Highlights of the New Season Shows in New York

From Charline von Heyl’s unruly pictures to EJ Hill’s disenfranchised black body, the best exhibitions across the city

BY Shiv Kotecha in Critic's Guides | 21 SEP 18

Karin Schneider, Sabotage, 2017, installation view CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco. Courtesy: the artist

‘A new job to unwork at’
9 September – 14 October

Following a series of public programming at Artspace, New Haven, and LACE Project Space in Los Angeles, curators Andrew Kachel and Clara López Menéndez bring their interdisciplinary research platform, ‘A new job to unwork at’ to PARTICIPANT INC. The artists included here present works that question, disrupt and jam the ideological and normative operations of ‘work’ as a discursive, social and economic process. Here, the often rigid labours of aesthetic production are pitted against the labours of the everyday: from the practical – bathing, getting to work – to the emotional: in the performance of empathy or against the forces that drive us mad. Strewn around the gallery floor, Dylan Mira’s VOIDS (all 2015), cuts and voids four cartoonishly large blank checks. Crucially, these checks are also endorsed: ‘I DON’T BELIEVE IN FORM BUT I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MY BODY BETTER,’ is scrawled across the back of one in the centre of the gallery. Elsewhere, among video pieces, instructional guides and (somewhat unbelievably) pill capsules filled with fescue plant matter from one of Donald Trump’s golf courses, Kandis Williams offers us an equally destabilizing iteration of unworking: two compendiums titled Reader – one made by Williams the other by the curators – filled with reprints of texts on art and capitalism from Karl Marx to Fred Moten, are accompanied by a sign which, given the literal weight of these texts, reads more like a desperate plea than it does a liberty: ‘FREE BOOKS’.

EJ Hill, (left to right:) A Commemoration, 2018, neon; An Anchoring, 2018 archival inkjet print, 132 x 88 cm, installation view, ‘An Unwavering Tendency Toward the Center of a Blistering Sun’. Courtesy: Company Gallery, New York

EJ Hill, ‘An Unwavering Tendency Toward the Center of a Blistering Sun’
Company Gallery
16 September – 21 October

The toughened durational performances that have defined EJ Hill’s practice up till now – the ‘victory laps’ the artist ran this year around six of the seven LA schools he attended, or the winners’ podium on which Hill stood on six-days-a-week for three months at the Hammer Museum’s biennial, ‘Made in L.A. 2018’, or the roller-coaster below which Hill laid prostrate, face-down, in the summer of 2016 – are as emotionally affecting as the seasons that come to frame them. For his first show at Company, ‘An Unwavering Tendency Toward the Center of a Blistering Sun’, Hill continues his project of elevating queer or black body that’s omitted, neglected, or unseen by social institutions through sculpture, text, and photography. In the centre of the room is the aforementioned platform, Altar (for victors past, present, and future) (2018) – a three tiered plywood structure – and a document of Hill’s 2018 summer performance in LA. Surrounding Altar are a suite of large-scale photographs that locate the disenfranchised black body not only as image, but as an embodied presence within the natural and architectural spaces native to Hill’s West coast home: a self-portrait, An Anchoring (2018) depicts Hill floating just below the surface of a residential pool; another, A Divine Mother (after Charles Dickson) (2018) shows an Egyptian goddess cast in ebony that is literally tucked into the side of a Los Angeles building; this hovering, bejewelled goddess is neither empty ornament nor misplaced monument but is, in Hill’s eye, a crucial part of Los Angeles’s material landscape. The body depicted here becomes as diffuse as light and as concrete as a home.

