PRINT December 2010



To take stock of the past year, Artforum contacted an international group of artists to find out which exhibitions and events were, in their eyes, the very best of 2010.


Jean-Pascal Flavien, No Drama House (Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin) Constructed in the gallery’s garden, Flavien’s house starts with a series of unsolvable problems—no center, too many corridors, too narrow—and then allows other things to happily get in the way. There’s a basement, but it’s aboveground outside. There’s a front door, but it’s on the second floor. Is there a garage? Who forgot the kitchen? There’s no real bedroom either. And the bathroom that exists is divided into parts. Seemingly useless, two odd rooms require that we invent a purpose for them. Additional problems arise, a few at a time. We like our problems. We wrap ourselves in them, some yellow, some blue. We can be playful with our problems—no drama—filling our drawers with no-drama blueprints. And here Flavien has constructed a no-drama house as a place to live!


“Gerhard Richter: Lines Which Do Not Exist” (Drawing Center, New York) After seeing many of Richter’s paintings on a recent trip to Saint Louis and San Francisco, I enjoyed his show at the Drawing Center this fall all the more. We have crossed paths several times over the years, having gotten started around the same time and having each given a lot of focus to drawing, black-and-white for the most part. Gerhard, however, may be the more venturesome; he has never tied himself to depiction—anything but!


Markus Selg, “A New Beginning” (Vilma Gold, London) When I walked through the jute curtain into “A New Beginning,” Markus Selg’s memorable show at Vilma Gold this spring, I encountered a dark space with a sparse installation of discreet works of art, some theatrically spotlit and some containing their own light sources. The installation included wooden sculptures, digital prints, and miniature stage sets, along with video projections, fragments of musical sound, handmade furniture (made in collaboration with Astrid Sourkova), and a seaweed carpet. With these elements, Selg created an all encompassing mise-en-scène, an experiential world that evoked a postapocalyptic vision of starting over alone, with a simplicity and directness of approach. The artist’s commitment was palpable. Very inspiring!


John McLaughlin, “Hard Edge Classicist” (Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York) McLaughlin’s paintings don’t require much explanation; you just stand in front of one and let it do its work. Like contemplating a Zen garden, calm, focus, and feelings/thoughts of things big and small come quickly. The forms’ positive and negative spaces don’t so much flip-flop as slowly phase in and out, bounded by surfaces and edges that are puritanical but just flawed enough to feel modest and human; the artist’s palette here is subdued but luscious. While there’s ample McLaughlin DNA in the contemporary art world, I can’t readily think of any other paintings that achieve the beauty, economy, and soul that I experienced in front of these thirteen works.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, World’s Fair, Brussels, Belgium, 1958, black-and-white photograph, 12 x 8 1/8". © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos.


Henri Cartier-Bresson (Museum of Modern Art, New York) When, as a teenager, I finally stopped playing with Legos and became interested in photography, my big hero was Henri Cartier-Bresson. I would study his books, filled with images from all over, and then, camera in hand, wander around my small Swiss world in search of the perfect composition. Viewing this work again, I was impressed not only to see how much I’d changed in the past twenty years but to recognize how strong Cartier-Bresson’s work remains, even now, when real quality and beauty in art are rarely sought after, let alone achieved.


“La Guerra que no hemos visto” (Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Colombia) Curated by Ana Tiscornia, “The War We Haven’t Seen” presented a two-year project in which Medellín-born artists Juan Manuel Echavarría put groups of opposing Colombian guerrillas, paramilitaries, and army privates in a room, to confront one another again, but this time brandishing brushes instead of rifles. The result was a series of 420 naive narrative paintings that depicted killings and tortures perpetrated by their enemies and by their own forces. A selection of ninety pieces was on view here. Proffering information, contrition, and the possibility of reconciliation, this art refreshingly bypassed commerce in favor of serving the collective good.

Fred Sandback, Untitled (detail), 1975, linocut on Japanese paper, 17 1/2 x 21".


