“Born in Flames: Feminist Future”
Until September 12th. Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse, 165th Street, Morrisania, 718-681-6000, bronxmuseum.org (718) 681-6000, bronxmuseum.org.
The Bronx Museum of the Arts, which turned 50 this year, was founded, among other things, to bring mainstream art from Manhattan to the district. Its first exhibition in 1971 featured loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the decades since, the program has increasingly responded to global awareness and the South Bronx neighborhood, making the museum – which is free – one of the most adventurous art spaces in town power.
She is particularly well received with her current group exhibition “Born in Flames: Feminist Futures”. The show takes its title from the 1983 film by American artist Lizzie Borden: a dark, punk docudrama about the United States in the grip of a moral revolution, led by an army of women from all social, racial and sexual backgrounds. The film itself is constantly on the show, surrounded by work by some of the best artists you’ll see all over town right now.
Chosen by Jasmine Wahi, the museum’s social justice curator, they include some high profile figures (Firelei Báez, Huma Bhabha, Wangechi Mutu) as well as others who have steady visibility but deserve even greater recognition (Chitra Ganesh, Saya Woolfalk, Tourmaline ). . And of particular interest are artists who have only just gotten to know each other here.
One of them is the Los Angeles-based Brazilian artist Clarissa Tossin, who made an unforgettable impression in the Whitney Museum’s exhibition “Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay” in 2018, and she does it again with a map-like woven curtain with a picture of the Amazon and of the Yangtze. impossible to meet and flow across the gallery floor. In a painting of comparable scale by Caitlin Cherry, female figures intertwine to form a continuous, pulsating ocean-blue field.
A common theme of these pieces – fluid energy – becomes more concrete in other works in which human and natural forms merge. In “Flamingo”, a portrait-like painting of a woman by the South African artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, human and bird-like features mix. And in a sculptural tableau made of cast bronze by María Berrío, who was born in Colombia and lives in Brooklyn, a reclining female figure guarded by water birds is clad in a dress made of seemingly blossoming tendrils.
The Berrío piece is a beauty. Also two ceramic sculptures by Rose B. Simpson, an artist living in New Mexico. In her work, human-like shapes seem to have been formed out of the earth and merge with it at the same time, a reminder that environmental awareness has always been and still is inherent in feminist art.
So is the idea of change – physically, politically and spiritually. Both reality and the need for it are the messages in a short science fiction video by non-binary Canadian performance artist Sin Wai Kin. Under the title “Today’s Top Stories” it presents the artist in a jacket and tie – male news anchor – but with a cosmic view of planets and space as a background. Butterflies fly around when the anchor reassuringly brings bad news: “You will cease to exist.” This is soon followed by a groundbreaking development: “You are immortal”.
With their planetary consciousness, their insistence on transformation, and their appetite for contradiction, the feminist futures proposed here cannot come too soon.
Until September 11th. Tilton Gallery, 8 East 76th Street, Manhattan, (212) 737-2221, jacktiltongallery.com.
February James’ excellent solo debut in New York gives you plenty to work with, beginning with the title When Chickens Come Home to Roost. It suggests that ultimately justice is served, that evil always returns to the doorstep of the evildoer. The fact that James – in his 40s and living in Los Angeles – is a black self-taught man who mostly shows the scaled-down faces of women of color adds resonance.
Their apparently simple, colored faces have both caricatural and abstract aspects. With emphatically red lips and tinted eyelids, reminiscent of James’ earlier work as a make-up artist, the women also recall the techniques of color field painting and the skill of the portraits of the German Expressionists, the Fauves and Beauford Delaney. With their simple means, they have surprising emotional depth; their often light eyes, perhaps close to tears, are perhaps those of seers.
James’ Oracle, Barbara Kruger-esque titles add to the impact. “The Thing I Regret Most Are My Silences” is the only full-length character on the show: a blonde who only wears panties and may confess in front of her mirror. Another painting – a woman turning to us skeptically – responds with the warning “Your Silence Will Enfold You”, a paraphrase of the worse “Your Silence Will Not Protect You”, a book of essays and poems by Audre Lorde. “Change Comes Upon Us Like a Change of Weather” seems right for the relative passivity of a serene and beautiful woman who resembles a 1930s starlet.
The title of the exhibition is also that of an installation that is less original than the paintings and revolves around a large wooden chicken coop filled with all sorts of found chicken toys and figures. But the wood is littered with faint, ghostly sketches of James’ signature faces, which creates some new possibilities.
“From the surface to space”
Until October 30th. Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA), 50 East 78th Street, Manhattan, islaa.org.
Concrete art flourished in South America in the post-war years, a form of geometric abstraction with utopian ambitions to communicate with a universal audience. Its popularity in Argentina and Brazil is often attributed to the mutual influence of Swiss artist and designer Max Bill (1908-1994), but the exhibition “From Surface to Space: Max Bill and Concrete Sculpture in Buenos Aires” makes an argument in favor of Argentine Innovation as an independent force.
Bill won the sculpture prize at the first São Paulo Biennale in 1951 for a work that used the mathematical principles of the Möbius loop, and in the same year wrote an essay entitled “From Surface to Space” in which he posited that the relationship that has changed people to the space around them and that art should reflect that. A much smaller 1956 sculpture by Argentine artist Enio Iommi, Elevacion del Triángulo (Triangular Height), uses similar ideas – the exhibition argues that Bill and Europe weren’t the only source of concrete innovation – and translates mathematically derived curves into an elegant aluminum loop mounted on a wooden base. Claudio Girola’s aluminum “Triángulos Espaciales” (Spatial Triangles) from 1948 tries to activate the space and shows the three-dimensional space around the sculpture. A wooden and metal mobile from 1948 by Carmelo Arden Quin and drawings by Lidy Prati complement concrete explorations of space and surface.
The effects of Concrete Art were profound, especially in Latin America, where rapid industrial development changed culture and the environment. Concrete art has not achieved its lofty goals, which are to use modern ideas and materials to improve life, but the intercultural dialogue here and the important presence of Argentine artists in this exchange is still impressive and inspiring.