Art in America

Down to Earth: Piero Gilardi at Magazzino Italian Art

Piero Gilardi’s signature “nature carpets” don’t appear credibly natural or carpet-like, which is part of their quirky charm. The artworks are sizable rectangles of polyurethane foam, into which the artist has carved intricate, earthy tableaux before saturating them with synthetic pigments, and sometimes appending other, smaller foam sculptures. The works depict contoured segments of land or, in a few cases, sea: a beach strewn with driftwood and lily pads; a mossy forest trail marked by felled tree branches; roiling ocean water with seagulls flying close to the surface. In “Tappeto-Natura” at Magazzino Italian Art, the artist’s first museum exhibition in...
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Signifying Power: Oscar Murillo at the Saint Louis Art Museum

Seven giant paintings by Oscar Murillo nearly fill the walls of two galleries at the Saint Louis Art Museum. With their encrusted layers of paint, they look sedimentary. Murillo laid the pigment on thick in most places: scribbled blacks and bursts of raw color are set tight together alongside dull, flat slabs. Bits of other crumpled material curl out from the peaks of several impasto lumps, as if to emphasize the sheer volume of paint. The series is called “manifestation.” In several languages, versions of this word refer to both political protest and to the process of making apparent something...
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Reading Material: Books Shaping Artists’ Practices Now

Click here to read the full article. Ten artists tell us about a key book they read this year and how it affected their practice. —Eds. FICUS INTERFAITH We love this book so much. Its streamlined layout and lucid, methodical style allow you to swim around inside it. Although we are not architects, we like to use this book as a lens to view ourselves as artists and to reimagine the function of art-making. Instead of viewing artists as isolated vehicles of their own genius, this book portrays them as conveying a collaborative energy for everyone and anyone. To us, making a good...

One Work: Beatriz Cortez’s “Ilopango, Stela A”

Click here to read the full article. Evoking meteorites, igneous rocks, and Mayan artifacts, Beatriz Cortez’s stained, weathered metal sculptures on view at Commonwealth & Council in Los Angeles forge historic and thematic ties between the circulation of geological matter and the movement of people across Earth’s surface. One particularly powerful piece, Ilopango, Stela A (2022), more specifically considers how natural disasters and climate change have altered the course of civilizations worldwide. Echoing the form of a Mayan stela, the sculpture is embellished with symbols loosely referencing the AD 431 eruption of Ilopango, a volcano that is now a caldera...

Prism of Relations: the 2022 Toronto Biennial

Click here to read the full article. “Over long expanses of time, the bottom-most layers of earth move slowly upward, continually revealing its past to us,” curators Tairone Bastien, Candice Hopkins, and Katie Lawson write in their statement for the second Toronto Biennial of Art. Titled “What Water Knows, the Land Remembers,” the exhibition was framed as a “move inland” from the shoreline, which served as an organizing idea for the inaugural biennial (“The Shoreline Dilemma”) that Hopkins and Bastien curated in 2019. The works on view were meant to suggest how land, like water, is an archive, and to...

Friendship and Antagonism: Documenta 15

Click here to read the full article. Friendship is in vogue of late, as the theme of a 2019 issue of Artforum; a 2021 group show at Chicago’s Renaissance Society titled “Smashing into my heart”; and the subject of a 2016 performance piece, Carolyn Lazard’s Support System, during which visitors brought dozens of bouquets to the artist, who was on bed rest. While some of these projects simply uncover the social circuitry that links the arts, others point to something more transformative by surveying networks of relations that cut across privatized institutions, couples, and nuclear families as they model alternative...

A Color for Our Times: “Safety Orange” Considers a Curious Hue

Click here to read the full article. “If the U.S. cultural present were a color,” Anna Watkins Fisher writes in her new book, “it would be Safety Orange.” The highly visible hue is the subject of a new 98-page volume, Safety Orange, which came out in January as part of the University of Minnesota Press’s reliably good “Forerunners” series. The book considers the color as an emblem of neoliberal “responsibilization.” In Watkins Fisher’s conception, safety orange can be read as a tool that the government uses to warn everyday citizens of hazards and disrepair while placing the responsibility of safety on...

