PRINT December 2018

The Artists’ Artists

The Artists’ Artists

To take stock of the past year, Artforum asked an international group of artists to select a single exhibition or event that most memorably captured their eye in 2018.

View of “This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich and Many Other Artists,” 2018, Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Mike Kelley, Proposal for the Decoration of an Island of Conference Rooms (with Copy Room) for an Advertising Agency Designed by Frank Gehry, 1991–92. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Barbara Kruger

Bodys Isek Kingelez and “Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980” (Museum of Modern Art, New York, on view through January 1 and January 13, 2019, respectively) Kingelez’s “City Dreams” is all dazzling skill and deep style: a jammy urbanity emblazoned with invented corporate and government logos that speak to both the hope for a peaceful world and the seductions of global capital. The Congolese artist has said that a building without color is like a naked person. If that’s the case, Yugoslavia’s “Concrete Utopia” is a nudist colony. The overall effect of the country's built environment is one of the solidity of gray: the concretion (literally) of the potential for a better life through well-designed space, zany futurology, and poignant memorialization. These structures are awesome (an overused word but one that is in this case apt) in the way they simultaneously promise a just future and flirt with a monstrous materiality and scale that is darkly haunting.

Adam Putnam, Construction, 2016–17, unique gelatin silver print, 8 × 10".

Marianna Simnett

SOPHIE (Heaven, London) SOPHIE’s performance this past March at Heaven, London’s iconic gay nightclub, rippled through my fibers until they mutated. She dragged those confronted with her universe through fluid artificial waves that tasted painfully real. SOPHIE shared the stage with collaborator Cecile Believe, who provided live vocals, and dance duo FlucT, who choreographed the sensational show. Merch proceeds went to Mermaids, a charity supporting gender-diverse and transgender children and young people. It was beautiful, grotesque, and sincere—living proof of a world I believe in and would like to share.

Maria Jarema, Filtry, 1958, monotype and distemper on paper, 33 7⁄8 × 30 3⁄4".

*Dawoud Bey*

John Akomfrah (New Museum, New York) Few exhibitions imprinted themselves on my mind this year like “Signs of Empire,” Akomfrah’s survey at the New Museum. I first encountered this black British artist’s work in London in the late 1980s, where I saw Handsworth Songs (1986), made with the Black Audio Film Collective. That early film established the themes and structure of Akomfrah’s practice: Using a combination of archival and original footage, Akomfrah shapes narratives that embrace the tensions of black diasporic experience, the legacies of colonialism, and the broad sweep of history in multiscreen epics. His work, which excites both the eye and the intellect, is breathtaking in its conceptual and material brilliance.

Zoe Leonard, Strange Fruit, 1992–97, orange, banana, grapefruit, lemon, and avocado peels; thread, zippers, buttons, sinew, needles, plastic, wire, stickers, fabric, trim wax, dimensions variable. Photo: Graydon Wood.

*Tony Cokes *

Seth Price (Museum Brandhorst, Munich) Last November, while visiting Munich, I was lucky to engage Price’s exploration of mediated subjectivity. I had seen the artist’s work many times over the years, but more and more sporadically and from a distance, which seems appropriate somehow. This survey, revealing a chameleon able to productively hide himself in an uncanny multiplicity of forms, both brought me up to date on his practice and gave me much to ponder. I was struck by the connection between Price’s early work and parts of the oeuvre previously unfamiliar to me, and was especially flummoxed by the scale and intensity of his recent untitled series of light-box-framed skin portraits, 2015–. The show was a dislocating inspiration.

Martine Gutierrez, Demons, Tlazoteotl ‘Eater of Filth,’ 2018, C-print, 36 × 24".

*Samson Young*

“Collections of Tom, Debbie and Harry” (Tai Kwun, Hong Kong, on view through January 4, 2019) In his 2008 memoir, Collections of Nothing, William Davies King posits a romantic image of the collector: Collecting is “filling, completing, and mastering a universe,” he writes. But what King conjures is really a first-world pathology: In other parts of the world, under less affluent circumstances, accumulation is a survival instinct. Through a series of workshops organized by curators Eddie Cheung Wai Sum and Wendy Wo, the eight artists in “Collections of Tom, Debbie and Harry” got to collaborate closely with several extraordinary senior citizens and their collections of donated personal items: Ivy Ma blended news clippings into monochrome canvases, while Joe Yiu Miu Lai arranged cherished objects into cabinets of curiosities. The show is beautiful, emotionally generous, and refreshing for its total lack of curatorial BS.

