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Judy Chicago

Jessica Silverman Gallery
488 Ellis Street
September 8, 2017–October 28, 2017

Judy Chicago, 7AM / Chowtime, 2000, watercolor on arches, 22 x 30".

In this “grab her by the pussy” presidential era, symbolism seems insufficient as protest—and yet it drove the reclamation of a historically derogatory term for female anatomy, giving rise to thousands of pink hats with kitten ears. Likewise, in the works that make up “Judy Chicago’s Pussies,” Chicago explores the iconography of the pussy as both feminine core and feline house pet, channeling wit, fury, and the inherent bodily and metaphysical power of womanhood.

Traditional equivalences between cats and women—both seen as mercurial, manipulative, and cruelly seductive (think “sex kittens”)—are clearly archaic, and yet stereotypically feline qualities, such as feral independence, astute awareness, ferocious (even maternal) protectiveness, suspicious acceptance of domesticity, and, most of all, individualism, align with feminist ideals. Chicago’s cats similarly become analogues to the uniqueness of women. In “Kitty City: A Feline Book of Hours,” 1999–2004, sweetly domestic scenes present the animals as singular characters carrying about their private lives, but also hint at their reserved disquietude toward captivity.

Despite Chicago’s prolific past four decades, this is the artist’s first solo exhibition in San Francisco since The Dinner Party began its world tour at SFMoMA in 1979. This show smartly lays out early works—ceramic plate studies for The Dinner Party and wall-hung images, including the luminous spray-painted grid of Morning Fan, 1971, from Chicago’s “Fresno Fan” series, created after she attended auto-body painting school as the only woman in a class of 250. Her “Potent Pussy” drawings, 1973, meanwhile, are the artist’s first examination of her cats, in which the felines’ irises spiral into hypnotic pupils. Soft-edged and gently gradated though Chicago’s images may be, her decades of work belie the sharpened claws of a pussy that bites back.

Anne Prentnieks

Sean McFarland

Casemore Kirkeby
1275 Minnesota Street, 102
September 9, 2017–October 28, 2017

Sean McFarland, Waterfalls, 2007–17, forty-four dye diffusion transfer prints, 56 x 76''.

Sean McFarland treads lightly through the history of Western landscape photography. In this exhibition, “Echo,” he utilizes the familiar iconography of mountains and waterfalls, but his treatment undermines the presumptions of truth, power, and possession that have long been associated with the genre.

McFarland’s wall installations read as a cross between an artist’s studio and a nineteenth-century laboratory. In the largest of three such groupings here, dozens of Polaroids, tiny cyanotypes, and gelatin silver and ink-jet prints are either framed, affixed to the wall with sewing pins, or housed in handmade paper boxes. In a side gallery, the installation Waterfalls, 2007–17, includes forty-four different images of waterfalls. Another unnamed group features photographs of landscapes or objects made to look like the natural world (his moon images fascinate), then pictures of those pictures, seemingly ad infinitum. This multitude represents a spectrum of distance from primary experience. The copies point in two directions at once: to their own singularity (many are unique prints) and to the original experience that they aim to recreate. In the era of fake news, these images underscore the importance and elusiveness of truth. As Samantha Power, the former US ambassador to the UN, wrote in the New York Times, Americans increasingly question “whether objective facts exist at all,” cautioning that “the sense of an epistemological free-for-all provides an opening to all comers.” In photography, if not politics, we are right to pursue the question of objectivity, especially in images that seem to depict a land open for the taking and receptive to any fantasy that we might subject it to.

Kim Beil

Tania Bruguera

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
June 16, 2017–October 29, 2017

Tania Bruguera, Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version), 2009, mixed media, dimensions variable.

This survey of work created between 1985 and 2017 includes all of what Tania Bruguera calls her long-term projects, which intervene in a sustained way, sometimes for years, with artistic, civic, and economic institutions, to create real alternative models for how power is exercised and circulated. Such projects include Immigrant Movement International (IMI), 2010–, which has resulted in a working think tank, experimental lab for activist practices, and physical community space for refugees and immigrants.

Rather than merely document and circumscribe these activism-oriented performance works in the gallery, many have been updated for current political conditions. For example, IMI finds a new iteration in The Party of Migrant People’s Assembly, 2017, which curates new conversations with Bay Area organizations devoted to immigrants’ rights. Even more ambitiously, the museum has commissioned a fully functioning eight-week alternative art school in one of its main galleries: the Escuela de Arte Útil (School of Useful Art), 2017, organized by Bruguera, which expands and exemplifies her conception of an art that is pragmatic and mobilizing.

