PRINT December 2006



To take stock of the past year, Artforum contacted an international group of artists to find out which exhibitions were, in their eyes, the very best of 2006.


“Edvard Munch: The Modern Life of the Soul” (Museum of Modern Art, New York) In a rather cynical mode, I trudged uptown one day last spring to see the Munch show at MoMA for what I thought would be a cliché-ridden overview of Nordic gloom-goth. What I got instead was a hard punch to the gut: powerful color, radical ideas about the depiction of memory as space, paintings with emotional vanishing points rather than rational optical ones—The Scream was the least of it. I left slack-jawed. Munch came at me like a spider monkey!


“Fischli & Weiss: Flowers & Questions. A Retrospective” (Tate Modern, London) The physical balance and the constant conversation among their different works was a complete treat for all the senses.


Ishtar Gate (Pergamon Museum, Berlin) The best thing I’ve seen all year is this Babylonian wall, circa 575 BC. I suppose the original “artists” were slaves. I think the issues surrounding this object, not just who made it but also how and why such a creative endeavor should exist, are still relevant today. Plus, the structure itself is full of wonder.


“Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) Oddity: that the Met would have so much important medieval art. Expanse: conservatives used it to go backward, liberals to go forward. Pleasure: sculpture used for pure expression to get to the bottom of emotion. Rarity: that a field so out of date could look so contemporary; the mix of familiar and unfamiliar.


Christian Boltanski and Jean Kalman, “The Last Class” (Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, Tokyo) As is typical of Boltanski’s work, visitors were drawn into a world of absence, memories, and lost time. He and his collaborator, Kalman, completely took over an abandoned school and transformed it with installations, objects, and eerie sounds. As I moved through the darkness, lit only by Boltanski’s trademark yellow lightbulbs, I felt like the main character in a David Lynch movie. The show had a strong emotional impact, evoking amazement, sadness, fear, and fascination; it made me understand what is meant by unheimlich. Sometimes I still hear those bumping sounds coming from far, far away. . . .


“Zaha Hadid: Thirty Years in Architecture” (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York) Picture a museum after art, where practitioners from other fields do everything artists used to do but do it backward, at the service of some other function. Picture a museum where paintings are meant only to result in buildings and cities, where reliefs are plans and models, sculpture and installation are by-products of furniture, video supports architectural animations, performance is replaced by the presence of an architect who walks and talks like a performer. This show anticipates that museum: It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s already here . . . isn’t it? Now if only somebody hadn’t stopped her from warping the edge of Wright’s spiral. . . . But then again, the show would have become architecture; and architecture (or is it renovation, or is it combat?) is—and should be—elsewhere.


JODI, “Max Payne Cheats Only: Demo and Q&A” (Electronic Arts Intermix, New York) I’ve seen countless noise bands/performance acts, but the only one ever to clear a concert hall was JODI, playing in Barcelona in 2001. This year I went to another of their shows, and time hasn’t dimmed their impact one bit: Was it a video screening? A demonstration? Were things working? What the hell was going on? This confusion, of course, is their work, and all the chaos, inconsistencies, and awkward silences reminded me that JODI are still the most important artists working with computers today.


Shaun El C. Leonardo, El Conquistador vs. The Invisible Man (Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Swing Space, New York) In this performance, Leonardo portrayed a Mexican wrestler fighting the Invisible Man. It was a painful, exhilarating, gratifying match.


“Open Routines: Recent Projects by Pedro Lasch” (Queens Museum of Art, New York) This stunning exhibition featured collaborations by Lasch and members of the Latino community in Queens and elsewhere. Works included masklike mirrors to be worn simultaneously by multiple participants, literally creating a more reflective form of communication. Copies of a map of North and South America, rendered in plain red paint and labeled LATINO/A AMERICA, were exhibited above texts recounting border-crossing experiences. The map also appeared as a large mural in a museum gallery where official functions attended by local politicians are often held, becoming the ever-present backdrop to many photo-ops—enabling a community frequently pushed to the margins of our cities to appear prominently in the images of power that Lasch so elegantly challenges.


Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900–1969 (Abrams) The best art I saw this year is found in the book Art Out of Time, edited by Dan Nadel, which fills in many of the missing aspects of the “Masters of American Comics” exhibition that was at the UCLA Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Toiling in a disposable medium, hungry artists churned out brilliant work for peanuts. A lot of great, weird stuff has been forgotten in the intervening years, such as the ’60s comic book Herbie, the discovery of which is a joy for nerds like me.