Emily Jacir, La Mia Mappa, 2013, colour photograph. Courtesy: Alexander and Bonin, New York

Emily Jacir, ‘La Mia Mappa’
Alexander and Bonin
7 September – 27 October

La Mia Mappa (2013), the photograph from which Emily Jacir’s current show at Alexander and Bonin takes its name, shows a close-up of a water fountain in Rome which reflects the buildings and sky around it; the erosion of the bottom of the fountain appearing like a map. This acts as a key for Jacir’s research-based practice – here, including sculpture, photography, and found objects – which has long been concerned with documenting and representing the currents that set off interstitial movement and migration. Jacir presents several works never seen before in the US, each of which engages the microhistories of highly specific locales – streets in Rome, a square in Linz, Austria, gazettes from Ireland, missives from Palestine – so as to construct a more expansive understanding of global crisscrossing and contingency. For example, in Notes for a Cannon (2016), Jacir draws connections between a clock tower that once stood at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem (before being destroyed by the British in 1922) and the loss of Ireland’s own time zone (Dublin Mean Time) by the British in 1916. Here and elsewhere, Jacir’s works take site-specificity as a point of departure so as to constellate the complexities and tensions that foreground a migratory, but staunchly lived-in experience.

Danny Lyon, Undocumented workers, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1972, vintage print. Courtesy: the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York / Rome

Danny Lyon, ‘Wanderer’
Gavin Brown’s enterprise
12 September – 21 October

Danny Lyon’s first exhibition since his 2016 retrospective at the Whitney, ‘Wanderer’, brings together new and vintage prints, montages and films that centre around Lyon’s hometown on the Mexican-US border, Bernalillo. Here, Lyon’s photographs of the local labour force, citrus groves and his friends and neighbours from the 1960s to ’70s are coupled with three films that portray a particularly long and crushing history of undocumented labour, immigration, and family life in the American West. Lyon’s 1971 film, EL MOJADO – which translates to ‘The Wet One’, or a transliteration of the American slur ‘wetback’ – is a portrait of Eddie, a Mexican national fleeing immigration police whom Lyon brought back and forth from the United States every year in exchange for consenting to being filmed. In EL OTRO LADO (1978), Lyon and his wife Nancy travel to Maricopa County in Arizona – where Joe Arpaio recently failed to win a Senate seat – and meet the Garay family, who, for the film, re-enact their illegal crossing from their own farms through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to pick citrus. In his latest film, Wanderer (2017), Lyon takes a digital camera back to his hometown to record many of the same subjects his photographs once so intimately captured. Here, Lyon’s Australian shepherd dog, Trip, wanders into and out of a massive auto graveyard and swims through the San Juan River, his friends and neighbours pay respect to Willie Jaramillo, a subject of Lyon 1983 film Willie, and Lyon continues his work documenting an arid but arresting American landscape. 

Colter Jacobsen, memory w/o words (after Dorsky), 2018, graphite and watercolor on paper, 40 x 48 cm. Courtesy: Callicoon Fine Arts, New York, NY

Colter Jacobsen, ‘Essays’
Callicoon Fine Arts
7 September – 14 October

If I remember correctly, in learning how to write, I learned to draw from memory. Look at the letter A – memorize it’s shape; look down – now draw it. Look back up – memorize. Good, now look back down – repeat. In ‘Essays’, Bay Area artist Colter Jacobsen mines this requisite minimal gap that always exists between a source and its trail: between brief studies on reflection and the immediate reflexivity those studies come to teach us. Several works – drawings, photographs, watercolours, and found objects – repeat and reflect each other throughout Callicoon’s space, signalling the various ways that memory ties art-making to epistemology: produce the original and try (essai) to produce it again. Ghost Wood (female flying figure-Tieppolo) (2017) depicts a connect-the-dots scene in which Caspar the Ghost rides a broom. The dots that connect one of his facial features to the next are doubled, as if his figure is shifting in space as the artist attempts to draw it, and yet the numbers follow a single linear trajectory: they go from 1 to 30; with the broom fully drawn in – Jacobsen’s try at figuring the ghost completes itself as a double negative. Elsewhere, the artist’s attention turns back to language: in a series of watercolours, each titled NOW, tri-colour wheels are painted with wavy lines moving from the edge of the circle toward its centre. Here, drawing is conflated with writing; paying closer attention, the letters ‘N O W’ can be seen and read across each diametrical line.

