Kudzanai Chiurai

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
V&A Waterfront, Silo District, S Arm Road
September 22–March 31

View of “Kudzanai Chiurai: Regarding the Ease of Others,” 2017. Center: “Conflict Resolution,” 2012.

“You can’t escape politics,” Kudzanai Chiurai once said to CNN, not that anyone who has followed his meteoric rise to fame would ever accuse him of skirting the issues. Since gaining notoriety (and status as a political exile) for an incendiary portrait of Robert MugabeAbuse of Power, 2009—the thirty-six-year-old Zimbabwean multimedia artist has galvanized contemporary African artists to engage such thorny subjects as corruption, xenophobia, and internecine conflict. His arresting exhibition at this newly inaugurated institution, Cape Town’s first museum of contemporary art, brings together key bodies of work from the past decade or so, including excerpts from his 2012 series “Conflict Resolution” that were shown at Documenta 13.

In what might be a reference to Susan Sontag’s 2003 book on war photography, Regarding the Pain of Others, the show’s title, “Regarding the Ease of Others,” alerts us to the indivisible problem of subjectivity. Like Sontag, Chiurai is concerned with the gendered authorship of history and constructs alternative narratives. His glossy, highly stylized tableaux of fictional militant groups, where women are illustrated as central figures of influence, shine a light on the typically masculine poetics of power and war. Shrewd and often humorous lithographs and photographs of fictional African leaders in his series “Dying to Be Men,” 2009, and “Revelations,” 2011, explore what one might call the iconography of despotism—corybantic warlords and politicians replete with AK-47s, gold chains, and fur coats.

The selection of videos, photographs, drawings, posters, and paintings presented in this survey mount a sustained critique of the Christian and colonial narratives that still mark the political, economic, and social conditions of present-day southern Africa; together, they offer a coruscating meditation on power, paternalism, and patriarchy, while reflecting on symbols of democracy—and their misappropriation.

Genevieve Allison

“Trip of the Tongue”

Simon Lee | Hong Kong
12 Pedder Street, 304, 3F The Pedder Building
September 22–October 27

Elaine Cameron-Weir, Vault (detail), 2017, Stainless steel, dental phantom, rawhide, heating mantle, transformer, glass, and labdanum resin, 74 x 15 x 11".

For her first show in Asia, curator Piper Marshall brings together works by five artists, including painting, sculpture, drawing, and photography. Titled “Trip of the Tongue,” a layered malapropism of the idiom “slip of the tongue,” the exhibition sets out to explore the problem of language through pieces that manipulate, even celebrate, the deficiencies of human expression and perception.

The show is rigorously coherent, featuring a through line of dental imagery that, along with the tongue, constantly draws viewers’ attention back to the mouth, that imperfect instrument of language. Judith Bernstein’s charcoal text works provide the exhibition’s pivot. The titular word in Brain, 1995, barely legible through the artist’s frenetic scrawl, hangs opposite that of Teeth, 1995, whose forceful lines are more clearly defined. Here is the chaos of the mind, controlled—untidily—by the filter of speech.

But teeth do not merely enable or represent communication. Their shape, size, and color, for example, can indicate a person’s class and culture, or a period’s social and aesthetic ideals. Elaine Cameron-Weir’s fascinating stainless-steel sculpture Vault, 2017, includes an altered dental phantom—a nightmarish model of the human jaw used in the early 1900s for training dentists. If there is an eerie allure to Cameron-Weir’s piece, it is echoed in Torbjørn Rødland’s photograph Enamel Floor, 2015. The vignette depicts dental prostheses alongside a swirl of ribbon or bandage. Both artists take the perfection inherent to a model or mold and, through their interpretations, make it perverse.

Samantha Kuok Leese

Yokohama Triennale 2017: “Islands, Constellations, & Galapagos”

Yokohama Museum of Art
3-4-1, Minatomirai, Nishi-Ku
August 4–November 5

Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall
1-6 Hon-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa
August 4–November 5

Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse No.1
〒231-0001 Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Naka-ku, Shinkō, 一丁目1
August 4–November 5

The Propeller Group, AK-47 vs. M16, 2015, fragments of AK-47 and M16 bullets, ballistics gel, vitrine, single-channel digital video. Installation view, 2017.

With thirty-eight artists and two collectives represented, the 2017 Yokohama Triennale is kitted out in cheap plywood scaffolding and furniture, courtesy of architect Teppei Fujiwara, in aid of its mission to tackle flotsam, jetsam, and aftermath. The show holds all this up as if to query whether, in a future comprising a bit of land, some people, and quite a lot of ocean and trash, we might want to prepare ourselves ahead of time and learn how to read today’s excess and tragedy to anticipate tomorrow’s reality and refuse.

