heikemoras

418 articles written by heikemoras

 “Visions of Brazil”, the museum-quality exhibition expertly curated by Sofia Gotti, is seeking a new narrative approach to Brazilian Modernism through the re-examination of cultural and historical conditions from the perspective of the here and now. Spanning over one hundred years of Modernism in Brazil, the exhibition brings together works by Tarsila do Amaral, Sergio Camargo, Willys de Castro, Lygia Clark, Raimundo Colares, Antonio Dias, Sonia Gomes, Alberto da Veiga Guignard, Leonilson, Cildo Meireles, Beatriz Milhazes, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Mira Schendel, Rubem Valentim, and Alfredo Volpi. Anchoring the show around “Terra” (1943), the sole work in the show by Tarsila do Amaral, Gotti examines the evolution of Modernism under a set of shared beliefs by a disparate group of artists. Political and social marginalization, the re-discovery of pre-colonial identities, and an evolving aesthetics to landscape painting lead to different conceptual and material strategies that make up the maxim of Brazilian Modernism. Here is a fine example of one of Mira Schendel’s geometric compositions from the mid-1960s, an artist who alongside her contemporaries Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark re-invented the language of Modernism in Brazil. At Blum & Poe through June 22.

To get to the two sole paintings in Firelei Báez’s spectacular installation one must enter an enchanted garden. For her recent exhibition at James Cohan, the Dominican-born artist has re-imagined the gallery space into a nocturnal lagoon overflowing with tropical birdsong, lush plants, and flowery scents. Yet underneath the breathtaking show of nature lurks a far more uncomfortable truth. Intersecting themes of Caribbean colonialism, black female empowerment, migration, and socio-political rationales of black resistance have always provided the scaffolding that supports most of Báez’s oeuvre. They are apparent in the material strategies and conceptual blueprints that underlie this exhibition. Here, Báez imagines the visitor as an accidental tourist to a Caribbean island whose lush tropical climate masks the difficult post-colonial reverberation that lead many of their countries’ best and brightest to seek opportunities elsewhere – a dilemma emblematic of the blue tarp of migrants and disaster shelters that makes up the exhibition’s night sky. The two female portraits that face each other in the center of the room are stunning. Framed by tropical plants, they remind of retablos, which are small devotional depictions of Catholic saints used in home altars throughout Latin America. Both women are wearing bright tignons, the headdress that free and slave women were forced to wrap around their hair and that they instead turned into stylish symbols of resistance. Graceful and poised, with skin a fluid mélange of vibrant color, they are representative of resplendent mythical Yoruba goddesses whose striking gaze is challenging the legacy of history through the empowerment of the black female experience. At James Cohan through June 16.

Virginia Overton does have a nice, big studio but most of the planning and thinking takes place in her head. A lot of her deliberation revolves around her personal relationship to a particular space and the rapport between space and material. Her installations often veer towards the industrial. Junkyards, old tractors, pick-up trucks, and industrial building materials like cross-beams and sheet rock, hold a particular fascination for the artist. Her quest for the essence of a particular object often lead her towards the meticulous physical deconstruction and re-assembly of her objects. To that end, the reconfiguration of a gigantic cement mixer into a fully functioning water fountain seems preposterous at first but is in fact the distillation of the apparatus into its core elements of gravity and weight. Overton’s queries into the essence of things are often rooted in art history, albeit with a light touch. Thus a simple projection of a house plant onto an empty canvas may be an attempt to  reconcile retinal painting and conceptual art with a tender nod towards the botanical symbolism that inspired Henri Matisse’s cutouts. At Bortolami through June 15.

Sanya Kantarosvsky is a sardonic story teller whose paintings depict strange snapshots in time where it is difficult to figure out what came before and what will happen after. Kantarovsky’s visual language employs cropped, pared-down compositions that frequently create an alarming tension between the distress of the subject and the ambiguousness of the scene. His material strategies, he mixes oil paint with water color, extend to the schism of his characters where it is often hard to distinguish between victim and perpetrator. “On Them” 2019, is particularly disturbing. Two ghostly figures stand half-submerged in dark water. Their bodies merge into one long, tunnel-like form and are joined in an urgent grip. Kantarovsky sets the scene in a claustrophobic perspective awash in ominous streaks of purple. The longer one stares at the display, the less it becomes clear whether this is a rescue or a sinister deed. For the only person who can solve the riddle is an unseen third person towards which the top figure strains. Slyly, Kantarovsky toys with the audience as eye and mind instinctively search for the mysterious Third Man and makes them uneasily complicit in his sinister riddle. His recalcitrant mise-en-scènes hold an involuntary, hypnotic grip on the viewer that touches on our primal fear of unknown terror. At Luhring Augustine through June 15.

Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate Homer’s Odyssey into modern English, describes the goddess-nymph Calypso as “a weaver, like so many elite female characters in Homer; she has her shuttle made of gold… but she also presides over a world where nature weaves itself around her.” In a new series of exquisite paintings and drawings, Chris Offili re-imagines Calypso as a seductive mermaid who lures the hapless Odysseus into a love affair in a luxuriously opulent setting that brims with lush foliage and lavish sprays of flowers. As expected, Offili’s sense of color is spot on. Vibrant aqua blues trade with kaleidoscopic yellow-greens; ripples of soft pink weave into ribbons of orange; a nocturnal scene is beautifully mournful with dark purple and flecks of gold. There is a seductive fluidity in these works that winds itself around the curvaceous bodies of the two lovers and flows into nature itself. It conjures up this exquisitely unearthly description of Calypso’s lagoon in Wilson’s adaptation: “The scent of citrus and of brittle pine/Suffused the island. Inside, she was singing/And weaving with a shuttle made of gold./Her voice was beautiful. Around the cave/A luscious forest flourished: alder, poplar,/And scented cypress.” At David Zwirner through June 15.