View of “The Conditions of Being Art: Pat Hearn Gallery & American Fine Arts, Co. (1983–2004),” 2018, Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. From left: Mary Heilmann, The Passenger, 1983; Tishan Hsu, Ooze, 1987; Jutta Koether, Roots in the Rhineland, 1995; Peter Schuyff, Untitled, 1984; Marlene McCarty, Karin Aparo—August 5, 1987. Photo: Chris Kendall.

Kim Brandt

Miyoko Ito (Artists Space, New York) How erroneous that the opportunity to see “Heart of Hearts,” a selection of work by Miyoko Ito (1918–1983) occurred so long after she was alive and working—but it’s better late than never, thanks to curator Jordan Stein. Her paintings evoke objects, times, and places that are familiar but also not—windows framing a vista might be mirrors reflecting the artist’s inhabited space; forms oscillate from landscape to figure and back again. Tacks protruded from the sides of several frames, as though the paintings were bursting at the seams. Maybe they’re about to come undone, or maybe they were never fixed—like a memory, a mind, or a body, they are powerfully vulnerable in their honesty. For anyone presently interested in abstraction, and in dismantling the white patriarchal narrative of American art history, this exhibition was most crucial.

Sonya Sombreuil, PEARL SIDE / UNFURL SIDE, 2018, oil on canvas, 52 × 40".

Valerie Hegarty

Polina Barskaya (Monya Rowe Gallery, New York) Barskaya’s show “Brightwater Avenue” was the antidote to the hollow-resounding, oversize, and overproduced painting exhibitions of the past year. Recalling Morandi in scale, color, and focus, Barskaya shuffles and reshuffles her subjects: herself and her husband, furniture, blankets, books, plants, windows, and light. Each modestly scaled canvas is a portal into the artist’s private life, and she stares back at the viewer directly and inscrutably in moments of repose. Time slows down within the accumulations of brushed observations in Bonnardesque strokes—the paintings offer interior echoes that grow exponentially, much like the matryoshka dolls from the artist’s native Ukraine.

Deana Lawson, Barbara and Mother, 2017, ink-jet print, 70 5⁄8 × 56 1⁄4".

Paul Pfeiffer

Arthur Jafa (Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London) Jafa transformed my understanding of video. His output, spanning the art world and the entertainment industry, redefines, for me, the cultural context of the medium. Jafa’s contribution to contemporary art is shockingly clear in his approach to moving-image montage: an astute sampling of viral YouTube clips plus his own footage deftly spliced together to create a mesmerizing flow. The result: an aesthetic object dispensing with traditional codes of authorship and refusing symbolic closure from the real. That he frames his work in relation to the urgencies of black experience suggests the universality of that experience—the canary in the coal mine of a global condition from which no one will escape.

Polina Barskaya, Alex Resting, 2017, acrylic on panel, 16 × 20".

Heather Benjamin

Sonya Sombreuil (Bridget Donahue, New York) For her first solo presentation in New York, “Faith Crisis,” Sombreuil delivered six deep trips into the sub­conscious. Through her celebrated clothing line COME TEES, Sombreuil has become a progenitor of current visual culture. These innovative new works on canvas were explosive and sublime: They brim with cultural references that coalesce into a futuristic symbology all her own, yet they are as raw and timelessly pure as prehistoric cave paintings. Her layered abstract language and figuration are mesmerizingly entwined, refracted, and psychedelicized, weaving together personal and universal histories of the human soul with a breathtaking tenderness.

Judith Barry, Cairo Stories (Ayousha), 2010–11, digital video, color, sound, 24 minutes.

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

Hermann Nitsch (Marc Straus, New York) Nitsch is the most beauty-full of contradictions. Intense and uncompromising in his time-based Das Orgien Mysterien Theater celebrations, yet whenever we meet we want to cuddle and love him. And we do. His rejection of hypocrisy, control through fear, and our societal alienation from body, flesh, blood, and ecstasy is more vitally relevant than ever. At Marc Straus, Nitsch’s huge, bloodred, animist canvases are portals into pagan dimensions. Travel through a physical plane into entropy, chaos, and transformation. Without mutation there is no evolution. Nitsch remains a colossus of roads less traveled but nevertheless essential to knowledge. We also saw him play self-composed organ pieces at the gallery. His performance was more psychedelic than the best Pink Floyd and more transcendent than Tibetan thighbone trumpets. There is inspiration in every breath he takes—challenge in every exhalation.

