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CWA Picks for November 2018

posted by CAA — Nov 01, 2018

Visitors activate Tania Bruguera’s commission at the Tate Modern in London. Photo: Benedict Johnson

CAA’s Committee on Women in the Arts selects the best in feminist art and scholarship to share with CAA members on a monthly basis. See the picks for November below.

TAMMIE RUBIN: Solo Exhibition

November 17, 2018 – January 10, 2019
Women and Their Work (Austin)

Tammie Rubin’s handcrafted objects depict explorations of African American migration stories, particularly her own parents in the 1950s and 1960s, from the rural South to the Midwest. Timely in their haunting aura, the objects made of lab glass and sculptural material are made from found objects, appropriating familiar shapes like funnels, eggs, vases, candle holders, and, notably, cones. The artist then paints a series of 17-26 and intricately hand-etches a flask to emit a visual timeline of her parent’s journey, when the Civil Rights Movement was prominent and the Civil Rights Act was effective in 1960. Many of the objects are flanked with two holes that resemble eye holes, further indicating racial tension, unfortunately relevant still. Other elaborate adornments on the objects include pointillated maps or trails, lines and patterns. Grouped together the works release the nature of such moves; discomfort, uncertainty, but also auras of surreal and sensuality. This is a new body of work shown at the Women and Their Work Gallery in Austin, where Rubin currently resides, being raised in the Midwest.

Self-Confessed! The Inappropriately Intimate Comics of Alison Bechdel

September 1 – December 30, 2018
Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers 

Zimmerli Art Museum exhibits MacArthur Foundation “genius” grantee and author/illustrator of the renowned Dykes to Watch Out For comic (1983-2008, syndicated in over fifty alternative newspapers), Alison Bechdel’s primary bodies of work including original drawings and sketches, activist ephemera, large-scale self-portraits, and even a reconstructed model of the set for the musical Fun Home. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) is a graphic memoir Bechdel created exploring her relationship with her father, coming out, and his possible suicide. This New York Times bestseller was also the basis of the Tony-award winning musical of the same name from which the Fun Home model set was made. Dykes to Watch Out For precluded that, which explored the lives of a group of lesbian friends. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama (2012) follows her relationship with her mother, girlfriends, and therapists, and examines psychoanalytic theory. All of her work is created with humor and style via universally relatable and personable stories on love, acceptance, community, and social justice. Her solo exhibit is complemented by a selection of work by contemporary graphic memoirists Thi Bui (The Best We Could Do) documenting immigration and assimilation; Ellen Forney (Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir), managing bipolar disorder while retaining passion and creativity; and Iraq veteran Maximilian Uraiarte (White Donkey: Terminal Lance), satirizing daily life in the United States Marine Corps. This unique juxtaposition of work resembles both the variety of timely topics explored in the medium with a breadth of relatable style, but also the ability of these artists to connect to broad audiences by bringing print to paper to the contemporary.

Deana Lawson: Planes

October 13, 2017 – February 17, 2019
The Underground Museum (Los Angeles)

A rare thunderstorm marked the occasion of Deana Lawson’s October opening at Los Angeles’s Underground Museum. A flash and a bang and the power in the galleries went suddenly out. Soon, people were holding up their cell phones and turning on their flashlight apps. It was like a scene out of a movie—each person’s sightline illuminated, as they swept and focused their glances on Lawson’s photographs. Primarily Lawson photographs black individuals in a range of interiors and exteriors, singly and in groups. A pictorial sharpness and a meticulous attention to the psychodynamics of everyday life circumscribe the boundaries of her engrossing practice. The people and props that appear in her photographs are often posed and placed with great care; the resulting effect is a studied naturalism, which might entrap an otherwise lazy viewer with its claims to “reality.” The title of the exhibition is “planes” which might suggest an altogether other reading of these photos, as spatial constructions wherein the social is imprinted. Eventually, the lights came back on, but Lawson’s photographs continued their troubling of photographic practice.

