PRINT December 2017

Jack Bankowsky

1 BENJAMIN H. D. BUCHLOH AND ANNE IMHOF (ARTFORUM) Adding to her Golden Lion and Absolut Art Award, Imhof brings home the art world’s most coveted honor: a thoroughgoing evisceration by the Marxian eminence that made the arrival of this magazine’s September issue the highlight of my autumn season. The critic’s nuanced refusal (I think of his famously ambivalent attentions to Andy before Anne) provides all the tools we need to appreciate just what made the artist’s Venice spectacular last summer’s motherlode symptom!

Anne Imhof, Faust, 2017. Performance view, German pavilion, Venice, June 23, 2017. From the 57th Venice Biennale. Stine Omar. Photo: Nadine Fraczkowski.

2 SPF-18 (ALEX ISRAEL) I mean, this movie is totally ridiculous! I mean, I cried three times. I mean, just who is this shiny, happy teen dream of empowerment through creativity meant to please? One infrathin remove from an after-school special, the latest exploit in the artist-entrepreneur’s multi-tentacled network of cross-fertilizing operations has bypassed the art system altogether, going straight to iTunes—followed by a multicity tour of high-school auditoriums timed to anticipate its Netflix release. They say that “young adult” is the demographic that matters . . . young adult, and graying art critic!

Alex Israel, SPF-18, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 75 minutes. Ash Baker (Jackson White). Production still.

3 GEORGIA O’KEEFFE (BROOKLYN MUSEUM; CURATED BY WANDA M. CORN AND LISA SMALL) Rei Kawakubo, eat your heart out—Cristóbal Balenciaga, too! Bringing together the wardrobe of this inspired designer-seamstress (and world-class shopper!) with her indelible paintings, this sleeper of a survey chronicles a single-minded self-creation that I would cheer as high camp if it weren’t pure genius.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s linen blouse, ca. 1935.

4 “ALICE NEEL, UPTOWN” (DAVID ZWIRNER, NEW YORK, AND VICTORIA MIRO, LONDON; CURATED BY HILTON ALS) If a case can be made for the slightly wince-worthy inclusion of Alice Neel (with Andy Warhol) as one of two white artists in Tate Modern’s otherwise Top Ten–worthy “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” then this improbable jewel of a gallery show has made it. Delicately curated by Hilton Als, this selection of portraits of Neel’s Harlem friends and neighbors—famous or no, politicized and less so—punctuated with literary and civil-rights-movement artifacts from the artist’s own library pays moving tribute to Neel’s commitment to painting her urban compatriots in all their diversity—African American, Asian, Latino—and to the empowering role her direct, deeply seen likenesses played in the young writer-critic’s self-constitution as a protagonist on the Manhattan scene.

Alice Neel, Two Girls, 1954, ink and gouache on paper, 29 1/4 × 21 1/2".

5 “SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER” (TATE MODERN, LONDON; CURATED BY MARK GODFREY AND ZOE WHITLEY WITH PRIYESH MISTRY) Opening with five unforgettable speeches from five history-changing activists, “Soul of a Nation” had this American in its thrall before I’d even entered the galleries proper. What followed was a turbulent, deeply affecting tale eloquently told by its curators both at the level of their hang and the pithy didactics. I could single out Sam Gilliam’s Carousel Change, 1970 (that big? That bold? And at that date?), or Lorraine O’Grady’s classic Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, 1980–83, the artist’s potent (and sidesplittingly funny) long-running performance. And then there’s everything by David Hammons, but that you already knew.

Co-organized with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, where it will be on view February 3–April 23, 2018, and the Brooklyn Museum, New York, where it will be on view September 7, 2018–February 3, 2019.

Sam Gilliam, Carousel Change, 1970, acrylic on canvas, leather, dimensions variable. From “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.”

6 “THE MYSTERIOUS LANDSCAPES OF HERCULES SEGERS” (METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY NADINE ORENSTEIN, HUIGEN LEEFLANG, AND PIETER ROELOFS) On this one, I’m going to have to go with Rembrandt. Clearly covetous of the art of his Dutch Golden Age peer, the better-known master acquired eight paintings and an etching plate from his remarkable colleague, which, in a telling act of agonistic tribute, he worked back into, claiming Segers’s indelible landscape as his own! Judging by the cultish devotion inspired by this first major US exhibition dedicated to the sorcery of this undersung innovator, the scales of history may be rebalancing.

