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“Threads Left Dangling, Veiled in Ink”

Galerie Emanuel Layr | Vienna
Seilerstätte 2/26
September 15, 2017–November 4, 2017

Ellie Ga, Measuring the Circle, 2013–14, single-channel split-screen video, color, sound, 21 minutes 45 seconds.

This exhibition, curated by Béatrice Gross, assesses the relationship between text and image in contemporary art. The mysterious collective Slavs and Tatars’ Eurasian patterns, Ellie Ga’s video archaeology, Robert Stadler’s sculptural curiosities, and Erica Baum and Julien Bismuth’s photographs are just some of the works that come together to reflect multiple historical, cultural, and linguistic interactions untroubled by the pieces’ ineradicable traces of difference.

Slavs and Tatars’ four-piece fabric-and-paper series “The Inrising,” 2017, features glorious mythical phoenixes parading across bright abstract patterns. Gina Pane’s Souvenir enroulé d’un matin bleu (Rolled Memory of a Blue Morning), 1969, is a felt-shrouded wood-and-aluminum handle that hangs on the wall like a piece of somber gymnastics equipment. Dangling nearby is Stadler’s wood, foam, synthetic textile, and steel sculpture Pentaphone, 2006—a piece that falls somewhere between modernist lampshade and virtual-reality simulator. All these works defy the boundaries between art and design. Elsewhere, Baum’s photographic prints transform old newspaper clippings, collaging words and signs into conventional flower and landscape pictures, while Bismuth’s distorted photographs of a sun-beaten Amazonian home conceal hidden messages, embodying the difficulty of representation.

The centerpiece of the show, Ga’s magnificent single-channel video split across two screens, Measuring the Circle, 2013–14, reconstructs the history of a lost ancient wonder: the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria, destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages. Sifting through a labyrinthine array of sources, from shaky footage of the contemporary Egyptian city, antiquarian illustrations, and handmade transparent puzzles of archival documents, the artist searches for what the lighthouse once looked like. With each book, diagram, or story, the ever-receding horizon of truth eludes Ga’s grasp; like a relentless time-traveling detective, she scrambles through the rubble of Greek, Roman, and Ottoman Empires, the video a palimpsest etched on absent originals.

Max L. Feldman

Toni Schmale

Friedrichstraße 12
September 14, 2017–November 5, 2017

Toni Schmale, ach ach ach, 2017, concrete and steel, each 47 x 24 x 44".

At the end of a corridor, the work dipstation (all works 2017) provides the prelude to an exhibition in which today’s rituals around self-improvement take center stage. A slab of dark-gray concrete, mounted to the wall and sized to human scale, is juxtaposed with a black metal bar. No chin-ups are possible here, fat burning isn’t allowed, muscles can’t be trained—the equipment has been reduced to pure form.

The main section of the installation by Toni Schmale is further equipped with supposed tools of optimization: first there is ach ach ach, featuring stanchions on the left and right of each of the three pieces of concrete lying on the floor, together reminiscent of treadmills. The onomatopoetic title of the work plays on not only the rhythmic groaning of those using such machines but also the tripartite formation of the sculpture. Passing das management—a bar, padded with rubber foam, on a metal band, planted at the center of the exhibition—a visitor reaches hot hot hot. Here, there are three metal plates, hung on the wall like mirrors, that the artist has treated with heat in such a way that their surface structure, as well as their color, is altered. Yellowish, dark blue, and violet, the rectangles are iridescent in the cold lighting and offer a blazing counterpoint to this otherwise rigorously solemn show. Only one thing comes to mind: hot, hot, hot.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair

Sophie Reinhold

Sophie Tappeiner
An der Hülben 3
December 1, 2017–January 13, 2018

Sophie Reinhold, untitled, 2017, graphite on canvas, 6 1/2 x 10'. Installation view.