Jennifer Packer, For James III, 2013, oil on canvas, 72 × 48".

Mette Ingvartsen 

“Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta” (Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin) It has been years since an exhibition affected me as deeply as the one at the Gropius Bau presenting Mendieta’s restored 1970s and early ’80s films. Her works with blood, fire, water, and her naked body are like a blow to the mind, enabled by her incredible capacity to expose difficult issues. Without sentimentality, through minimal actions that are perfectly framed, she inserts her body into natural landscapes while performing a personal and cultural history not only of pain and violence but also of silence, contemplation, and beauty.

Seth Price, Brad, 2015, dye-sublimation print on synthetic fabric, aluminum, LED matrix, 12' 2“ × 4' 10”.

A.K. Burns 

Zoe Leonard, Strange Fruit, 1992–97 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) I simultaneously squealed with excitement and nearly burst into tears when I entered the central chamber of Leonard’s survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where Strange Fruit, 1992–97, lay like a gathering of recuperating strangers. The now-withered fruits exposed both the fragile temporality of being and the labor involved in surviving. Previously I had only witnessed the installation in pictures and believed it was thread that was used to reassemble those skins into hallowed bodies. But it’s the details that you see in person, the urgent deployment of buttons, hooks, and zippers—by any means—that prompted my rare emotive explosion.

Lee Kai Chung, Can’t Live With or Without You, 2018, turntables, tape deck, oscilloscope, slide viewer, board, speakers, microphones, ink-jet prints. Installation view, Tai Kwun, Hong Kong. Photo: Kwan Sheung Chi.

DeVonn Francis

Martine Gutierrez (Ryan Lee Gallery, New York) I don’t often have as much fun at an opening as I did on the first night of “Indigenous Woman” at Ryan Lee this past September. Exhibiting a series of large digital photographs, Gutierrez contended with the very definitions of history, Mayan heritage, and cultural authenticity, not only imagining the continuation of her indigenous roots but also creating an explosive collage of who she is—however, wherever, and whenever she decides to be. Gutierrez’s print publication for the show is a humorous, saturated celebration of self-efficacy. If agency is about enabling possibilities, Gutierrez embodies the “ever-evolving self-image.”

Jim Joe, Dream of Tragedy (Wedding Day), 2018, oil stick on canvas, 48 × 36".

Ho Rui An 

Thunska Pansittivorakul and Harit Srikhao, Homogeneous, Empty Time Released in late 2017 and screened throughout Europe and Asia, Homogeneous, Empty Time, by Thai filmmakers Thunska Pansittivorakul and Harit Srikhao, is a bracing, dizzying trip into a contemporary Thailand under the spell of a militarized nationalism. By turns bruising, ticklish, and razor-sharp, the documentary is especially charged when it tracks the burgeoning sexualities and political affinities of pubescent boys as they are gradually conscripted as agents of state violence. The film is like a hormonal little brother to the more sedate Paradoxocracy (2013), by Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Pasakorn Pramoolwong, and, perhaps fittingly, will not be released in Thailand anytime soon.

Frances Glessner Lee, Three-Room Dwelling (detail), ca. 1944–46, mixed media, approx. 12 × 32 1⁄2 × 32 7⁄8".

Nayland Blake 

Flame Con (Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, New York) Imagine an
art fair where everyone was happy to be there and all the attendees enjoyed themselves. That was the happy circumstance I found myself in for the fourth annual iteration of Flame Con, New York’s LGBTQI+ convention for fans of comics, animation, sci-fi, and fantasy. Flame Con has become my favorite annual queer pride event, mostly because of the way it allows artists and fans to create and enact new types of queer identities and stories through dressing up, performing, and celebrating one another’s work. While the rest of the cultural landscape struggles with minimal amounts of representation and massive conservative backlash, Flame Con proves that there is a flourishing, diverse, loving community emerging from the grass roots of American culture.

Thunska Pansittivorakul and Harit Srikhao, Homogeneous, Empty Time, 2017, digital video, color, sound, 103 minutes. Bunthavitch Thunronglertkiat.

