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 Purpose of Disease,” the title of Amiko Li’s exhibition at the University of Georgia’s Dodd Galleries, begs weighty questions, a surprising range of which are touched on by the artworks on display. Open for only one day before the school had its pandemic shutdown, the show features photographs, mounted on a hospital-green wall, picturing those for whom disease is a professional calling (doctors), creatures whose lives have been taken in pursuit of its eradication (laboratory animals), young men adrift on its account (patients), practices offered in pursuit of its opposite, wellness (flowers, yoga). In a two-channel video, young actors try and mostly fail to perform sickness as a visible condition, mixing the pat gestures of heart attack and the sniffles with the ticks of their own healthy bodies. Phrases scattered about—printed on mirrored panels, written on a post-it note, vinyl transferred to windows—reflect on human sensitivity, adaptability and limitation. The purpose of disease isn’t given, but it can be found.
—2020-12-11 11:04 AM
Galleries are mostly interchangeable, the art shown in them as suitable to one place as another. Not so Rebecca Beachy’s “growing down,” harmoniously installed in the Roman Susan semi-basement, a fitting place to contemplate rootedness as a way to stay grounded in our increasingly virtual world. Beachy explores what this might mean through arrangements of materials, some of them simply organic, others evidence of how people deal with nature. River clay sheathes mammal skins and paints the storefront windows, camouflaging both. Bird spikes prop up, rather than rebuff, a deer tail, shale and cast bird nests. Asphalt decorates traffic cones and a rat trap in a shade profoundly linked to the oily blackness of piled-up horse remains. Gleaming copper leaf on the gallery’s stair railing and a beaver-chewed branch connect two dissimilarly milled tree parts. The ever-presence of death conjures human destructiveness but also natural cycles, the kind that involve transformation into nutrients digestible by root structures. In order to go up, you’ve got to first go down.
—2020-12-14 1:31 PM
What might a truly COVID-conscious exhibition look like? “Untied,” curated by Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson for the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, is a serious contender. The show took the challenges of this moment as an opportunity to rethink exhibition design, inviting five artists to install and perform during separate weeks throughout the run (social distancing), displaying their work with an eye to online documentation (remote viewing), and with the opportunity to rearrange what was already there (community spread). By measuring, layering and enlarging archival materials, alejandro t. acierto attempted to quantify the capacity of the pugo, a type of quail local to the Philippines, to elude colonization. Ruby T. performed a terrifyingly pertinent amalgamation of marketing speak, contemporary news and politics, demonic possession and nature worship. Riffing on the notion that we are but one fragile bubble in an infinite multiverse of them, A.J. McClenon ended “Untied” by gingerly covering their co-exhibitors’ artworks with plastic sheeting, protection for when the bubble finally bursts.
—2020-12-15 1:01 PM
Some sculptures are better understood as poems. In “Consecutive: Linear, Passenger,” his solo exhibition at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois, on limited view this fall, Javier Jasso writes a walk-through book of them. He does this by refashioning found two-by-fours into a large two-wheeled cart; plastering a stack of shipping boxes with layers of cement; housing a white bone inside a metal heating grille; stacking burnt and crumbling bricks in a corner; tying a pale plaster arm atop a makeshift crutch. Words appear, too: lettered huge in clay and hung on the wall, typed small in ink on white paper. The overall effect is a ghostly one, of things and spirits trapped in between now and then, here and there, drained of blood but not memories or desires, awaiting further tinkering and purpose at the hands of someone who sees them not just for what they were but more importantly for what they might become.
—Lori Waxman 2020-12-16 10:56 AM