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Reviews

The Revolution Might Still Be Televised: “Public Access/Open Networks” At BRIC House

by Emily Colucci on March 31, 2017
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Sometimes an exhibition succeeds more as a source of creative inspiration than a collection of timely artworks. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current group exhibition Public Access/Open Networks at the Gallery at BRIC House.

The show, curated by BRIC’s Jenny Gerow with freelance curators Reya Sehgal and Lakshmi Padmanabhan, gathers historical and contemporary video art that was broadcast publicly whether through public access TV or YouTube. The physical exhibition is just aspect of the show, which also includes an assorted program schedule of screenings, live tapings and symposiums.

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Climbing Generations Of Trauma And Muslim Heritage: Baseera Khan’s “iamuslima” at Participant Inc.

by Emily Colucci on March 28, 2017
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The personal is political is one of the longest enduring clichés in contemporary art. But, sometimes, an artist can dust off this tiresome trope to more effectively shed light on a critical issue with their own life and cultural heritage than with cold, hard facts.

The latest of these exhibitions is Baseera Khan’s iamuslima at Participant Inc. The show does more than just counter our current environment of Muslim bans and government-sanctioned discrimination. Instead, the artist takes aim at its historical legacy by referencing her and her family’s experiences.

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Finding Light (And An Ode To The Ass) In The 2017 Whitney Houston Biennial

by Emily Colucci on March 23, 2017
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Seven small spray bottles labeled “Trigger Spray” and a packet of tissues emblazoned with “Your Feelings Are Valid” sit on a pedestal in a back corner of the Whitney Houston Biennial at Chashama. In a silly sendup of trigger warnings and safe spaces, the corresponding label for the work by Elana Langer lists humor along with the other materials. As it turns out, this isn’t just an ingredient in Langer’s piece. Humor is key to many of the all-women group show’s inclusions, which felt like a breath of fresh air with the doom and gloom of both the Whitney Biennial and the daily outrage of the Trump administration.

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Cataloguing Immigration’s Impact At Yinka Shonibare MBE’s “Prejudice At Home: A Parlour, a Library and a Room” at James Cohan Gallery

by Emily Colucci on March 17, 2017
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Six thousand patterned books line the walls of two rooms at the back of James Cohan Gallery. The spine of each book is emblazoned with names of first and second generation immigrants who have impacted British culture–Christian Bale, Tom Stoppard, Sir Ben Kingsley, Henry James, Yoko Ono, Anish Kapoor, John Galliano and even, rumored “Becky with the good hair” herself, Rita Ora. Basically, it’s your dinner party dream list.

This towering reflection of immigrants’ historical influence comes courtesy of Yinka Shonibare MBE’s installation The British Library, currently on view as a part of his solo show Prejudice at Home: A Parlour, A Library and A Room. With Trump’s travel ban and increased crackdown on undocumented workers, the installation could not have arrived in New York at a more crucial moment. As countless articles attempt to make the case for immigrants and refugees by pointing out foreign-born founders of tech companies or American inventions created by immigrants, Shonibare’s installation achieves what these listicles can’t. It confronts viewers with a tangible, physical record of immigration’s creative impact on a country.

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The Whitney Biennial: Visual Screen Burn Courtesy of America’s Finest

by Paddy Johnson on March 16, 2017
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Out of the ten Whitney Biennials I’ve seen, this is the first one that could have used a vomit warning. But here we are, in Trump’s America, a future many of us never wanted to imagine, let alone live through. What is the purpose of art in this New America? This year’s Biennial bears no answers. Art doesn’t exist to defend its purpose and even if it did this exhibition was organized prior to the election. Nevertheless, it does bring then-simmering themes to a boil. So, while almost none of the work is Trump themed, as a whole the exhibition reads as a responsive to the challenges the country faces—increasing income inequality across the board, failing institutions, and the rise of hate-fueled violence. If art is a mirror, then this year’s Biennial should scare the shit out of you.

