BY Angel Lambo in Critic's Guides | 07 JUN 24

What to See in Basel and Zurich

From Toyin Ojih Odutola’s tableaux vivants to a group show dedicated to chest hair, here’s what not to miss during Zurich Art Weekend and Art Basel

BY Angel Lambo in Critic's Guides | 07 JUN 24

‘The Chest Hair Show’ | Plymouth Rock, Zurich | 7 June – 30 July

Juan Antonio Olivares, Hairy Chest Man, 2024, graphite on aluminum panel, 60 × 40cm. Courtesy: the artist

‘The Chest Hair Show’ brings together diverse artworks to create new connections and interpretations around body hair. Juan Antonio Olivares’s drawing of a ‘Tinder-tight’ torso in Hairy Chest Man (2024) prompts questions about male body goals, while Romeo Gómez López contributes a sculpture of Harry Styles – whose queerbaiting fashion often showcases his own lack of body hair – as an octopus (Octobussy, 2024). As a contrast, on another wall, is a poster of the carpet-chested Pete Sampras in the iconic 1990s Got Milk campaign shot by Annie Leibovitz.

Other symbolic representations of the male form – whether bedecked in peach fuzz or exposing their gnarled cuticles – invite viewers to reflect, celebrate and even revile all the textured expressions of masculinity on display.

Elena Alonso | Fabian Lang | 7 June – 7 September

Elena Alonso, Untitled (Kind and Sharp, 16), 2024, gouache, pastel and graphite on paper, 137 × 190 cm. Courtesy: © Elena Alonso and Galerie Fabian Lang; photograph: Almudena Cisneros

In her second solo exhibition at Fabian Lang, Madrid-based artist Elena Alonso presents a collection of 12 paintings on paper, conceived over the past six months. Titled ‘Kind and Sharp’, the show explores the interplay between architectural abstraction and organic form. The symmetry of Untitled (Kind and Sharp, 16) (all works 2024), for instance, might reveal the outline of a butterfly, while Untitled (Kind and Sharp, 19) contains the rudimentary shapes often found in construction. While it might be easy to dismiss Alonso’s work as purely decorative, the intricate textures with which she imbues these elementary shapes demand our attention. Using gouache she gives the surfaces of these shapes either a marbled, mottled or grooved effect. Many of the artworks comprise near-symmetrical images in which marble spheres, liquorice rectangles, chequerboard squares and brushed-concrete teardrops are interlaced in celestial arrangements.

Grace Schwindt | Peter Kilchmann | 7 June – 26 July

Grace Schwindt Entangled, 2024
Grace Schwindt, Entangled, 2024, oil, watercolour, ink and pencil on canvas, 60 × 75 cm Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Paris

Grace Schwindt’s 2023 exhibitions – ‘Lacuna’ at Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp, and ‘Defiant Bodies’ at Kunstmuseum St. Gallen – were inspired by her grandfather’s World War II story of joining the German army to evade being detected as a Jew, voluntarily interning himself in a prisoner of war camp and organizing clandestine boxing matches while there. To him, the scars he bore from those tournaments were life-affirming and a sign of his bodily autonomy.

This same ontological framework drives Schwindt’s current show, ‘When She Moves’, which features watercolours of women bearing signs of a head trauma (Entangled, all works 2024) or rendered unconscious by pain (Blue Shirt). Unlike the artist’s grandfather, these wounded women are held in the tender embrace of another woman who, unable to administer healing, shows care.

A collection of bronze and ceramic sculptures, which include Dancer and Becoming a Flower, are more light-hearted in nature and depict half human, half flower forms adopting delicate balletic poses. Despite its thematically distinct parts, all elements of this exhibition work together to show that there’s power in fragility.

Mika Rottenberg | Museum Tinguely | 5 June – 3 November

Mika Rottenberg, Spaghetti Blockchain, 2019, video still. Courtesy: © Mika Rottenberg and Hauser & Wirth

No work better summarizes the bizarre and fragmented playground of this Mika Rottenberg survey than the video Spaghetti Blockchain (2019–24). Through visuals that explore both the mundane and the extraordinary aspects of global production, visitors encounter manicured hands erotically kneading green dough, the haunting sounds of a Tuvan throat singer and a knife slicing through a silicone tube to ASMR satisfaction.

