Magazine article Artforum International

"Quiet Politics": Zwirner & Wirth

Magazine article Artforum International

"Quiet Politics": Zwirner & Wirth

Article excerpt

The terms quiet and politics usually have very little to do with one another, yet this group exhibition attempted to reconcile them, to demonstrate in a sense that still waters can run deep. While the show proposed that even the simplest gesture can be an act of political resistance, the works by twelve artists here were mostly either restrained or offered only loose ties to activism, with standouts by Rosemarie Trockel (one of just four women in this show, a bothersome disparity) and David Hammons. More regrettably, however, it failed to address, either directly or obliquely, the significance of this election year, and, even granting that subtlety was the very point, seemed curiously lacking in gusto for a show about political art mounted in the thick of one of the highest-stakes presidential races in American history.

Up first was a work by the young artist Michael Brown that features a large stainless-steel mirror with a spiderweb of cracks radiating from the center, as if it had been punched. Titled In the Meantime ... II, 2007, it creates unsettling distortions of everything it faces, but the effect is more punk than political (bringing to mind the iconic artwork of the Black Flag album Damaged [1981]). Nearby was Hammons's U.N.I.A. Flag, 1990, a representation of the United States flag in black, red, and green: colors usually associated with Africa or the Black Power movement. Both Hammons and his art have frequently been called elusive, yet here, by using symbols fraught with meaning, he offered a precise subject: American racism. But the majority of works here appeared more remote.

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For example, there was Adel Abdessemed's Cocktail, 2007, which comprises twenty-two open notebooks--each on its own music stand--showing charcoal outlines of figures hurling Molotov cocktails, or sparkling gems. …

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