The overall effect is of a living, breathing, voracious practice, rather than a contained set of historical artifacts. The careful presentation of the artist’s work also results in set pieces that call for audience activation, as with the staging of Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version), 2009, an open mic that offered a platform for Cuban citizens to talk freely. Its reappearance here is a powerful reminder not just that Bruguera was arrested in 2014 before she could reperform the piece, but that there must be someone to speak in order for it to be realized.

Monica Westin

Zarouhie Abdalian

Altman Siegel
1150 25th Street
November 3, 2017–December 16, 2017

View of “Zarouhie Abdalian: To History,” 2017.

Zarouhie Abdalian’s exhibition “To History” pays tribute to the early industrial laborer, the proletarian figure whom Émile Zola’s novel Germinal (1885) described en masse as an “avenging army” that would soon “overturn the earth.” Abdalian’s offerings here—husks of toilsome manual work—bring a material surrogacy for the miner and the migrant.

A fleet of nicked steel hand tools, all titled brunt (all works 2017), stands positioned on white pedestals. Abdalian’s Hydrocal relief casts, “from chalk mine hollow,” offer a delicate counterpoint, with chisel marks, an occasional dramatic gouge, and speckles of color lifted from a defunct mine, now covered in graffiti, in Tishomingo County, Mississippi. For the immersive sound piece threnody for the millions killed by silicosis, made with Joseph Rosenzweig, the artist learned the technique of knapping, a controlled manual chipping of stone for the purpose of making tools. The clank of lithic instruments resounds across acoustic simulations of a dungeon, cathedral, mine, and factory. Finally, there is “to history,” a series of five burgundy-on-white drawings on cotton, which are rubbings taken from a massive wrecking ball. Scars of impact become sanguine frottage.

Abdalian’s investigation into the haptic and sonic character of industrial labor produces an archaeological aesthetic. It seems more precise, however, to think of her tracings as quasidocumentary interventions that draw attention to extractive practices taking place all over the world, parallel to the rise of automation. In this sense, the show’s dedicatory title speaks in equal measure to the present.

Cora Fisher

“An Idea of a Boundary”

San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery
401 Van Ness Ave.
September 22, 2017–January 20, 2018

View of “An Idea of a Boundary,” 2017.

The title of this group exhibition derives from a passage in Ursula K. Le Guin’s science-fiction novel The Dispossessed (1974) describing a low, unassuming wall that acts as an absolute border between two planets. The ten artists featured here contend with boundaries that delineate both physical and psychological divisions. Several of the modest photographs in Park McArthur’s Leads, 2016, document thresholds at Chisenhale Gallery in London with door saddles that may look innocuous to some, but may be obstacles for people who use wheelchairs. Gina Osterloh’s film Press and Outline, 2014, also engages with the fraught relationship between the body and its surroundings, as the artist slowly traces the periphery of her own shadow on the wall, blurring the line between the tangible self and its fleeting companion.

The urban landscape and its frequent associate—gentrification—factor into several works in the exhibition, including Hannah Ireland’s Carry On/Fall Out/Find Your Place Here, 2017. Seven mesh knapsacks filled with eroding bricks collected from the shore of a San Francisco neighborhood in the process of upheaval are arranged in a line, speaking to the exposed weight of displacement. Two potent works by Davina Semo confront the viewer with archetypal exclusionary barriers. One of them, a stark gray mirror protected by a forbidding steel grate, borrows its title, SHE SAID THAT THE OUTLINES OF THINGS AND PEOPLE WERE DELICATE, THAT THEY BROKE, 2017, from Elena Ferrante’s novel The Story of the Lost Child (2014). Both the work and its title allude to the idea that solid boundaries can easily dissolve, and that spatial distinctions are often more complicated than they seem.

Jeanne Gerrity

John Houck

1401 16th Street
December 13–February 23

View of “John Houck,” 2017

The title of John Houck’s first solo show in San Francisco, “Hands, See Mouth,” refers to a dream he had in which a book’s index featured an entry for “hands” that said to “see mouth,” and vice versa. This circularity is a vivid reality in etymological investigations. Houck suggests perceptual knowledge is equally fraught.

Curated by Jessica Silverman, the show combines work from three series: “Coordinate Systems,” 2016–, as well as “Playing and Reality,” and “Accumulators,” both 2013–. Houck’s art often demands attention to the vagaries of representational depth. These pieces depict colored, creased paper that has been photographed then printed, folded, or turned and photographed again, leaving viewers to puzzle out what is real. The “Accumulator” diptychs invite comparisons between halves, each of which is made from two different hues of paper. Determining which fold came first or how the paper was rotated requires a kind of imaginary orienteering.

