Mirror neurons activate when an animal – eg you or me – performs an activity or sees another animal doing something. Apart from that, said brain cells are the focus of murky speculation concerning their relationship to empathy, and some unresolved research on monkeys. The Whitney, though, is running with the touchy-feely idea as a parallel to how art works, and Mirror Cells gathers five young-to-midcareer American sculptors who deal with hermetic narratives and analogue materiality, positing their activity as a form of shared inwardness. Rochelle Goldberg has previously used ceramic and steel, crude oil and chia seeds to fashion ominously fishy, human-scaled sculptural creatures; Elizabeth Jaeger is known for sculpted packs of querulous dogs; and Win McCarthy’s work includes illuminated cagefuls of painted rocks. Expect their work, plus that of Maggie Lee and elder zany materialist Liz Craft, to espouse narratives including ‘the loss of a loved one, preoccupations of a particular community, or changes that impact the world more broadly’, and don’t say you don’t care.
Yngve Holen, VERTICALSEAT, 2016 (installation view, Kunsthalle Basel) Photo: Philipp Hänger. Courtesy the artist; Galerie Neu, Berlin; Modern Art, London; Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt
Concerns for human empathy arise naturally in an age of abundant mediation. Yngve Holen’s art, too, tracks how the self is being reshaped and augmented nowadays, his locus being the (absent) body in a context of consumerism and technological advancement. Following, for example, wall-mounted monochrome cross-sections of full-body scanners – bright and uneasy circular sentinels, revisited here – and a magazine filled with interviews with pornstars concerning bodily modification, the Norwegian-German artist’s largest institutional show thus far, VERTICALSEAT, will include handblown glass replicas of Boeing Dreamliner windows, owllike anthropomorphic bus head- lights and, we’re told, at least part of a Porsche Panamera. Slicing things up, dismantling, Holen acts out an inquiry into postorganic selfhood, and that the result is highly aesthetic – coldly desirable sculpture-cum-painting – inarguably fits nicely.
Cindy Sherman, Untitled #70, 1980, chromogenic colour print, 51 × 61 cm. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Some latter-day photographs by Cindy Sherman have revolved around surgeried-up Hollywood matriarchs (played, need it be stated, by the chameleonic artist herself): the theme of modified selfhood, and those forces that compel the changes, had long been established in her work by the time Holen was born, in 1982. That was also the year that Eli and Edythe Broad discovered Sherman, and they’ve since purchased 125 of her photographs, their most substantial investment in a single artist. Expect The Broad’s first solo retrospective, Imitation of Life, to draw deeply on that bounty, ticking off the many phases of a 40-year career – from the Untitled Film Stills (1977–80) to the lesser-known Rear Screen Projection series of 1980–81, the history portraits, the disturbing clowns – while skewing to the LA context and associations with film culture and celebrity, from its Douglas Sirk-quoting title onwards. Appropriately, Sherman’s 1997 feature, Office Killer, will also be screened; even more so, the most recent photographs in this exhibition have found the artist assuming the roles of Hollywood icons like Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo in their later years.
John Baldessari, Chopin, 2015, varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint, 238 × 137 × 4 cm, signed and dated verso. Courtesy Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich, and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London
A few years ago, John Baldessari told an interviewer about a time when Sherman and Barbara Kruger came up to him at a party, and Sherman told him, ‘You know, we couldn’t have done it without you.’ Which was nice, except that they were more successful than he was. The world has caught up with Baldessari’s influential, wit-lubricated conceptualism, however, and particularly his knack of wringing ambiguous poetry from the vernacular – film stills, for example. About to turn eighty-five, he evidently remains a workaholic, maintaining a steady exhibition schedule and ticking off a show at Mai 36 every two or three years, along- side other gallery shows and, lately, forays into fashion. Here, it might be reasonable to expect something similar to his last show, a few months ago, in which paintings based on banal found photographs are crowbarred open by text captions that have, outwardly, absolutely nothing to do with the imagery, muddling genders and subjects with mellow abandon.
Alfredo Jaar, Logo For America, 1987, digital colour video, sound, 10 min 25 sec. Courtesy the artist
Having originated at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and toured to Museo Jumex in Mexico City, Under the SameSun: Art from Latin America Today arrives at South London Gallery, just in time for the opening of the institution’s new space in a converted fire station and, one would think, at the right time of year to deflect cracks about the English weather. Curated by the Guggenheim’s Pablo León de la Barra along with the SLG (so perhaps expect some variation from previous iterations), the show features works by 20 or so artists recently acquired for the American venue’s UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Among them, with most being born post-1968 and with a general emphasis on art that tracks political and social shifts in Latin America in the past half-century, are Runo Lagomarsino, Alfredo Jaar, Carlos Amorales, Tania Bruguera, Rivane Neuenschwander and Erika Verzutti. If, in other words, you haven’t been keeping up with matters artistic in the (global) South, head to the south (of London).
