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Cathy Wilkes MoMA PS1 / New York

This monographic exhibition of the work of Cathy Wilkes — the largest yet devoted to the artist — includes two small canvases washed over in gray, each bearing its title on its surface in an untidy, handwritten script: Teenage Mother and She’s Pregnant Again (both 2006).

A white saucer, stained with use and crudely painted, is affixed to each of the works. Among the exhibition’s installations, which organize sculpture and domestic objects in affective miscellanies, these twin texts — teenage mother, pregnant again — stage Wilkes’s work in conversation with reproductive labor and how it is valued. For which bodies are pregnancy and parenthood understood as happy and desirable? And for whom are they not?

Wilkes’s installations here are composed of elements of earlier installations, dated from 2004 through 2017. It’s a recirculation that makes linear chronology difficult, and leads the work outside the neat contours of exhibitionary histories. Among the assemblages are mismatched dinnerware, burnt branches, pieces of broken ceramic, mysterious garbage, glass bottles, worn wooden furniture, faded linens and drawings of various executions. Dead leaves, food and other brown matter lie at the bottom of bowls, jars, a coffee pot, a greenish glass aquarium. These are spread alongside autonomous paintings in a foggy palette of grays, yellows, pinks and greens.

What elements of the exhibition risk preciousness are well served by the sparseness of its installation, and the surprise of it: modern and unremarkable objects — a TV, a baby carrier, a cell phone — lend weight and anachronism to Wilkes’s arsenal. Reproductive labor is made to speak in matter — its intimacy with blood and decay, with money (or no money), and with the smoothly banal. Wilkes’s exhibition doesn’t so much inscribe femininity in domesticity or maternity as it does narrate a soft cinema of gender and detritus.

Tess Edmonson is Flash Art New York Editor

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Charles Ray The George Economou Collection / Athens

Charles Ray has staged a dramatic exhibition with four works, pregnant with philosophical ideas about representation, the human condition, and the confluence of past and future.

Largely indebted to Hellenistic sculpture, Ray is fascinated by the Great Eleusinian Relief, circa 440–430 BC, on permanent display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. A Roman version of this work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Unlike the refined marble carving of the original, the Roman replica was reproduced mechanically through a technique known as the pointing process. Thanks to the most advanced technology, Ray has recreated the Eleusinian relief in solid aluminum. His is a copy of a copy.

One could easily refer to the work as an example of appropriation art and put forward an argument about the postmodern condition, yet it is important to consider the myth behind the Eleusinian Mysteries: the abduction of Persephone by Hades, god of the underworld. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of earth and fertility, who in one of her violent outbursts caused much suffering to the people. Zeus intervened and Persephone returned to her mother. Her rebirth stands for the rebirth of all life on earth and is often cited as the symbol of eternal life.

Charles Ray, “A Copy of The Ten Marble Fragments of the Great Eleusinian Relief.” Photo: Natalia Tsoukala © Charles Ray. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery and The George Economou Collection Space, Athens.

The embryonic sculpture Handheld Bird (2006), which, as its title suggests, depicts the birth of a bird, is another musing on life. More enigmatic, School Play (2014) depicts, in solid stainless steel, an adolescent boy dressed in toga and sandals and holding a sword; he could be the twenty-first-century version of Triptolemos, featured in the Eleusinian relief. Ray captures the awkwardness of adolescence and the struggle between acting and authenticity.

“Past crimes create future jails. This exhibition does not live in the present tense. It is created for the future,” writes the artist in the catalogue. His recreation of a work from the 1970s — a phallic stack of bricks tied to a sawhorse — suggests an impending catastrophe. It evokes the burden of today’s world on the individual and denotes the risks, guilty pleasures, and abundant possibilities of making and thinking about art.

by Vassillios Doupas

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Keith Farquhar Office Baroque / Brussels

Back in 2012, Keith Farquhar had a show at New Jerseyy in Basel, “Abstract Printings,” that focused on his interest in the appropriation of works produced by other artists. However, unlike Elaine Sturtevant or Sherrie Levine, Farquhar does not intend to create perfect copies of the artworks he references.

Based on one of Morris Louis’s “Unfurled” paintings (1960–61), Abstract Printing (Digital America) (2012) is, in fact, a UV print on birch plywood. Likewise, Abstract Printing (In and out of Wool) (2012), based on Christopher Wool’s He Said She Said (2001), was made using the same process, this time on corrugated galvanized steel. Farquhar’s show at Office Baroque includes a new humorous “tribute” to Wool, Woolmark #6 (2015), which resembles a simple spray-painted graffiti on a found piece of sheet metal. “Iconoclasm is important. I’m a great admirer of both the Louis and Wool works, yet their iconic status doesn’t stop me from treating them with irreverence; cannibalizing their graven image to make anew,” says Farquhar. The interesting thing about this approach is that not only does it question the aura (and value) of celebrated artworks, but also the technology used to copy them: “As the printheads pass over the peak of the corrugation, a normal photographic image of the spray-paint gesture is printed; where they pass over the trough of the corrugation, a diffusion takes place,” he says. “Thus, the image alternates between a digital photographic image of spray-paint and actual spray-paint and back again ad infinitum.”

