The Top 10 Exhibitions to See in August 2023

A One and A Two: Edward Yang Retrospective (installation view). Courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum

From Alfredo Jaar in Hiroshima to 3D memes and avant-garde dance, our editors on what they’re looking forward to this month

Ayesha Singh, Flag (Warped), 2023, 91 x 61 cm. Courtesy the artist and Nature Morte

Ayesha Singh
Nature Morte, New Delhi, 26 August – 24 September

Supposing you could look at an artwork as the culmination of a list of specific ingredients put together in the right order, cooked for the right amount of temperature and time, and then arranged on the right serving dish. Understanding how the parts constitute the whole would make it a lot easier to understand how and why a work takes a specific form or shape. And that’s partly what Ayesha Singh has been looking at unpacking for the last couple of years. She’s better known for her architectural sculptures, such as her series Hybrid Drawings (2015–), which feature steel frame outlines that are based on brutalist, Indo-Saracenic and Mughal architectural styles (among others); and Provisional Obstruction (2017–), site-specific structures made of scaffolding material onto which banners depicting historical architecture are attached. But while these largescale sculptural works (inside and around which visitors can walk) are the product of Singh’s interrogation into the presence of colonial buildings and monuments, and the resulting collateral damages and erasures done to the sites’ histories and inhabiting communities, she has more recently been working on a collaborative workshop series titled Ingredients of Encounters (2019–). For these encounters, Singh and the artist Jyothidas K.V. invite participants to each bring ‘ingredients’ (objects, materials, things edible and inedible) with which they want to tell a story. Following the communal sharing and unpacking of these ingredients (which includes elements of performance and poetry), they are cast into cement moulds of buildings – ‘making happenstances concrete’. Fi Churchman

Photograph by Elza Lima featured in Bienal das Amazônias. Courtesy the artist

Bienal das Amazônias
, 4 August – 5 November
The exclusivity of the old Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo power axis in the Brazilian artworld has slowly been breaking down (in the twentieth century this roughly equated to the artists living in Rio, while the money was made in São Paulo), with space on gallery and museum walls for artists from the north and interior of the country becoming more frequently available. Now enter the inaugural Bienal das Amazônias, located in the city of Belém at the mouth of the Tagus river. A heavyweight, all-female curatorial group will lead a 121-strong mix of big-name artists associated with region and its rich Afrobrasilian and indigenous culture, alongside lesser known artists hailing from Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname. Potential highlights include local Eder Olivera, known for his vast murals that play with media imagery of working class Black men; Surinamese traditional painter Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi; and the pointedly satirical collages of Gê Viana. Oliver Basciano

A One and A Two: Edward Yang Retrospective (installation view). Courtesy Taipei Fine Arts Museum

A One and A Two: Edward Yang Retrospective
Taipei Fine Arts Museum, through 22 October

Yi Yi: A One and a Two (2000) was my first Edward Yang film. The three-hour work revolves around a Taiwanese family mired in a middle class bubble. In multiple strands of narrative, each member wades through their own struggles and confusions at various stages of life. Its Chinese title, Yi Yi, literally meaning ‘one one’, is written as two horizontal lines (一一) that when arranged vertically (like on the exhibition poster), becomes two in parallel (二). It recalls the family’s five-year-old son, Yang-Yang, who wonders whether we can only ever see ‘a half of what’s happening’ in life, since we are unable to see behind our back. This retrospective of the late Taiwanese director follows a three-year research endeavour after Yang’s widow, pianist Kaili Peng, donated his immense archive to Taiwan’s National Film Center (now the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute) in 2019. On view will be never-seen drawings, journal notes, project proposals and personal letters that run throughout Yang’s career, allowing us, at least, a peek at the other side of his films, if not the back of our own heads. Yuwen Jiang

