Father Figures Are Hard to Find at nGbK

Surrounded by the works in Father Figures Are Hard to Find, fifty or so attendees sat on the concrete floor of neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK), awaiting the lecture–performance Da Da Daddy Hasselhof by Mysti, who appeared in drag, wearing a cascading blonde wig and bright halter and miniskirt combo. Her academic talk began with a slow-building critique of object-making and market-driven aesthetics, and came to a crescendo in a takedown of identity as an impervious shield against making bad or exploitative art. She challenged 02.02.1861 (2009–) by Danh Vo, a work that consists of a letter by J. Théophane Vénard, written just before his execution, to his father. Vo’s own father mails hand-copied versions of the French letter (which he cannot read because he doesn’t speak the language) to buyers in an unlimited edition until his death. A copy, rendered in flawless blue calligraphy, was prominently displayed in the next room.

Rotimi Fani-Kayode. Nothing to Lose IX (Bodies of Experience), 1987; C-prints, 49 x 41 cm Courtesy of the artist, Autograph ABP, and nGbK, Berlin.

Rotimi Fani-Kayode. Nothing to Lose IX (Bodies of Experience), 1987; C prints; 49 x 41 cm. Courtesy of the Artist, Autograph ABP, and nGbK, Berlin.

Mysti is an emerging, U.S.-born performance-based artist interested in “queering theory,” while art star Danh Vo was born in south Vietnam and became a political refugee when his family fled in a handmade boat and was later rescued at sea before settling in Denmark. But both have fathers who were disappointed when their sons decided to become artists. These kinds of divergent yet overlapping narratives are echoed again and again in the transgressive, queer-centric exhibition, where father figures of all kinds are revered and rejected through entirely individual gestures.

At the entrance to the exhibition, the patrilineal status quo of identity is confronted by two self-portraits by Juliana HuxtableSympathy for the Martyr (2015) and Lil’ Marvel (2015). Rather than clinging to identity, Huxtable molds it like putty in her hands, shapeshifting into a superheroine or trans-Christ. Her self-aware, Cindy Sherman-like transformations are otherworldly but human, and thus gloriously imperfect. Much like Sherman’s earliest works, the tension between self-determination and others’ projections is well crafted. At the far end of the gallery, Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s performative images Under the Surplice (1987), Nothing to Lose IX (Bodies of Experience) (1987), and Bronze Head (1987), made nearly three decades earlier, critique the limitations of cultural inheritance through the lens of a queer, HIV-positive Nigerian expat.

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‘Little Chance to Advance’: Why Women Artists in Academia Are Left Behind 

If you are currently attending or working in an academic arts institution, look around. What is the ratio of women to men in the student body? What proportion of the faculty is female? How many female faculty members are tenured? How many department chairs or deans are women? At many institutions, there is a visible disproportion between the number of women who are students versus the number who make it to ranked, tenured faculty or senior administration. This conspicuous lack of women in positions of power is the impetus for the groundbreaking 2015 study “Little Chance to Advance? An Inquiry into the Presence of Women at Art Academies in Poland,” published by the Katarzyna Kozyra Foundation.

Karolina Melnica. Celujacy (Excellent), n.d.; performance documentation.

Karolina Melnica. Celujacy (Excellent), n.d.; performance documentation.

Though the data portion of the study concentrates on Poland, it would be easy to extrapolate the majority of the philosophical findings to art departments, colleges, and universities around the world. “Little Chance to Advance” illustrates the cultural, psychological, and environmental factors that operate on individual and systemic levels to disenfranchise women, both within and beyond the academy. Currently, across the nine Polish visual art academies, women constitute 77 percent of the student body, but only 34 percent of assistant professors, 25 percent of associate professors, and 17 percent of full professors. In essence, the higher the level in the visual arts academy, the more women disappear. Are they opting out? If not, at which points in their trajectory are they being pushed out of the system?

