“Marlon Mullen: 2017–2018”
Beginning in the late 1960s, Alan Shields (1944–2005) was one of a heterogeneous group of Manhattan-based artists reinventing abstract painting. (The cohort also included Howardina Pindell, Jack Whitten, and Mary Heilmann, among others.) As did his peers, Shields explored new materials, methods, and registers; his two- and three-dimensional works mix Modernist devices like the stain and the grid with craft techniques and tribal, folk, and countercultural motifs. This exhibition, which coincides with a revival of interest in Shield’s work, focuses on the years between 1968 and 1984. Paintings on unstretched fabric, washed with color and embellished with scraps of cloth, glass beads, and machine stitching, reward close looking with a wealth of local detail—a nearly invisible grid of machine-sewn circles in one; a tangle of beads in another—while from a distance, they variously conjure Moroccan rugs, pieced quilts, and hippie jean-jacket embroideries. They are joined by sculptures made from paint-stained canvas belting, as well as typewriter drawings that imbue found texts, such as the ingredients list for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, with a mysterious urgency.
Cameron Rowland creates installations of existing objects and documents that expose America’s inequities, particularly those deriving from the poisonous legacy of slavery. The artist’s 2016 show at New York’s Artists Space, for example, consisted of examples of commercial goods, including office desks and firefighting suits, made by inmates—a disproportionate number of whom are African American men incarcerated for petty crimes—working for less than minimum wage in state prisons; these were accompanied by a brochure tracing the roots of what has been called the re-enslavement of black Americans. Rowland’s commissioned project for The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles brings together items such as an antebellum tax record; a MOCA donor plaque acknowledging the patronage of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles; and objects seized by police through the process of civil asset forfeiture to examine the racist dimensions of state and market forces’ property “accumulation by dispossession.”
Part political art and part political action, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera’s work has taken myriad forms, among them a 2014 public performance in which she invited everyday Cubans to step up to a podium in Havana’s Revolution Square and speak their minds (the event was canceled by Cuban authorities, who also arrested several would-be participants) as well as a storefront community center in New York City offering services to recent immigrants. In 2008, Bruguera had policemen on horseback storm Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and corral surprised visitors into the center of the gallery—transforming audience members into state-controlled citizens, according to the artist. This season, Bruguera returns to Tate Modern with a new commissioned piece, involving a heat-sensitive floor, expanding on her concept of Arte Útil (art as a social tool).
An Italian contemporary of pioneering American color photographers William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, Luigi Ghirri (1943–1992)—whose first photo book, Kodachrome (1978), appeared just two years after Eggleston’s Guide—began taking pictures in the early 1970s. Often juxtaposing reality with its representation (a wall mural, advertisement, or reflection), his surrealistic images tease, charm, and bewilder. But they also evoke the dislocations wrought by postwar consumer culture on Emilia-Romagna, the Northern Italian region where Ghirri was born and where he lived for most of his life. Comprising around 250 photographs, this exhibition, which began its tour at the Museum Folkwang, Essen, focuses on the first decade of Ghirri’s career.
What to see in Los Angeles: Artist Anna Betbeze on shows up now [posted 10/26/18]
What to see in Los Angeles: Vincent Price Art Museum director Pilar Tompkins Rivas on shows up now [posted 1/8/19]
What to see in New York: Photographer Dawoud Bey on shows up now [published 08/09/2018]
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