An I call it ORANGES Top Ten
My Favorite Art of 2011
The Clock at LACMA: I’m not the first nor the last to love Christian Marclay’s The Clock, an incredible achievement that even now is difficult for me to fully talk about. That said, I’ll stop talking, and let Zadie Smith's great piece speak to it here.
Getty Presentation of Pacific Standard Time: Rarely does one get an opportunity in art to assess history with the archives thrown open and all the art on view. Typically, we hunt and pick and collage a vision of art history from rumors, images, and the opinions of others. PST is an extraordinary moment to counter that hobnob horror, a chance to make up our own minds about Los Angeles Art with everything at our fingertips. The heart of the monumental project is a tight installation at the Getty that is simply perfect – great works by great artists. I continue to discover things in PST and it’s very exciting.
Mourners at LACMA: A stunning little show, The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy featured thirty-seven sculptures from the tomb of John the Fearless (1371–1419), the second duke of Burgundy. These small works were truly incredible, offering a full range of emotion and a truly profound experience. I long for more of these tiny shows from the past, I wish they would take over contemporary art museums and not give them back, I wish they would populate the earth and let us think and write and meditate in a world that’s much too fast.
John Marin at Fort Worth Modern: Fort Worth’s triad of the Fort Worth Modern, The Kimbell, and The Amon Carter is one of the best spots for art in America, bar none. And who would have ever thought that after being amazed by Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings at the Modern and feasting on Caravaggios at the Kimbell, that I’d fall hardest for the Maine eccentric modernist Marin at The Amon Carter. A truly amazing watercolorist, Marin was both ahead, behind, and of his time, which he shared with both Hopper and Pollock. I came to see Marin as Cezanne with a cold, doing for Maine with gloved freezing hands what the Frenchman did for Provence.
Dance Your Life at the Pompidou: On the heels of very, very long day and being disappointed by artists I am supposed to like (namely Edvard Munch and Cyprian Gaillard), I went into a massive show historicizing dance and art. I know nothing of dance and was not optimistic, but ended up completely absorbed, drawn into the narrative and amazed by the content. Imagine the opportunity to see footage from almost all of Rauschenberg’s early collaborations next to wild videos of Josephine Baker next to truly bizarre rehearsals of huge Nazi rallies. This was a great show. I went to eat and came back. I didn’t care about my feet. I hope someone brings this show to the U.S.
Jasper Johns at IVAM, Valencia: On a work trip, unexpectedly I found this show in Valencia, Spain, and was floored to discover the show was almost full of loans from Johns’ personal collection, including some sentimental additions that I not only didn’t know about but will change the way I view Johns’ work as a whole. For instance, a little ink work on vellum with Johns’ targets painted a pin-wheel pattern was made for Teeny Duchamp to keep her company during a long illness. It would spin in the air above her bed. Also, Johns once made a work on leather. Who knew?
Helen Pashgian and Mary Corse at Ace Gallery, Beverly Hills: Pashgian and Corse are my “what is wrong with you, how could you have missed this” artists of the year. Both are considered part of the light and space movement but far less advertised than their male counterparts. In fact, they are probably better. Corse’s surface effects are dazzling and almost impossible to photograph. Pashgian puts a sensual, sexy spin on natural phenomena that makes other light and space artists seem puritanical by comparison.
Bob Irwin at L&M Venice: Irwin is a hero for me. I admire the man, I admire the work. He, more than anyone else, proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that art is beyond markets, museums, galleries, or theory. Instead a part of the soul, part of how we orient ourselves in life, an essential part of existence in a philosophical sense. High praise for florescent light strips, I know, but this show (though saleable and slick) had everything Irwin, which is not only enough but everything.
Mark Grotjahn at Anton Kern: A sister show to his Blum and Poe show a year earlier, Grotjohn continued his fluttering shimmers of gnarly paint at Anton Kern. Saltz fawned and so did I. Grotjahn is the best painter in Los Angeles, not only in technique but also in pure historical resonance. There is as much Johns crosshatch in these works as Picasso primitive, as much gesture and expression as there is cold distance and study. They go on and on for me. I can’t quite figure them out and find them almost impossible to write about, which to me is the sign that there is something huge going on.
David Hammons at L&M: I hated it at first. I went into my usual histrionics about how New York critics need a hero and how it might as well be Hammons -- how off-putting the show was, how difficult, My God that little piece of plastic hanging from the ceiling in a brownstone mansion! I continued my rant about how disconnected the artworld is, how finding rough tarps and worn armoires in front of paintings is not enough to mediate on the friction between social classes. Then, I just yelled myself out. I continued to think about things and found that not only was I interested but that I truly cared about what Hammons was doing, though admittedly at the moment, I don’t know exactly what that was.
Elliot Hundley at Regen Projects: Hundley gets better and better and more sure of himself. This, and his previous show at Andrea Rosen, took me past “it looks like Rauschenberg” and “fun with collage” stage to the realization that Hundley is a fully formed artist, confident in his medium and speaking with his own voice. His continued engagement with Greek theater deepens and his interaction with the fantastic poet Anne Carson leaves me optimistic and thrilled to have Hundley in L.A. His new Wexner show is forthcoming.
Julian Hoeber at Blum and Poe and the Hammer Museum: I misread these shows, finding more cynicism than depth at first. I even wrote those thoughts in Art Review, London. However, Hoeber is a good artist, an interesting artist, whose project, though at present it eludes me, has me interested and studying. The artworld can be a “one of the boys” affair, with Nate Lowmans and Dan Colens truly giving the world empty “bro” art that is less lively than just arrogant and empty headed. Hoeber is not one of the boys, and though he traffics in some of the same territory, he is not only much smarter but also more vital. I expect him to emerge as a force in the upcoming years, an antidote to a very thin art scene which spends more time in the Artforum diary than in the world.