For the past sixty years the backbone of Ron Nagle’s ceramic practice has been the modest size of his captivating objects, many of which only stand up to six inches tall. Born in San Francisco in 1939, Nagle studied with the renowned ceramics maven Peter Voulkos and quickly became one of the leading members of the Bay Area ceramics scene. Nagle almost always works from drawings which outline composition and form but never give a hint on color. Yet color is one of the elements that makes Nagle’s objects truly remarkable. Bubble-gum pink gets paired with austere grey, forest green finds company with a deep red, and high-gloss aqua teams up with sea-foam green. He draws out these colors with an incredible array of textures that bubble, shine, bend, pucker and crinkle. Nagle’s forms are intuitively recognizable, yet one is not really quite sure what one is looking at. A grey rectangle might look like a tombstone, a quilted layer of pink and brown recalls an ice cream sandwich, or a brilliantly polished orange-yellow sphere conjures up the setting sun. But Nagle slyly obfuscates these communiques from the id by playing around with scale, color, and context. It is as if the mind tries to hold on to an image over which Nagle manages to pull a fine layer of fog. That these confections should be displayed eye-level height on slender plinths and sheathed in glass vitrines, only add to their exalted status as delightful objects of desire. At Matthew Marks through June 15.

In Julie Curtiss’ surreal world even the crispy Chinese ducks are covered with hair. Braided, wavy, coiffed, or straight, female hair has become one of the distinct visual signifiers in Curtiss’ vocabulary that makes her work so instantly recognizable. Other trademarks are long, gnarled fingers and toes in garish nail varnish, lush plants, and projectile-like female nipples. A razor-sharp painting technique that creates texture and depth with incredibly detailed brushwork produces disciplined compositions that do without superfluous details. Curtiss rounds up these sign-posts with an innate sense of color that betrays a keen understanding of nature and the skin tonalities of the female body. Traces of Ellen Berkenblit’s odd, out-of-context close-ups come to mind as are Christina Ramberg’s sinister, fragmented female body parts, as well as Jonathan Gardner’s scrupulous control of pictorial space. But in the end, Curtiss manages to find a painterly niche all of her own. Her psychologically charged imagery aptly navigates the space between discomfort and fascination and, although she never shows us the faces of her subjects, we find that we cannot look away. At Anton Kern through June 15.

The female body is always present or implied in Elsa Sahal’s intoxicating ceramic sculptures. Her encyclopedic fascination with Picasso’s bodies led to a new series of works that fuses two of the master’s most iconic subjects: bathers and harlequins. Consisting mostly of contorting legs, arms, and molten torsos, Sahal’s disembodied forms are at once vaguely sexual and slyly humorous. Two air-borne, bone-white objects remind of the voluptuously intertwined performance of trapeze artists. Here, Sahal plays with glazes that hint at some sort of inner personality– leaving one raw and natural the other smooth and refined. Humor and poise merge in two “Clowness” sculptures where graceful female torsos showcase Sahal’s innate grasp of skin color and texture. A smattering of clown noses save them from megalomania. Adorned with the iconic rhombus motif and joined phallus-like at the hip, “Harlequins Duo”, 2019, is suffused with such nonchalant movement and grace, one half expects the pair strolling off the plinth. Dancing on the periphery between playfulness and gravitas, Sahal’s captivating ceramic practice tests the malleability of the medium whilst simultaneously evoking the weight of corporeality and the lightness of the human spirit. At Nathalie Karg through June 15.

If “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after Warming” by David Wallace-Wells is the literary summation of our pending Climate Armageddon, then Josh Kline’s devastating installation “Climate Change: Part One” is its visual counter-part. Providing an alarming glimpse of our future without any meaningful action on the environment, Kline leads us through a maze of rooms where gigantic humming refrigerators dumbly sap energy, cityscapes in glass cases drown in rising sea water, and melting architecture circles the drain. To get to the next room, the visitor has a choice of doors identified by fragmented flags of the major polluting countries. But in the end, it does not matter which door one chooses, one always ends up in the next room beyond. If the final room is also our final reckoning, it is very bleak indeed. For here we can see our world through the thick glass of industrial-type ovens: The neatly set-tables, carefully picked-out bedroom furniture, jolly beach umbrellas, and expensive office equipment are all fully submerged in water. There is no human in sight. It is, no doubt, worse than we think. At 47 Canal through June 9.

In 2018 about 244 Million people worldwide, or one in thirty, were living outside their country of birth. By 2050 that number could reach close to 405 million. Climate change, economic instability and political unrest are forcing more and more people to leave their homes in search for safety or better economic opportunities. The Mexican artist Felipe Baeza has made forced migration and the physical and psychological toll it exacts, the centrepiece of his painting practice. A new series of works resemble retablos or láminas which are pocket-sized devotional depictions of Catholic saints and other religious iconography that are often displayed in home altars throughout Mexico. Baeza, who came to the US when he was seven years old, often culls from his own experience and distils the plight of forced migration into metaphorically rich narratives of memory and loss. Mournfully poetic, Baeza’s collage paintings occupy the disorienting physical and psychological in-between space that dulls the mind and saps the soul and chronicles the thicket of bureaucracy that migrants often must navigate. His material strategies link him to the dark sensurealism of Carol Rama and borrow heavily from naïve folk art and Mayan mythology. Far from being a political activist, Baeza instead seeks a quiet subversiveness and asks for empathy and compassion in an increasing hostile and closed off world. At Fortnight Institute through June 2.

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