Using data obtained from the academies and the Central Statistical Office of Poland, anonymous questionnaires, and in-depth interviews, “Little Chance to Advance” found that the gaps can’t be explained by a single factor. Students of both genders self-report similar aspirations and priorities, including the willingness to forego a family for the sake of their career; in fact, women are less eager than men to take care of their families after completing their studies. Equally significant, though divergent, were the responses to questions regarding employment strategies: Women put their faith mainly in experience, credentials, and hard work, while men placed more emphasis on social influences such as networking, family background, and even “having a romantic affair with someone important.”[1] The Literature Review and Results sections of the study discuss social capital and the ways in which power is transferred along gendered networks. In 2016, this isn’t surprising information—examinations of male networks of power and the “old boys’ club” have been available for quite a while—but the study rightly asserts that “social capital might be of even greater importance in the art world due to its vague criteria of evaluation and close relations with protégés” and “The importance of networking increases in dysfunctional institutions which offer few transparent paths of promotion.”[2]

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Mexico City

G.T. Pellizzi: Yo Transporto at Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros

Art travels. Within the globalized art scene, its journey takes the many forms of traveling exhibitions, international art fairs, biennials, public contests, and loans from personal or institutional collections. Although this wandering condition may enrich the experience of different public spheres by bringing them closer to popular works and major exhibitions, the accelerated speed at which these movements and spectacles take place commands a huge effort at an expense that many public—and even private—institutions can’t sustain.

G.T. Pellizzi. Yo Transporto, 2016; wood, plywood, Ethafoam. Courtesy of Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros.

G.T. Pellizzi. Yo Transporto, 2016; wood, plywood, and Ethafoam. Courtesy of Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros.

At Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros (SAPS), G.T. Pellizzi presents Yo Transporto [“I Transport”], an immersive installation composed of one gigantic art shipping crate. The piece is composed of 171 different parts, with each single part possessing a sculptural value of its own. Yo Transporto poses several questions on the institutional politics of touring exhibitions and public funding, while also examining the way that artists contribute to the development of museums from an economic perspective.

Cultural audiences are familiar with traveling exhibitions, art fairs, and other similar events. Art tourism can seem like a viable alternative to increase economic stability for museums and art institutions by attracting more visitors with blockbuster shows. It also serves to capitalize on a specific collection or group of artists, while becoming part of the global sphere in the exchange of culture and knowledge. Nevertheless, in order to operate at a pace to meet these goals, big investments are required, and not every museum can afford it.

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San Francisco

Question Bridge: Black Males in America

Today we bring you an excerpt from Art Practical’s Printed Matters columnRoula Seikaly reviews Question Bridge: Black Males in America, the published companion to a project, platform, and installation that regards identity and representation. Seikaly notes, “Asking a question […] can be difficult; it can imply lack of knowledge and experience, rendering the asker vulnerable. No one wants to be caught out, least of all when the questions address identity, community, and most urgently, survival.” This article was originally published on February 16, 2016.

Question Bridge: Black Males in America (Aperture/Campaign for Black Male Achievement, 2015)

Question Bridge: Black Males in America (Aperture/Campaign for Black Male Achievement, 2015).

Question Bridge: Black Males in America, a companion publication to the innovative, crowd-funded multimedia installation of the same name, opens with a quote from a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass commemorating the twenty-fourth anniversary of slavery’s abolition. Though drawn from a longer quote, the passage above speaks as urgently to 21st-century audiences as it did to those of the 19th century, and perhaps more so. As long as Black Americans are denied basic human rights and dignities, as long as state-sanctioned violence against Black bodies is condoned, we must not take shelter in relative definitions of “safety.”

It’s against such hard truth that this compact volume unfolds. Question Bridge is a continuation of a mid-’90s project initiated by artist and educator Chris Johnson, who teaches photography at California College of the Arts (CCA). For the project’s original iteration, Johnson asked African Americans from different socioeconomic backgrounds to sit before a camera and to pose questions to other African Americans outside of their cultural milieu. Johnson hoped this frank exchange could address the widening chasm between African Americans in disparate social classes.

Read the full article here.


Los Angeles

Alice Könitz: Commonwealth at Commonwealth & Council

Just as a bar’s allure resides not in its efficient exchange of money for alcohol, but in its ability to be a pleasant setting for individuals to be together, a gallery’s strength resides in its ability to become a social space, where the art becomes a campfire around which people can mingle, chat, and maybe even have fun. Yet, from the ugly sterility of the architecture to their employees’ perpetual air of disapproval, galleries—to little surprise—are rarely comfortable places to mingle and chat. Alice Könitz’s exhibition Commonwealth at Commonwealth & Council has achieved a feat of bare-bones comfort. For the first time, the gallery has given over its entire space to one artist, Könitz, who has installed angular, geometric elements of a civilizational outpost: a food dispensary, information kiosk, and lookout station.

Alice Könitz. Kiosk, 2016; wood, wood stain, PVC pipe; 76½ x 96 x 96 in. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth & Council.

Alice Konitz. Kiosk, 2016; wood, wood stain, PVC pipe; 76 ½ x 96 x 96 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Commonwealth & Council.

