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.
If thread plus fabric usually equals clothing, in the hands of Elnaz Javani and Annette Hur they add up to something far more expressive and stirring. Javani, an Iranian living in Chicago, uses embroidery on cloth as other artists might apply ink on paper. String upon string of red conjures hair, water, blood. Black Farsi and Ansari script sewn across the surfaces of gentle, odd, stuffed figurines suggests the comfort of mother tongues. Hur, a South Korean living in Brooklyn, stitches scraps of silk and other textiles to paper as would a collagist. Much female eroticism results: triangular crotches, curly tangles of pubic hair, shoulder pads turned sideways like breasts. The title of “Exo,” a two-person show of their work curated by Azadeh Gholizadeh and recently on display at Devening Projects in Chicago, indicates that derivatives of that prefix could be useful here. But forget exotic and go instead for exoskeleton, exodus, even exoteric: Javani and Hur make work out of the stuff that goes on the outsides of bodies, that comes from a place of departure, that can be widely understood because of its familiar materials.
—2021-02-12 10:44 AM
Institutional critique is overdue for an overhaul. Enter Olivier, “Unpaid Intern” (and founder) of The Museum, an artwork-as-institution that exists somewhere in between an email address, a number for text messaging, standardized forms, a series of short and weird videos, the possibility of dream telepathy and an Instagram page. Since October, The Museum has been on the search for evidence of Bigfoot, to which end it hired multiple freelance Bigfoot hunters, who are encouraged to submit “evidence” of their findings and whose primary qualification is that they must have faith in the idea of Bigfoot. The Museum, as Olivier formulates it in Statement 7 of “Employment Agreement,” is based in a system of belief that is shared between itself and its employees, and which The Museum retains the right to redefine. If the very idea of Bigfoot seems preposterous, we might do well to remember that much contemporary art seems equally outlandish to non-believers. And that a whole lot of unpaid interns are busy slaving away in galleries and museums, hoping it will one day lead to a proper job. Bring on the hunt!
—2021-02-15 2:41 PM
The wordplay of “Knobl Hearts,” the title of Casey Carsel’s show in the windows of the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Chicago, could not be more perfect. “Knobl” means garlic in Yiddish, and “noble” is how Carsel presents the pungent plant in yards of quilted textiles, pages of words and gallons of soup. The project is reclamatory, as Carsel explains in related texts, garlic once deeply linked with Jews both culturally and prejudicially. To hand-dye fabric with garlic peels, to embroider it with little cloves, to cook those bulbs up into soup and offer it for the taking, is to embrace that cultural history while refuting the anti-Semitic one. Did Jews really have such a sulfurous stink that it warranted our expulsion from Spain? Think of that next time you nosh on gambas al ajillo in a tapas joint. Meanwhile, I’ll be busy filling my home with the scent of good old roasted knobl and calling it by a name that my dear, departed bubbies would understand.
—Lori Waxman 2021-02-16 2:29 PM