Surpassing her previous exhibitions’ somber-toned geometricism, “Exchange of Vacuums” marks Berliner Sophie Reinhold’s progress, with an expanded painterly vocabulary of reenergized brushstrokes and grimier color combinations that neither sacrifice nor restate her earlier works’ stately tenor. The best works here, including two untitled pieces from 2016 and 2017, are explorations of the space between murky figuration and dramatic abstraction, primordial in subject but radically modern in form. In the 2016 piece, horizontal strips of white tape produce a square space barely discernible through a fog of haphazardly slathered white paint that occasionally reveals naked canvas. Carefully curved like an old CinemaScope screen, the 2017 work is a graphite expanse taking up most of the central wall of the gallery, unmissable even through the steel and deep-red PVC curtain, Basic Care, 2017, draped over the gallery’s entrance, a nod to Viennese café facades. The light from above the curtain and the window opposite exposes the plane’s otherwise unnoticeable blemishes and the deformed, silvery reflections of moving viewers.

Smaller entries such as Vanilla Cactus, an oil on canvas inspired by the fifth-century BCE Tomb of the Diver, and Old Fear, both 2017, the latter of which shows a panicked rabbit as seen from a predator’s perspective, share her past efforts’ imposing atmosphere without scaling their sublime heights, while the mute bone surface of Have You Ever Been Mellow? and the polished-marble effect of Leda and the Swan, both 2017, are transitional, their figures obscure but discernable. Like Leda and the Swan and Old Fear, Exchange of Vacuums, 2017, abandons traditional canvas supports and is painted on a pregnant bump of canvas, like a blossoming ancient unity symbol.

Max L. Feldman

Aurélien Froment

Museum Leuven
Leopold Vanderkelenstraat 28
June 11, 2017–November 5, 2017

View of “Aurélien Froment: Double Tales,” 2017. From left: Quodlibet II, 2017; Non alignés (Fatim Diop) (Non-Aligned [Fatim Diop]), 2016.

Aurélien Froment’s solo exhibition is titled “Double Tales,” which is certainly apropos to the duality on display across four large rooms in this newly refurbished museum. Quodlibet II, 2017, is a sculptural rendition of a musical medley that takes the form of reed instruments suspended from nylon thread. It is presented alongside Non alignés (Fatim Diop) (Non-Aligned [Fatim Diop]), 2016, and Chant du Monde (Song of the World), 2017, which are intimate video portraits of Senegalese singer Amadou Badiane inspired by Bollywood music and dance sequences.

These intersections demonstrate Froment’s capacity to approach his subjects from multiple unexpected vantage points. The series “Tombeau Idéal de Ferdinand Cheval” (The Ideal Funeral Monument of Ferdinand Cheval), 2014, is a photographic story of the lifework of a nineteenth-century postman who built the ideal tomb for himself and his wife, stone by stone. In the same room, and resonating on the other side of a partitioned wall and curtain, is the video Apocalypse, 2017, a meticulous examination of the imposing titular fourteenth-century tapestry at the Château d’Angers in France.

The artist’s latest work––installed in the last room of the show––stands alone and therefore offers an interesting speculation as to what direction the impressive multilayered incongruence of the artist’s practice can take. Allegro Largo Triste, 2017, is a video of a Sardinian musician and master launeddas player training his apprentices in an uninterrupted flow of music on a pastoral hillside. His style and instrument are so particular that there exists no system of tabulation for what he does, a feat not so dissimilar to the unique qualities of this artist’s own work.

Huib Haye Van Der Werf

Olga Chernysheva

Temnikova & Kasela Gallery
Lastekodu 1
August 24, 2017–October 28, 2017

Olga Chernysheva, untitled, 2011, barite analog print, 11 x 17''. From the series “Algunas Canciones Lindas” (Some Beautiful Songs), 1996–2014.

Russian photographer Olga Chernysheva’s latest exhibition consists of never-before-shown works spanning from 1996 to 2014. Also on view is the large-scale pigment print Before Closing, 2017, which was captured at Tallinn’s Central Market, a leftover relic from the Soviet era replete with mostly Russian vendors, allowing visitors to step back in time. Here, we see one of the shopkeepers, minus her head, unceremoniously dumping water from a bucket of flowers into a drain. Chernysheva, a Muscovite, was brought up in that world, and her eye seems to seek out those persistent remnants of the twentieth century that have become encoded with a sort of timelessness. In this sense, she is like a poet who shows us something unexpected by zeroing in on the mundane. There’s a skating ground near Red Square, wrapped in the pale non-light of winter (untitled, 2009); beyond its environs, the real subject is a certain bluishness that glows. You can almost hear the wind howling.

