More than just a divine drag act, by inserting herself into these myths, Lassnig casually upends their traditional interpretations. The first page of the show’s catalogue features a waggish 1980s-era pencil sketch of a naked woman bowed atop a bull, her thighs voraciously clamped against the animal’s haunches. This is not the Europa we’ve come to know, the soft sliver of a maiden and her snow-white bull, gliding across the canvases of Paolo Veronese or the two-Euro coin. Lassnig’s 1994 watercolor, Kretastier (Cretan Bull) twists the story even further, presenting the artist as a plum-nippled Europa rising from the cerulean shallows, a puny purple bull slung around her shoulders like a stole.
– Review of Maria Lassnig: The Future Is Invented with Fragments from the Past, Bookforum Dec 2017/ Jan 2018.
Structural Psychodrama #2 premiered shortly afterward at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York. This piece plays with architecture’s ability to go unnoticed, threading a white wall between the three columns in the center of the gallery. Neatly sealing off the space into two long corridors, this wall is not immediately legible as an obstruction. If anything, its status as an imposter—or even an intruder—is only betrayed by the leakage of light, slipping from the slender gap between the lower edge of the wall and the floor. Filling this gap is a set of Murano glass phalluses, one protruding out from under each segment of the wall like so many pairs of ruby slippers. Their form trumpets all the machismo of a phallic object, but the intricate crafting recalls something exquisite and vulnerable, a mix between Cinderella’s kitten heels and a unicorn escaped from Laura Wingfield’s Glass Menagerie. Totems of luxury, intimacy, power, and fragility, the sculptures could be propping up the wall, or they could be pinned down by it Either way, the masculinized underpinnings of the architecture are quite literally in peril.
– “Upsetting the Architecture,” from Monica Bonvicini, Berlinische Galerie, Kerber, 2017.
One outcome of these accumulated interventions is a new understanding of art as a third category beyond the parameters of nature (that is, animal, plants and ecosystems) and man (and, as an extension, the built environment). By this, I do not mean art as the fetishized object, the commodity bauble or the staged enlightenment of specific discourse (for all of these would fall under the category of man). When Roth deploys art into the scripts of his actions, emancipations or dislocations, what he is proposing is a form of expression that does not belong solely to humankind. By acknowledging and incorporating interspecies perspectives, the artist is crafting a means of asking questions that mankind cannot answer alone.
– “The Opinion of the Trees,” from In the Spring of 2017 Martin Roth Published a Selection of his Works, Black Dog 2017
This corsair’s tale of Jupiter and his plundered moon spin a story far beyond our own self-interest. For if, as we have learned, the water molecules in our bodies are older than our planet, then there is is no reason that their adventures should be contained within the limits of our language. These atoms may have travelled at speeds our earthly bodies – at least, in their current configurations – will never know, visited planets we will not live to discover. And we would be wrong to assume they will end their journey on this planet. The Earth’s oceans may frame our horizon, but there are no such bounds on water. Even Europa, with her thick crusted shell, can only hold water for so long.
– “Here There Be Dragons,” from Basim Magdy: No Shooting Stars , Jeu de Paume 2016
If Tightrope underscores the precariousness of this specific cultural heritage, then On the Benefits… trotted that same legacy out like so many trophies on display, props to emphasize the greater achievement of the empire. But as the performers bodies register different pressures in each work—the tightrope walker faces the unpredictability of the elements, while the threat to the human pyramid comes from within, as the entire structure could come toppling down should any one of its components falter—these works, too, suggest that neither local tradition nor state-sponsored spectacle are as monolithic as they may seem.
– “Openings: Taus Makhacheva,” Artforum, February 2015.
Sturtevant’s work sits within the institution the way lit dynamite sits by the road in Wile E. Coyote cartoons; her technique of repeating (but not replicating) works by other artists calls the bluff in American modernism’s qualified embrace of the readymade, issuing a direct challenge to the cult of the authentic at the heart of most museums or collections of contemporary art. Ironically, in shunning the modernist dictum of innovation above all, Sturtevant produced some of the most radical work of the twentieth century. In truth, it’s to her testament that her legacy remains so uncomfortable for the contemporary institution.
– Review of “Sturtevant: Double Trouble” at the MoMA, LEAP, December 2014.
Within the collaborative works, language is deployed fast and loose, functioning self-sufficiently as a formal device (as in Pork Chop), but also charging the seemingly nonsensical combinations of elements with the humor of a purported (albeit often mystifying) purpose. One image collages two newspaper headlines to advertise the FIRST NAME OF RITA HAYWORTH’S THEORY OF RELATIVITY, while in another, a horde of helmeted marauders pauses to ponder this urgent question: HOW OFTEN SHOULD WE PARTAKE OF SUPPER? A spread from Yodeling into a Kotex, a 1968 artists’ book created with Padgett, shows two women in mod dresses adjusting their hats under a slip of a cigar and the (misspelled) word LINEOLEUM. The overall impression is one of terrific coincidence, as if all of these elements had been floating in space, only to be corralled in place for that one chance instant.
– Review of George Schneeman at Poets House, Artforum, September 2014.
Artist Michael Stevenson derives this “New Math” from a calculus of vandalized paintings, stuffed peacocks, silver balloons, false eyelashes, deposed Shahs, unshaved barbers, planes that never take off, planes that never land, and an Ace of Clubs that never shows its face. The twenty-five-minute film, Introducción a la Teoría de la Probabilidad, never reveals an exact equation. Instead, it lays out the various elements like a hand of solitaire; to make sense of any of it, one has no choice but to uncover the cards in the order they have been dealt. In the process, the viewer is enlisted as Stevenson’s co-conspirator, a double for an artist whose entire practice draws from a constantly expanding catalogue of coincidences, doppelgangers, and dead ringers
– Profile of Michael Stevenson, Bidoun #18, Summer 2013.
Throughout her work, Güreş catalogues clandestine interactions between women, as they attempt to carve their own worlds in the niches and hollows of the system that has been handed to them, to take back their bodies before those bodies can be taken from them. In the artist’s potent self-portrait, Self Defloration, Güreş lies on her back, her breasts slinking off to either side, one leg crooked up to give her hand freer access. Under those implied fingers, a wild red stain seeps into the white sheet below, which has been spread over the beige mass of an oversized painter’s palette. In no uncertain terms, this heroine has chosen to make her pain her paint.