Also on display at Office Baroque is Ken and Cady Noland (2013–18), which uses a low-resolution image of Kenneth Noland’s 1961 painting Epigram. As a result, the printed brushstroke is highly pixelated. The work is an encounter between Kenneth Noland and his daughter Cady, with a recurring motif found in her sculptures of the mid to late 1990s: a five-holed wooden stock employed as a method of public punishment. For the opening, Farquhar held a face-painting workshop, in which kids would place their heads through the holes of the work afterward and pose for photographs.

In “Abstract Printings,” all of the printed works create a coherent whole — referring to similar topics in the same whimsical manner. It is therefore difficult to see how the new works created by Farquhar for the show fit into his production: brand new, colorful sleeping bags hung upside down, displayed with a basket holding a puppy dog and coffee cup (a different brand for each piece). The social message of a global economy producing a global poverty isn’t just unconvincing — and Gavin Turk’s sleeping bags produce a more striking effect — but the reference made by the artist to Kazimir Malevich’s “Peasant” paintings from the late 1920s and early 1930s is rather far-fetched. Here, the artist approaches the periphery of the system he has created.

by Pierre-Yves Desaive

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David Maljkovic Metro Pictures / New York

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then alterity is a deeper, more devious tribute, especially when self-inflicted. It’s also perilous creative territory, rife with dead ends: nostalgia, repetition, degradation, the sloppy “remix” that fatally poisons the original.

Fortunately, David Maljković thrives at porous, overlapping margins, and his latest exhibition, “Alterity Line,” on view through February 24 at Metro Pictures in New York, revels in the fertile spaces between the self and the other, the found and the made, the end and the means.

Born in Rijeka, Croatia, and based in Zagreb, Maljković is an intrepid tracer of transformation and its consequences. The raw materials of this show are not only a selection of his previous works (drawings harvested from sketchbooks past, previous paintings and collages, visual fragments of a student performance) but also the typically concealed — yet suddenly compelling — tools of their production and display. Reconfigured on scales ranging from grand (multimedia installations) to intimate (a rolled up painting, encased in Plexiglas and leaning against a wall or propped on sawhorses), these works gain layers and levels, subverting expectations without erasing their origins.

David Maljkovic "Alterity Line," (2002-2017)
David Maljkovic “Alterity Line,” (2002-2017). Courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures, New York

First up (or down, rather) is a trio of large floor pieces: acrylic grates that once resembled squashed and miniaturized Sol LeWitticisms — pristine white infinities of interlocking cubes. By the time Maljković found them, they had seen better days, and he put them to work. The bruised grids served as supports for the exhibition’s fifteen new, aluminum-mounted canvases while the artist performed painstaking feats of laser-assisted Etch-a-Sketching, often inscribing figures and forms in the act of projection (stylized movie cameras, orthogonal lines) atop oil paintings that date to 2002 or 2003. Caked with paint residue and set afloat in vitrines, the grates evoke, by turns, colorful maps, charred puzzles, or denuded honeycombs, while the laser-etched canvases flicker among past, present, and future.

Familiar notions of vision and revision are also upended by three video animations, in which line-drawn faces and figures are stretched, shifted, and reshaped — all on an endless loop. Concerns of hierarchy, whether in terms of time or space, form or content, are similarly shrugged off in Frustrated Painter or Something about Painting (2003–18): two large wallpaper works that transmogrify documentary images (a blank canvas, a helmet-wearing figure projecting a beam of light like a virtual paintbrush) through a haze of pigmented wheat paste. “Alterity Line” succeeds not merely by complicating questions of “Which came first?” but by rendering them refreshingly irrelevant.

by Stephanie Murg

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Vladislav Shapovalov MMoMA / Moscow

Contrary to the widespread belief in Soviet isolationism, cold-war borders were more permeable and the differences between superpowers were less sharp. The old axiological binarism inherited from the rhetoric of that period (e.g., “good” abstract expressionism vs. “bad” socialist realism) is now superseded by a more nuanced analysis. Vladislav Shapovalov’s “Image Diplomacy” project, curated by Anna Ilchenko, complements these revisionist debates.

