From the category archives:

Reviews

Pipilotti Rist at The New Museum: Feel-Good Feminism

by Paddy Johnson on December 9, 2016
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Feminism isn’t easy to pin down. It’s a social movement that shares a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, and social rights for women. It’s famously defined by waves (first, second and third) only a few of us can fully define without referencing Wikipedia.

For me, feminism is often less defined by the social movement it describes, than by woman who chose to define for themselves what they like, what they want, and who they are. It’s simple, and that’s part of why I like it. It’s inclusive, and it can be fun, pleasurable and charming—all qualities of the most infectious and influential kinds of movements.

As it happens, this is exactly the strength of “Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest”, the New Museum’s 30 retrospective of the artist’s videos curated by Massimiliano Gioni.

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Do The Divisions Between Artist, Writer and Activist Matter Post-Election?

by Emily Colucci on December 9, 2016
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What is an artist’s role in activism? A panel at e-flux on Tuesday night explored the question many in the arts community have been wondering since Trump’s election a month ago.

The panel What Now: The Artist-Writer As Activist-Critic not only considered artist writing as a form of sociopolitical and institutional critique, but it also took a more expansive look at the intersection of art and activism. And this focus struck a nerve. Even on a rainy and miserable evening, the event space at e-flux was filled to capacity with over 70 people searching for a way forward in the forthcoming Trump administration.

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I Went To The Jewish Museum’s “Take Me (I’m Yours)” And All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt

by Emily Colucci on December 7, 2016
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A loud, tacky sign emblazoned with “Everything Must Go” would not feel out of place in the Jewish Museum’s current exhibition Take Me (I’m Yours). A rack of plastic goodie bags branded with the exhibition’s title hang in the show’s entrance, encouraging viewers to fill up on artist-made pins, T-shirts, used clothing, candy and a 25-cent ball of air from Yoko Ono. With this free-for-all curatorial style, the exhibit looks more like a display of samples than a contemporary art show.

That’s a bad thing. The whole show feels like a gimmick designed to lure people in the door by offering them free swag. Meanwhile, the Museum is presenting the idea that they are challenging the traditional relationship between art and its viewers, which not only isn’t true (it’s been done to death), it distracts from the sociopolitical critiques made by many of the artists in the show. Simply put, the show is a disaster.

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UNTITLED: Bright Lights, Dim Content

by Paddy Johnson on November 30, 2016
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Evidence that the election results have had any impact on the art fairs were scant at best yesterday. Artist Jason Lazarus told me he kept hearing that this was the year artists would skip, but as I walked around UNTITLED., I didn’t notice any fewer artists then usual. I witnessed plenty of sales, though, and the dealers mostly seemed pleased. Collectors are aware of their upcoming tax windfall.

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With Art As My Witness: Carrie Mae Weems at Jack Shainman Gallery

by Emily Colucci on November 23, 2016
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I often hear the platitude that art thrives when artists are forced into action by life or death necessity. But, what might this new politically engaged art actually do to combat racism, xenophobia, misogyny and a host of other threats that have already appeared well before Trump’s inauguration?

Carrie Mae Weems’s two current exhibitions, on view at both Jack Shainman galleries, seem to offer an answer: art can act as a witness. In the dual shows, Weems shines a light on violence, institutional silence, judicial ignorance and black underrepresentation. This is seen most vividly her gut-wrenching take on the killings of unarmed black men and women by police in the 24th street space. Not all the pieces in Weems’s shows force viewers to witness these crimes, but those that do drag these issues into view for a Chelsea art audience, rendering a passive and apolitical viewing experience almost impossible.

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Carolee Schneemann’s Body Is A Battlefield At PPOW Gallery and Galerie Lelong

by Emily Colucci on November 21, 2016
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A week after the election, women’s bodies are a battleground yet again. Donald Trump hinted at overturning Roe v. Wade on 60 Minutes and Paul Ryan thought birth control was a “nitty-gritty detail” of the dismantlement of the Affordable Care Act. This isn’t even taking into consideration the pussy-grabbing rhetoric of the campaign. With President-elect Trump and a Republican majority in Congress, women–like many diverse populations–feel newly under siege.

This danger to women’s health and civil liberties inadvertently breathes new life into art that engages with the female body and its subjugation. While using the body, in the recent past, may have felt like Feminism 101, art now needs to reflect and reject this patriarchal threat. Feminist art stalwart Carolee Schneemann achieves just that in her dual exhibitions Further Evidence–Exhibit A at PPOW Gallery and Further Evidence–Exhibit B at Galerie Lelong. In these dual shows, Schneemann depicts the female body as contested, controlled and imprisoned. And it couldn’t feel more timely.

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Alex Da Corte Takes On The Founding Fathers In ‘A Man Full Of Trouble’

by Emily Colucci on November 17, 2016
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Now that the country has elected a threatening Wizard of Oz figure for president, any art that takes aim at the myth of American exceptionalism feels pretty relevant. The democratic dream created in 1787 looks a lot like a nightmare in 2016. And with the news of White House staff and potential Cabinet appointments reading like a list of supervillains, it’s refreshing when art can articulate a pointed skepticism of America’s promise.

Alex Da Corte’s A Man Full Of Trouble at Maccarone provides some of that much-needed critique. The work here launches a timely reassessment of America through a combination of its storied colonial past and its kitsch-filled, worn out present.

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The Heart of New York Lives on a Sticky

by Paddy Johnson on November 15, 2016
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I don’t believe it’s necessary to see all art in person. As the existence of Contemporary Art Daily demonstrates good documentation can go pretty far and for some exhibitions understanding the concept is more than enough.

There is a danger in living by that assumption, though, in that it’s easy to miss shows that need to be seen in person. That almost happened to me this week, when I stumbled upon Matthew Chavez’s “Subway Therapy” after coming home from dinner. I’d already read about his piece, which invites riders to express their feelings in whatever way they might need. The project began in June, but after the election, Chavez brought pens and sticky notes to the subway, and riders came by the thousands to express their feelings. Now, a subway wall on 14th between fifth and sixth is coated with people’s thoughts.

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Mark Leckey Made Me Hardcore at MoMA PS1

by Emily Colucci on November 11, 2016
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It’s hard not to see any art through the lens of politics this week. Trump’s unexpected victory leaves little space for anything else–nearly any experience has a surreal quality to it.

I’m not going to say I don’t find this disruptive to the critical process. The context of evaluating art has changed. What was relevant seems useless post-Trump. But since there’s no way around it, I’ve decided to embrace it. In the case of Mark Leckey’s Containers and Their Drivers at MoMA PS1, I found his career-long satirical engagement with technology amusing on Monday. Today, though, three days after the American people decided to press the country’s self-destruct button, I’m left wondering if the show even weathered this sudden change in perspective.

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Virginia Heffernan Thinks The Internet Is Art

by Emily Colucci on November 8, 2016
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Virginia Heffernan joined the Internet in 1979 at 9. Growing up near Dartmouth, the cultural critic learned the computer language BASIC from the college’s president John Kemeny with a group of her classmates. I learned this random factoid about Heffernan’s online life at her lecture on Tuesday night at School of Visual Art’s Design Research, Writing and Criticism Department, where she discussed her new book Magic and Loss: The Internet As Art.

Heffernan’s bizarre, meandering lecture was full of tidbits about her own web usage including her high score in Angry Birds, her meetings with Google or her chat room experiences on early live chat feature Conference XYZ. Her over-the-top adoration of her own online history might explain why she thinks the Internet is art.

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