Discover Platform 2023

Barthélémy Toguo, Urban Requiem, 2015. © Barthélémy Toguo, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co. and Bandjoun Station.

Explore the projects in Platform 2023, Rewriting Histories, curated by Eva Respini, below.

Are we living at the hinge of history, as has been theorized? The last few years have been a period of enormous instability and uncertainty. How do artists help us navigate this moment, reframe the past through the present, and account for history’s omissions and erasures? Platform 2023 brings together large-scale sculptures, installations, and site-specific works by artists who offer shifting and multiple perspectives where history has often provided a single perspective.

The Agora is the central artery of The Armory Show—the name recalls the ancient Greek practice of assembling in public. Encompassing a polyphony of approaches to installation and sculpture, the works assembled in the Agora are propositions for our time. Under the loose theme of Rewriting Histories, this presentation features artists expanding or challenging the historical canon, which is often preoccupied by inclusion and exclusion. The artists in Platform 2023 use history as material, imagine speculative futures, and employ a variety of material traditions as means of history-telling. Topics include the complex histories tied to colonialism, land, and power; the legacy of labor and migration movements in the 20th century; the combining of disparate accounts to underscore history’s subjectivity; and how materials carry their own cultural values and meanings. Although their materials and approaches vary, collectively, the artists in Platform 2023 are invested in world-building.

- Eva Respini

Hank Willis Thomas
Strike, 2021
Ben Brown Fine Arts (London, Hong Kong, Palm Beach)

Hank Willis Thomas reframes images that circulate widely in the world. Strike is based on the 1934 lithograph Strike Scene by Ukrainian American painter and printmaker Louis Lozowick, which depicts a charged confrontation between worker and authority. Thomas has isolated a single element from the print—one hand stopping another’s swing of a baton—transforming this disembodied gesture into a large-scale bronze. Through cropping and reframing, Strike prompts questions about the enactment of justice: Is justice the arm swinging the baton, or the force stopping it

Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA
Man Moving Up, 2022
James Cohan (New York)

In this mis-en-scène, Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA, collapses various material cultures to explore the complex, interwoven colonial histories of Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The single figure carrying his worldly possessions references the Great Migration—the exodus of six million Black Americans from the South to cities in the North, Midwest, and West from 1916 to 1970. The staircase’s ornate design is based on that found at Chatsworth House, a long-standing seat of aristocratic power in Britain. The figure wears 19th-century attire made in Shonibare’s signature Dutch wax fabric, underscoring the contradictions and complexities of cultural origins, while the Victorian cut of his costume alludes to the foundations of the sharecropping system and Jim Crow.

Teresita Fernández
Island Universe 2, 2023
Lehmann Maupin (New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, London)

In Island Universe 2, Teresita Fernández combines the globe’s landmasses to create a continuous and meandering mass without borders. Evoking Pangea, the supercontinent found on Earth 300 million years ago, Fernández visualizes the interconnected geological, cultural, and historical relationships of geographies and challenges the typical north-up = superior / south-down = inferior presentation found in most world maps. Made with charcoal, Island Universe 2 illustrates the artist’s interest in uncovering what she refers to as “stacked landscapes,” the conceptual framework that allows the work to reveal the often invisible, buried layers of historical violence embedded in land.

Jean Shin
Huddled Masses, 2020
Presented by Praise Shadows Art Gallery (Boston)

Jean Shin uses the detritus and discarded elements of our everyday lives to create her installations. Fashioned from obsolete cell phones, Huddled Masses is rough-hewn and irregular in shape, recalling the scholar’s rocks found in Zen gardens or traditional Chinese painting. Embedded like fossils in a ground of computer cables, the phones form an archive of 20 years of technological history, mapping our ever-growing digital footprint. The work invites us to reflect on e-waste’s impact on the environment and the planned obsolescence central to our consumer culture.

Devan Shimoyama
The Tower, 2023
De Buck Gallery (New York)

The Tower card is one of the most powerful in the tarot deck—it signals transition, turmoil, and unexpected change. Devan Shimoyama’s imposing Tower is extrapolated from the card design by Pamela Colman Smith, a London-born artist and children’s book illustrator whose legacy has been overlooked. The work appears charred yet is embellished with glitter, fabric flowers, and delicate slivers of silk ivy, suggesting rebirth or renewal, the possibility of cracks in the towering structure, or a makeshift memorial.

Woody De Othello
thought in mind, 2023
Jessica Silverman (San Francisco)

Invested in the ways that everyday objects carry their own cultural values and shape human experience, Woody De Othello creates the monumental from the mundane. Sculpted in bronze and standing at nearly seven feet tall, De Othello’s blown-up rotary telephone receiver and comb lean against one another, as if to support the weight of their shared domestic roles. Playful and surreal, these tools and technologies extend our physical forms to create tender moments of connection.

