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September 9-11, 2022   Javits Center

2021 Show Guide

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Can you hear
the fault lines breathing?

curated by Claudia Schmuckli

In a world gripped by climate change and haunted by biological and social viruses that are decimating populations and tearing apart societies, Can you hear the fault lines breathing? traces the political fault lines that have put the ideals and workings of democracy at risk. The artists participating in the 2021 Platform section seek new modalities of thought to account for the expanding divisiveness animating concepts of race, nationality, and cultural identity that not only threaten individual societies but the future of humanity at large.

Featuring a range of large-scale paintings and installations, the artworks in this section metabolize and lean into these fissures as a way to incite strategies of overcoming. They propose modes of address grounded in personal and cultural histories that point toward the necessity for an ecology of care that includes the self, one another, and the planet we call home. Collectively, they encourage us to listen and learn so that we can craft a better future built on historical awareness and empathy.

Circle (Bicentennial Series)
Benny Andrews Circle (Bicentennial Series) 1973 Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery (New York) presents Circle (1973) by Benny Andrews, a haunting, monumental painting confronting white myths about Black Americans, in particular men, that have perpetuated racial injustice in the United States. Circle is the third of six works conceived in view of the American Bicentennial in 1976. Afraid that national celebrations would omit voices from the Black community, Andrew’s created his “Bicentennial Series” to counter the heroic narrative of white exceptionalism with the trauma of lived experience that is as true today as it was in 1973.

Very Large Very Expensive Abstract Painting
Grayson Perry Very Large Very Expensive Abstract Painting 2020 Victoria Miro

Circle serves as a historic foil for Grayson Perry’s Very Large Very Expensive Abstract Painting (2020), presented by Victoria Miro (London, Venice), which is related to his recent documentary broadcast on the polarized political and cultural fissures in American society. Produced for the UK's Channel 4, the artist traveled across the US on a custom-built motorbike he designed for the journey to instigate conversations about bridging the politics of division related to identity, race, money, and class with communities ranging from African-American businesspeople in Atlanta to farmers in Wisconsin.

We Are All Astronauts
Julian Charrière We Are All Astronauts 2011–2021 DITTRICH & SCHLECTRIEM, Berlin, and Sean Kelly, New York

Questioning the validity of the concept of national identity and the nation state is We Are All Astronauts (2011-2021) by French-Swiss artist Julian Charrière. Co-presented by DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM (Berlin) and Sean Kelly (New York), it is an installation composed of world globes stripped clean of their geographic information. Inspired by the writing of Buckminster Fuller, each globe features maps from 1890-2011 that have been sanded away. Dust created by the abrasion gently settles beneath the globes, creating new, yet to be defined cartographies for a world in which drawn territories are increasingly rendered unbounded.

Material (SG) I
Yinka Shonibare Material (SG) I 2019 James Cohan Gallery

Yinka Shonibare CBE's Material (SG) I (2019), presented by James Cohan (New York), is part of a series (or, as he calls them, “generations”) of wind sculptures that explore the notion of harnessing motion and freezing it in a moment of time. Equating the movement of wind with the movement of people, Shonibare speaks of them as natural metaphors for migration. However, their bright pattern of reds and greens—based on the type of Dutch wax textile that has become a signature of the artist’s work—also connects them to the discourse around the constructed nature of cultural identity and global interdependency that has been at the core of Shonibare’s work for decades.

The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, Room F, Section 1, Northwest Palace of Nimrud
Michael Rakowitz The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, Room F, Section 1, Northwest Palace of Nimrud 2019 Jane Lombard Gallery

Michael Rakowitz is one of several artists whose restorative social vision is informed by a preservationist approach to cultural histories. The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, Room F, Section 1, Northwest Palace of Nimrud (2019), presented by Jane Lombard Gallery (New York), recreates stone carved panels from a banquet hall in the historic Palace of Nimrud that were destroyed by ISIS, or went "missing," in vibrant collages of middle eastern food packaging. While addressing the longstanding conflict within the Middle East, it also aims to engage with a history of the region that goes beyond the prevailing narrative of conflict to create a diasporic historical continuity that points toward a more survivable intersectional future.

Come to Pass
Cammie Staros Come to Pass 2021 Shulamit Nazarian

While Rackowitz highlights concrete historical events and artifacts in need of cultural preservation, Cammie Staros's fascination with artworks from the Greco-Roman period lies in how those objects have come to represent Western art and civilization. Presented by Shulamit Nazarian (Los Angeles), Come to Pass (2021) is a totemic sculpture comprised of stacked, hand-built vessels that marry ancient ceramic techniques with modern industrial materials. It is exemplary of the artist’s turn to antique vessels as carriers of mythologies of gender, desire, and violence constitutive for the Western imagination in order to reflect on the constructed condition of histories and societies.

Phantom Limb
Diana Al-Hadid Phantom Limb 2014 Galleri Brandstrup

Diana Al-Hadid also draws on classical aesthetics to create sculptures that teeter between ruin and regeneration, erosion and growth. Her work, Phantom Limb (2014), presented by Galleri Brandstrup (Oslo), features a truncated female body sans arms or legs atop a structure that merges elements of landscape and architecture. With its title referring to the sensations that are felt in the event of an amputation in which a missing body part is felt as still being present and able to move, it reframes a bodily experience of lack and loss in terms of a cultural event that speaks to the lingering effects of a form of historical conditioning in the process of becoming undone.

Opus (The Ovule)
Tau Lewis Opus (The Ovule) 2020 Night Gallery

Opus (The Ovule) (2020) is part of a series of soft sculptures and environments that define Tau Lewis’ utopian universe called T.A.U.B.I.S. Lewis' works originate in the collection of found materials that map the artist’s close relations and gesture toward cultural signifiers of community and shared belongings. Lewis describes Opus (The Ovule) as “the power source of consciousness” of a fictional realm defined by abundance, safety, and justice. Presented by Night Gallery (Los Angeles), the work conjures the fantastical and the familiar simultaneously, invoking traditions of the imagination.

Photo credit Gary Sexton

Claudia Schmuckli

Curator-in-Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Claudia Schmuckli is the inaugural Curator-in-Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Since joining in the fall of 2016, she has developed a dynamic program of exhibitions, commissions, and acquisitions that dialogue with the institution’s sites, buildings, and collections in view of a self-critical reassessment of the Museums’ histories and identities.

Currently on view at the Fine Arts Museums are Wangechi Mutu: I am Speaking, Are You Listening? at the Legion of Honor and Judy Chicago: A Retrospective at the de Young. Prior to these presentations, Schmuckli curated Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI, the first major museum exhibition in the United States to reflect on the political and philosophical stakes of artificial intelligence and Specters of Disruption, an exhibition drawn from the Museums’ Collections, which connected the geological and colonial underpinnings of the de Young Museum to the current conditions in Northern California. Other projects include interventions at the Legion of Honor by Alexandre Singh, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sarah Lucas, and Urs Fischer, as well as projects by Lisa Reihana, Leonardo Drew, Ranu Mukherjee, Matt Mullican, and DIS at the de Young.

Previously, Schmuckli was the director and chief curator of the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, where she organized over thirty exhibitions including solo shows dedicated to The Propeller Group, Matthew Ronay, Analia Saban, Slavs and Tatars, Candice Breitz, Tony Feher, Johan Grimonprez, Gabriel Kuri, Chantal Akerman, and Amy Sillman, among many others. Schmuckli began her career in New York as a curatorial assistant at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and an assistant curator at the Museum of Modern Art. She is a Swiss citizen and holds an MA degree in art history from the Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany.