by Violet Lucca
at Michael Benevento
by Leah Ollman
The paintings that Pennsylvania-based Dona Nelson has been making in the most recent years of her nearly five-decade career are commonly referred to as double-sided, but that description is incomplete and limiting. Nelson does engage the canvas’s front and back in a rich, reciprocal relationship, but the sides matter, too. For some works in this vital show, titled “Painting the Magic Mountain,” she wrapped the canvas around stretcher bars and
stapled it to the back, but in many cases she pinned the fabric’s raw edges to the sides of the wooden frames, activating otherwise uneventful planes with bold, staccato lines of tack heads. In a painting suspended overhead, the bottom played a role as well. It’s not a metaphorical leap to suggest that Nelson’s paintings also have an inside and outside. Every dimension of her multidimensional work is made relevant.Eighteen pieces (one 2018, the rest 2019) were distributed among four rooms. Most of them, apart from the ceiling-mounted one and a few hung on the wall in the usual way, stood upright, held in steel stands placed on the floor. The pieces addressed the architecture of the gallery and assumed architectural presence themselves as space-defining panels or screens. Eight works in one room (all wryly titled either Shorty Q or Shorty A) were resonant with the scale of the body....
at Paula Cooper
War movies perform a clever trick: they create coherent, digestible narratives out of incomprehensible violence. Christian Marclay inverts this cinematic alchemy in his video 48 War Movies (2019), which premiered at this year’s Venice Biennale and served as the centerpiece of his Paula Cooper show. The work comprises forty-eight war movies edited together so that they play simultaneously atop one another at increasingly smaller sizes, each window
covering all but the outer edges of the underlying one. The result is forty-eight concentric rectangles composed of moving images. The source movies portray conflicts ranging from the American Civil War to the ongoing fighting in Iraq. At moments, recognizable images flit across the thin frames, as if passing by a cracked door: a Confederate uniform, a Vietnam-era helicopter, a World War II flag. Mostly, the slivers of footage merge into a mesmerizing, incoherent throb of colors that creates the effect of looking down an elevator shaft lined with flashing lights. ...
at Various venues
The charged, evocative third edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial pivots away from the young initiative’s early hallmarks. The prior editions were framed as authoritative disciplinary surveys, mounted against Chicago’s monumental architectural backdrop. This installment’s curatorial team—Sepake Angiama, Paulo Tavares, and artistic director Yesomi Umolu—is concerned less with making sweeping arguments about the state of the field th
an with radically rethinking the urban landscapes of power within which architecture operates. Of central importance, as the exhibition’s deceptively demure title, “ . . . and other such stories,” suggests, is narrative: how can suppressed stories destabilize received understandings of place and visualize, as the curators’ statement would have it, “the city otherwise”?Inside the Chicago Cultural Center, the citywide initiative’s main venue, it quickly becomes clear that avowing social struggles and violent histories is a cornerstone strategy. Prominent land acknowledgments welcome visitors with texts affirming Chicago’s continuing history of Indigenous inhabitation. Immediately adjacent, Michigan-based research collective Settler Colonial City Project and the American Indian Center of Chicago emphatically elaborate the argument. Executed in a provisional style suggestive ...
“Manfred Mohr, A Formal Language” surveyed the five decades of work this foundational yet under-known computer artist has made since adopting algorithms as tools of artistic creation. Intermingling pieces from different phases of Mohr’s career in a salon-style hang, the exhibition presented a dizzying array of strange geometries: densely plotted drawings tracking the tessellation of fractured cubes; shaped canvases and metal reliefs boasting b
rash angles; and planes of color delicately contorting themselves in computer-generated animations. At the center of the show, a vitrine bore a rich assortment of archival exhibition ephemera and worn programming manuals, indexing a career suspended between the space of the gallery and the glow of the screen. Born in 1938 in Pforzheim, Germany, Mohr spent his teens and twenties occupied by jazz music before taking up painting in the early 1960s, shifting over the course of the decade from a loose, nervy style informed by Abstract Expressionism to one dominated by hard-edge glyphs evocative of technical iconography. Inspired in part by a 1967 lecture by pioneering computer musician Pierre Barbaud, Mohr soon began experimenting with the programming language FORTRAN IV, which allowed him to subject forms to automated transformations and randomize their appearance. ...