PRINT December 2013

Jack Bankowsky

View of the 2013 Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. From left: Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2013; Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2013; Wade Guyton, Untitled, 2013. Photo: Tom Little.

1 WADE GUYTON AT THE CARNEGIE INTERNATIONAL (CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF ART, PITTSBURGH) Given the human taste for schadenfreude, what could be more disagreeable than to discover that a pair of installations by one of the moment’s hottest art stars all but stole the show? Commandeering two separate spaces outside the galleries proper, Guyton decorated the first, a dismantled cloakroom complete with the glue-stain traces of a deinstalled carpet, with four of his next-to-nothing abstractions—and a pair of old sofas. By contrast, the patrician luxury of the “Founder’s Room” afforded the setting for a suite of the artist’s famously flaming canvases lined up cheek by jowl against a single wall. As precise as it was playful, Guyton’s “upstairs/downstairs” twofer made the whole plant hum.

2 WOLS (MENIL COLLECTION, HOUSTON; CURATED BY TOBY KAMPS AND EWALD RATHKE) When fabled patron Dominique de Menil called the artist whose Oui, oui, oui, 1946–47, claimed pride of place beside her bed “the absolute rebel who does not even care about rebellion,” she nailed Wols’s recessive genius—and helped explain why this first-ever American museum survey has been such a long time coming. Assembled, fittingly enough, by the Menil’s Kamps (together with Rathke), this overdue overview corrals photographs and drawings but also (and herein lies the real news) a healthy share of the eighty paintings Wols created between 1946 and 1951. It is in these seldom-gathered works—the more abstract the better—that the formless finds its finest form.

Co-organized with Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany.

3 KATHARINA FRITSCH (TRAFALGAR SQUARE, LONDON) The rooster as Gallic mascot? “Well,” Fritsch demurs, “I wasn’t really thinking of that.” Of course not! A German woman erects an enormous Klein Blue coq opposite Lord Nelson’s triumphal column in the square named for his naval victory over the French. What could be more innocent—or look more weird and wonderful from a passing cab?

4 RYAN TRECARTIN IN VENICE Immoderate praise for a young talent, once the point has been made, is a mixed blessing at best, and so it is with unsteady hand that I present my personal Golden Lion to the artist and his partner, Lizzie Fitch. Indeed, two commodious installations—one in the Arsenale (an entry in the Biennale’s “Encyclopedic Palace”); the other at the Punta della Dogana (the opening salvo in a show of highlights from the François Pinault Collection)—provoked the anticipated correctives: The mise-en-scène is a bit indifferent, the doubters carped; the histrionics of Trecartin’s colorful players a tad too reminiscent of standard-issue drag cabaret to merit the fuss. OK, maybe, but look (and, more to the point, listen) again: The stylings are hybrid, the expressive tics precisely observed, and the language—ecstatic, tongue-tied, at once right-now familiar and utterly exotic—provides the pitch-perfect poetic answer to our times.

5 JAMES MCCOURT AND WAYNE KOESTENBAUM IN CONVERSATION (NEW YORK INSTITUTE FOR THE HUMANITIES, NYU) Oversung, let’s face it, is better than undersung, but to exist—perennially—on the cusp of adored semiobscurity and bona fide immortality is not all that bad, as the seventy-two-year-old not-quite-best-kept-secret McCourt was quick to acknowledge in conversation with Koestenbaum. His readers may be few, McCourt conceded, but “they are the best . . . the very best,” an opinion with which the intimate assembly brought together by NYIH director Eric Banks was happy to concur. The double occasion was the just-out memoir of McCourt’s first seven years, Lasting City: The Anatomy of Nostalgia (Liveright), and a new collection of impossibly original essays by his interlocutor titled, somewhat misleadingly, My 1980s (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). McCourt, for the record, was in top form, and a good thing too; in the presence of a lesser eminence, Koestenbaum’s poetic pirouettes would easily have stolen the show.

Jason Rhoades, The Creation Myth, 1998, mixed media. Installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 2013. Photo: Aaron Igler.

6 JASON RHOADES (INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, PHILADELPHIA; CURATED BY INGRID SCHAFFNER) Combing the layered arcana at the base of the cafeteria-table Babel that is Rhoades’s Creation Myth, 1998, I was startled when a foot-wide smoke ring grazed my head and, a few yards on, vanished into thin air. A fitting metaphor for Rhoades’s art and (too-short) life, the ephemeral emanation underscored the inherent challenge of retrospecting an artist whose living sculpture means nothing sans the carnival that gives it breath. For this reason, the occasion is inevitably a bittersweet one, which is all the more reason to celebrate the ICA and Schaffner, who, with modest space but maximum sensitivity, attempted the impossible—and kept the flame alive.

7 and 8 LLYN FOULKES AND MARK LECKEY (HAMMER MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES) Two 2013 shows, both curated by Ali Subotnick, saw the Hammer move from strength to strength. The first show put its chips on the darkly comic vision of Foulkes, bravely affording the West Coast eccentric a full-scale, full-career survey. The second, a more modest affair, presented new work, including the mesmerizing Pearl Vision, 2012, a short video Leckey began during his 2011 Hammer residency. Here the artist’s twin worry beads, technology and embodiment, yield a riveting three-minute trance named for a line of drums—and a brave new way of seeing.

9 CURTIS HARRINGTON, NICE GUYS DON’T WORK IN HOLLYWOOD: THE ADVENTURES OF AN AESTHETE IN THE MOVIE BUSINESS (DRAG CITY) Recently bicoastal, with a penchant for aestheticizing life in the shadow of, um, “the culture industry,” I gobbled this memoir up. Back in the 1940s, Curtis Harrington hit the Strip as an experimental filmmaker, and, somewhat against the odds, this nice (but not too nice) guy did work in Hollywood! In the course of an unevenly satisfying career that encompassed directing not only experimental and horror films (Night Tide [1961], Games [1967]) but also episodes of Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty, Harrington rubbed shoulders with just about everyone—from Marlene Dietrich to Maya Deren to Lew Wasserman—which makes his unfailingly cultured recollections of the movie business a must-read. Curl up with this one, should Vanity Fair forget to invite you to the Oscar party.

10 “PICASSO BLACK AND WHITE” (SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, NEW YORK; CURATED BY CARMEN GIMÉNEZ) Having just filed my Top Ten last fall, I headed uptown to catch this untrumpeted offering, and made a mental note not to let it fall into the 2012–13 crack. Given the capaciousness of the maestro’s corpus, any conceit that narrows and focuses pays dividends, and black-and-white is an edit perfectly gauged to microscope Picasso’s massive virtues. Personal favorites such as The Maids of Honor (Las Meninas, After Velázquez) of 1957 preceded works from the ’60s and ’70s, many I had never seen before—and any one of which was enough to make my afternoon.

Jack Bankowsky, Artforum editor at large, is a critic and independent curator.