“Dan Flavin: A Retrospective” (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; originated at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) I was totally contaminated by Flavin’s color. The breadth of this exhibition revealed an oeuvre that is simple and efficient yet emotional and spiritual. (The artist surely would have detested these mystical terms.) I am particularly sensitive to his work’s rigor and intransigence, which is totally different from my own, even opposed—which is why it moves me so much. But then, I was also intensely affected at this show because it was the last to take place at the institution under the directorship of Suzanne Pagé, who had been there since 1973, always supporting artists with her strength and love.


Andreas Slominski, “The Roter Sand Lighthouse and a Stroke of Luck” (Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt) This ranks high on my list for 2006 because it revealed Slominski, who usually gets labeled as quirky or eccentric, to be a sharp and elegant thinker whose intelligent take isn’t limited to just jokes or puns. He relies on visual argument, fully trusts the viewer to follow him on his winding road, and proves the strength of a minimal, interventionist approach.


Isa Genzken (Neugerriemschneider, Berlin) Fantastic: a portrait of Original Man, unchanging, holding tight like a dinosaur. Unaware of his own powers, he is magical yet remains inert, until he is left with nothing . . . but still he survives.


“Standard Gauge: Film Works by Morgan Fisher, 1968–2003” (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) Such beautiful, precise films. I could see Standard Gauge (1984) over and over again—a slightly diabolical performance about film, on film. Very serious and very funny.


Fergal Stapleton, “Stapleton Grey” (Counter Gallery, London) Few shows are moving, but this one—funny, drunken, shadowy, and melancholic—was. Big dark paintings of rooms with little coins tossed onto murky tabletops. A still life of god knows what—perhaps a potato and a jewel. Astonishing paintings, neither fashion nor pastiche but something genuinely new. Then there were the constructions, like the one called F, 2005, that had a luminescent pink orb set on the back of a raggedy sad, buckled canvas—a glimmer of hope, perhaps. But just the right amount.


Ion Grigorescu, “Legenda familiei” (Anticariat Curtea Veche, Bucharest, Romania) Grigorescu assembled assorted artworks under the heading “family legends,” presenting carpets made by distant relatives in the first half of the twentieth century, drawings by uncles for fashion magazines, paintings by his wife and mother-in-law, and drawings and objects by his children. As always, he surprised me with his ability to renew his vision and to adapt it—to the antique shop, to the past, to the uncomfortable corners of reality.


Edward Krasinski’s studio (Warsaw) One of the most interesting shows this year took place outside of an exhibition space: Krasinski’s studio, unchanged since the artist died in 2004, was opened to the public by Foksal Gallery. I’m always interested in these real, specific, and irregular places—the artist in his own unique situation. After I left Warsaw and traveled to other cities, the uniqueness of Krasinski and his specific context became even clearer to me.


“A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts” (Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York) I love how curators Justine Kurland and Dan Torop described their vision for this “photography exhibition about magic”: “For us, the photographer is a seeker of mystery and the act of photographing casts a spell that turns the banal into the supernatural.” Gathering work from the nineteenth century to the present, the show included so many knockout photographs—including many I’d never seen—that my head was spinning. Darius Kinsey’s Three Sisters, Sekiu, Washington, 1925, a picture of three women surrounded by the strangest geological forms, brought the mystery of nature to life; Victoria Sambunaris’s shots from 2005 of a crater in Maui, Hawaii, were so graphic they transported me much as Félix Teynard’s 1850s photographs of Egypt (one was in the show) must have hypnotized viewers at the dawn of photography.


“Into Me/Out of Me” (P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York) and “Made in Palestine” (Bridge Gallery, New York) Even in this year’s political drench of fascistic beaux-arts tendencies, there were many extraordinary exhibitions, including two poised on the threshold of taboo and suppression. “Into Me/Out of Me,” curated by Klaus Biesenbach, was a bold, volatile collation; its wide range of sensuous embodied imagery in every conceivable media broke codifications of race, gender, genital depictions. The body ecstatic, horrific, and banal. “Made in Palestine” included contributions by twenty-three Palestinian artists, usually invisible to us. Incorporating unexpected materials in both traditional and new forms—painting, installation, video—the works were politically assertive, beautiful, desolate, determined, and poignant, as is the artists’ cultural struggle in the face of continuous menace: the destruction of traditions, landscape, cities, infrastructure, universities, and on and on.


Peter Hujar (P. S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York) Some photographers hide from their subjects, like shy teenagers. Others, like Diane Arbus, are painfully present in their work. In Hujar’s photos, there’s an extraordinary balance and dialogue—an intimacy and mutual seduction between both sides of the camera, like a kiss.


“Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings” (Museum of Modern Art, New York) Everybody loves to complain about MoMA, but this is the kind of show you expect from a great artist at a great museum. It’s comprehensive and persuasive, and not without some surprises. In particular, the two recent enormous horizontal paintings in the last room really knocked my socks off.


Nicola López, “OverGrowth” (Caren Golden Fine Art, New York) Of all the contemporary art shows that I managed to see this year, the most enriching for me was López’s. I was pulled into its amazing intricacies, totally and irresistibly. I got lost in it. It took me into the depths beyond understanding. I was traveling, and I liked the travel.


“Dada” (Centre Pompidou, Paris) “Dada” was an enlightenment. Because of the power of the artworks included, and the connections between them underscored by a cogent installation, I finally understood what I had always instinctively felt: It’s not the context that makes the work of art—it’s the individual viewer, who struggles with the context, who gives form to art. Yet these artists used the tool of “art” to confront the world, the reality of their time, and to create a dialogue with society; they were fearless and prescient. (“Dada ist politisch”; “Nehmen Sie Dada ernst, es lohnt sich!”) Among them, Johannes Baader, with his Plasto-Dio-Dada-Drama from 1920, was my “artist’s artist,” but the works of Marcel Duchamp appeared as an eternal flame—inevitable, sharp, powerful, enjoyable, unclassifiable. I have rarely felt as free and responsible in an exhibition, my brain so activated. And I have rarely felt so happy to be an artist.


“Allan Kaprow: Art as Life” (Haus der Kunst, Munich) Kaprow died in April, but his voice and volition were frequently invoked during the opening ceremonies for this exhibition: “What would Allan have wanted?” Kaprow represents a lost era when making art was configured more as moral and intellectual inquiry than as visual display. I found the retrospective intriguing not simply as an exhibition (including paintings, papers and videos from the Getty’s Kaprow archives, and “reenactments” by local artists and students) but as a series of questions put to arts professionals: In what sense is the museum significant or necessary for ephemeral and participatory art? Why would a museum present art that has already “taken place” outside its venue? Are museums the only site for constructing a legacy in the visual arts? This show raised more questions about contemporary art and its institutions than it answered—just like Allan’s work, which is why it remains important to so many of us.


Franz West, “Displacement and Condensation” (Gagosian Gallery, London) Nutritious, full of vim, and contrary to current convoluted conceptual trends, hence true Displacement and Condensation. The crusty, colorful blobs, scraggily creamy aluminum tubes, and uncoiling polyester sculptures are simple, friendly, smart, sexy, powerful, happy, and rough. He’s having fun, and I had fun—pure synergy.


“The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America” (UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles) Artists Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray envisioned the Société Anonyme as an experimental museum, building an amazing collection of European art from the ’20s to the ’50s to nurture an appreciation for modernist ideals (an impetus, in fact, for Alfred Barr’s MoMA). They had a great eye, bringing together stellar art by artists from Brancusi to Mondrian as well as now-forgotten artists such as Susanne Phocas and Walmar Shwab. For the inaugural 1920 exhibition, Duchamp installed industrial gray rubber matting on the floor and framed all the paintings with lace paper doilies. Sensing that the new modern art might be a bit tough for American audiences, he thought to make it more so.


17ème Festival International du Documentaire (Marseille, France) This film festival takes place in July in Marseille. Jean-Pierre Rehm, FID’s director and discrète éminence grise, carefully selects the entries, which might variously be categorized as art, fiction, or documentary, although some are thankfully unclassifiable. Each film is chosen by Rehm to perturb and enthrall viewers. This was the second summer I attended, and I became so frustrated trying to write notes in the dark that I ran to the closest hardware store to buy a tiny low-voltage bulb and a battery to tape to my pen. I have since redesigned my pen and have already booked my ticket for next year. During this festival the city of Marseille becomes a bright enclave. All these ideas will keep me busy and therefore warm through the winter, as they did the year before. The program is so good it is almost insolent.


“Robert Rauschenberg: Combines” (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; originated at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) It was a meditation out loud.


Marnie Weber, The Spirit Girls: Songs that Never Die (Luckman Intimate Theatre, Los Angeles) and “Faustus’s Children” (Sister, Los Angeles) The most outstanding show of the past year actually goes back to the end of 2005: Weber’s performance The Spirit Girls. Unforgettable. But 2006 isn’t over yet, and I’m sure my favorite show will be “Faustus’s Children,” an installation featuring video and sets by Michele O’Marah, special effects by Tim Jackson, and a script and music by David Jones.