Courtesy Hin Bus Depot and Antoine Loncle

Antoine Loncle: Devil’s Curry
Hin Bus Depot, Penang, 5 – 27 August

If you’ve never had Devil’s Curry, I suggest you find some. It’s a very spicy Serani dish familiar to many Malaysian households and in which its heat easily points to its name. Malaysian photographer Antoine Loncle’s forthcoming exhibition, however, looks to this very dish as the nexus from which to explore Serani peoples’ multiethnic heritage. Loncle informs the viewer that shortly after his birth, the Eurasian Association of Penang informed his mother he was considered an ‘A-class’ Serani owing to his father’s French heritage. The favouritism of European ancestry is no surprise to those familiar with postcolonialism, but the artist says recent tensions within the Penang Eurasian community are challenging the parameters of Serani heritage. Loncle ties these debates of authenticity to the increasing discourse surrounding Devil’s Curry, an inherently multi-cultural dish, to scrutinise with photography tradition and identity among the Serani. Marv Recinto

Remedios Varo, Exploración de las fuentes del río Orinoco (Exploration of the Sources of the Orinoco River), 1959. Photo: Jamie M. Stukenberg, Stukenberg Photography. © 2023 Remedios Varo, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Madrid

Remedios Varo: Science Fictions
Art Institute of Chicago, 29 July – 27 November

I stood looking at Remedios Varo’s Papilla Estelar (Celestial Pablum) (1958) for a long time at the Peggy Guggenheim exhibition Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity last year – partly because I knew I’d have to eventually return to the fray of Venice Biennale’s opening week. But mostly, I remained in place because looking at this painting of a gaunt, blonde woman sitting in a tower feeding stardust to a crescent moon trapped in a birdcage prompted the Beatles’s ‘Eleanor Rigby’ (1966) to loop in my head. In fact, many of the figures in Varo’s Surrealist paintings look like lonely people. They operate contraptions, voyage in impossible vessels, test out alchemical transformations or summon spirits. They sit in towers, roam forests, traverse mountain ranges or study at their desks. They are hybrid creatures, scientists, musicians, engineers, mystics. At the Art Institute of Chicago, more than 20 paintings will be shown, alongside which materials from Varo’s archives – sketches, personal objects, notebooks etc – will provide visitors with further insight into the artists explorations of themes ranging psychology, mysticism, ecology and (pseudo)scientific invention. Fi Churchman

Libaniz Niche: Safiye Aesthetic
TAKEOVER, through 2 September

Here’s the thing: I want to say ‘samesies’ when looking at Libaniz Niche’s latest exhibition. An Instagram meme page riffing on Lebanese culture and lifestyle, founded by French-Lebanese art director Philippe Matta and Armenian-Lebanese artist Vana Terzian, warns me that ‘Only ✨Libaniz✨ will understand’. Let me in on the joke, I might lament; I love memes! Alas, I am neither Libaniz nor Lebanese, so Libaniz Niche’s culturally-specific and memerific posts don’t resonate with me quite as much. I can find some familiarity in their collage-like posts – like ‘2013-15 NIGHTS VIBES’, featuring a smashed iPhone, car charger, Snapchat, white Converse, Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie and a still from the 2005 YouTube video ‘Charlie the Unicorn’ appear – which throw me back to my own youthful nostalgia. TAKEOVER, the Beirut artist-led space, promises that Libaniz Niche will be translating their memes from 2D to 3D to ‘capture the essence of summertime in Lebanon’. For those of you who get it, what could be better than bringing internet jokes IRL and embracing some summertime sentimentality? Marv Recinto

Madame Song: Pioneering Art and Fashion In China (installation view). Photo: Lok Cheng. Courtesy M+ Hong Kong

Madame Song: Pioneering Art and Fashion In China
M+, Hong Kong, through 14 April 2024

Madame Song (Song Huai-Kuei), who died in 2006, wasn’t exactly an ‘artist’ in the traditional sense of the word. But she was in the new sense of it that M+ has set about championing. That’s the sense that incorporates movies, fashion, design and lifestyle choices within the warm embrace of ‘art’. The generous sense; as opposed to the mean-spirited, defensive narrowminded sense of art historians, or aestheticians, or Germans. More straightforwardly, Madame was an artist with whom people could identify and aspire to be, rather than an artist who was simply baffling. Madame did study art at China’s celebrated CAFA in Beijing (where she met her husband, Bulgarian tapestriest Maryn Varbanov – she later had to seek permission from Chinese premier Zhou Enlai for their mixed marriage), and she worked alongside her husband as an artist when the pair moved to Sofia, but she was also an actress, socialite and entrepreneur. What these days is called an influencer. She promoted Pierre Cardin and the Maxim’s restaurant brand in China and Chinese culture (and her husband) overseas. As you browse through around 130 of Madame’s outfits (many of them from Cardin’s runway shows), a bunch of soft sculptures and tapestries, movie props, as well as plentiful archival documentation, you’ll be thinking to yourself (at least if M+ has worked its considerable charms on you) that this is where the Chinese artworld as we know it today began. What you think after that is your own concern. Nirmala Devi

