A bi-monthly collection of mixed reviews.
KING COBRA (documented as Doreen Lynette Garner): White Meat at JTT
The press release for White Meat holds a meaningful promise: “In this exhibition, whiteness recurs as a material throughout Cobra’s sculptures, and not as its usual stand-in for the vulnerability of the corporeal body as it so commonly has been used throughout art history. Rather, the depictions of whiteness on view here account for its entanglement with colonial violence, consumption, appropriation, performativity, and the construction of assimilation models.” Spending time with work that demonstrates the emotional and intellectual rage towards whiteness and its inhumane crimes is certainly a task deserving our devotion. Yet, upon visiting the gallery I found it absolutely impossible to look at the work. The space is packed with “sculptures made from silicone, beads and hair appear constructed from diseased, pustulating white flesh covered in oozing sores and boils.” These objects are so revolting, that leaving the space was the only way to avoid throwing up on the gallery’s concrete floor. Is the issue here really the imitation of meat and sores, or the heavy-handedness with which the objects are made? The overwhelming piling up of gooey material that looks like mayonnaise—a Paul McCarthy set coming alive—deafens the critique. What do you do, when you want to participate in a moment in history, but the visuals are so sickening you cannot possibly stay around? JTT is a young gallery with brilliant people on board and its success is rapidly growing. We root for you, team. But if art is a space for conversation, the reality is that when the volume is so high, a conversation cannot happen.
Jordan Nassar: A Mountain Looms at James Cohan
Visions of large quantities of deceased meat might make one feel ill, that’s pretty obvious. Yet there is upheaval way worse than abject sculptures. Jordan Nassar is an artist of under-the-belt manipulation and exploitation. These days, he finally identifies himself publicly as Palestinian, after concealing this part of his identity for many years of his career. While riding on the international wave of support for Palestine, he shamelessly presents a reiteration of an installation commissioned by the Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv-Yafo, an Israeli institution. Capitalizing on the horrors that the Palestinian people are suffering, Nassar keeps indulging in the funds and fame handed to him by Israeli culture makers. The installation, as told in the press release, is the “artist’s vision for his living quarters”—a spacious apartment built with typical Israeli architectural features, full of baskets made by Ethiopian immigrants, Bedouin textiles woven in the Naqab desert, and glasswork made in Tel Aviv by Russians and in Hebron by Palestinians. Exploitation is the name of the game, and it seems like in Nassar’s eye there is no difference between those who lived in a refugee camp their whole lifes, due to displacement by the Israeli occupation forces, and those who live in the gay-friendly beach town Tel Aviv. All are equally represented in the installation through their craft bought by the artist, who does not bother to mention anything about the histories of those groups and the conditions under which they labored for him. Born and raised in New York, son of a Palestinian father and a Jewish Ashkenazi mother, Nassar seems to have a hard time understanding that these populations do not usually blend. He seems unconcerned with the tremendous pain and injustice that needs to be attended to in every aspect of Palestinian life. Mixing all these objects in his ideal hip home is, to say the least, distasteful. It positions Nassar above these cultures and people, brutally numb to their sensibilities.
Kyle Dunn: Night Pictures at P.P.O.W
My previous review was critical of Tom Burr for his white male able bodied navel gaze, indulging in the drama and beauty of people who are identity-identical to him. Kyle Dunn too is a white male homosexual—just as able bodied—making art that indulges in classically beautiful and healthy young gay bodies. But his gentleness and quiet tone completely won me over. Night Pictures is a show of paintings made with charming attention to detail. There is a delicate pleasure here: in the way a young man sticks his fingers in a thick paintbrush, an olive bouncing on a large ice cube, a flamboyant haircut gleaming in dim light. Dunn’s paintings reflect an intimate way of looking closely and seeing well. Bodies of men and dogs, objects, light, and dirt are brought onto the canvas with care and curiosity. Even if Dunn is somewhat stuck in a lazy, exclusive dreamy world, I do not want to shake him from it.