Magazine article Artforum International

Helen Molesworth

Magazine article Artforum International

Helen Molesworth

Article excerpt

1 ALINA SZAPOCZNIKOW (HAMMER MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES; CU RATED BY ELENA FILIPOVIC AND JOANNA MYTKOWSKA) This was one of the most exciting bodies of work I've seen in a longtime. Mouths, boobs, lightbulbs, limbs, marble, plastic--the exhibition, organized here by Allegra Pesenti, proceeded from a classic post--World War II account of the human form, shot through with existentialism and horror, to something darkly playful, a sculptural reckoning with the exigencies and absurdities of survival. The Polish artist, who died of cancer in 1973 at the age of forty-seven, made visible the ways in which the body is both ours and not ours, a fact never more evident than when facing illness and death. We exist for others, and Szapocznikow's work shows us how heartbreaking that is.

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Co-organized with Wiels Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels; the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

2 NICOLE EISENMAN (WHITNEY BIENNIAL, WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK) Eisenman's wall of portraits was the standout of this year's Biennial. Was it their unrelenting gaze? During a period when the US military has killed an unknown number of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, largely through the use of unmanned drones, these searching faces--handmade, expressive evocations of an encounter between artist and sitter--spoke, perhaps, to a need to return to some humanist basics. They did so through the infinite reproducibility of the print, demonstrating Eisenman's conceptual rigor as well as her wonderful draftsmanship.

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3 "UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: CALIFORNIA ART 1974-4981" (THE GEFFEN CONTEMPORARY AT THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES; CU RATED BY PAUL SCHIMMEL) Schimmel's survey of post-Watergate West Coast Conceptualism was bracketed by two modes of the mendacity that characterize contemporary power. Opening with the thirty-seventh president's resignation letter allowed the curator to summon the Nixonian legacy of lying and subterfuge, while the repeated images of Reagan homed in on the spec-tacularized, Hollywood version of populist falsehoods. It's hard not to see the exhibition in retrospect as a warning to the public about what was to come (Schimmel's ouster in the name of the "popular") and a riposte to the men who currently hold power at MOCA (Jeffrey Deitch and Eli Broad).

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4 WILLIAM KENTRIDGE'S NORTON LECTURES (HARVARD UNIVERSITY, CAMBRIDGE, MA) Harvard's corporate slogan, Veritas, helps to explain its notoriously difficult relationship to contemporary art. This spring, a different breeze blew across campus as William Ken-tridge gave a series of six lectures called "Drawing Lessons," each dedicated to a topic such as the studio, colonialism, or anti-entropy. As he paced the stage, he read from a notebook while behind him a projection of drawings, animations, notations, and music unfolded. The talks constituted a plea to salvage the humanist dimensions of the Enlightenment project, while staring down that project's abuses by denying the omnipotence of a universal truth.

5 TINO SEHGAL, THIS VARIATION (DOCUMENTA 13, KASSEL) You stumbled (literally) into a room so dark you couldn't see your hand before your face. Sounds emerged--shuffling, breathing, whispering, all manner of air being pushed in all manner of ways from all manner of mouths. Slowly, the piece cohered; performers mingled with the audience, dancing, walking, singing, stomping, sitting, clapping, falling, reveling in the syncopated rhythms and staggering variety of Mclean-American popular music. It had no beginning, no end; you could stay all day. The performers were on point, displaying a combination of James Brown--like exactitude and Cagean chance operations. It made the trip across the ocean (in economy) worth it.

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6 LYNNE COOKE'S INSTALLATION OF "BLINKY PALERMO: RETROSPECTIVE 1964-1977" (DIA:BEACON, BEACON, NY; AND CCS GALLERIES AT BARD COLLEGE, ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY) Cooke's installation at Bard bowled me over. …

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