Rachel Eulena Williams, Dark Clay, 2021. Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow
Rachel Eulena Williams, Dark Clay, 2021. Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow

Rachel Eulena Williams
Dundee Contemporary Arts, 26 August – 19 November

Last April, 32-year-old Rachel Elena Williams appeared in a group show at Nicelle Beauchene gallery in New York alongside artists of an earlier generation like Susan Cianciolo, for whom painting expanded to fashion design, embroidery and a series of cult wearable collections. Titled How to Get Free of the Rectangle, Williams later described it as a ‘love letter to anti form’. It is a fitting summary of her highly tactile work, which pushes against the edges of painting and sculpture, against squares and rectangles, and decouples the canvas from the stretcher. Rope dangles loosely across collaged silkscreen prints or suspends dyed canvas fragments in a cascade in pieces that hover somewhere between careful chaos and continuous collapse. With their primary colours and sticky finish of acrylic paint, there is an undertone of child’s play to these works, with the twisting and turning of rope conjuring everything from the kitsch appeal of novelty straws to the giddiness of the swimming pool flume in a holiday resort. Her latest exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts sees the American artist introduce a new series of work in her first institutional solo show in the UK, bringing her mutating shapes and melting forms to the brisk chill of Scotland’s industrial coastal city. Louise Benson

Photo: Daido Moriyama

Alfredo Jaar: “THE END³”
SCAI Piramide, Tokyo, through 30 September

Alfredo Jaar – famous for his projects that reflect on war, violence and their troubled representation in popular media – has a history with Hiroshima. In 1995, the Chilean artist dedicated a piece to the city for the special exhibition on the 50th Anniversary of the Hiroshima A-bombing, After Hiroshima – Message from Contemporary Art (held at the Hiroshima MOCA). This year, Jaar returns to the institution with a career survey after winning the 11th Hiroshima Prize. Running concurrently to the award show and the artist’s other retrospective at Chile’s National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago, the SCAI Piramide is premiering Jaar’s recent piece Silent Flash (2023). In the horizontal, 3-metre-long photo sequence mounted on a metallic light box, Jaar’s drone camera looks down upon Hiroshima Peace Memorial – the only building that remains from the wreckage of the bombing – as if to imitate the perspective of the A bomb itself. Then, the drone plunges towards the building, the images growing closer and closer before concluding in a brutal close-up glare. Two other installations, including one in collaboration with his longtime friend Daido Moriyama, will also be on view. Yuwen Jiang

Danza Actual. Autotriplicación, 1961. Photo: Leone Sonino. Courtesy Museo Moderno and Archivo SoninoKamien

Danza Actual
Museo Moderno, Buenos Aires, 3 August – 31 December

I hit The Club for the first time in years last weekend, following an ArtReview-sanctioned rager. The moves I broke out on the dance floor weren’t exactly the ones that you might encounter in Danza Actual, however (unless you are, in fact, a postmodern dancer and your nights-out resemble improvised performances). This exhibition seeks to present new research and frameworks of Buenos Aires’s avant-garde dance scene from the 1960s. The museum positions modern dance in light of the country’s female liberation movements, arguing for ‘dance as a practice of disruption and freedom aligned with the construction of a regional identity’. Including groups such as Danza Actual and Laboratorio de Danza to Instituto Di Tella, Teatro de la Alianza Francesca and Asociación Amigos de la Danza, Danza Actual promises to be a significant contribution to the interdisciplinary study of postmodern dance. And who knows, you might even discover some new moves for your next fete. Marv Recinto

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