Issue 26

Issue 25

Issue 24

Issue 23

Issue 22

Issue 21

Issue 20

Issue 19

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon

Issue 18

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg

Issue 17

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

Issue 16

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden

Issue 15

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon

Issue 14

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon

Issue 13

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown

Issue 12

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan

Issue 11

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn

Issue 10

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum

Issue 9

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers

Issue 8

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth

Issue 7

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing

Issue 6

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)

Issue 5

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)

Issue 4

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)

Issue 3

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES

Issue 2

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen

Issue 1

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Distribution
Downtown
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ICA LA
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Murmurs
Nicodim Gallery
Night Gallery
OOF Books
Over the Influence
Royale Projects
Sow & Tailor
The Box
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the Landing
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Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Your Turn, My Turn, Our Turn: How Christine Sun Kim Reimagines Sound

Read in Spanish

Photo: AJ Mast/The New York Times/Redux.

Wearing a periwinkle Opening Ceremony dress and her signature dark lipstick, multidisciplinary artist Christine Sun Kim captivated millions of viewers with her evocative performance of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” at the 2020 Super Bowl.1 The California-born, Berlin-based artist had been invited by the National Association of the Deaf to sign both songs alongside singers Demi Lovato and Yolanda Adams. Instead of signing the English versions of the songs, a word-for-word translation that leaves Deaf viewers alienated and confused, Kim chose to translate the lyrics into American Sign Language (ASL), which, as she explained to ArtNet, has an “entirely different syntax and grammar compared to English.”2 Signed renditions that follow the English text end up warping ASL, making it seem as if the signs are an exact reproduction of English words. However, ASL, like Haitian Creole or African-American Vernacular English, is a distinct language with its own unique rules. ASL is a physical expression, one that turns the body into a visual palette. Ideas are conveyed through handshape, facial expression, speed, and posture. For example, English requires three different words to express “I ask her,” while one sign is used for the same phrase in ASL. Kim’s rendition signaled her intention to center ASL, a language unfairly maligned and misunderstood by the hearing world. (As with most cultures and languages that threaten the status quo, the United States has a shameful history of suppressing ASL in a bid to assimilate Deaf children and adults into a hearing frame of mind. For example, during the Progressive Era, schools were forbidden to teach sign language. Some organizations continue to falsely argue that ASL negatively impacts the acquisition of spoken language).3

What should have been a triumphant moment for the Deaf community and ASL was spoiled by Fox Sports’ decision to interrupt Kim’s performance with video footage of players on the sidelines. Even the “bonus” online feed on the Fox Sports website, which was supposed to be dedicated entirely to Kim, repeatedly cut away from her spirited signing. In an op-ed published the following day, Kim wrote that the broadcast was “a missed opportunity in the struggle for media inclusiveness on a large scale.”4 This incident succinctly distills neoliberal solutions to inclusion and difference—often symbolic olive branches that ultimately reify the supremacy of the status quo. Accordingly, Kim’s art practice seeks out these inflections of power and ambiguity, examining how they materialize across social settings and interactions by bending our conception of voice and collectivity.

In her work, which incorporates drawings, participatory performances, installation, text, and video, Kim often explores her expansive relationship to sound and spoken word. Unsatisfied with our perfunctory approach to communication, Kim urges viewers to recognize the fluidity of language, wherein meanings can shift and reorient depending on a rush of variables, from personal intention to physical space to historical legacy. Her charcoal drawings, in particular, have garnered breathless praise for their punkish observations inspired by her experiences as a Deaf woman navigating an audio-centric world. These drawings have addressed Deaf rage, personal decisions around lip reading and speech therapy, and the way sound infuses quotidian tasks (waiting at the doctor’s office, grocery shopping). One characteristic work, entitled Shit Hearing People Say to Me (2019), depicts a simple pie chart divided into 14 slices, each labeled with an offensive comment made to the artist by a hearing person. In other works, Kim has imagined the sounds emitted by nontraditional sources like obsession and climate change. While Kim provides meaningful insight into the nuances of her experience as a Deaf person, we would be mistaken to approach her practice as a one-way, voyeuristic window into Deafness, for doing so flattens the blissful swirl of provocative ideas animating the work. By retooling complex thoughts and emotions into pithy, meme-like sketches, Kim opens up the possibilities of spoken language and sound, revealing them to be a “multi-sensory phenomenon, one whose properties are auditory, visual, and spatial, as well as socially determined.”5

