If it’s true, as some have said, that all photographs are in some way about death, then Candida Höfer’s large-format, color photographs of opulent Portuguese interiors must represent the cosmetics of burial. The most intriguing of her images, which include empty dining halls, lavish theaters and palatial rooms, are shots of libraries in which shelves of browning books are smothered cancerously with Dewy decimals. Titleless and showing their age, the volumes offer glimpses of history as entropic or unsightly. The other images feature the gilded crests and glitzy bedazzling of a Faberge egg and content-wise are as nutritional. They could serve as advertisements for luxury items, presenting the ill-begotten spoils of the Portuguese Empire in the very best light. As a skilled mortician, Höfer succeeds in concealing the ugly scars of an imperialist past.
“Painting is my torment, and music is my joy,” Llyn Foulkes remarks, as he begins his lurching tune, “A Ghost in Hollywood,” on video at Kent Gallery. He sits at his “machine,” an out-sized drum kit piled with rubber horns, holding three mallets in his hand and working the bass pedal in his socks. The song is about a malevolent spirit with red eyes who haunts the poor souls that “displease him.” Foulkes grins and arches his eyebrows with macabre wit, lifting his gravelly voice into a howl: “And at night, when you’re alone…” He trails off down the scale, leaving the dark dreams of Hollywood’s past up to the listener’s imagination.
Ranging from a former brewery in Venice with The Deliverance and the Patience (2001) to a GMC bus in The Pumpkin Palace (2003), British artist Mike Nelson develops site-specific installations in abandoned structures. After researching his locations for months at a time and gathering information on the neighborhood and surrounding culture, Nelson then meticulously manifests the echoes of years of voices, politics, ideologies and philosophies contained within these public enclosures. Commissioned by Creative Time, he chose the vacated Building D of the Essex Market in the Lower East Side for his first New York work: A Psychic Vacuum.
In a large warehouse space in Shanghai, 31 miners’ helmets rest symmetrically arrayed on a concrete floor, illuminated solely by the light of their own headlamps, and swathed in a web-like film of raw silk. The filtered industrial glow exudes pensive melancholy, a difficult feat to achieve in the midst of one of the world’s fastest growing metropolises. Such diametrically opposed relationships between nature and modernity are an integral component in the work of Chinese artist Liang Shaoji. For his first solo exhibition in China, titled “Cloud,” Liang brought his complex intersection of philosophy, science and art to the forefront, using a hybrid platform that includes everything from ecology and biology to sculpture, performance and weaving techniques.