UNSTOPPABLE: SEAN SCULLY AND THE ART OF EVERYTHING (Nick Willing, 2019)
260 West 23rd St. at Eighth Ave.
Thursday, November 14, 7:15
Festival runs November 6-15
“When I first met Sean, he told me, ‘I want to be the greatest abstract artist of my generation,’ and I thought, this is a lot of hubris. I didn’t know him then, and I believe him now,” says Sukanya Rajaratnam of the Mnuchin Gallery in New York about painter and sculptor Sean Scully in Unstoppable: Sean Scully and the Art of Everything. Don’t be surprised if you feel exactly the same way after you see Nick Willing’s bewitching film, making its North American premiere at DOC NYC on November 14. Born in Dublin in June 1945 and raised on the tough streets of South London where his family lived in squalor and he was in a gang, Scully was determined from early on to be more than just a successful artist, and he’s achieved his goal. “People want to see Scully like they want to see or Warhol or van Gogh, and that’s quite unique for an abstract painter to have risen above the fray and become an icon,” Hirshhorn chief curator Stéphane Aquin says.
Willing follows Scully through a whirlwind 2018 as the artist travels around the world, from his studios in Berlin, Bavaria, and Manhattan to gallery and museum shows in Washington DC, the National Gallery in London, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, De Pont Museum in the Netherlands, the Hugh Lane in Dublin, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, San Cristobal in Mexico City, a church in Montserrat, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Mnuchin Gallery on the Upper East Side, and Newcastle University, where he went to art school, as well as key places from his youth. It’s exhausting and electric watching the driven, dedicated Scully make these rounds while also creating new work, forcefully slashing at the canvas with his bold brushstrokes. Willing traces Scully’s evolving style, from his initial figuration to his use of grids and geometric patterns and his famous stripe paintings. “The presence of the vertical and horizontal grid in his work, for me, is indicative of a person who knows he has a volatile temperament and is seeking to control it,” explains his Newcastle tutor Bill Varley. Meanwhile, fellow Newcastle student Moira Kelly proclaims, “The stripes are delicious. The stripes are about experiences. The stripes are like poems.”
Scully carefully manages his career, monitoring the market, giving generously to museums, participating in retrospectives and new shows, and delivering animated talks and lectures, but it’s about his legacy, not the money, and he doesn’t care one iota for trends or critics. “It’s not possible to discourage somebody like Martin Luther King or Bobby Kennedy; they believe so much in what they believe that they don’t mind if they get shot. I don’t mind either ’cause I’m doing what I believe, and that’s all there is to it,” he says, a tough, bald imposing figure of a man who looks like someone you would not want to get into a bar fight with. Writer and art critic Kelly Grovier notes, “Sean very much believes in the supernatural power of his paintings, that the works not only communicate a kind of truth but they actually have the power to affect change in this world . . . for the better.”
Willing also explores intimate details of Scully’s personal life, delving into his hardscrabble childhood; his relationship with his two ex-wives, Catherine Lee and Rosemary Henderson; the tragic loss of his first son, Paul; his distaste for Donald Trump and the American fascination with guns; and his life now with his third wife, Liliane Tomasko, and their son, Oisín. Scully usually works from instinct, attacking the canvas with his brush in ways that mimic the martial arts that he practices, but his deep love for Oisín has brought him back to figuration. He not only creates paintings of his son on the beach based on photos he has taken with his iPhone, he has also worked on a series depicting the US flag that replaces the stars in the upper left corner with a gun. I’ve seen several Scully shows over the last decade, including “Wall of Light” at Mnuchin in 2018, consisting of his magnificently meditative stripe paintings, and “Eleuthera” at the Albertina in Vienna, colorful, large-format oils of his son playing in the Bahamas. Unstoppable sheds new light on the artist, his work, his process, and his inspiration. “He’s a bit like the Ancient Mariner,” Grovier says. “He goes around the world, gallery to gallery, person to person, stopping almost anyone who will listen to tell them the great truth that his paintings portray.” It’s a gospel that Willing now spreads to an even wider audience.
