Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

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
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick 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
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Issue 18 November 2019

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
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–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
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Issue 17 August 2019

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
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
–Julie Weitz

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

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Issue 16 May 2019

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
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
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Issue 15 February 2019

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
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–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
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Issue 14 November 2018

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
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
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Issue 13 August 2018

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
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
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Issue 12 May 2018

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
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
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Issue 11 February 2018

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
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
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Issue 10 November 2017

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
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
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
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.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

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
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


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

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.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
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
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Exquisite L.A.
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

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

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
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

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.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
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.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

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

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

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.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
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
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Issue 2 November 2015

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
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
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
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

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.)
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1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Zombie(s in Candy)land: Sula Bermúdez-Silverman’s Sugar and Salt

Leer en Español

Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Repository I: Mother (2021). Isomalt sugar, Himalayan sea salt, epoxy resin, and found object, 44 × 36 × 56 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Murmurs. Photo: Josh Schaedel.

In February, FLOTUS Jill Biden festooned the White House’s North Lawn with giant Valentine’s Day hearts in pink, white, and red, reminiscent of candy hearts but plastered instead with words like “unity,” “family,” and “compassion.” A fleshy-pink plea for unity is, strictly speaking, conservative. It is the sugary coating that, for liberals and the like, posits Biden’s inauguration as a sweet promise and distracts them from the astringent core of the candy heart: what is unity without equality? (On the other side of the dystopic coin, no different in its decadent flaunting of U.S. imperialism, is former FLOTUS Melania Trump’s militant Christmas decorations: placenta-red trees lining an East Wing hallway of the White House).

Since February, I have been wondering whether this image of candy hearts crystallizes my pre-pandemic idea that we most likely live in a type of Candyland. I am alluding to the race to reach the finish: in this case, the White House, with the pandemic instigating a particle accelerator-like dash toward autocratic technocracy and heightened U.S. imperialism, obfuscated by bittersweet pleas for safety. The proletariat, in turn, are merely pawns in an accelerated race that ends in the merging of corporate and state power. The aestheticizing disguise of the White House via FLOTUS’ décor suggests that, as philosopher Walter Benjamin forewarned: “the logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.”1 

The primary ingredient in both Biden’s décor and the child’s board game, candy—or sugar—is also inherently a seminal capitalist, colonial project with its roots in the Caribbean (hence its designation as the “sugar revolution”).2 As a highly sought-after monoculture, 17th- and 18th-century sugar production singlehandedly expedited the plantation complex, the Atlantic slave trade, white colonization, and the commerce industry. I thought of this as I strolled through the quiet corridors of Sula Bermúdez-Silverman’s lane of sugary architecture at the California African American Museum (CAAM). The dimly lit gallery of Neither Fish, Flesh, nor Fowl, Sula’s first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles, was illuminated by the candy-pink glow of 10 life-size dollhouses—one made from glass, and nine cast in sugar from her childhood dollhouse. However, unlike the deceptive opacity of the festive blending of politic and aesthetic spearheaded by the aforementioned first ladies, Bermúdez-Silverman’s candied dollhouses have a viscous translucency to them. Hardened simple syrup radiates a bioluminescent glow, making these houses look like organisms of the deep sea. Bermúdez-Silverman, who is of Afro-Puerto Rican and Jewish descent, uses sugar as both a nod to her ancestors who worked on sugarcane plantations in Puerto Rico and the larger legacy of sugar as a major commodity of early colonialist capitalism in the Caribbean economy. Sugary façades have oft been utilized as ornaments of obfuscation, concealment, or political appeasement (like Biden, adorning hard architectures of power with a saccharine sweetness), but Bermúdez-Silverman uses sugar to expose the very architecture of obfuscation itself by allowing us to peer inside the hollow, translucent center of her sugary façades. Her use of sugar and light marry to become literal and metaphorical lighthouses, illuminating the otherwise invisible architectural nexus of neocolonialism, capitalist cultural exchange, and the hyper-whiteness of popular culture.

