A bona fide superstar of the current Web-obsessed avant-garde, the German artist Hito Steyerl is an intellectual powerhouse (she has a PhD in philosophy from Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts) who rose to renown for both her consciousness-shifting essays, like "In Defense of the Poor Image," and her razor-sharp artworks—most famously HOW NOT TO BE SEEN: A F**king Didactic Educational .MOV File, a 2013 film that with trenchant humor advises on ways to hide in the age of omnipresent surveillance and killer drones. (Shown at Andrew Kreps Gallery earlier this year, occasioning Roberta Smith to dub Steyerl "among the most rigorous yet playful artist-filmmakers today," the film was acquired by MoMA.) Easily accessibly (pricewise, at least), this print was made in conjunction with the artist's recent ICA London survey, and offers a chance to collect her work before she attains even greater renown from her shows at Artists Space and Madrid's Reina Sofia next year.
In the mid-1980s, with an arch eye cast toward the readymades of Marcel Duchamp, the Swiss art duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss began taking everyday objects from around the house—sausages, forks, wine bottles, scissors, shoes—and balancing them one atop the other in fantastically precarious arrangements, then photographing them. The resulting compositions, caught bewitchingly between the evanescent and the eternal, later became the inspiration for the pair's most famous work, the belief-defying Rube Goldberg-esque video The Way Things Go (1987). Accompanied by a signed limited-edition book displaying the sweep of the Equilibres series (which was surveyed at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2007), this photograph perfectly captures the artists' extraordinarily energizing devil-may-care conceptualism.
It takes decades of changing weather conditions for a tree to grow out its cycles of rings, and the artist Jason Middlebrook approaches this history with tender respect in the paintings he makes on planks of gorgeous wood, creating colorful abstract lines that duet with the curves of the wood's grain to yield dazzling patterns. "The tree," he says, "is the narrative." This piece, made with spray paint on a slice of Lapacho wood (aka Brazilian walnut), is an opportunity to collect a signature work by the artist, who earlier this year showed SITE Santa Fe and CAM Houston, as well as Zach Feuer and Joel Mesler's tastemaking Retrospective gallery. (He also currently has a show at Chicago's Monique Meloche gallery, and is on view at EXPO Chicago this weekend.)
A engaged political voice who identifies as a feminist artist, Andrea Bowers is deeply skeptical of others who strip their work of sociopolitical signifiers in an attempt to create a form of pure "Art," saying, "As far as I can tell, "Art" is about the interests and identities of a modernist tradition of Euroethnic men and is easily consumed by a capitalist system because its politics coincide with the agendas of those in power." In this colored-pencil drawing, she powerfully fuses the political and the aesthetic: irresistibly graphic and with gripping colors, the composition is a call to support the DREAM Act (it stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), which Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch introduced in the Senate in 2001 to allow for certain illegal immigrants who arrived in the country as children to obtain citizenship.
In the mid-1960s, Leo Castelli's right-hand dealer Ivan Karp turned to Warhol and lamented that "The only thing that no one deals with now these days is pastorals." Doubtless thinking of the lowing scenes of Stubbs and Gainsborough, he added, "My favorite subject is cows." An expert at taking direction, Warhol got to work, and for his next show at Castelli, in 1966, he wallpapered the space with his now-famous garishly colored heads of cattle, which he lifted from an agricultural magazine (just as he lifted his flowers from Modern Photography). This signed strip of wall paper is a witty piece of art history, and a disarming pattern that has been riffed on by artists from Mike Bidlo to Thomas Bayrle.
Because Kristen Morgin's shows often look like country yard sales, with tattered magazines, toys, Pez dispensers, and other childhood ephemera displayed unprepossessingly on tabletops, one could be forgiven for mistaking her for an accumulation artist trafficking in mite-ridden nostalgia. But now look closer: every last item, from the '50s-era circus set to the dime-store cowboy novel, is recreated out of clay. Her superhuman command of the craft is apparent in this seemingly time-battered mix of a Casper the Friendly Ghost sticker, a Monopoly playing card, and other elements, all of which were rendered in paint, ink, marker and unﬁred clay.