This Week in Art

Yinka Shonibare’s “American Library,” The Whitney Goes Outside its Comfort Zone & More

Yinka Shonibare, MBE (RA). The American Library, 2018. @ Yinka Shonibare MBE. Commissioned by FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. July 14-September 30, 2018. Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery, New York and FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.

Yinka Shonibare’s new installation The American Library opened last month as part of the inaugural FRONT International Cleveland Triennial. A sequel to the artist’s The British Library, the work continues to explore themes of open borders, freedom of speech, educational rights, and blended heritage. The installation reprises Shonibare’s regular practice of incorporating African wax cloth, commonly referred to as “Dutch Wax,” lining approximately six thousand books with the material. Stamped in gold across the spine, each book features the name of a first or second generation U.S. immigrant who has contributed significantly to the arts, science, or culture.

In a statement, the artist said that the books “act as metaphors for the autobiography of the individuals named.” But the installation functions as a reference library as well as a work of art. As was the case with The British Library, The American Library includes a searchable database of audio-visual material that illustrates why people have immigrated, this time made accessible though tablets. “It is incredibly important to point in the work to the emancipatory power of culture through a certain kind of reading,” the artist continues, “by that I mean the diverse inheritance of pedagogy.” The American Library will be on view through September 30 at the Cleveland Public Library.

News of the Week

  • Mary Heilmann’s first Los Angeles solo exhibition in over twenty years has opened at Hauser & Wirth. Memory Remix is a survey of paintings, ceramics, and furniture showcasing how the artist’s “unwavering dedication to abstraction merges with sly references to her favorite landscapes, songs, movies, and Mexican weavings.”
  • In a rare incursion into fashion, the Whitney Museum of American Art has organized an exhibition that focuses on the bicoastal design duo Eckhaus Latta. Titled Eckhaus Latta: Possessed, the show blurs the boundaries between art exhibition, fashion show, and retail store by highlighting pieces viewers are able to try on and purchase. The exhibition opens to the public this Friday and will be on view through October 8, 2018.
  • Also at the Whitney, on August 10 artist Guadalupe Maravilla will stage a performance entitled The OG of Undocumented Children, as part of the current exhibition Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay: Indigenous Space, Modern Architecture, New Art. Based on his own experience crossing the U.S. border at the age of eight, the performance brings together the Mexican gothic electro-drama band La Rubia Te Besa with a troupe of quinceaneras and “an immigrant vampire family who drink the blood of Americans.”
  • Pioneer Works’ second annual Press Play Fair is happening this weekend, August 3-4. The event is a book and music fair “celebrating the merits of independent publishing and the dissemination of the arts through publication, recorded sound, and their expanded mediums.” It kicks off Friday night with a concert series featuring performances by Girlpool’s Harmony Trividad and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner, among others.

The Artist Speaks

Theaster Gates recently received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Arts in London. In his commencement address he encouraged graduates to “see all of the rich possibilities in nothingness.” He said:

“…to be an artist is one of the greatest vocations in the world.”

“To make is to grow… I have never felt more confident that to be an artist is one of the greatest vocations in the world. You guys have the capacity to dream and fight and this world needs you right now more than it’s ever needed any creative class.”