In this lean, powerful and timely exhibition, the Chicago artist, activist and practising urbanist Theaster Gates draws upon a daunting archive of Black American popular imagery with a decidedly feral and interrogatory eye. The making of cultural meaning and the legacy of Black images are meaningfully interwoven in “The Banner Waves Calmly.” It is the most recent in a continuing litany of similar interventions with, and articulations of, archival materials by Gates. In fact, the works presented in Montreal are integral to a more expansive production on display contemporaneously at the Prada Foundation in Milan. Keep Reading
There’s a lot going on in a Katie Bethune-Leamen installation. Walking into one of her exhibitions is like entering the middle of a lively conversation. Her sculptures don’t actually speak, but they contain such a heady mix of loose association and specific detail that their connective potential keeps growing and metamorphosing the more time you spend watching them. Keep Reading
The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG)’s stellar Dana Claxton exhibition was, in many ways, a first. It was the first major survey in the acclaimed multimedia artist’s 30-year career and the first time many of her significant works have been exhibited in Vancouver, the city in which Claxton has been based since the mid-1980s. Keep Reading
“Imagine Me and You,” the title of Dana Schutz’s recent solo exhibition at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York, is in itself a strange and suggestive aspect of the artwork in the show. It’s apparently a line borrowed from a 1960s pop tune by the Turtles (as in “so happy together!”). But its placement here turns the idea inside out and asks us to do a number of imaginatively multivalent things at once, like in one of Schutz’s impossible multi-tasking paintings from several years back. Keep Reading
The University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03 is a small gallery, and exhibitions within this space work best when they play to its intimacy. Métis/German/Syrian artist Julie Nagam’s “locating the little heartbeats” does well not to overwhelm the space, something not every show is able to accomplish. With its dimmed lighting it intriguingly invites visitors into the gallery to take a careful and closer look at the artwork. What viewers find is a series of wooden light boxes jutting out from the walls like taut, squarish tree branches. On the light boxes are screens presenting various animated drawings of plants seemingly springing up from the ground. Audio of nature recordings wafts through the gallery as if trailed in by the breeze or possibly through an air vent. There is a feeling of something serene here, like being alone in a garden or walking quietly through the bush. Keep Reading
Two men face an open door at the top of a small flight of periwinkle-coloured stairs. Beside the opening, a closed door glitters, replete with detailed, golden iconography and a vermillion lintel embroidered with script-like markings. The men and the entrance are framed by billowing cream, yellow, red and blue curtains that recall a royal litter or an extravagant four-poster bed. As viewers, we intuit that the men are not apprehending a domestic space; rather, they appear to be at the threshold of a regal or spiritual location. In fact, the painted figures at the centre of (Nep) Nirbhai Singh Sidhu’s mixed-media tapestry Medicine for a Nightmare, 2019, stand in front of Hazūr Sāhib, a Sikh temple in western India and one of the five Takhats, seats of religious authority. The quasi-geometric imagery surrounding the men, which includes references to sound and Punjabi calligraphy, conjures a sense of enshrined reverence common to the works in Sidhu’s ambitious exhibition, “Medicine for a Nightmare (they called, we responded),” on view at Mercer Union. Keep Reading
Beyond its considerable aesthetic and cultural value, “Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires” signified an important moment for the Art Gallery of Ontario. Responding, if belatedly, to demands to decolonize and feminize the art institution, the AGO gave up its entire fifth floor to a queer Black woman artist. Keep Reading
An anti-Brexit van festooned with puppets of Tory MPs drove past as I waited to cross the road in Hyde Park where Grace Wales Bonner’s exhibition was installed at the Serpentine Galleries. Tooting its horn, its tune was despondent, while the self-imposed crisis of the British government carried on in Westminster. Inside the Sackler Gallery, we are able to forget about Brexit. Instead, an assemblage of sounds, artworks, performances and texts looks back to Black Intellectualism, including an invocation from poet and novelist Ben Okri: “Bring your wisdom, your fire, your hope. Bring a new courage and a new fight.” Keep Reading
The convulsive haunting that the subject of the body has induced in contemporary art, from Bruce Nauman (aesthetics of the manipulable body) and Carolee Scheemann (reclamation of the female body) to the present, has been replete. To bare the body is to foreground it as image, and in a world of pure appearances, it is a palimpsest of surfaces the immersive depths of which rest on top of further surfaces and do not lie fallow underneath.
This exhibition, “Body,” is timely in asking us to consider once again the age-old and vexing question: what exactly is a body? Does it still resonate as one pole of a long-disenfranchised dualism? Is it simply the skin jacket for consciousness? Is it performative, in flux, abased, dismembered, abject, transcendent? The curator here invites us to inspect the body and its spaces in a manner undreamt of by 16th-century anatomist Andreas Vesalius. Keep Reading
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