Johanna Fateman is a writer, art critic, and musician in New York. She is a contributing editor of Artforum and writes art reviews regularly for the New Yorker and 4Columns. After a seventeen-year hiatus, her band Le Tigre will tour in 2023.
YVONNE RAINER, HELLZAPOPPIN’: WHAT ABOUT THE BEES? (NEW YORK LIVE ARTS/PERFORMA, NEW YORK)
At the core of this self-implicating inquiry into anti-Black racism was a choreographic unpiecing of a dance performed by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in a 1941 movie. Rainer announced Hellzapoppin’ as her last work, but the radical antivirtuoso refused the fanfare of a grand finale, instead leaving us with one more searching procedural performance—text, film, and movement together—emblematic of the mind-body rigor of her long, great career.
“JUST ABOVE MIDTOWN: CHANGING SPACES” (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY THOMAS [T.] JEAN LAX WITH LILIA ROCIO TABOADA IN COLLABORATION WITH LINDA GOODE BRYANT AND MARIELLE INGRAM)
You could say this exceptional historical exhibition, an homage to and reactivation of the eponymous New York Black art space of the 1970s and ’80s, is overdue. But it doesn’t come too late to include accompanying performances by some of the brilliant figures nurtured by JAM and its founder, Linda Goode Bryant. I can’t wait for the new piece by Senga Nengudi Fittz and Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees, slated for the final weeks of the show.
On view through February 18, 2023.
LORENZA BÖTTNER (LESLIE LOHMAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY PAUL B. PRECIADO)
A dancer, painter, and public performer, the trans Chilean artist, who lost both arms in a childhood accident, put her joyfully embodied self-concept at the center of her astonishing work. “Requiem for the Norm,” curated by Paul B. Preciado, showed the scope of her liberatory practice with context and in detail. A gift.
VINCENT VAN GOGH AND JUST STOP OIL ACTIVISTS (NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON)
I don’t love museum food-throwing as a trend—high risk, diminishing returns—but the fiery haze of tomato soup on the glass of the modern master’s vision in margarine and chartreuse won my heart. The valiant young protesters showed the world what’s valued and protected by the powerful and, of course, what’s not. The photo-ready detournement was always intended to be temporary. The tagline “No art on a dead planet” is a dire warning, not a vandal’s threat.
JASON ALLEN (COLORADO STATE FAIR, PUEBLO)
But maybe machines will continue making art after our extinction. The blue-ribbon-winning canvas Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial, which was only later revealed to be AI-generated (per Allen’s prompts), seems to depict the kingdom of Westeros mixed with the planet Giedi Prime, in the style of, I don’t know, Degas/Rembrandt—a transfixing artifact of the late Anthropocene.
BEN DAVIS, ART IN THE AFTER-CULTURE: CAPITALIST CRISIS & CULTURAL STRATEGY (HAYMARKET BOOKS)
In all seriousness, though, Davis’s collection of superlucid writing was my 2022 go-to for thinking through the implications of AI, climate catastrophe, and QAnon, among other subjects.
CHARLES ATLAS (PIONEER WORKS, BROOKLYN; CURATED BY GABRIEL FLORENZ)
In the artist’s sweeping multimedia installation The Mathematics of Consciousness, decades of innovative work were projected across twenty-six blacked-out windows in synaptic bursts and theta waves, offering a kind of time-lapse survey of an awe-inspiring visual universe that encompassed Atlas’s dance-film collaborations with Merce Cunningham, moody passages of animated abstraction, and the performance-for-camera crazes of TikTok.
E. JANE (THE KITCHEN, NEW YORK; CURATED BY LUMI TAN AND SIENNA FEKETE)
For the transporting exhibition “Where there’s love overflowing,” visitors downloaded an app that turned smartphones into filters—or portals. Pointing your device at drawings emblazoned with lyrics from The Wiz (the 1975 musical written, staged, and performed by Black creators) triggered an animated layer of butterflies, birds, and text; directing it higher up sent you to a Vimeo reel of standout renditions of the show’s ballad “Home,” a dream of belonging.
SIERRA PETTENGILL, RIOTSVILLE, USA
Arriving in the wake of Nathan Fielder’s tragicomic hit series The Rehearsal, which illuminates the cultural power and psychological underpinnings of “preparedness” fantasies, Pettengill’s stunning documentary includes archival footage of fictional neighborhoods constructed by the US military to be used as sets for riot-control exercises. With narration text by Tobi Haslett, the film offers a profound perspective on the 1960s uprisings in Detroit, Newark, and Watts and the repressive law-and-order response.
JIMMY WRIGHT (FIERMAN WEST, NEW YORK)
More sunflowers in distress. “Flowers for Ken,” as this exhibition was titled (for the artist’s partner, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 and died in 1991), showed us a bloom in a progressive state of decay. This tiny show of big paintings—there were only two, not counting the voluptuous impasto still lifes in the office—was quietly overwhelming, its contrasting scales recalling an engulfing grief.