American artist Jen Ray’s work focuses on depictions of women in all their majesty: her intricately apocalyptic paintings portray landscapes filled with fierce, glamorous warrior commanders, motorcycle-helmeted bodyguards, and rock-climbing adventuresses in feathered neckpieces. Equally dramatic, fantastical, and fairytale, they show women in a variety of guises, from powerful commander to obedient foot soldier, from tenderly nursing the wounded to plotting Machiavellian destruction.
Zina Saro-Wiwa is a British-Nigerian artist and filmmaker whose body of work includes video installations, experimental films, and documentaries, including the widely acclaimed This Is My Africa (2009). Prior to developing her artistic practice, she was known for her work as a BBC journalist and a presenter for BBC Two's flagship arts magazine program, The Culture Show. She is the founder of the alt-Nollywood movement—kicked off with her films Phyllis and The Deliverance of Comfort (both 2010)... [more]
I recently saw a rare screening in London of Chick Strands' 1979 film Soft Fictions, considered the seminal work of the experimental Californian filmaker. It's an incredible piece, prescient in its style and approach to female representation. It mixes documentary, poetry, truth, and reality, never presenting either victims or victors, but instead the stories told by these female subjects give the idea that "ecstasy is knowing exactly who you are and still not caring."
Though Ann Hirsch, who is also base... [more]
Since 2010, when I first met Ed Fornieles, I've watched the artist somewhat like a private eye sitting in a greasy spoon cafe with eye holes cut out of a newspaper—at a safe hermetic distance. I went to my first ever performance night in London that he had curated at Paradise Row, and watched a man pour cornflakes and milk all over the floor. I read all the online tabloid furore over his debauched Animal House project and his former relationship with a British film star.
From afar, he oft... [more]
In Moffat Takadiwa’s work, the remnants of consumer goods—bright colored bits of plastic and metal, fragmented, emptied of their promise and their contents—make their way into shapes, shrouds, and clusters, into mandala-like patterns of consumption and waste. Spray tops, bottle caps, plastic lids, laptop keys: the detritus of late capitalism accumulated into strands, shapes, and forms, now hang from gallery walls. There’s a neat logic to this transformation of debris into... [more]
Berlin, September 2015: The boisterous commotion of a packed opening dimmed to a murmur as the door to the back office slid closed, leaving Cecily Brown and me a brief escape from her current Berlin solo exhibition at Contemporary Fine Arts. Both jetlagged, having departed JFK only 24 hours earlier, we were grateful for the momentary calm.
Often pigeonholed as what the artist herself facetiously refers to as some type of “fifth generation Abstract Expressionist,” London-born New Yo... [more]
Faig Ahmed shares his Baku studio with what he refers to as his “Tribe,” a group of young artists who split materials, bookshelves, and even food, in a communal setting. In 2011, the painter Aida Mahmudova and a group of local artists including Ahmed, founded YARAT as a platform for contemporary art in Azerbaijan. Along with a 2,000-square-meter flagship space neighboring the recently built European Games stadium, and the social enterprise space YAY Gallery, YARAT offers both established and emergi... [more]
Officially, Martine Syms is an LA-based conceptual entrepreneur, and one whose concepts have already proliferated quite far given her young career. Perhaps her participation in the Walker Art Center's Intangibles pop-up shop offers the most literal evidence to back this title: customers can purchase a voicemail recording by Syms's fictional band Maya Angelou for $10.
In many ways, though, Syms defies categorization and moves fluidly among formats and mediums in the service of examining, and gi... [more]
Random International is an arts collective founded by Florian Ortkrass, Hannes Koch, and Stuart Wood currently based in London. They exploded onto the international art stage in 2012 with their extremely popular Rain Room, a work that was supremely Instagrammable, but also illucidated the magical realism that the marriage of art and technology can produce. After extremely successful installations at the Barbican in London and MoMA PS1, Rain Room is set to occupy LACMA in November 2015. We got the chance... [more]
New York City, June 2015: I remember despising the revamped, restyled strip malls that proliferated in the late 1990s, replacing dilapidated 1960s-era kitsch elegance with chunky stucco postmodern monotony in various shades of taupe, terracotta, and teal. These non-places had names conjured from corporate boardrooms—“The Shoppes at Villa Terraces,” “Sycamore Plaza Town Centre” and the like—a nomenclature almost offensive in its disavowal of history and specificity... [more]
Oberhausen, May 2015: The world of experimental and avant-garde film and video is relatively intimate, its natives comparatively few. A visit to Oberhausen Kurzfilmtage, Europe’s premiere short and experimental film platform, is a step into that world; it's a place populated once a year by an international cadre with a passion for moving image's oldest and most cutting edge format. Where else can you can you drink in a late night bar confident in the knowledge that any of the other 100+ pa... [more]
Over a cappuccino in the lobby of Hotel Savoia Jolanda in Venice, Frances Stark sat in a flower-print sun dress with spaghetti straps. It was the preview week of the 56th Venice Biennale and familiar faces came in and out of the hotel. She greeted friends with a warm smile, while showing pictures of her 12-year-old son on her iPhone. Upon first glance, L.A.-based Stark could pass for any other suburban mom—but sit down with her for a coffee and you’ll believe the opposite. As the winner o... [more]
Samara Golden draws you in and shuts you out. Sewing, stuffing, and cutting materials of personal industriousness—fabrics, pantyhose, found thriftwares, cosmetology heads—the props in her motley sets splay out against all manner of reflective surfaces, situating some version of you inside her bendy armatures of time, place, and movie-inflected memory. M.C. Escher meets Miami Vice, the campy slickness melting into your own face as seen in a broken mirror, a slab of reflective polystyrene... [more]
Venice is a city of many hidden stories: the labors of conquests buried in damp passageways, the dreams of crusaders and merchants obscured behind masks, forgotten stories in moldering letters, in dark-browed statues guarding doorways, and treasures of spice and silk sunk deep in the Venetian Lagoon. But there are hidden stories everywhere on God’s good green earth, not just in cities steeped in literature and teeming with ghosts.
Sean Lynch finds such stories, researching rumors and urb... [more]
Amsterdam, April 2015: “If you want to know what art looks like in 2014, go and see Hito Steyerl’s satirical video installations,” Ben Luke of the Evening Standard wrote last year when reviewing Steyerl’s show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. And right he is. Few artists have the Zeitgeist by the balls the way the German artist does. Her video works deal with technological evolution, the production and reproduction of images, and the power relations invol... [more]
March 2015, Brooklyn, NY: Lesley Dill works in sculpture, photography, and performance, using a range of media and methods to explore themes of language, the body, and what it means to be transformed by an experience. She recently participated in Beautiful Beast at the New York Academy of Art, an exhibition that explored the intersection of beauty and abjection through sculpture, often depicting our humanity through distortion. I am always interested in work that defies disciplinary boundaries a... [more]