As our patience being tested by weather so terrible it makes Mordor look like the Maldives, art remains an efficient antidote to seasonal affective disorder. This month, go beyond yourself: introspection, history, the luxury of leisure, geographical tropes and pizza are only some of the topics addressed by the five shows we selected. We encourage you to go see them!
1. James Benning at neugerriemschneider, Berlin
The artist James Benning uses mostly film to reflect on the violent episodes that have shaped the subconscious of American history. In his current show at Berlin’s neugerriemschneider, he focuses on three aspects of history interlinked by their oppressive and imperialist character: the struggle of the Navajo people; the assassination of Che Guevara; and the Vietnam War. Benning uses the consequences of a recent wildfire in the Sierra Nevada, which almost destroyed his home, as a common denominator to explore these tragedies. In both the footage of his central video work and a series of paintings, monochromatic surface serves as a symbol for the relentless endurance of brutality. The colors chosen directly refer to the bleakness of the episodes mentioned above: they are either the result of the fire itself, or taken from satellite photos of locations related to said events. Here, annihilation leads to a sedated uniformity; Benning creates an almost impenetrable mist of mesmerizing images, expansive and ever-growing.
neugerriemschneider, Linienstrasse 155, 10115 Berlin
2. Adrian Buschmann at Gabriele Senn Galerie, Vienna
Most of the time, luxury come across as dense. In his current show at Gabriele Senn Galerie, Adrian Buschmann goes the opposite way and uses airiness to convey an aura of heightened leisure. The painter’s practice has always been keen on reducing formal elements to floating contours, eventually ending up in creamy abstractions. In “Macchiato,” canvases painted in hues so soft they’d make a Californian interior designer quiver with joy are populated by the softest of strokes, sometimes vaguely representing figures, fruit, or just a limb. At other times, the paintings are exempt from any recognizable doodles, winking instead towards the more cliché type of monochromatic objects many enjoy hanging above their couches. It’s a thin line between shallowness and persiflage, but Buschmann knows how to walk it perfectly well.
Gabriele Senn Galerie, Schleifmühlgasse 1, 1040 Vienna
3. Mi Kafchin at Lyles & King, New York
The first thing one encounters in the press text accompanying Kafchin’s current show at Lyles & King is a question: “What is the architecture of psychic space?” The ten oil paintings on view shall serve as an attempt to answer it. To a certain extent, most of them are self-portraits; drawn from memories and dreams rather than photographs or mirrored images. This rule may also explain their chimerical aspect: quirkiness meets gory surgical interventions and surrealist puns in works composed like a haiku by Boris Vian. While the Romanian artist’s works are undoubtedly introspective, she infuses them with a mysterious distance; this manages to give these psychological tableaus the crispness that makes them so enticingly layered. Mentioned previously, Ariela Gittlen’s excellent press text works like an efficient map to navigate Kafchin’s painterly territories.
Lyles & King, 106 Forsyth Street, New York, NY 10002
4. Pizza is God at NRW Forum, Düsseldorf
Populism is certainly trending, mostly in a rather abhorrent, political form. The exhibition “Pizza is God” at Düsseldorf’s NRW Forum aims at exploring the topic through one of our planet’s most beloved food: pizza. As it appears, the Italian culinary crowd-pleaser has been a popular motive for an impressive amount of artists; many of them are included in this refreshingly down-to-earth show. From blue-chip darlings such as John Baldessari or Martin Kippenberger to emerging talents like Marco Bruzzone or Jennifer Chan, pizza has served as an efficient tool of vulgarisation. The topics addressed through the circular delicatessen are multiple: surveillance, authorship, sex, god, hunger, consumerism, and many more. Cast in bronze, painted in oil, mounted directly on a wall or filmed, pizza in art seems to have almost as few limits as it has when prepared to be eaten.
NRW Forum, Ehrenhof 2, 40479 Düsseldorf
5. Lydia Ourahmane at Chisenhale Gallery, London
In Lydia Ourahmane’s practice, the personal is always political. Ourahmane, who works between London and her hometown of Oran, Algeria, maps the emotions that both inform and clog our perception of geographical and psychological landscapes. For “The you in us,” her current show at London’s Chisenhale Gallery, she has produced a new body of work, characteristically manifold: a video, soundscapes, sculptures, and photographs. With an economy of means untypical for such a young artist (Ourahmane was born in 1992), she explores her personal history, torn between the belonging to a defined space and what could be akin to post-national cosmopolitanism; the impact of activism on biographical anchor points, as illustrated by the story of her grandfather; and the translation of singular traumas to a plurality of bodies, including her own and the visitors’. Somber yet luminous, “The you in us” takes time to delve into these questions, without fear of leaving them unanswered.
Chisenhale Gallery, 64 Chisenhale Road, London E3 5QZ
– Karim Crippa