This Baudelairean, painter-of-modern-life stance persists when the artist turns to interiors. Two untitled black-and-white barite analog prints ostensibly portray the same living room; despite the date of each, 2011, the room’s décor appears to be a relic of Eastern Europe or Russia in the 1980s. The first image is simply the room itself, while the second pulls back, revealing an interior frame around the space, as if it were either a mirror reflection of the area or else a stage set.

Nearly all of these works are from a series called “Algunas Canciones Lindas” (Some Beautiful Songs), which itself sounds like it could be the title of a volume of poetry. Chernysheva’s songs are beautiful for reveling in the matter of their endurance.

Travis Jeppesen

Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Cao Guimarães

EYE Filmmuseum
IJpromenade 1
September 16, 2017–December 3, 2017

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Fireworks (Archives), 2014, HD video, color, sound, 6 minutes 40 seconds. Installation view.

Ants are so great. Besides their obvious admirable qualities––such as their strength––they are unique in their ability to recognize the true value of human detritus. They take it—literally—and make it their own. Though few notice. Among the handful of people who do is Cao Guimarães, who cast a Brazilian species as his stars in a video made in collaboration with Rivane Neuenschwander, Quarta-feira de cinzas (Epilogue: Ash Wednesday), 2006. The film was shot the day after Carnival in Belo Horizonte, and there’s all this junk on the ground, confetti that’s been thrown. The human inhabitants don’t even have to clean it up! That’s what the ants are there for. We watch them band together, carrying the bits of litter over the dirt, through the foliage. Some team up, while the stronger ones go solo. You can easily become mesmerized watching this shit.

Mesmerized is a good word to evoke the effect of much of Guimarães’s work; Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s, too. Both filmmakers, known for directing their lenses in directions we seldom look, are the subject of a dual exhibition that satiates the needs of enchantment junkies ready to submit to the lull of wonder contained in this exquisite Delugan Meissl–designed venue on Amsterdam’s north bank. Weerasethakul tends to focus on northeastern Thailand, and in his works here he zeroes in on a small town called Nabua, near the border with Laos. In the video installation Primitive, 2009, some teenagers build a spaceship, kick a soccer ball that’s on fire, and tell one another stories of their fathers at war. In another room, displaying the video Fireworks (Archives), 2014, on a transparent glass screen dividing the area, pyrotechnics crackle and pop their way across and through the partition, illuminating Buddhist statuary in a night-darkened monastic retreat.

Weerasethakul’s installations are as sprawling in their epic dimensionality as his feature films are in their endlessly wandering plots. While it is true that they have been shown in many different settings (Primitive, in particular), none has been as efficient and welcoming as this one, with the acoustics, projection, sound, and arrangement of the screens and seating just right, and in concert with the works of a filmmaker equally fearless and unexpected in his cartography.

Travis Jeppesen

Anna Banana

Kunstverein Amsterdam
Hazenstraat 28
October 21, 2017–January 13, 2018

View of “Anna Banana,” 2017. From left: second “Town Fool” costume, 1972; costume for the “Banana Olympics,” 1975; costume for the “Banana Olympics,” 1980.

Anna Banana’s exhibition in Amsterdam is her first comprehensive retrospective in the Netherlands, a remarkably compact overview of her prolific practice as a performance artist, publisher, collector, costume designer, and integral contributor to the International Mail-Art Network (IMAN). The guiding principle of her work is interactivity, with the fruit of her nom de plume as the central visual element. A window display starts off the show with three illustrious costumes, including a rainbow patterned outfit made for her 1971–72 “Town Fool” project in Victoria, Canada, the piece which initiated her formal transformation into Anna Banana prior to her official name change. The other two ensembles were made for her famously uncanny “Banana Olympics” events in San Francisco and at Bear Creek Park, in British Colombia, in 1975 and 1980, respectively. It’s inside the exhibition, though, that the true gravity of her work is revealed.

