Summer’s almost here already, and soon we'll rather be lounging by a pool than check out exhibitions. Until then, however, we’ve selected five beautiful shows in which the human body, emotionality and traditional media are being challenged by talented artists of all backgrounds and age.
1. Iza Tarasewicz at Croy Nielsen, Vienna
In her current show, Iza Tarasewicz disrupts a plethora of preconceptions to surprising effect. The Polish artist has overtaken Croy Nielsen’s gallery space with intricate compositions that aren’t easy to classify. They consist of numerous metal pieces in all shapes and forms, sometimes akin to a primitive flute and at others to elements from a car engine or 1970s necklaces. Attached together by wires, most of these intricate works hang from the ceiling like the withered remnants of some complex notation system. Are these sculptures? Gigantic pieces of jewelry? 3D drawings? Or all of the above? Maybe it’s precisely because of this ambiguity that In myriads, things cry out, as Tarasewicz’s show is titled, conveys the opposite of a déjà vu: her works feel like something you’ve actually never seen before.
Croy Nielsen, Parkring 4, 1010 Vienna
|2. Hito Steyerl & Martha Rosler at Kunstmuseum Basel|
Guy Debord was right: we live in a society of spectacle. Our times see extreme violence and shallowness go hand in hand, and digitality has only magnified this unpleasant couple’s impact on culture. At Kunstmuseum Basel, two artists exploring these topics have been paired for a stimulating exhibition. In War Games, the oeuvre of Martha Rosler is put into dialogue with works by Hito Steyerl. Both women have had a longstanding interest in media’s impact on our perception of reality, and have recombined the aesthetics of ultra-liberalism, violence, and technology – which are, in essence, already intimately interlinked – into multilayered and striking pieces. War Games gives viewers the opportunity to (re)discover two radical practices addressing the dangers looming over our societies’ civilizational achievements.
3. Flora Hauser at Ibid, Los Angeles
In her persnickety works, Flora Hauser lays down a journal of sorts, consisting of teeny signs executed with sharp pencils. She takes these contemporary runes from diaries in which notes and observations create an interrogative mosaic of her day-to-day life. When grouped on a canvas or sheet of paper, these figures develop landscapes about landscapes, as Hauser’s conceptual focus lies with the definition of topics such as nature and home. These intimate reflections and the impression of faded delicateness her works radiate link it to the tradition of 19th century Romanticism. At one of Ibid’s two LA galleries, the Austrian artist presents a body of work realized during her residency at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, inspired by her visits to the Golden State’s many impressive natural landmarks.
Ibid Gallery, 670 South Anderson Street, Los Angeles, CA 90023
4. Ragnar Kjartansson at Faurschou Foundation, Beijing
How can art convey the sort of emotion making you tip over from light sentiment into an exhilarating blend of sorrow, joy, and passion? You might find the answer at Beijing’s Faurschou Foundation. The institution currently presents A Lot Of Sorrow, a video performance piece by Ragnar Kjartansson and The National. The work is a recording of a mythical performance that took place at MoMA PS1 in 2013. In it, Iceland’s master of long-durational performance and the band combine forces to perform a single song, Sorrow, over and over for six hours straight. Emanating from this endless loop is an almost overwhelming variation on the expression all the feels. Thankfully devoid of ironic detachment, it authentically channels the performers’ and public’s emotional topographies, eventually culminating in a staggering finale.
Fourschou Foundation, 798 Art District, No.2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing
5. Jenny Saville at Gagosian, New York
From whatever genius sculpted the Venus of Willendorf to Lucian Freud, the list of artists dealing with the human body seems literally endless. Consequently, it’s never been easy to stand out from the crowd when exploring the subject matter; but Jenny Saville certainly does. In the 1990s, she shocked audiences with her enormous canvases, representing flesh in its most brutal forms and executed with unapologetically deft brushstrokes. The British painter is back at it with Ancestors, in which she continues her vigorous investigation of what can constitute a body. This time Saville also draws from a wide array of sources – African sculpture, Renaissance drawing and Picasso, among others – to re-contextualize the central theme of her oeuvre. She hasn’t lost her signature technical brio, and this latest expansion of vocabulary is undoubtedly exciting.
Gagosian, 522 West 21st Street, New York, NY 10011
– Karim Crippa