PRINT December 2014


The Best Exhibitions of 2014



Petrit Halilaj, Poisoned by men in need of some love, 2013, earth, grass, animal excrement, brass. Installation view, Galeries Lafayette Foundation, Paris. Photo: Aurélien Mole.


Production drawing ca. 1975 by Chris Foss for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unmade film Dune.

Broad City is the first TV show to fully exploit the comic potential of the gentrification of our minds.

Michael Portnoy, 100 Beautiful Jokes, 2014. Performance view, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, May 10, 2014. Photo: Ernst van Deursen.


View of “Imaginary Museum of the Northeast, Department of Archive and Fiction. Section: Psychology of Testimony,” The Public Archive building, Salvador, Brazil. Benjamin Abrahão Botto, Maria Bonita e Lampião, ca. 1936. From the 3rd Bienal da Bahia, Brazil. Photo: Alfredo Mascarenhas.

This is an image from a book on Ferdinand Cheval’s Palais Idéal (1912). My family was recently seeking architectural inspiration for a museum that will be built when our lost granddad comes out of his conceptual tunnel. It has now been more than five months since he came for five-o’clock tea. We are considering the Palais Idéal, but we would prefer something more modern, with spiky angles. We are fundraising, but we know we could also do it with simple means, as Cheval did, collecting pieces of glass and mirrors and sticking them together.

Porno Mania, Los Angeles.


Philip Glass and Robert Wilson, Einstein on the Beach, 1976. Performance view.



Keith Hennessy and Circo Zero, Turbulence (a dance about the economy), 2012. Performance view, June 7, 2014, Theater der Welt, Mannheim, Germany. Photo: Christian Kleiner.


Marina Pinsky, A & B Time, 2013, ink-jet print, 29 1/4 × 23 5/8".


View of “Ed Fornieles: Modern Family,” 2014, Chisenhale Gallery, London. Photo: Andy Keate.


Dean Blunt, London, September 2014.


Pina Bausch, Kontakthof, 1978. Performance view, Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, June 20, 2013. Photo: Marion Kalter.

“Thanks for the Mammaries” (ForYourArt, Los Angeles; curated by Bettina Hubby) An authentic and free-spirited exhibit of all things breastoidal, curated by a cancer survivor (artist Hubby) and featuring some 125 artists all referencing a serious subject without being solemn, this show was a real dose of high energy and poetic vigor. Two years ago, Hubby also brought us a happening mock shop called the Eagle Rock Rock and Eagle Shop, featuring for-sale items related to rocks and eagles.

Larry Clark, Knoxville II (homage to Brad Renfro) (detail), 2012, diptych, C-prints, and blood on foamcore, overall 96 × 96".

Qiu Xiaofei (Pace Beijing) The way Qiu Xiaofei behaves when he is working often reminds me of the annoying but charming disarrangement of Anthony Braxton’s For Alto. I’m simultaneously disgusted by and attracted to the way this plays out in his work. Qiu’s latest solo exhibition at Pace Beijing, “Apollo Bangs Dionysus,” presented rational thought after chaos and free improvisation after indulgence.

Spider from “Pierre Huyghe” at the Artist’s Institute, New York, 2014. Photo: Adam Reich.

Mike Kelley (MoMA PS1, New York) I loved meandering through Mike Kelley’s works at PS1. I discovered a lot of his efforts in the flesh for the first time. Kelley endlessly managed to distill tonalities of self-deprecation, fear, perversion, humor, and deep care in his work—a unique feat. Whether small or large-scale, his output was effective. Kelley’s absence was felt throughout the galleries—I couldn’t help but think that the works would have been installed differently had he been around. He was the all-encompassing artist of his time. So long.