Much of Houck’s recent work takes materials from his past as its source. Viewing the layered compositions of “Playing and Reality” feels like opening a flat file and excavating the artist’s history: Paintings, whether exercises in cubism or loose illustrations, are visible beneath piles of colored paper. Can’t Will, 2017, reproduces a painted rendition of one of Houck’s earlier photographs: four hands tying a shoelace.

These photographs allude to the trials of living with the past—difficulties that might also be described as perceptual challenges. How does the living body accommodate memory? How do our current selves fold into their former shapes?

Kim Beil

Cosmo Whyte

Marcia Wood Gallery
263 Walker St SW
October 25, 2017–November 25, 2017

Cosmo Whyte, Stranger than the Village, 2015, C-print, 60 x 40".

In his exhibition “Starting a Bush Fire,” Jamaican-born, Atlanta-based artist Cosmo Whyte presents sculptures made from found materials, photographs, and a series of drawings that circulate around the theme of the dislocated body. Specifically, the artist’s work conjures the history of the displacement of black and brown people from the slave trade, the Great Migration, and the global refugee crisis. Hanging high on the wall in the foyer is Guess Who Is Coming to Dinner, 2017, a collection of orange life jackets thickly adorned with mussel shells. Farther into the space, the arresting photograph Stranger than the Village, 2015, features the back of a black man in a suit, a megaphone balancing on his head of braids. Pinned to his jacket is an image of James Baldwin, also in a suit, looking out at the viewer. A reversal, and a reminder: We must go forward into the future, with the faces of our past champions emblazoned on our backs.

Whereas the sculptures and photographs are more legible in their commentary on race and identity, the series of drawings lining the walls—worked and reworked in charcoal, with several sections of the paper cut like lace or layered with gold leaf—offers a more lyrical meditation. Often, faces of figures are obscured, sometimes by long tendrils of braids, or, in the case of Scalp, 2017, removed almost completely and replaced by a patch of black glitter. Part celebration, part consternation, the exhibition is dazzling in its ability to render the emotional complexity of diaspora. Like the crier who both belongs to the village and is apart from it, Whyte proclaims the news of the day, even to what denies him community.

Katie Geha

Jennifer Packer

The Renaissance Society
5811 South Ellis Avenue, Cobb Hall, 4th floor
September 9, 2017–November 5, 2017

Jennifer Packer, Cumulative Losses, 2012–17, oil on canvas, 72 x 38".

The hands in Jennifer Packer’s paintings are what stay with me. Graceful and obdurate, elegant and knotted, these hands bear strange relationships with their owners, floating into distinct view as the rest of the figure recedes among paint dribbles and hazy skeins of color. In Cumulative Losses, 2012–17, a billiard player lines up a shot, his left hand resting on the table surface like a rough, blotchy creature readying itself to pounce. A still, almost regal man sinks into a luscious red in Jerriod, 2017, his palms resting on a chair’s arms, fingers hanging loose in sinuous quiescence. These hands have a presence and dignity to them that seems to speak to the core of Packer’s practice, which presents black subjects as monolithic yet strangely diffuse. Her images emerge as forms wed together through painterly suggestion rather than hard-edged detail, imparting an ineffable vulnerability while still insisting on the figure’s matter.

This sensitivity is again engaged in the artist’s rapturous yet elegiac paintings of funeral bouquets. If reference to a concordance of opposites seems like a motif at this point, it is due to the deeply affecting and somehow achingly sad way the artist renders these objects and figures in exquisite dashes of color and darkness. Say Her Name, 2017, the largest of the flower paintings on view, is exemplary of this paradoxical beauty, its gloomy, viscous greens giving way to bright punches of pink, peach, and periwinkle blue.

Dan Jakubowski

David Schutter

Rhona Hoffman Gallery
118 North Peoria Street
October 21, 2017–December 9, 2017

David Schutter, ANB M 109 1a, 2017, oil on canvas, 24 x 17".

David Schutter’s three grayish paintings, all titled with variations of ANB M 109 (all works 2017), seem to turn their backs on the viewer, showing hardly any articulation or contrast. Once adjusted to the dark surfaces, though, one can discern some color in the mix, as well as a painterly hand at work. With time, distinctions appear between gestures, movements, lighter patches against dark: Is that a head, a ghostlike appearance, or just a wiped surface? A white-on-white silverpoint, Study Sheet for ANB M 109 1, executed blindly, completes the show, assuring us that the overall focus of these works is the borders of what is visible.

