Songs in the Garden: Performance at the 58th Venice Biennale

The performances lent the affair an experimental energy, often pushing ideas around gender, nationality, representation, and language further than works in other mediums on view in the Central Pavilion and the Arsenale did.…Read more

Ashes to Ashes: James Lee Byars and Jannis Kounellis in Venice

All the best shows in Venice this year feature artists who are dead.…Read more

Small Talk: Art and the Weather at the 58th Venice Biennale

The landscape has tended to be a somewhat innocuous subject for the last few centuries. Now a more charged genre, it is still presented in mostly polite ways at the Biennale.…Read more

Alternate Timeline

The sight of artists using their hands and tools to make works of art through Facebook’s Artist in Residence program reminds employees that they are creating something too. But there’s nothing like it in the space it has built for its users. If Facebook is an engineer of social interactions, and it recognizes the importance of art and creativity in social space, then why doesn’t it incorporate that insight into the design of its product?…Read more

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Semiha Berksoy (1910–2004) was a maverick of Turkish culture: a leading soprano since the beginnings of Turkish opera in the early 1930s; the star of Turkey’s first sound film, İstanbul Sokaklarında (On the Istanbul Streets, 1931); and an original artist whose work consisted mainly of expressive figural paintings and drawings. An eight-hour-long video by the Turner prize–shortlisted Turkish artist Kutluğ Ataman, Semiha B. Unplugged (1997),

allowed Berksoy to chronicle her own legacy: anecdotes, real and invented, of an adventurous life make it a compelling watch. Ataman filmed Berksoy in her Istanbul bedroom, which, in 1994, while bedridden due to a heart condition, she had transformed into an immersive artwork featuring her drawings, paintings, jewelry, love letters, and hats. Ataman’s video helped bring wider recognition to Berksoy’s art practice, which wasn’t as well known as her singing. Her bedroom was reconstructed at the Kunstmuseum Bonn for a group exhibition in 1999, a curatorial move likely inspired by Tracey Emin’s My Bed (1998). While Berksoy hadn’t planned the work to be an installation exhibited in a gallery setting, her conception of the bedroom-as-artwork significantly predates Emin’s nonetheless. Since Berskoy’s death, her art has been shown at various venues, including the 2005 Venice Bienna...

In “The Conditions,” the subject of Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s exquisite photographic portraits was often the camera itself—and portraiture in general. Sepuya became known in the early aughts for relatively straightforward shots of friends, lovers, and acquaintances that were perhaps most notable for their indexing of a particular queer, creative subculture in New York. But while Sepuya was in graduate school, between 2014 and 2016, his practice tu

rned strikingly self-reflexive, becoming as much about the context and space of the photograph—“the conditions,” to borrow this exhibition’s title—as the photograph itself as a “finished work.”On paper, this sounds as if the artist might be too fussily meta for his own good, recycling textbook postmodernist theories about photography, such as ideas concerning the construction of meaning, the importance of the framing of a work to the work itself (Derrida’s parergon and ergon). That Sepuya incorporated his camera into nearly every image in the show isn’t necessarily interesting in and of itself. What makes the work exceptional is how he implicates studio portraiture in a sometimes-graphic portrayal of queer sexuality that, in his hands, seems so contemporary and yet so rooted in the history of painting and sculpture, a history intertwined with that of the church. Indeed,...

The titular work in Chicago native Maia Cruz Palileo’s first hometown exhibition, “All the While I Thought You Had Received This,” was one of several paintings in the show depicting a not-quite-empty room thick with ominous energy. Roughly worked layers of scummy yellow oil paint form the long tables of a classroom, a ghostly white dunce cap perched on one of them. Three figures lurking in the back of the room are partly obscured by suspended

green screens, their upper bodies represented on the surfaces as shadowy silhouettes that do not quite match up with their lower bodies. The painting has the quality of a nightmare: the viewer senses that something bad has happened here, but the specifics remain out of reach. The works in the exhibition evolved out of research into colonial imagery from the Philippines that Palileo, inspired by her Filipino family’s history, conducted. At the Newberry Library in Chicago, she studied a collection of photographs taken by nineteenth-century American colonialist Dean C. Worcester, a fierce opponent of Philippine independence, who produced thousands of dehumanizing images portraying Filipino subjects as if they were zoological specimens. For Palileo, these photographs, produced in the service of white supremacist and colonialist narratives, suggested a challenge: can an oppressive visual ar...

During his lifetime, self-taught Miami painter Purvis Young (1943–2010) was something of a legend in his city and gradually gained national prominence in the realm of “outsider art.” Extraordinarily prolific, he created sprawling murals in Miami’s historically black Overtown neighborhood, where he lived, in addition to making countless paintings in his studio, usually on found wood panels. His work generally consisted of figurative compositi

ons that explored social issues and demonstrated a distinctive artistic style defined by squiggly brushstrokes and bold color combinations. Young, a high school dropout, began to paint while incarcerated in his teens for breaking and entering. From early on, his work conveyed a quest for freedom and alluded to his experiences as a black artist navigating a violent, segregated city and a disinterested, if not hostile, art world. Since Young’s death, his reputation has grown significantly. His work—like that of a number of self-taught African American artists from the South, including Thornton Dial, Bessie Harvey, and Lonnie Holley—has lately transcended the outsider genre and been embraced by the art world. The recent exhibitions at James Fuentes and Salon 94 offered viewers a chance to survey Young’s achievements. (A retrospective of his work on view at the Rubell Family Collecti...


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