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.
SaraNoa Mark’s “36° 15’ 43” N 29° 59’ 14” E” could be mistaken for an archaeological display. Hung with carved tablets, stacked with rows of inscribed cones, housing a large diorama of cryptic miniatures, it might plausibly represent the neglected backside of Myra, an ancient carved mountain site the artist visited in Turkey. (The show’s title is its geographic location.) The catch is that every sculpture in Goldfinch Gallery was made by Mark, some entirely from scratch, like the clay cones that resemble a type of mosaic from the fourth millennium BCE; others from found materials, like a series of patterned stone reliefs Mark altered only slightly after finding them among industrial remnants. Does that make the exhibit any less archaeological? Materials can never really be raw, even if most humans treat them as such. They contain histories, transformations, intentions, formal properties and data reserves legible to those who carefully excavate, clean, recognize, analyze and restore them. In this show, SaraNoa Mark proves themselves a practitioner of just such an art form.
—2021-04-02 9:05 PM
Trauma is part of the human condition, and the past year has been no exception. In their two-person show at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, Janice Elkins and Gina Lee Robbins confront this age-old situation fearlessly. Elkins’ vigorous paintings veer from the moodily ephemeral (a white canvas speckled black, like a flock of birds bursting from formation) to the brashly wrecked (garishly scribbled and drippy visages). Robbins’ tortured sculptures bind in ugly configurations of latex tubing, horse hair, netting and clay, the more the worse, like a sick person hooked up to so many hospital machines. Simpler pieces bear their dread elegantly: a dark ceramic shell that howls, a flushed and crackled one with a gaping orifice, a tower of reclaimed wood beams topped with an old-fashioned bouffant. When Elkins’ paintings and Robbins’ sculptures echo one another in form, as they do often, then empathy blooms in spirit and the pain can begin to slowly recede.
—2021-04-06 4:48 PM
Dystopian narratives have been hard to handle this past year, exactly for their prescience, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing Lise Haller Baggesen’s most fabulous and timely extravaganza yet. “Hatorade Retrograde” is a musical set in San Francisco c. 2069, chronicling the eco-feminist resistance to climate disaster, techno-oppression, the privatization of Mars, viral pandemics and other all-too believable events. The main characters include a codebreaker, a rogue AI designer, a pair of teenage scientists and a forest fire fighter, styled in a just-right hybrid of hippie, grunge, futurism and glam that Baggesen calls “lipstick brutalism.” Solidarity, pride, motherliness and other forms of care, zealousness and redemption figure strongly, thank goodness. On view at Gallery 400, in a show dedicated to the entire Gesamtkunstwerk, are costumes, props, character portraits and a room full of sketches and research materials, plus footage from performances in McLaren Park in 2019, with the San Fran of today as backdrop.
—Lori Waxman 2021-04-07 11:14 AM