The artist is a painter who studies the medium, referencing from memory his careful observations of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century paintings in his own work. A single nocturnal scene by Adolph Menzel from 1852, depicting the artist’s studio with a skull and arm casts reaching from the wall, served as Schutter’s inspiration. The artist is a skeptic in his refusal to show a clear subject matter or render it in a defined expression. He prefers the intangible, the veiled, or the invisible. And yet he is also a romantic for his meticulous dedication to old masters, to the point that genius and absurdity begin to compete throughout his work. He insists on painting as an act of perception that requires sensitivity to nuance and subtle gradations of light and color. Hiding in gray, he could be called a colorist in denial. After surrendering to the darkness, multicolor spectacles shine through.

Jurriaan Benschop

“Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place”

Denver Art Museum
100 West 14th Avenue Pkwy
February 19, 2017–October 22, 2017

Jaime Carrejo, One-Way Mirror, 2017, two-channel HD video, tinted acrylic, paint, 5 minutes 38 seconds.

The show’s thirteen artists inhabit a dual space straddling the US–Mexico border: All either split their time between the two countries or have immigrated from one side to the other. Asked to engage with the idea of home, the artists present simultaneously personal and political works; issues of identity, social justice, and history all coalesce in this multifaceted and complex exhibition.

In One-Way Mirror, 2017, Jaime Carrejo projects two videos—one of the Mexican landscape shot from El Paso, and one of El Paso as seen from Mexico—on the acutely angled walls of a cavernous passageway. Bisecting the projections, a surface of tinted acrylic both obscures and reveals the scenes behind it, evoking the sense of limited access and desire inherent in the borderland experience. Some artists in “Mi Tierra” collaborated with Denver’s immigrant population: Daniela Edburg’s knitted Alpaca wool reproductions of local rocks, grasses, and lichen accompany photographs of Denver residents styled after Hans Holbein paintings, while Daisy Quezada combines porcelain castings of clothing—much of it worn by recent immigrants either during or after border crossings—with sound recordings of narrated migration experiences. Sometimes abstraction conveys notions of place and identity: In Xochi Solis’s large-scale collages, solid colors and imagery from books and magazines together become a metaphor for lives formed by multiple national identities or environments. In Gabriel Dawe’s Plexus No. 36, 2016, thousands of threads form a gossamer prism spanning an entire gallery wall. Inspired by the strict gender binaries governing Dawe’s own boyhood in Mexico (he was not allowed to sew as a child), the work exuberantly celebrates transcending cultural limitations.

It’s tempting to remark on the timeliness of a show featuring work that confronts issues surrounding immigration and identity during such a contentious period in United States history. But one should also note that the exhibited artists’ practices predate the election—and these concerns have informed their work long before the rest of the country awoke (or were reawakened) to their importance.

Chelsea Weathers

Gabriel Martinez

Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston
120 Fine Arts Building
October 28–January 27

View of “Gabriel Martinez: Everything Turns Away Quite Leisurely,” 2018. From left: American Bond, 2017; Wildcat Strike, 2017.

In Gabriel Martinez’s first solo museum exhibition, a polished veneer and meticulous structuring allow his beautiful objects to pass as Minimalist art––yet a deeper examination reveals biting commentary and sharp sociopolitical analyses of contemporary American urbanism.

The artist’s practice is grounded in interventions he undertook on city streets over the past fifteen years. In one, Martinez cleared a delimited area of all paper trash and then re-created the refuse in white card stock in his studio, eventually returning the fabricated versions to the same location; in Ghost Trash, 2005–18, similar white paper objects litter the floor of the gallery. For another project begun in 2005, he arranged glass shards from car wrecks into squares at the various accident sites; in The Long Poem of Walking, 2017, these shards have been organized into a bar-graph-like grid across the floor. This grid format appears in other pieces too, such as the hand-sewn quilt Differential, 2017, constructed using mechanic’s rags from his stepfather’s gas station.

Transpositions and re-creations are recurrent strategies for Martinez, as in American Bond, 2017, for which a discarded Pullman brick was pulverized to a powder and applied to a stretched canvas without fixative. Untitled (Eisenhower Interstate System), 2017, features a series of three polished-steel mirrors in the shape of abstracted highway signs that reference the federal government’s role in moving development away from easily targeted dense central cities during the Cold War. The artist creates meaning from his attention to materials, navigating weighty issues of urban planning, decay, and dispossession with a light yet conceptually rigorous touch.