Kim taps into the frustration spurred by the Super Bowl performance—and, obliquely, other major 2020 events (the lockdown caused by Covid-19, the uprisings against anti-Blackness)—in her recent solo exhibition, Trauma, LOL, at François Ghebaly in Los Angeles, the first to focus exclusively on her drawings.6 Upon entering the gallery, viewers were greeted by two works derived from her February 2020 Super Bowl performance, excerpts of the visual score based on her translation of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” into ASL (America the Beautiful and The Star-Spangled Banner [Third Verse], all works 2020). Immediately, you are brought into Kim’s experience of language as a porous zone composed of overlapping grammars and creative gaps. The exhibition showcases her idiosyncratic communication styles, where clocks track psychological triggers and musical bar lines represent virtuosic fingers. (In Kim’s works, she alters her visualization of a musical score from the standard five lines to four, signifying the ASL sign for musical score in which the thumb is tucked and four fingers move horizontally from left to right). She appropriates symbols from various visual communication systems—Venn diagrams, the smiley faces from feeling charts, line graphs, musical notations—molding them into a score attuned to the multi-sensory properties of her perspective. Minimal and spiked with dry humor, the 22 drawings cover broad conceptual ground, from the meaning of United States patriotism for marginalized groups and the spatial dimensions of power to the influence of language on conceptions of self and belonging. 

Kim began working with sound in 2008, shifting from a focus on painting to a liminal practice that joined all her interests. Though her mediums might change from project to project, her focus on aural environments remains a steadfast motif. Growing up, she had been taught to treat sound as separate from her, an out-of-reach quality that belonged only to hearing people. This false separation led her to “constantly [question] the ownership of sound.”7 She realized that her own visceral connection to sound had been severed by the limitations of the spoken world, and she sought to unlearn everything she was taught. When her artistic pivot led to more and more institutional support, she began thinking about the social dimensions of sound. “Sound is like money, power, control—a social currency,” she outlined during her 2015 TED Talk.8 Her work investigates this quality, attuned to the ways our society grossly underestimates the meanings of sound and silence, while implicitly guarding who has access to it. 

Christine Sun Kim, Turning Clock (2020). Mural, 136 × 40 inches (dimensions adaptable). Image courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Photo: Paul Salveson.

Kim has compared signing to music in the past, noting how both depend on space and inflection.9 Meaning can be altered by delicate tweaks in pitch, tone, and volume. Using the piano as a metaphor to better visualize the textures of signing, Kim contrasts the “linearity” of English, where one key is played at a time, to the chord progressions of ASL: “All 10 fingers need to come down simultaneously to express a clear concept or idea.”10 If one key changes, the whole is affected. I’m reminded of a painting by Deaf artist Susan Dupor, Stream of Consciousness (2003). In it, a swimmer drifts serenely down a river, floating on a bed of disembodied hands. The work illustrates Dupor’s unending flow of thoughts, a literal and metaphorical translation of her relationship to language, a melding of body and mind that disrupts our conceptions of normative ability. Like Dupor, Kim has created a vocabulary that hews closer to her own process, rather than forcing it into preconceived notions of “proper” communication. Both artists’ renderings of thought as an embodied practice reveal the elasticity of sign language, and how its range can reinvigorate the audio-centric perspective for the better. Kim attempts to capture this dexterity. Poet M. NourbeSe Philip wrote that to speak another language is to “enter another consciousness,”11 and Kim delights in these overlaps between language and perception.

