PRINT December 2010

Jack Bankowsky

1 “Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever” (MoCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles) I want to celebrate Trecartin and his “superhuman crew”—Dylan’s phrase for Warhol’s posse—for an exhibition design that single-handedly redeemed the punishing convention of video installation and for transforming the PDC’s de Chirico–scary plaza (and its even scarier Wolfgang Puck eatery) into an opening-night carnival perfectly paired with the artful delirium inside. But mostly I want to marvel at the videos: Not only is Trecartin’s visual slice-and-dice uniquely equal to today’s virtual whirl; his ingenuity with language, his unerring ear for argot—for the texts and tweets that make up our digital everyday—is downright dumbfounding. As Wayne Koestenbaum wrote of the Texas-born, LA-based artist in these pages, “Dialects are his acrylics. . . . Instead of ‘yes,’ say ‘yay-us.’”

2 Mike Kelley, Day Is Done Judson Church Dance (Performa 09, Judson Memorial Church, New York, November 17–19, 2009) If Trecartin turned in the performance of the year, Mike Kelley’s three-night run at the mother ship of New York experimental dance reminds us that the younger artist, for all his blindsiding sorcery, was not from thin air born. Kelley’s genius, like Trecartin’s, resides in his ability to tap the dreamtime currents gurgling beneath the everyday, to make our manners, our babble, our art, strange to ourselves. I saw this trio of performances based on the artist’s epic Day Is Done just past the cutoff date for last year’s best-of issue, but nightmare flashbacks of Kelley—half Cunningham principal (sans the chiseled buns), half demented phys-ed coach stomping about the hardwood court to rapid-fire blasts from his referee’s whistle—still keep me up at night.

3 “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917” (Museum of Modern Art, New York; curated by Stephanie D’Alessandro and John Elderfield) I hate myself for being so boring, but I cannot tell a lie: No museum show this year made me happier than D’Alessandro and Elderfield’s ruthless parsing of a career scarcely in need of special pleading. In the abundant few years that the exhibition took as its purview, the vestigial pull of recognizable subject matter locked horns with the tantalizing possibility of pure abstraction, yielding a sequence of pictures so concentrated, so authentic, so utterly stunning, that we struggle to convince ourselves that painting ever again found a way to matter as much.

Co-organized with the Art Institute of Chicago.

4 Carroll Dunham (Blum & Poe, Los Angeles) Let’s hear it for pussy! I mean, painting. I want to insist that Dunham’s paintings are no more about female genitalia than Matisse’s canvases are about oranges or piano lessons, but deep down I know that the artist’s “special interest” remains the elephant in the room. Dunham’s eyebrow-raising donnés work first and foremost as foils for his formal virtuosity; nevertheless, there is something in his cartoon obsession—part origin-of-the-world stupefaction, part graffitist’s impulse to mark and profane—without which his dazzling abstract variations would fall flat. Consider the patches of stained sunshine that enter three landscapes-with-vagina in three separate ways; savor the stylized brush lick that is also an outsize pubic hair; ogle the painterly pink ovals that do for Dunkin’ Donuts what Bill Clinton—I mean Sigmund Freud, I mean Philip Guston—did for cigars.

5 Larry Clark, Tulsa (the movie), 1968 (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) Did people ever really look this way? In Tulsa, or even on Mars? Did they have big hair? Did they stick themselves with needles over morning coffee? Did they go about their risky business like business as usual—silently, in black and white, before the unblinking camera? Clark’s iconic photos of the period will undoubtedly outlast this filmed footage, but because these moving images were new to me, they overwhelmed, reminding me once again of the tenacity of Clark’s extraordinary art of witness.

6 “Joint Dialogue: Lozano, Graham, Kaltenbach” (Overduin and Kite, Los Angeles; curated by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer) “Throw the last twelve issues of Artforum up in the air.” When Lee Lozano first performed her instructions in 1969, they yielded a flutter of airborne pages (and a liberating fuck-you to a magazine that was just settling into its status as the art-world bible); four decades later, the perfect-bound tonnage of an Artforum publishing year was more than an understandably wobbly kneed Stephen Kaltenbach could manage. Short of taking flight, the issues slipped from his hands and tumbled to the floor: thud. All at once, everything was art: the avant-garde and its institutions; the art world then, and now; the crowd of twentysomethings sipping beer at LA’s coolest gallery in celebration of this tantalizing time capsule of a show. Who says Conceptual art doesn’t age well?

7 The Exhibitionist: Journal on Exhibition Making (edited by Jens Hoffmann) “Throw the last, um, two issues of The Exhibitionist up in the air”? The task wouldn’t demand much elbow grease as of this writing, but if forthcoming editions of the fledgling journal are as chock-full of relevant names and meaty discussion as the initial two, it won’t be long before the first journal solely devoted to exhibition making is an institution in its own right.

8 Jennifer Bolande (Thomas Solomon Gallery and Cottage Home, Los Angeles) Sometime in the foggy mists of the ’80s, I stumbled into an East Village storefront—and onto the art of Jennifer Bolande. I have always remembered that moment—especially a pair of subtly assisted amplifiers—and had long hoped to glimpse these curious emissaries from our rock ’n’ roll unconscious again and to test them against my embroidered memories. This past fall, on the heels of a thoughtful midcareer retrospective at Milwaukee’s INOVA (alas, no Speaker I and II), a gallery survey in the artist’s adopted hometown provided the opportunity I’d been waiting for. The verdict? As far as I’m concerned, Bolande’s favored found objects still give urinals—or, at the very least, vacuum cleaners—a run for their money.

9 John Kelsey, Rich Texts: Selected Writing for Art (Sternberg Press) Edited by Daniel Birnbaum and Isabelle Graw, this timely collection gathers together occasional essays by one of the art world’s most engaged—and seductive—voices. Interleaved with images of female tennis champs, this tidy, portable volume will become the dog-eared best friend to anyone who cares about the embattled art of art writing.

10 The Runaways (directed by Floria Sigismondi) Art imitates YouTube, in the most, troubling, exhilarating, eyes-wide-shut plummet into sexploitation and celebrity since Spiritual America. Ch-ch-ch-ch-CHERRY BOMB!

Jack Bankowsky is editor at large of Artforum. His exhibition “Pop Life” (cocurated with Alison Gingeras and Catherine Wood) opened at Tate Modern, London, in fall 2009 and completed its three-city tour at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa this past September.