John Pluecker

Mona Hatoum

The Menil Collection
1533 Sul Ross Street
October 13–February 25

Mona Hatoum, Homebound (detail), 2000, kitchen utensils, furniture, electric wire, light bulbs, dimmer unit, amplifier, and two speakers, dimensions variable.

The first survey of Beirut-born Mona Hatoum’s work in a United States museum in twenty years is revelatory and destabilizing. Curator Michelle White has organized more than twenty major sculptures and installations and dozens of smaller pieces and works on paper made since the 1980s in several galleries and among the museum’s collection. The exhibition foregrounds Hatoum’s ability to shift the scale and materials of familiar and oftentimes domestic objects (hair, light bulbs, and cheese graters, but also grenades and maps) in a manner that suggests a relationship both to Surrealist pieces hanging nearby and to her biography—at the onset of the Lebanese Civil War, in 1975, she settled in London—while also casting a broader chill.

Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma” includes the artist’s well-known works featuring weapons and maps. Consider Misbah, 2006–2007, a darkened room illuminated by lamps found in mosques and homes, though here decorative cutouts include representations of gun-toting soldiers. The region’s cartography is memorably presented in 3-D Cities, 2008–2009, here on study tables with circular areas partially excised, as if depicting explosions.

Hatoum’s larger installations evoke universal dangers. La Grande Broyeuse (Mouli-Julienne x 17), 1999—a hand-cranked food mill fabricated seventeen times its normal size—towers over and menaces the body. In Homebound, 2000, an entire room is caged off by wires, installed with institutional furniture (chairs, table, crib, bed) linked by cables powering bare bulbs and crackling with electricity. A haunting piece sits in a corner: The tilted frame of a steel wheelchair is spiked at the handles, endangering would-be patients and caretakers alike (Untitled (wheelchair II), 1999). In Hatoum’s world, threats are everywhere, and even the home is terra infirma.

Kate Green

David Lamelas

University Art Museum (UAM) at California State University
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
September 17, 2017–December 10, 2017

Sprüth Magers | Los Angeles
5900 Wilshire Boulevard
September 7–October 21

View of “David Lamelas: Time As Activity,” 2017. From left: Time as Activity Madrid, 2017; Time as Activity Düsseldorf, 1969.

The paragraphs-long labels that accompany the many works in David Lamelas’s retrospective at California State University, Long Beach, some on display for the first time in the US, point to an artistic career of heady investigations into visual hermeneutics. Spurred on by the works of media theorists (Marshall McLuhan), structuralist thinkers (Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss), and novelists (Marguerite Duras), Lamelas constructs pieces that unfold over time—requiring both patience and thought from a viewer. Slide projectors accompany a short film in Film Script (Manipulation of Meaning), 1972, ultimately complicating the narrative by providing a detour from the film’s seductive continuity. Works such as Los Angeles Friends (Larger Than Life), 1976—comprising forty pencil drawings and a slideshow—and the book Publication, 1970/97, showcase the artist’s dry humor and proves he is deeply embedded in international Conceptual art networks.

At Sprüth Magers, various excerpts are presented from Lamelas’s ongoing series “Time as Activity,” 1969–. Each piece is a study in film, sometimes with accompanying photographs, of the passage of time. For the initial work, Time as Activity Düsseldorf, 1969, the artist trained a 16-mm camera on three areas of the German city’s commercial and artistic life. He made the claim that “what occurs on the screen has no aesthetic meaning,” but, as the series progressed, aesthetics became inevitably drawn into the fray. This is also the case in Time as Activity Madrid, 2017, wherein Lamelas, working digitally this time, recorded visitors viewing Picasso’s Guernica, 1937, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Nearly a half century separates these meditations on daily pursuits in politically tumultuous times, and still, we find ourselves making our way—morning, noon, and night. As these two shows demonstrate, Lamelas continues to be not only an adroit deconstructionist of images but a great believer in them as well.

Andy Campbell

William Cordova

Marfa Contemporary
100 East San Antonio St.
October 6, 2017–December 22, 2017

View of “William Cordova: ankaylli: spatial and ideological terrain,” 2017.

The handwritten words “collection of narrative bits” appear in the lower left corner of a collage from a suite of ten, titled untitled (constellations), 2017. Seemingly innocuous, this phrase suggests a through line for William Cordova’s dense installation of paintings, drawings, collages, found objects, books, photographs, sculptures, video, and sound works, all conjoined by massive spiral-shaped scaffolding built from two-by-fours. The motif of the spiral repeats in the grooves of an LP containing field recordings the artist captured in Chicago at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the Young Lords People’s Church. For Cordova, the two sites are examples of efforts to join architecture and spirituality, a tradition he traces back to Aztec and Andean building practices. In an alcove of the gallery, the video calle luna calle sol (ai apaec yemayá watatsumi) (moon street sun street [ai apaer yemayá watasumi]), 2017, features the coast of Barranco in Lima, Peru, a sacred site for Andeans as well as a possible precolonial trade route between Asia and the Americas. Each work in this exhibition contains layers of referents and histories, some of which may only be recognizable depending on one’s own personal and cultural background.