“When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South” (Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; curated by Thomas J. Lax) A good exhibition is one that makes me reconsider my own practice. Rigorous, challenging, and beautifully installed, Lax’s investigation into the myriad ways in which artists of African descent have been inspired by and reworked conventional notions of the American South signaled a paradigm shift for exhibitions that mingle contemporary and “outsider” art, using the theme of the South as the show’s narrative thread and downplaying the juxtaposition of insider/outsider that has become a standard curatorial tactic of late. For me, the real revelations were J. B. Murray, whose small-scale drawings freely mixed abstract brushwork and asemic, wordless writing, and Patricia Satterwhite, whose wildly inventive images of domestic products were incorporated into a wallpaper installation by her son, the artist Jacolby Satterwhite. As my uncle Tossy would have said, “The show was all that and a bag of chips.”

Nick Relph, Beginning King, 2013, silk, Lycra, monofilament, 48 × 29 7/8".

Wallace Lester is an artist who lives in Holly Springs, Mississippi. I came across his photography after completing the Lapides/Pinehurst Artist Residency at Yalo Studio in nearby Water Valley. What particularly strikes me about his pictures is the way they emulate an ideal still life yet each contains a distinct sense of place, of isolation, and of the unknown: all qualities of a true photograph. In Lester’s own words, “I want the viewer to be able to constantly return to the image and find a new symmetry or a new aspect.”

Teller, Tim’s Vermeer, 2013, HD video, color, sound, 80 minutes. Graham Toms and Tim Jenison.

“Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings 1913–1915” (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) This was the best exhibition I saw this year. Every painting was a knockout and the canvases were all in excellent, some even mint, condition. I first discovered Hartley’s work in an art history class during my freshman year of college. It was love at first sight—and my attachment remains unwavering.

Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher, Nothing Is . . . (detail), 2013, harp and 16-mm film, 5 minutes 48 seconds.

Diane Simpson (JTT, New York) Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms has this to say about naked: “When used with regard to persons and implying absence of clothing, the word is not uniform in its pictorial and emotional evocations; it may suggest many conditions, such as a state of nature and of physical beauty, a state of destitution and of pitiful suffering, a state of privacy and of admirable modesty or purity, a state of shameful publicity or of wanton exhibitionism. In extended use, therefore, naked is preferred to bare when the emphasis is on revelation or exposure . . . in its plain truth or without disguise, or in its hidden weakness or strength.”

Le Corbusier, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 1963, Cambridge, MA. Photo: Trevor Patt/Flickr.

Kunstkammer Wien The Kunstkammer at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna houses treasures accrued during the three centuries in which the Hapsburg dynasty ruled much of Western Europe. Ranging from natural curiosities to Renaissance and Baroque art objects, this collection affirms the prevailing notion that art is fundamentally a representation of political currency. Nothing within the art economy has truly changed between the Hapsburg Empire’s heyday and the present; it just has been readjusted as the formats and barriers shifted.

Joan Jonas, Reanimation (Performa 13, New York) Reanimation activated the distinctions between the senses in a particularly acute manner. Inspired by Under the Glacier, a novel by Halldór Laxness, Jonas and her collaborator, composer and pianist Jason Moran, created an otherworldly atmosphere via a structured, improvisational exchange. I got the feeling that Jonas and Moran, who previously performed this piece for Documenta 13, did not know exactly how the story would unfold. This tangible tension gave each decision a palpable weight. Not only could I hear and see the performances, I could also taste and feel every gesture, surface, and sound. Rarely do such disparate material realities collide so meaningfully.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, 2014, Paris. Photo: Michel Denancé.

Linda Stark (University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA) I had seen photographs of Stark’s paintings over the years and considered myself a fan, but I was unprepared for the impact of encountering the canvases in the flesh. “Sculpted” with oil paint and suffused with intense emotion, their meticulously crafted surfaces and seemingly banal images lodged themselves in the folds of my unconscious usually reserved for the weirdest of dreams.

View of “Manuela Gernedel: Eye in the Sky,” 2013, Leswin Place, London. From left: cockeye, 2013; embryo/maternity allowance, 2013; mammal, 2013. Photo: Manuela Gernedel.