The weirdness continues in Sneeze (2012), where business-suited men with knobbly noses violently sneeze out random objects, such as a lightbulb or leg of meat, and extends outdoors in the new installation Foot Fountain (pink) (2024) – a grotesque, bubble-gum-coloured leg pockmarked with protruding tongues.

Titled ‘Anti-Matter Factory’, the show draws its name from the facility Rottenberg visited while she was artist-in-residence at CERN in 2018 and is concerned with the fragmentation of the human body and mind when given technological apparatuses that help us manipulate the material world.

Toyin Ojih Odutola | Kunsthalle Basel | 7 June – 1 September

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Opin ojo (EOD - End of Day), 2022-23
Toyin Ojih Odutola, Opin ojo (EOD - End of Day), 2022–23. Courtesy: © Toyin Ojih Odutola and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

For her first institutional solo exhibition in Switzerland, Toyin Ojih Odutola pays homage to her late grandmother by bestowing her surname, Oriaku, to a new series of tableaux vivants‘Ilé Oriaku’ (House of Abundance, 2024).

The solitary figures that occupy each canvas reside within different rooms of an imaginary Mbari House – a now-obsolete southeast Nigerian building that hosted cultural meetings and spiritual ceremonies. More striking than the artist’s depictions of the interiors, however, is how she has illustrated the characters’ complex emotional worlds. In works such as Anyi Di Ato Ibi (We Become the Third Place) (2023–24) and Opin ọjọ (EOD–End of Day) (2022–23), the inner thoughts of each protagonist are manifested as shadowy doppelgangers or reinterpreted into patterned swathes of burnt saffron, ochre and toffee.

This series reaffirms Odutola’s status as a master of painterly obfuscation and narrative mystery. But, far from deterring visitors, here the artist invites them in as treasured guests of the House of Abundance, to sit and wait a while, experiencing the breadth and lyricism of her cyphered vision.

‘Rewilding’ | Kunsthaus Baselland | 13 April – 18 August

Andrea Bowers, Political Ribbons (Fondazione Furla / GAM Milan) (detail), 2022, silkscreen ink on satin ribbons. Courtesy: the artist, Fondazione Furla and kaufmann repetto Milan / New York; photograph: Andrea Rossetti

Celebrating its relocation to Basel’s bustling Dreispitz neighbourhood after 25 years in Muttenz, Kunsthaus Baselland presents the group exhibition ‘Rewilding’. Inspired by a 2020 book of the same name by Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe, director Ines Goldbach uses the ecological term to describe the creative reblooming that will come to define the institution’s next phase. The all-star group exhibition features work by artists such as El Anatsui, Tony Cokes and Simone Forti that consider what societies need to flourish: health, women’s rights and climate justice, to name a few recurring themes.

Monira Al Qadiri’s Benzene Float (2023), for instance, is a larger-than-life inflatable molecule that draws attention to the hazardous petrochemicals found in everyday products. Also on view, Andrea Bowers’s Political Ribbons (Fondazione Furla / GAM Milan) (2022) contain ribbons inscribed with plucky feminist slogans and Piero Golia’s Untitled (Lightning) (2020) evokes the increasingly tempestuous weather patterns linked to climate change.

‘The End of Aging’ | Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger | 3 May – 21 July

Michael Schindhelm, ‘The End of Aging’, 2024, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger

The primal urge to survive is inherent within us all. Despite the relentless march of decay, there lingers a naive hope that, somehow, we can delay – if not entirely evade – fate. Enter Michael Schindhelm’s ‘The End of Aging’, where visitors navigate through the rooms of a futuristic abandoned hospital. Each space – which features left-behind medical instruments, graffiti-covered walls and collapsed ceiling panels – sets the stage for a series of films delving into the profound quandaries posed by a world where life can be indefinitely prolonged.

What really distinguishes this house-of-horrors exhibition is Schindhelm’s masterful blend of science fiction and empirical evidence. The videos feature acclaimed scientists from diverse disciplines – epidemiology, molecular biology, neurobiology – drawing on cutting-edge research and real-life case studies in the field of molecular degeneration and age delay. ‘The End of Aging’ is an impressive feat that may well change your outlook on life.

Main image: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Don’t Be Afraid; Use What I Gave You, 2023. Courtesy: © Toyin Ojih Odutola and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Angel Lambo is associate editor of frieze. She lives in Berlin.