PLANET ART: The Best Art From Around the World, June 2013

Each month we ask the editors of ARTINFO sites around the world to tell us the most significant work of art or art happening of the month, and gather them together for our column “Planet Art.” (NB: Since we have contributions only from where we have editors, this feature does not literally represent the art of the whole planet.)

To see works from the exhibitions, click on the slideshow.

Cheng Ran, The Last Generation, 2013

Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing

Cheng Ran's audacious “The Last Generation” exhibition is a response to a philosophical detective novel he wrote under the nom de plume “Wojtowircz Fog.” The exhibition presents sample pages from the novel, entitled “Circadian Rhythm,” along with videos, installations, and found objects that provide “evidence” of the fictional narrative's physical existence. The exhibition’s self-referentiality is set in opposition to grand themes, drawing its inspiration from Steffan Postaer’s novel — also titled “The Last Generation” — which posits that the world will end in mental exhaustion, not physical destruction. Yet the show, which continues through July 7, proves that Cheng’s imagination is anything but exhausted. – Lily Li, BLOUIN ARTINFO China

Kirsten Pieroth, “Berliner Pfütze,” 2013

A Space Called Public, Munich

For her contribution to Elmgreen & Dragset’s public art project, “A Space Called Public,” Kirsten Pieroth collected water from numerous puddles around Berlin, later transporting it to Munich and pouring it into a puddle she had to dig herself (Bavarians aren’t particularly tolerant of uneven pavement). The piece opposes the public art stereotype of pieces fit for climbing on and posing next to with a thumbs-up and cheesy smile. It is quiet to an extent that seasoned urbanites would likely walk right on by. But for a city like Munich, which prides itself on fit and finish and quality of life, it has enraged the more hardened citizenry, and dazzled others with pleasures as simple to the typical city-dweller as reflections of tree branches and the negative space between buildings. It reminds of what is often lost in pursuit of perfection: character. Alexander Forbes, BLOUIN ARTINFO Germany

Nina Beier, Real Estate, 2013

Bold Tendencies 2013, London

The summertime sculpture project “Bold Tendencies” is back on the top floors of its South London car park, and this year Nina Beier’s contribution is one of the stars of the show. “Real Estate” (2013) continues a recent series in which the artist pairs geometric blocks of granite with bits of soft furnishing. After car and office-chair headrests, the Berlin-based Dane here combines her blocks with outmoded, padded headboards. Their contrasting textures feel particularly germane to the unique context of “Bold Tendencies”: at once brutally urban and as welcoming as a home. —Coline Milliard, BLOUIN ARTINFO U.K.

Clement Valla, “Paintings from Wushipu”

bitforms, New York

For his contribution to “Vanishing Point,” a group show of works re-framing motifs and issues from art history using cutting-edge technology, ascendant new media art star Clement Valla hung a pair of canvases and accompanying documentation from his neo-Baldessarian “Paintings from Wushipu” series. The pieces consist of paintings he commissioned from artists in the Wushipu Oil Painting Village in China — each composition jarringly combines a copy of a classical landscape painting with a rendering of the modern skyscrapers seen from the Chinese painter's studio — plus accompanying correspondence. The resulting mashups are as conceptually clever as they are visually startling. — Benjamin Sutton, BLOUIN ARTINFO U.S.

Kim Chong-hak, “Chongseokjeong,” 2013

Gallery Hyundai, Seoul

A controversial figurative painter, Kim Chong-hak has built his career on vibrantly hued odes to Mount Seorak, which have also made detractors out of many of his peers and critics. Now 77 years old, Kim continues to paint in his candid style, but among his newest work is “Chongseokjeong,” which depicts a famous view of the legendary Mount Geumgang range. What seems initially like an abstract work is actually a relatively straightforward depiction of the natural rock formations. Nevertheless, the artist’s minimalist palette and forms mark a change in his steadfast character. —Ines Min, BLOUIN ARTINFO Korea

Yuichi Yokoyama, “Room and World Map”

