8 Standout Artists at the 58th Carnegie International

Tara Fay Coleman
Sep 27, 2022 10:12PM

Thu Van Tran, installation view of Colors of Grey, 2022, in the 58th Carnegie International at Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo by Sean Eaton. Courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.

The Carnegie International, the longest-running North American presentation of international art, opened its 58th edition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 24th. Featuring work by over 100 artists and collectives, the 2022 iteration of the International necessitated not only a Pittsburgh-based curatorial team, but a broader international curatorial council and advisory group to help create and shape the exhibition.

Titled “Is it morning for you yet?”—a reference to an expression in Mayan Kaqchikel culture, which is customary to ask instead of saying “Good morning”—the show was organized by Sohrab Mohebbi, the Kathe and Jim Patrinos Curator of the 58th Carnegie International, and associate curator Ryan Inouye, with curatorial assistant Talia Heiman.

Melike Kara, installation view of qarajorlu / pahlevanlu (left); darreh gaz (dorunger valley / bajgiran region) (right); and weaving (background), all works 2022, in the 58th Carnegie International at Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo by Sean Eaton. Courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.


Mohebbi, who also serves as the director of New York’s SculptureCenter, emphasized that it was important to bring in a team that can speak to the global perspective of contemporary art, and that “without having the generosity of knowledge sharing, this could not have taken place.” The International is billed as “an overview of how art and artists respond to the critical questions of our time,” and offers myriad positions, which Mohebbi believes could impact how we think about art and life.

Broadly, the show, which runs through April 2, 2023, is a transformative learning experience that considers different histories of abstraction, methodologies of making, and materiality. At the same time, it’s a highly political survey of contemporary artists who ask viewers to consider acknowledging each other’s pains through their work. The exhibition decentralizes art in the United States, presenting work that, as Mohebbi explained, “expands beyond curatorial conceits and categories.”

The broader curatorial team chose not to respond to the pressures of the art market or celebrity culture, and instead focused on using this opportunity to bring different artistic voices to the forefront of international art, seeking works that reflected many versions of the idea of “contemporary.”

Here are eight standout artists from this year’s Carnegie International who explore complex histories and address critical issues of our time.

LaToya Ruby Frazier, detail of More Than Conquerors: A Monument For Community Health Workers of Baltimore, Maryland, 2021–22, at Carnegie Museum of Art, 2022. Photo by Sean Eaton. Courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.

A community health worker is a frontline public health professional who is a trusted member, or has an unusually close understanding, of the community they serve. They often act as liaisons between residents, health care systems, and state departments, and aid in advocacy, outreach, and education for those in need.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s work More Than Conquerors: A Monument for Community Health Workers of Baltimore, Maryland (2021–22) is a monument to both these workers and their collaborators, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pittsburgh-born artist, who is showing in the International for the first time, was awarded with the Carnegie Prize for this work.

Frazier’s photographic installation focuses on the health workers she connected with over a three-month period in Baltimore through workshops that were part of a study led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity. The piece includes double-sided texts and images displayed on modified IV poles that are socially distanced, each focusing on health workers’ stories.

Frazier’s work glorifies and supports these figures while they’re still here, while also serving as a resource to teach about community health work as a profession. Ultimately, the piece provides insight into a specific community, within the context of a pandemic that affected populations all over the world.

Kate Millett, Tower with Guards, 1968. Courtesy of the Kate Millett Trust and Carnegie Museum of Art.

The late Kate Millett’s work, as well as her writing, was a formative influence on second-wave feminism. In works including those at the International, such as Tower with Guards (1968), Millet challenged systems of power that seek to silence, manipulate, and entrap the marginalized, while calling out those who are complicit in these systems.

The concept of this entrapment has been a consistent subject within her work. Her cage sculptures included in the exhibition explore the notion of confinement through various themes, including domesticity, the patriarchy, and systems of oppression. Through the lens of our current social and political climate, these works are more timely than ever, relating to issues around immigration, mass incarceration, women’s reproductive rights, and protections for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Banu Cennetoğlu, mock-up of right?, 2022. Courtesy of the artist, Rodeo Gallery, and Carnegie Museum of Art.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document that sets out fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It is a milestone document, drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world. Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu’s right? (2022) features 10 of the document’s 30 articles through gold Mylar letter balloons that deflate throughout the run of the exhibition. The work considers the impermanence of ideas as objects, and asks if rights can remain if they aren’t being upheld.

