Albert Mobilio

  • Frank Bowling’s Americas: New York, 1966–75

    IN 1969 THE BRITISH-GUYANESE painter Frank Bowling curated a show at the art gallery of Stony Brook University that included, along with himself, five African American artists. Bowling had arrived in New York City three years before looking to draw further inspiration from Color Field abstract painters like Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. Titled “5+1,” the show featured Melvin Edwards, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Al Loving, Jack Whitten, and William T. Williams; Bowling would later recall that his impetus had been to provide “greater exposure for the abstract artists who happened to be Black.”

  • Sonia Delaunay

    IN 1913, Sonia Delaunay appeared in a Parisian ballroom wearing a dress she had designed. A Cubist patchwork of vivid colors, the garment inspired enthusiastic reactions from artists and poets already immersed in the European avant-garde. Blaise Cendrars wrote a poem to the dress; Apollinaire encouraged his readers to visit the dance hall on Thursdays when Sonia and her husband Robert Delaunay arrived arrayed in the clothes she made. The Robe simultané (Simultaneous dress) was Sonia’s attempt to activate via bodily motion the color dynamism she was exploring in her abstract paintings. A rhythm

  • FRÉDÉRIC BRULY BOUABRÉ: WORLD UNBOUND

    ONE DAY IN MARCH 1948, a twenty-five-year-old clerk in the French colonial administration in Ivory Coast experienced a transformative vision. He reported that the sky opened and “seven colored suns described a circle of beauty around their ‘Mother-Sun’” and that he was then called upon to be “the Revealer.” This divine command would set Frédéric Bruly Bouabré on an investigative path deep into the folklore, language, and religion of his people, the Bété, an undertaking that produced voluminous texts and thousands of drawings, all aimed at elucidating his cultural heritage as the foundation of

  • Mamma Andersson: Humdrum Days

    FROM CÉZANNE’S APPLES TO LOIS DODD’S CLOTHESLINES, the quotidian world, with its domestic scenes and unremarkable landscapes, has long inspired artists. Their scrupulously focused attention can yield surprising insights about ordinary things—the geography of shadings on an apple, the dance of towels hung out to dry. Mamma Andersson, whose recent retrospective at the Louisiana Museum in Humlebæk, Denmark, is documented in this exhibition catalogue, also delights in the mundane. Whether depicting a kitchen sink, linen closet, or cluttered desk, Andersson imbues her subjects with an engrossing

  • Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities

    UPON HER ARRIVAL at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1993, Pakistan-born artist Shahzia Sikander was asked by an instructor if she was there “to make East meet West.” In this volume’s interview with Vasif Kortun, Sikander goes on to note that “no one else was asked such a question,” and that she “became aware very quickly that America was about a black-and-white relationship, where being brown was not yet fully visible.” As an undergraduate in Lahore, Sikander had produced The Scroll, a watercolor depicting daily life that won national recognition for its adroit engagement with the Indo-Persian

  • The Escape Artist

    IN 2011, WINFRED REMBERT HAD ACHIEVED a sufficient measure of fame to be invited back to his hometown of Cuthbert, Georgia, to celebrate his success as an artist. Rembert’s artworks were sought out by collectors and hung in various galleries, including the Yale University Art Gallery. Growing up in Cuthbert in the 1950s and ’60s, Rembert was subjected to police harassment and beatings and, on one occasion, nearly lynched. He had been paraded through town in chains before being sent to prison. But now Cuthbert was honoring its native son with Winfred Rembert Day. He was presented with a plaque

  • Reggie Burrows Hodges

    BROAD SWATHS OF VARIEGATED COLOR animate Reggie Burrows Hodges’s canvases at least as much as his energetic subjects: unicyclists and hurdlers; basketball, tennis, and baseball players. Born in Compton, California, he attended the University of Kansas on a tennis scholarship and studied theater and film; while living in New York and Vermont, he wrote songs and performed with a dub-rock group. The fifty-six-year-old artist’s résumé helps explain his fascination with sports as well as several paintings of people spinning and listening to dub records. In this volume’s interview with Suzette McAvoy,

  • McArthur Binion: DNA

    MCARTHUR BINION EMPLOYED his tattered address book, containing nineteen years’ worth of annotated contact information, as the substrate of numerous paintings and prints in his series “DNA.” He produced color copies of the pages, sliced out the entries, and assembled them in vertical and horizontal patterns to form a collage grid over which he painted and drew. The Chicago-based artist began the project in 2013, when he was sixty-seven, and the choice of an address book—along with other personal effects like Binion’s birth certificate and photos of his childhood home—lends a strong sense of

  • Noah Davis

    PROTEAN PAINTER NOAH DAVIS had emerged as a catalytic force when he died of cancer at age thirty-two. His swift evolution promised an exciting future, as did the Underground Museum, an alternative exhibition space in a working-class Los Angeles neighborhood, that Davis founded with his wife, Karon. From 2007 until 2015, the year of his death, Davis portrayed African American daily life with an eye for the improbable: a girl sits astride a giant snail; a young man holds a slippery-looking creature in Man with Alien and Shotgun. In this new monograph, fellow painter Henry Taylor muses about his

  • RENEE GLADMAN & FRED MOTEN: ONE LONG BLACK SENTENCE

    WHEN YOU CROSS the “T” in your signature with a decorative flourish you likely don’t brood on having crossed the boundary separating writing from drawing. That slender gap between visual and linguistic meaning is one explored by poet, essayist, and novelist Renee Gladman. In Prose Architectures, a volume published three years ago, she offered a series of ink drawings that resembled handwriting, architectural blueprints, anatomical illustration, maps, and scribbling while not quite resting within any one of those categories. Her drawings moved energetically between figurative and abstract