Kemang Wa Lehulere, Does this mirror have a memory 8, 2015, drawing in collaboration with Sophia Lehulere, chalk on blackboard, 70 × 100 cm. © the artist. Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town & Johannesburg
In a 2015 show at Gasworks (also South London), Kemang Wa Lehulere (who’s from South Africa) combined, via text-and-image chalkboard drawings, sculpture and video, narratives including that of South African intellectual Sol Plaatje’s travels to the UK a century before to petition against a govern- mental act that later led to apartheid; research into forgotten American plays; and stamps from countries that no longer exist. Chalk in particular is an apt medium for a meditation on the shifting sands of memory; Wa Lehulere has used it to make, among other things, collaborative works with his aunt based on her imperfect memories of mural paintings in a Cape Town artist’s house. Recently Wa Lehulere, a mainstay of biennales over the past couple of years, won Deutsche Bank’s 2017 Artist of the Year award; amid the melee, he’s found time to make some new work, showcased at Stevenson.
Stelios Kallinikou, Bricks, from the series Local Studies, 2015, pigment print, 87 × 130 cm. Courtesy the artist
The Equilibrists, Benaki Museum, Athens, 17 June – 9 October & Roberto Cuoghi, Slaughterhouse, Hydra, 21 June – 30 September
Meanwhile, definitely under some kind of sun, Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation turns thirty-three this year: no longer younger than Jesus, then, though they’re still working with the institution that mounted an exhibition of that title, New York’s New Museum, on The Equilibrists. The show, hosted by the Benaki Museum in Athens, spotlights ‘a new generation of young Greek and Cypriot artists’ working in the city and abroad: there’s 33 of them, appropriately, and they’re being characterised as part of the international precariat. This is counterpointed, in turn, by the latest show at Deste’s Slaughterhouse space, on Hydra, the incumbent this time being Roberto Cuoghi, the project entitled Putiferio. We’ve read the introductory poem, looked up that the Italian word means ‘rumpus’ or ‘chaos’, and, while that’s often an appropriate word and particularly nowadays, we’re ready – as ever with Cuoghi, whose most famous project remains his efforts to turn himself into his own father, in what may or may not have been an artwork – to be surprised.
Katharina Grosse, Ohne Titel, 2008, acrylic and soil on canvas, 390 × 796 cm. © the artist/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
Katharina Grosse has, for decades now, been best known as a post canvas abstract painter, applying chromatic clouds of sprayed paint to gallery walls, felled trees, beds, carved polystyrene architectures, rubble (at the last Venice Biennale), whatever: her practice falling improbably, if saliently, between romanticist landscape and graffiti bombing. But the Freiburg-born artist has also made numerous panel paintings, often in outsize scales, while preserving her acidly modern, post-Gerhard Richter colour schemes. This retrospective, winding back to the 1990s, focuses on such works, preserving the sanctity of the venue’s Richard Meier architecture. Though, as was demonstrated by last year’s show – huge neon-bright canvases filled with tilting planes, weird suggestions of apertures and spaces within spaces – at König Galerie in her home city of Berlin, Grosse can still jolt and beguile with traditional means, creating situations of collapsed distinctions where she can, as she’s said, ‘indulge in exuberance and aggressive energy without killing anybody’.
Uwe Henneken, Untitled, 2016, oil on canvas, 160 × 125 cm. Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde. Courtesy the artist and Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels
One way of measuring distance from the heyday of German Romanticism is to make your palette toxic and artificial. Uwe Henneken clearly thinks likewise: see an early painting like anguard#431(2007), in which a giant, colourful, googly-eyed head looms over a classical coastal landscape like a vintage Mr Chad graffiti. Weird staring eyes, often disembodied, have been a staple of Henneken’s art, where they mingle with folkloric elements, sunsets, forests and crescent moons. If the paintings’ seriousness has sometimes appeared uncertain, though, Henneken is now fessing up: in the press release for his new show, he talks about his interest in the shaman as progenitor of the artist, and how, accepting this lineage, he began to ‘experience a transformation, along with a deep knowledge and trust: all is good and these paintings are only a beginning’. The image we’ve seen from his Brussels show is a fairly nuts and heavily lysergic painting of an embracing couple sprouting faces on their buttocks.
Carl Andre, Margit Endormie, 1989. Photo: Ronald Amstutz. © Carl Andre/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York
OK, let’s straighten up. In his mid-to-late-twenties Carl Andre worked as a freight railway brakeman and conductor, a fact surely indivisible – though so is the dual influence of Brancusi and Frank Stella – from his art’s emphasis on workaday materials: from metal (itself a conductor) to, notoriously in the UK, bricks, often laid out in orderly what-you-see-is-what-you-get lines. As an artist, the Massachusetts-born Andre adopted a uniform of overalls, too. And so what better place for a retrospective for this eightysomething minimalist and poet of the vernacular (poet on typewritten paper, also) than in a former train station? Ranging from objects to photographs to poetry, Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958–2010 wears its scope on its title, sprawling over some 700sqm of the former station concourse and the long suite of basement spaces too, and will doubtless offer, on Andre’s pioneering reduction of sculpture to materiality and placement, an overall perspective.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of ArtReview.