‘Born in Flames: Feminist Futures’
Through September 12th. The Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse, at 165th Street, Morrisnia, 718-681-6000, bronxmuseum.org (718) 681-6000, bronxmuseum.org.
The Bronx Museum of Art, which turns 50 this year, was founded partly as a way to bring mainstream art from Manhattan to the city. Its first exhibition in 1971 included loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the decades since, the programming has been increasingly responsive to the global consciousness and its South Bronx neighborhood, making the museum – which admission is free – one of the most daring art venues in the city.
It is going especially strong with its current group exhibition, “Born in Flames: Feminist Futures.” The show takes its title from the 1983 film by American artist Lizzie Bourdain: a gritty, punky docudrama about a United States in the grip of a moral revolution led by an army of women from the social, racial, and sexual spectrum. The film itself is constantly on show, surrounded by the work of some of the best actors you’ll see anywhere in the city right now.
Chosen by the museum’s social justice curator Jasmine Wahi, they include some high-profile figures (Firelli) bezu, Huma Bhabha, Wangechi Mutu), along with others who have stable visibility but still deserve more recognition (Chitra Ganesh, Saya Woolfolk, Tourmaline). And of particular interest are artists who are only beginning to get acquainted here.
There’s Clarissa Tosin, a Los Angeles-based Brazilian artist who made a memorable impression in the Whitney Museum’s 2018 exhibition “Pacha, Llacta, Wasichai,” and she does it again with an image of the Amazon and Yangtze rivers with a maple woven hanging is, impossibly, meeting and flowing on the gallery floor. In a painting of comparable scale by Caitlin Cherry, figures of women intertwine to form a continuous, pulsating sea-blue field.
A common theme of these pieces – fluid energy – becomes more concrete in other works in which human and natural forms merge. In “Flamingo,” a portrait-style painting of a woman by South African artist Pamela Fatsimo Sunstrum, a mixture of human and avian features. And in a cast-bronze sculpture tableau by Colombian-born, Brooklyn-based Maria Berio, a prone female figure, guarded by water birds, is dressed in a gown that appears to have tendrils of flowers.
The Berio piece is a beauty. So are two ceramic sculptures by Rose B. Simpson, an artist based in New Mexico. In her work, human forms were shaped together and melted back into the earth, a reminder that environmental awareness has always been, and still is, intrinsic to feminist art.
So is the idea of change – physical, political and spiritual. Both its reality and its necessity are messages in a short sci-fi-ish video by non-binary Canadian performance artist Sin Wai Kin. Titled “Today’s Top Stories,” it features the artist in a jacket and tie – male news-anchor drag – but with a cosmic vista of planets and deep space as a backdrop. The butterflies run around as the anchor comfortably delivers some bad news: “Your existence will cease to exist.” Which is soon followed by a late-breaking development: “You are immortal.”
With their planetary awareness, emphasis on change, and hunger for contradiction, the feminist future proposed here can’t come too soon.
through September 11. Tilton Gallery, 8 East 76th Street, Manhattan, (212) 737-2221, jacktiltongallery.com.
February James’ excellent solo debut in New York gives you a lot to work with with its title, “When Chickens Come Home to Roast.” It suggests that justice will eventually be delivered, that evil always returns to the door of the evil doer. That James – in his mid-40s and based in Los Angeles – is a black self-taught painter showing the mostly enlarged faces of women of color, adds resonance.
There are aspects of both caricature and abstraction in their simply colorful faces. With strongly red lips and tinted lids, which may recall James’s former job as a makeup artist, the women also developed the technique of color field stain-painting and the artworks of the German Expressionists, Fauves and Beauford Delaney. Is. Given their simple means, they have astonishing emotional depth; They often have light-skinned eyes, perhaps close to tears, perhaps those of seers.
James’s ornamental, Barbara Kruger-ish title further enhances the effect. “The Thing I Regret Most Are My Silence” is a full-length figure from the show: a blonde wearing only underpants, probably confesses in front of her mirror. A book of essays and poems by Audre Lorde, “Your silence will not protect you” responds with a more serious “Your silence will not protect you” warning – another painting. “Change Comes on Us Like a Change of Weather” feels right to the relative passivity of a cool and pretty woman who resembles a 1930s starlet.
The show’s title also refers to an installation that is less original than the paintings and centers on a large wooden chicken coop filled with all kinds of found chicken toys and figurines. But there are blurry, haunting sketches of James’ signature faces in the wood, which creates some new possibilities.
‘From surface to space’
Through October 30. Institute for the Study of Latin American Art (ISLAA), 50 East 78th Street, Manhattan, islaa.org.
Concrete art developed during the post-war years in South America, a strain of geometric abstraction with utopian ambitions to communicate with a universal audience. Its popularity in Argentina and Brazil is often attributed to the cross-pollination effect of Swiss artist and designer Max Bill (1908–1994), but the show “‘From Surface to Space’: Max Bill and the Concrete Sculpture in Buenos Aires” Presents Argentina’s innovation as a force in its own right.
Bill won the Sculpture Prize at the first So Paulo Biennial in 1951 a work that uses the mathematical principles of the Möbius loop and wrote an essay in the same year titled “From Surface to Space”, which stated that people’s relationship with the space around them had changed and that art should reflect that. A much smaller 1956 sculpture, “Elevacion del Triangulo” (Triangle Height) by Argentine artist Enio Iommi, employs similar ideas – the show argues that Bill and Europe were not the only sources of concrete innovations – derived mathematically from Translating the curves into an elegant aluminum loop mounted on a wooden base. Claudio Girola’s aluminum “triangulos esspeciales” (spatial triangles) from 1948 tries to enliven the space by showing the three-dimensional sphere around the sculpture. The Wood and Metal Mobile of 1948 by Carmelo Arden Quinn and illustrations by Lidy Perry Further Concrete Exploration in Space and Surface.
The influence of concrete art was profound, particularly in Latin America, where rapid industrial development was transforming the culture and environment. Concrete art may not have achieved its lofty goal, which is to use modern ideas and materials to improve lives, but the cross-cultural dialogue here and the significant presence of Argentine artists in that exchange are still influential. And inspiring.