PRINT December 2007

Ann Goldstein


1 Rudolf Stingel (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago) This is what a survey should be: the opportunity to enter the artist’s practice on the artist’s kown terms. That can be a tall order for many American institutions, which must struggle to renegotiate a space between the needs of art and what they perceive to be the needs of their publics. In this exhibition, organized by Francesco Bonami, those publics could have their way with the silver-foiled atrium and could experience to the highest degree how an artist can collaborate with an institution, thus participating in the construction of his own history.

2 “A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s” (Berkeley Art Museum, CA) Nauman’s early achievements are hardly unknown, but Constance Lewallen’s precise and impeccably researched exhibition offered a refreshing view of both familiar and only just discovered work from this defining period, forging new insights into the artist’s remarkably prescient and still relevant practice and reinforcing the value of curatorial scholarship by showing us that we always have more to learn.

3 Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (Germany) Following a remarkable tenure as director of the Kunstverein Braunschweig in Germany, Karola Grässlin recently took the helm of this venerable institution to the south. For her first exhibition she reinvigorated the subject of Color Field painting by placing a few unlikely artists under its rubric, including Blinky Palermo, Stephen Prina, and Heimo Zobernig. And, as part of a buildingwide renovation, she commissioned Zobernig (in cooperation with architect Michael Wallraff) to redesign the staff offices, even giving up gallery space so that he could construct an open workroom—complete with identical desks, steel cabinets, flat-screen monitors, and a no-personal-items-on-the-desk policy—where the workers are now placed on permanent display, visible from the museum lobby through glass doors.

4 “Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone” (Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA) Heilmann’s first major US retrospective shouldn’t be the eye-opener it is, though one might trace that impression to the fact that, unlike so many of her contemporaries who emerged in the 1960s, she went against the grain and moved from post-Minimal sculpture to painting. It was a distinctive turn justified by each work in this illuminating retrospective and by the sense of resistance and independence that permeates her work. Kudos to curator Elizabeth Armstrong for organizing this exhibition, which pays long-overdue tribute to one of the most distinguished careers in abstract painting.

5 “Model Martin Kippenberger: Utopia for Everyone” (Kunsthaus Graz, Austria) This elegant and focused exhibition—thoughtfully assembled by Daniel Baumann and Peter Pakesch, whose history with the artist goes back to Pakesch’s days as a gallerist in Vienna, where the artist was based—dismisses with the prevailing emphasis on Kippenberger’s self-portraits in order to examine his self-reflexivity and self-determination through other means. Emphasizing sculpture, the show features an exceptional assembly of Kippenberger’s remarkably dysfunctional design objects from his “Peter” exhibitions of the late ’80s, not the least of which is the artist’s legendary Modell Interconti, 1987, a coffee-table construction with a gray Gerhard Richter painting for its top.

6 Lari Pittman (Regen Projects II, Los Angeles) Pittman’s new work is completely authored by hand, the artist having shifted from using mediated imagery, as he did in paintings from recent years, to relying upon his own technical facility. The subjects in this body of work—gourds, acrobatic figures, cacti, fried eggs—are fully in keeping with the unique visual lexicon that has characterized the artist’s exuberant, allover compositions for more than twenty years, while the new paintings are also distinguished by their subtle shifts of color and application. In his reflection on the overall continuum of his practice, Pittman has produced a particularly resonant and stunning body of work.

7 Rachel Harrison, “If I Did It” (Greene Naftali Gallery, New York) and “Voyage of the Beagle” (Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich) Harrison’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 2007, the horrific Janus-faced sculpture featured in both exhibitions, still haunts me. The lithe female mannequin replete with purple bicycle shorts and a rubber Dick Cheney mask on the back of her head is—like titling the Greene Naftali show after O. J. Simpson’s “hypothetical” confession—the perfect example of Harrison’s diving into the abyss of our cultural psychosis in order to embed social critique in the very conception of sculptural practice.

8 Charline von Heyl (Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne) Von Heyl’s paintings are prickly and contradictory, ravishing and unsightly, and always conceptually complex. Zigzags and black sawtooth lines command these compositions, combining a tough graphic punch with the palpable gesture of a dry, scratchy brush. It is no simple task to make truly difficult abstract painting, and she does it with total aplomb.

9 David Askevold (The Mandrake, Los Angeles) A screening of Askevold’s loose, unscripted, documentary-style video John Todd and His Songs, 1977, at the Mandrake brought renewed attention to one of our most complex, mystifying, and underrecognized first-generation Conceptual artists, whose groundbreaking video work hovers between fact and fiction, embracing the subjective and the parapsychological. Organized by Catherine Taft, this was one of the many special guest-curated evenings at the space, which as a bar and as a casual spot for readings, exhibitions, and screenings has given our centerless city a long-needed meeting place.

10 Generali Foundation (Vienna) As demonstrated by its striking summer exhibition, titled simply “Collection,” the Generali Foundation has assembled one of the most extraordinary collections of Conceptual art from the ’60s to the present. Sabine Breitwieser, a Generali staffer since its founding in 1988 and artistic and managing director since 1991, has created the Generali’s exemplary exhibition and collecting program. Indeed, under her direction the foundation purchased the work of many artists—Robert Barry, Valie Export, Andrea Fraser, Dan Graham, Edward Krasiński, David Lamelas, Dorit Margreiter, Mathias Poledna, Florian Pumhösl, and Allan Sekula, among others—such that the collection attained a coherence and level of scholarship that are the envy of most museums. Yet recent announcements that the collection will merge with the BAWAG Foundation and that Breitwieser will resign remind us that Generali is, after all, a corporate collection. Unfortunately, we now have great cause for concern for the future of both merging institutions.

Ann Goldstein is senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, where she recently organized “Cosima von Bonin: Roger and Out” and “Artists’ Gifts: Michael Asher.” She is currently assembling the first US retrospective of Martin Kippenberger’s work, which will open at MoCA in September 2008.