Xu Zhen®
Eternity - Standing Bodhisattva, Statue of Nike of Paionios, 2017–2022
James Cohan (New York)

Eternity - Standing Bodhisattva, Statue of Nike of Paionios is a composite of facsimiles of the Nike of Paionios (425–420 BC), one of the most famous statues of Western antiquity, and the Buddhist devotional sculpture of the bodhisattva, a being who selflessly guides others to salvation. In this playful fusion of classical sculptural forms, the artist explores the differences and similarities between cultures, while also carrying the archaeological weight of history with its attendant cultural and religious values.

Shahzia Sikander
NOW, 2023
Sean Kelly (New York, Los Angeles)

Shahzia Sikander’s multivalent bronze sculpture offers an abstracted and amorphous notion of the female body that refuses to be fixed, grounded, or stereotyped. The figure emerges out of a lotus plant, ubiquitous in many cultures as a symbol of humility, awakening, and clarity. Originally created as part of a public art collaboration between Madison Square Park Conservancy and the Courthouse of the Appellate Division, First Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, NOW is the first female figure to adorn one of the 10 plinths on the courthouse roof. Situated in a prominent position of power, the sculpture, whose title makes reference to the National Organization for Women, offers a reimagining of the feminine as an active agent, thinker, and participant as well as a witness to the patriarchal history of art and law.

Vaughn Spann
Monument, 2023
David Castillo (Miami)

Comprising three 10-by-10-foot paintings, Monument creates a complete environment that envelops the viewer in layers of textured paint and color. In an extension of Spann’s Marked Man series, the X featured in each canvas is serially repeated, alluding to the forms of modernist painting, minimalist sculpture, or pop art. Spann is interested in assigning new meaning to an extremely recognizable form. Depending on context, this symbol might be read as a reference to police brutality, a sign of negation, a designated location, a signature, or an allusion to Malcolm X.

Agnes Denes
The Debate, 1969/2023
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects (New York) and Marc Selwyn Fine Art (Los Angeles)

The two seated skeletons featured in Agnes Denes’s The Debate are engaged in conversation within the confines of a box whose mirror-coated interior panels create the illusion of infinite space. The glowing acrylic cube suggests a museum display of an archaeological relic excavated by a future species studying the extinct human race. In this expression of mortality and infinity, Denes captures the endless debate on the nature of humanity throughout history and into the future.

From 1968 to 1970 I created a group of illuminated sculptural works in which I explored qualities of reflection, translucence, and transparency, experimenting with surface coating to attain multitudes of reflections into infinity, while expressing the philosophical ideas that I have sustained throughout my work since the 1960s.

Prominent among these early experiments is The Debate – One Million BC – One Million AD (1969) in which two skeletal figures – you and I at a dinner party seen through x-ray vision – face each other in an endless debate. Seated inside a Plexiglas box, which I mirrored by hand and bathed in a rose-colored light, their images are reflected into infinity within the six sides of the cube-like container.

While the original sculpture was small, I had always imagined it with life-sized figures engaged in an endless debate on the unanswerable human dilemma, not realizing that what really mattered may be summed up in three little words: “animale, rationale, mortale.

Now, at the age of 92, with the support of Art Makers, I have re-created this work in the human scale in which I had originally conceived it.

-Agnes Denes

Barthélémy Toguo
Urban Requiem, 2015
Galerie Lelong & Co. (New York, Paris)

First commissioned for the 56th Venice Biennale, All the World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor, Barthélémy Toguo’s Urban Requiem comprises an arrangement of ladder-like sculptures featuring wooden busts. Hand-carved into their flat bases are slogans in multiple languages, sourced from protests and national movements, from #MeToo to #BlackLivesMatter. These works function as stamps, from which prints with the various slogans have been made. The stamps—or brandings—evoke the mechanisms of bureaucratic authority, such as border control as a mode of policing, and the flow of human bodies and capital that is tied to colonial and imperial histories.

Pae White
sotto voce, 2023
Jessica Silverman (San Francisco)

Working with a Jacquard loom, Pae White explores the tension between handmade and industrial processes in this suite of tapestries created for Platform 2023. The loom’s invention in the 19th century allowed for the efficient reproduction of textile patterns and reduced the human labor required for production. White works against the loom’s industrial function to create intricate, and individual, designs, incorporating motifs from the natural world. The artist says, “A Jacquard loom is a beast of an industrial machine. I love denying what it does, removing the repetition, and transforming its mindless speed into an intentional, thoughtful result.” White’s tapestries hang close to the ground, creating an intimate architecture to envelop and cocoon the viewer, transforming a historical technology to facilitate new encounters.

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, Man Moving Up, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York. Photo by Stephen White & Co.
Teresita Fernández, Detail of Island Universe 2, 2023. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Photo by Dan Bradica.
Shahzia Sikander, NOW, 2023. © Shahzia Sikander, Courtesy Sean Kelly.
Jean Shin, Huddled Masses, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Asian Art Museum.