by Howie Chen and Andrew Lampert
by Sam Bloch
at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
The cultivation of memory is a vital part of contemporary Spanish society. It informs conflicts between federalists and nationalists, socialists and neoliberals. During a recent visit to Madrid, I saw on the same day, just blocks apart, mass protests by impoverished seniors pining for the pensions they had been promised and by regional separatists railing against prison sentences given to leaders who had vowed to restore a fabled Catalonian glory. S
uch antagonisms play out in the museums as much as in the streets. At the Reina Sofía, they were captured in an exhibition that reconstructed the first Spanish installation at the Venice Biennale following the death in 1975 of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. The 1976 Biennale was intended by the Italian organizer, Carlo Ripa di Meana, to honor the Spanish avant-gardists who had survived the nearly forty years of Franco’s rule. But when the generalissimo died in the course of exhibition planning, all the buried conflicts and intrigues of Spanish artistic culture came to the surface. Whereas Antoni Tàpies’s paintings and sculptures, including Tabouret au papier mâché (Papier Mâché Stool, 1970) and Cadira i roba (Chair and Clothes, 1970), initially appeared as Spanish contributions to Arte Povera and the American assemblage practice associated with Robert Rauschenberg, they now...
This small but stirring exhibition was titled “George Tooker: Contemplative Gaze,” begging the question, to whom does that gaze belong? To the figures who stare out of the egg tempera paintings and lithographs, eyes wide in concentration or distraction? Or to the visitor lulled into a state of quiet rumination by them? In Woman with Oranges (1977) and Window XI (1999), it is surely both, as the viewer locks eyes with characters by turns diffiden
t and confident, reserved and brash. Featuring twelve works that Tooker (1920–2001) made between 1952 and 1999, the exhibition offered a small window onto his peculiar strain of pictorial solitude—a solitude found even or especially with figures shown in the company of others.That physical closeness belies an insidious distancing in Tooker’s work is especially apparent in his city scenes, the best-known example of which is The Subway (1950), at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In the DC Moore presentation, the painting Tree (1965) portrayed an analogous sense of isolation through a view of the natural world rather than the urban labyrinth. A man and a woman stand on opposite sides of a small tree, close to its trunk, their proximity and postures suggesting a level of complicity. Yet they look away from each other, separated not only by the tree but by some less visib...
at House of Gaga
by Gaby Cepeda
I encountered Julien Ceccaldi’s work on social media long before ever seeing it in person. A few years ago, his manga-inspired comics, in which exaggerated figures—either hyper-fit or thin as rails, with conical chins and clusters of wildly lashed, wet eyes—undergo personal dramas, started to appear all over the English-speaking corners of my Twitter timeline and Instagram feed. Recently, I clicked “like” on an ad campaign Ceccaldi produce
d for the über-trendy Berlin-based fashion brand Ottolinger. Given his enthusiastic reception by the New York art world, whose influence inevitably travels south—and north, west, and east—I was not at all surprised when the young artist landed at House of Gaga for his first solo show in Mexico City.The seven oil paintings on canvas and two painted sculptures in the exhibition (all 2019) depict an emaciated, balding, androgynous man named Francis, the protagonist of Ceccaldi’s self-published comic “Human Furniture” (2017), which follows Francis as he obsessively pines after the swole Simon and has anonymous sex. The show was titled “Sex Is Work,” and indeed the paintings suggest the emotional labor that accompanies the act. In Out the Window Towards the Bavarian Castle, Francis—fully naked, with spindly, elongated limbs—floats in a pink sunset sky toward a castle, the q...
at Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
by David Ebony
Sikkema Jenkins & Co.’s recent Vik Muniz exhibition featured works from two stunning new series: “Surfaces” (2019), composed of large-scale photo-based works that resemble paintings, and “Museum of Ashes” (2019–), comprising photographs and sculptures. On view in the foyer and main space were fifteen pieces from the former group. Muniz pays homage here to abstract or quasi-abstract paintings from the early and mid-twentieth century,
mostly by United States and Latin American artists. The series has a rather personal significance for him. The artist, who divides his time between New York and Rio de Janeiro, was born in São Paulo in 1961, and in his youth came to know modern art only through reproductions in books. In “Surfaces,” he depicts paintings that inspired him during this early era, by artists such as Stuart Davis, Hans Hofmann, Milton Avery, and Carmen Herrera....