The project extends beyond the space of the gallery: Cordova worked with local residents to create concrete spheres, which contain their personal items, that are placed strategically throughout sites in Marfa to mimic the shape of the Big Dipper. These, like all the components of the show, make up one sliver of a multidimensional universe, its points of access and interchange constantly shifting.


Chelsea Weathers

Pepe Mar

Locust Projects
3852 North Miami Avenue
November 18, 2017–January 20, 2018

View of “Pepe Mar: Man of the Night,” 2017.

In this modestly sized project gallery, Miami-based artist Pepe Mar manages to present a survey of colorful assemblages and collages made over the last fifteen years as well as new work. The past and present blur here. Mar’s approach to this compilation is not straightforward: He has digitally reconstructed images of his previous pieces and printed them onto large, irregular pieces of fabric that were then stitched together, stained, and often appliquéd. The overall composition becomes the installation’s walls, from which pipelike forms, also covered in fabric, intertwine and spill out onto the floor.

The installation Man of the Night, 2017, veers between evoking nostalgia and eagerness for an incipient future—and not just in the context of Mar’s practice. For instance, strewn throughout the installation are ephemera such as a flyer found in the collage Post no bills, 2017, from parties at queer clubs in San Francisco and Miami that the artist frequented. For Mar, these were sanctuaries, many of which are no longer around. His installation effectively brings into being a material world that embodies the camaraderie he felt in those sites.

The lack of space to amble in the galley nudges viewers into the aforementioned soft sculptural forms, and in this way, they find themselves drawn into the installation and, by extension, the artist’s world. Even a lone person here is hardly isolated.

Alpesh Kantilal Patel

Christina Quarles

David Castillo Gallery
420 Lincoln Road
December 5–January 31

Christina Quarles, Yer Tha Sun in my Mourning Babe, 2017
, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 72".

About half of Los Angeles–based artist Christina Quarles’s thirteen canvases here are horizontally arranged. All from this year, the works range in size from three to five feet in height and four to six feet in width, and each typically includes two largely abstract bodies, which seem to bend and twist improbably around various forms. While the figures are not gendered or raced, an exploration of identity politics forms an undercurrent in the works, perhaps most evident in their titles, such as Tell Me Tell Me Yull Be Alright, When Yer in Tha Shade. Like that of the exhibition itself, the title alludes to a written and spoken vernacular and, by extension, issues of class.

Quarles’s approach is to focus on the phenomenological, or the blurring of subjects and objects, but she never eschews tension or even violence, however implicit and muted. For instance, the works Double Down and Flopped Over n’ Bent Into Two depict the performative actions to which the titles allude. In the former, two planar forms bisect the picture plane: One is solid white, while the other appears to be liquid, composed of brushes of gray-black acrylic paint suffused with different values of magentas and yellows. In the latter, a plane of earth and flowers, which appears in many pieces, separates the canvas. In both, figures’ limbs seem simultaneously trapped by these forms and able to puncture them: Liberation and imprisonment blur.

Alpesh Kantilal Patel

Dave Muller

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Avenue South
December 23, 2016–December 3, 2017

View of “Now Where Were We?,” 2016–17.

At first glance, the striking white band that skirts Dave Muller’s vast, colorful murals in this exhibition gives the impression of an orderly timeline. But one soon realizes that all of art’s history and geography is disarranged in his mixtape of a show, “Now Where Were We?,” in which objects from the museum’s permanent collection are paired with the artist’s renderings of items from the pop-cultural everyday: among them, a disco ball, hockey pucks, a smiley face, and a rainbow flag. The painted text provides the viewer only the barest of bearings within three galleries organized around the themes of people, places, and things.

The show’s gambit, prompted by curator Gabriel Ritter, offered Muller a chance to show and pair works in unusual ways, and the artist’s disregard for conventional typologies is alternately aggravating and disarming. A Chinese landscape scroll painting faces off with Muller’s rendering of Mount Rushmore. A formalist array of Asian, African, and Pacific Islander masks rehearses curatorial history’s past mistakes, and an otherwise compelling sculpture by Daniel Buren is decoratively subsumed within Muller’s overall design. Animating Muller’s visual playlist are irreverent, playful works by Nick Cave, Jim Nutt, Frank Gaard, and Andy DuCett alongside standout pieces such as Minneapolis artist Cy Thao’s painted illustration of the Hmong migration, an immense landscape by Alfred Leslie, and Viola Frey’s monumental ceramic of a determined female Atlas cradling the world in one hand.

