For this April edition of Art Beat, SIXTY chooses a series of exhibitions happening at tiny, little-known galleries as well as renowned institutions in New York and Los Angeles. From sculptures on the verge of falling over to ephemeral net art that only lives online—ancient city tombs to the corner store you frequent—here are some must-see exhibitions. Herewith, your guide to the best shows currently on display in both of our ports.
NEW YORK: Fin Simonetti at Company
Don’t be alarmed when you walk into Fin Simonetti’s show at Company. Those sculptures you see are meant to be resting, ever so precipitously, along that thin thin railing. They include a fire extinguisher, suggestive candle, disembodied paws—all made from stunning Spanish blue alabaster, which the artist started working with after her father’s passing.
Indeed, the show addresses masculinity. Specifically, fragile masculinity, the way that many men over-perform their manliness to make up for feelings of vulnerability or weakness they can’t seem to process. The fire extinguisher, the ear plugs, these sculptures reference a rage that happens when the male ego is in danger.
Simonetti’s work is classical, in the sense that they’re well-crafted, simple and realist. But there’s a cartoonish quality to them as well. And certainly, the very contemporary gesture of balancing them on the verge of falling over imparts a conceptualist stance that speaks to our cultural moment, a moment when men are being forced to reckon with their violent tendencies. Through April 21, 2019.
NEW YORK: Net Art at New Museum
Fake government websites, experimental trend forecasts, animated GIFs that proliferate across the internet—these are all artworks included in The Art Happens Here: Net Art’s Archival Poetics at New Museum. Art made with, through, on, and about the internet is the exhibition’s focus.
One gets a sense of the difficulty of maintaining an archive of such work, but also of the incredibly vibrant yet short history of net art. There’s Alexei Shulgin’s “Form Art” from 1997, which used the elements of HTML to make monochromatic works. “Art Thoughtz,” by Jayson Musson, was a YouTube art criticism vlog that reflected on aesthetic concepts, blackness, and the art world’s stifling impenetrability.
A lot of these works have a self-aware—and at times self-indulgent—sense of humor, but many of them also have a very practical, tactical side. “Floodnet,” developed by Electronic Disturbance Theater, allowed users to jam websites and slow them down. The same group developed a mobile app that helps to guide people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. While you should definitely check out the show, we recommend you also spend time surfing this archive online. Through May 26, 2019.
NEW YORK: Gretchen Bender at Red Bull
The work of Gretchen Bender is often described as prophetic. Working across mediums, Bender had a creepy ability to foretell our current technological dynamic: screens seamlessly integrated, images pouring out everywhere, eyes on them but also on us. A collaborator with iconic artists involved in appropriation, such as Cindy Sherman, Bender has been direly overlooked by the art world and public-at-large. So Much Deathless, a retrospective of her work at Red Bull Studios, is thus a welcome event.
As a Marxist, Bender was critical of commercial culture, but saw power in taking images and using them for her own purposes. Her two-dimensional works often employed corporate imagery, military advertising, even other artists’ work. But her mid-80’s work is what really portended the future.
Installations involving dozens of monitors and projections fully engulf the viewer, anticipating the arrival of media saturation and the melding of politics, information, and entertainment. (The artist also did music videos for Megadeth and R.E.M., and segments for America’s Most Wanted.) Be sure to check out screening times in advance to get the most of this crucial show. Through July 28, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Jason Bailer Losh at Anat Ebgi
An intervention was staged by the family of artist Jason Bailer Losh in 2015. He was pouring too much money and time into his artwork without getting enough return on it, and putting his family in a precarious situation as a result. The event caused him to re-align his commitments, though his art-making hasn’t stopped.
For Losh’s show at Anat Ebgi, he’s recreated the scene of the intervention. Using the mid-century chairs that the family sat on as models, the artist made a series of surreal objects that reflect on personal narrative as well as the history of design. These styles of chairs, which populate so many rooms, were carved out of foam, and are presented at odd angles amongst other references to modernism.
The act of carving is a nod to his dad’s carpentry skills, which were passed on to Losh. As those skills have become outdated in contemporary culture—dismissed as craft rather than art—Losh has tried to hide evidence of their use. But still he seems to find new value in them with these strange, otherworldly works. Through April 20, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Palmyra at the Getty Villa
Imagine an ancient city, a literal oasis in a desert. Grand colonnades, monumental temples, caravans representing the civilizational crossroads it serves as. Palmyra, in present-day Syria, was a meeting place on trade routes linking the Roman empire with India, China, and Persia. An exhibition at the Getty Villa presents sculptures that can help you picture it.
The sculptures on display are from the 1st through 3rd century A.D., and include portrayals of men, women, and, in some cases, the camels they rode. These works adorned the tombs of the people they represented, alongside names of the families, and depict a time when people from vastly different places interacted.
Palmyra was only re-discovered in the 17th and 18th centuries, when a band of travelers accidentally fell upon the forgotten, ruined city. The show at the Getty includes incredible images taken by these travelers, as well as exquisite engravings. If you find it difficult to believe that such an immense city could be demolished and forgotten, consider the contemporary predicament that much of war-torn Syria faces today. Through May 27, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Tschabalala Self at Hammer
The bodega is a New York space that’s been explored at length: commercial phenomenon, community intersect, even political node. Artist Tschabalala Self, from Harlem, has been working on a project called Bodega Run, of which this installation at the Hammer is the fifth iteration. Colorful, cross-medium, and thought-provoking, the room sits in the lobby of this L.A. museum.
The area has wallpaper filled with neat line drawings of the canned foods you’ll often find at the bodega, paintings of customers who appear as assemblages of identity, pigeons astride them. Even the floor is made of tiled linoleum, colors a reference to the Pan-African flag. Self isn’t just thinking of the bodega as a neutral space.
The artist uses the bodega as a nexus for thinking about race and gender, how cultural and societal stereotypes play into people’s expectations, behaviors, and thinking. The products they choose, the late-night interactions, the camaraderie and conflict are all impinged by these larger forces at work. The bodega is no simple corner store: it’s a container of so much more. Through April 28, 2019.
Header image: Tschabalala Self, Bodega Run, installation view, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Hammer. Photo: Joshua White.