Coronavirus cases in New York are at a reassuring low, and the state is on its way to reopening. That includes art galleries, which are starting to welcome people back, mostly by appointment. I recently visited two, but am mostly remaining cautious and spending the bulk of my time at home. At this point, everything in my apartment looks incredibly uninteresting (except for my cats), so I’m grateful that Instagram continues to provide a small portal of escape.
The accounts below make me feel, think and see in new ways — something I’m always searching for, but that feels especially vital right now.
In March, as New York went into coronavirus lockdown, Asad Raza began talking to some friends. Disappointed by the half-baked content that art institutions were sharing online, he and his fellow artists Marianna Simnett, Dora Budor and Precious Okoyomon, along with the curator and designer Prem Krishnamurthy, decided to start a collective virtual experiment in which artists could make and share new work centered on experiences. More than 50 people have since contributed candid interviews, at-home performances, cooking videos and more. New content appears frequently and often in series. For instance, Tiffany Sia is currently reading aloud political and theoretical texts every Saturday at midnight in Hong Kong, while Hana Miletic recently shared instructions for felting and dyeing with household items. Home Cooking feels refreshingly unpredictable and unselfconscious — like a genuine experience in itself, born out of and responding to conditions that are changing every day.
The artist Carmen Argote lives in Los Angeles, a city of cars, yet walking is her “primary process,” she told Frieze magazine last year. On her Instagram account she captures poetic moments from those jaunts: a curving streak of red paint on a concrete barrier, or her gloved fingers seeming to pinch a light source like the moon. She intersperses such images with documentation of her recent drawings, for which she harks back to childhood by tracing her hand to create a figure that recalls a dog. These elements are part of a coming solo exhibition, but there’s a particular intimacy to watching them, and Ms. Argote’s process, unfold on social media. It’s a space well suited to her ability to draw out depths of possibility from simple materials and actions.
Walking the Edge was supposed to be a relay walk of New York City’s 520 miles of coastline. When the pandemic caused the event to be postponed, the organizers deftly transitioned to the internet, where they found a way to give the project new life. Since May, artists have taken over the Instagram account of the organization Works on Water each week to present images, thoughts and prompts. They often ask questions: “Where do we begin and where do we end?” wrote Kamau Ware, after inviting us to consider how much of our bodies are composed of water. The duo Carolyn Hall and Clarinda Mac Low, working as Sunk Shore, created a speculative tour of the future banks of the East River. The posts might inspire you to not only visit your nearest waterfront, but also think about it differently when you get there.
The figures in Nicola Tyson’s drawings often seem haunted: elongated bodies, faces composed of blocky shapes filled in with dense pencil marks. In one striking image, above, that the artist posted earlier this month, there are voids where faces should be; the caption reads, in a twist of dark humor, “Out for a stroll with self.” The brooding psychological intensity of these works perfectly matches our current political and social mood. Ms. Tyson balances them out on Instagram with images of nature: her donkeys, turtles, drops of rain on a branch. Sometimes, there are stirring resonances, as in a photo of the sky followed by a rendering of a person who appears to look back at it, searching the bright blue expanse for a message or meaning.
In recent years, monuments to colonizers and Confederate soldiers have been flash points of protest and debate over which histories and individuals deserve commemoration. Rightly so. But the public art landscape of the United States contains much more. On his account United Statues of America, Kevin Cranford Jr. catalogs mostly figurative sculptures from around the country, many of which you’re less likely to know about: for example, a likeness of the Black and Native American rodeo cowboy Bill Pickett wrestling a steer in Fort Worth. Mr. Cranford, who travels often for his work as a trial consultant, said his hobby of learning about places through their public art had turned into something of an obsession. His project amounts to a quirky national portrait (with occasional posts of statues abroad), and I appreciate his willingness to chronicle all his subjects equally — the good, the bad, the problematic and the definitely weird.