Matthew Higgs


    Curated by Kitty Scott

    Over the past two decades, Brian Jungen has developed a highly idiosyncratic practice, one that adopts an almost alchemical approach to the transformation of common, everyday objects: namely, his now-signature repurposing of Nike Air Jordan sneakers or plastic lawn chairs into sculptural artifacts that mimic objects more typically encountered in a natural-history or anthropological museum setting. Of both European and indigenous descent, Jungen has long explored questions of identity and cultural appropriation in his work. This exhibition, the largest survey of his oeuvre

  • Jochen Lempert, Un voyage en mer du Nord (Voyage on the North Sea) (detail), 2009, six gelatin silver prints, each 40 × 32 5/8".

    Matthew Higgs

    1 JOCHEN LEMPERT (IZU PHOTO MUSEUM, NAGAIZUMI, JAPAN; CURATED BY YOSHIE KUNITA) The Izu Photo Museum, set among the foothills of Mount Fuji, with interior spaces and surrounding gardens designed by the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, was an apposite and empathetic setting for Lempert’s closely observed images of the natural world. Printed in the darkroom by the artist and installed directly on the gallery’s walls without any form of framing, Lempert’s deceptively modest pictures of birds, insects, plants, and the open sea—some no more than a few inches wide—were, like nature itself, things

  • View of “Daniel Buren: A Fresco,” 2016, BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels. La salle des empreintes (Hall of Footprints), 2016. Photo: Philippe De Gobert. © DB/ADAGP.

    Matthew Higgs

    1 “DANIEL BUREN: A FRESCO” (BOZAR CENTRE FOR FINE ARTS, BRUSSELS) Part retrospective, part autobiography, and part paean to Buren’s peers and mentors, “A Fresco” ranks among the best exhibitions I have ever seen. In the exquisite Victor Horta–designed galleries, the artist’s signature stripes functioned as a kind of curatorial template for works by Constantin Brancusi, Hanne Darboven, and some hundred others, each choreographed by Buren with an extraordinary site-specific sensitivity and wit.


  • View of “James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas: The Devil and His Blues,” 2015, 80WSE Gallery, New York. Foreground, from left: untitled, ca. 1986; untitled, 1987; untitled, 1987. Photo: Jeffrey Sturges.

    Matthew Higgs

    1 JAMES “SON FORD” THOMAS (80WSE GALLERY, NEW YORK; CURATED BY JONATHAN BERGER, MARY BETH BROWN, AND JESSICA IANNUZZI GARCIA) A pioneer of the Delta blues and a former gravedigger, Thomas (1926–1993) was also a visionary self-taught sculptor whose principal material was the “gumbo” of his native Mississippi. He fashioned this local clay into portrait busts, often using human hair (particularly in many less-than-flattering takes on George Washington), human skulls kitted out with dentures, and a menagerie of small birds and animals. This powerful exhibition, the largest and most thorough survey

  • Sleaford Mods performing at Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK, March 27, 2014. Photo: Simon Parfrement.

    Matthew Higgs

    1 MAMMAN SANI, TAARITT (Sahel Sounds) This future-thinking, synth-heavy Saharan folk album was recorded in Niger and France in the late 1980s but was only released this year. It’s hard for me to remember what life was like without Sani’s exquisite music in it; Taaritt is possibly the greatest record ever made.

    2 SLEAFORD MODS, DIVIDE AND EXIT (Harbinger Sound) On the verge of becoming a household name in their native UK, the Sleaford Mods (Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson) are essential listening for fans of early Schoolly D, the Stooges, and Mancunian poet laureates John Cooper Clarke and

  • Laura Owens, Untitled, 2013, acrylic, oil, and Flashe paint on canvas, 11' 5 1/2" x 10'.