Fred Sandback (Lawrence Markey, San Antonio) Fred Sandback once described himself to me as “a benchwarmer of the Minimalists”—on the team, yet philosophically opposed to being put in the game. The Sandback exhibition at Lawrence Markey gallery this past spring warranted a trip to San Antonio, where an exquisite 1975 linocut detailed a corner and a rectilinear form: a bench. Sandback’s work keeps our comprehension pendulous—in suspension between a lightness of touch and a conceptual weightiness. A few months later, I traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico, for Manfred Pernice’s show at OPA (Oficina para Proyectos de Arte), where the architectural environment earnestly integrated itself into the work. Viewed from the outside, Fred’s and Manfred’s sculptures create paradoxes of perceived interiority. That alone is what a successful work of art achieves—making us more keenly aware of our existence.

Mirror Mirror, Interiors/Exteriors. Performance view, The Kitchen, New York, June 23, 2010. Photo: Diana Shungin.


Mirror Mirror, Interiors/Exteriors (The Kitchen, New York) “Robert Melee’s Talent Show” at the Kitchen provided the stage for an extraordinary synthesis of genres by Brooklyn-based band Mirror Mirror. David Riley sang “Interiors” (Jamstation remix) in front of a projection of Cockette Rumi Missabu, wearing matching dress and makeup by Lauren Devine. Meanwhile, a spandex “house” (also Devine’s design) morphed with the movement of the performance collective Skint (Jessie Gold, Elizabeth Hart, Danny Johnston), who later broke free into a cancan; Ryan Lucero, his face distorted by a magnifying lamp, percussively clapped; and the Jamstation step crew (Christelle de Castro, Marlena Dionne, Saran Johnson, Jeremy Parker, Holli Smith) busted out during the song’s rhythmic interlude. Radically disparate elements magically coalesced— the infinity effect of Mirror Mirror inside a Melee talent show.


“Long March Project: Ho Chi Minh Trail” (Long March Space, Beijing) This year the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” project extended a critical discussion of contemporary art in Asia (via seminars and events) from China to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos and back again. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, several small art communities, working outside the state’s neoliberal cultural initiatives, established their own spaces (e.g., Taipei Contemporary Art Center, The Cube Project Space). As formerly insular art worlds open up, these are heartening developments. The “Ho Chi Minh Trail” project demonstrates that Chinese art circles have begun self-critically confronting Asian social history, and the emergence of new independent art venues in Taiwan shows that its cultural producers will not be subject to the desires of its government.


“Less Is More: Pictures, Objects, Concepts from the Collection and Archive of Herman and Nicole Daled, 1966–1978” (Haus der Kunst, Munich) Traditionally, when an artwork enters a private collection, the artist must relinquish control. Not so in the case of Belgian collectors Herman and Nicole Daled, who have taken an alternative approach, assuming a handson role in the production process, consulting the artists about the terms and presentation of the work, and being famously opposed to buying or selling on the secondary market. The show at Haus der Kunst mapped out the couple’s somewhat idiosyncratic interests (the collection is centered around the work of Marcel Broodthaers and a mostly European circle of Conceptualists) and revealed their personal relationships with the artists they collect. As the exhibition made clear, the Daleds have redefined the role of the art collector from passive consumer to engaged participant.


“Renoir in the 20th Century” (Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris) While visiting Paris en route to New York last winter, I made my way through room after room of late Renoir Bathers at the Grand Palais. The show sent me straight to the moon—just as the Boston MFA’s 1985 Renoir exhibition, which was dismissed as full of fat pink ladies, changed my life forever. Even after a hundred years, these paintings are still getting bad press. In his New York Times review this past June, Holland Cotter claimed that Renoir’s “figures, with blurry edges . . . make surprisingly little impact.” I think his edges are genius; no beginning, no end, just one continuous flow. Renoir’s color softens the blow and comes straight from the soul. It makes people mad. It makes me want to paint.