Dean Blunt, Skin Fade [Deluxe Edition] London-based musician Dean Blunt dropped his Skin Fade [Deluxe Edition] mixtape online in August. (The original Skin Fade was quickly removed from the Internet after its January debut.) Blunt operates in the realm of alt-pop while defining a completely original context for his work—every time I read an interview with him, I get the feeling he’s feeding his audience a premeditated fiction. His process-based sound is laden with far-ranging sources and made strictly with tape machines. Skin Fade is a woozy, twenty-six-minute meander around several corners, featuring sorrowful, discordant horn samples and a candid retelling of narcotic elevation. Released, as usual, with no explanation—all we got was a track listing and a download link that has since expired.

Seventh Avenue between Eleventh and Twelfth Streets, New York, 2014. Photo: Kim Gordon.

Frank Pavich, Jodorowsky’s Dune Although I have a vague recollection of seeing David Lynch’s Dune in the ’80s, I’m glad I don’t really remember, because it left the door wide open to Frank Pavich’s recent documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune. In 1975, Chilean-born director Alejandro Jodorowsky gained the rights to Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel and embarked on the ambitious journey to make it into a film. His grandiose vision, ultimately unrealized, included the casting of Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, and Salvador Dalí. Pink Floyd was going to do the music and H. R. Giger and Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, the sets and storyboards. But what makes the documentary so great to watch is Jodorowsky himself. A fantastic storyteller, his exuberance is infectious even after all these years. You root for him the entire time, even though you know the film will never be made. And in the end it doesn’t really matter, because the dialogues he put into motion, and the work that was created in preparation for this project, continue to influence contemporary sci-fi cinema.

Image on screen in foreground from Comedy Central’s show Broad City, 2014. Photo: Loretta Fahrenholz.

Michael Portnoy, 100 Beautiful Jokes (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, May 10) In this five-hour stand-up tragicomedy, abstract “jokes” took the form of poems, dances, and even philosophical fables. I loved watching Portnoy glide through multiple characters: a terrifying warlord straight out of Game of Thrones, a melancholic lover, a man lost in the leaves of a four-meter-tall plant—all to a cinematic sound track. While the production was a live performance, it was also a film set onto which we had somehow wandered; we peered over the cameramen’s shoulders as Portnoy cried onto the head of a bunny rabbit, telling us jokes that were impervious to interpretation, confusing us in the most sublime way.

View of “Alexandra Bircken: B.U.F.F.,” 2014, BQ Upstairs, Berlin. From left: Fat, 2014; Big, 2014; Ugly, 2014. Photo: Wolfgang Tillmans.

Third Bienal da Bahia (various venues, Brazil) Of the art I saw this past year, I found the Bienal da Bahia most interesting. This biennial, which spread through the city of Salvador and other locations across Brazil, united several generations of artists (myself included) and presented a hitherto ignored current within the Tropicália movement, now brought into focus by artist and curator Ayrson Heráclito. In addition to Heráclito, curators Marcelo Rezende and Ana Pato presented documents and objects from the collection of a Bahia penal museum, here reinterpreted by biennial artists.

Screen capture from Vaughan Oliver’s Facebook page, September 12, 2014. Photo: Lee Widdows.

Rana Hamadeh, Can You Pull in an Actor with a Fishhook or Tie Down His Tongue with a Rope? (Liverpool Biennial) For this sound installation, Hamadeh abstracted the prayers and chants typical of the Shiite ritual of Ashura such that they were transformed into some edgy electro party noise. The piece reminded me of the first time I witnessed Ashura, some fifteen years ago, in a suburb of Beirut. Thousands of men, women, and children were gathered, marching together; the men performed a series of synchronized hand movements that concluded as they beat their chests while moaning and turning in circles. Hamadeh’s piece is the first I’ve seen that reflects Ashura while allowing something else to happen in a beautiful and transcendental manner.