In the year since her show opened at CAAM, Bermúdez-Silverman has continued to expand upon her investigation of sugar and illumination. In her most recent show, Sighs and Leers and Crocodile Tears at Murmurs, the transparency of sugar is once again made visible by a luminosity from underneath. In Turning Heel (2021), two sugar-cast, reptilian monster hands extend from a mound of Himalayan salt, balancing a glass praying mantis between their claws. In the smaller, darkened gallery space, the Porthole series (2021) consists of ghostly sugar or resin dollhouse windows that serve as miniature frames cradling insects, found objects, and illuminated, celluloid tableaus embedded in the sugar panes, including one of Michael Jackson metamorphosizing into the undead in the music video for “Thriller.” As a whole, the exhibition interweaves the materiality of sugar with its prevalence in Haitian and Caribbean plantations and the forgotten folkloric origin story of the zombie. 

The legend of the zombie finds its roots in Haitian Vodou when enslaved workers were brought from West Africa to sugar plantations in French-occupied Haiti. Not dissimilar to the undead liminality of the zombie, the enslaved worker exists in a similar alive-but-dead state. Jamaican-American sociologist Orlando Patterson takes this further, theorizing that the enslaved Black person becomes culturally entrapped in “social death” because he has no “socially recognized existence outside of his master.”3 The folkloric zombie, therefore, is not a bloodthirsty, monstrous predator—but rather, according to cultural critics, an allegorical figure of enslavement. In Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s essay “Undead (A Zombie Oriented Ontology),” he notes that “the zombie is a beast of burden that his master exploits without mercy, making him work in the fields… whipping him freely and feeding him on meager, tasteless food.”4 The devil was also said to abhor salt. Salt, thus, was considered an antidote, as even a grain was said to reanimate the zombie and potentially give it the strength to kill its master.5 Salt—as taste, as sensorial pleasure, as mineral sustenance—is then also a vehicle for Black joy and pleasure. Given the state’s denial of pleasure for oppressed peoples, Black joy has prevailed as a survival strategy of harm reduction and liberation.

Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Turning Heel (detail) (2021). Himalayan salt, isomalt sugar, and glass found object, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist and Murmurs. Photo: Josh Schaedel.

With the Vodou origins of the zombie in mind, the role of pink salt throughout Bermúdez-Silverman’s Murmurs exhibition takes on a greater significance. The pink salt not only appears as finely ground, fertile sand from which discombobulated and protesting limbs yearn upwards and outwards, but also as Himalayan salt bricks that form three illuminated substrates to uphold three new iterations of the cast dollhouse—one in sugar, one in glass, and one in coarse Himalayan salt. In particular, the salt house, Repository III: Resurrector (2021), intimates a futurity for rebirth and reclamation. Unlike the sugar or glass houses, which are conventionally rectangular and sit upon rectangular, salt bases, both the house itself, and the base of Resurrector are triangular: a geometric, architectural, and symbolic base of strength, ascension, and culmination. Where the sugar house has no exterior staircase and the glass house only a miniature, glass one that falls short of reaching the threshold, the salt house includes an illuminated salt-brick staircase that leads to its front door. It is perhaps from this staircase that the undead can ascend into the open salt house, which, void of any roof, is ripe for the possibility of resuscitation.

In considering Haiti’s ancestry of vanguardism as the first and last nation to undergo a successful slave revolution, zombification parallels colonization in its re-enactment of master-slave dynamics. In its contemporary political landscape, the U.S. continues to inflict an imperial zombification upon Haiti through its occupation and refusal to recognize Haiti’s democracy and eternal debt bondage (undeadness). In reconnecting the zombie to its Haitian origins through sugar and salt, Bermúdez-Silverman motions toward a futurity of undoing undeadness: the liberation of the zombie, the liberation of the enslaved, and the liberation of the (neo)colonial, racialized subject and nation. 

