PRINT December 2008

Ann Goldstein


1 Michael Asher (Santa Monica Museum of Art, CA) Asher’s tightly woven framework of metal studs filled the museum space to the point of near impenetrability, representing ten years of the institution’s temporary exhibition structures. But this was not simply a dazzling reconstruction of history: Asher used the museum’s architectural past to reframe. An artist whose entire oeuvre has been inextricably connected to specific physical, functional, and temporal contexts, Asher, through this remarkable project, demonstrates how history can, in fact, be repeated and recast in the present.

2 “On Kawara: 10 Tableaux and 16,952 Pages” (Dallas Museum of Art, TX) In a stunning collaboration between curator Charles Wylie and the artist, this installation featured ten of the largest-scale “date paintings,” or “tableaux,” that Kawara has produced. One room was devoted to three paintings that mark three dates in July 1969, corresponding to mankind’s first walk on the moon. Moving from the powerful presence of the paintings to newspapers that Kawara had placed in handmade cardboard boxes, one could note concurrent events, including a report of Ted Kennedy’s car accident on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts that same week. Kawara’s work offers an enduring record of the individual experience of time’s passage in all its historical coincidences.

3 Louise Lawler, “Sucked In, Blown Out, Obviously Indebted or One Foot in Front of the Other” (Metro Pictures, New York) Lawler examined the traces of an artwork’s existence, its inexorable transit through museums, private homes, storage spaces, exhibitions, and auction houses. Here, images of works by Takashi Murakami, Roy Lichtenstein, Dan Flavin, Maurizio Cattelan, Jeff Koons, John Baldessari, Andy Warhol, and Agnes Martin appeared in various states of visibility. Lawler used repetition and overexposure to bring the piece to the brink of disappearance. In one image, the words IRAQI OIL are faintly overlaid on the shadow cast by Cattelan’s sculpture of a baby elephant shrouded by a white sheet. The work powerfully collapses the market for war and the market for art—for Lawler, there is no separation.

4 “Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms” (Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH, and The Hayward, London) This is an unabashedly “branded” project: Working with the ad firm chezweitz & roseapple, curator Eva Meyer-Hermann fashioned an audacious installation, fostering a nonhierarchical and surprisingly intimate approach to the work through the simultaneous presentation of films, videos, television shows, “Time Capsules,” “Factory Diaries,” and publications. Meyer-Hermann took up the challenge to envision a Warhol exhibition that was at once fresh, relevant, and rigorous—and achieved a show that focuses on Warhol the artist and not on Warhol the painter.

5 “Women in the City” (West of Rome, Los Angeles) Gallerist Emi Fontana boldly took to the streets of Los Angeles, producing billboards and other public interventions by Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Louise Lawler. Kruger’s video billboard on the roof of LACMA West blasted out pictures and words to the southbound traffic on Fairfax Avenue. This requiem for consumerism (THANKS TO YOGA, YOGURT, LIFE COACHES, ART, ASHRAMS, PHILANTHROPY, REAL ESTATE . . .) could not have been more prophetic of our current economic downturn. As she states, PLENTY SHOULD BE ENOUGH—and, as always, Kruger tells it like it is, with clarity and empathy.

6 Monika Baer (Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles) Moving from paintings of currency—banknotes and coins, realistically rendered through diaphanous washes of paint and soot—Baer’s recent body of work has turned to the female breast. A woman’s body is another commodity indeed, and here Baer presents breasts again and again, rendered flat, round, profiled, spouting, dripping, sectioned, and repeated, often in various combinations. Set against a blue background that recalls washed denim, the disembodied body parts radiate a Pop-Surrealist-feminist sensibility combined with disarming directness, humor, and the organizing principles of Conceptual art.

7 Christopher Wool (Luhring Augustine, New York) Wool turns negation and doubt into a productive methodology—using erasure, removal, and recycling as a means of picture making. In one of his most stunning bodies of work on paper to date, he incorporated multiple processes—drawing, spraying, wiping, photography, halftone printing, and Photoshop—into the production of his final silk-screened images. Equally stunning paintings were produced through spraying and wiping away. Wool remains radical without trying.

8 “Houseguest: Jennifer Bornstein Selects from the Grunwald Collection” (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles) Bornstein’s exhibition was remarkable not only for its exhaustive research, the discovery of dozens of works on paper and photographs in the museum’s Grunwald Collection, and a compelling, salon-style hanging of works by Rembrandt, Ed Ruscha, Philip Guston, Sister Corita Kent, and others. What was truly exceptional was Bornstein’s essay in the accompanying brochure, in which she shares her own intimate experience of uncanny connections with historical material, including a touching account of discovering Douglas Huebler’s Location Piece #2, New York City—Seattle, WA, July 1969, and how that work elicited numerous memories from her own life, including a cherished encounter with the artist when she was a graduate student.

9 The Box (Los Angeles) Since Mara McCarthy opened the Box on Chung King Road in Chinatown last year, she has defined a resolute vision as a commercial gallery director. Working with both emerging and historical figures, she has boldly embraced an educational, if not curatorial, mission that seeks to consider artworks within their aesthetic, social, and political context. To this end, she has mined and reconsidered significant yet lesser-known historical work produced in California, including projects such as Wally Hedrick’s War Room, 1967/2002; John Altoon’s provocative drawings from the 1960s; and rarely seen paintings and sculpture by Barbara T. Smith from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s.

10 Richard Hamilton in the permanent collection of the Museum Ludwig, Cologne While I am always stunned to encounter the Ludwig’s comprehensive holdings of American Pop art, it is a recent installation of works by Hamilton that stops me dead in my tracks—including, among many others, My Marilyn, 1964—I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, 1967; and Swingeing London 67 (b), 1968. Looking at these works from a position of envy, since my museum does not own a single work by the artist, I am comforted by a statement from director Kasper König on the Ludwig’s website—“The museum should be used, not visited, as it belongs to everyone and no-one”—and reminded that it is usefulness, not just trophies, that defines a great institution.

Ann Goldstein is senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, where she recently co-organized (with Donna De Salvo) “Lawrence Weiner: As far as the eye can see,” now on view at K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf. Her current exhibition, “Martin Kippenberger: The problem perspective,” can be seen at LA MoCA through January 5, 2009. It then travels to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, opening March 1, 2009.