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    The Late Canadian Polymath Rodney Graham Is Getting a Posthumous Showcase in the British Countryside

    The late Canadian artist Rodney Graham is getting a posthumous spotlight at Hauser and Wirth’s Somerset outpost. 
    After a breakout turn representing Canada at the 1997 Venice Biennale, the conceptual artist, who passed away last fall from cancer at 73, became known for his dryly humorous films and photographs in which he often cast himself in various elaborate guises and scenarios. The show, on view through May 8, includes a series of large-scale lightbox photographs that thrust the viewer into a number of Graham’s richly imagined worlds. Filled with textured detail they bring a vibrancy to otherwise banal scenes; an overworked chef taking a cigarette break, an unkempt hermit jubilating in front of a ramshackle cottage. 
    The exhibition also nods to other dimensions of Graham’s practice, which stretched to encompass adept painting, sculpture, photography, and musical work. Called “Getting It Together in the Countryside,” the show borrows its title from Graham’s 2000 LP of the same name, a jam session of improvised guitar recordings—fitting for the gallery’s rural British location, which Graham visited to perform at its opening in 2014. 
    Rodney Graham, Betula Pendula Fastigiata (Sous-Chef on Smoke Break) (2011). ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
    Throughout his career, Graham seamlessly inhabited his various characters. “It may be a burden to reinvent oneself every time,” Graham said, “but it makes things more interesting.”
    The centerpiece of the exhibition is Graham’s The Four Seasons, a late body of work executed between 2011 and 2013. The series was inspired after Graham’s fellow artist and friend David Batchelor remarked that two images of characters—a drywaller and a chef—enjoying smoke breaks, reminded him of summer and winter. This spurred Graham to make two more companion pieces, another smoke break, this time of a Hollywood actor/director on a technicolor film set in the 1950s to represent spring, and a fourth, more meditative take on a kayaker on the Seymour river for fall, which he joked was his chance to take an “oxygen break.”
    The exhibition also dips into other aspects of his practice, opening on one of his sculptures, an innocuous-looking door propped against a wall. It could be any old screen door—they are pretty ubiquitous fixtures—but this particular one happens to be an exact replica of Elvis Presley’s door at Graceland. Graham was tickled when the object was offered up for auction alongside other Elvis memorabilia in 1999 and ran with it, deciding to cast the replica in solid silver.
    One example from his “inverted trees” series following the artist’s early experiments with the camera lucida, a large-scale pinhole camera that dates back to ancient times, is also on view.
    “Getting It Together in the Country” is far from a complete overview of Graham’s polymathic practice, but it is one of the last exhibitions of his own work that he had a hand in organizing, and aptly showcases him as a unique artist, masterfully aloof, and still winking from beyond the veil.
    “Rodney Graham: Getting It Together In the Country” is on view at Hauser and Wirth Somerset through May 8.
    Rodney Graham, Main Street Tree (2006). ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Tom Van Eynde.
    Installation view, “Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country,” Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.
    Installation view, “Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country,” Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.
    Rodney Graham, Paddler, Mouth of the Seymour (2012-2013). ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
    Installation view, “Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country,” Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.
    Installation view, “Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country,” Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2023. ©Rodney Graham. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.
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    Why It’s Worth Savoring Leonor Fini’s Enchanted Surrealism at Kasmin + Other Things to See and Read

    Well, one month of 2023 already gone. I started the year with a New Year’s Resolution to write a bit more about art outside of the automatically must-cover big shows or controversies. That’s hard—every pressure of media life pushes towards becoming a brain in a vat plugged directly into trending topics.
    But I do want to try! Despite the general bad vibes of our moment, people go on doing and saying interesting things and trying to figure it all out. We’ll see how the year goes. In the meantime, here are a few things I saw and liked, or read and felt worth recommending, in the last weeks.

    Things to See
    Work by Leonor Fini at Kasmin. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Leonor Fini at Kasmin
    Leonor Fini (1907-1996) is a Surrealist great, and also one of those figures who has been greatly under-appreciated. I mean, just a few years ago, it took New York’s Museum of Sex to give her a first big American retrospective. More recently, the Argentinian-Italian artist’s star has been ascendant, with her declaration that she wanted to be seen as a “witch rather than as priestess” making her perfect for the feminist-Surrealist vibe of the recent Venice Biennale. Kasmin’s mini-survey has Fini’s numinous, libidinal paintings accompanied by her theatrical self-made outfits, freaky masquerade ball masks, and even a pair of clip-on gold devil horns. The show contains magic, maybe in metaphorical and non-metaphorical ways.

