For this month’s edition of Art Beat, SIXTY’s resident art critic Rob Goyanes pulls a sundry selection of exhibitions. Digital pets, Miami shrines, and fresh presentations of artists you definitely know—and those you definitely don’t—are a few examples of what’s happening in March. Herewith, your guide to the best shows currently on display in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City.
NEW YORK CITY: Ian Cheng at Gladstone
As I’m reading about Ian Cheng’s exhibition at Gladstone, I’m reminded of Tamagotchis and Digimons, the little virtual pets that I—and nearly everyone—used to have as a kid in the 1990s. At the Chelsea-based gallery, Cheng is presenting his work, titled BOB (Bag of Beliefs), a digital lifeform that viewers can interact with, influence, and—yes—kill, by accident or on purpose. Don’t worry, it comes back to life.
Cheng is an artist known for working with simulations that explore the idea of agency, questions surrounding the appearance of free will amidst an organism’s behavioral patterns. These questions have been getting complicated as of late, since AI has been casting its shadow, and Cheng’s been addressing them head on.
“BOB” is a digital serpent that responds to viewers through an app. It lives out its many lives in an oneiric, mandala-like garden lair. It’s a creature that slithers, jumps, and assembles as you possess it through the app. And don’t be unsettled if you start to feel nothing more than a “bag of beliefs” yourself… Through March 23, 2019.NEW YORK CITY: Warhol at the Whitney
If the extent of your knowledge regarding Andy Warhol is soup cans and Marilyn Monroe, then I have got the exhibition for you. This is the first U.S. retrospective since 1989 of the artist who once shattered the art world, and it’s not a rehashing of all those pieces you see in most major museums (though it’s definitely got some of those too).
This is a giant show that explores every stage of the artist’s life and work, from his illustration work for ad agencies to his screenprinting to his filmmaking. It’s a reminder that, despite the cold, machinic persona that Warhol himself helped to carve, the artist was a sensitive and very human person. And he was not guaranteed success.
As an openly gay man who entered the art world in the 1950s, Warhol was antithetical to the crop of macho, hetero men who dominated. He engaged critical issues—from the role of the image to trans identity—with a dogged determination that is truly unparalleled. Forget the Warhol you think you know and go see this show at the Whitney. Through March 31, 2019.
MIAMI: Cristine Brache at Locust Projects
Artists who are able to render their personal lives into their work—and do it well—are a rarity. Cristine Brache is of this ilk. Her new solo show at Locust Projects, titled Cristine’s Secret Garden, is an ambitious exhibition that explores a unique facet of her native Miami, and how it impinged upon her childhood imagination.
Oftentimes, front yards will host shrines containing statues of saints, flowers, maybe a bottle of liquor and a pack of cigarettes. The practice of Santería, which combines the religious rituals of indigenous Yoruba peoples and the practices and symbols of the Roman Catholic colonizers who oppressed them, is something that Brache often saw as a kid.
What seem like Catholic saints are in fact Orishas, which were originally intended to pass as Catholic saints in the Caribbean. The artist has sculpted a series of her own that represent the women in her family and social circle, along with symbolic, syncretic objects. Mirrors, scales, even a water fountain composed of telephones are included. There isn’t enough space within this post to unravel the meanings behind the delicate yet powerful works. Through March 30, 2019.
MIAMI: Ebony G. Patterson at PAMM
…while the dew is still on the roses… is a befittingly floral title for a sublime show. Kingston native Ebony G. Patterson creates tapestries literal and figurative, combining flowers, beads, glitter, and other effluvia, now on display at PAMM. Though the works might seem like mere gardens at first, they strike at deeper sentiments as you comb through their contents.
The overflowing embellishments in Patterson’s work speak to notions of bling and extravagance, the vacuum of accrual and living a flashy material life. She’s especially concerned with the tropes and material style of youth culture in disenfranchised communities. There are forms that draw attention to patriarchal violence and tragedy.
There’s certainly a strong series of critiques going on in these works—many of the lovely flowers are modeled on poisonous species. But also present is a simple appreciation of the garden as a literal space. Humans use them for a variety of reasons: as spaces to contemplate the natural world, sites of remembrance and grieving. Patterson’s drawings, tapestries, and video work dig through the layers of this lush concept. Through May 5, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: ‘Flat Earth Society’ at Big Pictures
If you’re someone who believes that the Earth is flat, you may find yourself offended by this blurb about an exhibition currently up at Big Pictures Los Angeles. Titled Flat Earth Society, the group show takes aim at the flat-out falsity that the Earth is, well, flat. Which is actually something some people believe because of the internet… maybe?
However, the artists don’t exactly address the conspiratorial, literal side of this movement based on scientific ignorance. They’re more interested in the ways that our Earth is actually flat, like how connections can be made across the world at the speed of light, or how history seems to just repeat itself.
Cooking marshmallows on an open flame burning inside a TV set, a parabola of ancient desktop computers, and, yes, a painting of the Earth (flat or not flat?) are some of the works included. This painting show seems like a strange one, though not nearly as strange as the real belief in the pseudoscience it borrows from. Through March 30, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Outliers and American Vanguard Art at LACMA
So, I saw this exhibition when it was at the National Gallery of Art in D.C. Though the show at LACMA is an abridged version, I cannot overstate how important it is that you catch this. It’s a wonderful display of the American artists who worked on the fringes, going against the currents of the art world as it existed.
The show includes work by artists such as Henry Darger, a reclusive hospital custodian primarily known for his 15,000 page manuscript The Story of the Vivian Girls. There’s also Betye Saar, whose assemblages of boxing gloves and black figures and clocks are surreally and socially charged.
Taken together, the exhibition presents a history of the tendency to break the status quo, or to work far, far away from the strictures of art, whatever they be at a given time. There’s 19th-century landscape paintings, creepy, masterfully crafted dolls of celebrities, and folk-style paintings by self-taught artist and Southern Baptist nun Sister Gertrude Morgan. All of them broke—and continue to break—the rules. Through March 17, 2019.
Header photo courtesy of Andy Warhol and the Whitney Museum of Art