Exhibitions to See Across the US Right Now

During Frieze New York, catch solo shows by Allana Clarke and Esmaa Mohamoud at Kavi Gupta, Chicago, and Xiyadie's queer papercuts at The Drawing Center, New York

in Critic's Guides , Exhibition Reviews | 11 MAY 23


The Drawing Center, New York

3 February – 14 May

Very detailed papercut, colored with diluted pastels, of two male figures kissing in front of Tiananmen.
Xiyadie, Gate (Tiananmen), 2016, paper-cut with water-based dye and Chinese pigments on Xuan paper, 1.4 × 1.4 m. Courtesy: the artist

A farmer, husband and father, much of Xiyadie’s early life was defined by an adherence to the rigid social expectations of conservative rural China. In contrast, ‘Queer Cut Utopias’, the artist’s first solo show in New York, presents papercut figures engaged in gay sex acts, their genitals often blooming into flowering vines that unfurl against a lush background of flora and fauna. Adopting traditional Chinese paper-cutting techniques, Xiyadie scaffolds insurgent narratives that transcend socio-political and physical constraints to forge a personal vision of queer love which, in turn, expands the boundaries of the form. – Isabel Ling

Esmaa Mohamoud

Allana Clarke

Kavi Gupta

14 April – 29 July

A really tall black rattan chair
Esmaa Mohamoud, A Seat Above the Table (Warren Moon), 2019
, found rattan peacock chair, rattan, paint, tape, plastic, adhesive, nails
, 290 × 66 × 66 cm. Courtesy: the artist

Neither of the two solo exhibitions currently showing at Kavi Gupta should be missed. Through her mixed-media sculptural works, Esmaa Mohamoud examines what she dubs ‘Black body politics’, or the interrelated personal, socio-economic and historical factors that shape the category of Blackness from both within and outside the identity. A Seat Above the Table (Angela Bassett) (2019), a 12-foot tall rattan chair, references both the titular actress and the Black Panther Huey P. Newton, who was photographed in such a seat. The work escapes the easy connotations of a domestic American symbolic vocabulary, however: the original peacock chairs were woven by prisoners in the colonized Philippines.

Allana Clarke, meanwhile, continues her signature usage of Salon Pro 30 Sec. Super Hair Bond Glue, a product used to attach hair extensions or wigs to the scalp. To make the works on view, Clarke empties thousands of bottles of the glue over mesh, then manipulates the gradually-hardening material into sculptural shapes, as if wrestling with congealed ideas of Blackness. In I Feel Everything (2023), the material has been pulled to more than six feet across; rippling, bunched, black, glossy and almost delectable, it is offset with ragged edges and gaping holes. – Lisa Yin Zhang

‘Make Me Feel Mighty Real: Drag/ Tech and the Queer Avatar’

Honor Fraser, Los Angeles

3 March – 27 May

Two rooms; one with video screen, one with projections
‘Make Me Feel Mighty Real: Drag/Tech and the Queer Avatar’, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artists; photograph: Jeff McLane

From the aberrant splotches of 1970s screenprints to incandescent virtual worlds built by contemporary artists, ‘Make Me Feel Mighty Real: Drag/Tech and the Queer Avatar’ at Honor Fraser tracks how the tactics of queer creation – to ghost, glitch, infiltrate, speculate – move across time and technology to serve as scaffolding for much of today’s art practice. By framing drag itself as a kind of technology – an encrypted intelligence archived and activated across generations and cultures – the exhibition hones in on the role of the avatar in queer world-making. Understood both as otherworldly manifestation and, in more recent years, as digital surrogate for online interactions, the avatar becomes a prismatic interlocutor among the dazzling array of more than 40 artists on show. – Alice Bucknell

Sarah Sze

Guggenheim, New York

31 March – 10 September

Sarah Sze, Last Impression, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York; photograph: David Heald

In an interview with Erika Balsom published in frieze issue 235 on her current exhibition, 'Timelapse', Sarah Sze explains: 'I have always been interested in teetering between something digital and something analogue, between an image and an object. Since the 1990s, that conversation has exploded in my life and in the world. The show parallels this: it traces that explosion in my work. There are two older pieces in the exhibition. One is called Media Lab (1998), which I made for Manifesta 2 in Luxembourg. It has videos projected amongst objects and was probably the first video I ever showed. The idea of flipping between the three-dimensional and the digital was something I was really interested in. The second one, the show’s other bookending piece, is Timekeeper (2016).' 

Main image: Sarah Sze, ‘Timelapse’, installation view. Courtesy: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York; photograph: David Heald