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.
Sculpture can be as improvisatory as music. For evidence look no further than “Silent Acoustic,” a two-person online exhibition by DJ Barrett and Emily C-D, American artists living in San Miguel de Allende, where the show had been intended for gallery display before the pandemic. Barrett uses wood scraps to fashion shallow boxes tenderly filled with stacks of old paper, cardboard, tangles of twine, copper piping and other junk. C-D also uses found wood, though more natural bits like trunk slices, kitchen spoons and branches, arranging them in shapes that evoke wall-mounted clocks and guitars. The artists explore the inherent spontaneity of their respective practices in a pair of videos. In one, C-D fluidly reworks a small ever-changing assemblage of wooden objects, twisted gray wire, nut shells and decorative metal doodads, complete with equally unscripted musical accompaniment. In the other, Barrett rearranges crates, long, spiky aloe leaves, painted boards and flat stones, all the while telling the story of how a skinny teenager once jerry-rigged Barrett’s broken truck with a bit of roadside wire. It was, he notes, “a master class in improvisation.”
— 2021-01-22 1:53 PM
Art can force us to see the ills to which we are blind, or it can offer transcendence when those ills become unbearable. Everyone needs relief sometimes, and this past spring, while Chicago was under lockdown, Mayumi Lake offered a dose by installing an ancient Japanese disco at the Riverside Arts Center, fully visible from the street. At the center of the small gallery, bathed in colorful LED lights and surrounded by mirror-faced stuffed teddy bears, two of Lake’s “Unison” flower reliefs spun around and around, locked in an otherworldly tango. To make these collages, Lake, who was born in Osaka but has lived in Chicago for years, scans hosoge floral patterns from vintage kimonos, prints, cuts and relayers them in the hundreds, then adds shiny doodads bought in local shops. The result is a sexy fusion of the noble and the flashy, the archaic and the futuristic. Did passersby dance to the silent rhythm of “Radiant Frisson”? I know I would have.
— 2021-01-25 10:29 AM
Collapse, reconstruction, collapse, reconstruction—at this point, the question is not if but how. With how much care will the restoration of the world be accomplished? One hopes with the amount of awareness and tenderness in Alejandro Medina’s “Reconstrucción,” on view at La Nueva Fábrica in Antigua, Guatemala. The title installation features dozens of branches balanced on freestanding metal stilts, each one forking off toward another, then another, then another, resulting in a complex web of interconnection. When some inevitably fall, others follow, and Medina must commit to rebuilding them. Nearby, six “Atmósferas”—terrarium towers filled with soil, water and germinating native tree seeds—stand precariously atop plinths made of the teak wood whose global demand threatens to eliminate them from local forests. In these sculptures, Medina works with the symbolic, but in “Intercambio” he proceeds pragmatically, providing a seed bank with an ever-changing inventory of native seeds for the giving and taking.
—2021-01-26 10:53 AM
How to look without touching, see without getting too close? The surfaces of Rhonda Gates’ paintings hint at the distortions of zoom lenses, the disruption of metal bars, the pixelation of screen images, the mesh of a screen door—intermediaries ever-more commonly found between humans and the natural environment. The two-dozen meticulous oils in “Distillation of Space,” on view this winter at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago, would be op-art playful if not for the insertion of dense graphite deer, mountain, tree and bird silhouettes. What are we missing by spectating from afar? Conversely, what are we saving from ourselves and saving ourselves from? Distance, as no one living through pandemic restrictions needs reminding, has both its advantages and its disadvantages. Now is indeed a time to consider the aesthetics of alienation.
—Lori Waxman 2021-01-27 4:37 PM