Andrew Durbin, Mature Themes (Nightboat Books) A hybrid of poetry and art criticism, this book reflects a collective generational point of view of overnetworked New Yorkers. Politics, technology, pop culture, autobiography, and modern media myth are the Rorschach blots by which Durbin guides the reader through the space he has carved between objective reality and subjective experience. In the poems, surface trivialities glide abrasively against densely crystallized ideas, producing a kinetic friction. The book is an addictive read. It currently lives in my studio, filed under “Inspirational” because it reaffirms my surrealist approach to art and parallels my strategies for finding the poetry in everything from Google Maps, Clueless, Katy Perry, and Hurricane Sandy to the Raymond Pettibon show at David Zwirner gallery in New York.

Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, and Lucinda Childs, Einstein on the Beach (Haus der Berliner Festspiele) If I were to be honest about the experience I most enjoyed in 2014, it was getting the opportunity to see the recent revival of Einstein on the Beach. What struck me most about the production—apart from its obvious visual and aural exuberance and unyielding commitment to the work’s own unique form—was the overwhelming excitement one gets from witnessing the zeitgeist, albeit nearly forty years old. Einstein on the Beach is that rare confluence of vision and intuition that occurs when an opus or opera becomes aligned through the best of contingency, circumstance, and collaboration, and then shifts something of our world.

Ferdinand Cheval, Palais Idéal, 1912, Hauterives, France.

Porno Mania (1001 S. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles) LA is always reshaping itself in jokes and one-liners. I spent a lot of the ’90s hanging out in an unnamed strip mall in Koreatown. There’s a pool hall that used to be called 1001 Pool Halls, then 1000 Pool Halls, then Pool Hall, and now Pool Room. Next door, was my favorite signage in LA. It read PORNO MANIA in back-lit red and macabre font, dripping in blood. The shop closed before I could get a good photo. Ironically, a store called Mega Signs opened in its place. When I heard six months ago that the plaza’s stalwart “cafeoke” Ding Dong Dang was closing, I looked it up on Yelp. A commenter on the site said it reminded them of Hamsterdam; I googled “Hamsterdam” and got a few photos of smoking hamsters on bicycles and screenshots from The Wire.

Denver, 2014. Photo: Rashid Johnson.


Patricia Treib, Devices, 2013, oil on canvas, 66 × 50". Photo: Lucas Blalock.

Keith Hennessy and Circo Zero, Turbulence (a dance about economy) (Theater der Welt, Mannheim, Germany, June 7–8) It took twenty minutes by bus to travel from the Theater der Welt’s main venue to a site that looked like an old school. When we arrived, the performers were in a gymnasium-like room, already dancing, stretching, undressing, and reading. We sat in the first row of chairs and soon felt threatened as the performers began throwing liquid (water? sweat? piss?) at the audience and each other. The dancers slid around, semi-improvising, as Jassem Hindi’s amazing noise music played in the background. When one performer began to enumerate the fees, salaries, and production stipends the festival allotted different participants, it became clear that this chaos was ordered by a critical sensibility attuned to the economic conditions of the festival context.

The United Order of Tents building, 81 MacDonough Street, Brooklyn, NY, 2014. Photo: Simone Leigh.

Marina Pinsky The highlight of my year was discovering the work of Marina Pinsky. In an era when millions of increasingly interchangeable and constantly mutating jpegs are in circulation, I am immediately drawn to the gravitas of her images (pictures or their three-dimensional close relatives) and compelled to look back, again. Pinsky’s works lock visibility and concealment, the public and the intimate, and collective desire into precise and striking—yet thankfully open—forms.

Ed Fornieles (Chisenhale Gallery, London) I feel like an alien, because I can’t really fit all the parts that made up “Modern Family” into a whole: the sculptures, the press release, the Tumblr and Instagram feeds, the performances. Maybe this gathering of content was meant to elicit the feeling that everything will be OK. The show made me laugh nostalgically at what I once thought we’d all end up doing, and realize that, actually, life is going to be fucked up and beautiful and weirder than I could have ever imagined.

Brickmaking community outside of Guadalajara, Mexico, 2014. Photo: Oscar Murillo.