The largest work in the Murmurs show, Carrefour Pietá / Be My Victim (2021), is a knitted, six-paneled figurative tapestry that combines two images: a film still from the Hollywood zombie B-film I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and a reinterpretation of Michelangelo’s Pietá (1498–99) featuring a Black Jesus. Bermúdez-Silverman weaves together these almost-mirror images in a snake-like fashion, with each black and light green panel of the tapestry alternating between the two images. The result is a sense of both fragmentation and extension—Carrefour, the silent, imposing, zombie-like Black “native” from I Walked with a Zombie carries Jessica, the zombified white woman donning a virginal robe, while a white-shrouded Mother Mary contemplates her dead son’s limp Black body. I Walked with a Zombie is a classic example of early Hollywood “zombie women” films, in which the sexually desirable white heroine becomes tainted by an otherized monster, set amidst a backdrop of “tropical” exoticism (sometimes even a Haitian sugar plantation.)6 Carrefour Pietá makes a direct visual comparison between the quality of lifelessness of the Black Jesus and Jessica—two racialized, gendered tropes in North American pop culture that, when romantically entangled under fears of miscegenation, vilifies the Black man and victimizes the white woman. Here, the limp, lifeless bodies of both Jessica and Black Jesus are extended and fragmented, yet reassembled to juxtapose and complicate the whiteness and Blackness of each. Bermúdez-Silverman confronts the disturbing legacy of white women’s weaponization of victimhood (or shall we say, “Karen-hood”), revealing that Hollywood’s zombie is inseparable from a colonialist discourse that horrifically usurps history and identity, erasing and even reversing the roles of the victims. How is it that the white woman may escape zombification unscathed? The legacy of the North American zombie transposes the zombiehood of the enslaved Black victim to the virginal white colonizing “victim.” Perhaps then, in Carrefour Pietá, the ever-virginal, immaculate-conceiving Mother Mary repents. 

Looming underneath the tapestry and bathed in a soft pink glow emanating from various sugar sculptures, the sea of fleshy pink salt—similar in hue to FLOTUS’ pink “kindness” heart— seems to paradoxically embody the white virgin just as it does its curative, antidotal properties. The white woman victim is safe and free to imbibe in the luxury of enjoying taste, pleasure, and antidote. For the Haitian zombie, the antidote is, tantalizingly, often just out of reach. The sea of pink, while a sea of potential antidote, is one not free from white oppression and persisting neocolonialism. It is from this sea that the Haitian zombie may arise. 


While writing this essay, I spoke to Bermúdez-Silverman on the phone, and she asked me how cloudy the dollhouses at CAAM had looked during my recent visit. (CAAM was closed to the public for much of the pandemic, and as a result, it had been months since she had been able to visit her show.) She tells me that the sugar dollhouses are ephemeral: with time, the transparency of the sugar degrades, the sugar fogged by humidity. The transparency of architectures of white violence (that obscure the historical origins of minoritarian oppression) which Bermúdez-Silverman has labored to illuminate, therefore, is ephemeral: over time, she says, the houses most likely will disintegrate. I am left to wonder which will be first to completely disintegrate: architectures of hegemonic power or strategies of resistance, such as illumination and visibilization.

This review was originally published in Carla issue 24.

Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Repository I: Mother (detail) (2021). Isomalt sugar, Himalayan sea salt, epoxy resin, and found object, 44 × 36 × 56 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Murmurs. Photo: Josh Schaedel.

Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, The Monster’s Bride (She’s Alive!) (2020). Wool and viscose yarn, 25 × 18 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Murmurs. Photo: Josh Schaedel.

Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Sighs and Leers and Crocodile Tears (installation view) (2021). Image courtesy of the artist and Murmurs. Photo: Josh Schaedel.

Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Carrefour Pietà / Be My Victim (detail) (2021). Wool and acrylic yarn, 140 × 57 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Murmurs. Photo: Josh Schaedel.

  1. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (United Kingdom: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1968).
  2. B.W. Higman “The Sugar Revolution.” The Economic History Review, New Series, 53, no. 2 (2000): 213-36. Accessed March 29, 2021.
  3. Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death. (United Kingdom: Harvard University Press, 1982).
  4. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Undead (A Zombie Oriented Ontology).” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 23, no. 3 (86) (2012): 397-412. Accessed March 4, 2021.
  5. Hans-W. Ackermann and Jeanine Gauthier. “The Ways and Nature of the Zombi” The Journal of American Folklore 104, no. 414 (1991): 466-94. Accessed March 29, 2021. doi:10.2307/541551.
  6. Aizenberg, Edna. “‘I Walked with a Zombie’: The Pleasures and Perils of Postcolonial Hybridity.” World Literature Today 73, no. 3 (1999): 461-66. Accessed March 5, 2021. doi:10.2307/40154871.

stephanie mei huang is an L.A.-based interdisciplinary artist. They use a diverse range of media and strategies, including film/video, writing, sculpture, and painting. They were a participant in the Whitney Independent Study program (2022) and received their MFA from the California Institute of the Arts (2020).

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