Several works in the exhibition wrestle with years of oppression and trauma caused by ableist norms, as in Three Tables III (AGB, HPA, DTS), which reimagines various social obstacles familiar to Deaf folks as a set of large wobbly tables stacked on top of each other at varying heights. The tables, which also resemble elongated musical staffs or unstable track and field hurdles, are each labeled with a trauma. The bottom two read “dinner table syndrome” and “hearing people anxiety” in reference to specific instances of exclusion: being in a space where the conversation is not signed and being expected to manage the outsized expectations of an audio-centric world. The top table in the drawing, rising above the others, is labeled “Alexander Graham Bell,” who is frequently celebrated as the inventor of the telephone at the expense of remembering his eugenics-informed crusade against sign language. Pairing Bell with the other two phrases provides a deft glimpse at a knotted web of disenfranchisement, from intimate to institutional (Bell played a major role in the banning of ASL in schools across the country.)12 The works Trauma as a Baby—which charts traumas across different stages of life on a graph of time versus impact—and Deaf Traumas—a circular arrangement of smiley faces that range from happy to sad based on Kim’s reaction to each situation notated—grapple with rage and personal boundaries in ways that are not new to Kim. She has used charts to express these realities before but in these drawings she excavates a history of exclusion that touches most environments and relationships. What is the best way to express an unimaginable situation or feeling? Similar to ASL or musical notes, Kim reminds us how difficult it is to capture on paper the essence of words, emotions, and memories. Slippages and misunderstandings will abound. 

In “Critical Care,” an Artforum essay on artist Park McArthur, Colby Chamberlain cites Kim alongside Carolyn Lazard, Jesse Darling, and McArthur as examples of artists whose work takes “disability as praxis—as modes of thought, embodied knowledges, affective alliances.”13 Although the intentions behind their efforts shouldn’t be entirely yoked to academic theories, Chamberlain contends that the parallels between their practices and disability studies provide an extra layer of context for their destabilization of ability and identity. Moreover, their work enacts a reconsideration of the avant-garde in their commitment to “dispelling the myth of autonomy.”14 Disability studies trouble the “naturalness” of concepts of independence and normality, exposing them instead as strategies of social control and dispossession akin to race, gender, sexuality, and class. As scholar and professor Rosemarie Garland Thomson writes in her 1996 book Extraordinary Bodies, “stairs, for example, create a functional ‘impairment’ for wheelchair users that ramps do not. Printed information accommodates the sighted but ‘limits’ blind persons. Deafness is not a disabling condition in a community that communicates by signing as well as speaking.”15 Like the avant-garde, disability studies distrust the borders of normality, stretching them beyond recognition.

Kim continues this defiance of the status quo, disrupting the myth of ability with drawings that simultaneously poke fun while recoiling in horror at America’s authoritarian approach to difference. When Grammar Mood uses a Venn diagram to depict the slippery movement between ASL, Deaf English, and written English. While alluding to gaps of relations, the drawing signals the friction between languages—how the attempt to join two or more perspectives can lead to questions of power and agency. As someone fluent in a language that is deprioritized in the United States and who must forge an affirming bond with interpreters to translate her speaking voice, Kim is intimate with the fraught negotiations that mark Deafness in an audio-centric world. Rather than describe her experience as a narrative of deprivation, hers is a world of radical collaboration, one that stands in stark contrast to the superficial self-sufficiency hawked by mainstream society.

Turning Clock reflects upon this potential for partnership. The largest drawing in the show, rendered directly on the gallery wall, the mural borrows the repeating clock symbol, replacing the numbers with hands suspended in a familiar phrase: an L-shape created by extending the middle finger and thumb while tucking in the remaining fingers. Depending on the direction of the hand, the sign can either mean “your turn” or “my turn.” The sign rotates around in a sun-like arc, each sign gesturing toward a different viewer in the gallery’s imagined audience until eventually the circle is complete and all have been acknowledged. Like most of Kim’s work, the drawing doubles as a subtle call to action that, while rooted in her personal experience, presses for a broad language of collective reciprocity.

