A few weeks ago, I recommended Instagram feeds of artists mostly based in New York City. We were just getting accustomed to the new state of affairs, and it felt invigorating, in the suddenly compacted experience of lockdown, to take in multiple perspectives on local reality.
Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s news of baby-step “reopenings” in various countries — I gasped with envy on seeing colleagues post pictures of their socially distanced gallery visits in Paris or Dubai — but I’m starting to envision travel again. Call it optimism, or wanderlust. Yet I sense, in my Instagram scrolling, an ethos re-emerging everywhere: Things have changed; we’re adapting; and artists will always find their way to the front when it comes to imagining how to live in community. Here are five of my favorite accounts; New York Times critics will be posting their own favorites every week.
Rahima Gambo wakes up and walks, gathering things: branches, objects in the street, conversations, impressions. Then she takes these materials and makes something, with the intangible inputs coming through in the way she sets up an installation or draws on the wall in line-forms that feel runic, improvised yet ancient. Ms. Gambo soured on photojournalism after one too many assignments depicting trauma in northeast Nigeria — her home region, where the Boko Haram conflict has gone on for a decade. Her walk practice is an antidote; a different documenting, grounded and attuned. In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, where she lives and has opened a space for artists, she shares it, inviting people to walk with her. It’s a way of belonging together, and on Instagram she offers outtakes from both the walking and the art it generates.
Yassine Alaoui Ismaili, whose also uses the name Yoriyas with his work, is a child of Casablanca; his street photography, colorful and conversational, exudes a native son’s love for the Moroccan metropolis, as well as an instinct for movement that reflects his background in hip-hop and break dancing. But Yoriyas is also a builder of the bubbling Moroccan photo scene. Recently he curated the inaugural exhibition of the national photography museum, in a restored fort in Rabat — an excellent, adventurous showcase of 15 emerging artists, some of whom he discovered through social media. And since the lockdown, he’s helped run a weekly photography competition open to amateurs and professionals alike; you’ll find the winning entries and artists, along with his own work, on his Instagram feed.
I met Amos Kennedy long ago in tiny Burkville, Ala., where he was selling $10 prints at the local Okra Festival. Later I realized how the self-described “humble Negro printer,” who quit middle-class office life at 40, is a legend in the letterpress world. Mr. Kennedy has a big following in American book arts and folkways. His prints have voice: political, history-minded, playful — and despite their earthy feel, cosmopolitan, for instance referring to social movements in other countries. Now based in Detroit, where he works on antediluvian machinery he has restored, Mr. Kennedy has bought an old garage — the Pile of Bricks, he calls it — to spread out, welcome visitors, and teach. On Instagram he documents that project’s progress, and shares welcome whimsy from a practice devoted to social justice and craft.
The members of the collective Slavs and Tatars keep their number and identities concealed; they are described as living and working “in Eurasia,” and devote their exhibitions and projects, including books and zines, to the area “east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China.” The results can be eccentric — in last year’s Venice Biennale, they offered a pickle-juice bar where you could refresh yourself, if that’s the right word, with weird fermented beverages as you emerged from the visit — but at its core this is archive work, mining history, foregrounding local thought, sparking collisions. If you’re theory-minded, you can appreciate how it challenges imperial or Orientalist frames of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Or simply dig the stimulating stream of ideas, sources and images they share on their feed.
I’ve never been to Buenos Aires. But since coming across Vanessa Bell’s Instagram feed a couple of years ago, a journey to Argentina’s capital has felt imperative. Ms. Bell is half-British, half-Argentine, an inside-outsider position that she puts to good use as an intellectually curious ambassador for Buenos Aires and its design culture and history. On Instagram, that means buildings, especially the Modernist, Brutalist and Postmodern gems with which the city is replete, and many unclassifiable oddities. Ms. Bell’s obsessions — with high-design 1970s building intercoms, for example — are contagious, and her captions are generous with context and architectural history. In normal times, she consults and gives tours; in lockdown, she’s been sharing her photos and archival ones, from what is clearly a gigantic collection.