PRINT December 2014

Polly Staple

Trisha Donnelly, Untitled, 2014, digital video, color, silent, 4 minutes.

1 TRISHA DONNELLY (SERPENTINE GALLERY, LONDON; CURATED BY EMMA ENDERBY AND MICHAEL GAUGHAN) Donnelly’s consistent refusal to conform to conventional exhibition formats has allowed her to create something increasingly rare in our age of nonstop streaming media: an old-fashioned space for contemplation. Yet there is nothing quaint about the profound sonic, visual, and intellectual experience of her work itself, which was in full evidence here: New video and sound works were paired with sculpture and site-specific interventions that responded to changing light throughout the day. The show’s pleasurable, if inscrutable, temporal and atmospheric effects are perfectly captured by the artist’s own words: “I like late in the day. I like the day to night transfer, I like the desaturation. It’s a high speed eternity.”

2 “YVONNE RAINER: DANCE WORKS” (RAVEN ROW, LONDON; CURATED BY CATHERINE WOOD) This solo exhibition of Rainer’s choreography featured a forty-five-minute live dance program alongside Rainer’s notes and sketches, as well as documentation of historical performances of her work. At the opening, it was moving to watch a seminal work such as Trio A, 1966—its social and political resonances still so fresh and fierce—while Rainer and her longtime collaborator Pat Catterson sat in the front row, checking each and every movement as if for the very first time.

3 EXHIBITION (JOANNA HOGG) Like Hogg’s previous films Unrelated (2007) and Archipelago (2010), Exhibition (2013) is a masterful study of awkward British manners. Hogg’s films are psychodramas that pit her characters’ desire to connect against their own crushing politeness or existential angst. She is particularly good at portraits of women and middle age. Exhibition examines the domestic lives of artists as they unfold in a modernist town house, with Liam Gillick and Viv Albertine (of the Slits) making their first, and highly notable, forays onto the cinematic screen.

4 CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY MARK GODFREY, ROXANA MARCOCI, AND MATTHEW S. WITKOVSKY, WITH LUCY GALLUN) The first retrospective of Williams’s work testified to the artist’s consistent and careful interrogation of the politics of representation through photography, film, installation, his large-scale “supergraphic” displays, and the catalogue, whose cover he designed, with different iterations for each venue to which the exhibition traveled. Williams’s work is restrained, yet it cuts to the core of the relations between spectacle and power, while revealing a generosity of spirit visible in his constant dialogue with others—artists, collaborators, students, and, by extension, his audience.

Co-organized with the Art Institute of Chicago.

5 JOSÉ LEONILSON (PINACOTECA, SÃO PAULO; CURATED BY ADRIANO PEDROSA) Bringing together an impressively wide range of work—including paintings, drawings, and delicate embroideries—alongside the artist’s late installation Chapel of Morumbi, 1993, and the wry illustrations he published in the daily newspaper Folha de S. Paulo in 1991–93, this comprehensive survey succinctly captured Leonilson’s articulation of the tensions between his public and private life, documenting his engagement with both Catholic culture and gay communities while reminding us of his ability to infuse Brazilian Minimalism with vernacular wit. The late fabric works, made when the artist was grappling with deteriorating health, carried a particular emotional punch.

View of “Korakrit Arunanondchai with Korapat Arunanondchai: 2557 (Painting with history in a room filled with men with funny names 2),” 2014, Carlos/Ishikawa, London.

6 KAZIMIR MALEVICH (TATE MODERN, LONDON; CURATED BY ACHIM BORCHARDT-HUME) With difficult loans and extraordinary historical finds, this survey of the Suprematist icon was simply excellent, using thorough research to document Malevich’s influence as a teacher and thoughtfully tell the story of his late return to figuration. The questions Malevich asked of both art and society are still vital.

Co-organized with the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn.

7 KORAKRIT ARUNANONDCHAI WITH KORAPAT ARUNANONDCHAI (CARLOS/ISHIKAWA, LONDON) Korakrit Arunanondchai combined a voraciously abject scene—signature pieces featuring laser-printed fire and splashy imprints of his body on stretched denim, floor cushions, massage chairs, and shop mannequins, the last also adorned with visors and Manchester United jerseys—with a charmingly sincere and deftly edited travelogue-esque video that played continuously on a huge LED screen. The artist explicitly explores themes of cultural tourism and self-representation while mining both his own personal history and the consumerist fantasies of global culture. If narcissism has become the default psychological state of the first world in the twenty-first century, then Arunanondchai is bang on it.

8 “ALMS FOR THE BIRDS” (CABINET GALLERY, LONDON; CURATED BY JAMES RICHARDS) Some months before Richards’s recent and haunting single-screen film installation at Cabinet, he curated an equally tender and beguiling group show there with works by Tolia Astakhishvili, JX Williams (an alias of AA Bronson), Elijah Burgher, Tony Conrad, Adrian Hermanides, General Idea, Matt Mullican, and himself. Its title was borrowed from one of the included works, by Hermanides, from 2009, and refers to the Buddhist process of sky burial, in which bodies are left exposed to the elements on a mountaintop to be consumed by scavengers. This framed the exhibition itself as a collection of mnemonic traces and tokens: possessions, relationships, spirits, and desires, witchy and erotic in equal measure.

9 VIVIAN SUTER WITH ELISABETH WILD (KUNSTHALLE BASEL; CURATED BY ADAM SZYMCZYK) Born in Buenos Aires, Suter lived in Basel for eighteen years but has resided in Guatemala since 1983, where her studio, surrounded by avocado and mango trees, banana plants, and coffee bushes, occupies the grounds of a former coffee plantation. This milieu directly informs the colors and composition of her large abstract paintings and the weathering processes she often uses in her work. The installation in Basel was dense and immersive, with thirty years of paintings hung unstretched on racks or salon style and filling the walls, sometimes suggestive of cloths or curtains or the casual arrangement of the studio itself. Among these, Suter presented the ornamental collages of her mother, Elisabeth Wild, lending the entire familial endeavor an atmosphere of crisp magic realism.

10 JAY CHUNG AND Q TAKEKI MAEDA, THE SIXTH YEAR, PRODUCED BY JAKOB SCHILLINGER (LUDLOW 38, NEW YORK) Written by Chung and Maeda in five parts and described as an “art world drama series,” The Sixth Year was produced by Schillinger for the Goethe Institut’s Ludlow 38 as an online artwork. Two episodes were directed by artists (Nick Mauss and Ken Okiishi, Loretta Fahrenholz) and three by feature-film directors (Rick Alverson, Alex Ross Perry, Dustin Guy Defa). All are set in the New York art world, staging what the show’s creators call “the social interactions and . . . everyday realities of the field.” Fahrenholz’s slapstick production casts children in the leading roles of artists and gallerists, while Alverson’s is a slickly shot and darkly tragic tale of an art-school grad trying to get a job as a studio assistant. The gossipy, queasily insiderish narratives are alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, but it is the strikingly different forms produced within the collaborative production process, as well as the artists’ thoughtful grappling with the online format, that are most fascinating.

Polly Staple is the Director of Chisenhale Gallery in London, where she is currently working on projects with Wojciech Kosma, Nicholas Mangan, and Jumana Manna, among others.