PRINT December 2015

Jack Bankowsky

View of “Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange,” 2015, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. From left: Lightnin, 2009; Hearts and Brains, 2012; Elephant Memory, 2014; My Name Is Peaches, 2015.

1 “PICASSO SCULPTURE” (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY ANN TEMKIN AND ANNE UMLAND WITH VIRGINIE PERDRISOT) Picasso’s sculpture may be no more than the tip of the artist’s pinky, but as this exhilarating survey makes plain, it’s a big pinky. While a good two-thirds of the works in any given room blindside with their originality, it was the late sheet-metal inventions in the final gallery that sang for me. Take the pair of whitewashed works from 1961, each a woman with child: Reprising the Simple Simon cut-and-fold means of the paper maquettes on which they were based—here a scissors snip equals the maternal genitals, there a pair of smile-shaped incisions form her breasts—these über-witty inventions mine that modernist sweet spot where figural reference threatens to dissolve into pure formal elaboration but lingers in vital counterpoise. I’m like this close to forgiving MoMA for Rain Room.

Co-organized with the Musée National Picasso–Paris.

2 “POWER AND PATHOS: BRONZE SCULPTURE OF THE HELLENISTIC WORLD” (J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES; CURATED BY JENS DAEHNER AND KENNETH LAPATIN) Who made these beautiful likenesses? For what purpose were they cast? Imagine mingling among such figures—patricians and goddesses, slaves and boys—not as the art treasures they are today, but hundreds strong, as they then adorned the ancient metropolis. This once-in-a-lifetime survey of fully a quarter of the extant bronzes of the Hellenistic period is as close as we will likely come.

Co-organized with the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, with the participation of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana.

3 CHARLES RAY, HUCK AND JIM (ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO) The Whitney Museum of American Art’s fraught decision not to display Ray’s Huck and Jim on the plaza at the new plant’s entrance for fear it was too racially and sexually volatile to mingle with the general public launched the unfinished statue on a journey (both geographic and discursive) from which it seems fated one day to return, the most famous statue of the modern world! Inspired by Twain’s great American novel, and taking on the great American theme of democratic liberty (and those most divisive testing grounds of race and sex), Huck and Jim was a brave and authentic response to the Whitney commission, one that speaks to the very heart of the museum’s mandate and mission. That this sculpture would not do its rightful work in the sphere for which it was imagined remains a palpable disappointment, but as was made abundantly plain by the chattering masses that greeted the homeless masterwork at its first port of call (alas, administrative caution once again kept the work indoors), the “public” in Ray’s public art does not on a plaza depend.

4 MICHAEL KREBBER (GREENE NAFTALI, NEW YORK) So au courant are this German antipainter’s new, wafer-thin canvases that it is hard to remember whether Krebber invented Christopher Wool or Wool Krebber. Having had the strategic good sense to outlive Martin Kippenberger, here the younger artist claims his mentor’s crown with, ironically, a show of thirty-seven almost (this is important!) same-size canvases, so deviously understated, so piss-eloquently next-to-nothing, that it is hard to imagine a Park Ave. salon or Chelsea triplex they would not flatter. The razor’s edge is a dangerous place to dance, but Krebber must be used to it by now.

5 STANLEY WHITNEY (STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM AND KARMA, NEW YORK) Good old-fashioned painting? I don’t know. . . . Would that mean that Warhol never happened? That painting didn’t die with Minimalism—and rise again with . . . Michael Krebber?! That this artist gets no kick from Twitter? That Benday dots don’t move him? I really don’t know what Mr. Whitney thinks of such matters, as I have only just discovered his bracing, effervescent canvases in this overdue pair of shows, but any art that makes push/pull (subtle!) and color (dazzling!) as urgent as these canvases do is good new-fashioned painting to me.

Elad Lassry, Untitled (Carrier, Apples), 2015, claro walnut, paint, varnish, 13 × 42 × 22".

6 PHILIP GEFTER, WAGSTAFF: BEFORE AND AFTER MAPPLETHORPE (LIVERIGHT) Photography would finally be legitimated by the art market only in the 1970s due to the connoisseurship of a handful of mostly gay, mostly affiliated collectors (Sam Wagstaff among them). It was this change in the medium’s fortunes that made possible the rise of a photographer (Robert Mapplethorpe) to star status in the ’80s art world. The enfant terrible with the fine-quality prints was the payoff, and Wagstaff, his besotted mentor, anything but a disinterested bystander. The glamorous swath these partners-in-crime cut through the libertine ’70s (and the increasingly dark days of the AIDS epidemic that followed) makes this a must-read, not least of all for the serious student of photography.

7 ELAD LASSRY (DAVID KORDANSKY GALLERY, LOS ANGELES) Guilty until proven innocent is my policy—especially when the art in question relies on a worn-out kit of postphotographic tools. Well, three shows over six years at this indispensable LA gallery have seen the photographer make old gambits speak anew. Indeed, Lassry has put the photograph through its paces with ingenuity and wit—and, yes, there is always a certain surplus. I recommend the brand-new, totally fucked-up École d’Artschwager fruit-basket sculptures (in claro walnut with painted details) as the perfect gift for the hostess who deserves more than jam.

8 PIERRE HUYGHE (LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART; CURATED BY JARRETT GREGORY) I spent four hours in one-quarter of this impossible dream of a retrospective-as-Gesamtkunstwerk and left duly chastened by both Huyghe’s commitment to the danger and serendipity of unscripted event and the scrupulously articulate elaborations this wager begets. As I crouched on the floor of a darkened gallery, lost in the ritual magic of this artist’s 122-minute masterpiece The Host and the Cloud, 2010—like this show, “an exorcism of the modes of exhibition”—it seemed clear that Huyghe’s effort is among the most sustained and serious of our moment.

Co-organized with the Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

9 “GLORIA: ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG & RACHEL HARRISON” (CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART; CURATED BY BEAU RUTLAND) It’s totally not fair! Bob is dead and Rachel is anything but, which is precisely what made this pairing the sleeper show of the season. Faced with the prospect of mixing it up with her esteemed precursor, Harrison did what any self-respecting genius might: She honored him (think Bob on Bill) by erasing him. Organized around the senior artist’s Gloria, 1956, a gem in this gem of a museum collection, the conversation started, politely enough, in the gallery, but got pretty knock-down, drag-out in the pages of the inspired catalogue-cum–artist’s book that accompanied it.

10 WAYNE KOESTENBAUM, LAUNCH FOR HIS PINK TRANCE NOTEBOOKS (THE KITCHEN, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 21) Did you hear? Poet, critic, painter, and now memoirist and piano virtuoso Wayne Koestenbaum lost seven pounds dreaming out loud to his own rendition of Scriabin’s piano miniatures. He really did! Google it.

Writer, curator, and Artforum editor at large Jack Bankowsky divides his time between New York and Los Angeles. He is currently at work on The Secret Project, an art-world fairy tale for the young-adult audience.