reviews > COVID-19

Disability and illness have been debilitatingly underrepresented and misconstrued in contemporary American culture. One solution is to heed those artists creating languages equal to the expression of their own and others’ lived experiences of these conditions. Rituals, a spring show at the Laurie M. Tisch Gallery in Manhattan (closed, extended and partially reopened due to the pandemic), reveals the need for, and challenges of, such an endeavor. Paintings by Ezra Benus, who also curated the exhibition, use the tools of abstract painting—multihued triangles, webs of coordinated color—to visualize his feelings of chronic pain and medicalization. A circle graph invented by Yo-Yo Lin, presented as a touchable wood relief, diary pages, and a mural (meant to have been filled in during a live performance), tracks the soft data of her own daily life, including logistics, body image and social pressures. Neon tubes installed by Romily Alice Walden, with copious white wires like so many hospital system hookups, shine at a level of brightness corresponding to the wellness of a sick or disabled participant. The intentional inadequacy of Walden’s system, even while it makes visible what has too often been rendered invisible, forces an uncomfortable irony for the viewer. That seems fair.

—Lori Waxman 2020-12-08 1:24 PM