It’s been Frieze week in New York, which meant a lot of people boarded small boats and voluntarily travelled to a tiny island in the middle of nowhere (the East River). This also meant that the rest of us could do other things, like see art in spaces that actually made the work look good, whether in New York or LA. In this spirit, and with our May issue which (reports on New York and LA’s current art scenes) in mind, David Everitt Howe has selected five must-see exhibitions from both cities, plucked everywhere from major museums to old bank vestibules.
I’m not an old person, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a solo Adrian Piper exhibition, which means that her outing at Elizabeth Dee is super exciting, more so because it’s performative; she’s such a badass at making identity politics both biting and hilarious. With this show, she’s created three office environments where viewers can sign contracts that stipulate things like ‘I will always be too expensive to buy’, transforming someone’s personal value from something fuzzy and abstract to a binding legal contract.
Mika Rottenberg is justly known for her videos, which like Piper’s work, revolve around questions of subjective labour and value. But with this exhibition she’s expanding the site-specific nature of her video installations, turning them into more immersive architectural environments that all lead to a bingo hall in Harlem. Along the way, ‘quantum entanglement’, ‘magnetic fields’, and the ‘production of luck’ form a ‘parapsychological chain of events’, as the press release states. I don’t know what the fuck any of that stuff means, but it sure beats another show of paintings.
Agnès Varda is well known as a French New Wave pioneer, but she’s less known for her photography, collage, sculpture, and installation works. This expansive survey of her creative output takes all of it into its fold, and is anchored by an installation of 35mm filmstrips from her famed 1969 film Lions Love, turning them into a large shack, My Shack of Cinema (1968–2013), which is a beautiful sculptural form in and of itself, and somehow a very fitting encapsulation of her career.
There’s so much white in this tidy group exhibition that it nearly requires visors; Rob Halverson’s white canvases of wispy clocks nearly blend into the wall, while the blue plastic sheet on the floor comprising Sam Anderson’s Tess (2013) is the final resting place for a little white bird skeleton. Not only are the works conceptually tight, they’re formally tight too.
Anyone thinking Gagosian Gallery’s soul might have died with the opening of another new space on the Upper East Side is only partly right. The gallery has also temporarily taken over an abandoned, graffiti-covered Chase bank branch on Delancey Street in the Lower East Side, for the other venue in this two-part Urs Fischer show. Inside, blobby bronze figures, cast from clay, are placed unceremoniously in front of teller booths, old ATMs, and on ugly, corporate carpet. Enlisting a small army of volunteers, Fischer’s collectively made works include a dumpy, limbless mermaid fountain, water dribbling from her neck. What a way to give a middle finger to capitalism.
14 May 2014