PRINT December 2014

David Rimanelli

Genieve Figgis, Self-Portrait as Evelyn Nesbit, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 11 3/4 × 9 3/4".

1 SIGMAR POLKE (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY KATHY HALBREICH WITH MARK GODFREY AND LANKA TATTERSALL) This has been rather an annus mirabilis for the Modern, which at one point this summer offered, simultaneously, extraordinary exhibitions of the work of Mike Kelley (at MoMA PS1), Gauguin, Lygia Clark, Jasper Johns, Robert Heinecken, and Sigmar Polke. On my first trip to that last, must-see-time-and-again retrospective, I went at the close of day and had only thirty minutes to look; but even before I reached the first gallery, I was thunderstruck by a single work in the museum’s cavernous atrium, The Hunt for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, 2002. Polke took a newspaper diagram illustrating the US response to the September 11 attacks and created a lavender-tinted “machine painting.” Lavender.

Co-organized with Tate Modern, London.

2 JULIAN SCHNABEL (GAGOSIAN GALLERY, NEW YORK) Schnabel had multiple museum and gallery exhibitions this year, but the Gagosian show—titled “View of Dawn in the Tropics” and devoted to work from 1989–90, none of it previously shown in New York—was particularly trenchant. These massive paintings on tarp and burlap were like a slap in the face with their right-nowness. How many young (typically male) painters think they are copying, oh, say, Joe Bradley, when in fact they are unwittingly aping Schnabel’s gestures and mediums of a quarter century ago?

3 GENIEVE FIGGIS (HARPER’S BOOKS, EAST HAMPTON, NY, AND HALF GALLERY, NEW YORK) Richard Prince discovered the hitherto-obscure Irish painter Figgis on Twitter, which goes to show that the service is useful not only to the government and Justin Bieber. You’d want to say of Figgis’s liquescent painterly surfaces that they are lush, except the figures so often appear cadaverous (albeit horny). Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip meets Desmond Guinness’s Irish Houses & Castles, to sublime effect.

4 FRIEDRICH KUNATH (ANDREA ROSEN GALLERY, NEW YORK) The popular reception of Kunath’s latest show emphasized its unsparingly earnest affective delight, exemplified by the painting emblazoned with the text FUCK IT, I LOVE YOU. Yeah, we all love love, but Kunath’s mad love recalls no less the Germanic tradition of Sirk and Fassbinder, who had more “nuanced” perspectives on the emotion we all think we want to feel. “Love is the best, most insidious, most effective instrument of social repression,” said the latter, himself definitely a candidate for Loveaholics Anonymous. Kunath’s 2012 book, You Owe Me a Feeling, in its title alone suggests that he may be a fellow traveler.

5 BORNA SAMMAK (JTT, NEW YORK) “All Dogs Are Pets” was the title of Sammak’s second outing at JTT, and if I believed in a future or in politics I’d say this was his neo-Futurist politico-aesthetic manifesto. Sorry, but not all dogs are pets. Poetry intervenes: The wild and vicious are good citizens in the ever-replenished virgin spring of garbage culture transfigured. I really loved the “sign” in yellow and black directing us to a GROUP PARTY SPECIALIST. A friend commented: “Group party? Sounds like a nightmare.” Well, yeah, duh.

Lars von Trier, Nymphomaniac, 2013, HD video, color and black-and-white, sound, 241 minutes. Production still. Secretary (Felicity Gilbert), Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), and Young Joe (Stacy Martin). Photo: Christian Geisnaes.

6 “RITE OF PASSAGE: THE EARLY YEARS OF VIENNA ACTIONISM, 1960–1966” (HAUSER & WIRTH, NEW YORK; CURATED BY HUBERT KLOCKER) A first-rate historical exhibition of first-rate historical filth. Convicted pedophile Otto Muehl summed up the Actionist group’s desire to transgress the legacy of Abstract Expressionism with a less transcendental and (for some) literally gut-churning interpretation of the postwar period: “I lay myself down and start rolling around like a hog, crawling about, scratching, mixing and splashing with my hands. I paint with my whole body, so to speak, and with all my senses.”

7 DARREN BADER (ANDREW KREPS GALLERY, NEW YORK) I still don’t quite have a handle on this show, but I remain pleasantly surprised by that fact, as a great deal of recent neo-Conceptual art strikes me as dunder-headedly obvious as well as viscerally displeasing in its fatuous self-congratulatory smartness. Bader gave a superflux of materials to look at, and to read: photographs on the walls, many famous but none identified; stuff of all sorts on the floor—a bottle cap, a car battery, cloth dolls, an Allen wrench, a document shredder—most of it priced at $10,000; and a typed compendium of statements at the desk giving directions or suggestions to the purchasers.

8 RICHARD PRINCE (GAGOSIAN GALLERY, NEW YORK) Instagram collided hard with the art world this year, most notably in the case of Richard Prince’s being kicked off it, apparently because he posted the preteen Brooke Shields Spiritual America picture. Then Jerry Saltz somehow got him reinstated. (And now Prince has disappeared again—supposedly, he deliberately got himself booted for posting naughty pics.) Indeed, @richardprince4’s Instagram feed feels very much central to his art right now—insta, nowness—while also a vivisection of the hyperviral social medium of the moment. These are the Prince “Gangs” of today. His Instagram-portrait show at Gagosian was dope: Richard alights on an unknowing Instagrammer—unknowing even if she happens to be Kate Moss—and screen-shots one of her images, deleting unwanted comments and giving himself the last word. While Moss and several other portrait subjects are famous, all of them—even the ones I don’t know who the fuck they are—seem like they’re famous. That’s what Instagram is supposed to do: everybody/nobody a supermodel.

9 NYMPHOMANIAC: VOLUME I and VOLUME II (LARS VON TRIER) Stars engaged in very real-looking porno activities. Believe it or not, Shia LaBeouf is SO HOT! (I know, I couldn’t believe it either, but really fucking hot.) Prolegomenon for ideological female sex addiction.

10 PENNY DREADFUL (SHOWTIME) My favorite new show. Though the use of characters such as Dorian Gray, Mina Harker, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, etc., initially appeared preposterous in combination, as the elements congeal into a metanarrative of classic and vernacular horror tales driven by the vicissitudes of Victorian sexual repression, the series creates a commentary on the forces that drove the addiction to the eponymous lurid British serial novels. (Young men who could not afford the penny weekly purchase price often formed reading clubs.) Penny dreadfuls fed the fantasies of a newly literate working class, just as the recent glut of spectacular high-end television strokes our own postindustrial revolution. Who doesn’t want to watch the (anti)heroine Vanessa—Eva Green, who has never chewed the scenery with such élan—having sex with an invisible devil, or spying on her mother’s affair with a neighbor, or hissing at the Josh Hartnett character that he let Dorian enjoy his body in a most improper way?

David Rimanelli is an independent curator and critic and a contributing editor of Artforum.