    Installation view of Alfatih, “Day in the Life,” at Swiss Institute. Photo by Ben Davis.
    Alfatih at Swiss Institute
    The Switzerland-based new media artist’s slick, strangely engaging black-and-white digital animation in the basement of the S.I. centers on the doings of a seemingly super-intelligent cartoon baby, looping endlessly through different permeations of daily domestic rituals (cooking, taking a bath) within the confines of some kind of stylish domestic purgatory. If someone told me that I would be moved by something best described as—I dunno—“Yoshitomo Nara meets Spielberg’s A.I.” or “Limbo meets Boss Baby,” I wouldn’t believe them. But that’s why you don’t judge an art show based on pithy little riffs like that. A vignette where the enigmatic child plinks at the piano as rain pours and lightening strobes all around continues to circle in my brain long after I have left the cartoon creature to carry on with its own devices. More

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    See a Collection of Heartwarming Letters Sent by Young Fans to Spider-Man, Now on View for the First Time

    In the 317th issue of Marvel Comics’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” released in July 1989, Peter Parker’s nemesis, Venom, arrives at his house in Queens, New York, ready to do battle with the young superhero. That Venom managed to locate Spider-Man at his actual residence, where he lives with his Aunt May, is no surprise: Peter had left behind a change-of-address form in his jacket after changing into his Spider-Man suit. His new home was at 20 Ingram Street, Forest Hills, NY 11375.
    And it’s a real address. Though depicted as a two-story boarding house in the comic book, the real-life 20 Ingram Street is a modest Tudor house in suburban Queens, shaded by a panoply of trees. Even more serendipitously, from 1974, the house has been occupied by a Parker family—Andrew, Suzanne, and their two daughters.
    Since the publication of Spider-Man’s address, the Parkers have been inundated with mail addressed to the web-slinger. “We got tons of it,” Mrs. Parker told the New York Times in 2002. The family had no clue about the comic-book significance of their address until they were approached by reporters in 2002, when Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” adaptation hit theaters. 
    A letter from Verlene in Lausanne. Photo courtesy of City Reliquary.
    Nonetheless, the Parkers saved the letters they received over the decades—a trove that is now on view at City Reliquary, a community museum in Brooklyn that houses ephemera from New York’s history.
    Unsurprisingly, most of the letters were penned by children eager to reach out to the comic book star. “I think your really cool,” reads one message; “I like how you swing,” reads another. Others urge Spider-Man to visit their homes: “Would you like to come to our house some time in summer? We live in Kentucky.”
    An image of Spider-Man, colored by Sammy. Photo courtesy of City Reliquary.
    Letters were sent from across the globe—Germany, Switzerland, Thailand—as well as curious artifacts, including candy, credit card approvals, and a check for $1,645 (which Suzanne Parker apparently cashed).
    Pamela Parker, daughter of Andrew and Suzanne, and a board member at City Reliquary, told Hell Gate that her favorite letter arrived from South India, reading: “We would love to imitate you… but we know very well that happens only in reel life and not so in real life.”
    A letter from South India. Photo courtesy of City Reliquary.
    Some young fans also sought solace in their favorite web-slinger. “To Amazing Spiderman,” wrote a young fan named Clay, “I’m the awesome one but a secret nerd.”
    When Hell Gate located Clay, now grown up and studying at the University of Tennessee, he said Spider-Man “helped me cope through the hard times as a kid.”
    A letter from Clay. Photo courtesy of City Reliquary.
    While the Parker family moved out of 20 Ingram Street in 2017, the house and its suburb remain a landmark for comic-book readers. Last year, a campaign was launched, though failed, to erect a Spider-Man statue in Forest Hills. 
    “I never pinpointed the address,” said Stan Lee, the late-creator of Spider-Man, in 2002. But with the reveal of Spider-Man’s residence, he added, “We’ve created two new celebrities.” 
    “Dear Spiderman” is on view in the front room of City Reliquary, 370 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn.
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    ‘I’m Not Giving People What They’re Used To:’ Awol Erizku on the Challenges Inherent in Remixing His Own Work