November 1-24, free - $50
The eighth annual Performa Biennial kicks off today, celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Staatliches Bauhaus, the German art school founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius that set in motion a major movement in art, architecture, and design around the world. There will be dozens of performances across disciplines, including film, dance, theater, music, installation, and unique hybrids, often incorporating architectural and sculptural elements, as well as conversations and panel discussions through November 24. The price for ticketed events range from $10 to $50, with most around $15-$25; among the highlights are artist Nairy Baghramian, dancer-choreographer Maria Hassabi, late modernist designer Janette Laverrière, and architect Carlo Mollino’s Entre Deux Actes (Ménage à Quatre), taking place on two floors of a Fifth Avenue town house; Lap-See Lam’s Phantom Banquet, a multimedia performance piece about ghosts and Chinese restaurants in Sweden; Pat’s You’re at Home, a one-night-only collaboration between Jacolby Satterwhite and Nick Weiss; Yvonne Rainer’s restaging of her seminal 1965 work Parts of Some Sextets, with new choreography and a recording of the original score; Huang Po-Chin’s Heaven on Fourth, which tells the story of a Chinese immigrant sex worker who committed suicide in Flushing in 2017; and the grand finale, Radio Voices, led by David J of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets with special guests Curse Mackey, Rona Rougeheart, Vangeline, and Heather Paauwe. But there are also dozens of free shows in cool locations, from museums and art galleries to outside on the street, most of which do not require advance RSVP; the full list is below.
Friday, November 1, 4:00 - 8:00
Saturday November 2, 4:00 - 8:00
Sunday, November 3, 2:00 - 6:00
Zakaria Almoutlak and Andros Zins-Browne: Atlas Unlimited: Acts VII–X, with the voices of Ganavya Doraiswamy and Aliana de la Guardia, 80 Washington Square East
Friday, November 1
Sunday, November 24
Ylva Snöfrid: Nostalgia — Acts of Vanitas, daily painting performance ritual, fifth-floor loft at 147 Spring St.
Saturday, November 2
Shu Lea Cheang, Matthew Fuller: SLEEP1237, Performa Hub, 47 Wooster St., 5:50 pm - 6:25 am
Gaetano Pesce: WORKINGALLERY, Salon 94 Design, 3 East Eighty-Ninth St., 2:00 - 4:00
Saturday, November 2
Sunday, November 24
Yu Cheng-Ta: “Fameme,” live and filmed performances about reality television, Wallplay, 321 Canal St.
Tuesday, November 5
Tara Subkoff: Deepfake, the Hole, 312 Bowery, 7:00
November 6, 13, 16, 20
Luca Veggetti with Moe Yoshida: From Weimar to Taipei (Roland Gebhardt-Mercedes Searer’s Selfdom, Luca Veggetti’s Fourth Character, Chin Chih Yang’s Black Hole, Rolando Peña’s Less Is More), WhiteBox Harlem, 213 East 121st St., 7:00
Thursday, November 7
Yahon Chang: Untitled, Performa Hub: Deitch Projects, 18 Wooster St., 5:00
Sarah Friedland: CROWDS, three-channel video installation of durational dance, La MaMa La Galleria, 47 Great Jones St., 6:00
Saturday, November 9
Pia Camil and Mobile Print Power: Screen Printing Workshop, Queens Museum, 1:00
Niels Bolbrinker and Thomas Tielsch: Bauhaus Spirit: 100 Years of Bauhaus, Goethe-Institut New York, 30 Irving Pl., 3:00
Duke Riley: Non-Essential Consultants, Inc., Red Hook Labs, 133 Imlay St., 6:00
Sunday, November 10
Glendalys Medina: No Microphone, Participant Inc., 253 East Houston St. #1, 4:00
Sunday, November 10, 17, 24
Glendalys Medina: The Shank Live, Participant Inc., 253 East Houston St. #1, 8:00 am
Monday, November 11
Nkisi: Listening Session, Performa Hub, 47 Wooster St., 6:00
Monday, November 11
Sunday, November 17
Dimitri Chamblas, Sigrid Pawelke: UNLIMITED BODIES, Performa Hub: Deitch Projects, 18 Wooster St., 12:00 and/or 1:00
Tuesday, November 12
Huang Po-Chih, Su Hui-Yu, Yu Cheng-Ta: “The Afterlife of Live Performance” Panel Discussion, Performa Hub, 47 Wooster St., 6:00
Adam Weinert: Monuments: Echoes in the Dance Archive, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Bruno Walter Auditorium, 111 Amsterdam Ave., 6:00
Tuesday, November 12, 19
