Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
RIDGEFIELD, CT — Two of the key things one does when drawing from life is separating the light from the shadows and separating the front or middle ground from the background. These simple acts of delineation take on prodigious metaphorical weight in hands of seven artists exhibiting their work in the show Twenty Twenty at the Aldrich Contemporary Museum.
The exhibition was originally conceived as both a document of and response to last year’s election season. But the way it deals with this subject is to wisely take the contrarian tact of using hand drawing to record and describe the cascade of upheavals, ructions, and catastrophes that made 2020 feel like an entire decade. The wall text tells me that the hand is central to this show because the appendage (and its utilization) suggests “deliberation and perhaps more importantly responsibility.” All the work is drawing based on photographic source material, and the most urgent pieces in the show give me a sense of the hand as a tool of action which expresses the crucial faculty of agency.
I see in the work of Andy Mister hands actively engaged in the struggle against arbitrary and irresponsible use of violence by the state: people throwing peace signs, wrestling police barricades out of their way, and shielding their mouths from aerosolized weaponry. His portraits are monochromatic, tinged in violet or gold or an icy blue, (combining pencil, charcoal and acrylic) each image its own chapter in a long saga of state-sponsored violence and its repercussions and the color imparts a certain mood to each scene. Oasa DuVerney’s drawings using only graphite on paper are more emotionally evocative. In her drawing “The foot on my neck is part of a body. The song that i sing is part of an echo” (2020) I can feel the immensity of the hug one figure gives the other. In this case the hands are grasping for the solidity and comfort of another body like a breathless patient gasping for air. Even in DuVerney’s portrait of a group of carnival hucksters performatively laying their hands on former President Donald Trump to ostensibly protect him, there is that intention: to guide, to protect, to petition for intervention.
I’m also very moved by the work of William Powhida’s “Possibilities for Representation” (2020) which presents the many presidential candidates across the political spectrum in the form of a chart, with small watercolor portraits of each individual. The may also places these candidates on the continuum between socialism and fascism. What I most enjoy about the work is that Powhida weaves in characters from popular film and television. Characters from The Matrix, Mad Max, The Expanse, Elysium, and the Star Trek series appear with descriptive notes such as “Simulation”; “Societal Collapse, Energy Crisis”; “Democracy”; “Oligarchy in Space”; and “Collectivity.” Powhida shows me that our fictional lives as refracted by large movie studio and television conglomerates have everything to do with current circumstances, because these stories tell us what we want and who we are in the dark.
The first few works I encountered in Twenty Twenty were less compelling and frankly apt than the ones I discuss above — work by Diana Shpungin felt like drawing as reverie and Marti Cormand’s work had a more formalist and whimsical focus. Still, this is a powerful show in its exploration of its central conceit: Our political and social world is in our hands, and whether it ends up a dystopian hellscape or a place of thriving vitality depends on how we collectively imagine it, draw it, and shape it.
Twenty Twenty continues at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (258 Main Street Ridgefield, Connecticut) through March 14. It was organized by Richard Klein, the exhibitions director, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.
New works by one of Bangladesh’s most prominent photojournalists, writers, and activists are on view at the Chicago art space through November 27.
Council often uses humor as a political tool to expose systems of power and inequality in a society in which even death carries a high price tag.
An exhibition at the San Francisco Opera House pairs the work of incarcerated artists with Beethoven’s story of unjust imprisonment.
Many works take disruption and repetition as their themes, and many artists resurface in different sections, creating multiple affinities.
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
In Cooking with Paris, Hilton capitalizes on her portrayal of being a competent woman, while highlighting its anachronism through her absurd performance. Rosler manipulates the camera in the same way.
EFA Open Studios offers a portal into the creative habitats of over 65 artists working in Manhattan’s longest-running studio program, including Dannielle Tegeder, Wafaa Bilal, Cui Fei, and Anina Major.
A man says Blue Bayou took details of his life without his permission. Several women who appear in the documentary Sabaya say they did not consent to be filmed. How can filmmakers avoid these ethical pitfalls?
Ursula Biemann, Nicolas Bourriaud, and others said they will no longer participate in the event.
There is an official ban against the public mourning of Tiananmen Square victims in Hong Kong and mainland China.