“Kenneth Anger: Pleased to Meet You” (Künstlerhaus Bremen, Germany) Remarkably, this was Anger’s first solo exhibition in Germany, and it was marvelous to see so much of his work presented in such a smart way. He is a very important artist not only historically but also for me personally.


Tacita Dean, “Analogue: Films, Photographs, Drawings 1991–2006” (Schaulager, Basel) This was my favorite exhibition—not only of this year but of the past few years—and one I’ll surely remember for many years to come. It’s hard for me to say anything about such a perfect body of work. Thank you, Tacita!


Drew Gillespie, “Institution of Changing Minds” (Philadelphia) A committee of weirdo potential energy, an exercising network of people’s mentalities that sometimes becomes an actual Place called the “Institution of Changing Minds.” Based in America, mostly Philadelphia, it has the [Best] Ideas! The first Actual Place is being Brainstormed, Doctored, and Institutionalized by founder Drew Gillespie. The meetings are like band meetings where everyone fights about a new band name every day. “Taya,” Lizzie, and Lindsay host “Bring It to the Table,” in which people perform or lecture on something they researched, like water supply, the end of the world, or how Canada happened. Whether it is actually research, wiki, or just totally based on fake memories, it is all taken very, very seriously—but in a human, nonacademic, emotional way. Sort of archival in the wake of death, wacky, and full of everything changing and meaningful.


Carla Arocha, “Chris” (Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain, Auvergne, France) This show blew me away. Concisely constructed and installed in a way that made good use of the FRAC’s odd spaces, it combined elements of the religious and the mundanely secular, mixing them into a perverse cocktail through abstraction. Its point of departure was a police photograph of the deceased comedian Chris Farley, who OD’d in his Chicago apartment in 1997. In one work Arocha laser printed a dot pattern—using three colors she found in the Farley photograph—on long pieces of cracked white leather. Large squares of mirrored glass on the floor forced viewers to see themselves in the act of looking. A screen, or “veil,” made of interlocking Plexiglas crosses, blocked off part of the space. Behind it, a small flat screen silently showed a sketch from Saturday Night Live in which Farley and Patrick Swayze play Chippendales dancers. The placement of the monitor behind the veil, partially obscured, only intensified its effect.


Song Tao, From Last Century (Creative Garden, Shanghai/BizArt) This installation was part of a large show called “38 Solo Exhibitions.” Spectators were not allowed to enter into Song Tao’s small cinema after the film began. The work supposedly shows banal images of young kids playing games on the streets of Shanghai. But whether due to the frustration of not being able to see the film itself or, as I suspect, due to the regurgitation of lost emotions from an Asian childhood I never experienced, I literally broke down in tears at the theater entrance.


“Steven Parrino: Rétrospective 1977–2004” (Mamco, Geneva) F.T.W. (Fuck the World.)


“The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America” (UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles) There were two highlights in the show for me: (1) The first room replicated Marcel Duchamp’s design in its pale blue walls and gray rubber floor matting, and in the placement of lace paper doilies around the paintings’ frames. Duchamp’s sly, irreverent seriousness was clearly in evidence. (2) The show slowly revealed the importance of Katherine S. Dreier as both artist and progenitor: her energetic proselytizing on behalf of modern art; her passion for establishing venues and community situations outside the museum to showcase new music, art, and film; her zeal spanning thirty years of tumultuous political and social change—not to mention her close friendship with Duchamp, and his deep regard and admiration for her. All of this was eye-opening. Dreier’s contributions to cultural history, matching those of Duchamp himself, were reconfirmed in this remarkable exhibition.


“Anna Halprin, à l’origine de la performance” (Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon, France) How many artists are still at work deep into their eighties? How many dancers move with grace in the last decades of their life? Halprin’s retrospective in Lyon traced her fruitful career from her early days at Bennington to interdisciplinary workshops in California (where she taught Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, and Robert Morris) to more recent humanitarian social projects. Halprin may be the grandmother of postmodern dance, but she also proves that one octogenarian can be more relevant in today’s world than scores of recent MFAs.


“Dada” (Centre Pompidou, Paris) The disorienting layout of the Paris version of the show, based on an orthogonal grid, made it possible to view this artistic movement from many different perspectives, allowing for a dynamic reading of a period that is still extremely vivid and pertinent. The critical and ironic dimensions of the work haven’t lost any power over the years—if anything, they seem sadly revitalized by the political and social context of our present time.