Glendalys Medina: Dear Me, Participant Inc., 253 East Houston St. #1, advance RSVP required, 4:00 - 9:00
Wednesday, November 13
Paul Maheke, Ligia Lewis, Nkisi: Levant, Goethe-Institut Cultural Residencies, Ludlow 38, 38 Ludlow St., 6:00
Thursday, November 14
The New Blockheads: The Brotherhood of the New Blockheads, the Mishkin Gallery, 135 East Twenty-Second St., 6:00
Friday, November 15
Bauhaus at the Margins: Gender, Queer, and Sexual Politics, Performa Hub, 47 Wooster St., 6:00
Heman Chong, Fyerool Darma, Ho Rui An, and Erika Tan: As the West Slept, Silver Art Projects, 4 World Trade Center, twenty-eighth floor, 7:00
Saturday, November 16
“A School for Creating Humans”: Bauhaus Education and Aesthetics Revisited, Performa Hub, 47 Wooster St., 1:00
Sunday, November 17
Bodybuilding: Architecture and Performance Book Launch, including a lecture-performance by New Affiliates (Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb), Performa Hub, 47 Wooster St., 4:00
Lap-See Lam in conversation with Charlene K. Lau, Performa Hub, 47 Wooster St., free with advance RSVP, 4:00
Tuesday, November 19, 6:00
Sunday, November 24, 8:00
Éva Mag: Dead Matter Moves, production of clay bodies, the Gym at Judson Memorial Church, 243 Thompson St., 1:00 - between 5:00 & 8:00
Tuesday, November 19, 6:00
Friday, November 22, 8:00
Torkwase Dyson: I Can Drink the Distance: Plantationocene in 2 Acts, multimedia performative installation, Pace Gallery, 540 West Twenty-Fifth St.
Thursday, November 21
Machine Dazzle, Narcissister and Rammellzee: Otherworldly: Performance, Costume and Difference, Aronson Gallery, Sheila Johnson Design Center at Parsons School of Design, 66 Fifth Ave., 6:00
Sarah Friedland: CROWDS — Conversation with Tess Takahashi, La MaMa La Galleria, 47 Great Jones St., 7:00
Thursday, November 21, 6:00
Saturday, November 23, 1:00 & 3:00
Sunday, November 24, 1:00 & 3:00
Tarik Kiswanson: AS DEEP AS I COULD REMEMBER, AS FAR AS I COULD SEE, featuring eleven-year-old children reading his writings, Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, 1 Bowling Green, free with advance tickets
Friday, November 22
Tarik Kiswanson: AS DEEP AS I COULD REMEMBER, AS FAR AS I COULD SEE: In Conversation with Performa Curator Charles Aubin, Performa Hub, 47 Wooster St., 5:00
Saturday, November 23
Cecilia Bengolea, Michèle Lamy: Untitled Performa Commission, featuring boxers and ballet, dancehall, vogue, and contemporary dancers, Performa Hub: Deitch Projects, 18 Wooster St., 4:00
Sunday, November 24, 8:00
Éva Mag: Dead Matter Moves — In Conversation with Camilla Larsson and Yuvinka Medina, the Gym at Judson Memorial Church, 243 Thompson St., 3:00
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, November 2, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum parties with Asian pride in the November edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra (playing works by Mastora Goya and Chen Yihan, featuring such instruments as the koto, erhu, guzheng, and pipa), Hong Kong-born, Brooklyn raised singer-songwriter Reonda, the Metropolitan Opera (previewing Philip Glass’s Akhnaten with countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Gandini Juggling, and the Philip Glass Institute at the New School’s College of Performing Arts), Collective BUBBLE_T (with DJ sets by Tito Vida and Stevie Huynh, Clara Lu performing “The Butterfly Lovers” on guzheng, and Walang Hiya NYC), Miho Hatori’s New Optimism, and comics Fumi Abe, Karen Chee, Saurin Choksi, Aidan Park, and Irene Tu; a screening of Mountains That Take Wing (C. A. Griffith & H. L. T. Quan, 2009), followed by a talk with community organizer Akemi Kochiyama, granddaughter of one of the film’s subjects; poetry readings by Diannely Antigua, Mark Doty, and Jessica Greenbaum, hosted by Jason Koo, celebrating Walt Whitman, the inspiration behind the exhibition “One: Xu Bing”; teen pop-up talks in the Arts of Japan galleries; a curator tour of the Arts of China galleries and “One: Xu Bing” with Susan L. Beningson; a hands-on art workshop in which participants can make works on paper with brushpens inspired by the calligraphy in Arts of Asia galleries; and a community talk with the W.O.W. Project about the future of Chinatown. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Garry Winogrand: Color,” “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall,” “JR: Chronicles,” “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion,” “Infinite Blue,” and more.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Met Fifth Avenue