João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, Plato's cave model, 2018, patinated bronze, 38 x 81 x 34 cm. Courtesy: the artists and Andrew Kreps, New York

João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, ‘WHERE THE SORCERER DOESN’T DARE TO STICK HIS NOSE’ and ‘Another B&W Ghost Show’
Andrew Kreps
6 September – 20 October

At the very front of Portuguese artists and collaborators João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva’s two-in-one exhibition, ‘WHERE THE SORCERER DOESN’T DARE TO STICK HIS NOSE’ and ‘Another B&W Ghost Show’ is, perhaps, the most familiar of all the objects presented: Plato’s cave model (2018), a sculptural miniature of the philosopher’s mystical allegory. It’s a good set up for what follows, as we become miniature shadow puppets in Gusmão and Paiva’s immersive and cave-like installation. Within this fabricated dome, several new short 16mm films play on opposing walls, each depicting domestic and biological objects at a de-accelerated framerate: a rope that coils up and then back down, a slow, precise haircut, a green shutter that flaps in front of the lens. Stepping outside the installation, you walk around its scaffolding – and it begins to resemble more of a zoetrope than a cave. Large scale photographs (‘Ghost Show’) depict a different sort of shadow play: a hammer shape-shifts into something soft, a large camera shutter becomes a window. Gusmão and Paiva disrupt both the nature of time and the mechanical natures of image production in this striking exhibition.

Wolfgang Tillmans, afterparty, P19/20, 2018, inkjet print on paper, clips. Courtesy: © the artist, David Zwirner, New York, Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne and Maureen Paley, London

Wolfgang Tillmans, ‘How likely is it that only I am right in this matter?’
David Zwirner
13 September – 20 October

How does one have a new photography show in a world that moves terribly fast and is entirely over-photographed? Wolfgang Tillmans asks a similar question with his new, enveloping exhibition ‘How likely is it that only I am right in this matter?’ which brings together Tillmans’s photographs with a suite of three videos, Rebar (2018), and a sound installation, I want to make a film (2018). It’s in the sound-recording that, perhaps, Tillmans’s desire to make sense of an oversaturated world is heard most clearly: in a dimly lit, carpeted room, visitors can sit on chairs as they listen to a disembodied male voice spewing an unscripted monologue about plans for a film about smartphones. In the rest of the gallery spaces, this impulse is drawn on, and Tillmans’s close-up photographs of friends, fabrics, sand, ice, and the guts of cars sparsely adorn Zwirner’s walls. Among these images is a series of abstract photographs, ‘Silver’ (2014–ongoing), that seems to tie Tillmans’s interest in the erotics of domestic, architectural and gay spaces together. For these chromogenic prints, all hung at eye-level, Tillmans feeds paper through a darkroom processor until the process itself produces a rhythm: the developing liquid itself acts as the photograph’s forming agent. In a world like this one, we all, like Tillmans’s alchemical agents, need something to cling to.

Charline von Heyl, Poetry Machine #1, 2018, acrylic, charcoal and oil on linen, 2.1 x 2 m. Courtesy: Petzel, New York

Charline von Heyl, ‘New Work’
6 September – 20 October

The formal complexity, and the fun, of Charline von Heyl’s painting language can leave one at a standstill – it did for me. Driven equally by rules and the unruly, this new suite of large-scale paintings at Petzel – Von Heyl’s ninth show with the gallery – continues a painting tradition in which there is, in all cases, too much to see. In the aptly titled The Floodsubject (2018), long, densely painted raindrops cover a canvas marked with grays and green swaths of paint. These stark, black drops pull one down, as if into the painting, as if subject to its flood. In another, Dub (2018), Von Heyl depicts a faceless mask; or is it a rock? The densely painted inside is covered with layers of paint: grayscale blotches and vertical tracks of blue, pink and yellow. The strange object is haloed with charcoal triangles jutting outward, and the rock, like the viewer, responds: a small piece juts out of the form, and breaks the mould. 

For more current shows to see in New York, head over to On View.

Main image: Charline von Heyl, Poetry Machine #3 (detail), 2018, acrylic and oil on linen, 2. 1 x 1.9 m. Courtesy: Petzel, New York

Shiv Kotecha is a contributing editor of frieze. He is the author of The Switch (Wonder, 2018) and  EXTRIGUE (Make Now, 2015), and his criticism appears in 4Columns, Aperture, art-agenda, MUBI’s Notebook and BOMB.