    For his latest exhibition, Awol Erizku has transformed the white cube at Ben Brown Fine Arts into a Black space. 
    Even if you think the artist’s decision to literally paint the walls black is a bit on the nose, the actual content of the exhibition is certainly less heavy-handed than his last outing with the gallery in 2017, which included a graffiti-laden door emblazoned with Trump’s name and a swastika. In “Cosmic Drill,” on view through April 6, Erizku revisits many of the same issues evoked in that earlier show, albeit with a little more trust in the viewer to do the work of unpacking them.
    Anchoring the exhibition is a series of artworks that merge photography, painting, and sculpture. On first viewing they’re cool-looking backboards for a series of colorful basketball hoops. Photographs of space, sourced from NASA and printed on aluminium panels, are overlaid with hand-painted patches of buffed-out graffiti markings.
    A large-scale marble sculpture of three stacked dice in the colors of the pan-African flag, titled Head Crack [Stack or Starve], monumentalizes cee-lo, a popular dice game often played in inner city parks, including those in the South Bronx, where the Ethiopian-American artist was raised. Erizku has also produced a conceptual mix-tape to score the exhibition, featuring drill music—a subgenre of nihilism-imbued hiphop reminiscent of trap but slower (and, if you can imagine it, more blunt).
    Installation view, “Awol Erizku: Cosmic Drill” at Ben Brown Fine Arts London, 2023. ©Ben Brown Fine Arts. Photo by Tom Carter.
    In the seven-odd years since he was buffeted to fame after shooting a pregnant Beyoncé, the Los Angeles-based artist’s practice has matured. He has distinguished himself as a multidisciplinary artist while maintaining his profile as an important name in photography. In 2021, he photographed poet laureate Amanda Gorman for Time magazine’s “Black Renaissance” issue, even as he himself is also considered part of that renaissance, a generation of ascendant Black artists gaining recognition across the cultural landscape. His art world bona-fides have continued to sprout. Last March, Antwaun Sargent curated an Erizku solo exhibition at Gagosian in New York and, in September, the artist gained representation in the city from Sean Kelly.
    The works on view at Ben Brown were made in Erizku’s L.A. studio, where he decamped from New York four years ago, finding the less entrenched art scene to be more conducive to the kind of slippery work he was making. “It felt like a lawless place. I think there’s a kind of freedom there that I didn’t experience or feel in New York,” Erizku told me when I visited him at the gallery. “I felt like because of New York’s rich institutions that uphold a lot of the formal and traditional values of painting, sculpture, and other mediums, you kind of have to conform and bend to those norms.”
    In this latest body of work, Erizku has revisited his older works but instead of repeating his most popular series such as the “Reclining Venus” or “Hand and Rose” works for which he is well known, he has sampled and re-mixed lesser-appreciated work from his archive, folding in new layers.
    Earlier versions of the basketball hoop sculptures were shown in 2017, executed on plywood and adorned with Black Panther Party motifs and African masks. “I think this time the direct diasporic signifiers are stripped as a way to get to a more universal kind of reading,” Erizku told me about these more subtle manifestations. 
    He has dubbed this process retroactive continuity. He doesn’t mind how it is interpreted, either. “The challenge is that now I’m not giving people what they’re used to,” he said. “But for me, it’s far more rewarding to fail in a big way and learn from that as opposed to succeeding in some small fashion, and then being stuck to being that person who only does X, Y, and Z.”
    Awol Erizku, Kyrie’s Lament (Shawny BinLaden Type Beat) (2022). Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts.
    Trying to encapsulate in explicit terms what Erizku is doing would limit the work on view at Ben Brown, which  exists somewhere between the hard edges of pre-ordained categories, like the buffed-out street markings that have inspired it. Erizku sees these as representing a “beautiful and poetic” tug-of-war between the mark maker and the eraser—as both vie for control of the narrative, neither succeeds totally in their aim. “In that erasure process, this other thing sort of emerges and that’s what I’m after,” said the artist.
    That “other thing” has been described in critical discourses surrounding Black artistic production in different ways: in a public conversation Erizku had with visionary curator Ekow Eshun and poet Caleb Femi, they evoked what Toni Morrison referred to as “Black liquidity,” a fugitive entanglement of art forms that can take on an improvisational quality.
    The layered titles of Erizku’s work also resist straightforward readings. Instead, they raise even more cosmic knots. For instance, Kyrie’s Lament (Shawny BinLaden Type Beat) references the competing narratives engulfing NBA star Kyrie Irving after he platformed an anti-semitic documentary film on social media. 
    Erizku himself said that his work is trying to touch upon “the Black imaginary,” making references to his own self-expression as well as the art of David Hammons, or the explosive beats of Shawny BinLadin.
    “I’m just expressing things I have seen and felt. And I can only speak for myself, so it’s not some sort of collective trauma, it’s none of that,” he said. “This is just all very internal and very personal, really.”
    Speaking of his relationship to drill, the violent subject matter of which has become a target of politicians, Erizku said he considers himself a sort of visual “griot”—keepers of oral history in parts of West Africa—who hopes to help preserve the music as an art form by giving it a visual component. “I think there’s rich history in it. I’ve followed it since I can remember, and I see where it’s going,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s an expression, and it’s Black expression, first and foremost.”
    Incorporating references to it in his work is a way of “protecting it and making sure that it’s not looked down upon or it’s not considered low brow, simply because other people don’t understand the depth and the complexity of what’s being said,” he noted.
    When it comes to the wider narratives surrounding the “Black renaissance,” and his place within that particular canon of artists, Erizku was ambivalent. “I don’t know where I fit in that because I feel like I’m just getting started. I just finished my first monograph literally last week. Yes, I’ve been making work for close to 12 years now, professionally, but at the same time, it feels like chapter one for me.” In a way, then, it’s no wonder that the exhibition feels somewhat like an unfinished thought. 
    “Awol Erizku: Cosmic Drill” is on view through April 6 at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London.

