PRINT December 2018

Kerry James Marshall

  Charles White, Love Letter III, 1977, lithograph, 30 1⁄8 × 22 5⁄8".

1 CHARLES WHITE (ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO; CURATED BY ESTHER ADLER AND SARAH KELLY OEHLER) If you really want to see what DRAWING can be—how image, method, and materiality fuse at the molecular level—Charles Wilbert White Jr. makes it crystal clear in some of the finest artworks ever created.

Gustav Klimt’s “Ancient Egypt I” panel, 1890–91, oil on canvas. Installation view, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2018.

2 GUSTAV KLIMT (KUNSTHISTORISCHES MUSEUM, VIENNA) The Kunsthistorisches Museum built a temporary bridge over a stairway so you could get up close to the wall paintings Klimt produced there between 1890 and 1891. Seen from just inches away, the images are mesmerizing, uncanny. I still don’t understand how they could have been made, especially the section with Egyptian statues and a mummy case. To be clear, technical virtuosity isn’t everything, but I bet it’s possible to measure more surface modulation in a laser-printed photograph than in these handpainted pictures.

View of “Arthur Jafa: Air Above Mountains, Unknown Pleasures,” 2018, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York. Photo: Lance Brewer.

3 ARTHUR JAFA (GAVIN BROWN’S ENTERPRISE, NEW YORK) The debate over a Black Aesthetic is over! Some African American artists perceive the categories of Black Art and Black Aesthetic as limiting traps, especially the imperative to represent Black bodies because we engage the world from within Black bodies. “air above mountains, unknown pleasures,” Jafa’s second show at Gavin Brown, was an embodied manifesto of the Black body’s instrumentality. The intensity of his meditations on the broad spectrum of Black being—material and conceptual, traumatic, triumphalist, and plain existential—showed just how deep are the wells from which we can draw.

Kahlil Joseph, Fly Paper, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 23 minutes 17 seconds.

4 KAHLIL JOSEPH, FLY PAPER (NEW MUSEUM, NEW YORK) It is not a stretch to say that Joseph’s Fly Paper film installation is pretty near sublime. At once personal, poetic, political, and impeccably stylish. Sweet!

Esopus 25 (Spring 2018). Noriko Ambe, Nagisa–Into the Edge of the Sea, 2018.

5 ESOPUS  On September 12, I got an email from founder and editor Tod Lippy saying that, after fifteen years, its annual print publication was ending. What a loss! Esopus was the best and most extravagant platform for artists’ projects that I knew of. There seemed to be no restrictions on what it was willing to do, and the results were of the highest quality.

Judy Ledgerwood, Tiny Dancer, 2017, oil on canvas, 36 × 30".

6 JUDY LEDGERWOOD (RHONA HOFFMAN GALLERY, CHICAGO) Ledgerwood proves that it’s still possible to produce colorful, decorative paintings akin to Matisse’s Orientalist phantasmagorias—provided you make a total mess. Take Tiny Dancer, 2017, for example. The mostly blue, three-foot-high diamond-patterned painting is uneven in every way. Color seems arbitrarily applied. Drips and smudges, globs and lines are painted with the tube used as a tool. Every corner is different. The incoherence, though, is its beauty.

Josiah McElheny, Cosmic Sun Painting IV, 2018, oil on board with prismatic glass and mirror, 30 × 39".

7 JOSIAH McELHENY (CORBETT VS. DEMPSEY, CHICAGO) I like precision! I like invention! I like sci-fi! I like the “Cosmic Sun” paintings in McElheny’s show “Cosmic Love” at Corbett vs. Dempsey!

Diébédo Francis Kéré’s 2018 proposal for the Burkina Faso National Assembly and Memorial Park, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Rendering.

8 DIÉBÉDO FRANCIS KÉRÉ If only the Black Panther movie’s production designers had hired Kéré to conceptualize the mythical African nation of Wakanda. His Serpentine Pavilion (2017) in Kensington Gardens, London, and his projects for modernizing Burkina Faso are quintessential Afrofuturist visions, perfect fusions of traditional building materials and techniques with otherworldly structural mechanisms—and they’re for real.

View of “David Hartt: in the forest,” 2017, Graham Foundation, Chicago. Photo: RCH.

9 DAVID HARTT (GRAHAM FOUNDATION, CHICAGO) I once heard the artist Jeff Wall describe his own work as “near documentary.” Hartt’s investigative approach to photography, film, and sculpture could be described as “near scientific.” His show “in the forest” at the Graham Foundation was a thoughtful examination of architect Moshe Safdie’s unfinished Habitat Puerto Rico (1968–70)—a failed utopian vision.

Senga Nengudi, R.S.V.P., 1977, nylon mesh, dimensions variable. Performance view. Maren Hassinger. Photo: Herman Outlaw.

10 SENGA NENGUDI (USC FISHER MUSEUM OF ART, LOS ANGELES; CURATED BY NORA BURNETT ABRAMS AND ELISSA AUTHER) My list begins and ends with two artists who impress me deeply, but differently. It is fitting that both are now enjoying a much-deserved reassessment. Earlier this year, Nengudi’s “Improvisational Gestures” ended its five-city tour at the USC Fisher Museum of Art. I am very proud to say I know Nengudi, and very happy to have loaned one of her iconic nylon-pantyhose sculptures to the show.
Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Galleries of Contemporary Art.