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Reviews

People Have The Power: “Of the people” At Smack Mellon

by Emily Colucci on July 6, 2016
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“Register to vote here,” reads a sign board in front of Smack Mellon. This sign is an unexpected sight, even for a Brooklyn non-profit art space known for its provocative shows. While art and politics frequently meet theoretically in the contemporary art world, they don’t often merge in such a blatantly practical way.

The connection between electoral politics and art drives Smack Mellon’s current exhibition Of the people. Curated by Erin Donnelly, Of the people arrives just in time for both the Democratic and Republican national conventions this month. The timing was not lost on Donnelly who brings together a multidisciplinary group of artists from around the United States to investigate, as the press release describes, “the of-the-moment political opinions shaping the 2016 presidential race.”

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ICP Enters the 21st Century with a Bunch of Mirrors

by Rhett Jones on July 1, 2016
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For a prime example of ambitious curating standing in the way of excellent artwork, look no further than the convoluted mess of a show at the International Center for Photography’s brand new Bowery location. While I’m always up for seeing art that takes advantage of technology and addresses our weird wired world, this show is filled with wrong-headed assertions, painful hanging choices, and eyeball-straining design.

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The Real Estate Blues Again: ”If you can’t afford to live here, mo-o-ve!!” at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

by Emily Colucci on June 29, 2016
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One of the first works you see in Martha Rosler’s exhibition If you can’t afford to live here, mo-o-ve!! is a dark and ominous portrait of Donald Trump. Leaning against a wall, the Trump tableau sits behind three glass bottles filled with urine. Is the piece a biting comment on Trump’s pissant Republican presidential campaign? Is it a playful but terrifying foreshadowing of his future official White House portrait?

Andrew Castrucci’s Untitled (Donald Trump) is neither. A quick glance at a nearby wall label confirms Castrucci’s Trump was painted in 1986. Created well before Trump’s presidential ambitions, Castrucci’s work instead critiques Trump as a reckless developer gobbling up large swaths of New York and Atlantic City real estate. As relevant then as it is now, Untitled (Donald Trump) reveals the uncanny confusion between the past and present that runs rampant throughout Rosler’s overstuffed exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash.

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The Berlin Biennale: An Act of Passive Compliance

by RM Vaughan on June 28, 2016
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Since the last Berlin Biennale, Europe has undergone a currency and debt crisis, watched far right political entities grow from obscure clusters of nutjobs into massive populist movements, dealt, badly, with the millions of people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, and been subjected to terrifying and brutal acts of terrorism by all manner of extremists.

In all of these crises, Berlin, the capital of the EU’s richest and most politically powerful country has played a central and keynote-determining role.

I can thus think of no better way, given the circumstances, to reinforce the popular perception that contemporary art has nothing to say about the world that surrounds it than by hiring the NYC-based fashion bloggers DIS to curate the ninth edition of the Berlin Biennale. I have rarely seen such a profound case of not giving the people what they want, of so many heads so far up so many assholes.

Just walk away, Berlin. Go have a strong drink. Read a good mystery novel. Take too much MDMA and pee your slacks. Sit in an empty room and cry. Do anything but waste 26 Euros on the Berlin Biennale.

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Carbon-Based Lifeform: Hermonie “Only” Williams at Gallery Four

by Michael Anthony Farley on June 23, 2016
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Hermonie “Only” Williams’ coldly-precise forms have emotional weight beneath sleek surface.

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Goodbye To All That: “InFinite Futures” and “The Past Will Be Present” at ABC No Rio

by Emily Colucci on June 23, 2016
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In the contemporary Lower East Side–a neighborhood of unlimited brunch spots, luxury condos and pristine white-walled galleries, artist-run punk haven ABC No Rio stands defiant as a welcome anachronism. Whether interpreted as a graffiti-covered blight or a monument to the heavily romanticized culture spawned downtown in the late 20th century, ABC No Rio has acted as a hub for a community of artists for over three decades. The space remains inexorably tied to the last gasps of the neighborhood’s gritty essence, which is why the plans for its sleek renovation seem almost shocking.

With the demolition and reconstruction finally on the horizon after years of delays due to bureaucratic red tape (AFC even published a series of interviews on ABC No Rio in 2012 in anticipation of its forthcoming closure), the nagging question remains: will the experience of ABC No Rio be the same without the fear of falling through their stairs or tumbling into some industrial waste in the backyard?

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The Printing’s on the Wall: Eva Wylie at ICA Baltimore

by Michael Anthony Farley on June 17, 2016
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In Eva Wylie’s solo exhibition with ICA Baltimore, the printmaker silkscreens collage-like imagery directly on the walls.

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Chroma Lives: This is What a Tasteful Condo Showroom Looks Like

by Rea McNamara on June 15, 2016
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The Yorkville neighborhood is to Toronto what the Upper East Side’s Park Avenue is to New York. In a word: bougie. Back in the 1960s, it looked considerably different; as Canada’s equivalent to Greenwich Village, it was known for its waify bohemians, coffee house folk scene and a gallery district anchored by influential commercial gallerists like Walter Moos and Mira Godard. But offices and hotels were eventually built, followed by high-priced condo developments amongst the still remaining Victorian rowhouses now listed for over a million each. Yorkville’s biggest attraction is now it’s “Mink Mile”, a high-end luxury shopping strip that caters to the affluent residents of Rosedale and Forest Hill.

Given all this, perhaps it’s not surprising that at first glance, one could mistake the group exhibition Chroma Lives for an interior design showroom. Located in the presentation center for the Yorkville Plaza condo development on Avenue Road, curators Erin Alexa Freeman and artist Lili Huston-Herterich have filled the space with household items like walnut furniture, succulents planted in unglazed ceramic pots, and clothing hung on a rack. Not much distinguishes this simulacrum of affluence from present-day realities, especially at a time when luxury real estate has been engineered to include art walls and humidity systems to attract art-centric buyers.       

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Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em: “Frida Smoked” at INVISIBLE-EXPORTS

by Emily Colucci on June 1, 2016
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What image is conjured by a woman smoker? Is she chain-smoking Betty Draper living in a Mad Men world defined by advertising and women’s magazines, or grungy and addled Courtney Love, tossing her lipstick-smeared cigarette butts at unsuspecting and adoring fans?

Whether exemplifying the height of ladylike femininity or illustrating the depths of a disheveled mess, there is no denying that throughout history, smoking has come to define numerous female stereotypes.

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Breaking into Broken Systems: On Being Marginalized, and the “Politics of Refusal”

by Rea McNamara on May 31, 2016
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On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the second floor of Toronto’s Theater Center was packed with artists for the panel DAMNED IF YOU DO: A Conversation on the Politics of Refusal. Co-presented by local artist-run center Whippersnapper Gallery, the panel focused on stories and strategies from the trenches of the “marginalized”: namely, the tricky pursuit of navigating art and funding systems as an “artist of colour” or “visible minority” or whatever fraught PC term can describe what it means to be a racialized body in the art world.

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