The Best Shows to See in the US This June

These are the shows currently on our radar, from the group show addressing the concept of tradition at KADIST, to a selection of work spanning Yoko Ono to Félix González-Torrez, curated by Alfredo Jaar, at Galerie Lelong

BY frieze in Critic's Guides , Exhibition Reviews , US Reviews | 27 MAY 22

‘Frequencies of Tradition’

KADIST, San Francisco

2 April – 16 July 2022

Lieko Shiga, Rasen Kaigan, 2009-2012, Photographs in chromogenic color print, size variable. Courtesy of the Artist
Lieko Shiga, Rasen Kaigan, 2009–2012, photographs in chromogenic color print, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist and KADIST

As a concept that coheres around a set of material relics and intangible customs, tradition offers a wealth of possibilities for the artistic imagination: that which is handed down from generation to generation can often also hold up a mirror to reflect keenly on current times. Yet, tradition can equally become a trap: a narrow lens through which artistic practices – especially those outside of the Western canon – are interpreted; or even, at times, exploited by the artists themselves as a facile device for self-exoticization. Curated by Hyunjin Kim, ‘Frequencies of Tradition’ is a group show – previously presented at the Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou, and Incheon Art Platform, and now making its stateside debut at KADIST – that addresses precisely such manifold yet ambivalent positions within contemporary art regarding the concept of tradition in East Asia through the work of 12 artists. – Harry C. H. Choi

Alfredo Jaar

Galerie Lelong

13 May – 25 June 2022

Alfredo Jaar What Need is There to Weep Over Parts of Life? The Whole of it Calls for Tears, 2018 Neon Dimensions variable Photo © Maki Ochoa
Alfredo Jaar, What Need is There to Weep Over Parts of Life? The Whole of it Calls for Tears, 2018, neon, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Lelong & Co; photograph: Maki Ochoa

Jaar himself contributes a single work here: an unpunctuated, barely spaced spread of red-neon letters that quotes the philosopher Seneca’s famous words: ‘WHAT NEED IS THERE TO WEEP OVER PARTS OF LIFE? THE WHOLE OF IT CALLS FOR TEARS.’ Yeah, about that: the real event here is a dense, wall-to-wall group show that Jaar has curated in a side gallery, featuring work made in response to different repressive forces. You’ll find documentary images of Yoko Ono’s performance Cut Piece (1964) cheek by jowl with Nancy Spero’s War drawings, and documentation of David Hammons’s Blizz-aard Ball Sale (1983) in conversation with a delicate slipper of crocheted copper wire by Marisa Merz, and a Félix González-Torrez double pile of wrapped Bazooka bubblegum subtitled Welcome Back Heroes (1991), across from Art Worker’s Coalition’s image of the atrocities committed by US soldiers during the My Lai Massacre of 1968 in Q: And Babies? A: And babies (1970). – Travis Diehl

Gideon Appah

Institute of Contemporary Art Virginia Commonwealth University

19 February – 19 June 2022


Gideon Appah, Roxy 2, 2020-21. Oil and acrylic on canvas. Photo Adam Reich
Gideon Appah, Roxy 2, 2020–21, oil and acrylic on canvas. Courtesy: the artist and ICA VCU; photograph: Adam Reich

For his first institutional solo show in the US, ‘Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes’ at ICA VCU, Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah presents a series of newly commissioned, large-scale canvases. In the first gallery, Red Valley and Ten Nudes and a Landscape (both 2021) depict hazy, magma-like landscapes onto which the silhouettes of various figures – dancing, reclining – have been lightly superimposed. They might be the ghosts of clubbers in some primordial land, or visions of future party-goers in a post-apocalyptic world. – Simon Wu

Izzy Barber

James Fuentes

11 May – 11 June 2022

Izzy Barber Union Pool III, 2022 Signed, titled, and dated verso Oil on canvas 11 x 9 inches (IB/P 11229)
Izzy Barber, Union Pool III, 2022, oil on canvas, 28 × 23 cm. Courtesy: the artist and James Fuentes

There is something both charming and stubborn about Izzy Barber’s little paintings of nothing moments. Although they are almost impressionist in their art historical bent – big brush strokes and moody tones – her tableaux are nonetheless thoroughly contemporary in their relentless cataloguing of the unremarkable. Or, rather, they depict moments forced into remarkableness by the artist's insistence on sketching them out, on capturing the likes of a finger on the button of a subway-train door. To one side here there are images of subway riders, loose studies of seated passengers, sometimes the yellow pole of the car slicing down the canvas in a single canary stroke – to the other, tungsten bar scenes, with caulk-coloured figures in blurry weak marks that appear to flit into the frame. The kinds of pictures you find on your phone the morning after a big night out in New York. – Travis Diehl

The Whitney Biennial

Whitney Museum of American Art

6 April – 5 September 2022

Dave McKenzie, still from Listed under Accessories, 2022. Two-channel digital video installation, color, sound; 34:12 min. Courtesy the artist; Vielmetter, Los Angeles; and Barbara Wien Gallery, Berlin
Dave McKenzie, Listed under Accessories, 2022, still from two-channel digital video installation. Courtesy: the artist, Vielmetter, Los Angeles and Barbara Wien Gallery, Berlin

The curators of this year’s Whitney Biennial, David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards, offer us a provocation in the form of a stark visual binary that structures the show. Featuring the work of 63 artists and collectives, the exhibition unfolds for the most part across two floors that feel wildly different. The fifth floor is completely open, with works installed on freestanding supports and no interior walls to divide up the space, while black paint and black carpet convert the sixth floor into a darkened maze of individual nooks where video abounds. Even when the urgency of overlapping crises amplifies the appeal of grand narratives and righteous clarity, the particularity of the individual imagination still carries great power. – Peter Brock

Main image: Gideon Appah, ‘Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes’, 2022, installation view, Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU. Courtesy: the artist and ICA VCU; photograph: David Hale

Contemporary Art and Culture