“Born in Flames: future feminists”
Until September 12. Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse, 165th Street, Morrisania, 718-681-6000, bronxmuseum.org (718) 681-6000, bronxmuseum.org.
The Bronx Museum of the Arts, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, was founded in part to bring mainstream art from Manhattan to the borough. His first exhibition in 1971 featured loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the decades that followed, the programming became increasingly sensitive to global consciousness and its neighborhood in the South Bronx, making the museum – which is free to enter – one of the most important art spaces. more adventurous in town.
This becomes especially strong with her current group show, “Born in Flames: Feminist Futures”. The show takes its title from the 1983 film by American artist Lizzie Borden: a gritty, punk docudrama about a United States in the throes of a moral revolution led by an army of women from all social, racial and sexual backgrounds. The film itself is streaming throughout the show, surrounded by the work of some of the best artists you’ll see anywhere in town right now.
Chosen by Jasmine Wahi, the museum’s social justice curator, they include prominent figures (Firelei Baez, Huma Bhabha, Wangechi Mutu), as well as others who have constant visibility but deserve even greater recognition (Chitra Ganesh, Saya Woolfalk, Tourmaline). And particularly interesting are the artists who are only beginning to be familiar here.
One is Los Angeles-based Brazilian artist Clarissa Tossin, who made a memorable impression in the Whitney Museum’s 2018 exhibit “Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay,” and she starts again with a card-shaped wall hanging with an image of the Amazon and Yangtze rivers, impossible, meeting and crossing the floor of the gallery. In a comparable scale painting by Caitlin Cherry, figures of women intertwine to create a continuous, pulsating ocean-blue field.
A theme common to these pieces – fluid energy – becomes more concrete in other works in which human and natural forms merge. In “Flamingo,” a portrait-style painting of a woman by South African artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, human and avian features blend together. And in a cast bronze sculptural painting by Brooklyn-based, Colombian-born María Berrío, an elongated female figure, guarded by waterfowl, is dressed in a dress of what appear to be flowery tendrils.
The Berrío piece is a beauty. The same goes for two ceramic sculptures by Rose B. Simpson, an artist based in New Mexico. In her work, human forms appear to be both shaped and remelted in the earth, a reminder that environmental awareness has always been intrinsic to feminist art, and still is.
The same goes for the idea of change – physical, political and spiritual. The reality and the need for it are the messages contained in a short sci-fi video by non-binary Canadian performance artist Sin Wai Kin. Entitled “Today’s Top Stories,” it features the artist in a jacket and tie – a male news anchor drag – but with a cosmic view of planets and deep space as a backdrop. Butterflies flutter as the anchor calms down bad news: “You will cease to exist.” Which is soon followed by a last minute development: “You are immortal.”
With their planetary consciousness, their insistence on transformation, and their appetite for contradiction, the future feminists proposed here cannot come too soon.
Jacques of February
Until September 11. Tilton Gallery, 8 East 76th Street, Manhattan, (212) 737-2221, jacktiltongallery.com.
February James’ excellent solo debut in New York gives you a lot of work, starting with his track “When Chickens Come Home to Roost”. This suggests that justice will eventually be served, that evil always returns to the thief’s door. That James – in her mid-forties and based in Los Angeles – is a self-taught black painter who mainly shows enlarged faces of women of color adding resonance.
His seemingly simple colored faces have both cartoonish and abstract aspects. With strongly red lips and tinted eyelids perhaps reminiscent of James’ old makeup artist profession, the women also evoke the techniques of Color Field dyeing and the artifice of portraits of German Expressionists, Fauves and Beauford Delaney. . Considering their simple means, they have a surprising emotional depth; their eyes, often clear, perhaps close to tears, are perhaps those of seers.
The oracular titles of James, Barbara Kruger-ish heighten the effect. “The thing I regret the most are my silences” is the only full-length character in the series: a blonde wearing only underpants, perhaps confessing to her mirror. Another painting – of a woman turning to us skeptically – responds with the warning “Your silence will envelop you”, a gravest paraphrase “Your silence will not protect you”, a book of essays and poems by ‘Audre Lorde. “Change comes upon us like a change of weather” seems fair to the relative passivity of a serene and beautiful woman who looks like a 1930s starlet.
The title of the show is also that of an installation less original than the paintings and centered on an imposing wooden henhouse filled with all kinds of found chicken toys and figurines. But the wood is strewn with faint ghostly sketches of James’ iconic faces, creating new possibilities.
“From surface to space”
Until October 30. Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA), 50 East 78th Street, Manhattan, islaa.org.
Concrete art flourished in South America during the postwar years, a strain of geometric abstraction with utopian ambitions to communicate with a universal audience. Its popularity in Argentina and Brazil is often attributed to the cross influence of Swiss artist and designer Max Bill (1908-1994), but the show “From surface to space: Max Bill and concrete sculpture in Buenos Aires” argues that Argentinian innovation is a force in its own right.
Bill won the sculpture prize at the first São Paulo Biennale in 1951 with a work that used the mathematical principles of the Möbius loop and wrote an essay the same year titled “From Surface to Space,” claiming that people’s relationship to the space around them has changed and that art should reflect that. A much smaller 1956 sculpture by Argentinian artist Enio Iommi, “Elevación del Triángulo” (Elevation of the Triangle), uses similar ideas – the exhibit argues that Bill and Europe were not the only source of concrete innovations – translating mathematically derived curves into an elegant aluminum loop mounted on a wooden plinth. Claudio Girola’s 1948 aluminum “Triángulos Espaciales” (Space Triangles) attempt to activate the space, showing the three-dimensional area around the sculpture. A 1948 wooden and metal mobile by Carmelo Arden Quin and drawings by Lidy Prati deepen concrete explorations of space and surface.
The ramifications of concrete art ran deep, especially in Latin America, where rapid industrial development was changing culture and the environment. Concrete art may not have achieved its lofty goals, which are to harness modern ideas and materials to improve lives, but the cross-cultural conversation here and the significant presence of Argentinian artists in this exchange is still impressive and inspiring.