BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 10 MAY 24

What to See Across the Americas in May

From Joan Jonas’s layered installations to Alexander Apóstol’s archetypal characters of Venezuelan society

BY frieze in Critic's Guides | 10 MAY 24

Joan Jonas | MoMA, New York | 17 March – 6 July

Joan Jonas, Mirror Piece I, 1969
Joan Jonas, Mirror Piece I, 1969, performance view. Courtesy: © Joan Jonas/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In 1994, I had a show at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, where I turned a lot of my performances into installations, meaning I rearranged the material and changed the form but kept the same content. In turn, these installations were documented on video. Since then, I’ve been developing some of those works continuously. They get shown over and over again. I know installation is also a general term for arranging things but, for me, it is a form that I work with. And, in the case of this show at MoMA, many of the works have been exhibited already: first at Tate Modern, London, in 2018; then at Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, in 2019; and, most recently, at Haus der Kunst, Munich, in 2022–23. So, we’ve added some new works to the MoMA show to make it more unique and interesting. – Joan Jonas

Christopher Wool | 101 Greenwich Street, New York | 14 March – 31 July

Christopher Wool, ‘See Stop Run’, 2024
Christopher Wool, ‘See Stop Run’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: the artist

Whether or not you enjoy Christopher Wool’s seemingly endless series of late abstractions, his current exhibition ‘See Stop Run’ is an experience of another order. Here, the artist’s grisaille swirls and blotches find new clarity in the gutted 19th floor of an office tower in the Financial District. Wool’s squiggly junk sculptures and smeary canvases attune to the space’s variegated stages of demolition: chipped-away finishes, utilitarian sprays and harsh sub-flooring left by decades of remodels. The blonde frames on a group of painted prints warms to the beige drywall, striped with plaster; Wool’s hanging skeins of dark mesh and barbed wire, or copper tubular tangles on plinths, rhyme with the general sprays of clipped wires and cables, and the cryptic graffiti left by contractors. The real stunner, and a rare venture into the medium for Wool, is a wall-based mosaic, irregular tiles mapping out another whirling abstraction in black, grey and salmon. The glossy colours pick up the dusty tones of the building’s tile floor – once elegant, now peeking out from cracked cement. It’s casual and emphatic and really something – plus there are downtown views. – Travis Diehl

Greater Toronto Art 2024’  | Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto | 22 March – 28 July

Greater Toronto Art 2024
‘Greater Toronto Art 2024’, exhibition view. Courtesy: MOCA Toronto and the artists; photograph: LF Documentation

Whenever I see one of Catherine Telford Keough’s sculptures, I’m reminded of half-melted heaps of snow, embedded with various lost items they’ve accrued during the long winter months: candy bars, pills, bottle caps and gum wrappers suspended in the frozen mass. Her evocative installation, Carriers (Gravity-Fed) (2024), sits nicely alongside works whose material explorations provoke a similar sense of melancholy. Jes Fan’s Interface I and Interface II (both 2024), the soy skins of which seem to melt off their supports. In Lotus L. Kang’s shed (Receiver Transmitter [Butterfly], 2023–24), rolled up prints and neatly folded mats gesture at an absence. All three artists have left Toronto for New York in recent years.

It’s springtime, and the city is waking up to ‘Greater Toronto Art 24’ – a triennial survey held at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Curated by Kate Wong, Toleen Touq and Ebony L. Haynes, this year’s survey is an astute portrait of a city in transition – at once familiar and unsettling. It speaks to a paradoxical art scene characterized by practices united in their feeling of alienation. I blame the abysmal cost of living. Over the past decade, Toronto’s insatiable real-estate development choked out both immigrant neighbourhoods and artistic communities, and it’s deeply felt. – Xenia Benivolski

Alexander Apóstol | Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City | 11 November – 12 May 

Alexander Apostol
Alexander Apóstol, El Escudo (The Shield), 2011, digital photograph, 1 × 1.5 m. Courtesy: the artist 

In the spring of 2017, while Venezuela was engulfed in a wave of civil unrest against President Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorial regime – protests which were brutally repressed by the state security apparatus – the artist Alexander Apóstol was surreptitiously producing ‘Regime: Dramatis Personae’ (2017–18) in a studio in Caracas. This wondrous photographic series, created in collaboration with members of the trans community, is one of the highlights of ‘Posture and Geometry in the Era of Tropical Autocracy’, Apóstol’s mid-career survey, curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City. The portraits are a mordant encyclopaedia of archetypal characters – the disappeared opponent, the ideological tourist, the beauty queen, the threatened journalist, the caudillo – that cannily captures the metamorphosis of Venezuelan society over two decades of autocratic rule under former president Hugo Chávez. Donning sordid paramilitary gear or a faux crown, each performer serves failed-revolution realness. – Euridice Arratia

Reba Maybury | Company Gallery, New York | 26 April  8 June

Reba Maybury, Used man, 2024. Courtesy: the artist and Company Gallery, New York; photograph: Sebastian Bach

If the great bogeyman of art history is the commodity, his complicit mistress would no doubt be the prostitute. This mythical figure is frequently made the emblem of modern capitalist social relations, in which sex is rendered a service crudely shoppable in the marketplace – not unlike petty merchandise. The impressionists were famously keen not only to capture this cultural flux of economic value but to replicate it visually, too, its canon full of blunt representations of courtesans who, in some warped attempt of (masculinist) allegorical critique, are reduced to passive but alluring objects of consumption rather than what they actually are: workers.

In her show at Company Gallery, ‘The Happy man’, British artist Reba Maybury manages to swing at this bias with striking subversion and humour. The self-stylized ‘political dominatrix’ has used her (consensual) male submissives as artistic collaborators for years, in the process attuning her audiences to the ideological landscape of contemporary sex/work and our moral attitudes towards it. Here, Maybury directs these questions to the political economy of art itself: the value forms implicit in artistic labour and the institutional frameworks supporting them. – Jeppe Ugelvig

Main image: Christopher Wool, ‘See Stop Run’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: the artist

Contemporary Art and Culture