As a means of activating previously sleepy galleries, the installation is a brilliant move. Muller’s problematic, equal-opportunity decontextualization holds critique at bay by hewing to its musical analogy; as a curatorial model, the audiophile’s eclectic taste and benevolent appreciation works well for an encyclopedic museum’s mainstream crowds. Furthermore, it is an installation one cannot unsee. After the walls are painted over and the exhibition becomes embedded in the institution’s history, its candy-colored aura will haunt future shows staged there.

Natilee Harren

Dawn Cerny

Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
October 28–February 11

View of “Dawn Cerny,” 2018.

Dawn Cerny’s recent sculptures rise with the elegance of Chinese scholars’ rocks—contemplatively crannied and eccentric—but the nature they embody is a domestic one. The artist’s wheeled monoliths are enchanting interpretations of household furnishings: bookshelves, credenzas, armchairs. Cerny explores the body’s relationship to furniture as an extension of human movement—particularly that of the parental body, engaged in a continuous stream of repetitive, improvised adaptations. The sculptures’ wonkiness invokes the humor and stickiness of parenting and life in general, which, Cerny suggests, is a lot like vaudeville: The banana peel always wins. Sense and beauty emerge through each day’s absurdities and surprises.

The works declare themselves quickly in bright monochromatic colors: green apple, Aegean sky, and turmeric yellow. Cerny slathers paint over facets of wood, paper, and cardboard, among other materials, a process that results in variably thick, almost fuzzy surfaces that feel plush and approachable. Lerágafrøgmer; our first nice thing together. A fight in Ikea, 2015, reads like a mutating letter sorter or Japanese Netsuke cabinet. At three distinct edges of the movable sculpture, Cerny has left bits of raw wood that suggest handles, inviting interaction and performance. While the work possesses many potentially usable cubbies, closer inspection suggests fragility; the work flips between fanciful utility and porous purposelessness. Blue structure for things and house keys, 2016, sports a raw clay dish for remembering life’s bits and bobs. Each sculpture in the exhibition extends itself into the quotidian with humorous grace. This is work that isn’t too proud to be loved.

Stephanie Snyder

“Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas”

3824 Main Street
September 16–February 4

Rigo 23, Autonomous Intergalactic Space Program, 2009–, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

One of the most refreshing facets of “Mundos Alternos” is its inclusion of artists from states and territories outside the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA paradigm—Puerto Rico, Texas, New Mexico, and New York—introducing the work of dynamic artists such as Hector Hernandez to California audiences. Made with pieces of brightly colored fabric and natural gusts of wind, Hernandez’s photographs Bulca, 2015, and Sound of Winter, 2014, image what the artist terms “hyperbeasts,” inhuman creatures with no discernable gender. Costuming as worlding is a happy constant throughout the exhibition, apparent in the dazzling garments of Mundo Meza, Robert “Cyclona” Legorreta, Carmelita Tropicana, LA VATOCOSMICO c-s, Guadalupe Maravilla, Luis Valderas, and the AZTLAN Dance Company. As with any good show about science fiction, there are also flying spacecrafts of all kinds, featured in Gyula Kosice’s video The Hydrospatial City, 2003, Beatriz Cortez’s virtuosic steel and video work Memory Insertion Capsule, 2017, and Glexis Novoa’s quiet graphite-on-marble drawing, Benares (The Last Photograph), 2013.

Rigo 23’s planetarium, Autonomous Intergalactic Space Program, 2009–, has particular gravitas and is worth special mention, for it was developed in coordination with the Good Government Junta of Morelia, Chiapas, in Mexico. Many of the themes and symbols in this piece derive from the antiglobalization efforts and imagery of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation; snails, ears of corn with masked Zapatista faces on their kernels, and multiheaded beasts representing capitalism abound. A small-format painting installed near the end of Rigo 23’s installation reads: “QUEREMOS IN MUNDO DONDE QUEPAN MUCHOS MUNDOS” (We want a world where many worlds are possible). This exhibition handily fans that desire, thereby providing one of the most thoughtful and engrossing exhibitions to come out of PST: LA/LA.

Andy Campbell

Amalia Pica

The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West
September 29, 2017–December 31, 2017

View of “Amalia Pica: ears to speak of,” 2017.

