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.
Making artwork in the midst of a national disaster can be a coping mechanism, a way of adding to the historical record, an opportunity to reflect amid chaos. “For the Foreseeable Future (part 1),” an eleven-minute video by Kayla Anderson, exhibits characteristics of all three, maybe more. Anderson lives in Chicago, and the city’s lakefront, mayor and orange alerts play major roles in the artist’s rumination on local life during the first few months of the pandemic. Those elements made it into the nightly news as well, but where Anderson diverges most meaningfully is in the development of an unusual extended metaphor: colored glassware rolls across the screen only to vanish in an instant, replaced by corresponding bits of beach glass, carefully gathered up by a human hand. A voiceover tells a story of being tossed and turned in the ocean but ultimately not drowning, which right now remains our great hope, while we continue to take our daily walks along the shoreline. Stay tuned for part two.
—2021-01-15 11:37 AM
Modernist design gets a lot of flak lately, when it’s not being upsold by entities like Design Out of Reach. At its best, though, it is thoughtful, accessible and charming, characteristics emphasized in “For Modern Resting,” a fall exhibition at the Irvine Fine Arts Center by Erik Benjamins in collaboration with Shannon Finnegan, Lauren Godfrey and the design studio Norma (now on view at Marta gallery in Los Angeles). Spare plywood furniture? Check. Chartreuse cushions and earth-toned rug? Check. Clever cedar bench with metal shoe tray insert? Check. Monochromatic silhouetted wall clocks? Check. All of these might be expected, and done with care they are. Surprises await elsewhere. The cushions bear a tender embroidered message, the walls a curious airbrushed one. The rug is not pile but dozens of ceramic reflexology tiles, meant to be trod by those who’ve removed their shoes at the bench. Walking, meanwhile, activates the poem of fragments scrawled along the borders of the tiles. Having done that, plenty of places are available for a joyful rest.
—2021-01-19 2:00 PM
It can be worthwhile to consider what a painting needs. Lights? Multiple dimensions? Dancers, poets? “Synapse,” created by Bert Leveille in a seven-foot-square vault at the Old Courthouse Arts Center in Woodstock, Illinois, requires all this and then some. Installed for the last two months of 2020, also the final months of the venue’s thirty-year existence, “synapse” uses three large silvery canvases, one suspended fabric-and-wire object, and a trio of changing-color LED floor lights to bring the imagery of Leveille’s earlier paintings to life. The result resembles a dancer rendered in Japanese calligraphy, spinning slowly in a moody abstract landscape. Overlaid across this scene are related textual fragments—including the tenderhearted “inside is not so dark / when you shine / a light. stop.”—not unlike how the owners of Japanese scrolls would fill the white space around a waterfall or a gourd with lines of poetry. The words, a collaboration with the Atrocious Poets (Annie Hex and Jen May), appear suspended in the vault’s doorway, through the magical intermediary of a sheet of hung Plexiglas.
—Lori Waxman 2021-01-19 10:55 AM