Two vitrines in the middle room contain a decades-spanning collection of her meticulously designed, self-published magazines, including issues of Artist Stamp News (1988–96) and Banana Rag (1971–91/1996–2016), as well as editions of Artiststamps, 1991, documenting the history of both Artist Stamp News and works by other mail-art artists. On one side of a yellow tiled carpet is an arrangement of videos recording several significant performances, most notably her pseudo-scientific “Proof Positive Germany Is Going Bananas” tour through Germany in the mid-nineties. And, finally, there are eight editions of VILE magazine—her platform created to counter FILE magazine’s claim in the 1970s that mail-art was dead—which she self-published between 1975 and 1980.

The artist’s fascination with Dadaistic humor, the social impulse toward self-diagnosis, and the Bohemianism of the late sixties and early seventies is resilient and ever-present. Her inimitable persona makes her ongoing practice still pertinent in every respect.

Huib Haye van der Werf

Matias Faldbakken

Astrup Fearnley Museet
Strandpromenaden 2
September 22–January 28

View of “Matias Faldbakken: Effects of Good Government in the Pit,” 2017–18.

In Matias Faldbakken’s latest exhibition of sculptures, paintings, and installations, a speculative future universe—where the virtual world is impossible to distinguish from the real—is offered. The simulated perhaps isn’t what one might associate with some of the brutal objects here, including Untitled (Locker Sculpture #06), 2017—several lockers strapped together with lever straps, bending the hard metal––and the four heavy concrete sculptures in Television Sculpture #1–4, 2011. Yet the three large walls covered in domestic tiles (Tile Sculpture #1–#3, all 2017) force one to encounter the virtual in a profound way, which becomes quite clear with the looping film Never Come Down, 2017. This piece is presented on a pixel-pitch screen, a high-resolution LED display. In the work, an appropriated video meme that went viral among Trump supporters is altered so that the president’s head has been cropped out. In between the images and loud sounds, the pixels of the screen become visible. They expose a grid that recalls the tiled walls, and together, the two works generate an architectonic environment where digital reality exceeds the surface of the screen. As a whole, the exhibition evokes what Gilbert Simondon once referred to as an “associated milieu”—a setting where the natural and technological worlds are metaphorically morphed, allowing for the critical exploration of the existence and formation of life.

Sara R. Yazdani

Mika Tajima

ul. Wspólna 63
September 22, 2017–November 18, 2017

Mika Tajima, Force Touch (Manibus, 1), 2017, gold-chromed stainless steel spa jets, fans, MDF, 118 x 165 1/4 x 23 1/2".

Central to Mika Tajima’s current exhibition is Force Touch (Manibus, 1) (all works 2017), a large wall facing the gallery’s street entrance and blowing air from several gold-chromed stainless-steel spa jets. Although these allude to the meridian points of the human body, it is their alternating gushes of air—irresistible to some visitors’ hands—that suggest life energy, in remarkable contrast with the sterile coldness of the white surface. Pranayama, D, a wooden bust reminiscent of a cervical collar and dotted with Jacuzzi jets, stands on a pedestal nearby. The sculpture’s tactile qualities come from its material: smooth, polished wood. In these works, the limbs and idea of skin as surface—implied by the nozzles’ meridian lines—are trapped in the sculptures. A release of pressure is either exemplified by mechanical activation of the wall piece or simply suggested by the sculpture’s perforations.

Alongside these works, four of Tajima’s new additions to her ongoing series “Negative Entropy,” 2012–, render sounds into textile, as spectrograph images that record various sites of industrial production are expressed via a system of colors assigned to areas of jacquard wool. (Argraf, Rapida, Black, Double) and (Argraf, Rapida, Orange, Quad) were created from sonic capture of a book-printing plant in Warsaw that specializes in art publications, and (Digital Ocean NYC2 4U NAS Unit, Pink, Single) from that of a New York data center supporting the digital cloud.

Extending her interests in the mechanics of production and their effect on the human body, the gold, the spa jets, the pixelated textiles, and the wall—all signature elements of Tajima’s vocabulary—impose on the white cube’s stifling postindustrial aesthetic, leaving in their wake an awkward softness.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

“Binet, Divola, & Stoerchle”

Rua da Alegria 41C
November 30, 2017–January 20, 2018

Wolfgang Stoerchle, Wolf’s Master of Fine Arts Show, 1970, 8 mm transferred to digital video, black-and-white, silent, 3 minutes 32 seconds.

