Corrine Fitzpatrick

Corrine Fitzpatrick on the best exhibitions in 2014

View of “Dear Nemesis, Nicole Eisenman 1993–2013,” 2014–15.

LAST APRIL, Cleopatra’s housed “Which arbitrary thing are you,” (April 6 to May 4, 2014) a two-person exhibition of sculpture and video by Sara Magenheimer and paintings by Sadie Laska. All of the works were from 2014, with the exception of Magenheimer’s seven-minute video, One Vast Focus, 2011, in which footage of a woman playing tuba before a grove of trees opens onto a quaalude-paced concert scene overlaid with text from Ada Lovelace’s megalomaniacal-Romantic musings to her mother—“I can throw rays from every corner of the universe into one vast focus”—which is then read aloud by the artist in a droll digitized voice reminiscent of Robert Ashley’s in “Perfect Lives.” Early video art is also evoked in Magenheimer’s pigment print on wallpaper panel composites, Sun Room 1 and Sun Room 2. Both pieces layer a print of an isolated basketball net atop images of houseplants in wicker baskets. The signifiers evoke movement (“swoosh”), rhyme, and pun in a video-like layering of effects. Laska’s thirteen mixed-media paintings are discrete Rauschenbergian assemblages; the artist’s sense of humor and experimentation breeze across bricolage surfaces (a shirt, a sandal, a comb, a paper plate, to name a few) that, although three-dimensional, strongly convey a painterly plane. Laska does not appear to be preoccupied with the de- or re- or neo-construction of painting, rather, these works read as a genuinely capacious celebration of the action and the form.

Currently on view at ICA, Philadelphia is “Dear Nemesis, Nicole Eisenman 1993–2013.” (September 19 to December 28, 2014) The inimitable painter’s midcareer retrospective includes over 120 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints. The artist dedicates the handsome catalogue to her father who taught her to “see things that are not there and to see through things that are.” Eisenman’s tender, Rabelaisian figurations portray the bodily surface and ghostly psycho-vibes of conviviality and personal conflagration alike. In Winter Solstice 2012, 2009, eight figures drink, smoke, nosh, flirt, and pass out cold around a late-night dinner table. Each character—unique in palette, facture, and style of depiction—could have been plucked from its own painting. This mélange of ids and egos (and one bored lapdog) at once extols and lampoons the bohemian soiree, not to mention the Western canon of painting.

Last April also saw “Etel Adnan” at Callicoon Fine Arts (April 3 to May 23, 2014). Rolled out in tandem with the Paris-based artist’s signature leporellos and punchy meditative landscape studies was the long-awaited two-volume To look at the sea is to become what one is: An Etel Adnan Reader (Nightboat Books). This major compendium collects five decades’ worth of poetry and prose. Adnan’s diamond-edged power of observation and warm-toned, hard-nosed lyricism masterfully illuminate (and complicate) war and insurrection, painting and travel, feminism and exile, philosophy and creative devotion. “It seems to me that I write what I see, paint what I am,” she writes in Journey to Mount Tamalpais. The urgency apparent in each pursuit, the commitment to subject, and the precision with which Adnan pays attention to self and to world set the bar, in my opinion, for being an artist today.

Corrine Fitzpatrick is a poet living in Brooklyn, NY. She is a 2014 recipient of the Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.