Reappearances and returns make a strong case here for a circulation that fosters less redundancy and more contextual elaboration. The collective Don’t Follow the Wind, whose inaccessible, Fukushima-based 2015 group exhibition has been written about before in these pages, is now made accessible via A Walk in Fukushima, 2016–17, a 360-degree video experience of what has been, since the 2011 nuclear-plant disaster, an uninhabitable area, with crafty headsets made in collaboration with artist Bontaro Dokuyama and three generations of a Japanese family who live in a zone deemed “safe to live” by the government but still subject to restrictions due to its proximity to a radioactive locale. Fresh off its turn in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s video The Island, 2017, shows up next to an array of works by the Propeller Group, a collective of which Nguyen is a principal member (a context that American audiences might have benefitted from knowing about). The Group offers AK-47 vs. M16, 2015: fragments of bullets from both weapons encased in ballistics gel, protected by a vitrine, as well as a digital video of the same and a surreal series from 2013 of oil- and embroidery-on-canvas portraits of Lenin as various Leonardo DiCaprio–played characters in Hollywood studio pictures of recent vintage.

Artworks are shot through real-life channels and media streams, taking damage and inflection as they pass on. See Japanese artist Mr.’s anime-girl—a superior technology if there ever was one—installation extravaganza My Apologies, 2017, which brings out the latent apocalyptic timbre of a shy geek’s fantasy, complete with a Giacometti-esque statue of a kawaii miss. Ai Weiwei (I know, I know) puts in his two cents via Safe Passage, 2016, two columns wrapped with life jackets—recovered from actual refugees fleeing regional destabilization, though whether the items hail from the successfully emigrated or the lost at sea seems intentionally ambiguous—looming outside a large window of the Yokohama Museum, perhaps the most drastic image of recycling attempted in a triennial yet.

Paige K. Bradley

Etti Abergel

Bar David Museum for Jewish Art and Judaica
Kibbutz Baram
February 25–October 31

View of “Archaeology of Others,” 2017.

For nearly four decades, Etti Abergel has been investigating and expressing a lineage of exile: Her parents, who were born in Morocco and fled to Israel in the late 1940s and 1950s, have struggled with their new location and identity. A sense of estrangement has been passed down to Abergel, despite her being born and raised in the Jewish state. Her current exhibition is a parting ceremony from her migrant identity.

A wooden bridge leads viewers through the length of the gallery. Without a real aim or purpose, the bridge, decorated with metal-can mobiles and plastic tote bags—materials the artist associates with migration and adaptation—directs the viewer to a wooden cabin. Titled Transitional Cell, 2017, this small meditative space seems to be a place for rituals. In it is a plaster-casted floor pillow installed near a large industrial porcelain plate, while the cell’s roof is partially covered with twigs taken from the artist’s hometown, Tivon. Portions of the walls are covered with expressive black vertical lines that look like scratches and feel like a silent scream.

Numerous items are housed within Library of Objects, 2017, a large shelving unit. Some, such as Footstool, 2015, and Knot, 2003, are taken from Abergel’s previous shows. Together, the works in this library offer a sense of fragility and obstruction: A broken bowl covered with plaster, ballpoint pens tied into a delicate nest-like structure, and dice trapped in plaster and placed under a glass cup are also on view. The exhibition concludes in the museum’s small archeological room, where Tape Measures, 2017, a chandelier of measuring tapes, hangs from the ceiling, as if scaling the artist’s virtues. It is a symbolic form of contemplation about one’s past choices, faith, and paths.

Naomi Lev

Jacob Hashimoto

Leila Heller Gallery | Dubai
Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
September 21–November 4

Jacob Hashimoto, The Eclipse (detail), 2017, cotton, paper, bamboo, silk-screen print, dimensions variable. Installation view.

The Eclipse, 2017, a large-scale installation of black and white paper circles, dangles from the gallery’s ceiling in a heavy cloud formation. This fragile work offers a soft shadow play that belies its ominous presence. The undulating mass seems to hang in wait: It is both menacing and beckoning. It is a monumental embodiment of the sublime—terrifyingly beautiful—and also indicates Jacob Hashimoto’s inclination toward the technological age.

The rest of the works in this exhibition present an aggressive aesthetic dissonance that interrupts any individual narrative. Across two of the three gallery halls, a series of mostly small rectangular wall reliefs of frenetic layers of lurid polygons portrays patterns, clouds, and trees that evoke overcrowded metropolises and a deep, discombobulating dive into pixelated TV displays. These pieces, moreover, recall frozen chromatic shards of information on screens, perhaps in the midst of self-destruction. They are sedated only by Hashimoto’s use of thread to suspend the delicate paper forms and harness their energy.

Hashimoto’s offering of dueling digital-analog experiences may feel like a threshold rife with an addictive feeling—all dopamine-inducing fun and games—but The Eclipse still looms in the corner. It is a reminder of the threat of unpredictability and of technology’s capacity to reproduce, replace, and, ultimately, erase.