Amalia Pica plays with the basic coordinates of sculpture here, presenting monumental objects with opulent volume but no mass, and small prostrate forms that are weighty but seem visually buoyant due to their surface treatment. In the first of these categories is Ears, 2017, cardboard reconstructions of derelict satellite dishes and other antiquated acoustic instruments that the artist found in the British county of Kent. The original mechanisms were built in the early twentieth century to detect sonic harbingers of incoming aircrafts, but they were quickly rendered obsolete by newer technological advances. Pica’s versions are large enough to dominate the space of the gallery, though their lightweight material gives them a fragile, provisional quality that evokes the accelerated obsolescence that befell their progenitors. One Ear in particular resembles a ruined and abandoned Greek amphitheater, while another is large enough to be a throne for a classical god.

The other four works on display, all part of Pica’s series “In Praise of Listening,” 2016, take hearing aids as their model, though the artist inflates their size to that of a small engine. Carved out of soapstone, granite, and marble, the forms evince a hollow flimsiness due to their polished, plastic-like exterior, even as their matter lends them great density. Blown-up to this preposterous size and connected by transparent plastic tubing, these strange objects lose all similarity to their minute forebears. They sprawl across the floor like discarded apparatuses in some posthuman landscape, their purpose forgotten.

Dan Jakubowski

Théo Mercier

Berlín 37, Col. Juárez
November 10, 2017–January 13, 2018

View of “Théo Mercier: Phantom Legacy,” 2017.

The title of Théo Mercier’s first solo exhibition in Mexico, “Phantom Legacy,” refers to relics of a time that never existed. The show largely features more than a dozen assemblages made by the Mexico City–based artist during a residency at the gallery this year, which overlapped with the city’s devastating earthquake in September. The concerns of Mercier’s work, such as conflating the aesthetics of archeology with those of contemporary art, as well as the precariousness of objects, find added poignancy in the timing of this show.

After a renovation of the gallery, the artist took the debris of the original ceiling to create a rubble floor that crunches under one’s feet, in what is meant to add a performative element to the show. It could have been read as a heavy-handed gesture, given recent events, in a less cohesive installation. But Mercier wryly mirrors the pervasive cultural impulse to piece things back together.

In the first room, he exhibits an untitled 2017 series of plinths piled with stone, building materials, and constructed artifacts, presenting works as if they were historical relics, but rendered in the tranquil, easily digested pastels of trendy au courant design. Though shown individually, like totems, the sculptural array resembles a cityscape consisting of materials such as brick and the pink marble common in local apartment complexes, many studded with faux pre-Hispanic artifacts. This subtle sense of humor buoys works throughout the display. In the next room, one walks among a handful of similar pieces, crowding with them instead of beholding them. Mercier’s practice describes a world falsely assembled from the past and present; ironically, it looks much like the masks we put over just about everything.

Alexandra Pechman

Héctor Zamora

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey (MARCO)
Zuazua y Padre Jardón
September 1, 2017–January 7, 2018

Héctor Zamora, Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progress), 2017, video, color, sound, 3 minutes 4 seconds.

In “Re/Vuelta,” his first retrospective in Mexico, Héctor Zamora presents a selection of twenty-four works, including installations, architectural models, photographs, videos, a live performance, documentation of performances, and sculptures. The Spanish word revuelta refers to both a riot and a revolt, and—with the addition of the slash—to a “re/turn,” signifying a return for the artist to questions around labor that frequently emerge in his work and to his native country.

By focusing on manual production, Zamora here proffers an incisive critique of the changes brought on by the expansion of neoliberal capitalism. Particularly effective is his use of short videos to document public actions from the past, as in O Abuso da História (The Abuse of History), 2014, in which dozens of potted tropical plants are thrown out the windows of a colonial mansion to shatter and accumulate on the ground below, and Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progress), 2017, in which immigrant workers from former Portuguese colonies destroy wooden boats installed in a museum.

Though Zamora has exhibited internationally—including at the Venice Biennale in 2009—he is perhaps best known for his 2004 work Paracaidista (Urban Squatter), a parasitic structure that he built on the facade of the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil in Mexico City. In the last room of this exhibition, we find the platforms and structures used for the performance work, Re/Vuelta, 2017, which featured dozens of local percussionists rhythmically mashing nieve de garrafa, a traditional Mexican ice cream. The piece’s carnivalesque atmosphere—characteristic of the show as a whole—is a reminder that a return to traditional materials and processes need not be staid or tired, but instead could be just the revolt required to upend market-based logic.

John Pluecker