Virgil Abloh

JIM JOE (The Hole, New York) A captivating body of work that speaks volumes from miles away. JIM JOE’s personality and take on the world were very apparent in the oil-stick-on-canvas works included in his recent show at the Hole. His exhibitions have always challenged the notion of art and its place within a gallery. They create a metaphor about art and its place in our lives.

Miyoko Ito, Mandarin, or the Red Empress, 1977, oil on canvas, 46 × 41".

Alex Carver

“The Conditions of Being Art: Pat Hearn Gallery and American Fine Arts, Co. (1983–2004)” (Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, on view through December 14) Coming of age in the market-obsessed New York art world of the mid-2000s left me with little hope for the possibility of a career based in conversation, friendship, and idea making. In staging this inspiring show, the curators (Ann Butler, Lia Gangitano, and Jeannine Tang) have presented a poetic constellation of concept-rich artworks produced somewhat collaboratively by the late, legendary dealers Colin de Land and Pat Hearn and the artists of their respective galleries. As such, the exhibition comes off as a lot more than a purely archival or academic exercise. Instead, it feels incomplete, brimming with propositions, and very much alive.

Yang Fudong, Dawn Breaking, 2018. Performance view, Long Museum, Shanghai, April 22, 2018. From the series “The Museum Film Project,” 2018–.

Hsu Chia-Wei 

“Broken Spectre” (Taipei Fine Arts Museum) “Broken Spectre” was a curatorial project developed by Yu Wei, a researcher and curator, in collaboration with ET@T, an influential private research organization in Taiwan. The team commissioned new projects from artists Hsu Che-Yu, Su Hui-Yu, and Yu Cheng-Ta, who drew from the city’s archives of 1990s cultural history. By editing and reimagining the materials they found there in contemporary video installations, the artists paid tribute to the inspiring generation that was shaping aesthetics after the end of martial law thirty years ago.

Judy Linn, Albany, 2014, 2017–18, ink-jet print, 18 1⁄2 × 27 3⁄4".

John Riepenhoff 

Stephanie Syjuco and Portland-area high-school students (Portland Art Museum, Oregon) To produce notMoMA, an ensemble of artworks included in PAM’s sprawling, artist-driven curatorial experiment We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments, Syjuco enlisted the help of local high-school students in remaking pieces from the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Syjuco invited Portland gallerists to select works from the MoMA vaults, which the students then copied using affordable or scavenged materials. The result was a layered, slightly off, and entertaining pseudo-survey of iconic contemporary art, with most of the original references still visible, but through the lens of a new generation looking back in time and across the country, while working through issues of collaboration and authorship.

Orra White Hitchcock, Megatherium. Cuv. [After Georges Cuvier], 1828–40, pen, ink, and watercolor on cotton, woven tape binding, 25 1⁄4 × 48".

Jac Leirner

“No Place Like Home” (Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon) This year, I saw solo museum shows of great artists of the past, as well as brand-new art in private galleries, full of freshness and swing. I’m not able to elect one of them. Instead, I have decided to focus on an exemplary group show. “No Place Like Home” presented pieces that fold everyday materials into art: Visitors encountered, among the 120 works on view, Duchamp’s shovel, Gavin Turk’s trash bag, Warhol’s Brillo box, Man Ray’s iron, and Méret Oppenheim’s avian table. The curators organized these objects in galleries based on the rooms of a house; the clever conceit unified the show’s disparate artists. One could see the public’s pleasure as they lost themselves in this home for art.

Miodrag Živković, Monument to the Battle of the Sutjeska, 1965–71, Tjentište, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo: Valentin Jeck.

Maryam Jafri 

“This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich and Many Other Artists” (Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) This intriguing group show, curated by
Meg Cranston and John Baldessari, foregrounded artist’s artist Norm Laich’s production over the past three decades alongside pieces by artists for whom he has worked as an assistant: Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, and Kay Rosen, among many others. Mike Kelley’s standout Proposal for the Decoration of an Island of Conference Rooms (with Copy Room) for an Advertising Agency Designed by Frank Gehry, 1991–92, comprised dead-end cubicles, alienating conference rooms, and offices with sick jokes painted on the walls (executed, I would guess, by Laich). Shockingly, the installation had not been shown in the US since the 1992 Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, exhibition “Helter Skelter,” but its trenchant exploration of the psycho-institutions of American life is more relevant now than ever before. Laich’s indispensable skills as fabricator, painter, and sounding board united the disparate works on view, making all of this possible.