Before he became an essential figure of the 1970s Southern California art scene and professor in the legendary Post-Studio program at CalArts, Wolfgang Stoerchle studied painting at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). There, he experimented with a series of performances and videotapes prior to receiving his MFA in 1970. Last year, Alice Dusapin, one of the founders of this cooperative space, unearthed from the artist’s effects a handful of 8-mm films he made during his time at UCSB. In one of the more notable works from this cache, Wolf’s Master of Fine Arts Show, 1970, he jumps through plaster panels and collides with sculptures of his own. And in the archival footage Wolf, Wayne, Robert, eating apples, laughing, 1970, he and two friends appear to break into fits of laughter after eating fruits. Now digitized, these and other films are here either projected upstairs or shown on two TV monitors downstairs. The exhibition is a timely exercise in tiding audiences over, before an upcoming monograph on Stoerchle’s work is published in 2019, as well as an opportune moment to have archival pieces in conversation with the works of two other, living artists.

Next to the monitors are two abstract, black-and-white landscape photographs showing derelict sites with spray-painted marks of shadow and light, both from the 1974 “Vandalism” series by John Divola, a California native and contemporary of Stoerchle. Also hung downstairs are three paintings by Jonathan Binet, two of which are large wooden stretchers with broken panels of painted wood and strips of fabric attached to them (both Untitled, 2017). It is not difficult to imagine Stoerchle running through them.

In its emphasis on objects themselves, the exhibition succeeds in organizing what would seem to be marginal parts of varied artistic histories and narratives into a full statement.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

“Quote / Unquote. Between Appropriation and Dialogue”

Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT)
Av. Brasília, Central Tejo
October 4–February 5

Diogo Pimentão, Documented (Belong #11), 2014, graphite on paper, 47 1/4 x 63 x 9".

In these times of discussing renewable energy, where better to house an exhibition on citation as artistic strategy—the recycling and recuperation of content, in other words—than a former power plant? As part of Lisbon’s Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, the Tejo Power Station ranks among modernity’s most striking monuments, and if it has long been an ideal site to consider the appropriation and reclamation of images, texts, and ideas, such investigations have taken on even more urgency as of late.

Noé Sendas looks at echoes in art-historical contexts when he brings self-portraits of well-known artists together in photo collages: In Picasso & Degas, Raphael & Warhol, Warhol & Sousa, and Nauman & Goya, all 2007, Sendas unites different artistic approaches and periods of time. A high point of this show, which predominantly features work by Portuguese artists, is Documented (Belong #11), 2014, by Diogo Pimentão, for which the artist has reconditioned what appears to be a thick metal sheet into a wave. The darkly shimmering surface of the wall-mounted sculpture recalls Minimalism’s formal experiments. Closer observation, however, reveals that the object is made of paper treated so intensively with graphite that it has acquired a metallic sheen.

Ultimately, the numerous, deft references populating “Quote/Unquote,” and its focus on the many artistic strategies of handling existing images, texts, and ideas, illuminate the capacities of art exhibited in a power station––as motor and driving force, as an ever-revolving energy.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair

Christian García Bello

Galería Formato Cómodo
Calle Lope de Vega 5
September 14, 2017–November 11, 2017

Christian García Bello, Pretérito (Preterite), 2017, oil, graphite, and wax on paper, 5 1/2 x 7".

If Christian García Bello’s second show at this gallery seems to stage no major overhauls of his first, progress nonetheless lies within the reaffirmation of his perseverance. In this light, the exhibition represents a remarkable step forward in his still-young career. Titled, somewhat awkwardly, “Ahora no es pretérito todavía” (Now it is still not the past), the show reflects on how our relationship with time informs our perception of space. His drawings and sculptures share a precise blend of representation and abstraction, mathematical rhetoric and transcendent nebulousness, as he draws from rigorous classical humanism and from hazier Romantic movements in equal measure.