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Daily through October 27 (weather permitting)
Recommended admission: $25 adults, children under twelve free
In 2015-16, Berlin-based Polish artist Alicja Kwade turned time upside down and backward in Against the Run, a reconfigured nineteenth-century-style city street clock that stood at the Scholars’ Gate entrance to Central Park. She now focuses her attention on space in her first solo US museum exhibition, Parapivot, continuing on the Met’s roof through October 27. Kwade’s construction consists of nine round, polished stones, evoking planets, precipitously balanced in interlocking steel frames. The daughter of a cultural scientist mother and an art historian father, Kwade’s works often involve scientific inquiry. Overlooking Central Park, Parapivot recalls such earlier pieces by Kwade as Ousia, Changed, Abakus, and But the Same, exploring issues of art, perception, and the natural world.
“The work is not an illustration of something we invented; it’s more like an illustration of us inventing,” Kwade says in a catalog interview with Met chief curator Sheena Wagstaff. “In other words, it’s more like a reflection of ourselves than of something we already did, a sense of what could be a system, what we do, and how we read things.” Thus, Kwade’s solar system will call up different things for different people as they walk around and through it. “I never want to have an answer,” she says in the catalog. “I want to have more questions, but not answers.”
Sarah Sze has long been creating intricate, fragile ecosystems that feel like a complex construction made of giant toothpicks (and just about anything else she can find) that could come tumbling down with a mere touch. These installations have grown more detailed over time, incorporating high-tech electronic elements while expanding the breadth of its range. Her latest immersive exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar in Chelsea begins outside the gallery and continues in the hallways, large main space, back room, and upstairs, on the walls and the floors and the ceilings. There’s something everywhere, transforming parts of the gallery into her studio, revealing her extraordinary process. Originally a painter who now considers herself a sculptor, the Boston-born, New York-based artist centers the show with Crescent (Timekeeper), an exquisite work consisting of dozens of objects, from ladders, boxes, and rocks to plants, lamps, and bottles. Videos are projected onto torn pieces of paper, including a flying eagle, prowling wolves, the swirling ocean, and a burning fire, enhanced by sound as well, each open in its own internet browser, leaving it up to the viewer to make a narrative.
There are no barriers to prevent you from getting too close to the delicate piece; there’s a guard situated on the other side of the room, but Sze trusts us to not wreak havoc. She also shows us what she’s doing; the hallway is filled with her notes, some of the materials she uses (tape, paint, push pins, photographs, videos), while behind Crescent (Timekeeper) is a stack of slowly turning projectors, casting light and shadows everywhere. The back room is a cluttered studio setting with boxes, painted canvases with images stuck on, water bottles, paper towels, and other general detritus — the process has become the work.
Upstairs is a room of four gorgeous painting collages, streaks of white paint on the floor forming a half-moon around one, as if beaming in through the skylight. Be sure to get close to the works to experience their startling depth. In the smaller, dark room, Sze lays bare her process of projecting tiny images onto a wall, revealing how she first designs them on a computer, then projects them through a sculptural form and onto the far wall. It’s utterly ingenious and wholly captivating.