Demolition of Oskar-von-Miller Strasse 16 (Frankfurt) The best show of 2006 first took place in 2003, at the Wiener Secession, as part of the group exhibition “Kontext, Form, Troja” (Context, Form, Troy), when Dennis Loesch and I simulated the demolition of our building, Oskar-von-Miller Strasse 16. We described it at the time as a “speculative exhibition of a future taking place in reality.” Three years later we witnessed the real thing—a scene that we could not have imagined more accurately, because, of course, we had seen it already.


Miki Carmi, “Psychic Readymades” (Stefan Stux Gallery, New York) The way Carmi’s portrait subjects exist on the canvas, huge heads floating disembodied on white grounds, strikes me as a sculpture of a state of mind. It’s refreshing to see paintings with such personal and extreme conviction.


Marie Lorenz, Tide and Current Taxi (New York) I love experiences that communicate as myth, and Lorenz’s Tide and Current Taxi did just that. She built a small plywood and fiberglass boat and transported people all over New York, following the tides and currents. One of the great things about her projects is the way they sometimes do not work. For instance, the taxi’s very first passenger had to swim halfway across the East River because the taxi sank.


“Robert Rauschenberg: Combines” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) We all knew (or thought we knew) Rauschenberg, but this accumulation of works made a point about the inspiration and ideas that so many artists got from him and about his place in our language. It made a point about Rauschenberg’s consistent authority over endless materials, his “non-careful” freedom to reassess, restructure, and reconstitute objects and realities, and his ability to generate high-level poetry out of low-level junk.


Anna Craycroft, The Agency of the Orphan ( Some of the best exhibitions I saw this year were online. My favorite was a website by Craycroft called The Agency of the Orphan. The site is fi lled with photographs, drawings, and case studies that reintroduce many favorite orphan characters (e.g., Annie, Oliver Twist, and Arnold from Diff’rent Strokes). Navigating this site is like running into childhood friends years and years later, bringing a simultaneous charge of nostalgia and shame.


Anthony McCall, “You and I, Horizontal” (Galerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris) McCall shows us a future past made of light, sound, and film. This show included recent installations as well as early works; my favorite was Landscape for Fire, 1972, a fi lm documentation of that year’s performance Landscape for Fire II. We see three men dressed in white, standing in an open fi eld at dusk. One of them (the artist himself) systematically lights a series of small fi res on a thirty-six-point grid, while the other two follow behind with a shotgun mic and a clipboard. The figures are seen from various perspectives—right-side up, upside-down, from a bird’s-eye view, running backward through the dark fi eld with an emergency fl are, and in a closeup that shows McCall’s eyes—while a foghorn signals in the wind.


“John Chamberlain: Foam Sculptures” (Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX) Between 1966 and 1970 alone Chamberlain produced approximately 108 works of urethane foam. Using cords to tie and compress the foam, he brought the density and energy to the center to produce outward-thrusting forms. In these pieces, many of which took but a few minutes to produce, Chamberlain pulls together and extends de Kooning’s ideas about vernacular color, Pop art’s materiality, and a Minimalist insistence on the literal, resulting in a body of work that should not be ignored. The Chinati Foundation brought together thirty-one of these rarely seen works. Housed in a Judd-designed exhibition space, this exhibition was a model of curatorial craft and restraint. So precise was the placement of each piece, you could hold the whole show in your mind’s eye and look at it as an object in itself.


2006 Busan Biennale (South Korea) I’ve never participated in a biennial that invited and attracted so many young artists from around the world, all with beautiful clothes and manners, all making endlessly energetic artwork.


“Tokyo–Berlin/Berlin–Tokyo: A Tale of Two Cities” (Mori Art Museum, Tokyo) Tokyo and Berlin have much in common. In 1868, when it became the capital of Japan, Tokyo opened its doors to the West and was forced to modernize rapidly. Berlin, the capital of Prussia, also experienced a modernization boom in the nineteenth century. The cities exchanged ideas on culture and politics, and, ultimately, both were destroyed during the Allied bombings. Through works of art, modern and contemporary, this exhibition highlighted the successes and struggles of these two cultural centers.


“Essential Stuart Sherman” (Anthology Film Archives, New York) PROPER NAME ’s theory should, like all other laws of NOUN, obey the principle of ABSTRACT NOUN. In other PLURAL NOUN, NOUN ADJECTIVE should be VERB ENDING IN -ING even within any ADJECTIVE reference NOUN. Since speed c is built into the laws of PLURAL NOUN , Einstein PAST-TENSE VERB that every observer ought to VERB every light NOUN to move at speed c, regardless of the observer’s NOUN .