Periscope (2016), the first work encountered when entering the gallery, is installed in the skylight. The rudimentary structure is made simply from mirrors, wood, and foamcore board, and rotates on top of a purple metal tabletop that symmetrically bisects the space. Viewers are able to look into the handmade periscope and peep anonymously into the windows of nearby apartments. In the next room, three bright nylon hammocks hang from the gallery walls, with a triangular table hanging in between. The table has three holes punched in the middle—presumably cup holders—that are reminiscent of a coconut’s holes, creating an atmosphere of beachy casualness exemplified when participants lounge akimbo adjacent to each other. While visually and materially in tune with Periscope, the hammocks sap the viewing device of any kind of nefariousness normally associated with invisible surveillance.

In the third room, a casually dressed volunteer who announces himself as the “space operator” sits inside Kiosk (2016), a booth made of wood and PVC pipe and designed with an eye toward the tacky American futurist architectural style, endemic to Los Angeles, known as “Googie.” The space operator hands out paper plates and plastic forks, which participants can take over to Pantry, where they can then fill their plates with the world’s saddest buffet items. Pickled vegetables and spiced nuts sit in a couple of cups propped up on a bamboo scaffold held together by copper pipe fittings and buttressed by a dirty orange milk crate. Used forks go in the half-open, empty can of coconut water.

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Shotgun Reviews

Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art

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, Andreas Petrossiants reviews Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Marcel Broodthaers. Pense-Bete (Memory Aid), 1964; books, paper, plaster and plastic balls on wooden base, without wooden base; 11 13/16 × 33 1/4 × 16 15/16 in. Courtesy of the Collection Flemish Community, long-term loan S.M.A.K. © 2016 Estate of Marcel Broodthaers, the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, SABAM, Brussels, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Marcel Broodthaers. Pense-Bete (Memory Aid), 1964; books, paper, plaster, and plastic balls on wooden base, without wooden base; 11 13/16 × 33 1/4 × 16 15/16 in. Courtesy of the Collection Flemish Community, long-term loan S.M.A.K. © 2016 Estate of Marcel Broodthaers, the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, SABAM, Brussels, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In Marcel Broodthaers’ poem “Question de Peinture,” he asks whether paintings by famous artists smell of “the monstrous praise of which/they are victims?”[1] We might ask whether Broodthaers’ work similarly smells in his current major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Upon first glance, it might seem this way; however, the retrospective’s attention to Broodthaers’ gesture of institutional critique allows his work’s critical voice to speak over the stink of praise.

Before declaring himself an artist in 1963, Broodthaers, influenced by Stéphane Mallarmé, wrote poetry. His career switch was not an attempt to end his poetry, but rather to continue his work with new means. Pense-Bête (1964) exemplifies this, a work created by taking the remaining unsold copies of his book by the same title, the original wrapping paper still visible, and inserting them into a plaster base, fusing plastic objects into the plaster as well. Making the book unreadable negates its functionality, and thereby questions the relationship between the art object and language.

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#BlackGirlMagic: Interview with the Balti Gurls

From our friends at BmoreArt, today we bring you an interview with Jenné Afiya, the founder of the Baltimore Collective Balti Gurls. Author Angela N. Carroll talks with Afiya about the Balti Gurls’ beginnings, their necessity, and their upcoming projects. This article was originally published March 17, 2016.


My first encounter with BALTI GURLS was during February’s All Over Street crawl, at the Copy Cat’s Penthouse gallery. BLK LUV presented visual and performative works from BALTI GURLS members as a sprawling collective homage to Black History Month.

No after-school special subjugation recollections here, though I am a strong advocate for inclusive and informed representations of history, dig Michelle Alexander, Cheikh Anta Diop, or Howard Zinn for introductory jewels, BALTI GURLS’ reflections on identity and history were nuanced, youthful, and left me with a generally warm inspired and slightly mushy feeling inside. Something akin to the feeling you get after playing Donny Hathaway’s Extensions of a Man from start to finish, or watching Bruce Leroy finally get his glow in the cult classic The Last Dragon, an affirming ancestral, “we gon’ be alright” tingle that still resonates weeks after the show has closed. I should note that I am not the type of gal to get blurry eyed over Valentine’s Day consumption or many things for that matter, but BLK LUV was pure #blackgirlmagic.

Maybe it was all the love in the air, or my general excitement about EDGE CONTROL the consistently invigorating and high energy art and music showcase BALTI GURLS presents at at EMP Collective—but I had to learn more. I caught up with BALTI GURLS founder, Jenné Afiya, to learn more about the collective.

Read the full article here.