Katrina Kufer

Ross Manning

Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
420 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley
August 5–October 28

Ross Manning, Bricks and Blocks, 2016, LCD TV, video camera, fluorescent lights, mirror, dimensions variable.

In this mid-career survey of Brisbane artist Ross Manning, everyday electronics—along with their prescribed, ubiquitous purposes—are deconstructed to show the fundamental wonders of light, movement, and sound. Many works brilliantly exploit the mechanics and science behind analog projectors, giving (a nearly obsolete) technology new life as kinetic sculptures and immersive installations. In the first room, the artist has constructed Spectra XIII, 2017, a free-hanging, kinetic assemblage of small electrical fans, connected to and propelling fluorescent lights that softly oscillate in opposing directions. The lights are colored to represent the basic additive RGB and CMYK color models of video screens. As a result of the sculpture’s movements, the fluorescent colors continuously mix on the surrounding walls, floor, and ceiling, mimicking in a rudimentary way the formulae used by color television.

Ross Manning’s practice spans visual art and experimental music. This exhibition, which mainly demonstrates Manning’s manipulation of modern electronics’ visual properties, also includes Wave Opus III, 2017, a large-scale percussion instrument made from a curtain of hanging aluminum tubes. Given its own room with spectator seating, this instrument-cum-artwork is operated by a mechanized rope that strikes the chimes, creating sounds that echo around the gallery space. On a grand scale, the pleasure of “Dissonant Rhythms” comes from the change of pace it offers: More often than not, technology is something one must keep up with or even anticipate, but Manning’s work encourages an audience to pause and simply appreciate what they already have.

Emily Wakeling

Hilarie Mais

Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia
140 George Street, The Rocks
September 23–November 19

View of “Hilarie Mais,” 2017.

The work of Leeds-born, Sydney-based artist Hilarie Mais is minimal and meaningful. Since the 1970s, she has achieved renown both for creating painstakingly handcrafted abstract structures that study the aesthetic possibilities of geometrical shapes, and for embedding her work with autobiographical facts. Throughout history, circles and spirals have been related to life cycles and energies, just as grids have been linked to rationality. These connotations are present in “Tempus,” an ongoing series of monochromatic and multifocal constructions that the artist has created yearly since 2006. Particularly effective is Tempus 4, 2010, a palimpsest-like piece in which light and dark dots of different sizes form spiral and gridded patterns on a gray background.

Duality is also present in Mais’s “Mist,” 2010–12, a series of intricate grid constructions made of wooden sticks which are irregularly intersected by painted lines and patterns. There is a nuanced repetition in them that evokes perfection and predictability, but their organic construction leaves room for asymmetry and miscalculation. Every work pursues the beauty and mystery found in universal patterns, such as the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio. Indeed, the very essence of humanness is to err, and, in overcoming small failures, to create magnificent constellations—in this case, one built between the personal and the natural through a complex interplay of color, form, light, and shadows.

Claudia Arozqueta

Mauro Restiffe

Pinacoteca do Estado / Estação Pinacoteca
Praça da Luz, 2
August 5–November 6

Mauro Restiffe, Álbum(Tempestade, 2003), 1996–2017, silver gelatin print, 15 3/4 x 23 1/2".

The cover of a 1909 book titled Atlas do Brazil, photographed alongside documents and pictures on a desk, is the enigmatic opening image of this important panoramic exhibition featuring Mauro Restiffe’s work. Presented as a prelude to the show’s predominant scenes—a variety of bucolic landscapes, crowds gathered during historical events—the still life also introduces significant ways to read the work on view. It immediately evokes the artist’s archive, which prompted this exhibition, which gathers never-before-displayed photos, including a good number of intimate family portraits taken over the past thirty years. The notion of an atlas, referenced in the book’s title, is relevant as well, offering a conceptual path to understanding Restiffe’s interest in mapping the world without attachment to any particular genre.

The curatorial approach, devised by Rodrigo Moura, in which images from different epochs are each shown in several formats and settings, is reminiscent of Aby Warburg’s famous Mnemosyne Atlas (1924–29). For example, twenty-five paintings from two museums (Pinacoteca and MASP) are placed in dialogue with Restiffe’s analog black-and-white photographs. But paintings appear as well in many of his pictures—from Pieter Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow (1565) to unknown canvases depicted in domestic scenes. Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, ca. 1483, is here seen as a trivial image stamped on a shirt hanging from a clothesline. If the mirroring effect of images is what interests Restiffe most when he photographs paintings, the juxtaposition of canvas and photos sheds light on this strategy. A recurring object in his pictures, mirrors are even more abundant in the pieces on view. One appears, for instance, in the last work—an intriguing metapicture of two of his photos (each in turn depicting a mirror) drying in the darkroom. An interesting counterpoint to the Atlas do Brazil’s first image, it conjures the labyrinthine properties of photography in its attempts to map reality.

Nathalia Lavigne