Tarek Atoui, Un-drum 1: strategies of surviving noise (Seoul Museum of Art) During the opening of Media City Seoul 2010, Lebanese artist Tarek Atoui performed this beautiful, powerful, sweaty piece of music. The motion of his body and hands, which deftly manipulated innumerable knobs and dials (both phantom and real) to control thousands of digital samples, activated the sound. The effect was at once superabstract and emotionally loaded, triggering both pathos and algorithms. Despite having a broken finger, Atoui played nonstop in a frenzy of physical activity, balancing pianissimi with fortes while stabilizing the scaffolding that served as his stage. Though the referent for this performance was torture during the Lebanese war, the show offered a politics bathed in pure, positive energy.


Thomas Kratz (Croy Nielsen, Berlin) Standing in front of Kratz’s flesh-toned works in Berlin last spring, I found myself puzzled and amazed. With titles such as Apoll (Apollo) and Artemis, these “skin” paintings are contradictory in every way: at once attractive and repulsive; incredibly earnest, yet light and funny; full of arcane references but in a clumsy way, so as to thereby seem strangely simple and real. Here handcrafted materiality intersects the random nature of industrial production. Working with acrylic on fabricated glass, Kratz makes paintings that are at once representational and purely abstract; dryly minimal and wildly all-encompassing; flat but in fact layered; as well as chaotic, complex, direct, dumb, elegant, expressive, and hilarious. If they were intended to dissolve hierarchy, they succeed.

Ray Harryhausen with model during the production of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, ca. 1958. © The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation.


“The Fantastical Worlds of Ray Harryhausen” (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles) I started out drawing as a child, like almost every artist, which led to making sculptures, which led to wanting to make sculptures move, which led to making films. The first “motion picture” that I remember seeing in a theater is Ray Harryhausen’s short The Story of Hansel and Gretel (1951), screened before the feature presentation of Batman: The Movie (1966). The recent Harryhausen exhibition at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented a rare opportunity to see the original stop-motion-animation models, drawings, storyboards, and photographs from the filmmaker’s most significant works. It is remarkable that these productions were largely executed by hand by Harryhausen himself—almost unthinkable in a post-Avatar world.


“Art of The Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156–1868” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) From the finest sword blades in Japanese history to extravagant, horned helmets recalling the legendary surplus endowment of the ancient Irish elk, the Metropolitan Museum’s “Art of the Samurai” exhibition presented artifacts born of a martial culture as rigid, codified, and aestheticized as any before or since. Deleuzian minor science and exquisite craftsmanship united here in objects approaching the sublime—a feeling amplified by the perfect condition of many of the pieces on view and the knowledge that some of them have been cared for and kept in this same pristine state for close to a thousand years.


“Zoe Leonard: Photographs” (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien) Familiar as I am with Leonard’s work, I wasn’t fully prepared for what awaited me in Vienna last December, the final stop for this major European survey. With the aid of the curator and museum staff, Leonard had reconfigured the architecture to suit the presentation of her images. With every step, the pictures became photographic vignettes both common in their familiarity and fantastic in their exotic brutality. Never succumbing to nostalgia or sentimentality, Leonard led me on a journey of discovery through intense emotional terrain, only to guide me back the way I had come— now filled with a profound sense of beauty and an understanding of how remarkable life truly is.


“Forget Art” (Dragon Fountain bathhouse, Beijing) A show where no works were labeled and most blended right into the context of its non-art site, this exhibition, curated by Ma Yongfeng, is only one example of a younger circle operating apart from previous models of contemporary Chinese art. Though mixing art and the everyday is nothing new in Europe and America, it’s an interesting orientation for us during this post-hype chill, given China’s recent market bubble and its preference for work in which Chinese symbols are tactically applied to critique broad social themes—and it is perhaps exactly what’s needed for strategizing future battles. As the name of Ma’s scene suggests (and I’m not the first to note), maybe the best strategy in China right now “for getting” art is just to “forget” it.


