2. What’s On in NYC
By Sala Shaker
Published on February 20, 2021
Thomas Erben Gallery
January 9 - February 13, 2021
Newsha Tavakolian: For the Sake of Calmness
Thomas Erben Gallery presents Tehran-based Newsha Tavakolian’s For the Sake of Calmness (19min, 2020). The film depicts a bifurcated state of mind, removed from the real world while being hyper sensitively affected by it. Usually, Tavakolian’s camera is directed towards other people’s struggles – the artist is a member of Magnum Photos since 2019 – but here she directs the lens inwardly, taking her recurring experience with PMS as a point of departure. Tavakolian’s inner monologue leads us through a labyrinthine set of scenes, each hauntingly speaking of painful stasis. Unable to express their emotions, the film’s protagonists instead transpire their interior tensions. With redemption seemingly out of reach, For The Sake of Calmness offers an apt metaphor mirroring our current uncertainties.
This is Tavakolian’s third solo presentation with the gallery which includes her 2013 exhibition Look as well as the presentation of Pages of an Iranian Photo Album at Art Basel Hong Kong (2016).
Whitney Museum of American Art
Salman Toor: How Will I KnowNovember 13 – April 4 2021
For his first museum solo exhibition, Salman Toor (b. 1983) presents new and recent oil paintings. Known for his small-scale figurative works that combine academic technique and a quick, sketch-like style, Toor offers intimate views into the imagined lives of young, queer Brown men residing between New York City and South Asia. Recurring color palettes and references to art history heighten the emotional impact of Toor’s paintings and add a fantastical element to his narratives drawn from lived experience.
Lush interior scenes depict friends dancing, playing with puppies, and gazing into their smartphones. In these idealistic settings, Toor’s figures are freed from the impositions placed upon them by the outside world. In contrast, his more muted tableaus highlight moments of passivity to convey nostalgia or alienation. One painting features a forlorn man whose possessions are on display for the scrutiny of airport security officers; another renders unspoken tensions around a family dinner table palpable. Taken as a whole, Toor’s paintings consider vulnerability within contemporary public and private life and the notion of community in the context of queer, diasporic identity.
Shirin Neshat: Land of DreamsJanuary 19 – February 27, 2021
Created in 2019 in New Mexico, Land of Dreams is a multidisciplinary project, both fictitious and documentary in nature, that captures the state’s diverse American population. The first film on the two-channel video installation follows a young Iranian art student named Simin, who travels around suburban and rural areas of New Mexico photographing local residents in their homes. As part of the protagonist’s assignment, Simin asks her subjects about their most recent dreams. As the people she encounters vividly detail their dreams, the viewer is transported into these imagined narratives alongside Simin, who wanders inside each participant’s subconscious mind.
Neshat infuses the film with cinematic views of New Mexico’s sublime landscape alongside the everyday streets and neighborhoods where Simin travels. The second film reveals a sinister twist to the protagonist’s seemingly innocuous assignment: Simin is uncovered as an Iranian spy tasked with archiving the dreams and portraits she captures, which are recorded and analyzed in a bunker set within the mountains of New Mexico. Unlike the dozens of dream scientists who quietly work and diligently follow orders in the factory-like facility, Simin is noticeably perplexed by one of her subjects, leading her on a path to try and find their subliminal connection. Through her incisive ability to allude to the absurdities and similarities between the United States and Iran, Neshat astutely explores the complexities between the ephemeral nature of dreams and the dangerous impact of oppressive political ideologies and policies to reveal a shared humanity.
Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass IncarcerationThrough April 4
This major exhibition explores the work of artists within US prisons and the centrality of incarceration to contemporary art and culture. Featuring art made by people in prisons and work by nonincarcerated artists concerned with state repression, erasure, and imprisonment, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration highlights more than 35 artists, including American Artist, Tameca Cole, Russell Craig, James “Yaya” Hough, Jesse Krimes, Mark Loughney, Gilberto Rivera, and Sable Elyse Smith. The exhibition has been updated to reflect the growing COVID-19 crisis in US prisons, featuring new works by exhibition artists made in response to this ongoing emergency.
On view across MoMA PS1’s first floor galleries, Marking Time features works that bear witness to artists’ reimagining of the fundamentals of living—time, space, and physical matter—pushing the possibilities of these basic features of daily experience to create new aesthetic visions achieved through material and formal invention. The resulting work is often laborious, time-consuming, and immersive, as incarcerated artists manage penal time through their work and experiment with the material constraints that shape art making in prison. The exhibition also includes work made by nonincarcerated artists—both artists who were formerly incarcerated and those personally impacted by the US prison system.
Peter Sacks: Republic22 January – 13 March, 2021
Sperone Westwater presents Peter Sacks’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, titled after his epic narrative, Republic. Additional related paintings are on view, including the series Above Our Cities, and the Sangoma works on paper. Sacks utilizes diverse, work-a-day materials like cotton, burlap, lace, wood and cardboard, some fleetingly imprinted with poetic texts typed on the cloth by the artist using a manual typewriter. The artist also composes with fragments of Indian textiles, indigo blue cottons from South Africa, antique kimonos from Japan and embroidered linen from Normandy. The twisted, torn and joyful pieces of fabric evoke unfurled banners, flowing rivers, semaphores – and in this new series, the skyline of American cities. The recycling of fabrics from the global textile trade suggests the labor involved in their making, while intimating a sense of impermanence and loss, migration and diaspora.
As Braun writes in the catalogue, Sacks has pushed collage beyond the modernist practices of Surrealist incongruity and post-war base materialism, making it the medium of a new, postcolonial syncretism. Republic holds chaos and order in the balance. Its debut in this exhibition establishes Sacks as history painter; conceived and elaborated over the tumultuous months of 2020, the triptych is his most political work to date. The narrative of precariousness unfolds across the three panels, juxtaposing injury and repair, loss and retrieval. As with Above Our Cities (2020), a series of 3x3 foot canvases, riotously colored banners, potentially menacing, potentially jubilant, course through the skies. The vibrant Sangoma collages on paper (2020) with roots in Sacks’s Southern African upbringing, refer to the Zulu healers. Though abstract in essence, these drawings imply the curative powers of the ancestors summoning spirits using dance, music and symbolic garments.
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