SIXTY’s resident art writer Rob Goyanes is on the search for the best of what’s going on in L.A., Miami, and NYC this month. For June, it’s a mix of major museum shows, small gallery exhibitions, and a massive set of outdoor sculptures made by an artist with no concern for the art world or its walls. Let’s dig in.
MIAMI: ‘In terms of collage’ at David Castillo
Most people hear “collage” and imagine some school art project with magazines, or maybe their favorite record cover. An exhibition at David Castillo Gallery is hoping to inject a bit more critical thinking and historical perspective. (In brief: Collage came about after World War I—along with the readymade—as an art practice that viciously removed objects and images from their proper places. Meaning was being dismantled and made anew.)
Titled In terms of collage, the exhibit includes artists such as Havana-born Quisqueya Henriquez, who combines the artwork of forgotten or overlooked artists from history with found objects. Sanford Biggers creates installations from Civil War-era quilts in a process that reclaims and reinterprets the patchwork of histories both national and personal. The work of Kate Gilmore engages the feminist endurance performances of the 1970s to create action paintings.
Far from the typical notions of collage, these artists go beyond the swapping of 2-D pictures for paradoxical—or, ugh, ironic—effect. They’re engaging objects and processes with a deeply embedded social significance, and out of them, creating things of beauty and criticality. In true David Castillo fashion, this show is sure to be as aesthetically pleasing as it is educational. Running June 7 through August 31, 2018.
MIAMI: ‘Monarchs’ at MOCA
The Monarch butterfly is the archetypal orange, black, and white winged thing we learn about in elementary school. It also migrates over 3,000 miles from Canada to Mexico (and back). An exhibition at MOCA North Miami, elaborately titled Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists in the Path of the Butterfly, uses this incredible route as a real and metaphoric catalyst for thinking about artistic identity and practice, as well as the geographies outside major metropolises.
Traveling from the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, the exhibition includes artists whose work deals with issues of immigration, historical narrative, borderless connection, and the ways in which the body relates to space and place. Artists such as Donna Huanca explore clothing and garments, and how they constitute identity and signify (or reject) belonging. Montana native Wendy Red Star works across disciplines to produce an intergenerational dialogue on craft.
Migrating over the Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock, the U.S.-Mexico border, and several other historic sites of control and resistance, the monarch is used by the exhibition as an example of flow in the face of stoppage. Likewise, the work of both native citizens and immigrants represents the passing down of knowledges and practices, from ancient basket weaving to more “contemporary” efforts. Through August 5, 2018.
NEW YORK: Jeneen Frei Njootli at Fierman
Jeneen Frei Njootli is a member of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, located in the northern region of Yukon, Canada. Her art, which can be described as contemporary indigenous, blends land-based knowledges and practices with digital technology and fashion. Njootli’s first U.S. show is at the LES gallery Fierman, and is titled NDN BURN.
Comprised of images, self-made instruments, and textile-sculptures, the works are poetic reflections on concealment, exposure, and the creation of collective meaning. The works at Fierman include a black baseball cap—an iconic piece of apparel—attached with gold beads that cover the face when used for performance. A contact mic’d cymbal is fed distortion pedals, leading to a Marshall amplifier.
On the walls there are vinyl prints of the artist’s skin impressed by beads. The resulting images have an almost biomedical aura. Though monochromatic, there’s a single burst of color in one of the pieces: a striking piece of fabric. Together, the works form a continuum between the artist and the histories of indigenous peoples and the West—and they provoke the under-discussed role of women caught in between. Through June 22, 2018.
NEW YORK: Adrian Piper Retrospective at MoMA
A giant and vital retrospective is happening at MoMA. Over 290 works are on display in Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965–2016. Piper, an influential artist and philosopher, helped push American conceptual art to include issues of race, otherness, the distinction between public and private, and countless other abstractions—abstractions which have very real world influence.
The many works on display, highlighting the artist’s long and fruitful career, come from between 1965 and 2016. They include Mythic Being, a project consisting of ads taken out in the Village Voice that portrayed the artist dressed in drag with thought bubbles that showed journal entries from when she was a teenager. In another project, Piper printed out business cards that directly challenged readers to question their assumptions about Piper’s identity (a black woman who passes for white). She handed out these cards for years.
Beyond the artworks themselves, there’s an imaginative magic and longevity to Piper’s works that cause them to transcend their material being. To call them prescient or ahead of their time would be a severe understatement—they’re tokens of an artist responding to the moment with conceptual brilliance. Through July 22, 2018.
LOS ANGELES: Brassaï, Arbus, and Goldin at MOCA
The ability to render subjects beautifully and heartbreakingly through photograph—despite the ubiquity of cameras and ceaseless selfies—is no easy task. A new exhibition at MOCA in L.A. brings together three of the most revered photographers: Brassaï, Diane Arbus, and the inimitable Nan Goldin.
Brassaï, called the “Eye of Paris” by Henry Miller, captured the 1920s like no one else. Wandering at night through his neighborhood of Montparnasse, the artist documented sex workers and cleaners and many others, honing in on the grit that most other documentarians shied away from. About Diane Arbus—who was also drawn to characters considered deleterious—what can we say in such a short space, besides that she totally changed photography?
And Nan Goldin, also a portraitist of the highest order. Goldin’s tender, personal images, in palettes you’ll never forget, also document the rejected, the forgotten, those bodies considered alien or other to society, from people with AIDS at the height of the crisis to the LGBTQ of today, still facing discrimination. Though they have distinct styles and subjects, perhaps what draws these three together is the determination to go where others would/will not. Through September 3, 2018.
LOS ANGELES: Watts Towers
For 33 years, Italian immigrant Sabato Rodia worked on creating the world’s largest single structure made by an individual person. However, breaking some kind of record wasn’t his intent: this is art made for art’s sake. The 17 sculptures that make up the Watts Towers site include spires made of steel rebar, with facades that are ornamented with colorful mosaics, seashells, figurines, and soft drink bottles.
Most of the porcelain pieces that adorn the towers are from Malibu Pottery, where Rodia worked for many years. In his spare time, he’d go and work on the astronomical project, for which he had no formal plans and used no tools more complicated than window-washer’s equipment. Finished in 1954, the structure is now a National Historic Landmark.
While in the process of becoming a preserved piece of history, tests were carried out to determine how stable the structure was. People are still baffled by how one person could create something so large and so secure. If you plan on visiting in the next couple years, know that the inside of the Watts Towers area is closed for restoration, but tours are available on the perimeter—and there is still plenty to behold. Hopefully in perpetuity.
Header photo: Nan Goldin, Picnic on the Esplanade, 1973.