Co-organized with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Hercules Segers, Landscape with a Plateau, a River in the Distance, ca. 1615–30, etching on paper, 5 5/8 × 4 1/8".

7 “MARSDEN HARTLEY’S MAINE” (MET BREUER, NEW YORK; CURATED BY RANDALL GRIFFEY, ELIZABETH FINCH, AND DONNA M. CASSIDY) I know, I know. There’re the gay bits—plus my beloved Maine—but, honest, it’s more than that. Painted in front of (or inspired by) that most poetic stretch of Northeastern coastline, these paintings, the best of them, are just about the toughest bunch of modern masterpieces our country had, by the 1940s, mustered. Is it?—was it ever?—possible to paint a close-up of crashing surf that does not devolve into Sears Roebuck kitsch? Yes. Crashingly yes!

Co-organized with the Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME.

Marsden Hartley, The Lighthouse, 1940–41, oil on hardboard, 30 × 40 1/8".

8 BRIAN CALVIN (ANTON KERN GALLERY, NEW YORK) In his latest solo at Kern’s swanky new uptown space, the thinking man’s Alex Katz again dazzled with his painterly Esperanto. At once keenly observed and cartoonishly abstract, Calvin’s twin-peaked lips and how-to-draw-’em eyes play foil to the wiliest and wittiest of painterly inventions.

Brian Calvin, The Silent Treatment, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 40 × 30".

9 FLORINE STETTHEIMER (JEWISH MUSEUM, NEW YORK; CURATED BY STEPHEN BROWN AND GEORGIANA UHLYARIK) Forget about the irresistible high-bohemian backstory; ignore the faux-naïf hand and teeming narrative incident: What one can miss in reproduction, and what this massively welcome survey makes abundantly plain, is just how replete these paintings are qua paintings, how dazzling their palettes, how inspired the play of scale and incident.

Co-organized with the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, where it is on view through January 28, 2018.

Florine Stettheimer, Birthday Bouquet (Flowers with a Snake), 1932, oil on canvas, 30 × 26 1/8".

10 A. WALTER HOPPS WITH DEBORAH TREISMAN AND ANNE DORAN, THE DREAM COLONY: A LIFE IN ART (BLOOMSBURY) One night in the early 1950s, Dizzy Gillespie picked the jazz-smitten young Hopps out of an audience, called him up onto the stage, hugged him, and invited him to pick the next number. Another day, an unwitting bookseller gave up a copy of Duchamp’s Green Box to a certain budding bibliophile for twenty-five bucks! So things tended to go under the lucky star of the mythic curator-in-the-making. But it was a serendipitous encounter with the fabled art-collecting Arensbergs that would cement Hopps’s destiny. When the eccentric patricians opened their Hollywood home, chock-full of quite probably the then most important modern art west of the Mississippi, there was no turning back. Based on interviews conducted by artist Anne Doran and shaped by beloved New Yorker editor Deborah Treisman, the colorful tale of this natural-born curator gets told in his own gift-for-the- yarn cadences.

Walter Hopps, ca. 1969. Photo: John Gossage.

B. ARENSBERG OPEN HOUSE, 7065 HILLSIDE AVE., LOS ANGELES They say that houses turn over twice as fast in fickle LA as anywhere else in the country, but this mysterious Hollywood Hills ruin has known just one other owner since the Arensbergs entertained Duchamp beneath his Nude Descending a Staircase. “You fellows interested in art, are you?” queried the affable, high-volume Hollywood broker. “You know, this place has a bit of art history to it. . . .”

Arensberg home, Los Angeles, 1945. Photo: Fred R. Dapprich/Getty Images.

Jack Bankowsky is a critic and curator and Artforum’s editor at large. He currently organizes the spring seminars for Artcenter College of Design, a series that brings notable artists and writers to the Pasadena, CA, campus. His novella-length profile Jordan Wolfson: The Only Living Boy In New York is forthcoming from Rizzoli/Ste de Lijk Museum.