 2017.

Anahita Razmi. Middle East Coast West Coast, 2014 (video still); HD Video; 23:04.

Anahita Razmi. Middle East Coast West Coast, 2014 (video still); HD video; 23:04.

What was I doing near Trafalgar Square? I don’t know. Anahita was riding a bicycle, and I remember feeling very short in the presence of her and her boyfriend. Having downed a few beers and feeling the first pangs of hunger, Anahita suggested we look for some good old-fashioned Persian grub—if I knew where to get any nearby. I did, actually; there was one right under our noses named after a magical bird that served cocktails with names like “Caspian Breeze.” The evening, like most others, passed by in a blur, and as the train sped towards blustering north London, I thought of cream-coloured underwear.

Anahita Razmi’s got it all. She sells obscure Iranian underwear in Berlin, drives Paykans around the world, and dances on the rooftops of Tehran. She also happens to have one of the coolest tattoos I’ve ever seen. With snazzy awards under her belt and a career spanning a wide array of disciplines and themes, her work is currently on display at the National Gallery of Art in Zachęta, Poland. From the other side of the world, I got in touch with her to resume our conversation about Iranian underwear (in a broader context, of course).

Read the full article here.

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Shotgun Reviews

Tales of Our Time at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

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, Lux Yuting Bai assesses Tales of Our Time at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu Can't Help Myself (2016) in Tales of Our Time at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu Can’t Help Myself (2016) in Tales of Our Time at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York.

Launched by the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative at the Guggenheim, Tales of Our Time aims to challenge traditional notions of place and history through diverse forms of storytelling. In preparation for the show, curators Xiaoyu Weng and Hou Hanru traveled across China in search of avant-garde artists outside of the mainstream who actively engage with social issues. Eight selected artists from a wide range of backgrounds examine and interrogate social-political realities in contemporary Greater China. Despite the vast differences in media, style, and perspective of the works, the exhibition engages its audience in an effortless flow of narratives like a collection of exhilarating short stories, offering gripping plots, surprising twists, and satisfying climaxes.

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