PRINT December 2005

Ann Goldstein

1 MICHAEL ASHER (ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO) For the Art Institute of Chicago’s 73rd American Exhibition, in 1979, Asher relocated a twentieth-century bronze cast of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s eighteenth-century statue of George Washington from the museum’s exterior to the eighteenth-century galleries. Twenty-six years later, at the invitation of James Rondeau, with Anne Rorimer as guest curator, Asher relocated it again, this time from the mayor’s office back to the AIC’s eighteenth-century galleries. By placing the work within its seemingly appropriate context, he has quietly shaken up the house. The statue is an institutional misfit: The museum is its custodian, but it is not in the collection; rooted in the eighteenth century, it is a twentieth-century copy. Rondeau has also reinstalled key works by Daniel Buren, John Knight, Hanne Darboven, Fred Sandback, and others which, like Asher’s earlier project, were acquired or first exhibited during Rorimer’s tenure and are a tribute to the former curator’s exceptional vision.

2 “MoMA IN HAMBURG” (KUNSTVEREIN HAMBURG) In 2004, crowds lined up to see “MoMA in Berlin” at the Neue Nationalgalerie. In 2005, Louise Lawler brought the new MoMA to Hamburg with just two images of its interior that were produced as posters shown on the gallery walls and throughout Hamburg. Lawler’s posters played with the marketing campaign for Berlin, conflating advertising and art, and making what was visible inside and outside the institution almost exactly the same.

3 GAYLEN GERBER (DANIEL HUG GALLERY, LOS ANGELES) Gerber’s “backdrop” painting was by far the largest work in this exhibition—a huge stretched canvas that occupied an entire wall—and yet it was almost invisible. Initially painted gray, then white to match the gallery walls, it served as the ground for a painting by Remy Zaugg, which was hung directly on top of it; together they comprise Backdrop/Not Here, 1990–95. With this piece, together with two of his “supports” for works by Adrian Schiess and B. Wurtz, Gerber challenged not only the hierarchy of figure and ground but the stakes of individual identity.

4 MATT MULLICAN, “LEARNING FROM THAT PERSON’S WORK” (MUSEUM LUDWIG, COLOGNE) Winding through Mullican’s intimate labyrinth of suspended bedsheets covered with works on paper, the spectator was immersed in the products of the artist’s extraordinary performances done while under hypnosis. One was, walking amid the soft walls, arrested by videos of “that person” (the distinctive personality that appears during Mullican’s trance state) engaged in the most mundane activities. Watching Mullican (or rather, that person) eat breakfast or slowly examine the entire contents of his studio was at once captivating and profoundly affecting.

5 ALBERT OEHLEN (THOMAS AMMANN FINE ART, ZURICH) This selection of Oehlen’s abstract paintings and drawings since the late ’80s was an important occasion to examine a core aspect of his practice. With fragments of figurative imagery embedded in the layered passages of paint, these works are just on the cusp of representation. Oehlen’s paintings are not simply struggling with the problems and weight of their history, nor are they bound by its guiding principles. They are boldly and brilliantly unethical. And Oehlen’s current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, not only examines this facet of his output but offers a timely opportunity to reconsider the oeuvre of one of the most significant artists working today.

6 ISA GENZKEN (DAVID ZWIRNER, NEW YORK) Genzken’s ongoing confrontation with the conflicting and fragmented states of reality—both physical and psychological—has been fundamental to her extraordinary and influential practice since the 1970s. For her first major solo exhibition in New York in several years, her uncanny assemblages combining old and new consumer goods constituted one of the most striking and compelling reflections on war, death, obsolescence, and ruin—in essence, on the fragility of contemporary culture.

7 JOHN BALDESSARI AND LAWRENCE WEINER IN LOS ANGELES While it was my misfortune to miss Baldessari’s landmark two-museum retrospective in Vienna and Graz this year, he did save one of his best exhibitions for home. At Margo Leavin Gallery, he returned to the basics, pairing a single, black-and-white photograph of a person’s face with a single word, and their bold simplicity was absolutely stunning. Opening the same day at Regen Projects was new work by Weiner, whose ongoing engagement with simultaneity and nonhierarchy has been at the core of one of the most significant and generative practices of our time. Two friends, two colleagues, two indelible figures—and both at the top of their game.

8 JEROEN DE RIJKE AND WILLEM DE ROOIJ, MANDARIN DUCKS I was unable to see it in Venice, but, knowing the work, I was disappointed not to see greater mention of de Rijke and de Rooij’s extraordinary film in the Biennale reviews. A melodramatic construction of light and flesh and objects interacting in a stark interior, Mandarin Ducks is both visually ravishing and appalling. It is one of the most blunt and unforgettable representations of xenophobia and the insidious brutality that permeates people’s treatment of each other.

9 MARTIN KIPPENBERGER IN NEW YORK Three concurrent gallery exhibitions each focused on an aspect of Martin Kippenberger’s work: a remarkable gathering of the early “Dear Painter” series at Gagosian; a look at aspects of the “Metro Net” and “Museum of Modern Art Syros” projects at Nyehaus; and a heartfelt assembly of outstanding self-portraits at Luhring Augustine. Considered together, these independently organized exhibitions were a minisurvey of sorts, and reinforced my determination to foster a greater understanding of the complexity and contradictions of Kippenberger’s production.

10 RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITIONS AND BOOKS Each a model of curatorial empathy with the artists and their work, the retrospective exhibitions of Stanley Brouwn (Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands), Georg Herold (Kunstverein Hanover), George Herms (Santa Monica Museum of Art), Richard Tuttle (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), and Jeff Wall (Schaulager Basel) were truly inspiring. Finally, our library of artists’ writings was greatly enhanced by the collected texts of Carl Andre, Andrea Fraser, and Lawrence Weiner; and in his Alien Hybrid Creatures, Michael Krebber has assembled a visual syllabus to talk about dandyism—and an index to his elusive practice.

Ann Goldstein is senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, where she is currently organizing the first American retrospective of the work of Martin Kippenberger, opening October 2006.