Cold, cruel, impenetrable, abandoned, scored with desperate romance and ill-fated rebellions: modern perceptions of Siberia remain a study in cliché, the everyday bypassed in favor of the sensational. Siberia is a word filled with so many connotations, it is easy to forget about the people who live in its reality. Thirty years after the fall of communism, we are still attached to the dominant images from its past, the mass killing, ecological catastrophes of big industry, and Stalin’s limitless ambitions. Beyond the occasional revolutionary, despotic leader, literary giant, virtuoso pianist, or Bolshoi ballerina, we tend to think of Siberia in general terms rather than specifics. We think of the Soviet collective rather than the individual—as communist ideology always intended. Read More
The following essay is the poet and critic Maggie Nelson’s response to “Rachel Harrison Life Hack,” the first full-scale survey of Harrison’s work, which appeared at the Whitney Museum of American Art from October 25, 2019, to January 12, 2020.
Look, you’re going to be confronted with the remains of a dinner Rachel Harrison had twenty-eight years ago at Flamingo East in the East Village. (No, the restaurant isn’t there anymore.) First the dinner became leftovers in ziplock baggies and then it became leftovers spawning maggots in ziplock baggies and then, after complaints about flies, the baggies went into Ball jars. And here they are.
It’s pretty gross, without a doubt. You might be forgiven for feeling as though the crudeness were at your expense in some way, but I would encourage you to let go of this feeling. (The feeling that some kind of joke is being played, but with no clear object or vector, may recur; my advice is to float in this feeling, allow a degree of surrender to it.) For Dinner surely started, like all of Harrison’s work, as a gesture or experiment of interest to her, one whose reasons may have been inscrutable even to herself. Think about it: she bagged this food one night twenty-eight years ago, with no foreknowledge of this moment we now share together. It was, you might say, an intuition.
Harrison’s work doesn’t just rely on intuition. It showcases it, elevates it to a category of ontological fascination. Why, why, why? you might ask, in front of a Harrison sculpture; eventually your own questioning may turn into a kind of music—the music of thinking—playing alongside hers. Your thinking may or may not have content; it is unlikely to land upon answers. Indeed, Harrison’s sculptures are remarkable for their capacity to stir up the primal agitation at the root of cognition and analysis, the whir of thinking. Read More
When the photographer Sayuri Ichida moved to New York in 2012, she found herself plunged into an ice bath of alienation, depression, and regret. Born and raised in Japan, she struggled to settle into a groove in this unfamiliar city. Ichida’s friendship with the New York Theatre Ballet dancer Mayu Oguri, who also hails from Japan, bloomed out of a shared sense of displacement. Featured in the Fall 2019 issue, their ongoing visual collaboration sees the performer assuming ballet positions throughout the city—a clever take on the experience of immigrants trying to find their place in a foreign country. Below, a new set of images shows Oguri, thirty-three weeks pregnant, venturing out into the city once more.
Few bodies of work represent the splintering of the twentieth-century Western psyche like the collages of Max Ernst. Striking and playful, the German surrealist’s clipped-together creations, produced throughout his life, attest to a roving eye for materials and a deep curiosity about harmony and dissonance. The art historian Werner Spies has said that “collage is the thread that runs through all of his works; it is the foundation on which his lifework is built.” A new exhibition of Ernst’s collages (on view at Paul Kasmin’s 297 Tenth Avenue location through February 29, 2020) presents approximately forty of them, some of which are being displayed for the first time. A selection of images from the show appears below.
The artist Jack Whitten, who died in 2018, approached his practice with the curiosity of a scientist and the playfulness of a jazz musician. Many of his paintings are the result of a careful aesthetic hypothesis unleashed upon the canvas and then transformed by improvisation. The works at the center of “Jack Whitten. Transitional Space. A Drawing Survey.” (on view at Hauser & Wirth through April 4) display a delightful agnosticism regarding medium and material. In one, he splashes a paper collage with calligrapher’s ink and acrylic paint; in another, he seems to conjure the farthest reaches of space on a single sheet of blotter. A selection of images from the show appears below.
For the avant-garde playwright, puppeteer, critic, novelist, artist, and cyclist Alfred Jarry, life was a series of artful acts. Perhaps best known in his day for the controversial play Ubu Roi, Jarry is often credited with helping spark the fires of surrealism, Dada, and futurism. “Alfred Jarry: The Carnival of Being” (on view at the Morgan Library and Museum through May 10) is the first major U.S. museum exhibition of his work; it demonstrates the breadth of his artistic practice. A selection of images from the show—including photographs of Jarry’s experiments with typography and woodblocks—appears below.