PRINT December 2005

Robert Storr

1 “ACCUMULATED VISION, BARRY LE VA” (INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, PHILADELPHIA) For me, the past year’s most awaited, most revealing, and most beautifully executed exhibition was this miniretrospective organized by Ingrid Schaffner (who deserves her own high ranking on some roster for the string of exhibitions she has curated over the years). Le Va is one of those ground-and-wall-and-glass-breaking characters whose reputation had for too many years hung tenuously on grainy Artforum photos (nostalgically recycled by Matthew Antezzo) and a few verbal generalizations. But the work itself is varied, complex, emotional, and visual. Alas, the pitiful state of current museum programming meant that this exhibition, initiated by a gifted curator and a small, risk-taking institution, couldn’t find an additional venue or a larger audience. Shame on every big museum in every big city.

2 “SLIDESHOW” (BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART) Why didn’t anybody think of devoting an exhibition to the slide as an art form before, especially now that Kodak has ceased producing the projectors and will soon curtail its film stock? Fortunately, Darsie Alexander did have the idea and gathered together an impressive array of pieces by Marcel Broodthaers, James Melchert, Nan Goldin, Jack Smith, James Coleman, and many more. Full disclosure: I wrote an essay for the project, and in that spirit of advocacy (and my Le Va entry above) would like to use this occasion to ask the director of the Brooklyn Museum why his increasingly art-averse institution dropped “SlideShow” from its 2005 schedule, shortchanging the public out of one of the most innovative theme shows in recent memory.

3 JEFF WALL (SCHAULAGER, MÜNCHENSTEIN/BASEL) This exhibition took place in the fastness of Switzerland and was seen mostly by Basel locals and international art nomads. An elegantly designed catalogue raisonné accompanied, but the show itself—mounted in its one-ofa- kind contemporary art–storage-and-display facility—was a coolly taxonomic study of Wall’s deceptively consistent photo-fictions. Highlighting the thematic and theatrical unevenness of Wall’s output made his broader enterprise seem less critic-friendly and more the work of a shrewd but genuinely restless sensibility that encompasses still life, landscape, the grotesque, and faux documentary vignettes of alienation and “otherness.” Presently photography is permitted the illusionistic naturalism denied genre painting, and Wall is the point man for recuperation of lapsed prerogatives. The next step should be to investigate his inverted traditionalism and its remarkable appeal among the ostensibly antihistoricist theory crowd.

4 ROBERT SMITHSON (LOS ANGELES MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART) All credit goes to Eugenie Tsai (aided by Connie Butler) for having brought this long-standing project to completion. It eclipsed Robert Hobbs’s less textured version of Smithson at the Whitney twenty-three years ago, and not only raises fascinating questions (most of them concerning Smithson’s ambivalent, quasi- Pop eroticism and religiosity) but also leaves behind one indelibly romantic image: a skinny man/boy in a white shirt retracing on foot the umbilicus he wound into a lake that mirrors the sun like a flashing supernova.

5 ISTANBUL BIENNIAL Organized by Vasif Kortun and Charles Esche, this biennial was a lesson in how to make the most of a physically stunning, culturally textured city and a small budget. It is impossible to cover everything but special mention must go to Hala Elkoussy’s haunting video of life on the outskirts of Cairo, Peripheral Stories , 2005; Dan Perjovschi’s stream-of-bad-consciousness mural cartoons; and videast Halil Altindere’s whimsical disruptions of everyday urban life, which include volleyball teams playing in the streets for the duration of a red traffic light and demonstrators carrying a banner through the crowds that reads DOWN WITH THE PEOPLE. Up with art that is wholly in the present-imperfect tense.

6 JÖRG IMMENDORFF (NEUE NATIONALGALERIE, BERLIN) Perennial political Puck of the German art scene, Immendorff never succumbed to ’80s temptations of premature Old Masterism—he’s too scrappy for that—which makes his protean production and saturnalian remodeling of Mies’s modernist temple to art an invigorating anti-apotheosis, poignantly accented by his losing battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Schlerosis (ALS).

7 MARTIN KIPPENBERGER Just as Immendorff keeps kicking up a fuss, Kippenberger did not go gently into the night either, and though not long gone he is due for an American retrospective, something we were reminded of by various shows in New York at Gagosian, Luhring Augustine, and the Nyehaus gallery (curated by scenemaker Tim Nye). Boozy neo-Dada, Conceptualism on Ritalin, whatever Kippenberger was up to or down on, he was living and dying proof that—as he famously said—“You can’t do dumb if you are dumb.”

8 BRUCE NAUMAN Sneak peeks and missed chances: During intermittent visits to Nauman’s studio I have been lucky to watch the gestation of several works that I was nevertheless unable to see in their final form. These include One Hundred Fish Fountain, 2005—just exhibited at Donald Young in Chicago, the piece actually consists of only ninety-seven fish cast in bronze, plus several fiberglass heads unnervingly recycled from earlier works—as well as Raw Materials, whose cries and whispers filled the Tate’s Turbine Hall through the beginning of 2005. This piece effectively shifted from sight to sound, silence to unsilence, turning the panoramic video semivoid of Mapping the Studio (Fat Chance John Cage), 2001, into a vast echo chamber that amplified the urgent intimacies first heard in Nauman’s 1968 sound piece Get Out of My Mind, Get Out of This Room. The fact is that people can’t leave, nor can the artist escape the cluttered work space from which a steady but wholly unpredictable flow of ideas just keeps on coming. (As to what’s on Nauman’s mind, belated thanks to Janet Kraynak for Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words [MIT Press, 2003].)

9 KALUP LINZY Linzy has the stylish charm of Cab Calloway and the gleeful offensiveness of John Waters. “A star is born,” wrote Holland Cotter in the New York Times when reviewing this performance artist and videast’s wildly un-PC funk satire of a soap opera titled All My Churen, 2003, shown this year at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Surely there’s more to come, but anyone who thinks racial and sexual lampoon is out of season need not attend.

10 VASCO ARAÚJO For me, the black-box discovery of Venice was Araújo’s video The Girl of the Golden West, 2004, a riff on the eponymous ’30s film (based on the same play as Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West [1910]). In the Spanish artist’s retelling, the on-camera narrator—an African-American woman who worked at the Texas art school where Araújo was an artist-in-residence—talks a weary, exegetical “blues” about Puccini’s lyric vision of an America at war with Mexico, as we are now with other “others” elsewhere in the world.

An artist, critic, and curator, Robert Storr recently organized a retrospective of the art of Elizabeth Murray currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He is now at work directing the 2007 Venice Biennale.