The document exists for the purpose of states all over the world to collectively avoid the atrocities and suffering brought about by World War II. However, according to the United Nations, it doesn’t have the power to be legally enforced, nor is it followed everywhere—which implies the fragility of what’s been proposed, and how, ultimately, it’s not sustainable.

Hiromi Tsuchida, installation view of Binoculars, 1982/2022, and Lunch Box, 1982/2022, from the series “Hiroshima,” in the 58th Carnegie International at Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo by Sean Eaton. Courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.

Hiromi Tsuchida’s “Hiroshima Collection” (1982/2002) is a memorial to the lost, as well as a reminder of the atrocities committed by the U.S. against Japan in 1945. The Japanese photographer’s images of objects from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum include texts that briefly detail the lives of the objects’ owners, many of whom were children.

Although they are presented in a way that implies complete neutrality by the artist, in its representation of identities and backgrounds, the works humanize the subjects in a manner that history often fails to do. This documentation of seemingly mundane objects is a profound exploration of the lasting impact of the atomic bomb, and how the affects still resonate today, as well as the importance of knowledge sharing.

Margarita Azurdia

Margarita Azurdia is thought to be one of the most important artists in Guatemalan history. Mohebbi described her works The Coming of the Goddess and La Libertad (both 1970–74) as the “deities of the show.” These pieces are part of a group of 50 wood sculptures that were painted and carved by local artisans, based on the artist’s drawings and specifications.

These sculptures reflect Azurdia’s anti-establishment and feminist views, through the lens of Central America. Embedded with indigenous elements and referencing the complex cultural history of Guatemala, these forms exist between abstraction, realism, and Azurdia’s own fantasies and imagination. Azurdia will be the focus of a solo exhibition opening at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid this November.

I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih

I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih, Berdadan, 2002, Courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.

The late Balinese artist I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih’s paintings allude to the violence and trauma she experienced at a young age. These subversive paintings offer a necessary perspective in the context of the International, one that concentrates on form, agency over one’s body, pleasure, sexuality, and at the root of it all, survival.

These paintings and their graphic nature challenge societal norms, and confront viewers with a distorted idea of the body, one that is both grotesque and comical. A self-taught artist, Murniasih created otherworldly images that are somewhat at odds with the simplicity of her style. The artist brings a sense of whimsy despite her explicit representations. Her works challenge viewers to embrace playfulness and reconsider social conventions around sensuality, and how we view the body.

In Forbidden Colors (1988), Felix Gonzalez-Torres presents simple acrylic monochromes in red, black, green, and white in a study of idea and theory—the cornerstones of Conceptual art. A reference to a ban imposed by the Israeli army in the occupied Palestinian territories, the work also confronts power dynamics, discrimination, and the artist’s own “rejection of the imposed and established order.”

Even today, tensions between Israel and Palestine remain ongoing and prominent, which lends a layer of urgency to this work. The work leads us to consider that this crisis with such devastating impact continues to endure with no resolution in sight. Importantly, it serves as a lasting critique of violence and oppression.

Mire Lee, installation view of Untitled (My Pittsburgh Sculpture), 2022, in the 58th Carnegie International at Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo by Sean Eaton. Courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.

Mire Lee’s works can only be regarded as anti-aesthetic. There is horror and gore, but also beauty, as well as technical skill—both in their design and execution. Untitled (My Pittsburgh Sculpture) (2022) resembles organs entangled in machinery. As the machinery turns, the organs spill out, conveying a sense of something visceral and painful happening at once.

Pain is a theme explored in many of Lee’s sculptures, as well as vorarephilia: the erotic desire to consume or be consumed by another person or creature. Lee has said she sees it as “a universal metaphor rooted in the desire to unite with another being.” Through this work, she considers how we may come to understand or make something of the violence, toxicity, and pain we are confronted with. Lee is also currently featured in the Venice Biennale, the Busan Biennale, and a solo show at Tina Kim Gallery.

James “Yaya” Hough, installation view of A Gift to the Hill District, 2021–22, in the 58th Carnegie International at Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo by Sean Eaton. Courtesy of the artist and Carnegie Museum of Art.

Through “is it morning for you yet?” the curatorial team acknowledges very complex histories within the Carnegie Museum, the city of Pittsburgh, and the world at large. “It’s palpable,” Mohebbi offered, “and maybe this exhibition can contribute to a larger conversation and expansion of how institutions can serve this position or follow it better.” With so many diverse perspectives and lived experiences represented in the show, he asks that we remember “that at any given moment, we can’t take for granted that we are all going through the same emotions, the same thoughts.”

Tara Fay Coleman