Kasper Akhøj

Nouveau Musée National de Monaco | Villa Sauber
17, avenue Princesse Grace
June 2–January 8

Kasper Akhøj, 63V52017, 2017, laser-exposed gelatin silver print, 20 x 16".

When Eileen Gray’s ill-fated 1929 architectural gem E-1027—a beautifully proportioned white modernist villa overlooking the sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, near Monaco—opened to the public in 2015, the controversial restoration project that started in 2006 and saw successive teams of architects and administrators undoing and redoing each other’s work was far from over. Taken on five separate visits to the site between 2009 and 2017, Kasper Akhøj’s black-and-white photographs chart the progress of such work at the house. Variously displayed individually, as pairs, and in constellations, the set of fifty-nine framed laser-exposed gelatin silver prints in varying sizes is based on the shots Gray, who was also an accomplished photographer, took herself upon the estate’s initial completion. Her images were used to illustrate a special issue of L’Architecture vivante, a magazine edited by her lover, the Romanian architectural critic Jean Badovici, for whom Gray designed the villa. The cryptic name E-1027 stands for their joint initials.

Delicate gray adhesive letters beside the photographs on view combine the reference numbers from Gray’s photos with the dates of Akhøj’s visits, calling attention to a corresponding shot from her portfolio, as in 63V52017, 2017. Yet for all his rigor, the remakes bear only a passing resemblance to the stylish originals. Mostly sold at auction in 1992, iconic furniture items that were an integral part of the interior design either are missing or have been replaced by replicas and stand-in objects, such as makeshift tables, dusty chairs, and sundry building tools. As well as pointing to the tentative and provisional nature of conservation at E-1027, Akhøj’s works are a poignant reminder that architecture rarely stays true to its designer’s original intention.

Agnieszka Gratza

“You & I”

A4 Arts Foundation
23‭ ‬Buitenkant Street, District Six
September 13–January 28

Goddy Leye‭, ‬We are the world‭, ‬2006‭, digital video, color, sound, 4‭ ‬minutes 52‭ ‬seconds.

Collectivism has been a major force in South African art pretty much since the New Group, a vanguard of white modernist painters, declared themselves, in 1938, “united against junk.” Rather than didactically survey artistic associations and cooperatives in their home country, though, curators Ziphozenkosi Dayile and Kemang wa Lehulere—both members of the influential Cape Town arts group Gugulective—opted instead to elliptically parse ideas and demonstrations of collectivity for this space’s inaugural exhibition. A ranging and worldly affair, “You & I” dutifully includes works by actual collectives, notably the Propeller Group’s video The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, 2014, an impressionistic documentary of funeral traditions and rituals in south Vietnam, and Avant Car Guard’s Die Verlore Kind, 2007, a granite and enamel tombstone commemorating artist Kendell Geers (who is still very much alive).

The disruptive potential of concerted action, however, extends beyond the tactics and strategies of artists voluntarily coming together. Yoko Ono’s instructional work Mend Piece, 1966/2015, a long table displaying broken china and various bonding agents, locates unity in audience participation—the artist’s Fluxus credentials seem incidental to an appreciation of this piece. By contrast, Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s short Fishermen (Études, No 1), 2007, offers community as something tantamount to everyday fact. Set on a Benin beach, the unembellished video portrays a group of fishermen’s futile struggle to pilot their rudimentary craft out to sea. Cameroonian artist Goddy Leye’s We are the world, 2006, pits individual resolve against a strain of grandstanding associated with world peace ideology: The video depicts the artist, haloed by stars and fruit, performing a nonchalant karaoke version of the 1985 charity song for which his video is named. “We are saving our own lives,” he provocatively sings.

Sean O’Toole

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

Dean Sameshima

McNamara Art Projects
202, The Factory, 1 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang
November 3–December 22

Dean Sameshima, City Men: George Michael, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 57 x 41".

For Peres Projects’ first Hong Kong presentation (in collaboration with McNamara Art Projects), the Berlin-based gallery is exhibiting thirteen new and older works by Dean Sameshima. Many of the paintings, photographs, and prints place queer desire in the context of quainter but more oppressive times: when, for example, to circumvent obscenity laws, pornography was sent to readers of athletic magazines as back-page connect-the-dots puzzles (Torso, 2006; A Portrait of Mike, 2006; Anything Anytime… Now Nothing, 2007).