Petrit Halilaj (Galeries Lafayette Foundation, Paris) Greetings from Kosovo! Today, in the Natural History Museum of Pristina, I saw fishes, peacocks, rabbits, and lizards. They were made out of soil and excrement, and they wandered the space like ghosts. They looked very dignified, though. It seemed that they were transitioning, occupying a space in between. Maybe because they weren’t in Pristina anymore but in Paris. Or maybe because someone—namely, Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj—excavated their carcasses from the museum’s underground stockrooms and made replicas of them, now displayed in what will become the Galeries Lafayette Foundation art space. It felt like wandering in someone’s unconscious (or in mine?). It also felt like being in a “lost” museum, which is the best, most twisted way to inaugurate a building committed to a new future.

Operation Sappho after-party, Brillobox, Pittsburgh, hosted by Transformazium collective for the exhibition “Alien She,” organized by the Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Sept. 20, 2013–Feb. 16, 2014. Photo: Wade Guyton.

Jérôme Bel, Jérôme Bel (Ménagerie de Verre, Paris, June 5–6) and Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Kontakthof (Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, and other venues, 2013–14) In the land of the living, this year saw the revival of Jérôme Bel, a piece by the eponymous artist, from 1995. I was not prepared for such sensuality in Bel’s work. And since I cannot not account for the dead: There was also the revival of Tanztheater Wuppertal’s 1978 Kontakthof, with audaciously gesturing ballroom lines made circular. Even from the grave, Mother Pina was still serving lessons.

Dani Tull, Circles and Shapes, 1995, watercolor on paper, 19 × 15 1/4". From “Thanks for the Mammaries.”

Larry Clark, Knoxville II (homage to Brad Renfro) (Luhring Augustine, New York) This diptych is the epicenter of “so bad it’s good.” The birthing of mirth. I watched The Client until the VHS tape snapped: Brad Renfro warmed my blood in unknown, unthinkable places. Heroin too. Or so they say. This piece is delphic. Clark has no way out, having merged so wholly with naïveté and the despondent sincerity of the young. This is a forced darkness, a surfeit of reflection, a laughable staging of the unedited as a means of baring a soul. The client, the voyeur, and then the viewer all fall into place. The victim, the monster, the judge. All of us caving under the vertiginous youth. The smeared bloody fingerprints really take the cake.

Qiu Xiaofei, Marine Prodigy, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 70 7/8 × 55 1/8".

Pierre Huyghe (The Artist’s Institute, New York) I visited this small basement art space on Eldridge Street on a very cold day in March to discover that nature—in the form of a pholcid, commonly referred to as a cellar spider—had also apparently crept inside. When Jenny Jaskey, the Institute’s director and curator, introduced me to this new tenant, I was reminded of a similar situation. Many years ago I came across a Chapman Brothers penis-nosed-kids-tree, in which a little spider had built a picture-perfect web from branch to branch. I liked the idea that pholcids would develop a more complicated awareness of nature and culture while tipping their thin legs across the gallery walls.

J. B. Murray, Untitled, 1978–88, tempera and ink on paper, 8 1/2 × 5 1/2". From “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South.”

“Embodiment(s) in the Therapy Room: (How) Clients and Therapists Negotiate the Material Body” (The New School for Social Research, New York, April 19, 2014) Dancers rarely forget they are bodies, but artists? The rubric and structure of this free, one-day conference organized by The New School’s Diversity Initiatives in Clinical Psychology practiced much of what the title promised: I left feeling fortified by a general refusal to reduce, medicalize, objectify, or pathologize lived experience. That this occurred within the field of psychology was incredibly inspiring. Closer to home, the event led me to think about how critics, dealers, curators, and artists might negotiate and attend to identity, embodiment, and the body with less assuredness and greater complexity.

Nick Relph (Chisenhale Gallery, London) Relph’s series of handwoven textiles had a toxic shimmer up close. Strands of rayon, Lycra, and plastic fishing line infected the natural fibers—cotton, silk—like a synthetic virus. Looking at them, I felt an uneasiness oddly similar to my response to ultrathin TVs: They were unnaturally sharp. Poetic, banal photographs were interspersed with the textiles, a display strategy that suggested their images were merely the results of a more complex loom. There was something decidedly crafty about Relph’s intertwining of old and new technologies. I was totally seduced.

