Known for her supremely elegant compositions of image and text presenting black women in scenarios that are both exalting and freighted with the legacy of slavery, Lorna Simpson hit upon a motherland of ripe material when she began creating collages in 2013 incorporating models from advertisements in the historic African American magazines Ebony and Jet . This exquisite diptych from that series, printed on felt in an edition of 27, presents a sequence that could be read as a before-and-after progression, with the guarded expression on the left giving way to a burst of radiant, attractive confidence.
The éminence grise of antic Swiss kinetic art, Roman Signer has for decades been blowing things up, blasting things off, and otherwise concocting riveting momentary experiences that lie between a 10-year-old boy’s delight in creative destruction and the sublime. One of the recurring victims of his explosive temperament (along with cute little houses, bicycles, and fans) is the cute three-wheeled Piaggio delivery vehicle, which Signer—who represented Switzerland in the 1999 Venice Biennale—has launched off a ski jump, turned into a mobile fountain, and put through all other manner of fond abuse.
Rachel Harrison, whose sculptural work New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl recently effused may be “the most important” in contemporary art, has pursued her interest in arrestingly offbeat juxtapositions into the two-dimensional realm, creating two series in particular— Perth Amboy (2001) and The Voyage of the Beagle (2007)—that have reached cult-icon status. This photograph of a menhir comes from the latter body of work, a suite of 57 photos presenting a kooky taxonomy of heads (a cigar-store Indian, a young Kevin Bacon, a mannequin of a drag queen, etc.) that adapt Darwin’s investigation of species variations for her own aesthetic kingdom of the rare find, the doesn’t-fit, and the marvelously grotesque.
An artist of Cherokee descent who has been featured in a stunning five Venice Biennales and three Whitney Biennials (including last year’s), Jimmie Durham has built a tremendous body of work of the years that puts a whole panoply of aesthetic approaches—from sculpture to performance to essays—in the service of political activism, which he pursues as part of the American Indian Movement. This piece, composed of iridescent smears of paint on a bright yellow glass disc, approximates with unnerving aesthetic appeal the surface of a body of polluted water that noxious chemicals have transformed into a poisonous sump.
In 2008, the great Belgian painter Luc Tuymans presented a career retrospective in Munich’s Haus der Kunst, which suited the holocaust-haunted artist perfectly—the museum, after all, was built in 1933 on the orders of Adolf Hitler, who wanted an institution dedicated to the display of Aryan art glorifying the German volk. To mark the show, Tuymans, whose specialty has been washed-out portraits of historical abuses of power, created this suite of 17 prints drawn from artworks in the exhibition, and it’s a tour d'horizon of his life’s important work.
The winner of last year’s Turner Prize , the Irish artist Duncan Campbell is known for making riveting, ambitious films that use obscure touchstones of cultural history as springboards for meditative cinema. This piece, melding the sinuous lines of the infamous DeLorean an alluring biomorphic black form, stems from a 2009 film titled Make It New John that chronicled the rise and fall of carmaker John DeLorean as it mirrored both Northern Irish history and the rise of the American middle class.