Another year, another list! One of the things I enjoy about this time of year is reflecting on the past year, and then starting to look forward to the year ahead. Looking back at personal highlights of my year in art, some experiences continue to blow me away.
This retrospective was my introduction to Robert Gober’s work, and it opened my eyes to the artist’s incredibly multivalent sculptural installations. Now I love his work like the films of David Lynch–a little uncomfortably but passionately.
- The new Whitney building
The new building for the Whitney Museum of American Art is just so well executed in its strange silhouette that differs depending on your approach, its integration with the skyline and Highline, and its many levels of terraces both for art viewing and city watching. The interior spaces feel flexible and full of potential, as the installation of the permanent collection on all floors in America is Hard to See highlighted when the museum first opened to the public.
- Bringing art into the environment: Creative Time’s Drifting in Daylight in Central Park and The Cryptophonic Tour of Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery
Art in the public space, performance that incorporates setting and context, helping people re-envision the humdrum world…I find all those things very exciting. Two fantastic examples of this occurred this past Spring: Creative Time’s artistic takeover of Central Park featured several ongoing installations and performances and the one-day Cryptophonic Tour highlighted sound art projects across the graves and memorials of Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery. Creative Time is like the well-funded and organized version of the scrappy Cryptophonic tour, but both offered diffuse, non-didactic explorations of how art can interact with a particular environment and broader audience.
These gems of Soviet photography and film will be up through February 7, so you can make time to see them in the New Year. I plan to go back for the film program. I really enjoyed the rare chance to see early avant-garde works and gain a better understanding of how such radical forms coalesced into Socialist Realism. Look up the film schedule in advance–Aelita, Queen of Mars would be my recommendation if you’re up for a Constructivist imagining of the Socialist Republic of Mars!
- Performance at the Nari Ward exhibition at Lehmann Maupin
I wrote about the Nari Ward: Breathing Directions exhibition, but not about the performances that Ward organized in the space on October 4. The artist invited several dancers and other artists to respond to Ground (In Progress) (pictured above). Ward’s sculptural work of bronze-covered bricks features decorative patterns inspired by slave quilts. The premise of the floor work is that people would activate it. While it was always meant to be walked on by visitors, for this day of performances Ground (In Progress) was danced on, rolled on, spoken on and around, run on, and twerked on in commentary that dealt with current politics as much as history. All in all, thoughtful, moving, relevant and very much alive.
Perhaps surprisingly, the New York Public Library was the venue for this favorite, an exhibition of photography past and present. Thematic and sweeping, the show held so many historic rarities and seminal moments from the relatively short history of the medium that it could hardly fail to excite just about everyone. The early works in particular stood out to me as much for the cultural stories around cartes de visite and war documentation as the artistic merit of individual photographs. The exhibition is up through January 3 at the Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street, so you still have a chance to catch it.
This one is more of a personal discovery, as I’m sure many of you are already hip to the greatness of this outer borough museum. I visited the Queens Museum for the first time this summer. It is housed in the revamped 1939 World’s Fair building behind the incredible Unisphere (pictured above) in Corona Park. The unconventional nature of the setting extends to the collection, which boasts the Panorama of the City of New York–a to-scale replica of the city originally created for the 1964 World’s Fair. Don’t let the quirkiness put you off. The thoughtfully curated shows are serious and on par with other major museums in NYC. Moreover, the more intimate experience of the galleries and the museum’s deep ties to the local community make it exhibitions feel particularly relevant and of the 21st century. Worth the longish ride on the 7 train ten-times over.
Probably one of everyone’s favorite shows was “Cabaret Crusades,” a three-part video series by Wael Shawky. Sophisticated and poetic, Shawky tells the stories of the crusade through puppets, dialogue, and haunting song. The click of the old Venetian glass marionettes and their strange expressiveness was fascinating, and they transformed subject matter that could easily be dense and dry into an epic saga with historical veracity and great heart.
What are your favorite art moments from 2015?