Shows to See in the US This December

From Naama Tasbar’s sound installation at the Bass Museum, Miami, to Diane Severin Nguyen’s K-pop video on modern-day revolution, here are the must-see shows in the US. 

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , US Reviews | 07 DEC 21

Naama Tsabar Inversions performance 2021
Naama Tsabar, Ale Campos, Fielded, Gabriela Burdsall, Gabrielle Sheerer, Lee Muze, Robbi Robsta, and Sarah Strauss in Inversions, 2021, performance view. Courtesy: © The Bass Museum, Miami; photograph: Michael Del Riego

Naama Tsabar

Bass Museum, Miami

28 November 2021 – 17 April 2022

So for this show, there’s going to be a set of five Inversion works in the main space of the gallery – the largest in the museum. You’re basically walking into an empty space and, of course, there’s these holes in the wall. The first thing you see, in the hallway leading to the main space, is a Melody of Certain Damage (2018–ongoing), which is a broken-guitar piece. And then there’s a room that’s just full of other broken or deconstructed guitars. So, it’s kind of a landscape of debris but everything is connected and playable; everything is on the floor. — Naama Tsabar in conversation with Terence Trouillot 

Mari Eastman, Soon-Yi and Moses, 2021, Goldfinch, Chicago
Mari Eastman, Soon-yi and Moses, oil on yupo paper, 30 × 23 cm. Courtesy: © Goldfinch, Chicago; photograph: Ryan Edmund

Mari Eastman

Goldfinch, Chicago

14 November – 19 December

The night air around Soon-Yi Previn, as Mari Eastman has rendered it, is overbearing. Surrounded by short, effusive brushstrokes, Previn’s impervious silhouette is further peppered by inky blue daubs. A chatty young Moses Farrow stands beside her, the red folds of his jacket matching an awning above (Soon-yi and Moses, 2021). The poolside portrait of a girl that opens ‘Night Life’, Eastman’s second solo exhibition at Goldfinch in Chicago, is executed with similar aplomb. Untitled (Sanded Painting) (2021) is atmospherically grey-pink and lavender; the girl, bored but assured, sits with one leg propped up. Any rococo resonances, however, are challenged by her completely sanded face and body; the abrasions give the effect of splitting light. — Alex Jen

Diane Severin Nguyen, IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS, 2021, installation view, SculptureCenter, New York. Courtesy: the artist, Bureau, New York and SculptureCenter; photography: Charles Benton

Diane Severin Nguyen

SculptureCenter, New York

16 September – 13 December

Diane Severin Nguyen’s new video, IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS (2021) at SculptureCenter, New York, opens on desaturated pastures; a voice speaking Polish, subtitled in a blotchy monotype font, speaks of the perils of isolation, while a piano broods. Cut to a waterlogged child washed up on a foreign beach, with the sound of a camera shutter, as if we were watching footage of Chinese influencers cosplaying flood victims. The child’s eyes open and the roll advances. Dressed in red and yellow and blue in an earthtone Europe – a young girl in an old country – she’s a colour pop. And maybe we can only digest revolution as pop: the palette of cartoon stars and hearts, the banners of Soviet Russia or the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. A montage shows the girl, Weronika, growing older: dressed in a headscarf, she rehearses dance moves and sings into a hammer. Underlying the promises of socialist work and free-market self-betterment is the rhetoric of disease: spread, infection, inoculation of other politics. Revolution is also a sickness the way love is, as one is overcome with impulse and passion. ‘If I don’t become an artist,’ says Weronika, ‘then I will just remain a victim.’ — Travis Diehl


Ahmed Morsi, Untitled (The Embrace - Nude & Horse), 1966
Ahmed Morsi, Untitled (The Embrace - Nude & Horse), 1966, oil on wood, 1.2 × 1.9 m. Courtesy: the artist and Salon 94, New York

Ahmed Morsi

Salon 94, New York

12 November – 18 December

The surrealist canon is currently undergoing a much-needed revision in the West – or, at the very least, on New York’s Upper East Side. Three exhibitions within a 20-block radius underscore the movement’s multifaceted, international character: a presentation of work by Polish artist Erna Rosenstein at Hauser & Wirth; the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s examination of surrealism in 45 countries, co-organized with Tate Modern; and, at Salon 94, New York, an intimate show of 12 paintings spanning six decades by Egyptian-born artist, poet and critic Ahmed Morsi. (The nonagenarian, a New York resident since 1974, is also featured in MoMA PS1’s quinquennial ‘Greater New York’.) – Cassie Packard


Shigeko Kubota, 'Liquid Reality', 2021, exhibition view, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Courtesy: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; photograph: Denis Doorly

Shigeko Kubota

Museum of Modern Art, New York

21 August 2021 – 1 January 2022

‘Shigeko Kubota: Liquid Reality’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, highlights this pivotal period in the artist’s career, showcasing seven video works – six of which are sculptural – made between 1976 and 1985. Unsurprisingly, the embrace of intermedia and zen-inspired tendencies of fluxus are present throughout: the movement lurks within the work’s personal, diaristic impetus and its preoccupation with nature as site and subject. Emphasizing Kubota’s prescient engagement with themes of identity, technology and nature, the exhibition reveals the artist’s simultaneous exploration of the ephemeral and monumental qualities of her chosen medium. — Jane Ursula Harris

Ian Cheng, Life After BOB: The Chalice Study, film still, 2021. Courtesy: The Shed

Ian Cheng

The Shed, New York

10 September – 19 December 

The first time I went to see Ian Cheng’s Life After BOB (2021) at the Shed – the loaf-shaped culture hub in the Bloomberg building at Hudson Yards, New York – I stumbled into the second day of a convening called Unfinished Live (their motto: ‘The Future is Decentralized’). The fourth-floor theatre wouldn’t screen Life After BOB for another two hours and, in the meantime, was showing a livestream of the presentations happening on a stage two floors below that was flanked by huge banks of LEDs and hazed by smoke machines. I killed time hearing about the blockchain and what the internet can learn from trees. Cheng himself, it turned out, had spoken earlier in the day on ‘Worlding’, explaining to the audience of tech pros and journos his art of live-rendering simulations based on an ever-complexifying fictional future. When Life After BOB finally rolled, the scene had been well set. — Travis Diehl

Main image: Diane Severin Nguyen, IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS, 2021, installation view, SculptureCenter, New York. Courtesy: the artist, Bureau, New York and SculptureCenter; photography: Charles Benton

Contemporary Art and Culture