PRINT December 2017

Jamillah James

1 EJ HILL (PALAZZO CONTARINI POLIGNAC, VENICE; COMMONWEALTH AND COUNCIL, LOS ANGELES; HUMAN RESOURCES, LOS ANGELES) It’s been a busy year for the young LA-based artist EJ Hill, whose primary practice of performance has been given a new and different life through the incorporation of painting and installation. Of these three shows, two—at Human Resources and in Venice—included hand-built wooden models of roller coasters, structures at once thrilling and terrifying. Navigating these unwieldy constructions slowly and gracefully, Hill turns his movements into transfixing meditations on the anxiety of lived experience.

EJ Hill, Pillar, 2017, wood, PVC. Installation view, Palazzo Contarini Polignac, Venice. From “The Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2017.” Photo: Sergey Illin. 2

2 JIMMIE DURHAM (HAMMER MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES; CURATED BY ANNE ELLEGOOD WITH MACKENZIE STEVENS) It should be lost on no one that the politics of representation in 2017’s art world very much mirror the fissures in real-world politics. We are divided, left/right, farther left/farther right, and the identity politics of the 1990s find themselves on shaky ground in our fractured present. All of which is to say, sometimes one should let an exhibition and its objects do the work. I find myself feeling about this exhibition now just as I did when I attended its opening: thrilled by its complexity and humor, and deeply appreciative of the rigor and diligence of its curators. It is no easy task to stage a show of this scale with such a historically enigmatic—and controversial—figure.

Jimmie Durham, La poursuite de bonheur (The Pursuit of Happiness), 2002, 35 mm transferred to digital, color,
sound, 13 minutes.

3 “SIGNIFYING FORM” (THE LANDING, LOS ANGELES; CURATED BY JILL MONIZ) This was a knockout exhibition with an intergenerational roster of black women artists who’ve lived and worked in Los Angeles, carefully organized by moniz and beautifully elucidated with texts written by an important group of curators, scholars, and fellow artists. Shows focused on work by women, including such earlier exhibitions as “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” and “Global Feminisms” and the recent “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” and “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985” are not only eye-opening but clearly necessary. There is still so much work to be done.

View of “Signifying Form,” 2017, the Landing, Los Angeles. From left: Betye Saar, Cage (In the Beginning), 2006; Brenna Youngblood, I, 2011. Photo: Joshua White.

4 GET OUT (JORDAN PEELE) In a year when two greats of horror filmmaking have died (George Romero and Tobe Hooper), comedian turned director Jordan Peele’s incredible debut tickles and stuns, ultimately turning the mirror back toward the viewer. Comedy has long been a way to talk about difficult subjects, but horror is deployed much less frequently. Peele’s film encourages deep introspection in order to combat the specter of racist rage—the true horror of American life.

Jordan Peele, Get Out, 2017, 4K video, color, sound, 104 minutes. Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya).

5 “ARTISTS OF COLOR” (THE UNDERGROUND MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES; CURATED BY NOAH DAVIS) By founding the Underground Museum, the late artist Noah Davis left Los Angeles with a jewel box of ideas that continue to dazzle as they take shape. The most recent exhibition, “Artists of Color,” plays with the expectations set by its title, delivering a brisk jaunt through post-Minimalist experi-m-entations with hue, light, and form by a wide-ranging group of artists, including Carmen Herrera, Jennie C. Jones, Diana Thater, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

On view through February 4, 2018.

Lita Albuquerque, Sirius, 2006, salt, fiberglass, pigment, sphere: 4 × 4', salt base: 8 × 8'. From “Artists of Color.”

6 CAULEEN SMITH (CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE; CURATED BY RHEA ANASTAS) This exhibition was a revelation. Smith’s lush Lessons in Semaphore, 2015, features the Los Angeles movement artist taisha paggett teaching a young boy a flag routine in an overgrown abandoned lot on Chicago’s South Side. Continuing the linkage between that Midwestern city and Smith’s newly adopted home of Los Angeles are handmade banners used in a protest staged in the historically black Bronzeville neighborhood, sewn with text by the poet Gwendolyn Brooks. The gorgeous, thunderous soundtrack of Pilgrim, 2017—“One for the Father” by the late Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda—carries viewers from Coltrane’s ashram in Agoura Hills, California, where she moved from Detroit following the death of her husband, to the Watts Towers and a Shaker graveyard, and suggests the necessity for withdrawal and rest alike in the practices of creativity and radical resistance.