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    A New Photography Exhibition at MFA Boston Is Taking Viewers Through the ‘Multiple Realities of War’ in Ukraine

    For far too often in the last 11 months has the sky above Ukraine been scarred by gunfire, shells, and explosions. A new exhibition of Ukrainian war photography at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston takes that same sky as a metaphor—and turns it into a kind of call to action. 
    “Who Holds Up the Sky?”, as the show is called, was organized by a trio of curators from the Wartime Art Archive at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) NGO in Kyiv, and brought to the U.S. through a collaboration with the MFA. It collects the work of Ukrainian artists who have documented the war since Russia’s invasion in February of last year. 
    “Overcoming the darkness of death, shelling, genocide, and blackouts, photography captures the multiple realities of war,” the exhibition’s three MOCA NGO curators—Halyna Hleba, Olga Balashova, and Tetiana Lysun—wrote in the introductory wall text. The show, they explained, was conceived as a tribute to “everyone who is holding up the sky over Ukraine.”
    Installation view of “Who Holds Up the Sky?” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to May 21, 2023. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    On view are shots of missiles being launched from Russia, taken by photographer Vadym Belikov from the window of his own high-rise building, as well as a picture of the destruction that similar missiles have wrought on Ukrainian farmland, captured by war correspondent Efrem Lukatsky. 
    Those two artists’ works are punctuated by several photos from Yana Kononova’s X-Scapes series, which document the physical destruction in Kyiv’s northern regions—twisted sheet metal, cratered housing structures—but are each cropped to the point of abstraction. Gone are direct indications of war, leaving the emotional devastation of the wreckage heightened.
    Pillars in the MFA’s gallery are lined with illustrations from Inga Levi’s ongoing Double Exposure series, which began just days after Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Each entry in the collection depicts two realities: one of everyday life in Ukraine, one of war.  
    Efrem Lukatsky, Bird’s eye view of a crater left by a Russian rocket that hit a farm field 10km from the front line. Despiteshelling, local farmers continue harvesting (2022). Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    Rounding out the show is a video about the “Behind Blue Eyes” project, a charitable effort that provides Ukrainian kids with disposable cameras. They’re asked to carry around their cameras for a week, photographing their daily routines. The goal, according to the view’s label, is to project a “coherent and complex footprint of the war” from the perspective of those whose lives will forever be shaped by it.
    The name of the project comes from the song of the same name by The Who. The curators suggest that the blue of the title is also meant to allude to the sky—a reminder, perhaps, that we’re all united by the firmament above us, even if it looks different.
    See more images from “Who Holds Up the Sky?” below.
    Installation view of “Who Holds Up the Sky?” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to May 21, 2023. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    Kostiantyn Polishchuk, Ukrainian soldiers (2022). © Polishchuk Kostiantyn. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    Installation view of “Who Holds Up the Sky?” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to May 21, 2023. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    Yana Kononova, X‑Scapes #63‑17 (2022). Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    Installation view of “Who Holds Up the Sky?” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 21 to May 21, 2023. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    “Who Holds Up the Sky?” is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston through May 21, 2023.
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    In Pictures: A Henry Taylor Retrospective at MOCA Spotlights the Artist’s Individual Yet Universal Portraiture

