PRINT December 2005

Jack Bankowsky

1 RICHARD PRINCE Healthy contrariness all but dictates that the self-respecting critic pass over Prince this year—save for a higher call to rescue a bumper crop of cross-pollinating projects from a distracting (if overdue) spike in the artist’s market. Consider the sublime sellout at Gagosian Beverly Hills (scratch the surface of these Rothkoesque ciphers and discover the customized—and cashed!—checks below the oil and angst). Consider, too, the self-anthologizing miniretrospective at Barbara Gladstone in New York concurrent with the artist’s reprise of his near-mythical 1983 Spiritual America, featuring a very grown-up Ms. Shields shot by trashmeister Sauto D’Orazio. Consider a practice in which muscle cars are impossibly elegant post-Minimal sculptures; a tract-style house “up behind the Catskills” enters the collection of the Guggenheim; and the rumor of a library in a town house in sleepy Rensselaerville becomes a chef d’oeuvre. Now, and at peril of blowing the shape-shifter’s cover, connect the dots: A year of infrathin feints and ice-cool understatement begins to look a lot like the gesamtkunstwerk of our period.

2 JEFF WALL (SCHAULAGER, MÜNCHENSTEIN/BASEL; TATE MODERN, LONDON) Proclaiming Jeff Wall one of the greats of our time is a bit like nominating French food as a world-class cuisine. Still, as I boarded a plane to celebrate the opening of his two-stop retrospective, I wondered if the reputation of this longtime favorite artist would survive the full-dress occasion. The answer, on viewing the superabundant Basel hang and, a few months later, Sheena Wagstaff’s taut and temperate London view, was an unqualified yes. So what’s new? To start, the mysterious masterwork Trân Dúc Ván, 1988. Unless my memory was playing tricks on me, two male figures at the picture’s periphery had turned into a blond woman. And what about An Eviction, 1988/2004, formerly Eviction Struggle, 1988? This early icon was literally teeming with fresh life. Pardon the hyperbole, but you have to love a guy who would work back into the Mona Lisa to get the smile right!

3 THE NEW WALKER When the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis named Herzog & de Meuron the architects of its recently completed expansion, I worried that the flavor-of-the-month stars would leave the museum with crumbs. But instead of overextended, a surfeit of big-deal projects found the hugely in-demand architects not only limber but confident enough to do just—and only—what the occasion demanded. From the fancy fretwork covering the air returns to the dark brick floors nodding to Edward Larabee Barnes’s original exterior, so much of the building is genuinely witty, if not inspired—and the opening installation was a gem to match the setting. With minimonographs for key contemporaries and a drop-dead gallery of Minimalist masterworks, the dynamic duo of director Kathy Halbreich and chief curator Richard Flood hit a collaboration-capping home run.

4 SETH PRICE (“GREATER NEW YORK 2005,” P.S. 1 CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER, NEW YORK) You’ve got to hand it to those bellwether brave hearts behind “Greater New York” who dragged their butts to every loft in Williamsburg so we didn’t have to. I owe more news to their wornout soles than I’d care to admit. The news, alas, was not always good, but one belated discovery was: Seth Price. After twenty rooms of trying to find something to love, I turned the corner on a suite of golden bomber jackets that needed no excuses. What can I say? Better late than leather.

5 BOB DYLAN, CHRONICLES VOLUME ONE (SIMON & SCHUSTER) Speaking of better. Advance page proofs squeaked this title onto pop professionals’ 2004 best-of lists, but 2005 was the year the bard’s distinctive diction and inspired malapropisms became a staple of art-party chatter and studio-visit confession. The artist as self-mythologizer is hardly new, but at a moment when the elaborated persona can seem the only adequate artistic response to our celebrity culture, the folkways of the authentically inauthentic vagabond are both muse and tonic.

6 ART FAIR ART (GALERIE KLOSTERFELDE, FRIEZE ART FAIR, LONDON) As the self-appointed apologist of the last big thing, I feel it my duty to keep the record up to date. This fall at the Frieze Art Fair, the artist duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset staged a pair of adjacent, identically stocked booths for Berlin dealer Martin Klosterfelde, complete with twin towheads—one, by necessity, a doppelgänger. The telltale giveaway? Klosterfelde the imposter had plenty of time to chat with the critics; a sidelong glance at a passing checkbook would have made the illusion seamless. What do artists know about commerce anyway?

7 SPIRITUAL AMERICAN (WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK) Does it require a rocket scientist to visit the vaults of our most august institutions and offer up a hang that beats a day-sale preview at Philips? Recent data suggest as much. Whatever the case, curator Donna de Salvo’s second-floor installation of the Whitney’s permanent collection did the museum proud. De Salvo pulled it off with a couple of inspired moves—bridging two galleries with a Carl Andre floor piece; bathing Richard Prince’s rephotographed prepubescent Brooke Shields in the Times Square glow of a 1977 Dan Flavin—and a disciplined instinct for how much is just enough. Bonus points: sneaking in a nifty Ad Reinhardt diagram spoofing anxiety and influence in the age of American artistic triumphalism—and this in the curator’s first show in her new post at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

8 ANTHONY BURDIN (MACCARONE INC., NEW YORK) I know, I know. I’ve been thumping the pulpit for this artist all year, but, at the risk of suffocating the demonic demiurge with my critical affections, I have to say that Burdin’s brand new video, Dual Vision Dope Mix/ Restoration Editing Project, 2005, quite simply—pun intended—rocked. For this piece, Burdin brought his squalid road show to a Whole Foods parking lot. Note to Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss: Charge up your PCs; the last—and best—chapter of the Informe remains to be written.

9 PAUL MCCARTHY (HAUS DER KUNST, MUNICH; WHITECHAPEL ART GALLERY, LONDON) My dad’s creepier than your dad, but no one’s dad tops Anthony Burdin’s. I am talking, of course, about Paul McCarthy, Burdin’s artistic precursor and one-time mentor, whose fetid patrimony was honored this year in a maniacally unhinged two-stop survey. The exhibition debuted a three-ring swashbuckler, “Caribbean Pirates,” improbably made with McCarthy’s real-life son Damon (yikes!); but then nervous laughter has always been the fitting response to this artist’s paean to derelict daddies from the White House to the North Pole. “Santa Claus is coming to town . . . ”

10 REENA SPAULINGS Move over, Marian; bag it, Babs. As the new first lady of the gallery world, Reena rules! And “she” writes pretty good too.

Jack Bankowsky is a critic and editor at large of Artforum.