Ana Mendieta, Blood Writing, 1974, Super 8, color, silent, 3 minutes 17 seconds.

Brittney Leeanne Williams 

Jennifer Packer (Renaissance Society, Chicago) When I walked into Packer’s “Tenderheaded” at the Renaissance Society, I gasped. Her paintings lifted my analytical mind into a reverential state. Choppy, loose smears of paint butt up against tight renderings of eyes that spotlight the gaze. Packer gets to the likenesses of her subjects; they are captivating yet veiled, neither confrontational nor welcoming. “Tenderheaded” reawakened my desire to give two-dimensional surfaces not just bodies but souls.

SOPHIE performing 
at Heaven, London, March 13, 2018. Photo: RMV/Shutterstock.

Banks Violette 

Adam Putnam (P.P.O.W, New York) Like a synthesis between Saul Fletcher’s photography and H. P. Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House” (1933), Putnam’s gelatin silver prints document an elegantly unstable point, one that slides between bodies and the space they occupy. The manner in which Putnam “performs” architectural spaces, deranging our sense of the inside as neutral or safe, produces a haunted and haunting version of interiority as a socket for a troubled notion of corporeal wholeness. The images throughout “Portholes”—depicting, variously, a young boy, the face of a woman, pillows stacked in the corner of a room—suggested that every corner is an opportunity to disappear, and that all the queasy connotations of that vanishing remain alive and (potentially not) well.

Aaron Fowler, El Camino, 2017, acrylic, enamel, car parts, hair weave, mirrors, CDs, fans, fitted cap, tires, poker tables, speakers, digital printout, and concrete cement on conference tables, 11' × 14' × 4'.

Paul P.

Peter Hujar (Morgan Library, New York) Hujar recorded his subjects with equal love. Luminaries like Susan Sontag or anonymous figures in repose on the Christopher Street Pier all belong to an exalted milieu. Each in their moment was the most important person to him. The languid, exquisitely revealed bodies of Hujar’s portraits affect me most. Heavy minds return admiration, helping the other to better understand the world. The phantoms of chaos are everywhere: Even the photos predating AIDS hold an affirmation of death and the outlaw’s capacity to transcend it. A coda to this show appeared in David Wojnarowicz’s retrospective at the Whitney: three photographs taken by David of Peter postmortem—face, hands, feet—with all the immaculate regard the younger artist inherited from his mentor.

Yoo Youngkuk, Work, 1967, oil on canvas, 51 1⁄8 × 51 5⁄8".

Every Ocean Hughes (f.k.a. Emily Roysdon)

Edition Festival for Other Music (various venues, Stockholm) Each year since 2016, right in the heart of the challenging Stockholm winter, John Chantler has been organizing the Edition Festival for Other Music. In late 2017, the festival was preceded by a performance of Julius Eastman’s Femenine (1974) by London-based music ensemble Apartment House. If I could attend this work weekly I would, the sleigh bells tricking me along. This past February, a spectacular lineup came to town, including Terre Thaemlitz, Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, Tyshawn Sorey Trio, Marginal Consort, and Leila Bordreuil. I was so devoted to the festival that I mitigated the social exhaustion of constant attendance by sitting aside with a gay novel in the change-ups.

Nayland Blake dressed as Lumpy Space Princess from the Cartoon Network TV show Adventure Time, Flame Con, New York, 2018.  Photo: Nayland Blake.

Jon Wang

Frances Glessner Lee (Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC) The ground between art and craft has always been contested, but in the Renwick’s recent exhibition of the late Frances Glessner Lee’s work, it got bloody. In Three-Room Dwelling, ca. 1944–46, a baby with a bullet to the head lies dead in a crib with red nail polish scientifically splattered across the hand-painted wallpaper above her. While Lee’s miniature crime scenes, which revolutionized forensic science in the 1940s, present themselves as juicy whodunit dioramas, I couldn’t help but read the nineteen on view in the show as cinematic sculptures that constantly shift between object, image, and bad TV. I got lost in the delicate furniture upholstery, the eerie kitchen lighting, and the bloodstained crocheted dog, who softly whispered: “Craft wins.”

Marginal Consort performing at the Edition Festival for Other Music, Dieselverkstad, Stockholm, February 11, 2018. Photo: Dawid Laskowski.

