BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews | 05 JAN 22

The 7 Best Shows to See this January

These are the top shows to see in January – from an extensive display of Indigenous Australian stories in Plymouth to a joint Renée Green retrospective in Berlin


BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews | 05 JAN 22

Renée Green

KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany  

23 October 2021 – 9 January 2022 

Renée Green’s installations have a hall-of-mirrors way of jamming your sense of place and time. In ‘Inevitable Distances’, the artist’s exquisite joint retrospective at KW Institute for Contemporary Art and daadgalerie, each piece is a mise en abyme, rippling between things you thought unrelated: land art, 1990s fashion, student protests. A structuralist critic would likely praise Green’s ‘deconstruction of medial representations through situated histories’. But this would mean sapping the life from Green’s practice. – Pablo Larios 

Renee Green
Renée Green, Übertragen/Transfer, 1997, installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2021. Courtesy: Museum Ludwig, Cologne; photograph: Frank Sperling 

‘Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters’

The Box, Plymouth, UK 

21 October 2021 – 27 February 2022 

A sense of both great joy and great pride pervades ‘Songlines’: elders embodied as projections welcome you into their space, which are signposted as if you were moving across the land itself. Questions weave in and out of the different displays: what’s the relevance of ancestral stories to the 21st century? What are songlines and why are they significant? Languages (there are around 250 spoken by First Nation Australians) and objects – such as ceramics, carvings and weavings – shape-shift according to the location that is under the spotlight. – Jennifer Higgie 

Anawari Inpiti Mitchell, Angilyiya Tjapiti Mitchell, Lalla West, Jennifer Nginyaka Mitchell, Eileen Tjayanka Woods, Lesley Laidlaw and Robert Muntantji Woods, 

Kungkarrangkalpa Tjukurrpa, 2015. Courtesy: © the artists/Copyright Agency 2020 and National Museum of Australia 

Pedro G. Romero

Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain 

3 November 2021 – 28 March 2022 

By referencing multiple means of image-making and their attendant social infrastructures, Pedro G. Romero speaks to the events that have historically framed the country’s aesthetics, politics and social spaces. Eschewing a linear narrative, ‘Versifying Machines’ presents hybrid forms of power and identity as historical and contemporary tools for political and cultural legitimisation. – Alejandro Alonso Díaz

Pedro Romero
Pedro G. Romero, 'Versifying Machines', 2021, exhibition view, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Courtesy: the artist and the photographic archive of the Museo Reina Sofía

Jasper Johns

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, US

29 September 2021 – 13 February 2022

The museum notes Johns’s interest in how targets direct sight and limit attention, and cites his oft-quoted line that ‘a painting of a flag or target could be seen both as the depiction of something and as the thing itself’, which effectively relays both the exterior and interior functions of his work. Johns compels you to acknowledge your experience of the world as an experience of images, and conditions you to understand these signs as fungible in function and malleable in meaning. – Will Fenstermaker

Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958, encaustic on canvas (three panels), 78 × 116 cm. © 2021 Jasper Johns / VAGA (ARS), NY. Courtesy: the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Naama Tsabar

Bass Museum, Miami, US

28 November 2021 – 17 April 2022

So for this show, there’s going to be a set of five Inversion works in the main space of the gallery – the largest in the museum. You’re basically walking into an empty space and, of course, there’s these holes in the wall. The first thing you see, in the hallway leading to the main space, is a Melody of Certain Damage (2018–ongoing), which is a broken-guitar piece. And then there’s a room that’s just full of other broken or deconstructed guitars. So, it’s kind of a landscape of debris but everything is connected and playable; everything is on the floor. – Naama Tsabar in conversation with Terence Trouillot 

Naama Tsabar, 2021. Courtesy: © The Bass Museum, Miami
Naama Tsabar, 2021. Courtesy: © The Bass Museum, Miami

Cathy Wilkes

The Modern Institute, Glasgow, UK 

13 November 2021 – 22 January 2022

‘As the weather changes and the light flickers and moves, any certainties of interpretation falter. The specks of red on the floor and on the hand of a wire figure, previously a dead ringer for real blood, reveal themselves to be simply spots of fabric more scarlet than crimson, almost petal-like, an approximation of violence rather than its reality.’ – Helen Charman 

Cathy Wilkes
Cathy Wilkes, Untitled, 2021, pigment and gum arabic on pineapple cloth, 60 × 46 × 2 cm. Courtesy: the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow

Helen Levitt

The Photographers’ Gallery, London 

5 October 2021 – 13 February 2022

Poverty is the silent actor in Helen Levitt’s theatre of the street, where figures contort not just in play, but perhaps also out of hunger or insanity. In an inversion of her mentor Walker Evans’s detached yet socially motivated Farm Security Administration photographs (1935–38), Levitt’s images lack specificity: her captions are minimal, her subjects remain anonymous and yet, through her alignment with them, are instilled with agency and rendered her equals. Levitt is fully invested in her community and its every odd, searingly human pose and exchange. – Julie Hrischeva 

Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt, New York, 1940. Courtesy: © Film Documents LLC, Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne and The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Main image: Renée Green, Sites of Genealogy (Fear, Flight, Fate; Matrix), 1990, installation view, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2021. Courtesy: Free Agent Media; Bortolami Gallery, New York; Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin/Cologne/Munich; photograph: Frank Sperling 


Contemporary Art and Culture