On entering the gallery, one easily detects the relevance of rhythm in his exquisite installation. It stems from a careful study of human proportions in the context of the gallery’s singular architecture. Drawing out our gaze, a vertical wooden form expands toward the wall, punctuated by both drawings and sculptures that share a distinctive ingredient: On all of them, thin layers of wax subtly accumulate to produce dense surfaces with an enthralling aura. They represent architectural motifs as well as shadows and hollow spaces, relentlessly swinging between the tangible and the ethereal. The three wooden sculptures on view are found objects that evolve into abstractions evoking a melancholic sense of longing, while unambiguously reflecting shapes and symbols drawn from traditional art of Galicia. Apathetic toward fuzzy trends and unnegotiably committed to austere formalism, García Bello understands his work as a body of complex textures providing a humble and serene take on the infinite.

Javier Hontoria

Mauro Cerqueira

Galería Heinrich Ehrhardt
San Lorenzo, 11
November 18, 2017–December 28, 2017

View of “Mauro Cerqueira,” 2017.

Anyone familiar with Mauro Cerqueira’s previous work may be surprised by the new route it seems to take in his current show. Known for his critical awareness, his subversion of his hometown of Porto’s raging urban homogenization, Cerqueira makes use of a vast array of found material to assemble installations and sculptures aimed to preserve the memory of his surroundings. He directs gestures of warmth at detritus and derelict spaces in an attempt to sustain that which is ineluctably bound to vanish. Resistance becomes almost literal, as local traditions and personal stories are brought to bear. Inasmuch as he denounces the branding of his city, he makes here a radical turn to similarly elude the commodification of his art.

A stark introspection now underlies Cequeira’s signature analysis of public space, in the form of large format mirrors that register not as paintings but as wall works—and very rough ones too. The mirror’s usual gleaming allure is upset by Cerqueira’s poignant material interventions, which ponder the critical condition to which humankind has driven itself. These are thus powerful yet disquieting images of ourselves. Looking at the works’ hirsute surfaces—created by materials like wax and shellac—seems painful, and viewers’ reflections are entangled in dense colorful wax drips. Candles are regular elements in Porto’s abandoned homes and somber alleys, and we picture Cerqueira observing their slow melt in a pitch-dark studio. If these light sources suggest both enlightenment and mourning, it is the latter governing the show’s atmosphere. A plain mirror near the entrance seems to confirms all our predictions. This is all about us and our role in the entropic forces consuming our cities.

Javier Hontoria

Jasmina Cibic

Acikekran Yeni Medya Sanatları Galerisi
Teşvikiye Cad. Karaosmanoğlu, Apt. No: 37/1
September 12, 2017–November 18, 2017

Jasmina Cibic, The Pavilion, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 6 minutes 43 seconds.

Jasmina Cibic’s work resembles a private eye’s attempt to re-create a crime scene in order to arrive at its punctum—a tell-all feature that pricks in the Barthesian fashion. To this end, she does not actually blend fact and fiction but instead transposes historically and formally related realities.

In the video The Pavilion, 2015, performers restage Dragiša Brašovan’s razzle-dazzle Yugoslavian pavilion from the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition with scaled modular blocks, taking cues from the site plan and the few extant archival photographs of the grand undertaking. For the interior, however, Adolf Loos’s unrealized proposition for Josephine Baker’s Parisian residence (the facade of which would have been, like the pavilion, covered with equally spaced stripes) serves as inspiration. In the video NADA: Act II, 2017, Cibic turns to the appropriation of Béla Bartók’s 1926 pantomime ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin, for the representation of Yugoslavia at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair; though, she does so with a new take on the dance at the aptly midcentury, Arne Jacobsen–designed Aarhus City Hall.

The building is more than a backdrop for the transformation of Bartók’s prostitute—the protagonist—and three pimps into the roles of Mother Nation and politicians: As the gang of three endows the main character with geometric attributes and gets her to wave monochrome flags, the parquet, striped curtains, and wooden and brass details of the setting foster an atmosphere that is benign and even dreamlike. But with the appearance of the stilted, mysterious Mandarin—another character from the ballet, turned into the Architect for Cibic’s scenario—the generously scaled spaces are pared down to nooks and passageways with constricting functionalist proportions. Menaced by the same politicians, the Architect meets his fateful end at a magnificent spiral staircase supported by a single row of pillars, asking, just like Tino Sehgal, if this is what progress is.

Gökcan Demirkazık