An American in Paris: How Painter Shirley Jaffe Mastered the Secret of Hard-Edge Vitality

Click here to read the full article. Shirley Jaffe, who died in 2016 a few days short of her 93rd birthday, is the subject of “Une Américaine à Paris,” a luminous retrospective currently at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The French capital was her adopted home, where she had lived and worked since 1949. While many American artists came to Paris after the war—more than 300 were reportedly there in the 1950s—only a handful stayed more than a few years. Drawn by the city’s history, culture, and romantic bohemian life, these visitors found Paris cheap, especially after the 1948 devaluation of...

Forensics and Fables: the 12th Berlin Biennale

When French Algerian artist-curator Kader Attia was invited to organize this year’s Berlin Biennale, he asked himself, why put on yet another international roundup? Recalling his existential deliberation in a curatorial statement for the show, titled “Still Present!,” he came up with a neat and tidy answer, convincing in part. Art, he said, can render visible certain histories, wounds, and perspectives that have long been suppressed by colonialism and its afterlives. Sure, we are inundated by online images and information, but art—because it requires a different kind of attention—best functions as a sort of magnifying lens or as a tool for slowing down perception of the present. In today’s world—one Attia terms a “world of wounds”—such slowing down has become, paradoxically, urgent.

Kid Stuff: Why Have Artists Been So Drawn to Children’s Books?

REFLECTING ON HIS EVOLUTION as an artist, Pablo Picasso is reported to have said that he spent “a lifetime” trying to learn to paint like a child. Though an obvious exaggeration, the quote gets to the heart of modernism’s admiration of children’s art. As art historians like Jonathan Fineberg have observed, Picasso was not alone in seeking to emulate children’s creativity. In the first decades of the twentieth century, a host of European artists in search of new modes of expression looked to children’s drawings for inspiration and guidance, believing that art made by the young was purer and more “primitive” than images mediated through adult perception and dulled by social convention and artifice.

Value and Its Sources: Slavery and the History of Art

AT THE END OF 2021, the National Gallery in London published initial findings from an inquiry into its ties to transatlantic slavery conducted in collaboration with University College London’s Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery. The report named individuals involved with the museum in its early decades who profited from slavery or the slave trade, either through the direct enslavement of people or through financial ties to plantation economies. It is a lengthy list, encompassing collectors, philanthropists, and artists. Among those named are the marine insurance magnate John Julius Angerstein, whose collection of paintings by Raphael, Rubens, Van Dyck, and others formed the museum’s foundational bequest; the painter Thomas Gainsborough, who benefited from the patronage of Antiguan sugar planters; and the sovereign and art collector Charles I, who in 1632 granted royal authorization to syndicates trafficking enslaved Africans from the Guinea coast to the Americas.

From the Archives: Claes Oldenburg’s Awakening

After the recent death of Claes Oldenburg, Art in America is looking back on a May 2012 feature in which Martin Friedman, former director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, attended to the major themes and motifs of the artist’s work. —Eds. CLAES OLDENBURG AND I were sitting...

Got Milk?: Ani Liu at Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space

Visitors arrive at Ani Liu’s show “Ecologies of Care” at Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space already overwhelmed from having entered through Essex Market, a mazelike configuration of vendors selling produce and items from local artisans. For Liu, whose research-based practice often deals with systems of labor, this entry is not distracting, but fitting.

Daniel Tobin on Artistic Intent, Making Mistakes, and Metal Casting with Sustainable Materials

Q&A with Daniel Tobin, cofounder and creative director of UAP (Urban Art Projects). When my brother and I started Urban Artists [now UAP] in the early 1990s, we were interested in connecting with artists and making work for public space. Originally, we encouraged developers to start investing in public works, which helped our business get a foothold in the public art sector in Australia. We set up a small workshop in our hometown of Brisbane on the east coast of Australia, with a team of four. There, we built our own furnaces, bought an old metal workshop, and built our foundry. We started casting in bronze only and we’ve grown from there. Currently, we do wax printing and metal casting of various sorts in ten locations worldwide. But ultimately, we’re makers at heart and we’re very proud of the part that we play in the art ecosystem. We see ourselves as custodians of the making process. Bronze has been cast for five millennia, since the Bronze Age, and we continue doing so today.

