When summer comes out in all its blazing glory, culture responds in kind. For this July edition of Art Beat, SIXTY has curated a list of diverse shows to see in New York and Los Angeles. From the lesser known histories of opium dens to Medieval bestiaries, these exhibitions have a little something for everyone, no matter the taste. Herewith, your guide to the best art shows happening this July.
NEW YORK: Devin Kenny at PS1
A barbecue bought from an artisan named Alabama Joe, recreated as a Faraday cage (fitted to block electromagnetic fields), is an example of the works by Devin Kenny, on view at his MoMA PS1 exhibition. Concept-heavy and brimming with social conscience, the show illustrates this emerging artist’s intellect and skills across mediums.
The title of the show, rootkits rootwork, is a reference to DNA kits, but, more specifically, rootkits are a type of malicious computer virus, and rootwork is a type of folk magic practices by black Americans. Kenny is exploring the complex effects of network technologies, the ways that they can be used to connect people to others and their own history, but also as tools of oppression.
Besides the aforementioned bbq, there’s a levitating ribbon of tantalum (the material used to create transistors), and a bookshelf with a real NYPD cap placed on top. Police caps come with a plastic sleeve inside, where officers can place photos of their loved ones. Kenny, in his characteristic combining of symbolic systems, has placed in the sleeve a photo of Philando Castille, a victim of police brutality. Through September 2, 2019.
NEW YORK: Candice Lin at Ludlow 38
The last known opium den in New York’s Chinatown was raided and shut down in 1957. Candice Lin, a Los Angeles-based artist who’s having her first solo show in the city at Ludlow 38, explores the connections between colonialism, spices of various kinds, and the distinctions between “purity” and “intoxication.”
Lin connects the transnational history of opium to other plant-based drugs, such as K2, the synthetic cannabinoid that’s been causing many overdoses as of late. With a spare installation consisting of colored pouches, like the ones that contain K2, the artist meditates on the ways that drugs have been used as stand-ins for types of perceived threats that go beyond the drugs themselves.
On the back of the pouches, Lin has written short works of science fiction about drug epidemics, modeled on the language used when opium use was at its height in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She reminds viewers that, beyond the drugs themselves, authorities often couch them as racialized threats coming for white communities. Bathed in a red light, this exhibition is as seedy as it is smart. Through July 28, 2019.
NEW YORK: ‘They Gaze’ at James Fuentes
The idea of the gaze has been considered by many philosophers, psychoanalysts, and thus, of course, artists. Jacques Lacan described it as the anxious state of mind that comes from being watched, and countless thinkers and scholars have applied it in various settings, from the medical field, to women in cinema, to tourists.
They Gaze, a group exhibition up at Lower East Side gallery James Fuentes, brings together an impressive group of painters whose work, in some way, addresses the concept. It’s impossible in contemporary times to think about the gaze without thinking about social media and surveillance—and this show presents these as central themes—but the works go beyond images of cellphones and CCTV cameras.
There’s Louis Fratino’s semi-abstract male nude, Lisa Yuskavege’s painting of an embracing couple, and Hernan Bas’s portrait of a dandyish man, getting a haircut and looking at himself in the mirror. Of course, the idea of the gaze is manifold: Though looking at himself, Bas’s man is also looking straight at you. Through July 18, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: Cupid of Chaos at Ghebaly
The works of Lila de Magalhaes are a mix of pastel whimsy, body-focused surrealism, and fragile beauty. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with an MFA from the University of Southern California, the Los Angeles-based artist has a solo show at Francois Ghebaly that’s all about horses. But really, it’s about so much else.
Cupid of Chaos explores the highly charged symbolism of this equestrian being, its representations of power, sexuality, peace and freedom engaged in works that combine fabric, video, and sculpture. De Magalhaes’s work is both peaceful and violent, minimalist in some ways, but maximalist in others. It’s contradictory on purpose.
Ceramic teeth, paintings of animal paws and human ones the colors of cotton candy, a video of a horse rider who’s lost her stead—the mystery of these works is entrancing, eliciting a range of thoughts and feelings scaling the spectrum of feminine to masculine. Indeed, in order to traverse such a range, the art must be impeccably crafted and deeply considered, which in this show, it is. Through August 3, 2019.
LOS ANGELES: ‘The Allure of Matter’ at LACMA
If Ai Weiwei is the only contemporary Chinese artist on your radar, you really need to go see The Allure of Matter at LACMA. Besides the troublemaking Weiwei, there’s several generations of artists that have been making work in (and about) the country that has bounded between strict censorship and extravagant support.
This show focuses on the material that Chinese artists since the 1980s have employed to create their work. From Cai Guo-Qiang’s use of gunpowder to create drawings and sculptures, to Lin Tianmiao use of thread and bones, this show is the first to consider the materiality of these artist’s practice. And keep in mind, this is not just “stuff”—material is imbued with history and culture.
Plastic, tobacco, hair and Coca-Cola: these are just a few of the constituents making up the works in this landmark show. Tianmiao’s most well known work, “The Proliferation of Thread Winding (1995),” consists of a bed pierced by thousands of needles with threads attached to each, elongating to the floor with tiny ephemeral balls of floss. Through January 5, 2020.
LOS ANGELES: Book of Beasts at The Getty
Before the Renaissance, Europe was totally obsessed with animals real and imagined, from ibexes to unicorns to serpents and sea creatures. Book of Beasts, at the Getty, presents the books that captured the minds of an entire continent for over a thousand years. Bestiaries, catalogues of such creatures, were circulating widely.
The Getty has these encyclopedic works on display, which contain fantastical drawings and texts that explicate on the religious connections the animals had. This being a time of intense Christianity, all the beasts were given some sort of symbolic relationship to God or Christ. The capture and killing of the unicorn, perhaps the most famous “animal” at the time, was an allegory for the death of Jesus.
Besides being invaluable to our historical understanding of Europe, the books are works of art unto themselves. The Medieval Latin manuscripts, the beautifully inked illustrations—seeing these in person provides a connection to people’s long gone. These books are also a reminder of the connections between humans and animals, and the fictional separation we make between the two. Through August 18, 2019.
Header image: Yves Tessier, 3 Youths on the Jetty, 2015. From ‘They Gaze.’ Courtesy of the artist and James Fuentes Gallery.