BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 07 JUN 24

What to See in the US This Summer

From Julie Tolentino’s sculptural alchemy to a new survey on Käthe Kollwitz, which reintroduces the lionized artist to a new generation

BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 07 JUN 24

Eva Hesse | Hauser & Wirth, New York | 2 May – 26 July

‘Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016’, 2016
‘Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016’, 2016, exhibition view. Courtesy: © The Estate of Eva Hesse and Hauser & Wirth; photograph: Brian Forrest

Judiciously spare and poetically paced, ‘Eva Hesse: Five Sculptures’ at Hauser & Wirth assembles a quintet of the German-born artist’s most historically significant sculptures from 1967 to 1969, made just before her premature death from cancer, aged 34, in May 1970. Exemplifying Hesse’s ability to coax absurdity and eroticism out of a minimalism-informed commitment to seriality and industrial materials, the works on view are marked by a slow-burning strangeness that resists the potentially dampening effects of art-historical discourse (discourse which, in Hesse’s case, exists in ample supply). The show highlights a celebrated period during which the artist grew adept with unorthodox materials associated with manufacturing and consumer goods, while articulating a sculptural vocabulary rooted in visual opposites and difference through repetition. – Cassie Packard

Julie Tolentino | Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles | 25 May – 29 June 

Julie Tolentino, ‘The Flood, The Vessel, The Commune – how do we find each other?’, 2024
Julie Tolentino, The Flood, The Vessel, The Commune – how do we find each other? (detail), 2024, mixed media, variable dimensions. Courtesy: the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, Mexico City; photograph: Paul Salveso

Julie Tolentino’s exhibition at Commonwealth and Council is an exercise in alchemy: it centres the process of becoming as a foundational tenet of the work. Here, everything is in flux, with objects and materials cohering, fracturing, tangling and transforming to create a sculptural dynamism that echoes the organic transmutations of the living world.

The titular installation, The Flood, The Vessel, The Commune—how do we find each other? (2024), occupies a single gallery space. Suspended from the ceiling, five nebulous sculptures encrusted with teeming knots of crystals – grown in situ by the artist – dangle precariously over large vats of murky liquid. Motorized wire tethers sporadically animate these chandelier-like forms (which resemble stalactites or fruiting mushroom bodies), plunging them into the elixirs below. Once daily during open hours, gallery staff rotate the barrels underneath the sculptures to ensure that each object is adequately submerged in each unique solution featuring boron, sodium, oxygen, saltwater, charcoal, pigment and gem essences. Through this choreographed intervention, the solutions’ specific combination of molecular elements furthers the growth of additional crystal formations, catalysing a chain reaction of biotic transformation that asserts the sculptural object as a living form. – Jessica Simmons-Reid

Tiffany Sia | Maxwell Graham, New York | 1 May – 22 June 

Tiffany Sia, A Child Already Knows, 2024
Tiffany Sia, A Child Already Knows, 2024, video, installation view. Courtesy: the artist, Maxwell Graham, New York and FELIX GAUDLITZ, Vienna

In 1977, Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan appeared on The Mike McManus Show. Conducted three years before his death, the interview is a particularly solemn one, which reveals a man coming to terms not only with his own mortality, but with the notion of afterlife in the digital age. ‘When you’re on the telephone or on radio or on television, you don’t have a physical body,’ McLuhan mused. ‘You’re just an image on the air. You’re a discarnate being.’

It is eerie, then, nearly 45 years after his death, to read McLuhan’s words in filmmaker and media theorist Tiffany Sia’s exhibition ‘Technical Difficulties’ at Maxwell Graham in New York. Set in the gallery’s unassuming front window, An Image on Air (all works 2024) consists of a small surtitle board – an LED screen used for live translation in opera and theatre – that displays a silent lecture-of-sorts from the artist. In it, Sia compares McLuhan’s testimony of seeing oneself onscreen to that given by American children’s television icon Fred Rogers in a 1997 PBS interview with journalist Charlie Rose. Discussing lessons learned over the course of his career in broadcasting, Rogers references a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (1943): ‘What is essential is invisible to the eye.’ – Madeleine Seidel 

‘Scratching at the Moon’ | Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles | 10 February – 28 July

‘Scratching at the Moon’, 2024
‘Scratching at the Moon’, 2024, exhibition view. Courtesy: ICA LA; photograph: Jeff McLane

In Poetics of Relation (1990), Édouard Glissant writes that ‘relation struggles and states itself in opacity’. To lay the groundwork for an ethical way of relating across difference, we must first accept the opacity – the fundamental right to remain unknowable – of the other. This interplay is at work in ‘Scratching at the Moon’ at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, a group exhibition curated by Anna Sew Hoy and Anne Ellegood that brings together 13 contemporary Asian American artists with ties to the city. Spanning sculpture, photography, video, multimedia installation and performance, the exhibition moves beyond limiting categorizations of diverse identities and experiences, instead centring relationships and community as cornerstones of what it might mean to be Asian American. It presents a coming together of identities that are, by definition, diasporic, hybrid and mutable. – Vanessa Holyoak

Käthe Kollwitz | The Museum of Modern Art, New York | 31 March – 20 July

Käthe Kollwitz, Nie wieder Krieg! (Never Again War!), 1924
Käthe Kollwitz, Nie wieder Krieg! (Never Again War!), 1924, crayon and brush lithograph. 94 × 69 cm. Courtesy: Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin/Association of Friends of Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin

Despair should not be this beautiful. A new survey of Käthe Kollwitz’s dense career at MoMA charts the German artist’s work through the lenses of motherhood, grief, poverty and the rise of Nazism. Born in 1867, Kollwitz rarely used colour, finding such varied hues too unserious for the depth of feeling she wanted to evoke. Empathy and action were her primary shades. That might make her work sound dour, but in fact it’s mesmerizing. Her skills with basic techniques are unmatched – etching, lines, highlights and shadow all come alive in her grotesque woodblock scenes and drawings of poverty, violence and debauchery. The lucid detail with which she depicts ruin is astonishing. Anyone fearing a dull exhibition that merely reifies an old saint has nothing to worry about; MoMA’s curation establishes a thoughtful reintroduction to the lionized artist. – Grace Byron

Main image: Julie Tolentino, The Flood, The Vessel, The Commune – how do we find each other? (detail), 2024, mixed media, variable dimensions. Courtesy: the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, Mexico City; photograph: Paul Salveson

Contemporary Art and Culture