Lynne Cooke

  • Sonia Delaunay, fabric design study, 1924, gouache on paper, 12 1⁄4 × 9 1⁄4". © PRACUSA S.A.; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk.

    MIGHTY BRAVE

    ABSENT FROM THE FIRST RANK in modernist art histories, Sonia Delaunay occupies a prime place in narratives of twentieth-century textile design and fashion.1 A current retrospective calls that long-standing evaluation into question. Boldly redefining its subject as an “avant-gardist, entrepreneur and commercially minded businesswoman”—descriptors that reverberate richly today—the show at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, foregrounds its revisionist goals. From the outset, deep-rooted hierarchies segregating the fine and applied arts—hierarchies that Delaunay herself never

  • View of “Not I: Throwing Voices (1500 BCE–2020 CE),” 2021, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Wall: Laurie Simmons, Girl Vent Press Shots, 1989. Pedestals, from left: Copper bowl, Afghanistan, late 15th century; Robert Morris, Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, 1961. Photo: Museum Associates/LACMA.

    TOP TEN

    Lynne Cooke is senior curator for special projects at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. She is currently at work on “Braided Histories,” a planned 2023 exhibition that will explore affiliations and interchanges between abstract artists and textile designers and producers.

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    “NOT I: THROWING VOICES 1500 BCE–2020 CE” (LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART; CURATED BY JOSÉ LUIS BLONDET)

    Taking its title from Samuel Beckett’s short play, in which an isolated mouth delivers a monologue on a darkened stage, this inspired exhibition foregrounded voice-casting as theme and methodology. Premised on

  • Joyce Kozloff installing Homage to Frank Furness, 1984, at the Amtrak train station, Wilmington, DE, 1984.

    PATTERN RECOGNITION

    IN AN APPRECIATIVE 2016 REVIEW of new work by Valerie Jaudon, critic David Frankel noted that the Pattern and Decoration movement, of which Jaudon was a prominent member, had long been held in disrepute. “In the early ’80s,” Frankel wrote, “I remember a colleague at Artforum at the time saying it could never be taken seriously in the magazine.”1 In retrospect, what makes this dismissal so striking is that, in the mid-’70s, Artforum contributed significantly to P&D’s emergence into the spotlight, publishing key texts by its advocates along with numerous reviews of its shows. Amy Goldin’s “Patterns,

  • Lynne Cooke’s top ten highlights of 2020

    Lynne Cooke is senior curator for special projects at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. She is currently at work on “Braided Histories,” a planned 2023 exhibition that will explore affiliations and interchanges between abstract artists and textile designers and producers.

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    HANNAH RYGGEN (SCHIRN KUNSTHALLE FRANKFURT; CURATED BY MARIT PAASCHE AND ESTHER SCHLICHT)

    Little known beyond Scandinavian shores since her death in 1970, Ryggen was finally given her due in this fascinating exhibition. A self-identified painter who considered her loom her brush, she wove monumental tapestries while

  • View of “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams,” 2019, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Photo: Adrien Dirand.

    Lynne Cooke

    Lynne Cooke is Senior Curator for Special Projects at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. “Maneuver,” an exhibition she curated that explores aspects of Anni Albers’s diverse legacy, is on view at the Artist’s Institute, New York, through mid-December.

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    NANCY SPERO (MOMA PS1, NEW YORK; CURATED BY JULIE AULT)

    Kudos to artist-curator Ault for organizing this long-overdue survey, Spero’s first in her hometown. Rigorously selected and brilliantly installed, the show gave full rein to Spero’s fierce and fearless voice.

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    “DIEDRICK BRACKENS: DARLING DIVINED” (NEW MUSEUM, NEW YORK; CURATED BY

  • Anni Albers, study for a 1926 unexecuted wall hanging (detail), n.d., gouache and pencil on photo offset paper, 15 1⁄8 × 9 7⁄8".

    Anni Albers

    IN A 1985 INTERVIEW, Anni Albers remarked, “I find that, when the work is made with threads, it’s considered a craft; when it’s on paper, it’s considered art.” This was her somewhat oblique explanation of why she hadn’t received “the longed-for pat on the shoulder,” i.e., recognition as an artist, until after she gave up weaving and immersed herself in printmaking—a transition that occurred when she was in her sixties. It’s hard to judge whether Albers’s tone was wry or rueful or (as one critic alleged) “some-what bitter,” and therefore it’s unclear what her comment might indicate about the

  • Merce Cunningham, Root of an Unfocus, 1944. Performance view, Studio Theatre, New York, April 5, 1944. Merce Cunningham. Photo: Barbara Morgan.