Test probes in L’Aquila, Italy In April 2009, an earthquake brought the regional capital of Abruzzo, Italy, to a standstill. An array of responses has surged in. But the verdict of Nature hardens: Forget the facades and columns. L’Aquila cannot continue as before. Does Art have the courage to accept this and do what it does best, project? There has been much expenditure, bolstered by suppositions from Science, on remediation to keep the status quo ante. It can’t. The past cannot be propped up. Truthful Art charges on, improving new structures, earthquake-proof. Renzo Piano made an early move. Others, many of them artists, propose more. On the single great hill, why not showcase resilient twist-turn forms, like animal bodies? Why not try out the unproved? Here, Art can reassert its role of organizing scientific knowledge to mimic rather than defy natural forces.


PlayThing: Tribute to Maryanne Amacher (Sonic Acts XIII, Amsterdam) As Henri Bergson observed, what comes to consciousness is a drastically reduced and schematized portion of that which is immediately given to the senses. This is how one might understand the work of the late Maryanne Amacher, whose unique compositions of sound in space, though minimal in form, are sources of intense sensation. Her work should be experienced as it was recently presented in a memorial celebration at the Planetarium Artis in Amsterdam. For this show, organized by Sonic Acts, an adaptation of a piece that Amacher had been composing over the past decade was performed. Edwin van der Heide and Naut Humon (a longtime advocate of and collaborator with Amacher) managed the expert sound diffusion, and the planetarium’s curved dome provided the perfect setting.


Sturtevant, “Vertical Monad” (Galerie Neu, Berlin) Any odd year is a Sturtevant year, but 2010, maybe just a bit extra so. If anyone, Sturtevant would be the one to give the term artist’s artist its due, with her tour de force at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris this past year. But what really brought it home for me was her more modest-size installation Vertical Monad, 2008, at Galerie Neu in Berlin. With a voice-over reputedly recorded by her downstairs neighbor, this no-visuals reading of a Latin tract by Spinoza was strangely hypnotic. In the midst of the hottest summer ever in Europe, the show of the summer must have been this one, with Sturtevant’s dark blue wide screen, in a dark blue room with a smelly dark blue shag carpet, no seating—and no trace of sunshine.


Jan Voss and Boekie Woekie (Amsterdam) Voss is the European artist’s book practitioner par excellence, and Boekie Woekie, the unique, visually enticing twenty-fiveyear-old artist’s book cooperative in Amsterdam, is his creation. Together with artists Henriëtte van Egten and Rúna Thorkelsdóttir, Voss runs the space, which he describes as a sculpture in progress, with variations on an ongoing performance. The books exhibited are labors of love, made without commercial considerations, and all artists, famous or obscure, are treated alike. Brilliantly sustained developments of a single theme, Voss’s own books feature series of drawings combined with words, and innovative printing experiments.


Chihiro Mori, Mori Book 3: Album of a City (Daiwa Press) Somehow, the less we value physical print media, the more artists’ books such as this one seem to grow in significance. Originating from a simple, personal impulse, Mori’s assemblage of her own childhood drawings and images of urban fragments can be hailed as a work of art. I would like to see art like this from all over the world.


Grand défilé of the Paris Opera Ballet and School (Palais Garnier, Paris) A presentation of the entire Paris Opera Ballet and School, from the principal ballerina to the youngest girl, the grand défilé is a very old tradition, and I thought it was spectacular! This year, I also saw the Bolshoi Ballet’s great performance of Le Corsaire, which restaged much of legendary ballet master Marius Petipa’s 1899 revival of his original 1856 Paris Opera production. The very talented choreographer Alexei Ratmansky (former director of the Bolshoi) did a fantastic job restoring the piece, along with Yuri Burlaka (the Bolshoi’s current director). I absolutely love nineteenth-century ballet revivals and have so much respect for the original creators’ versions.