Suki Seokyeong Kang

Yoo Youngkuk (Kukje Gallery, Seoul) Yoo could be considered one of the first Korean modernist painters. After living through Japanese colonization and the Korean War, he focused on evolving a utopian form of abstraction that deepened the relationship between graphic and geometric vocabularies. Yoo possessed a basic, existential belief in the dignity and freedom of human beings. We are now living through an interesting moment in Korea, where such narratives may help us write a new, peaceful history that will in turn provide hope for the future.

Richard Rezac, Chigi, 2016–17, paint on wood, cast hydrocal, 45 × 69 × 43".

Shirley Tse

Screening of Fabrizio Terranova’s Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival (Navel, Los Angeles) As a longtime fan of Haraway’s writings, I appreciated the intimacy of Terranova’s 2016 film, in which she tells stories of her work and life in the privacy of her own study. Terranova aptly captures the infectious joy she finds in thinking and speaking, while his use of a green screen denaturalizes the setting, to good effect. The post-screening teleconference at Navel was equally riveting. When asked for advice about establishing an art collective, Haraway quipped that a “living collective” that could combat high rent is more urgent. The audience gasped in appreciation of her candor.

Su Hui-Yu, The Walker, 2017, six-channel HD video projection, color, sound, 18 minutes.

Xu Zhen

Yang Fudong (Long Museum, Shanghai) Yang started his “Museum Film Project” at the Long Museum in March. For this piece, the art museum is not just a movie set but a departure point for action—Yang’s film crew worked in front of an audience. It reminded me of a luxury tour to watch hunters slaughter seals in the Arctic. There is a certain sarcasm to safety.

Viktoria Moskalenko and Taylor Raymond’s refabrication of Mark Bradford’s 2007 Giant, 2018, newspaper, ink-jet prints, gel medium, acrylic, glue, string, 8' 5 7⁄8“ × 11' 11 3⁄4”.

Nancy Shaver

Judy Linn (CUE Art Foundation, New York) Linn’s work reminds me of the writing of Alice Monroe and Grace Paley. Her pictures are stories of gaps in taste and politics told on flat surfaces. Augmented by color, texture, and form, the still images surge with action—unfolding both quickly and slowly. They give a peculiar sense of life being caught, as I the viewer am caught.

Arthur Jafa, Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death, 2016, digital video, color and black- and-white, sound, 7 minutes 25 seconds. Installation view, Store Studios, London, 2018. Photo: Hugo Glendinning.

Joyce Pensato

Deana Lawson (Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York) I first saw Lawson’s work nine years ago, and I instantly became a fan. Her recent show at Sikkema Jenkins was seductive, powerful, edgy, and beautiful—just fucking good! I love her photograph Barbara and Mother, 2017, its color and composition. The joy in their expressions says to me, We know who we are and we’re proud of it. We own our bodies.

Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild (75th Painting Action), 2017, acrylic and shirt on canvas, 79 × 59".

Kathe Burkhart

Judith Barry (Mary Boone Gallery, New York) Barry’s “… Cairo stories,” 2003–2011, rests somewhere between documentary and drama. Since her interviewees felt freer speaking anonymously, their texts about life, love, work, and the Arab Spring were transcribed and translated. In the resulting works, which were nine years in the making, she problematizes testimony from the standard-issue talking head by its delivery through actresses. In her video installation, fifteen women fade in and out of velvety black backgrounds in four groups of vertical monitors paired with still photographs. As in a game of musical chairs, viewers had to constantly shift position to see them all. Embodying collective experience with an intersectional twist that opens doorways to our shared humanity, the work reminded me that the personal is still political and the self is but a mask.

Fabrizio Terranova, Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival, 2016, HD video, color and black-and-white, sound, 82 minutes.

Erin Shirreff

Richard Rezac (Renaissance Society, Chicago) Given this year’s news cycle, it was hard at first to match the slow pace of Rezac’s “Address,” which was organized by Solveig Øvstebø with effective restraint in the lofty, oversize attic–like space of Chicago’s Renaissance Society. Largo, 2017, a favorite, sat small and alone on the floor: a nondescript but precisely rendered fragment of a pattern—or architectural plan? Its self-possession was emblematic of the show; each form had been smoothed to a purpose that seemed familiar yet concealed. Taken together, the sculptures registered as a testament to the private freedoms of studio work—which, at times this year, felt like all the freedom we could have.