By tracing both optical and curatorial techniques, it presents two similar yet very different regimes of vision on both sides of the Atlantic. The epochal traveling show “The Family of Man,” originally organized by Edward Steichen in 1955, and the international exhibition activities of VOKS (All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries) are the main focus. Examples of reportage photography, once actively employed as “psychological warfare” by both sides, are shown together for the first time.

Although these images look homogeneous, they carry different messages. Photography, used in American shows, eliminated temporal distinctions by appealing to universal values such as personal freedom and human rights. Basic human activities were treated as anthropological invariables. Soviet use of infographics and avant-gardist montage techniques introduced a sense of historicity associated with class struggle and social transformation. This tension between the manipulated and the authentic, the temporal and the spatial, pervades the whole show. Thus the video essay Image Diplomacy (2017) shows buzzing projectors, endless piles of film cans and other clichéd imagery to endow flat images with three dimensions. Similarly, the installation I Left My Heart In Rhodesia (2017) temporizes reportage photography by means of slide-show projection and music. The very form of the exhibition sets the chronotope of political subjectivation characteristic of the mid-twentieth century.

Vladislav Shapovalov "Image Diplomacy" at MMOMA, Moscow
Vladislav Shapovalov “Image Diplomacy” at MMOMA, Moscow, 17 Nov 2017 – 25 Jan 2018. Installation shots by Ivan Erofeev. Courtesy of V-A-C Foundation.

But could these spatiotemporal conditions produce a contemporary spectator? Despite its declarations, “Image Diplomacy” fails to answer this question, but rather indulges in a fetishization of analogue photography. During the present “Cold War 2.0” paradoxically taking place in a unipolar world, the power of the image has been deflated and corrupted. Ideologically disempowered fake or manipulated pictures that draw public attention today are subject to the merely commercial interests of media corporations. A huge photo of an immense crowd entering “Soviet Week” at the Palazzo Reale in Milan in 1967, stretched across the wall near the show’s exit, is a swan song to a time when visual culture was capable of forming transnational communities.

by Andrey Shental

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Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris Sprüth Magers / London

Inaugurating the new year in the immaculately refurbished Sprüth Magers in London, “Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd, and Morris” charts a minor territory of Craig Kauffman’s career between 1966–71, spotlighting the artist’s work during this period alongside fellow contemporaries Donald Judd and Robert Morris.

Though primarily known as a Los Angeles-based artist, the period in focus aligns Kauffman to his life in New York — his friendship with Judd and Morris — during which time Kauffman refined his approach to structure, form, dematerialization, and process. It suits that Morris and Judd be in dialogue with the center — Kauffman — whose sculpture actively declined keyword labels, unlike Judd’s “specific objects” or Morris’s “unitary forms.” Nevertheless, any series generates traction, and so with Kauffman decidedly more lively descriptors would travel over loose lips: “Washboards,” “Bubbles,” “Loops,” and “Hurdles,” to name a few icons of the Kauffman estate.

In this way, Kauffman’s work on show demonstrates an unchallenged desire for phenomenological observation, a project of formal pleasure that distends from concerns of figure and ground, wall and support, industrial procedure and material contingency. The ground floor features Kauffman’s bulging biomorphic and bullishly lusty vacuum forms, shellacked and uniform like candies in chronic tangerine or extravagant duotone: ridged carnation pink protruding from a lacquered jade. Each one has its own resolute charm.

Upstairs elaborates Kauffman’s easing of painting’s formal properties, with continuations of process-oriented work presented alongside Morris’s Fountain (1971) and Untitled (1968), two large-scale undulating felt works. Here, Kauffman’s “Loops” really shine. Large gradient-dipped vertical sheets of plexiglas, each “Loop” is draped from a wire allowing the plastic to curve as it cools, effectively suspending itself, irrepressibly relaxed. In the two examples on view, pliant steel pink or apple green both succumb to a dilatory lemon crown; needless to say they operate best in morning daylight.

Installation view: 'Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris' at Sprüth Magers, London
Installation view ‘Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris’ at Sprüth Magers, London, January 19 – March 31, 2018. Courtesy Sprüth Magers. Photography by Stephen White.

Archival exhibition catalogues illustrate the trio’s various intersections, as well as portraits and original drawings of Kauffman’s. A second room upstairs displays ink sketches and a clear plexiglass relief with horizontal bars, a “Hurdle,” replete with splattered drops of translucent color — turquoise, raspberry, chartreuse — casting atomized, glorified shadows in a pattern much like the skin of a discus fish.

All three artists began as painters, but it is Kauffman that identified himself as such throughout his entire career. This constant, along with his intersections across San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, prove Kauffman to be a useful figure in reimagining Minimalism’s bicoastal relationship. At Crossroads, Kauffman is the line of enquiry, the channel that liberates the assertive framework of Judd and Morris.

by Alex Bennett

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