Mary Redmond, “The Floating World” (Dundee Contemporary Arts, UK) It’s hard to translate the experience of this show into words, as it spoke a visual and material language that resists summarization. True to the title “The Floating World,” the sculptures seemed to detach themselves from the gallery’s architecture and create a floating network of forms and ideas. On a rainy September day, works such as Girl in the Shadow Mirror Fishing for Harmonies in the Inky River, 2010, transported me to somewhere completely other. Still, there was nothing hidden, no pretense, only everyday materials that had been twisted, woven, wrapped, tied, shaped, draped, painted, dyed, and then precisely placed together—one of those shows that inspire you without trying to tell you what to think.


Trisha Brown Dance Company at Dia:Beacon (New York) Exploring the dynamics between gravity, space, and rhythm, Trisha Brown has choreographed relationships of interdependence between her dancers, their architectural environment, and the performance itself for more than forty years. Often suspended in midair, woven into the web of Floor of the Forest, 1970, or tied to the columns of Opal Loop/Cloud Installation #72503, 1980 (both included in TBDC’s recent series of performances at Dia:Beacon), her dancers enact a delicate balance between the humorous and the awkward. Brown has said that she is “fascinated by qualities of gesture that exist on the edge of memory, made permanent through the act of repetition” and thereby kept “forever young.” These works indeed remain young and relevant today, decades after their creation.


Jean-Luc Godard, France/tour/détour/deux/enfants (1977–78) (Festival d’Avignon, France) Conceived in the late 1970s for French tv, France/Tour/Detour/Two/Children is a series in which Godard (off camera) questions two kids, Camille and Arnaud, on their knowledge of French society. Across twelve heartbreaking episodes, Godard wrenches out what these young children know and do not know, are supposed to know and not, but demonstrates, perhaps above all else, the power and agency of his own position as director. This disequilibrium bears an uncanny likeness to French class dynamics—precisely the subject at hand. Through such self-referentiality, the work becomes autonomous: At the core of the program, it is autonomy that Godard gives as the cherry on top of the world in which these kids are to live. Fantastic


Erykah Badu, “Out My Mind, Just in Time” tour Badu’s performance this May at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, for the opening night of her “Out My Mind, Just in Time” tour, was stunning. She understands funk, hip-hop, electronica, and soul music as discursive forms. She can write about anything, from space travel to the history of shotgun houses, and address persistent social inequities, speaking for those who’ve inherited a legacy deficient in alternative perspectives or opportunities. (For a glimpse, just YouTube her performance of “Liberation” in Paris this past July.) Her politics and the politics of her aesthetics are frontal and direct, and her grooves move through multiple genres and time periods unencumbered by rules.


Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips, Intimacies (University of Chicago Press) In a year when the art world felt dreary and dull with its dorky celebrity obsession and endless pop-cult references, meeting Leo Bersani was the high for me. In our conversation, he spoke about his new book, Intimacies, which begins with a discussion of Guillaume Dustan’s 1996 novel In My Room—the ultimate postepidemic novel, which recalls a time when AIDS and HIV weren’t looked upon as just a lost battle and when, according to Dustan, the only real civil right granted to gay men was a load of HIV-infected cum up their asses. Forever the brilliant infected whore, Dustan never explained anything or apologized for what he did in a society so screwed up that death-tripping into others’ bodies on weekends was the sole pleasure life afforded.


Tamás St. Auby, Centaur (1973–75) (Istanbul Biennial) Produced in the mid-1970s but banned by the Hungarian government before a final print could be made, Centaur was shown to an international audience for the first time only this past year. Viewing the work, I was captivated by its disturbingly asynchronous sound track—a collaged voice-over of dialogue, poetry excerpts, and philosophical musings on the brutality of pointless labor and social alienation—dissonantly paired with images reminiscent of the era’s propagandistic cinema. Having lived through this period myself, I was surprised to find that St. Auby’s cold, surveillance-like filming of workers and engineers didn’t so much stir memories of the past as fascinate me with its seemingly prescient depiction of today.


