In this weekly column, art critic Lori Waxman adapts her 60wrd/min project to review work by artists whose practice has been affected by the pandemic. Waxman covers shows that have been cancelled, postponed, shuttered, made remote or opened by limited appointment, as well as art made during quarantine. Reviews are written in the order in which requests are received. This iteration of 60wrd/min is a democratic, good-faith effort to document more of the art making that is happening at a time when much of it is relatively unobserved.
I think a lot about trees when I go walking in the city, as in the country, and I thought more about them while looking at “Blind Spot,” a series of photographs by Suzanne Rose on view this fall at Zolla Lieberman Gallery in Chicago, in a show originally scheduled for last spring. Rose’s pictures are as much landscapes as they are portraits of individual trees that tower, bend, reach and sometimes break. Though shot with a digital camera and printed with contemporary methods, her prints nod pleasurably to old photography with their rounded corners, deep blacks and whites, and the almost total absence of human activity. Almost total, but not quite, and it’s those moments where the Anthropocene intervenes that mark “Blind Spot” as critical rather than nostalgic, about now as well as then. The trees, it comforts me to note, bear it all rather well, taking an adjacent field or a road as an opportunity to grow wider, a power line overhead as a prompt to sport an eccentrically split crown. The trees shall inherit the earth.
—2020-11-13 11:01 AM
Under the terms of the pandemic, many of our lives have gotten smaller: socially, physically, architecturally, geographically. But small can also be good. Think of jewels, short stories, bonsai, kittens, Indian miniatures. Forced to work from her living room in Columbia, Missouri, since the spring, Sarah Arriagada has painted a dozen-and-a-half ten-by-eight-inch oil panels that alternately embrace micro looking and micro living. It isn’t the same thing. Where “Nike” bursts shards of turquoise, taupe and mauve from a central point, like a prism seen up close, “Femme Fenêtre” drapes sun-bleached curtains around a pale blue sky. Hands, clouds, curtains, diamond patterns and vases recur, presumably because they do in Arriagada’s home. Paint is applied smooth and scumbled, in a few simple strokes or a complexity of layered ones, maybe with a surprise streak of lime or aqua. Reduced living can be expanded via intense looking.
—2020-11-16 2:08 PM
For one week this summer, the gods partied in all their majestic exuberance. At least that’s how it looked, if you were mortal and had the good fortune to live on or walk down the 1200 block of Loyola Avenue in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. That’s where, at Roman Susan, a sliver of a gallery, the artist Paige Taul projected “It makes me wanna,” a 2:32 minute black-and-white film showing the faces of Black dancers enrapt with the glory of movement. The trick was all in the setup: giant storefront windows filled with visages projected so large they seemed to belong to bodies big enough to hold up the earth, or at least the city. It’s a vision almost more beautiful and optimistic than a person can bear right now, but oh how badly it’s needed.
—2020-11-17 9:18 AM
What does the coronavirus sound like? What does it look like? What does it feel like? I don’t mean in a physical, medical or emotional sense—the shortness of breath, the intubation machines, the loss of loved ones—but rather a molecular one. The surprisingly beautiful answers appear in “Unraveling,” an exhibition of videos, stills and textiles by Laura Splan on view at BioBAT Art Space in Brooklyn (by appointment and online). Audio is plucky and strummy, courtesy a pair of biotech professionals who use guitars to interpret the mRNA sequence of SARS-CoV-2. Visuals rival your most mesmerizing screensaver, symmetrically patterning the virus’ spike protein into ribbony animated sequences in natural shades of rose, mauve, mint and aquamarine. For feel, think soft and cozy, as in a tapestry being woven from collectively unraveled yarn plus the wool of laboratory llamas and alpacas, whose antibodies help produce the human drugs we need so badly to end the pandemic. That Splan’s erudite aestheticization of COVID-19 can enchant as much as it does is baffling only if we forget the crucial fact that she has removed the human element—the dead and the suffering—from the artistic equation.
—2020-11-18 11:58 AM (Lori Waxman)