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Reimagining Dance For The Disabled Body In “Our Configurations” At Gibney Dance

by Emily Colucci on March 10, 2017
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Two audience members lick the pant leg and cane of performer Marissa Perel. While this happens she recalls awkward and downright insulting moments related to her disability. In one particularly horrifying story she tells the audience about a subway rider who called her a “bitch” after she refused to answer why she had a cane.

This, at once, funny and cringe-inducing moment was a part of Perel’s performance (do not) despair solo, one of the four performances featured in Our Configurations at Gibney Dance. In a short post-show discussion with the performers and NYU professor Hentyle Yapp, Perel defined her work as “an act of resistance against normativity.” This could be said of all of the performers in the show, including Marc Brew, AXIS Dance Company and Kinetic Light. Despite attempts at increased inclusivity at most arts organizations, abled-bodied performers are still largely the norm. And that’s a shame.

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Museum Punk Show in Need of A Sound Guy

by Michael Anthony Farley on February 24, 2017
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In a past life, Mexico City’s Museo Universitario Del Chopo was a punk flea market. Today, it’s gone back to it roots (kinda).
Punk. Sus rastros en el arte contemporáneo is a fantastic survey of both punk and its impact on contemporary art. But when so much of that influence has been on video art, the logic of a gallery presentation is questionable.
The show feels a bit like it should be a film festival but has been squeezed into a white box. Good luck trying to sit through more than a dozen videos with overlapping sound on different loops.

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No Paintings for Old Men: I’m Done With Amy Feldman

by RM Vaughan on February 24, 2017
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I have to hand it to NYC-based painter Amy Feldman: not every artist can cause me to temporarily lose the will to carry on writing and the energy to carry on chronicling our bankrupt, post-meaning culture. What, I wondered as I walked around the palatial Blain/Southern Gallery, is the damned point anymore? Confronted on all sides by Feldman’s aggressively vacuous, massive canvasses, I can’t even argue conclusively that Feldman’s work is good or bad. It operates so outside of any qualitative value scale that I understand—as if attacking the very idea of value—that it defeats all rational readings of art or art making. All I can do is respond. And respond I must.

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You Want It Darker: Robyn O’Neil’s “The Good Herd” At Susan Inglett Gallery

by Emily Colucci on February 23, 2017
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Is any art that depicts a vivid sense of doom and gloom immediately relevant in 2017? Yes, if Robyn O’Neil’s current solo exhibition The Good Herd is any indication.

Previously, the Los Angeles-based artist’s dark surrealism felt like an anachronism. Her drawings in exhibitions like 2011’s Hell were, at once, a throwback to Odilon Redon’s trippy drawings and Edward Gorey’s Goth wit. This didn’t exactly click during the comparative calm of the Obama years. But now, with the daily hellish roller coaster of Trump’s administration, O’Neil’s anonymous figures and ominous symbolism have become strikingly timely, addressing the isolation many feel from their fellow Americans who voted an orange demagogue into office.

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Doomed Capitalism And Psychedelic Escape In David Spriggs and Matthijs Munnik’s “Permutations of Light” at Pittsburgh’s Wood Street Galleries

by Emily Colucci on February 17, 2017
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Before the election and the daily drama of Trump’s administration, I never fully understood just how important the current sociopolitical state is to the success of an exhibition. Of course, I was aware that timeliness could make or break a show. But, less than a month into Trump’s presidency, work that normally wouldn’t interest me in galleries I typically bypass have taken on new meaning and resonance.

The latest project to remind me of art’s dependence on its political context is David Spriggs and Matthijs Munnik’s dual exhibition Permutations of Light at Pittsburgh’s Wood Street Galleries. The show presents two large-scale immersive installations, Spriggs’s Gold and Munnik’s Citadels, on separate floors of the gallery. Concentrated on formal aspects of light, color and form, this type of experiential installation (which are often associated with Wood Street Galleries’ programming) have become so commonplace that they seem, at this point, like a crowd-pleasing cliché. But, when viewed in the context of our surreal times, Spriggs’s critique of capitalism and Munnik’s escapism feel surprisingly relevant.

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