Marcia Hafif: A Place Apart

September 4 – December 22, 2018
Pomona College Museum of Art 

Rigorous eclecticism links the 100+ works running throughout this (now sadly posthumous) retrospective of the West Coast conceptual painter Marcia Hafif. Entitled A Place Apart, the artist’s solitary and meditative drawings are put into coordination with ephemera from her archive (notebooks and writings) and a few choice paintings. Building models, planting schedules, reflections on Chinese poetry, constellations of the zodiac, and spirals and mazes; these are but a few of the elements of Hafif’s practice as reflected in the retrospective’s organization. Throughout the survey there is an insistent focus on the creation and maintenance of the spaces for contemplation and retreat. In addition to shedding further light on this understudied artist, Pomona College honors one of its alumni—Hafif enrolled in 1947. The exhibition is accompanied by a handsome catalogue, and includes a new site-specific wall writing work, entitled Cooking Fish.

Liliana Porter: Other Situations

September 13, 2018 – January 27, 2019
El Museo del Barrio 

Liliana Porter moved from Buenos Aires (b. 1941) to New York in 1964 where she confounded the avant-garde New York Graphic Workshop and participated in its conceptualist reformation of printmaking. A still understudied yet highly acclaimed artist—recently hailed as one of Latin American Art’s “radical women”—Porter has worked in variety of media including works on canvas, photography, sculpture, installation, video and more recently theater, and has become widely known for her playful poetic mixture of the absurd with the lyrical and the dramatic through whimsical “theatrical vignettes,” enlivened by mass produced figurines, that variously comment on the fragility and brutality of the human condition with humor, compassion, philosophical and existential profundity. Collected from flee markets around the world, these figurines, says the artist, “are mere appearance, insubstantial ornaments, but, at the same time, have a gaze that can be animated by the viewer, who, through it, can project the inclination to endow things with an interiority and identity.”

Her first major museum survey in New York in 25 years, organized by SCAD Museum of Art, Other Situations brings together a variety of Liliana Porter’s works from 1973 to 2018 and focuses on the artist’s exploration of the conflicting line between reality and fiction, and the ways in which images are circulated and consumed. The exhibition highlights the fundamental distinction that Porter creates between the notions of “narrative” and “situation,” while bringing to the foreground the timely relevance of her provocation of representation, image dissemination and public life and recent series, such as Forced Labor.

Tania Bruguera:

October 1, 2018 – February 24, 2019
Tate Modern

Under a changing numerical title that is stamped on the visitors’ hands and reveals the ever-increasing figure of people who migrated from one country to another last year, added to the changing number of migrant deaths recorded this year—10,142,926 on October 1—Tate Modern unveiled the series of interventions by the Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera at the Turbine Hall and the institution around it comprising the 4th annual Hyundai Commission. An ambitious multifaceted project, this work not only thematizes migration but exceeds the boundaries of Tate to mobilize community in line with the artist’s sociopolitical concerns and ongoing honing of “useful art.” In response to the extent and crisis of migration, not to mention Britain’s changing relationship with its neighbors, Bruguera variously focuses on the meaning and role of the neighbor. The work invites visitors to take part in symbolic actions in the Turbine Hall, from revealing the portrait of a migrant’s face hidden beneath a heat-sensitive floor, to crying under the influence of an organic compound, in an enforcement of empathy critical of its lack and failures. An essential part of this work is her collaboration with a team of Tate Modern’s real neighbors to whom she has resorted in order to teach the museum how to adapt to its local community’s needs and to create direct action and institutional changes. One of the first actions ensuing from this multi-month interaction, whose results are expected to outlast the duration of the project, has resulted in the renaming of Tate Modern’s north building the Boiler House after local activist Natalie Bell, paradigmatically honoring her community work and positive contribution to the lives of others in SE1. Chosen in fact by Bell, the face to be revealed from the heat of the visitors’ lying bodies is of Yousef, a young man who left Syria in 2011 and found emotional and practical support through SE1 United, a local charity that Bell helps to run. Bruguera sees this image as a hidden ‘horizontal mural’ that can be made visible only by those within touching distance and collective action. Read CAA’s recent interview with Tania Bruguera.

Filed under: CWA Picks