“The ‘A’ Course: An Inquiry” (forum conducted by the 10th Floor, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London) Established this past year by artist-writer Anthony Davies, the 10th Floor, based in Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, has become an important nexus for students, artists, and critical thinkers. This March, the 10th Floor went public, hosting a two-day conference on the ‘A’ Course, a legendary pedagogical experiment conducted in the St. Martins sculpture department during the early 1970s. Many former ‘A’ Course students were present, together with the three surviving tutors (Garth Evans, Gareth Jones, and Peter Kardia), providing for an intense mix of reunion, introspection, collaborative historicization, and critical conflict. Seeing the school’s unorthodox past collide with the present administration was unforgettable. The 10th Floor offers a glimmer of hope for London’s tired and lackluster scene.


The closing of Gino (1945–2010) (780 Lexington Avenue, New York) News of the restaurant’s ultimate demise brought out the worst preservationist spirit in many of us: People who could do nothing were saying everything. I hope that when Freemans finally closes (and not soon enough!), I am not counted among the whiners. The truth is, most people under the age of seventy-five who actually live on the Upper East Side thought that Gino was disgusting. While I delighted as much as anyone in the dining room’s safari-in-ruins production of authenticity, I always had indigestion afterward. Tradition chokes reality, and now we can move on. Thank God.


Post/Porn/Politics, edited by Tim Stüttgen (b_books) A few years ago, when I first read queer theorist and performer Tim Stüttgen’s essay “Disidentification in the Center of Power,” it blew my mind. Going beyond a mere deconstruction/problematization of heteronormative sexuality and representation, he proposed “post-porn” as a strategy for enabling alternative sexual subjectivities. The text has now been published, together with essays by other provocative thinkers and performers, in the impressive Post/Porn/Politics symposium reader, which Stüttgen himself edited. Though closely connected to queer feminist theoretical and embodied practice, the P/P/P compendium offers a great deal to anyone critically examining the production of subjectivity today.


Lucky DeBellevue (Burning Bridges, New York) It looked as though DeBellevue had installed as much of his apartment as possible for this two-week show: a daybed, a cabinet, a lamp, tons of fabric, chairs, a patterned gourd, some driftwood, tables, a war chest of paint pens and chenille stems. In one living room/salon he hung paintings and collaged “posters”; in the next, a transitory lamp-lit mise-en-scène awaiting some kind of drama; in the third, a shrine to a red pipe-cleaner sculpture surrounded by adoring cat prints. The venue was the now closed Burning Bridges, Wade Guyton’s temporary performance-exhibition-whatever space and onetime studio on West Thirty-eighth Street.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Working in Marble, or the Artist Sculpting Tanagra, 1890, oil on canvas, 19 7/8 x 15 1/2".


“The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme” (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles) I have an unfortunate tendency to fall asleep during movies. Often I don’t make it through a title sequence without my wife elbowing me to stop my snoring. For this reason, it was really great to see “The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme” at the Getty Center this summer: Paintings of Roman arenas, slave girls, boys with snakes, and dignitaries from Siam awoke me to the splendors of a Hollywood screen. An additional bonus for Los Angeles (a city that loves its art professors) was the exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art of sporting images by Thomas Eakins. While Gérôme’s gladiators and bloodied lions are completely spectacular, Eakins, once a student of Gérôme, manages to bring the reptilian into his disturbing painting of wrestlers. Seeing both shows in the same day reminded me of just how painful and bloody good teaching always is.


“Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger: Comment rester fertile?”(How to Stay Fertile?) (Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris) Steiner and Lenzlinger’s show helps me to be an apple, to be a pig, and to be a human. The exhibition unites me with abstraction and nature simultaneously, and not even brand-monarchist Paris can knock down the tenderness and friendliness of this artist duo!


“Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception” (Wiels Contemporary Art Center, Brussels) The Wiels building is a dizzying tower—a perfect setting for this Francis Alÿs retrospective. The Antwerp-born artist returned to Belgium as something of a foreigner (having lived in Mexico City since 1986), and his practice’s continual probing of state-ordained and self-imposed borders made this show very timely. My favorite works—When Faith Moves Mountains, 2002; Re-enactments, 2000; The Green Line, 2004—were all on view, together with a new video, Tornado, 2000–10, which shows the artist chasing after violent dust storms, trying to find the “eye” of tranquility within each one. Working through an allegorical existentialism, Alÿs is at his best, and Tornado is a powerful summation of his approach, which was so poetically presented at Wiels.


