It is fitting that the initial trio of exhibitions that inaugurated the Ford Foundation’s gallery end where it began: on the theme of Utopian Imagination. The previous shows, first Perilous Bodies, and then Radical Love in turn, set the table by instilling a sense of crisis for the varied calamities that threaten human life and agency, and then suggesting that an untrammeled, overweeningly lush care for the self and the other might save us. Utopian Imagination picks up where they left off, still very much using curator Jaishri Abichandani’s considered strategy of weaving a conceptual skein out of the work of artists of color (with an emphasis on women artists) across a range of ethnicities, nationalities, gender expressions, and physical abilities. I’ve made the point before that the trilogy has included artists whose work doesn’t aesthetically or intellectually keep pace with other artists in the show, but in this instance there is a vision so encompassing that this exhibition feels the most holistically realized.
Most of the pieces here show bodies, human bodies, in some state of flux, or movement away from this world, into what a physicist might term an entirely different inertial frame of reference — a place where different rules apply.
In Yinka Shonibare’s piece “Cloud 9” (1999–2000) we see an arrival: there’s an astronaut on what one might suppose to be the moon, but he’s dressed in Dutch wax fabrics decorating his space suit, as if African people had launched him into the vast beyond. Zak Ové’s “Sky Lark” (2017) depicts what that trip out to the stars might look like in the test phase, where a dark-skinned figure with a face like a tribal mask extends his arms like a bird outside the cockpit of an air ship topped with horns. Ové’s “Nubian Return” (2011) extends this narrative, showing what those who have found a place of expansive agency — in which they have more fully realized their capacity for beauty — might look like if they returned to this sodden earth. The vehicle consists of riveted metal and metal adornments with a body serenely at peace in its center — technology buttressing the human, not overwhelming it.
In the rest of the show the body is transformed. Firelei Báez does the best work of hers that I’ve seen yet in “Adjusting the Moon (The right to non-imperative clarities)” (2019) a mirrored duo of raucously colored figures who have burst their skins and have become creatures of pure efflorescence. Mikael Owunna’s photographs (such as “Infinite Essence: James” ) take the human body back to its origins, literalizing it as star stuff, with the glowing fluorescence of galaxies shining all over the skin of his figures. Cannupa Hanska Luger gives us an earth that looks denuded of other life, except for two agents, spirits, avatars who are magpie colored, walk on two legs, and may be reclaiming the land that was lost to greed and dehumanizing colonizing practices. Finally, Saks Afridi has some pristinely lovely photographs and a hovering minaret that anchor an elaborate story (told through different media platforms) of how alien creatures in wondrous vehicles came to the planet with good in one hand and evil in the other.
The whole exhibition imagines that our best selves have yet to be. They are on the horizon and the people who have been most oppressed, most ignored, most belittled and rejected will lead us all there. And this is a very human story at its essence: it’s those who are hungriest to find freedom who gain escape velocity.
The artist’s portrait of her mother, painted in 1977 and reproduced on the vaporetti of Venice, may be one of the most evocative artworks in the Biennale.
A new box set of four of the Iranian director’s features offers a great opportunity to get to know his singular style.
Convened by Erika Sprey, Lamin Fofana, Sky Hopinka, Emmy Catedral, and Manuela Moscoso, the public program unfolds this summer at CARA in New York City.
It’s not a “greatest hits” show, or a comprehensive survey; rather, it is a starting point to reconsider an expansive vision of Chicana/o art.
“I’m focused on contemporary Native American stories, the modern-day ups and downs of that lifestyle, but I’m not trying to do it in a traditional manner,” the award-winning filmmaker told Hyperallergic in an interview.
The Bay Area art book fair is back this July with free programming at three different on-site venues, new exhibitors, and fundraising editions from renowned artists.
The Tweet comparing an ominous screen capture from the Tucker Carlson Show to one of Holzer’s Truisms is being sold as an NFT to benefit crucial organizations in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
Rapper Maykel “Osorbo” Pérez was sentenced to nine years.
Shows at the Hudson Valley’s Hessel Museum of Art feature artists Dara Birnbaum and Martine Syms, as well as new scholarship on Black melancholia as an artistic and critical practice.
On the day of the Supreme Court’s decision to undo 50 years of constitutional rights to abortion, artist Elana Mann’s “protest rattles” feel especially poignant and urgent.
This week, Title IX celebrates 50 years, the trouble with pronouns, a writer’s hilarious response to plagiarism allegations, and much more.
Since antiquity, women’s eyebrows have been sites of intense scrutiny, constantly shifting between trend cycles.