Artforum

Selected work by Susan Snodgrass for Artforum.

Gary Cannone: Manet/Degas

Inspired by Conceptualism’s object-word plays and the comedy icons of his youth, Gary Cannone infuses his work with a wink and a rim shot. In the artist’s exhibition here, the show’s namesake, Manet/Degas, 2024—a yellow warning sign bearing the titular Impressionists’ names planted in this experimental gallery’s front yard—signals viewers to the art-historical tropes that fuel Cannone’s droll pastiches. “Albums by Conceptual Artists,” 2015–, an ongoing crowd-sourced series hosted on Tumblr, is a mashup of famous record covers and portraits of visual artists (or their work) that nudge the semantic meanings of the art they lampoon. Among the forty-one mock albums, presented as digital offset prints in the east gallery, are recasts of Kiss’s Lick It Up, 1983, featuring a photograph of Allan Kaprow’s 1964 happening Household,where women lick jam from a car, and the 1968 soundtrack for The Graduate (1967), with a Photoshopped image of Robert Gober’s sculpture of a lifeless limb opposite Mrs. Robinson’s stockinged leg. These “communal acts of parody,” as the artist describes them, give way to deeply personal works in the west gallery that similarly employ humor (and seriality) to explore the limits of the body and mind, the focus of Cannone’s practice since being diagnosed with a neurological illness that affects his cognitive functioning and motor skills. One series, “Bloopers,” 2021–24, documents the artist’s mental and physical challenges through dated lists stitched in thread that record his momentary inability to perform ordinary tasks. Other objects act as comedic props and markers of instability, fragility, or threat, including a chair fabricated from butcher paper and scotch tape, and a cast-iron pan attached to the ceiling (think falling anvil). Countering these obstacles to safety are doormats faced with pictures of well-known artists in their wheelchairs and a similarly seated Matisse as a foam-board standee, placing Cannone within the artistic canon he both reveres and spoofs.

Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s-1980s

AT THE ENTRANCE TO the Walker Art Center’s “Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s,” viewers are met by Hungarian artist László Fehér’s Underground Passage I., 1975, a black-and-white, hyperrealist painting of passengers ascending the subway stairs as a solitary figure descends. Painted with illusionistic faux creases and tears to suggest a worn photograph, the work alludes in both title and subject to the multiple worlds (public and private, real and imaginary, official and underground) that artists in East-Central Europe continuously navigated during communism. Also portrayed, at least on its surface, is the gray, dreary Eastern Europe of Western stereotypes, a foil for the exhibition itself, which alternatively presents a rich and diverse cultural history through more than 250 works by nearly one hundred artists.

Dala nasser: Adonis River

Adonis River, 2023, the most recent installation by Lebanese artist Dala Nasser, is both an elegy to a mythical past and a monument to the losses (human, ecological, and otherwise) that plague our precarious present. Navigated from multiple points of entry, Nasser’s site-specific environment offered a refuge for pause and intuitive looking while responding to the interior architecture of the Renaissance Society’s somewhat ecclesiastical space, with its high-vaulted ceiling and clerestory windows that fill the gallery with radiant streams of light. By combining classical vertical forms that reference Doric columns and towering wooden constructions layered with earthen-dyed fabrics, the artist explored the intersections between history and materiality as rich metaphors for current geopolitical conflicts, particularly those related to lineages of water and land.

Edra Soto, Destination/El Destino: A Decade of GRAFT

For Chicago-based, Puerto Rican–born artist Edra Soto, home is a psychic, geographic place as well as a locus for gathering and community. It is also a political space that defines who we are as civic and social beings. The complex relationships between citizenship and migration, displacement and belonging, inform the impressive suite of sculptural installations comprising “Destination/El Destino: A Decade of GRAFT,” an unconventional survey celebrating ten years of this ongoing project by Soto.

Luftwerk: Exact Dutch Yellow

“Color is the most relative medium in art,” according to Josef Albers. Its relativity, along with the subjective nature of visual perception, forms the basis of the immersive light installations that comprise “Exact Dutch Yellow,” the most recent exhibition of Chicago-based collaborative Luftwerk (Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero), who transformed the fourth-floor galleries of this cultural institution into an oasis of complex optical phenomena.