The Top Four Exhibitions to See Across the Americas

From Rosemary Mayer's long-deserved survey at Swiss Institute, New York, to the 17th edition of MOMENTA in Montreal, Canada, these are the best shows in the Americas

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BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , Reviews Across The World , US Reviews | 01 OCT 21

Nam June Paik, One Candle (also known as Candle TV), 2004; courtesy the Estate of Nam June Paik; © Estate of Nam June Paik; photo: Jon Huffman 
Nam June Paik, One Candle (also known as Candle TV), 2004. Courtesy: the Estate of Nam June Paik; © Estate of Nam June Paik; photography: Jon Huffman  

Nam June Paik
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

‘Nam June Paik’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) is the artist’s first major retrospective in more than 20 years. Featuring more than 200 works from the artist’s five-decade career, this retrospective constructed a refreshing narrative of Paik’s beginnings as a classically trained composer and irreverent performance artist. Among the earliest works, presented as a preface to the exhibition, are Sinfonie for 20 Rooms (1961/1974) and Button Happening (1965), Paik’s first silent, black and white video depicting the banal or Zen-like action of the artist buttoning and unbuttoning his jacket. The pairing of these two early examples seems pivotal in relation to how they point towards what would become Paik’s imperatives in later works: breaking down barriers between art and music, audience and performer. — Arthur Solway

 

Hypsipyle, 1973. Satin, rayon, nylon, cheesecloth, nylon netting, ribbon, dyes, wood, acrylic paint. 48 x 108 x 6 in. Courtesy of Lenbachhaus, Munich.
Rosemary Mayer, Hypsipyle, 1973, satin, rayon, nylon, cheesecloth, nylon netting, ribbon, dyes, wood, acrylic paint, 122 × 274 × 15 cm. Courtesy: Lenbachhaus, Munich 

Rosemary Mayer
Swiss Institute

Since her passing in 2014, Rosemary Mayer’s formally exacting, diverse and conceptually rigorous body of work has remained largely under-recognized. Yet, there’s no lack of venerable historical context for her practice: site-specific installations that presaged the modulation of performance art from public intervention to semi-private relational aesthetics; the phenomenological separation of painting from its stretcher bars; and a scholarly engagement with Western art. Then there are the well-established reputations of her contemporaries, such as Adrian Piper, Vito Acconci – an ex-husband who encouraged her off an academic pathway in classics towards visual art – and fellow writers like her own sister, poet Bernadette Mayer, with whom she grew up in the working-class, Catholic milieu of Ridgewood, New York. — Paige K. Bradley 

'The Rive Is a Serpent', 2021, exhibition view, Frestas Triennial of Arts, SESC Sorocaba. Courtesy: Frestas Triennial of Arts, SESC Sorocaba; photography: Matheus José Maria
‘The River Is a Serpent’, 2021, exhibition view, Frestas Triennial of Arts, SESC Sorocaba. Courtesy: Frestas Triennial of Arts, SESC Sorocaba; photography: Matheus José Maria

Frestas Triennial of Arts
SESC Sorocaba

Postponed and altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the third edition of the Frestas Triennial of Arts is a scaled-down version of the original concept, yet has an all-encompassing vitality, existing – to borrow the title of Rebeca Carapiá’s installation of twisted metal rods in a large asymmetrical base – in an Electric Field (2021). In spite (or perhaps as a consequence) of the unstable conditions of its making, the project seemed to foment more intimate exchanges between the artists and curators involved, awarding the show a stronger sense of urgency and depth. This is evidenced by the strong presence of commissioned works, mostly by a new generation of artists, whose practices have emerged from the ongoing debates around decolonialization that have dominated the discourse in Latin America for the past two decades. — Fernanda Brenner

 

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Poetic Disorder, exhibition view presented at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery as part of MOMENTA 2021. Photo: Jean-Michael Seminaro
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, 'Poetic Disorder', exhibition view presented at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal, as part of MOMENTA 2021. Courtesy: the artist and Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal; photography: Jean-Michael Seminaro

MOMENTA Biennale de l'image 
Various venues, Montreal, Canada

There are few contemporary art events in Tiohtià:ke / Mooniyang / Montreal that unite artist-run centres, university art galleries, museums and community spaces. Yet, since 1989, MOMENTA Biennale de l’image has collaborated with a range of exhibition venues to deliver a diverse programme of local, national and international artists across the city. Over the past decade, and particularly since being renamed in 2017 from Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal (Montreal Photography Month), the biennial has progressed from a focus on traditional photographic practices and curatorial premises to a more inclusive mandate that allows for a broader range of image-based works, artists and collectives to enter into dialogue. The 17th edition, titled ‘Quand la nature ressent’ (Sensing Nature), takes another leap in this direction, leaving behind two-dimensional representations of the natural world in favour of numerous sensuous installations, affecting landscapes and politically engaged settings for the viewer to literally step into, contemplate and be moved. — Didier Morelli

Main image: ‘Rosemary Mayer: Ways of Attaching’, 2021, exhibition view, Swiss Institute, New York. Courtesy: Swiss Institute, New York
Thumbnail image: Chloë Lum & Yannick Desranleau, 'Crushed Butterflies Dream Too', exhibition view presented at the Galerie B-312, Montreal, as part of MOMENTA 2021. Courtesy: the artists and Galerie B-312, Montreal; photography: Jean-Michael Seminaro

Contemporary Art and Culture

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