Among Sameshima’s recent paintings, which he creates by projecting text onto canvas, is Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida: a report of the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, January 1964. Tallahassee, Florida. AKA The Purple Pamphlet. with annotations by J.J. Bertrand Belanger, 2017. The work features the preface of the notorious, eponymous document, which was ostensibly a study of the “growing problem of homosexuality” that claimed to be “of value to all citizens” concerned with the “moral climate of the state.” Ironies and absurdities such as this one are captured sharply; these are pointed and critical works by an artist well versed in the codes and survival tactics of his community. If his output comes across now as irreverent, even humorous, that is only because progress has been made.

But then there is the painting made up of two thin orange words on a background of forest green, an obscure textual reference seemingly doubling as a viewpoint on said moral climate of the state in 2017, where successive Novembers in the US have done little to lift liberal spirits. Those two words also make up the 2016 work’s title: Exhausted Autumn.

Samantha Kuok Leese

“Scraggly Beard Grandpa”

Capsule Shanghai
Building 16, Anfu Lu 275 Nong, Xuhui District, 1st Floor
November 4–December 22

Rania Ho, Genus: Verduous Suburbanus Bucolia & Love Hate Relationship, 2017, rip-stop nylon, battery powered fans, video on portable monitor, dimensions variable.

The titular grandpa is missing from the works gathered in this group show of twelve artists who spent time working at the art collective and gallery space PRACTICE in New York from 2015 to 2016. Curated by PRACTICE founders Wang Xu and Cici Wu, the show presents different tensions around the idea of folding the familiar into the foreign in daily life abroad, wherever abroad happens to be.

The sense of shadowy interiority of Irini Miga’s installation Landscape for a Thought (all works cited, 2017), a ceramic cone placed in a tiny triangle cut into the wall, is amplified by João Vasco Paiva’s The Last Kauai Oo Bird I and II, featuring tennis shoes carved from blackened lava stone from Bali, lonely remnants of owners who have disappeared or been extinguished. Rania Ho’s playful battery-powered inflatable nylon suits in the outdoor garden make the fragile cement scaffolding of Yunyu “Ayo” Shih’s Before It Happens––which resembles a partition wall, installed near the entrance of the exhibition––much more halting.

There is something about the traffic of ideas and artworks between China and the United States that remains wonderfully understated in “Scraggly Beard Grandpa”––here, we find no thesis on expatriation. One leaves, one returns, and, somewhere along the way, one picks up friends to work and think alongside.

Todd Meyers

Tamir Zadok

Tel Aviv Museum of Art
27 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard
September 19–December 16

Tamir Zadok, Art Undercover, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 27 minutes.

Nothing is what it seems in Art Undercover, 2017, the centerpiece of Tamir Zadok’s solo exhibition. The video traces the artist’s quest to find a lost oil painting by Charduval, purportedly a French artist who lived in Egypt in the early 1950s. With only a poor black-and-white reproduction of the piece and some anecdotal evidence, Zadok heads to Cairo to see the collection of the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art—what follows is a chronicle that reveals more via its meandering progression than any conclusive discoveries.

Viewers eventually learn that the artistic persona of Charduval provided cover for an Israeli intelligence agent named Shlomo Cohen Abarbanel while in Cairo. What better role than that of “artist” to avoid tricky questions about one’s agenda when traveling or living abroad? As Zadok searches for traces of the “French” painter’s legacy in Egypt, he begins to perform a variety of stealth research tasks himself. With a fresh haircut and a new suit, he approaches a Western curator at an exhibition opening about presenting his own work in Egypt. At first hesitant, the curator becomes more receptive once Zadok subtly switches the accent on his name, changing its pronunciation from the Hebrew, Tamir Zadok, to the Arabic, Tamer Sadek.