Arataniurano, Tokyo

A formally trained oil painter who turned to manga for the expressive freedom it allowed him in “depicting time,” Yokoyama pares down the formal elements of his chosen medium here to accentuate its frantic dynamism — frames collide frenetically with each other, as if in thrall to a relentless, trance-like, throbbing beat. His expressionless, truncated figures shuttle from one destination to the next, riding trains that hurtle across a spotless but desolate techno-landscape, or wandering through enchanted groves populated by machine-like objects. On display here are original illustrations from his two newest works, which he just published this month, “Sekai Chizu no Ma” (East Press) and “Room” (Harmonica Books), as well as a selection of new collage paintings depicting countless faces of characters taken from his drawings — a hyper-condensed experience of the densely hatched drawings found in his books. — Darryl Jingwen Wee, BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan

Jananne Al-Ani, “Shadow Sites II, 2011

Singapore Art Museum, Singapore

This hypnotic video shows a sequence of aerial shots of desert landscape taken at different altitudes. The formal beauty of the work, showing the landscape as an abstracted visual field, is broken by the sound of an airplane's engines — a chilling reminder of the use of airborne surveillance in contemporary warfare. This slow burn of a work is part of strong survey of Arab art titled “Terms & Conditions,” ongoing at the Singapore Art Museum. — Adeline Chia, BLOUIN ARTINFO Southeast Asia

Shary Boyle, “Silent Dedication,” 2013

55th Venice Biennale, Canadian Pavilion

Quietly ensconced in what is, ultimately, a very disappointing year for Canada’s Venice pavilion, is this sumptuous silent film shot in black-and-white on 16mm, which reels out the captivating gestures of CJ Julien, a Canadian activist for aboriginal women’s rights. Narrating in sign language, Shary Boyle’s subject lends visuals to a script dedicated to the “silenced, the unspoken,” and grounds an otherwise failed exhibition of the ethereal and manipulated allegories from Boyle’s catalogue. Here, an antiquated medium is put to beautiful use, and comes off feeling profound rather than precious. — Sky Goodden, BLOUIN ARTINFO Canada

Pablo Bartholomew, “The Kiss,” 1975


From Gustav Klimt to Pablo Picasso, lovers locking lips has been a recurring art historical theme. But when Indian photographer Pablo Bartholomew first showed his rendition, a photograph titled “Pablo and Pooh” from his archival series “Outside In… A Tale of 3 Cities, the 70s and 80s” — debuting in 2008 at Rencontre D’Arles and now on display at the Obscura Photo Festival in Malaysia — he managed to inscribe its intensity upon the country’s collective visual imagination. Taken during the 1970s, when the now 57-year-old, two-time World Press Photo Award-winning photographer was still in his 20s, the photograph features Bartholomew’s tongue sensuously touching his then lover’s tongue; a possible prelude to a passionate kiss, something that was then forbidden to be seen on Indian cinema and television screens. For a concurrent exhibition of Bartholomew’s series at Delhi-based Photoink, director Devika Daulet-Singh has decided to rechristen the image “The Kiss;” in doing so, he has asserted its rightful place within the art historical family of similar erotically charged images. Viewed in the larger context of the show, the image harks back to a now-bygone era of bell-bottomed pants and LSD trips; the first real iteration of post-Independent India's syncretism with Western subculture. Now, it stands as a testimony to a uniquely urban and somewhat rebellious Indian subculture that was the milieu of Bartholomew’s series. “We were fooling around on an acid trip,” Bartholomew said. “The camera was on a tripod and there was a self-timer involved. This wasn’t pre-planned… it just happened as a stream of thought.” —Rosalyn D’Mello, BLOUIN ARTINFO India

"52 Portraits" by Brook Andrew, 2013

Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Indigenous Australian/Scottish artist Brook Andrew explores notions of identity and the perception of humanity in his new exhibition, which references 19th-century European treatment of indigenous peoples as ethnographic curiosities and the contrasting sacredness that indigenous people of Australia place on the human body. A poignant investigation into the history of the human condition, the exhibition consists of 52 mixed-media portraits featuring images based on 19th-century postcards of unknown people from Africa, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Syria, Sudan, Japan, Australia, as well as a Wunderkammer-inspired centerpiece.  According to Brook Andrew, “names were not recorded when Indigenous peoples were photographed for ethnographic and curio purposes.  The history and identity of these people remain absent. In rare instances, some families might know an ancestor from a postcard.” —Nicholas Forrest, BLOUINARTINFO Australia