    Merce Cunningham

    AS DANCE INCREASINGLY ASSUMES CENTER STAGE in today’s cultural landscape, contemporary choreographers have added the art museum to their regular circuit of venues. But Merce Cunningham was, as usual, ahead of the curve. In 1964, at the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts in Vienna, he launched the first of hundreds of what he called Events: unique programs that collaged extracts from his repertory and were devised for a particular setting, and which he would continue to create over the next forty-five years. Cunningham’s pioneering intervention into the museum context was predicated on the strong

  • Louise Lawler, Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber, Inc. NYC (adjusted to fit), 1982/2016, adhesive vinyl, dimensions variable.

    “Louise Lawler: Why Pictures Now”

    The success of Louise Lawler’s highly anticipated first New York museum survey hangs on the question of how this immensely influential artist will negotiate the demands of a retrospective, which all but necessitates the repackaging of the artist’s work into an “authoritative” reading. For principled refusal fuels every aspect of Lawler’s exacting practice, which is marked by the artist’s reservation with respect to doing what’s deemed proper for a successful career, and reticence, if masked by nonchalance, in response to the demand for a signature

  • View of “The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters,” 2015–16. Foreground: Works by William Edmondson. Background: Works by Alfred Wallis. Photo: Jens Nober.

    “The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters”

    FINDING A TITLE to anchor a thematic group show is notoriously fraught, as “The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters” demonstrated. German art historian Veit Loers coined the titular phrase to refer to a corpus that is the necessary complement to the art of the historical avant-gardes, the negative or occluded partner in the pairing—namely, the work of those non-Europeans, “folk,” children, and other “primitives” whom the early modernists “discovered.” The show’s subtitle indicated that the exhibition would focus on the renowned Henri Rousseau, the first and still

  • Joan Jonas, They Come to Us Without a Word (Mirrors), 2015, mirrors, wood, lead crystals, iron, HD-video projection (color, sound, 2 minutes 11 seconds). Installation view, US pavilion, Venice. From the 56th Venice Biennale. Photo: Kate Lacey.

    Lynne Cooke

    1 JOAN JONAS (US PAVILION, 56TH VENICE BIENNALE; CURATED BY PAUL C. HA AND UTE META BAUER) The extraordinary richness of Jonas’s imagery has never been more evident or labile in its interweaving of performance and installation. Ghosts of the physically departed yet psychically present mingled with mute species at risk of extinction, and youth was counterpointed with age in hauntingly elliptical pictures and stories—makeshift mnemonic talismans constructed in the face of ineluctable change.

    2 GREER LANKTON (PARTICIPANT INC, NEW YORK) Extensively researched, this landmark show recuperated a

  • View of “Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions,” 2015, Tate Liverpool, London. Walls, from left: Jackson Pollock, Yellow Islands, 1952; David Hammons, Untitled (Body Print), 1974; Kelley Walker, Black Star Press (Triptych), 2005. Floor: Cady Noland, Pipes in a Basket, 1989. Photo: Roger Sinek.

    “Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions”

    WALKING INTO “Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions” at Tate Liverpool, visitors found themselves poised between Jasper Johns’s 1962 lithograph Painting with Two Balls II and a mid-1970s David Hammons body print in which the artist’s features are framed within an ace of spades. In tandem with that suggestive pairing, the first gallery contained the Cady Noland sculpture Pipes in a Basket, 1989, which comprises handcuffs and a small American flag alongside a handful of pipes; Kelley Walker’s screen-printed painting Black Star Press (Triptych), 2005, based on scanned photographs of civil rights

  • Robert Gober, Untitled (detail), 2003–2005, plaster, fir, wool, linen, photolithograph on paper, oil paint, enamel paint, watercolor, pastel, graphite, bronze, cast plastic, polyethylene, lead crystal, fiberglass, nickel-plated bronze, wood, water, recycling pumps, stoneware, urethane, rubber, cement, feather re-creation of American robin, blown glass, Flashe paint, aluminum, pewter, beeswax, human hair, pigment, socks, shoes, dimensions variable.

    Lynne Cooke

    1 ROBERT GOBER (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY ANN TEMKIN WITH PAULINA POBOCHA) Enormously impressive, this exhibition evidences an exceptional level of commitment on the part of the artist, curator, and institution. Though Gober’s mapping of the American sociocultural landscape by way of themes of sexuality, politics, religion, and domesticity is often trenchant, even bleak, it is leavened by its resilient generosity of spirit.

    2 KARA WALKER, A SUBTLETY (THE FORMER DOMINO SUGAR FACTORY, NEW YORK) This brilliantly sited and contextualized project was that rare thing, a truly public