From Protest to Rest: Joshua Rashaad McFadden at the George Eastman Museum

Two years ago, photographer Joshua Rashaad McFadden drove 15 hours from his Rochester, New York, hometown to Minneapolis to take part in what is now recognized as a landmark event in American history. Police officer Derek Chauvin had just murdered George Floyd, and protests against police brutality were erupting in the streets of Minneapolis and quickly spreading across the country. McFadden joined the sea of protesters and photographed the collective expression of fury and grief under the purpling twilight.

In the Studio: Dayanita Singh’s New Conceptions of Photography

Click here to read the full article. Dayanita Singh considers how photographic images inhabit our imagination and affect both memory and life in the present. Born in New Delhi in 1961, she initially planned to become a graphic designer, and enrolled at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, where a class assignment for which she photographed Hindustani classical musicians resulted in her first book project and a lifelong appreciation for the camera and its ability to convey the intimacy of relationships. Over the last three decades, Singh has developed a distinctive practice in which the photographic image is key,...

Old Genres, New Women: “Pioneers” at the Musée du Luxembourg

Jazz-age Paris, the era of Ernest Hemingway’s “moveable feast,” burns bright in the romantic imaginary as a time of liberty and libertinism. This euphoric vision is at once confirmed and denied in the Musée du Luxembourg’s “Pioneers,” a survey of women artists who worked in 1920s Paris. As curators Camille Morineau and Lucia Pesapane explain in the opening wall text, for women, the years following World War I were as much about resistance and repression. The decade was a paradoxical time of feminist advancement and defeat, the latter crystallized in the French state’s refusal to enfranchise women—a bitter disappointment to suffragists in view of women’s national service during the war. The show considers how female painters, photographers, and sculptors, drawn to Paris from near and far, navigated the era’s tensions, finding ways to insert themselves into a still male-dominated art world and proclaim their right to self-determination.

Paper and Politics: Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho at 47 Canal

The titular video work ⽻化 (wings becoming), 2022, in Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho’s recent solo presentation at 47 Canal invigorated the New York gallery with the whirring of 16mm film, the heat of the projector, and the shifting light of the images in the viewing room. The short piece features a stop-motion animation of paper butterflies fluttering on a lightbox as well as a scene in which their bodies burn over a flickering flame. Lending the film’s diaphanous qualities to the main gallery space, Study for Compost Light(2022), an overhead sculpture comprising magnifying glasses and onion-skin paper, threw amplified shadows on an expansive wall.

The Work of Worms

Though small, spineless, and slimy, worms play an indispensable role in many ecosystems. The organisms’ work continually turning soil—breaking down organic matter, turning it into fertilizer, and actively resisting being extracted from the dirt—galvanizes British sculptor Alice Channer, who sees their embeddedness in their material surroundings and their continual, collective processing of them, as analogous to the work of an artist. Channer met on Zoom with Amy Stewart, worm expert and author of the 2004 book The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, for a conversation on the compelling ways of being and living that earthworms model.

Bulging Codpieces & Multicolored Tights: Renaissance Men’s Fashion Today

Click here to read the full article. Certain men’s fashions have always been controversial. In 2014, Mark Rylance, a star of the BBC’s popular sixteenth-century TV drama “Wolf Hall,” told reporters that he thought “the codpieces are too small.” The actor, who played chief minister Thomas Cromwell, protagonist of the Hilary Mantel best seller on which the series was based, speculated that the sartorial edit was perhaps a directive from the show’s American producers, who feared that historically accurate codpieces might shock their transatlantic viewers. Indeed, if you look at any number of Renaissance portraits of Henry VIII, you might...