“Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future”
Large-scale foam core and paper models of City Hall, the Merchants Exchange building, Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and Betsy Ross’s house, among other Philadelphia landmarks, crowd this exhibition space, once the studio of Elaine de Kooning. Built by Germantown resident Kambel Smith, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of eight, the hefty structures are given vibrant life by Smith’s skills as a painter, evident in his interpretations of the storefronts at the base of the Art Deco PSFS bank building and the decorated pediments of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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).
Dorothea Lange’s celebrated photographs of rural life during the Great Depression, commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, are animated by her concern for the impoverished farmers she depicts. Conveying a similar empathy are the rarely seen pictures she took of Japanese-American “evacuees” at the Manzanar internment camp during World War II. Featured in this retrospective, the series serves as a timely reminder of the US government’s history of aiming harsh policies at perceived foreigners. The exhibition—which was organized by the Oakland Museum of California, where it premiered—encompasses over 240 vintage prints and archival materials, such as a letter to Lange from John Steinbeck.
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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