The Best Shows to See in the US This March

From the first survey of Puerto Rican art at the Whitney Museum of American Art, to the tribute to Lizzi Bougatsos’s life at TRAMPS

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , US Reviews | 17 MAR 23

Lizzi Bougatsos

TRAMPS, New York

13 January – 22 March 

A black shelf with a ballet shoe and butter knife balanced atop; a chandelier made mostly with ballet-related ephemera, bandages framed in background
Lizzi Bougatsos, ‘Idolize the Burn: An Ode to Performance’, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and TRAMPS, New York and London; photograph: Mark Woods 

Lizzi Bougatsos, the artist, musician and downtown troubadour, performed a piece in 2001 at age 27 with her band, Actress, that included fire: a youthful and dramatic representation of her disillusionment with the art and music worlds.The performance went awry when Bougatsos’s costume caught aflame, causing severe burns throughout her body. That fateful night, and the following months of excruciating recovery, are immortalized in her show ‘Idolize the Burn, An Ode to Performance’ at TRAMPS’s new space in New York. The exhibition is a tribute not only to that singular performance but to Bougatsos’s beginnings and existence as an artist, showcasing her life as a gesamtkunstwerk dedicated to chasing the euphoria of artistic expression and belonging. – Madeleine Seidel

Mark Manders

Tanya Bonakdar, Los Angeles

11 February – 8 April

A newspaper page with nonsense headlines and a teal-painted block placed atop
Mark Manders, Composition with Two Colours, 2005–22, offset print, acrylic on wood, 47 × 34 × 3 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles

Call me a cynic, but it’s a rare experience to fall under art’s spell. Last month, however, I watched Ethan Sklar,  director of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, perform a trick of prestidigitation while touring me around Mark Manders’s show ‘Writing Skiapod’. By stepping on the exhibition catalogue, he turned its colour images greyscale; repeating this act in a different part of the gallery, he made the illustrations and text disappear. A third time, and the book was back to normal: a syllabus of historical artworks and writing (much of it faked) about the skiapod, a dwarf-like creature from Greco-Roman mythology with a single, gigantic foot aimed at the sky. His only hint as to how he completed the trick was that the inconspicuous concrete floor (not for sale) was the most expensive thing on display. – Evan Moffitt

‘no existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria’

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

23 November 2022 – 23 April 2023

Rogelio Báez Vega, Paraíso Móvil, 2019, oil on canvas, 1.4 × 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist 

To mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the Whitney has gathered together recent works by 20 Puerto Rican artists that grapple with how to give form to the overwhelming scope of these problems. Masterfully organized by Whitney curator Marcela Guerrero, with Angelica Arbelaez and Sofía Silva, the show is the first survey of Puerto Rican art in a major US institution in half a century, joining the seminal but now distant 1969 exhibition ‘Contemporary Puerto Rican Artists’ at the Brooklyn Museum, and the pair of 1973 shows co-produced by the Metropolitan Museum and El Museo del Barrio. – Eva Díaz

Kate Spencer Stewart & Chadwick Rantanen

Hakuna Matata, Los Angeles

12 February – 26 March 

A wooden treehouse set atop a hill
Kate Spencer Stewar & Chadwick Rantanen, ‘Youth’, installation view, 2023. Courtesy: the artists

Launched in 2015, Hakuna Matata is less an exhibition venue than, as noted on its website, ‘a sculpture garden, project space, serialized novella’. Here, directors Anh Do and Eli Diner present ‘Youth’ – their first two-person exhibition which features new works by Chadwick Rantanen and Kate Spencer Stewart – in their steep backyard in Cypress Park, Los Angeles, a space ripe for precarious experimentation. – Gracie Hadland

‘Is it morning for you yet?: 58th Carnegie International’

Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

24 September 2022 – 2 April 2023

Thu Van Tran, Colors of Grey, 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art; photograph: Sean Eaton

‘Is it morning for you yet?’, the 58th Carnegie International, borrows its title from the Mayan Kaqchikel expression for ‘good morning’. It also reads as a plea: have we awoken from this nightmare? Foregrounding the impact of US imperialism since 1945, the exhibition reaches into pasts that occupy the present, cracking open perpetrations obscured in collective consciousness or rarely apprehended together. With such an ambitious mandate, the show inevitably has its paradoxes: namely, how to de-centre the US while the country remains the protagonist of its thesis. At the same time, such oppositions – even contradictions – are key to its methodology. It is conceptually and structurally hybrid with works that range between abstraction and figuration, sorrow and hope, the historical and the contemporary. Presented both in the larger exhibition as well as in the micro shows within it, this selection yields an assemblage resisting singular meaning. What could this much mass despair and revolutionary strength look like, except for a magnitude exceeding individual comprehension? — Margaret Kross  

Main image: Gamaliel Rodríguez, Collapsed Soul, 2020–21, ink and acrylic on canvas, 2.1 × 2.8 cm. Courtesy: © 2021 Gamaliel Rodríguez and Nathalie Karg Gallery NYC; photograph: Gamaliel Rodríguez

Contemporary Art and Culture