    In just about every article, interview, or press release written about Henry Taylor, he is described as “an artist’s artist.” No matter what that term actually means, it’s undoubtedly a compliment, but it cuts out the non-artist’s ability to appreciate and respect the man’s great talent.
    If anything, Taylor is an artist of the people. He paints, sculpts, and draws them furiously, as evidenced by the extraordinary breadth of work on view in the career retrospective “Henry Taylor: B Side” on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the artist’s hometown of Los Angeles.
    As a chronicler of people from every cross-section of humanity, Taylor’s subjects range from family members, to fellow artists, to the patients at the Camarillo State Mental Hospital where he worked decades ago. In all of his works, there is something both universal and achingly individual, with many of his paintings serving as character studies spliced with social commentary.
    In the exhibition catalogue, curator Bennett Simpson writes of Taylor: “He is also, or maybe foremost, a champion and caretaker of Black experience, suffusing his work with recognition and social commentary alike. In this role, his paintings communicate a deep sense of responsibility—to memory and community, to excellence and contingency.”
    See pictures from the exhibition below.
    “Henry Taylor: B Side” is on view at MOCA Grand Avenue, 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, through April 30, 2023. 
    Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.
    Henry Taylor, Screaming Head (1999). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.
    Henry Taylor, Untitled (2022). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.
    Henry Taylor, Too Sweet (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.
    Henry Taylor, Untitled (2021). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Ken Adlard.
    Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.
    Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.
    Henry Taylor, Andrea Bowers (2010). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Robert Bean.
    Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.
    Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.
    Henry Taylor, I Was King, When I Met The Queen – Syllable X’s Rhythm Equals Mumbo Jumbo (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.
    Henry Taylor, “Watch your back” (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.
    Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.
    Henry Taylor, Untitled (1991). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.
    Henry Taylor, Cora (cornbread) (2008). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
    Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.
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    Tschabalala Self, Torkwase Dyson, and 9 Other Artists Will Transform the Coachella Valley With Site-Specific Installations for Desert X 2023

    Get your cameras ready. The artist list for the fourth edition of Desert X is here, and it promises to be a stunning show.
    The site-specific international art exhibition runs from March 4 through May 7, 2023, and features a cohort of 11 multigenerational artists hailing from Europe, North America, and South Asia, each of whom will produce an artwork responding to the dramatic landscape of the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, California.
    Returning this year is artistic director Neville Wakefield and co-curator Diana Campbell, who together selected the artists to create works that both respond to and take cues from their environment.
    “There’s a saying attributed to the Kwakwaka’wakw nation that a place is a story happening many times,” Wakefield said in a statement. “This idea of place as the multiplicity of stories flowing through it is central to Desert X.”
    Campbell describes the works as “artistic interventions that make visible how our energy has a transference far beyond what we see just in front of us in our own localities.”
    The landscape of the Coachella Valley. Photo: Lance Gerber, courtesy of Desert X.
    The artists are cast in the role of storytellers, bridging the divide between global issues and individual responsibility and experience. Torkwase Dyson’s Liquid a Place engages the dichotomy of the body as a vessel filled with water, and its physicality within an environment like the desert, where water is a rapidly fading memory. Meanwhile, Tschabalala Self takes on the archetypes of the American West, reconstituting the traditional equestrian statue with a work that highlights the Black and Native women who have long been excluded from this history.
    Other projects touch on issues of migration, conspiracy theories rooted in the Western expanse, the proliferation of street vendors, and the notion of invisible labor. Even the image of the mechanical bull and its relationship to masculinity—conceived in projects spanning performance, film, and sculpture—is presented against the dramatic backdrop of the desert.
    More details, including a detailed map of the installations, will be available on March 4. Until then, see the full artist list below.

