PRINT December 2015

Sarah McCrory

Carol Rama, Sortilegi (Sorcery), 1984, mixed media, 62 5/8 × 44 1/4 × 27".

1 CAROL RAMA (MUSÉE D’ART MODERNE DE LA VILLE DE PARIS; CURATED BY ANNE DRESSEN) When the long-underrecognized Italian artist Rama passed away recently at the age of ninety-seven, she did so in the midst of an extensive museum tour of the fabulous retrospective that is finally bringing her the recognition she deserves. “The Passion According to Carol Rama” includes more than two hundred works spanning seventy years. Her work swept in and out of alignment with various art-historical movements, yet it’s her own powerful voice, driven by personal tragedy, that cements Rama as not only a great feminist artist but one of the greats, period.

Organized by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and coproduced with Paris Musées; Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; and Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin.

2 ALASDAIR GRAY (KELVINGROVE ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM, GLASGOW; CURATED BY SORCHA DALLAS) Gray is one of Scotland’s most revered figures, yet, inexplicably, he’s not well known outside the country. He’s Scotland’s Hockney and then some—a formidable author, poet, and artist. This comprehensive exhibition showed off Gray’s remarkable style and wit, displaying his profound understanding of everyday people and their motivations and digressions—and hopefully bringing his art to a wider audience.

3 ASHES (STEVE MCQUEEN) This film is a brief meditation on the too-short life of its title character. Ashes’s story is one of happenstance and misfortune, but it is viewed against the backdrop of a Grenadan paradise. He larks around on the prow of his boat, surrounded by glistening blue ocean, at the height of his youth and beauty in the Caribbean sun. All the while, a voice-over tells us the tragic story of Ashes’s murder after he accidentally found drugs on the beach. McQueen shows us the fragments left behind by yet another young black man dead before his time.

4 AGNES MARTIN (TATE MODERN, LONDON; CURATED BY FRANCES MORRIS AND TIFFANY BELL WITH LENA FRITSCH) I was lucky to catch this show at the right time and see it with no one else in the gallery. Feeling like I was alone with Martin, I was reminded of the quiet power of her works—a refined and intimate strength that doesn’t confuse delicacy with weakness. In the center of the exhibition, a gold-leafed canvas, Friendship, 1963, occupied its own space with an alluring presence. Like an altar, it was the shimmering heart of this beautiful exhibition.

Co-organized with the K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

5 MARVIN GAYE CHETWYND, THE KING MUST DIE (EDINBURGH ART FESTIVAL) Chetwynd’s charismatic and chaotic performance in the Old Royal High School, a nineteenth-century Neoclassical building funded by King George IV, began by lashing its audience together with ragged latex ropes. Referencing the eponymous 1958 novel by Mary Renault, Chetwynd unapologetically assembled myriad sources with no attempts at integration or explanation of their relevance to one another. The audience was required to patch together the anarchic mixture of paganesque rituals, allowing the spectacle to unfold while placing themselves in Chetwynd’s hands.

View of “The Cats-in-Residence Program,” 2014–15, 356 S. Mission Rd., Los Angeles. Sam Roeck, Contemporary Art Sculpture for Cats #2, 2013, oak, plexiglas, carpet, linoleum, 52 x 30 x 30". Photo: Brica Wilcox.

6 NICOLAS PARTY (INVERLEITH HOUSE, EDINBURGH) There might be some nominative determinism at play in the work of Party, who brought the festivities to Edinburgh’s Inverleith House with his show “Boys and Pastel” this year. Filling the seven rooms of this elegant eighteenth-century mansion, Party references both art-historical movements and the effects of the digital on contemporary art. Giant swiping charcoal fingers and perversely stylized trees—seemingly inspired by the house’s botanic gardens—were drawn directly on the gallery walls. The “boys” in question stare out at the viewer from monumental portraits—are they family, lovers, friends? It doesn’t seem to matter: Like the artist’s installations, they are unself-conscious, joyful, and mischievous.

7 “THE CATS-IN-RESIDENCE PROGRAM” (356 S. MISSION RD., LOS ANGELES) This captivating sculptural installation–cum–rescue project, which originated at White Columns in New York, was conceived by Rhonda Lieberman and assembled from works by Lisa Anne Auerbach, Jonathan Horowitz, Rochelle Feinstein, and Ruth Root (among many others), and housed in a so-called CatAviary designed by Freecell Architecture and Gia Wolff. The work included a host of feline residents who played, cavorted, and hid among its pipes, towers, and steps. Visitors could also take home a new friend from partner Kitten Rescue, and twelve “purr-formers” were adopted.

8 BRITISH ART SHOW 8 (LEEDS ART GALLERY; CURATED BY ANNA COLIN AND LYDIA YEE) As an art-world insider, I had to remember that while much of the work in this survey, which occurs every five years, is familiar to me, the show offers a great platform for the public to encounter a half-decade’s worth of important and developing practices in one place, as well as a solid and emphatic description of the great state of contemporary art in the UK. The selection of some forty-two of the UK’s brightest artists included installations by the accomplished Laure Prouvost; a marvelous film by Welsh absurdist Bedwyr Williams, Century Egg, 2015; a surprising textile sculpture from collage supremo Linder, Diagrams of Love: Marriage of Eyes, 2015; works from two of the new generation of ceramicists, Jesse Wine and Aaron Angell; and a film by rising Scottish star Rachel Maclean, Feed Me, 2015.

Organized by Hayward Touring, London.

9 PHIL COLLINS, TOMORROW IS ALWAYS TOO LONG (GALLERY OF MODERN ART, GLASGOW) This delightful and uplifting film was developed over the course of a year as the artist worked with various community groups from across Glasgow. The movie is at once an ode to that city and its people and a testament to the affability of the artist—Collins has an optimistic outlook and an unshakable faith in the people who make up the complex metropolis. An amalgam of pop video, documentary footage, animation, and TV homages, with music penned by Cate Le Bon, this work is heart-meltingly good.

10 GOGGLEBOX (CHANNEL 4) I can’t get over this show: I’m watching people watching television. It shouldn’t work, and it took me two seasons to even take a look—which I did only accidentally at first. Yet Gogglebox beautifully reveals the intimate relationships between groups of friends and family and regularly has me in tears. When gobby but razor-sharp Geordie Scarlett Moffatt goes from cracking funnies to weeping uncontrollably after watching a documentary about cancer, I can’t help but join her. Leon and June Bernicoff, together for more than sixty years, still enjoy a marriage of mutual understanding and frequent eye rolls from June. Sandy Channer and Sandra Martin, two animated wild women from South London, shriek through each episode, and I can’t help but wish I was squished on the sofa between them.

Sarah McCrory is the director of Glasgow International. She is currently working on the seventh edition of the festival, which will open in April.