PRINT December 2013

Bruce Hainley

Maureen Gallace, Beach #2, 2013, oil on panel, 10 x 13".

1 MAUREEN GALLACE (OVERDUIN AND KITE, LOS ANGELES) We live in a time of a lot of very bad art. (Has it ever been otherwise?) Not long ago, Frederick Seidel summed the situation up: so much “heat but no warmth.” He was alluding to empty sublimity that routs actual intensity. Gallace, however, makes some of the most intense paintings going. Luminous grays, gliss-andos of white, and auroral pinks and oranges dramatize her precise blues. In her “seascapes,” if that’s not too faggy a term, waves crash upon the shore and the horizons disappear—which is not a minor event for a painter who always considers grounding. While the artist’s photographs (one was reproduced as the show’s announcement card) document specific locales and buildings, some already dismantled by environmental or economic havoc, the paintings trans-migrate soulfulness more than they do any topography. Gallace dissolves ongoing nattering about abstraction and representation, achieving the rare, staunch beauty of the quietly hard-won.

2 SPRING BREAKERS (HARMONY KORINE) Certain fancy types complained about this gonzo, darkly comic, and spiritually devastating film’s “ambiguous” or “ambivalent” politics. Have they ever even glanced at so-called life in the US of A? Did they miss Korine’s bifocal establishing scenes, which move from a sunbaked bacchanal scored by Skrillex to Play-Doh’s cave? Scenes are cut to the beat of guns being cocked and reloaded, and politics, if that’s what you’re into, are more than merely implied by James Franco’s ode to his “shit,” Gucci Mane’s speech about his best friend taking food out of his baby’s mouth, or Disney Beyoncés whipping out their Glocks for Franco, their bitch, to suck off. And guess what? “Everyone could use a little bailin’ out once in while” wasn’t mere blah-blah and doesn’t just diegetically refer to Korine’s robust solution to widespread cultural bankruptcy.

3 “ROSEMARIE TROCKEL: A COSMOS” (NEW MUSEUM, NEW YORK; CURATED BY LYNNE COOKE) Can someone please stop ignoring, amidst all the wonder, the Fassbinder-like currents of rage, acidic yet tender truth-telling, and barely sublimated revolt (with a decided feminist edge) that electrify Trockel’s aesthetic and get to work on storyboarding something like Berlin Alexanderplatz, with a woman of Trockel’s mettle at its heart, for Instagram?

Organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

4 “ARTIST’S CHOICE: TRISHA DONNELLY” (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY TRISHA DONNELLY WITH LAURA HOPTMAN AND CARA MANES) Often accused of being oblique, if not downright opaque, Donnelly generously ransacked moMA’s storage facilities and archives to provide a clean slate for thinking about seeing and about the psychic and worldly interconnectedness of myriad kinds of things and being; consider it a meditation on modes of transport (art could still be one), from the wheelchair encountering a three-legged Deco side table to the nacreous alacrity of the birds of Eliot Porter, now everyone’s favorite photographer. It was her sharpest explication de texte yet, accomplished by jettisoning discourse entirely.

Kenneth Tam, Blue pillow with stand, 2013, UV ink on polyvinyl, steel, urethane resin, paint. Installation view, Night Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Lee Thomson.

5 KENNETH TAM (NIGHT GALLERY, LOS ANGELES) There is so much more to be said, but, quickly: Using dog kibble and hemorrhoid-cushion-like pet beds, the artist freaks the pious missionary coupling of sculptures and photos-as-or-of-sculpture by, in part, bathing it in the glow of a monitor endlessly replaying a Youtube video of a Great Dane lovingly and overwhelmingly humping his mistress—footage the artist downshifted into slo-mo for Bruegel-esque strangeness.

6 BERTHE MORISOT IN “IMPRESSIONISM, FASHION, AND MODERNITY” (THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK, AND THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO; CURATED BY GUY COGEVAL, GLORIA GROOM, AND SUSAN ALYSON STEIN) I saw this exhibition at both US venues. And since in Chicago it closed with La Grande Jatte, which never travels, advantage Art Institute. But in both museums, the show totally enthralled, despite the fact that its titular terms could easily have produced something about as worthwhile as one more premeditated red-carpet wardrobe malfunction. In particular, seeing so many Morisots, especially her double portrait The Sisters, 1869 (Edma and Berthe in identical voile-print dresses seated on chintz beneath a Degas fan), made me crave a proper survey of the artist. After video for Rick Owens’s spring/summer 2014 collection dropped, with its fantastic, fierce women stepping to glory, I wondered: What would Berthe do with them?

Co-organized with the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

7 DAVE HICKEY, PIRATES AND FARMERS: ESSAYS ON THE FRONTIERS OF ART (RIDINGHOUSE) I was going to erupt about the “Picasso Baby” video, how it manages to be total barftime and yet a pretty, pretty picture of where things are, one that reveals the spectacle of supposedly democratic bonhomie in action that’s really just another stage-managed moment—a CEO singing his lousy wannabe anthem to the craven self-aggrandizement and acquisitiveness of his class, with backup “dancing” by the dazzled, who think all of it can still be theirs, too, while artistic cred (LOL) is provided by some overpaid “curated” bobbleheads, in the guise of sycophant cultural producers—and then I remembered that the excellent Mr. Hickey just provided a rambunctious antidote (cf. “Stupid Money,” one of the wild rides in his latest collection of essays) to all of that crap.

8 BRUNO FAZZOLARI’S SCENTS A strange, winsome painter and a sculptor who has used food (Camembert, Leibniz cookies) as inspiration, Fazzolari has perfected five perfumes with names as resonant as their top notes. Au Delà opulently recalls Guerlain’s great, assertive Jicky. The sunshiny Jimmy, redolent of Ajaccio Violets, salutes James Schuyler. Lampblack, the latest, which debuted at San Francisco’s Gallery Paule Anglim in March, purrs with smoky spice. Truly breathtaking.

9 DAVID TRINIDAD, PEYTON PLACE: A HAIKU SOAP OPERA (TURTLE POINT PRESS) A bouquet of 516 crackerjack haikus, one for each episode of the racy ’60s serial, thrills, as hilarious and unlikely as a netsuke by Fabergé discovered at Toys“R”Us.

10 JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS In Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, the funny-sad continuation of the director’s survey of the microtonalities of class difference, JLD negotiates middle-aged desire while lugging around a portable massage table and charms a touching performance, one of his last, from James Gandolfini. In Veep, as Vice President Selina Meyer, JLD’s delivery is pitch-perfect. “He’s just a varicose dick vein.” Pitch-perfect, and so useful.

A contributing editor of Artforum, Bruce Hainley is the author of Under the Sign of [sic]: Sturtevant’s Volte-Face, recently published by Semiotext(e). His primer Art & Culture, also published by Semiotext(e), will be out in early 2014.