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.
The contradictoriness of Adam Blaustein Rejto’s pandemic paintings, daubed from handmade oil and egg tempera on petite wood panels, takes its time to emerge. They’re abstract; they’re representational. They’re lyrical and lovely; they’re explosive and fragmentary. The hues are sweet and light; they’re heavy and muddy. They’re panoramic; they’re molecular. They’re tender; they’re careless. Those paradoxical descriptors apply to each of Blaustein Rejto’s recent pictures, which also look like the offspring of a relationship between Kandinsky, Chagall and a sweatshirt my mother wore in the 1980s. Dreamlike modernism crossed with personal memory, the viewer’s or the artist’s, seems an adequate framework for it all, and squares well enough with titles like “When I remember you” and “Looking through Rio’s binoculars inside the Widow Jane’s Cave.”
—2020-12-04 11:00 AM
The artificial construct known as a border gets its artistic comeuppance in this incisive three-artist exhibition, curated by Marc Lepson and hosted online at Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery. Enormous collages by Joyce Kozloff cut up maps into brilliant quilt-like patterns that dismantle the ghettos of Gaza and the historic Pale of Settlement. Severe black-and-white gouaches by Conor McGrady present sublime mountain landscapes as settings whose natural features lend themselves to barrier making. Jenny Polak fights unjust confinement in whatever form is most apposite: lovely ultramarine blue porcelain tiles for your kitchen wall with a relief of The Wall (take your pick: Palestine, Berlin, random U.S. prison); tender brown ink drawings of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in boats; and a speakers’ podium on wheels, which she and a collaborator pulled from Chicago to Gary, Indiana, making space along the way for anti-incarceration voices to be heard.
—2020-12-07 10:22 AM
Disability and illness have been debilitatingly underrepresented and misconstrued in contemporary American culture. One solution is to heed those artists creating languages equal to the expression of their own and others’ lived experiences of these conditions. “Rituals,” a spring show at the Laurie M. Tisch Gallery in Manhattan (closed, extended and partially reopened due to the pandemic), reveals the need for, and challenges of, such an endeavor. Paintings by Ezra Benus, who also curated the exhibition, use the tools of abstract painting—multihued triangles, webs of coordinated color—to visualize his feelings of chronic pain and medicalization. A circle graph invented by Yo-Yo Lin, presented as a touchable wood relief, diary pages and a mural (meant to have been filled in during a live performance), tracks the soft data of her own daily life, including logistics, body image and social pressures. Neon tubes installed by Romily Alice Walden, with copious white wires like so many hospital system hookups, shine at a level of brightness corresponding to the wellness of a sick or disabled participant. The intentional inadequacy of Walden’s system, even while it makes visible what has too often been rendered invisible, forces an uncomfortable irony for the viewer. That seems fair.
—2020-12-08 1:24 PM
Drivers on the Eisenhower Expressway, one of Chicago’s main arteries, suffer from nasty traffic jams. How to express these feelings other than road rage? One answer is offered by local performance artist Sid Yiddish, whose on-stage persona combines Hasidism with punk anarchy, and who conducts using a system of gestures that includes beard combing, lip puckering and arm farting. None of this makes for a peaceable convergence, but the resulting chaos suits the musical composition “90-Minute Delay On The Eisenhower”—think horns, discordant melodies that occasionally resolve, and the occasional “Where the hell did you learn to drive like that?!” Yiddish’s improv band, the Candy Store Henchmen, were meant to play a live version of the song at the April opening reception for “Machine,” a group show at Salt Air Gallery, postponed due to the pandemic. At least the traffic on the Eisenhower has lightened up, thanks to the mayor’s stay-at-home advisory.—Lori Waxman 2020-12-09 11:15 AM