    Rana Begum, b. 1977, Bangladesh, based in London
    Lauren Bon, b. 1962, USA, based in Los Angeles
    Gerald Clarke, b. 1967, USA, based in Anza, California
    Paloma Contreras Lomas, b. 1991, Mexico, based in Mexico City
    Torkwase Dyson, b. 1973, USA, based in Beacon, New York
    Mario García Torres, b.1975, Mexico, based in Mexico City
    Hylozoic/Desires (Himali Singh Soin, b. 1987, India, based in London and Delhi and David Soin Tappeser, b.1985, Germany, based in London and Delhi)
    Matt Johnson, b. 1978, USA, based in Los Angeles
    Tschabalala Self, b. 1990, USA, based in New York
    Marina Tabassum, b. 1968, Dhaka, Bangladesh, based in Dhaka
    Héctor Zamora, b.1974, Mexico City, Mexico, based in Mexico City
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    Artists Have Long Held Day Jobs to Make Ends Meet. A New Exhibition Makes the Case That Side Gigs Also Fuel Creativity

    Aspiring artists looking to break into the art world often hear a warning: “Don’t quit your day job.” But a new show at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin proves that even some of the world’s most successful artists have relied on other jobs to make ends meet—and that those day jobs can sometimes prove key to their central practice, rather than distractions from their primary calling.
    Featuring 75 works by major U.S. artists including Mark Bradford, Jeffrey Gibson, Jeff Koons, and Barbara Kruger, “Day Jobs” will be the first major exhibition to address the impact that day jobs have had on art history—demonstrating that while the gig economy might have seemed born of the 2010s, the side hustle is actually nothing new for artists.
    Before he became a pioneering California Light and Space artist, for instance, Larry Bell was a young painter working by day at a commercial framing shop in Venice Beach in the 1960s. Filling customer orders, Bell was one day struck by the beauty of the light hitting a pane of glass in a metal frame. A totally new direction for his work was born, and a burgeoning art movement.
    The jobs represented in the show are many, and wide-ranging. Some have an obvious connection to the art world—Andy Warhol, of course, got his start as a fashion illustrator. Other related careers featured in the show include graphic design, billboard painting, and furniture making.
    Andy Warhol, Elvis Presley (ca. 1956). Collection of the Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut, ©the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York, via Yale University Press.
    But artists have also worked at major companies such as Ford Motors and IKEA, and held demanding jobs such as ICU nurses and high-powered lawyers. Did you know, for instance, that Jeff Koons was once a Wall Street commodities trader? “Day Jobs” also highlights less glamorous careers, with artists who have moonlit as dishwashers, janitors, and nannies.
    Though these roles may appear to have nothing in common, exhibition curators Veronica Roberts (the Blanton’s former curator of Modern and contemporary art, and now director of California’s Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University) and Lynne Maphies (a former curatorial assistant at the Blanton) make the case they all can provide unexpected creative inspiration for the artists who hold them.
    Fred Wilson, Grey Area (Brown version), 1993. Collection of the Brooklyn
 Museum, bequest of William K. Jacobs, Jr. and bequest of Richard J. Kempe, by exchange 2008. Photo: ©Fred Wilson, courtesy of Pace Gallery.
    A day job can push artists in new directions as they learn about a new industry, get exposed to new materials or working methods, or even just shift their studio hours—Howardena Pindell was a figurative painter, until a curatorial assistant job at New York’s Museum of Modern Art meant she could no longer make art during daylight hours, prompting her to experiment with hole-punched paper scraps from her desk job, creating unique abstract works.
    Art museums, it turns out, often employ artists—at MoMA alone, Sol LeWitt was a receptionist, Dan Flavin was an elevator operator, and Robert Ryman was a security guard.
    Sara Bennett, TIANA, 25, in the library at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (2019). Photo: ©Sara Bennett, courtesy of the artist.
    Rejecting the myth of the lone genius working alone in the art studio, art springing forth from the studio whenever inspiration strikes, “Day Jobs” looks at the ways that economic pursuits can help fuel the creation of great art. Could it be that quitting the day job to make art full-time isn’t the ultimate goal?
    “Day Jobs” will be on view at the Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard., Austin, Texas, February 19–July 23, 2023.
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