Month: December 2015

The Arab world writ large: Walid Raad

New York’s MoMA is showing the first comprehensive American survey of the Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad (b. 1967). It features his work in photography, video, sculpture, and performance from the last 25 years. Raad’s work is informed by his upbringing in Lebanon during the civil war of 1975–91. His work is also preoccupied by the socioeconomic and military policies that have shaped the Middle East in recent years. Two of Raad’s long-term projects are the main emphasis of the show: The Atlas Group (1989–2004) and Scratching on things I could disavow (2007–ongoing). The Atlas Group is a 15-year project exploring the contemporary history of Lebanon. In it, Raad produced a series of fictionalized photographs, videotapes, notebooks, and lectures that related to real events and research into audio, film, and photographic archives in Lebanon and elsewhere. In his ongoing work, Scratching on things I could disavow, Raad expands his focus to the wider Middle East. The work examines the recent emergence in the Arab world of new infrastructure for the visual arts, including art fairs, biennials, …

The originality & elegance of a little-known style icon

Countess Jacqueline de Ribes (b.1929) is not a household name like other style icons such as Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Kennedy. But to those who knew her, the French aristocrat’s style was like no other. A new show at New York’s Met celebrates her originality and elegance, featuring haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces primarily from de Ribes’s personal archive, dating from the late 1950s to the present. Uniquely, the exhibition also features de Ribes’ fancy-dress balls, which she often made herself by cutting up her haute couture gowns to make something fresh, and subtle. The countess developed an interest in fashion as a child who enjoyed fancy-dress. As an adult, she had no shortage of haute couture designers who wanted to dress her – she would become a muse to many. But de Ribes was not destined to play a passive role. She used what she had learned from her exposure to the haute couturier’s drapers, fitters and cutters to establish her own design business. From 1982 until the mid-1990s, de Ribes directed the business …

Illusion & spectacle: the video art of Theo Eshetu

London-born Ethiopian artist Theo Eshetu was showing recently at Tiwani Contemporary, his first solo exhibition in the UK. Working exclusively in video art, Eshetu combines the formal components of film with anthropological ideas, as a way of examining the notion of culture itself. He draws on his joint European and African upbringing in his work, combining themes and symbols from his dual inheritance. Eshetu lived in Ethiopia until the age of five. Eshetu’s acclaimed 2014 work Anima Mundi, an immersive multimedia and video installation, is included in the show. Situated within a mirror box, a flickering globe of moving images “alludes both to the multiplicity of ways to perceive the world and the capacity of video to create illusions,” according the show’s curators. The viewer also becomes part of the installaton as their own image is reflected ad infinitum. The artist may have wanted to represent the idea of life as a spectacle, or could be alluding to the proliferation of images in contemporary life. Works from The Mirror Ball Constellation (2013) are also featured in …

Image game: Adriana Varejão’s challenging work

In a new series of paintings created for Dallas Contemporary, Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão (b. 1964) explores themes of colonialism and cultural identity. The artist has used her own image as a starting point, then changed her appearance through adding facial markings and altering the tone of her face. In this way, she manipulates her ethnic background and the manner in which her image is interpreted. Varejão’s rigorous practice is informed by cultural and historical research. For each series of work, she investigates fields such as art history, anthropology, colonial trade, demography, and racial identity. In her early work, she made graphic depictions highlighting what she perceived to be historical inaccuracies and hierarchies of power during Brazil’s colonial period. She would often allude to the subjugation of native people by Portuguese conquistadors and the evangelisation by Catholic missionaries. Varejão lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. In 2013, she won the Mario Pedrosa Award from the Brazilian Association of Art Critics, which recognizes the Brazilian contemporary artist who most contributed to national culture the previous …

Alternative reality: Sara Ramo’s blurred boundaries

Spanish artist Sara Ramo (b.1975) recently presented new works, including videos, photographs and sculptures – at Galeria Fortes Vilaça in Sao Paolo. The works in Os Ajudantes (The Helpers) blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. In one video, twelve masked creatures wander through a dark landscape, playing musical instruments. Under the flickering light of bonfires, their appearance comes and goes, lending the video a mysterious atmosphere. Bereft of any narrative, we are left pondering the reality of these odd creatures, which at times appear familiar and at other times, completely foreign. In the series Matriz e a Perversão da Forma (Matrix and the Perversion of Form), the artist presents sculptures made of dental stone. Each piece is a mixture of the real – its material is something we recognize – but the shape is unfamiliar. As in the video, we are confronted with fragments of a whole, which has a distancing effect on the viewer. Sara Ramo was born in 1975 in Madrid, Spain, and currently lives and works between the city of her …

Art from elsewhere: issue 4 of The Kurios out now

Issue Four of The Kurios is out now. Here’s a selection of highlights from the latest edition: Australian printmaker Jessie Traill was as adventurous in her travels as in her art – but her genious is barely known outside of her country. Chilean photographer Leonora Vicuña’s lyrical images capture nightlife in her native Santiago as well as in Paris and Barcelona. Tarsila do Amaral revolutionised Brazilian art in the early 20th Century, forging a path for generations of Latin American artists to ‘go native.’ South Africa-born Oliver Kruger documents Johannesburg’s youth culture in his striking series of photographs Golden Youth. The Kurios pays a rare visit to the former home and studio of Argentine expressionist painter Raquel Forner, in the bohemian heart of Buenos Aires. The Kurios is available to read on iPhone, iPad and online. Subscribe here or search for The Kurios App in the iTunes store.  

Documenting youth: Oliver Kruger’s striking photographs

In the striking series of photographs Golden Youth, South Africa-born Oliver Kruger documents Johannesburg’s youth culture. After visiting a street festival with a friend, the artist decided to set up a studio on the sidelines of the event and take portraits of people attending the festival. The result is a series of sensitive yet psychologically probing portraits of his sitters. On the surface, flamboyant dress gives us a very real sense of the sartorial preoccupations of Johannesburg’s youth culture. But these are not photos from fashion pages, as these intimate shots prize out an intimacy from their sitters, however tough they appear. Kruger was born in Stellenbosch in 1977 and now lives and works in Cape Town. Oliver Kruger was profiled in the November/December issue of The Kurios. Photo: From the Golden Youth series, courtesy of Oliver Kruger.