Sze’s works are particularly suited to our image-saturated urban life, and especially here in New York City: Her Triple Point (Pendulum) is part of MoMA’s “Surrounds: 11 Installations” exhibition opening next week, her Blueprint for a Landscape can be seen all over the 96th St. stop on the Second Ave. subway, and her birdhouse Still Life with Landscape (Model for a Habitat) was on the High Line in 2012. And in 2006, her partially submersive Corner Plot welcomed people to the Scholars’ Gate entrance to Central Park.
In her 2018 essay “The Tattered Ruins of the Map: On Sarah Sze’s Centrifuge,” Sze’s friend, award-winning writer Zadie Smith, writes, “Like so much of Sarah Sze’s work, Centrifuge is a complex constellation of elements, in which all constituents present themselves simultaneously. . . . After the rupture, after the apocalypse, amid the ruin of cables and wires, someone might ask: what was the purpose of all of those images within and through which we lived?” This is true of her current Chelsea show, as Sze merges disparate components and artistic disciplines, both analog and digital, to forge a deep dive into the nature of time, space, and memory in a chaotic age.
Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Through October 19, free
Hong Kong-born, Nebraska-raised artist Paul Chan uses inflatable air dancers to reference art-historical themes and offer his take on the sorry state of the world in “The Bather’s Dilemma,” continuing at Greene Naftali through October 19. Chan, whose video installations include The 7 Lights, in which animated versions of people and debris fall from above, has created a series of beach tableaux in which the air dancers, generally seen as happy synthetic beings flailing about playfully, are weighed down, stuck, facing the problems tearing us apart despite their often bright color schemes. “At every age, overwhelming structural iniquities bring meaningless and arbitrary suffering and pain,” Chan writes in his “Sex, Water, Salvation, or What Is a Bather?” essay for the “Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection” show on view at the Museum Mile institution through January 12. “And at every age, people organize to resist the best they can to try to stop the calamities from claiming more lives. Progress here means the collective power to stop ourselves from what we are most in danger of becoming. But progress takes a toll, especially on those who want it most. Resistance wears down the spirit, and makes a mess of the body and mind. It is a shame that it feels natural to expect suffering in oneself for the sake of ending it in others, and commonplace to accept this terrible symmetry as the price one pays for progress.”
At Greene Naftali, works such as Khara En Tria (Joyer in 3), 2chained or Genesia and Nemesia, Phenus 1, and La Baigneur 7 (Teenyelemachus) employ specially placed fans to make the figures move in specific patterns with one another, rather than randomly as air dancers usually do. Towels serve as counterweights and also are hung on the walls like canvases. The works recall paintings by Cézanne, Munch, and Renoir but are not celebrations in the sand. Chan continues, “The bather in art breaks with this terrible symmetry by offering an image of another way forward. Works that take up this motif invite us to reflect on how pleasure renews us. They are reminders that pleasing and being pleased – without aggression or guilt – expands our capacity for fellow feeling. Genuine pleasure is rejuvenating. And like that perfect night of sleep, it has a clarifying quality, as if one has emerged from a kind of cleansing. This sense of being cleansed is stimulating and healing, insofar as it helps renew us to more ably face what the day demands.” However, he makes clear: “Progress without pleasure at heart is not progress at all. But pleasure without progress in mind is destructive, deadening, or a bore.”
Poordysseus is an upside-down bather trapped in a vitrine. The hunched-over, black La Baigneur 7 (Teenyelemachus) includes what Chan calls “suicide cords,” electrical wiring plugged into shoes. The blue Bropheus wears a shirt that says, “Iche Hab Diche Lieb, Mann” (“I love you, man”), and he is situated on a beach towel made of opioid labels and an American flag color scheme. In the back room, smaller models stand on wooden platforms on the wall, studio detritus hanging below. The beach is supposed to be a place of beauty, a respite from the intense pressure of daily life, an opportunity to commune with nature, and one’s fellow human beings, in a carefree manner, despite the possibility of jellyfish and sharks in the water. But Chan also sees at least some hope in “The Bather’s Dilemma”; in the abovementioned essay, he is writing about the Guggenheim show but it also relates to his Greene Naftali exhibit: “Consider the following artworks as spirited invitations that encourage us to recall how enlivening it is to be near or in a river, some lake, or the open sea — and maybe a figure or two, naked or clothed, alone or no, to remember all that has been lost, how close it all is to disappearing, and what it takes to go on.”