Allison Noelle Conner’s writing has appeared in Bitch, Hyperallergic, and Triangle House Review. She lives in Los Angeles.

Christine Sun Kim, Trauma, LOL (installation view) (2020). Image courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Photo: Paul Salveson.

Christine Sun Kim, Deaf Traumas (2020). Charcoal on paper, 49.25 × 49.25 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Photo: Paul Salveson.

Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader, Tables and Windows (video still) (2016). Two-channel HD video, Tables: 9 minutes, 14 seconds, Windows: 10 minutes, 16 seconds. Image courtesy of the artists, Carroll / Fletcher, London, and François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel.

Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader, Tables and Windows (video still) (2016). Two-channel HD video, Tables: 9 minutes, 14 seconds, Windows: 10 minutes, 16 seconds. Image courtesy of the artists, Carroll / Fletcher, London, and François Ghebaly, Los Angeles. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel.


This essay was originally published in Carla issue 23.

  1. NADvlogs, “Christine Sun Kim Performs the National Anthem / Super Bowl LIV,” Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2TCT5HYlHQ.
  2. Zachary Small, “Christine Sun Kim, the Transgressive Deaf Artist, Will Sign the National Anthem Alongside Demi Lovato During the Super Bowl,” Artnet News, December 21, 2020, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/christine-sun-kim-national-anthem-super-bowl-1763775.
  3. Sara Novic, “The Hearing World Must Stop Forcing Deaf Culture to Assimilate,” NBC News, January 10, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/hearing-world-must-stop-forcing-deaf-culture-assimilate-ncna812461.
  4. Christine Sun Kim, “I Performed at the Super Bowl. You Might Have Missed Me,” The New York Times, December 21, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/opinion/national-anthem-sign-language.html.
  5. “Christine Sun Kim: Off the Charts,” MIT List Visual Art Center, December 21, 2020, https://listart.mit.edu/exhibitions/christine-sun-kim-charts-0.
  6. Kate Brown, “‘I Want to Be Able to Maintain My Clear Voice’: Artist Christine Sun Kim on Translating Her 2020 into Trenchant New Drawings,” Artnet, January 13, 2021, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/christine-sun-kim-profile-1931118.
  7. NOWNESS, “Christine Sun Kim” by Todd Selby, YouTube, December 21, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqJA0SZm9zI&t=334s.
  8. “Christine Sun Kim: The enchanting music of sign language,” TED Fellows Retreat 2015, December 21, 2020, https://www.ted.com/talks/christine_sun_kim_the_enchanting_music_of_sign_language?language=en#t-69288.
  9. “Christine Sun Kim: The enchanting music of sign language,” TedTalk Retreat 2015, January 10, 2020, https://www.ted.com/talks/christine_sun_kim_the_enchanting_music_of_sign_language?language=en#t-69288.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Marlene Nourbese Philip, “Managing the Unmanageable,” Caribbean Women Writers, S. R. Cudjoe (ed.), Wellesley, Callaloo, 1990, p 296.
  12. Allegra Ringo, “Understanding Deafness: Not Everyone Wants to be ‘Fixed,’” The Atlantic, January 10, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/understanding-deafness-not-everyone-wants-to-be-fixed/278527.
  13. Colby Chamberlain, “Critical Care,” Artforum, December 21, 2020, https://www.artforum.com/print/202008/colby-chamberlain-on-the-art-of-park-mcarthur-83947.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Rosemarie Garland Thomson. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. (New York: Columbia University Press), 7.

Allison Noelle Conner is a writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Art in America, Broccoli Magazine, Hyperallergic, and elsewhere.

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