Wallace Lester, Holly Springs, Mississippi, 2013, ink-jet print, 8 × 10".

Teller, Tim’s Vermeer This Penn & Teller documentary follows Tim Jenison and his family for 1,825 days as the inventor tries to unravel Johannes Vermeer’s painting process. Expounding on David Hockney’s proposition that the seventeenth-century Dutch wizard used the mechanical aid of something like a camera obscura to make his paintings, Jenison creates a system of mirrors and lenses that could have been used in the 1600s to produce optically implausible works. In the year of rapid-fire Instagram and Tinder hookups, Tim’s Vermeer embraces a slow-cooked analog journey that begets a beautiful relationship between a person and an image—and reminds us of what it means to truly “like” something.

Marsden Hartley, Indian Composition, ca. 1914, oil on canvas, 47 3/4 × 47 3/4".

Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher, Nothing Is . . . (Hauser & Wirth, London) I was struck by the subtle beauty of this work, which draws from an eponymous poem and album by Sun Ra. Cleijne and Gallagher have cut flaps from selected frames of a 16-mm loop. The manipulated filmstrip, fed through a handmade harp placed precariously over a projector, magically strums the strings, striking a chord in Ra tuning each time the film loops through the apparatus (approximately every six minutes). The film, onto which lines from Ra’s poem are scratched, depicts oblique Egyptian imagery, the science fiction writer Samuel R. Delaney, and Ra himself, whose image ultimately converges with Delaney’s. And yet for all the work’s complex points of reference, this hybrid combination of animation, film projector, and musical instrument exudes a haiku-like simplicity.

Diane Simpson, Sleeve (Cradle), 1997/2013, linen, nylon cord, birch plywood, poplar, 58 × 62 × 9 1/2".

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA This fall I’m teaching at Harvard in the Carpenter Center, the only building in the US designed by Le Corbusier. Seen from an aerial view, the structure is surrounded by a bunch of squares. It’s a concrete-and-glass intervention on the campus. Numerous columns create a punctuated rhythm. Curved walls with fins and a central swooping walkway give the building its organic shape. Tall, narrow panels on every floor pivot open, allowing light and air to filter in, while huge, plate glass windows enable sightlines that extend across entire floors and beyond. The edifice is a sculpture of space, contained and released.

Joan Jonas, Reanimation, 2013. Performance view, Anthology Film Archives, New York, November 17, 2013. Photo: Paula Court.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop, new headquarters of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris Squeezed in by courtyard walls, this bulge of a building sticks up and out and roundabout (but the protuberance can’t be assembled from glass panels or tiles, like an armadillo or an armada: no reason to look inside, or from in to outside). Piano’s swelling tumor attaches itself via plug-in sockets to the surrounding walls: better if it could have squeezed itself—or been itself squeezed in—within those walls. But why prop up this humped building on a throwaway one-story glass building posing as a pedestal? Because we focus in on the whole and muddle the parts: All we have in our eyes and in the sky and in our breathlessness is something bloating, billowing, ballooning, bulbous.

Linda Stark, Five Finger Fire, 1995, oil on panel, 14 × 10 1/2".

Santaro Tanabe Last winter I saw some paintings being loaded onto a truck in Manhattan. Half of them were life-size copies of green highway exit signs, and the others featured vibrant abstract forms articulated in thick brushstrokes. One of the signs simply read: SANTARO TANABE. I assumed this was the artist’s name, so I began to search for more information online. I found remarkably little: He was a neo-dadaist who immigrated to New York in the 1960s. I wanted more, so I asked artists, critics, and curators about him, and sent cold e-mails to experts on the scenes I assumed he had moved through. No one had anything. I spend a lot of time imagining the other works Tanabe may have made and where they might be now.