  • THADDEUS MOSLEY

    The titles of Thaddeus Mosley’s recent wood sculptures are often plainly descriptive: There’s a curve in Curved Closure, branches in Branched Form, and an oval in Oval Continuity. This straightforward denotation of the works’ spatial and geometric character indicates Mosley’s matter-of-fact approach. At ninety-four, the self-taught artist isn’t inclined toward mystification or obscurity. In an essay by curator Brett Littman, included in this volume, Mosley recounts how in the 1950s he saw “decorative furniture with details like small birds and fish made out of wood” in a Pittsburgh department

  • Naked Brunch

    The next time I’m about to dine on a goat-cheese omelet I will pause to reflect on that first forkful. Images of hens in cramped cages stacked on top of each other, the rain of dung that pours down from the highest to lowest, and the thousands of sun-bright bulbs that accelerate their egg-laying cycles will come between that tasty morsel and my prospective enjoyment. A decision to eschew the omelet and order a salad instead would be a testament to the efficacy of Deb Olin Unferth’s unnervingly vivid descriptions of industrial egg production in Barn 8. Animal rights and the dire environmental

  • Proving Ground

    Throughout 2015 and 2016, the US Army set off multiple clouds of deadly chlorine gas, not in some secret location in the Middle East or Afghanistan, but about an hour’s drive south of Salt Lake City. The Dugway Proving Ground, established during World War II, occupies a swath of desert larger than Rhode Island. During the war, the military built villages that resembled German and Japanese towns in order to try out weapons, including poison gas. This activity continues to the present day. In Proving Ground, David Maisel’s aerial and ground-level photos of Dugway—he reports that gaining access

  • Helen Frankenthaler: Sea Change: A Decade of Paintings, 1974-1983

    Across several decades of her career, Helen Frankenthaler painted an intimate, interior sense of landscape. She achieved this, in part, with a technique called “soak stain,” which she invented while creating her earliest masterwork, Mountains and Sea, 1952. Frankenthaler would pour paint diluted with turpentine onto unprimed canvas, creating watercolor-like effects. The softened hues and diffuse shapes captured the subjective experience of the natural world. While watercolors are typically small, Frankenthaler preferred large canvases, sometimes as wide as twelve feet. The scale and the method

  • Hildegard von Bingen: A Journey into the Images

    IN THE PAST FEW DECADES, the accomplishments of medieval polymath and visionary Hildegard von Bingen have gained widespread recognition. The Benedictine abbess was born in 1098 and, over the course of her long life, excelled as an artist, composer, and author. She extended the melodic range of sacred music, wrote sizable tomes that combined her deep studies of botany and medicine, and even found time to invent an alphabet. She also wrote and illustrated three works devoted to the apparitions she regularly beheld beginning at the age of five. The manuscript of Scivias (a contraction of the phrase

  • A Boy’s Own Story

    Even when a photograph of a wounded or suffering child becomes familiar, it retains the power to unsettle. The smudged face of a sharecropper’s daughter, children arrayed behind barbed wire at Auschwitz, a starving Biafran child, a nine-year-old girl seared by napalm in Vietnam—these images still disturb viewers and prompt strong responses. Yet, as Susan Sontag argued in On Photography, it’s difficult to measure their ultimate utility: “The knowledge gained through still photographs,” she wrote, “will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist.” That propensity for

  • Richard Diebenkorn: A Retrospective

    WITH ITS SOFT YET VIBRANT YELLOWS AND REDS in a floral-patterned wallpaper set against an array of angular blues, Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad, a 1965 painting by Richard Diebenkorn, evidences the profound influence of Matisse. Diebenkorn saw works by that artist in 1964 at the State Hermitage Museum and would come to share his strong geographic identification with a sunny locale, replacing the French Riviera with the state of California, his home for most of his creative life. Titled after the Santa Monica neighborhood where he kept a studio beginning in 1967, his widely acclaimed

  • Some Trick

    The gold- and silver-colored crucifix that hung opposite my childhood bed was only one of many that adorned the walls of my home, my school, and, of course, the church I attended. On early-summer mornings the bright, filigreed metal caught the rays that leaked around a too-narrow window shade and the dying Christ glowed as if electrified. At age eight I understood the principle of reflected light but didn’t yet grasp the concept of an afterimage—the result of photoreceptors retaining an impression after the eye is closed or upon looking away from the object. After waking one morning, I allowed

  • Growth and Decay: Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

    Novels and films tend to portray postapocalyptic cities as either devastated or abandoned. While the former might take inspiration from photos of Hiroshima or Dresden, places long emptied of people can be somewhat harder to imagine. What would Poughkeepsie or Staten Island look like years after a plague swept the planet? Some hint can be found in David McMillan’s photographs of the town of Pripyat, Ukraine, and the environs around the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant. In late April 1986, a reactor there suffered a catastrophic failure that spread radioactive material for thousands of miles

  • Jason Moran

    The roster of musicians—Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, and many others—who played the Three Deuces nightclub on Manhattan’s 52nd Street from the 1940s through the ’50s nearly encompasses the whole of modern jazz history. Yet any trace of that iconic locale, as well as all the other jazz venues that once lined the block, has long been obliterated by office towers. Some redress for this cultural disregard can be found in Jason Moran’s installation STAGED: Three Deuces, which was featured at the 2015 Venice Biennale. A pianist, composer, and visual artist, Moran demonstrates