Cauleen Smith, Conduct Your Blooming, 2015, sequins, felt, cotton, rayon, velvet, seven panels. Installation view, University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine, 2016. Photo: Jeff Mclane.

7 ANNE IMHOF (GERMAN PAVILION, 57TH VENICE BIENNALE; CURATED BY SUSANNE PFEFFER) It seems fitting that, in the German pavilion, Imhof’s Faust followed Hito Steyerl’s Factory of the Sun, 2015—a video installation positing dance as a mode of production and survival in an image-saturated technocapitalist hellscape. Imhof dialed back the digital and turned down the temperature in an extreme exercise in distantiation. A raised glass floor split the pavilion into two tiers, with performers in tattered, dingy athletic wear scurrying about or lying prone underneath. Standing on wall-mounted shelves, they alternated between aggressive fits of headbanging and discomfiting stares. Viewers were kept at arm’s length, sometimes literally pushed back, blocked from the pavilion’s entrance by a steel fence and prowling Dobermans, or forced to view the drama unfolding from behind a one-way glass wall.

Anne Imhof, Faust, 2017. Performance view, German pavilion, Venice, May 7, 2017. From the 57th Venice Biennale. Photo: Ugo Carmeni.

8 A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, WE GOT IT FROM HERE . . . THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE (EPIC, 2016) “It’s time to go left and not right/Gotta get it together forever/Gotta get it together for brothers/Gotta get it together for sisters/For mothers and fathers and dead n-ggas. . . . To make something happen, let’s make something happen.”

Completed following the unexpected death of founding member Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor—and released a few days after the 2016 election—the album drops a crucial call to action in the first breaths of its goose bump–inducing opening track, “The Space Program,” setting the stage for sixty minutes of sonic brilliance.

Cover of A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It from Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic, 2016).

9 MERCE CUNNINGHAM (WALKER ART CENTER, MINNEAPOLIS; CURATED BY FIONN MEADE AND PHILIP BITHER WITH JOAN ROTHFUSS AND MARY L. COYNE) Cunningham’s orbit and influence are writ larger than life, and with much grace and reverence, the Walker’s presentation of “Common Time” showed this across disciplines and time. The show sets the bar for how dance can be thoughtfully presented by foregrounding its symbiotic nature, featuring works by Cunningham’s cohort of fellow artists—some of whom, such as Robert Rauschenberg and Charles Atlas, enjoyed close working relationships with him as collaborators. Also included were former students, such as Yvonne Rainer and company members Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener—the last two performing live during the exhibition’s run—and others considered to be in Cunningham’s lineage, such as artist and choreographer Maria Hassabi.

Jasper Johns’s costumes for Merce Cunningham’s Second Hand, 1970. Installation view, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2017. Photo: Gene Pittman.

10 KERRY JAMES MARSHALL (MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES; CURATED BY HELEN MOLESWORTH, IAN ALTEVeER, AND DIETER ROELSTRAETE) Kerry James Marshall is—and has been, since well before this long-overdue blockbuster of a show—one of the most important artists working today. Black Painting,2003–2006, depicting Black Panther Fred Hampton’s apartment shortly before his assassination, is a master class in technique, an argument that no single color is monolithic. The same goes for culture: In his work, Marshall articulates the complexity and beauty of blackness—as a pigment, as the sum of all colors, and as a complicated, heavy idea.

Co-organized with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Kerry James Marshall, Black Painting, 2003–2006, acrylic on Plexiglas, 72 × 108".

Jamillah James is curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Recent projects include solo presentations of Abigail DeVille, Sarah Cain, Simone Leigh, and Alex da Corte. She is currently working on the first US museum survey of B. Wurtz, “This has no name,” opening in fall 2018.