Shows to See in the US This April

From a group show of Black artists at Johnson Lowe to Ignacio Gatica’s multi-media sculptures, here are the best shows to see across the US right now

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , US Reviews | 14 APR 23

‘The Alchemists’

Johnson Lowe, Atlanta

3 March – 29 April


An assemblage of round objects arranged symmetrically on a wall; they look like they have faces
Masela Nkolo, Umoja Symposium, 2021, metal, glass, oil paint, acrylic paint, 1.2 × 3.6 m. Courtesy: the artist and Johnson Lowe Gallery

Before we set foot in the gallery, Mark Bradford’s large-scale canvas, Playing Castles (2022), greets us through a window. It reads as a tortured aerial map: deep scratches have pulled through nearly dry paint so forcefully it’s ripped; bare canvas peeks through like an old wound. But end papers – a staple in caring for Black hair – are layered into the painting. Bright yellow paint covers the rough surface like city lights or nodes of a vast neural system, applied with the same devotional care as gold leaf on a religious icon. It hints at the show within; the emergent mysticism in repetitious labour, the way space and time fold through the force of identity, the possibility of transformation within all things. These are the animating themes of ‘The Alchemists’, a group show of 28 artists, all Black, co-curated by Seph Rodney and Donovan Johnson at Johnson Lowe, Atlanta. – Lisa Yin Zhang

Ignacio Gatica

von ammon co, Washington, DC

25 March – 7 May 


A financial ticker of the kind you'd find in Times Square, propped against floor and wall: flags and numbers beside show debt and as percentage of GDP
Ignacio Gatica, Preface to an Automated Stratosphere, 2022, LED screens, World Bank Data, aluminium and steel frame, 321 × 16 × 16 cm. Courtesy: the artist

From 1973 to 1990, the dictator Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile with an iron fist. It was a forced experiment in neoliberalism, led by a generation of young economists educated in free-market theories at the University of Chicago and other US institutions – a reshaping of which American right-wingers could only dream. As multimedia sculptor Ignacio Gatica told me, while tinkering with a circuit board in the gallery, ‘Santiago is like a mini-Manhattan’: an eerily distorted mirror image in which its worst lessons – consumerism, debt, financialization of daily life – are gospel.

Such conversations were at the heart of the Washington, D.C., protests of 2000 against IMF/World Bank policies that led to the immiseration of millions in the Global South, rationalized by bureaucrats as ‘structural adjustment’ – the cost of doing business. Gatica’s Preface to an Automated Stratosphere (2022) visualizes such abstraction: propped against the wall, an LED ticker of the sort you’d see in Times Square, New York, cascades data like water, a lovely cyber-punk minimalism. But it’s no mere readymade. Per Gatica, such devices are difficult to come by, so he builds his own from aluminium and steel, assembling arrays of circuits to light the display. Its algorithm, which simulates a roll call of debt by country and as a percentage of GDP – Kazakhstan, for instance, clocked an eye-popping 99.6 percent – is Gatica’s work as well. – Ian Bourland

Rachel Whiteread

Luhring Augustine, New York

10 March – 22 April

An all-white sculpture of a cast tree with what looks to be a pipe caught in its branches
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Thicket), 2022, steel, wood and paint, 313 × 143 × 91 cm. Courtesy: © Rachel Whiteread and Luhring Augustine, New York; photograph: Prudence Cumming Associates

Rachel Whiteread’s alchemy turns absence into presence, refuse into potent symbolism. For her eponymous solo show at Luhring Augustine Tribeca, the artist presents a new body of work produced over the past three years that shifts the paradigm of her practice. In contrast to the smooth solemnity of her earlier work, Whiteread seems to redirect her focus towards systems of entropy and transformation. The three, free-standing sculptures in the centre of the gallery are turbulent and disordered – assemblages of disparate elements strewn together as if by a storm. Rising from a dented cubic planter in Untitled (Thicket) (2022), leafless branches are entangled with industrial detritus: a tube; an anonymous four-legged metal base; contorted wire mesh suspended like knotted ornaments from a barren, lifeless effigy of a tree. It’s thickly painted in dense layers of matte white – an act of embalming to resist further decay. Whiteread’s work has always been about revealing the invisible, making the incorporeal tactile, alienating the familiar in order to illuminate its nuances. Here, however, instead of monolithic motionlessness, she shows us a more haunting kind of stillness – one born in the wake of catastrophe. – Rebecca Rose Cuomo

‘The Chicago Cli-Fi Library’

Neubauer Collegium

22 February – 11 June

Installation view: concrete slabs as books leaning against wood-paneled wall; half-orange, half-photograph diptych
‘The Chicago Cli-Fi Library’, 2023, installation view. Courtesy: the artists

‘The spectre of climate change’, the press release ominously intones, ‘has yet to produce the Anthropocene’s defining masterpieces.’ How should one make art to answer a problem of such scale? Curator Dieter Roelstraete suggests that the only possible responses will be ad-hoc, hyperlocal and piecemeal. Well, when in Chicago. Artists Jenny Kendler, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle and Dan Peterman and duo Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann – all with practices based here – rise to that impossible challenge. Geissler and Sann’s How Does the World End (for Others)?, Horseshoe Crab (2023) depicts the titular creature on its shelled back, rearing hopelessly with insect-like legs. Set against the grandeur of the Collegium’s wood-panelled walls, across the way from a tufted leather sofa, I was reminded of the sad protagonist of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1915), who wakes up one morning mysteriously transformed into a cockroach and remains beset, despite his transformation, with the banal details of a life of pure subsistence. Peterman invokes the library in which the exhibition takes place: Archive (One Ton) (2012), a set of concrete slabs that look, from a distance, like stacked books, slot into one corner of the space and across the exhibition venue. Some stand on cinderblock shelves outside the building: so much accumulated effort, knowledge and artistry, fossilized as if at the end of the world. – Lisa Yin Zhang

Main image: Ignacio Gatica, BOTTEGA VENETA (740 Madison Ave, New York, NY, 10065), 2023, inkjet print, engraved aluminum artist’s frame, 110 × 62 cm. Courtesy: the artist

Contemporary Art and Culture