What to See in the US Right Now

From a Joan Brown retrospective to an exhibition of Julien Bismuth, here are the best shows to see in the US right now

BY frieze in Exhibition Reviews , US Reviews | 10 FEB 23

Joan Brown

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

19 November 2022 – 12 March 2023

A painting of a woman with red hair in paint-splattered clothing, in her studio
Joan Brown, Self-Portrait in Studio, 1984, Oil and acrylic paint on canvas, 2.4 × 2 m. Courtesy: © Estate of Joan Brown, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven

From her beginnings as a painter until her tragic death at age 52 in 1990, Joan Brown made work that was in both explicit and implicit dialogue with self-portraiture: in painting herself, Brown also painted for herself, developing a distinctive style that had little in common with her contemporaries. Her documentation of everyday personal experience, combined with surreal dream logic, often executed on a grand scale, resulted in a highly eccentric oeuvre that, though largely relegated as an oddity regional to the California Bay Area where she lived and worked, has long held legendary status for a significant clique of clued-in painters. Her retrospective, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is the most thorough in more than 20 years, and will be the first to travel outside her locale to the Orange County Museum and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, reintroducing her incomparable work to a wider audience. – Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

Julien Bismuth

Simone Subal, New York

7 January – 11 February 

Two tan stamps with what look to be New York Times newspaper pages imprinted in them
Julien Bismuth, A collection of stereotypes and clichés ( August 9th, 1974; January 1st, 1980) (detail), 2022, three paper pulp stereotypes and one metal cliché, certificate, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York; photograph: Greg Carideo

Julien Bismuth’s ‘Beat the Matrix’ rewards viewers with subtle revelations across an array of works that consider print and digital culture in a global – even cosmic – context. A patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground (newspaper white, ink black) (2022), for instance, is a readymade of sorts in title as well as content, reproducing the deepest picture of space yet captured by the Webb Telescope as a wallpaper work. A paired piece, the universe started out young and blue, and is growing gradually redder (cosmic spectrum green, cosmic latte) (2022), presents what astronomers consider the average colour of the universe, calculated in two ways. These titles are worth lingering over: they epitomize the show’s concern with the often-arbitrary nature of our desire to make sense of the world around us by means of data. – Paul Stephens

Hugo Crosthwaite

Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles

14 January – 4 March

A teal, orange, and pink canvas with black drawing of a figure on a cactus and superimposed white outline of the Virgin Mary
Hugo Crosthwaite, Manifest Destiny (Guadaloupana), 2023, acrylic and oil stick on canvas, 1.8 × 1.2 m, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

Conceptually positioned in the borderlands between the United States and Mexico, ‘Hugo Crosthwaite: Caravan’ at Luis De Jesus deploys the languages of artistic and popular media to portray both the perils of the border and the humanity of those who must traverse it. Upon plywood pedestals, hand-painted ceramic figurines, made to resemble ancient Mayan idols, represent the many migrants traveling in caravans with whom Crosthwaite has interacted for over 20 years (‘Caravan Group’, 2022). At the centre of each five-sculpture grouping, however, is a figure with no face but only a painted skull – a stark reminder of the many lives claimed by the border. – Armando Pulido

Brad Phillips

de boer, Los Angeles

7 January – 25 February

A painting of a woman, standing up on her tippy-toes, stretching to open or close the curtains, lit seductively from behind
Brad Phillips, Cristine in the Window, 2022, oil on canvas, 61 × 51 cm. Courtesy: the artist and de boer, Los Angeles

‘I Know What I Did Last Summer’, the title of Brad Phillips’s latest exhibition, suggests the opposite. It sounds like overcompensation, as if Phillips is reassuring himself of the strength of his memory, while alluding to its unreliability and the desire we sometimes have to revisit documentation to probe for truths we missed. At de boer gallery, many of Phillips’s realistic paintings are created from photographic source material. His photogenic wife, the artist Cristine Brache, is the subject of a number of these works, in real and imagined spaces. One painting, Cristine in the Window (all works 2022), depicts her semi-silhouetted from behind, stretching to part the curtains to reveal the verdant foliage outside. Another, Detroit Masterpiece, shows her in profile with a spotlight illuminating her face and upper torso. In their drama and lighting, the images – like the exhibition title, which references the ‘90s slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer – recall cinema or theatre. – Gracie Hadland

Main image: Joan Brown, Tempus Fugit, 1970, oil, enamel paint, feathers, and glitter on canvas,1.7 × 2.5 m. Courtesy: © Estate of Joan Brown

Contemporary Art and Culture