The inaugural edition of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, “Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More,” is titled after a 2005 book by the anthropologist Alexei Yurchak addressing the inherent paradox underlying the Soviet experience of Communism’s end. “The system’s collapse had been profoundly unexpected and unimaginable to many Soviet people until it happened,” Yurchak writes, “and yet it quickly appeared perfe
ctly logical and exciting when it began. Many discovered that, unbeknownst to themselves, they had always been ready for it.” People in the Baltics were arguably readier than most: independent countries prior to their forceful incorporation into the Soviet Union in World War II, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia consider the entire Soviet era to have been one of illegal foreign occupation. But the invocation of Yurchak’s book turns out to be a red herring. Curator Katerina Gregos drops the historical specificity of his argument, stretching it to accommodate the nebulous theme of change in general—per her catalogue essay, “how it is anticipated, experienced, grasped, assimilated and dealt with at this time of accelerated transitions and the increasing speeding up of our lives.” In other words: iPhones and the Anthropocene....
The thirteen gouache paintings that Angela Heisch exhibited at 106 Green (all 2018 and on muslin over panel) suggest the aesthetics of 1970s interiors, slightly wonky architectural diagrams, and bold-hued camouflage patterns. The compositions consistently manage to picture two opposing things at once: nature and the built environment, inside and outside (of what remains unclear), windows and impassable surfaces, aerial views and head-on glances into
a scene. Despite or because of Heisch’s almost steely technical precision and exacting brushwork, it is hard to pin the paintings down. Just when one of them appears to resolve into a coherent whole, a previously unnoticed gentle arc, subtle pattern, askew line, or formal echo disrupts that coherence, keeping us thinking and looking. Heisch establishes compositional rhythms using a particular vocabulary of forms. Almost all the works bear one of two canvas-spanning motifs: a post-and-lintel arch or, evoking a radiator seen from above, a thick stripe with protuberances extending from either side. Some of Heisch’s titles—such as Slip in the Sky and Swimming with Gold Hoops—elicit nautical associations, but her forms float free of gravity, implying otherworldly seas. Painted in varying concentrations of a single dusky hue—umber, deep red, midnight blue, mustard yellow—the wor...
The late artist Julie Becker grew up in Los Angeles and reflected the city’s dual mythology of Hollywood glamour and broken aspirations in her understated installations, films, photographs, and drawings. As seen in this beguiling exhibition, “I must create a Master Piece to pay the Rent” (titled after a phrase from one of her drawings), her most powerful works allude to the kind of transitory living spaces Becker herself inhabited; although th
ese works emit a gothic, somewhat horror-movie-type menace, more chilling is their pervading air of alienation. Becker’s representations of life on society’s margins render reality and fantasy almost indistinguishable. This is particularly apparent in her elaborate installation Researchers, Residents, A Place to Rest (1993–96), which she began while an MFA student at CalArts and which was shown in the 1996 Bienal de São Paulo. The work mixes administrative themes and motifs of transience, and consists of three connected spaces: a room with a desk and interchangeable nameplates bearing phrases such as WAITING ROOM and REAL ESTATE AGENT; a central area containing cardboard refrigerator boxes and two architectural maquettes portraying rows of impersonally furnished spaces that resemble halls in single-room-occupancy housing; and a researcher’s domain crammed with paraphernalia such...
For the generation living in the age of Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Prefect of the Seine under Napoleon III and the man responsible for carrying out the Emperor's transformation of Paris, a city in ruins was part of the day-to-day reality of their lives. Haussmann's army of workers, beginning in the mid-1850s, had razed large portions of the Old Paris in order to make way for the wide boulevards and streets that were to distinguish the city of the Industrial Age.…Read more