Counsel for the month ahead.
August 2018

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 2008.

SITElines 2018
SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Opens August 3

New Mexico had only been a state for 15 years when Willa Cather, the muted pistol of American letters, published Death Comes for the Archbishop in 1927. Its meditative tale of Father Latour, a Frenchman named the first bishop of Santa Fe in the years after the Mexican War, has little in the way of picaresque adventure, and its prose is as level as the mesas of the surrounding landscape. “The country in which he found himself was so featureless,” she wrote on its first page, “or rather...it was crowded with features, all exactly alike.” History and landscape coalesce in Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Latour always feels an outsider among distrustful Mexicans and nomadic Navajos — yet the landscape of New Mexico changes him, and redeems his soul for good measure. Later, though, the falsehood that New Mexico was blank space would fuel dark, fatalistic films, like High Noon, with its classic image of a sheriff’s badge thrown into the dust of a one-horse town, or Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Sam Peckinpah’s wild tale of morally bankrupt cops and robbers. (A more recent entry in New Mexican noir: Breaking Bad, filmed across the state.)

It is rather easier to get to Santa Fe today than it was for Father Latour, who needed a year to reach New Mexico from the Midwest; the worst we can foresee is a rental car mishap in Albuquerque. The city is wealthier too, and, though it has fewer than 100,000 citizens, it bulges with artists. This is the home of Bruce Nauman and Susan Rothenberg, of Richard Tuttle, of Cormac McCarthy too, and before them Georgia O’Keeffe, whose home and studio are now a museum. The most forward-thinking, turquoise-free art space in town is SITE Santa Fe, founded in 1995, and linked since its origin to a biennial of the same name — one of America’s most important, after the Whitney’s and the Carnegie International. After two decades of global orientation, SITE has since reoriented the biennial as an all-western hemisphere affair, renamed SITElines, and relying on a local team to keep the fire burning on the off years.

Details are still coming in on this year’s plans; we’re expecting about 20 artists, some established (Lutz Bacher, Edgar Heap of Birds), others new to us (such as the young Navajo weaver Melissa Cody). But this might be the ideal year to head to Santa Fe, given the strength of its curatorial team: among them LACMA’s José Luis Blondet, MoMA PS1’s Ruba Katrib, as well as Candice B. Hopkins, a First Nations curator living in Albuquerque who was also on the Athenian squad of last year’s Documenta. And last fall SITE moved into a new building, designed by SHoP Architects; it is more modestly scaled than their hulking Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and has something called a “Sky Terrace,” whose views Cather described a century ago. “Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky,” she wrote in Death Comes for the Archbishop. “The landscape one longed for when one was far away, the thing all about one, the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!”

Gyula Kosice. La ciudad hidroespacial (detail). 1946–72. Acrylic, Plexiglas, paint, light. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. © Gyula Kosice.

Gyula Kosice
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
Opens August 10

The utopian Argentine architect spent decades designing his ciudad hidroespacial: a “hydrospatial city” that would alleviate the woes of overpopulation by suspending citizens in mobile pods 1500 meters in the air. Kosice’s light boxes, projections, and hanging acrylic models espouse a model of architecture more indebted to philosophy and poetry than to mere life. See it this month or next, when Art Basel’s first Cities initiative comes to BA.

 

Ellsworth Kelly in East Hampton, New York. 1960.

Ellsworth Kelly in the Hamptons
Guild Hall, East Hampton, N.Y.
Opens August 11

We associate the most charming of America’s abstract painters with two locations: Paris and Brittany, where the young Kelly has his breakthrough early works of solid color, and upstate New York, where in later life he translated the expanses of sky and grass into thrumming monochromes. But Kelly, like Jackson Pollock and others, had a little-known Hamptons phase in the 1960s, and this show promises to reveal his lesser-known paintings of rounded, blobby shapes in space, as well as some dainty floral drawings.

 

Melvin Edwards. Weapon of Freedom. 1986. Welded steel. 11 × 9 × 6 in. Courtesy the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York.

Melvin Edwards
Museu de Arte de São Paulo
Opens August 23

The American sculptor, who also keeps a studio in Dakar, Senegal, has enjoyed renewedattention these last few years for his knotty wall-mounted sculptures of welded steel, conversant with the dynamic agglutinations of Mark di Suvero and David Smith but also freighted with themes of American industry and the transatlantic slave trade. This retrospective suitably coincides with MASP’s blockbuster exhibition “Histórias afro-atlânticas,” and should offer a nice contemporary coda to that show’s centuries-long tale of voluntary and involuntary migration.

 

Chiharu Shiota. The Key in the Hand. 2015. View at the Japanese pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale.

Chiharu Shiota
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Opens August 24

This Japanese installation artist, long resident in Berlin, has become a reliable supplier of monumental environments shaped by miles of string. Whether you find them awe-inspiring or merely labor-intensive, Shiota is reckoning with big themes: the self and the body, memory and oblivion. Happily, this show also looks at her performance work, fierce where her installations can be oversweet.

 

Sanya Kantarovsky. Gutted. 2016. Oil, oilstick, pastel and watercolor on canvas. 95 × 70 in. Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Sanya Kantarovsky
Kunsthalle Basel
Opens August 31

The Russian-born New Yorker is one of the most exciting painters to emerge from the city in years, and his fraught, cool-toned scenes of male anxiety and sour humor make use of a dusky palette à la Neo Rauch and the strong outlines of cartoons. We will be racing to Kanton Basel-Stadt for this show, featuring not only new paintings but an animated film, his most substantial work yet in the medium.

 

Gabriele and Helmut Nothelfer. Boy at the Street Party, Richard-Wagner-Platz, Berlin, 1981. 1981. © VG, Bonn.

Doing the Document
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Opens August 31

The black-and-white prints of a dozen photographers, including August Sander, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, and Walker Evans, are being gathered at this powerhouse German museum for an exhibition on honesty in images. Long before the age of post-truth, these photographers were treading a fine line between documentation and invention; the time is ripe to reassess the documentary tradition, and our nostalgia for what it stood for.