    Matthew Higgs

    1 LAURA OWENS (356 S. MISSION RD., LOS ANGELES) Owens’s first major hometown exhibition in almost a decade felt like a momentous event. Eschewing the white cube, she elected to present her own work on her own terms, situating it alongside an outpost of Wendy Yao’s savvy Ooga Booga store in a voluminous Boyle Heights warehouse gently renovated in partnership with her longtime New York dealer, Gavin Brown. On view for six months, the suite of twelve XXL paintings, made in that very space, was aesthetically promiscuous and wildly ambitious, and provided conclusive proof—not that it was

  • Cover of Artforum 21, no. 5 (January 1983). Barry Le Va, During (Between Imagination and Actuality) (detail), 1982.

    Artforum, January 1983

    In this new column, artists, critics, and curators single out past issues from Artforum’s archives and explore their resonance, then and now.

    I RECENTLY CAME ACROSS a copy of the January 1983 issue of Artforum at New York’s Twenty-Fifth Street flea market. I didn’t immediately recognize the image on the cover, an oblique view of Barry Le Va’s 1982 installation During (Between Imagination and Actuality), depicting a sequence of stainless-steel balls resting on a wooden armature, but a number of the articles provoked a distinct sense of déjà vu: poet Carter Ratcliff’s “David Bowie’s Survival,” a

  • Mark Leckey

    In the five years since he won the Turner Prize, British artist Mark Leckey has taken increasingly strange and ever more productive turns. Moving away from the subcultural narratives of his (rightly) celebrated work of the early 2000s, Leckey’s more recent videos, installations, and performative lectures have adopted a freewheeling, associative approach that conjures up connections between radically distinct cultural and scientific phenomena. The Hammer will now mount Leckey’s largest institutional exhibition in the United States to date, with roughly fifteen new works,

  • William Wegman, Basic Shapes in Nature: Square (Variant), 1970, gelatin silver print, 14 × 11". From “It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969–1973, Part 2—Helene Winer at Pomona,” Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA, part of “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980.”

    Matthew Higgs

    1 “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980” (various venues) My 2011 ended with a weeklong road trip across Southern California, trying to take in as many as possible of the sixty-plus exhibitions in “Pacific Standard Time,” arguably the most ambitious curatorial initiative of the twenty-first century. Highlights, too many to list here, included the second part of “It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969–1973,” a succinct account of Helene Winer’s prescient two-year tenure as director of the Pomona College Museum of Art, and “Common Ground: Ceramics in Southern California

  • Andy Warhol, Shadows, 1978–79, silk-screened and handpainted acrylic on canvas. Installation view, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, 2011. Photo: Cathy Carver.

    Matthew Higgs

    1 “Andy Warhol: Shadows” (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; curated by Yasmil Raymond) The 102 canvases that make up Shadows, 1978–79, had never been shown together in their entirety before this exhibition. Curated by Dia’s Yasmil Raymond and coordinated at the Hirshhorn by Evelyn Hankins, the show—with its inspired staging of Warhol’s late masterpiece as a near-continuous loop wrapping around the museum’s notoriously challenging circular space—was a revelation, and one of the most extraordinary presentations of a single artwork I have ever seen.

    Organized by Dia

  • Matthew Higgs

    1 Stuart Sherman (80WSE, New York, and Participant Inc., New York) At 80WSE, video recordings of Sherman’s “spectacles”—as he called his idiosyncratic tabletop performances—were framed alongside his lesser-known theatrical productions, sculptural proposals, drawings, and poetry. Meanwhile, a group show at Participant that closed toward the end of 2009 (just making the chronological cut for this list) explored his legacy through a constellation of contemporary artists and performers—including Carol Bove, Matthew Brannon, and Vaginal Davis—who curator Jonathan Berger believes

  • Matthew Higgs


    1 Don Bachardy (Cheim & Reid, New York) Bachardy’s wrenching, nearly life-size drawings of Christopher Isherwood, his partner for more than thirty years, were made shortly before the celebrated writer succumbed to cancer in 1986. Simultaneously portraits of life and reflections on the imminence of death, Bachardy’s rarely seen and profoundly observed images of the ailing Isherwood are, to my mind, among the most poignant and emotionally complex works of the twentieth century.

    2 James Castle (Philadelphia Museum of Art) Organized by Ann Percy, this exhilarating retrospective provided