Peter Hujar, Christopher Street Pier (2), 1976, gelatin silver print, 14 3⁄4 × 14 3⁄4".

Jonathan Lyndon Chase

Made in L.A. (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles) The fourth iteration of the biennial Made in L.A. at the Hammer Museum featured more than thirty diverse artists working and living in Los Angeles. Curated by Anne Ellegood, Erin Christovale, and MacKenzie Stevens, this jawn was fire! Lauren Halsey created an installation about language, representation, and blackness and its complex history on its own terms. EJ Hill presented a cathartic and spiritual performance on body and space, while Aaron Fowler displayed loud and multifaceted assemblages that made me think of the 1990s. Each work asked about and affirmed ideas of blackness in art history and American culture in familiar, different, and beautiful ways.

Stephen Towns, Let Not Man Put Asunder: Portrait of Cherry Turner, 2018, natural and synthetic fabric, nylon tulle, polyester, metallic, and cotton thread, crystal glass beads, resin and metal buttons, 30 × 24“. From the series ”Story Quilts," 2014–.

Liz Glynn

Tacita Dean (“Landscape,” Royal Academy of Arts, London) In a time of overheated political rhetoric and schizophrenic media, patience is a decidedly unsexy virtue. Dean’s Antigone, 2018, was twenty years in the making. Dean mines the gap between two of Sophocles’s epic narratives, imagining the unwritten journey of the blind Oedipus alongside his daughter (and sister), Antigone. Arresting images of the actor Stephen Dillane staring into a campfire on the Bodmin Moor are intercut with shots of the poet Anne Carson surrounded by books; all are anchored by captivating footage of the sun and moon. Dean’s fragmentary film is a meditation not only on the meaning
of a long dead text, but on the nature of existence itself.

View of “No Place Like Home,” 2018, Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon. From left: Robert Gober, Newspaper, 1992; Wolf Vostell, Endogene Depression, 1980; Robert Therrien, untitled, 2010; Patrick Caulfield, Lit Window, 1969.Photo: Rita Carmo.

Michael Wang

Orra White Hitchcock (American Folk Art Museum, New York) Scientific and painterly abstraction merge in Hitchcock’s mid-nineteenth-century diagrams of geological processes, fossil fauna, and local flora. The earth’s vast and unknown interior becomes a peach-tinted disk, a vein of anthracite coal an inky band. “Charting the Divine Plan” provided historical and biographical context to assure us that these scientific descriptions are all an attempt to illustrate God’s order. But Hitchcock’s dinosaur footprints (then interpreted as giant bird tracks and presciently embellished with feathery marks), flattened skeletons of extinct mammals (bolder and livelier than their copperplate inspirations), and spiral forms of magnified foraminifera appear with a kind of daylit matter-of-factness. In all their strangeness, they are the stuff of the world.

Tacita Dean, Antigone, 2018, two-channel 35-mm film, color, sound, approx. 60 minutes.

Amy Sherald

Stephen Towns (Baltimore Museum of Art) “Rumination and a Reckoning,” Towns’s first solo museum show, predominantly featured his “Story Quilts,” 2014–, which represent scenes from the life of Nat Turner, who led one of the largest rebellions of enslaved African Americans in history. Though accounts of that 1831 event traditionally focus on male figures, Towns’s rendition includes several women, including Turner’s mother and wife. The works themselves exquisitely combine the history of painting, in which Towns is formally trained, with the quilting techniques he learned specifically for this project—stitching together the hidden chronicles of women, manual labor, and textiles.

John Akomfrah, Expeditions 1—Signs of Empire, 1983, 35-mm slides transferred to video, color, sound, 26 minutes.

Paulina Olowska

Maria Jarema (Cricoteka Museum, Kraków, Poland, on view through February 17, 2019) Jarema, who was born in Kraków in 1908 and lived there until her death in 1958, was a multi­talented artist, great in all she did. Jarema, or Jaremianka, worked on stage sets and costume designs (with experimental stage troupe Cricot and with Tadeusz Kantor’s postwar “Theater of Death”); painted with gouache; collaged paper and other materials into striking ensembles; and made monumental public sculptures (such as the standout Chopin’s Piano, 1949, in Kraków’s Planty Park). Her unbelievably beautiful costumes have affinities with contemporary designers like Rei Kawakubo and Rick Owens. It is about time that people outside Poland discover the power of Jaremianka’s work.