The artist’s earlier work also plays with the boundaries between political realities and fictional narratives, such as in Gaza Canal, 2010, a mockumentary (also on view) of an Israeli-run visitor center in Gaza built after the Israeli government pushed the territory into the sea. This Swiftian satire gives way in Art Undercover to internal reflection about art, nationalism, authenticity, and the mixture of exhilaration and trepidation that accompanies border crossings and secret missions of all kinds.
 

Chelsea Haines

Lamia Joreige

Marfa'
1339 Marfa’ District
October 10–December 29

View of “Lamia Joreige: Under-Writing Beirut,” 2017. From left: The River 8, The River 7, The River 9, all 2016.

“And yet the moment finally came when the city no longer resembled itself”: With these words, Franco-Lebanese historian Samir Kassir described his civil-war-struck hometown of the 1980s in Beirut (2005), a book widely accepted as the definitive monograph on Lebanon’s capital. Lamia Joreige’s ongoing three-part project Under-Writing Beirut, 2013–, perhaps can be best explained as a painstaking attempt to recover traces of how the city was, and still is, in the process of undoing itself.

This exhibition brings together works from its second and third chapters, focusing on the transformation of the outlying Beirut River and Ouzaï areas. While a documentary impulse is strong in the three-channel video reportage After the River, 2016, and in the superimposed aerial period photographs of the series “Ouzaï, Cartography of a Transformation,” 2017, Joreige is most eloquent in works with relative poetic license. Mixing wax, pigments, pastels, and crayons, her delicate, impressionistic drawings demonstrate a curious evolution from year to year, neighborhood to neighborhood.

Although a faint outline of the Beirut River or the Ouzaï shore is visible in all her works on paper here, the drawings dated to 2016––tinged with reds and sickly yellows––from a series titled “The River,” 2015–17, turn the stream into a blood vessel susceptible to storing puss in bulbous pockets. On the other hand, the 2017 “Coastline” series furnishes barely connected ghostly explosions along the waterfront with less spindly flowers of evil that remain witnesses to the neighborhood’s experience of war, forced migration, growing religious conservatism, and pollution. The orientation of the area around the seashore is tilted ninety-degrees clockwise in the sculpture Ouzaï, 2017, but given that here the main arteries are cast in golden alloyed metal, the district takes on a zoomorphic form, ready to dart off, reminding one of how much is still in flux here.

Gökcan Demirkazik

“Something Living”

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
August 19–February 11

Philip Guston, East Tenth, 1977, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 1/2".

Philip Guston is the point of inspiration for this spirited group exhibition—specifically, his painting East Tenth, 1977, which this gallery shrewdly acquired in the early 1980s. Typical of his rather solemn, idiosyncratic experiments from this period, the work features a grimy New York sky above cartoon bottles, red-brick walls, and shapes reminiscent of Guston’s earlier Ku Klux Klan–type profiles. While the curatorial premise, detailed on a gallery wall, is fairly pedestrian—that contemporary artists have continued Guston’s obsession with “formless matter” and “living presence”—it becomes inconsequential for the works themselves. This is especially true of Dana Schutz’s Breastfeeding, 2015, Neo Rauch’s Gebot, 2002, and Jamian Juliano-Villani’s Boom Shot, 2015, all of which, although very different, share art-historical DNA, which might be described as a conflation of Neue Sachlichkeit and Surrealism. Schutz’s work in particular—an almost violent portrayal of breastfeeding—seems as if it could command the entire gallery space, showing a baby’s expressionless face as the stationary focal point amid an unshapen whirlwind of a mother’s slippers, feet, arms, and knees.

Schutz’s zaniness—symbolic of the twenty-first-century subject’s experience of being confronted by too many things at once—is echoed in Chris Ofili’s glittering decorative abstraction, Triple eye vision 2000–2002, 2002, and Katherine Bernhardt’s Lisa Simpson, watermelon, cantaloupe, cigarettes, and chapstick, 2016, which revisits Pop art in the wake of 1990s grunge. Rachel Harrison’s pinky powder-blue Paper Clips, 2016, and Arlene Shechet’s flesh-colored sculptures, Beginning Now, 2016, continue the exhibition’s punk-like treatment of the grotesque, underscoring Guston’s aesthetics of outrage, anxiety, and dejection as a peculiarly American sensibility.

Wes Hill