Shows to See in the US This August

From a group show of Ukrainian women artists at Fridman Gallery, NY to Cathy Lu’s ceramic garden at Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, these are the shows on our radar this month

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , US Reviews | 19 AUG 22

‘Women at War’

Fridman Gallery

6 July - 26 August 2022

Graphite drawing of woman with a foetus hung by its own umbilical cord
Dana Kavelina, woman kills the son of the enemy (Communications. Exit to the Blind Spot series), 2019, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 32 × 30 cm. Courtesy: the artist

Of the 11 living artists in this exhibition, seven have had to flee Ukraine and four remain in their war-mired homeland. Despite the incredible violence that precipitated these conditions, ‘Women at War’, curated by Monika Fabijanska at Fridman Gallery, New York, in collaboration with Voloshyn Gallery, Kyiv, confronts us with the scenes of duress and resistance that have textured the daily lives of Ukrainian women for almost a decade.

Even the exhibition’s title, ‘Women at War,’ refuses passivity. Yes: this exhibition is in New York, worlds away from the shelling, rubble and sirens. But, whether or not these women remain in Ukraine, they are at war. For Vladimir Putin – the Russian leader who continues to deny Ukrainian statehood – the aim of the current war is not only the conquest of land, but the erasure of identity. Ukrainian artists are therefore faced with the unique pressure of defining their cultural opposition, as well as stewarding a contentious historiography. Should national identity be fixed to pre-Soviet culture? How should it contend with the legacy of Soviet-era Ukraine? While war narratives are overwhelmingly masculine, these women artists present paintings, drawings and videos that serve as unflinching feminist battle cries at the discursive frontiers of history.

‘Cathy Lu: Interior Garden’

Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco

20 January - 17 December 2022

An image of dripping ceramic eyes, some with monolids, dripping yellow water through a systems of tubes and buckets
Cathy Lu, Peripheral Visions, 2022, ceramic, porcelain, waterpump, tubing and containers, dimension varies. Courtesy: the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco; photograph: Aaron Stark.

The odd location of the scrappy Chinese Culture Center – on the third floor of the skyscraping, four-star Hilton Hotel in San Francisco’s Chinatown, as though caught between worlds – resulted from fervent negotiations between real estate developers and community activists. In this contested space marked by difference and inspired by the recent global upsurge in anti-Asian hate crimes and white supremacist rhetoric, Cathy Lu’s solo exhibition, ‘Interior Garden’, stages four ceramic installations that explore the surrealistic, humorous and grotesque truths behind the so-called ‘American Dream’ that promises a linear path to success for all who work for it. What beauty, and what horror, propels the growth of this garden? 

‘Olivia Hill: Strike-Slip’

Bel Ami

23 July - 17 September 2022

A portrait image of an orange-hued cave, light visible on the other side, with a moon at center overhead
Olivia Hill, Cave Painting, Bronson Caves 34°07'17.4N" 118°18'51.9W", 2022, oil and acrylic on canvas, 121.9 × 91.4 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Bel Ami, Los Angeles; photograph: Evan Bedford

People are absent from Olivia Hill’s first solo exhibition of landscape paintings at Bel Ami gallery, but signs of human occupation can be found everywhere. Her work engenders a distinct kind of gaze, which alternates between the reverent wonder of the nature-lover and the keen sight of a trouble-shooting detective. Hill hints obliquely at this fusion with her bluntly descriptive titles, which identify their represented sites not only by name but by degrees of latitude and longitude. Take View Point on Angeles Crest HWY 34°13’43.5”N 118°10’58.4”W (2022), the exactitude of the numbers ironically at odds with the beauty of this scenic treasure of the Southland. On its own, the painting compels poetic description, its baroque configuration of interlocking ravines recalling folds of fabric or the looping lines of a cat’s cradle. But when such free-floating impressions are aligned with those intractable coordinates once plotted by land-surveyors and mapmakers, and now increasingly generated via the telemetry of Google Earth and relayed to flatscreens from orbiting satellites, we gravitate toward a whole other order of interpretation. 

‘Mary Ann Unger: To Shape a Moon from Bone’ 

Williams College Museum of Art

15 July - 22 December 2022

An image of a series of dark biomorphic shapes, reaching toward the viewer like a set up fingers in cradles.
‘Mary Ann Unger: To Shape a Moon from Bone’, 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Williams College Museum of Art

It has been more than 20 years since the last museum survey devoted to the work of formidable sculptor and draughtswoman Mary Ann Unger. At Williams College Museum of Art, this long-overdue exhibition, sensitively curated by Horace D. Ballard, spans two decades of Unger’s materially restless artistic production from 1975 to 1997. Assimilating a wide range of works – including her bronze torsos cast from twigs, her exactingly gridded watercolours, and her large-scale sculptural abstractions – ‘To Shape a Moon from Bone’ foregrounds Unger’s exploratory ethos as it draws out the investments in modularity, biomorphism and tactility that permeated her work throughout her career.

Main image: Olivia Hill, No Snow, No Problem, Mammoth Mountain Facing Northwest 37°37'57.0"N 119°01'25.0W", 2022, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 152.4 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Bel Ami, Los Angeles; photograph: Evan Bedford

Exhibition reviews image: Olivia Hill, View Point on Angeles Crest HWY 34°13'43.5N" 118°10'58.4W", 2022, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 182.9 cm). Courtesy: the artist and Bel Ami, Los Angeles; photograph: Evan Bedford

Contemporary Art and Culture