New Orleans and the Art of Labor

Considering the long-held view that, for ordinary people, manufacturing jobs hold the key to the American dream, there is something almost elegiac about the often reported fading fortunes of blue-collar workers. But is material, or physical, labor really a thing of the past to the extent that so many seem to think?

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Jessica Straus

BOSTON Boston Sculptors Gallery
“TransAtlantic,” Jessica Straus’s recent exhibition at Boston Sculptors Gallery, consisted of an immersive, room-filling, mixed-media installation that viewers could enter and roam around. Parts of the floor and wall were covered with World War II-era maps mounted on plywood tiles, showing the coastlines of North America and Western Europe, with the Atlantic Ocean stretching in between.

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Margaret Meehan

DALLAS, TEXAS Conduit Gallery
We like to imagine that the arc of history follows some kind of trajectory, like a book or a movie. Artists like Margaret Meehan, however, recognize that there is no clear chain of events, that history is illogical, directionless, and unpredictable.

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Sydney Blum

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA Studio 21
After several decades in New York, including 17 years teaching at the Parsons School of Design, Sydney Blum moved to Nova Scotia. Her recent exhibition “Icarus–Colour–Space” (her first solo show in her adopted home) featured five sculptures that seem to float, rippling, in space—like sections of soap bubbles hovering just on this side of corporeality before winking out of existence.

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Sarah Braman

NEW YORK Mitchell-Innes & Nash
While Braman is known for large-scale works, her smaller sculptures command equal recognition. Related to Minimalist traditions, these works use deceptively simple components to create a consortium of forms and effects, often highly colorful.

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Martin Puryear

VENICE U.S. Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale
“Liberty/Libertà,” Martin Puryear’s U.S. pavilion exhibition, uses subtle, disarming, and purposeful juxtapositions to create a mindful meditation on what it means to be an American artist and citizen today.

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Kader Attia

BERKELEY Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives
Attia, a French Algerian artist currently living in Berlin and Algiers, has been working with the concept of repair from the trauma of war for more than a decade. He is particularly interested in the process of healing—for individuals and for societies—and in repairing the damage caused by conflict and by colonization.

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Nari Ward

NEW YORK New Museum
Amazing Grace (1993), an installation of fire hoses and nearly 300 abandoned baby strollers first shown at a firehouse in Harlem, originally referred to the crack epidemic, AIDS, and homelessness sweeping through that neighborhood. Now, as one walks through the strollers along a pathway formed from the hoses while listening to Mahalia Jackson sing the gospel song of the title, it is hard not to think of family separations and the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border.

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