Michael Stevenson, On How Things Behave The German outsider artist Manfred Gnädinger—or “Man,” as he came to be known by the Galicians, on whose beaches he established his largely hermetic existence—is the tragic hero of Michael Stevenson’s video On How Things Behave, 2010. Somewhat buried at this year’s Berlin Biennale, this gem of a work begins with a fablelike tale based on Man’s forty-year-long symbiotic relationship with the sea, a bond that was devastated in 2002, when the oil tanker Prestige sank off the Galician coast, smothering everything Gnädinger owned in its “sticky grasp.” At once timeless and unexpectedly prophetic (eerily anticipating this year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill), On How Things Behave spirals out from this tale of a brokenhearted hermit into fundamental musings on the fallacies of prediction.


“ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993” (White Columns, New York) Curated by Helen Molesworth and Claire Grace, this show was a reminder that the “art world” can be a repository for the vital and the inspirational, a staging ground for passionate calls to action, with threads leading in multiple directions: MPA’s A performance for Emma Goldman and Ulrike Meinhof at Cleopatra’s; curator Dean Daderko’s “Pièce de Résistance” at Larissa Goldston Gallery; Keith Hennessy’s Crotch (all the Joseph Beuys references in the world cannot heal the pain, confusion, regret, cruelty, betrayal, or trauma . . . ) at Dance Theater Workshop; Wu Tsang, Zackary Drucker, Mariana Marroquin, and Rhys Ernst’s PIG (Politically Involved Girls) at X Initiative; Eve Fowler’s 43 Books at Apartment 2 . . .


“Frank Auerbach: London Building Sites 1952–62” (Courtauld Gallery, London) The Courtauld’s exhibition of Frank Auerbach’s paintings, oil studies, and pencil drawings of postwar London building sites was well timed, as this year the city seemed even more perforated than usual by large corporate construction projects. The rooms at the top of the Courtauld Institute of Art appeared small and polite in comparison. I love construction sites, their structured combination of raw materials and chemical processes. These places are strange emblems of a city’s aggregate state, and Auerbach painted their sense of transformation with thick, seemingly liquid layers of paint. Executed from his sketches produced on-site, the artist’s dark, almost sculptural tableaux offered a glimpse of the archaic past and of the urban future imagined in midcentury London.

Iannis Xenakis, Philips Pavilion, Brussels World’s Fair, 1958, postcard, 4 x 6". © Iannis Xenakis Archives, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.


“Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary” (Drawing Center, New York) Iannis Xenakis made drawings of sound. Formulated as noise textures, temporal patterns, and shifting melodic clusters, each work is a model of conceptual space. “My songs are all mathematical songs,” Bob Dylan once claimed—and it is with mathematics and song that Xenakis’s work most resonates. Every composition is a graphic architecture of shape notes and waveforms—an archaic diagram of arcane calculations. This exhibition of drawings, musical studies and scores, architectural renderings, notebook pages, and photographs documented the trajectory of a remarkable figure. Xenakis said he was after “the origin of music,” a sound that we could “touch . . . with our hands.” He wanted raw and primitive forms—“music to be seen.” See what you hear.


51m2 (Taikang Space, Beijing) As the exhibition and research branch of a corporate collection, Taikang Space has designated fifty-one square meters for hosting two-week exhibitions by young artists. In a city lacking viable unprivatized staging grounds for art, 51m2 serves as a welcome haven and wisely avoids two potential dead ends: merely showing as much work as possible in order to establish some kind of authority, and treating a single specimen as a representative of the whole. The exhibitions are neither grand productions nor clumsy rehearsals; they lie somewhere in between—like a music show. If art viewing in China were as fluid as Asia’s underground music scene, then perhaps our arts ecosystem would flourish.