As we are inundated with videos, I am returning to text and static image. Through my Art in a Suitcase column I share great art moments from my 2018 travels. I hope Art in a Suitcase captures a different type of readership and leads us to use more of our imagination and piques our interest in seeing the works in person. Admittedly, I was not able to see all of the exhibits and works personally, but I certainly wish I had (that’s why I list them).
- Didier William – It was refreshing to find an artist with a great body of work, thoughtful and expressed with talent and vision. This was the case with Didier William’s two gallery exhibition at James Fuentes Gallery and Anna Zorina Gallery. Through carving, painting, and printmaking, the work has a unique personal and political narrative while also being generous enough to invite individual interpretations. A true mixture of form and content.
- Double Negative by Michael Heizer. If you find yourself in Vegas for adult play, before heading straight to the casino, journey 80 miles Northeast of Vegas to find this work. The directions, which include commands such as “turn left at the dumpster” are not actually helpful but can be found at the MOCA’s website (who owns the art work). Only once you get lost in the desert, driving through dirt “roads” covered with lava-size rocks that may cause a flat tire at any moment where no one will ever find you, will you fully appreciate experiencing Heizer’s immense land art, Double Negative. Yes, it is about the journey. Yet the actual viewing and experiencing of the art work is equally fulfilling. What he did – the carving out on two sides of a Mesa (a massive landblock), these slits, allowing more sky to be seen, his creation of sculpture out of sky, starts to make sense. Then you see the beautiful landscape, meandering rivers down below, the desert vastness where he has brought you, and you understand even more why art is art, and at times only for those willing to take the risk.
- Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson. You have seen thousands of pictures of it. You know the work by heart. You know the legend. You know entropy and you know land art. Yet nothing prepares you for seeing the actual work and the getting-in-your- bones beauty of what Smithson wanted you to see and feel. I went to Spiral Jetty about 10 years ago and the Jetty was slightly above water and one had to be careful walking on it as you were trudging in mud. Now, 2018, there is NO water. The Jetty is sparsely standing in the landscape. It feels vulnerable and strong at the same time. Vulnerable to the elements, as Smithson wanted, yet strong as it is black volcanic rock that looks sturdy. Again, it is the journey. There is better signage to navigate to the Jetty (thank you DIA) and you arrive at a road sign with an arrow that says 5 miles, and you think, that is so close. I can see it and it is not far. Yet with the rock filled dirt road, you cannot go over 20 miles per hour and 45 minutes later, you realize why the time they say is what it is. And it is completely worth it.
- Ed Ruscha talk & exhibition, Harry Ransom Center, Austin TX. The Center owns Ruscha’s archives and Ed Ruscha: Archaeology and Romance is the first major exhibition drawn by the Center’s archives and papers. The show is fantastic and focuses on Ruscha’s books, photographs, drawings and prints alongside unpublished archival production materials. Alongside the exhibition, the Center had Ruscha in conversation with the curator, Dr. Jessica S. McDonald, to coincide with the exhibition. From the talk, one became privy to Ruscha’s story, why he left the US and why he loved the US. Why he took the pictures that he did and what image became ‘the’ image. He was generous and allowed the audience to see his thinking process. His humility and complex interpretations, only reiterated his genius as one of the most important living artists.
- Jeff Koons’ Popeye at the Wynn Hotel Las Vegas, NV – The height of art decadence located in the heart of America’s gambling playground. A cartoon and one of America’s greatest icons, Popeye, is also an icon of strength, risk and resiliency. Symbolic of what many perceive is America’s strength – commerce and capitalism? If only gambled and lost money was as easily replaceable as spinach.
- Cameron Martin at James Fuentes – Cameron created a new show of abstract paintings. Each one distinct and sophisticated and different than the next. His sense of visual, perspective, and abstraction is distinctly his yet in his earlier paintings, the result was a representational image. With this exhibition, he didn’t reinvent himself as much as painted his way into a new chapter. The work is still identifiable as Cameron Martin’s, yet the nuance of what he presents is new, fresh and remarkably good and should be looked at from that lens. And this is coming from a person who was originally a naysayer. I loved the work of Cameron’s that I knew and supported. I have never been more wrong and more impressed with an artist’s confidence, intuition and being true to oneself.
- Ahmed Alsoudani at Marlborough Gallery – Ahmed is a painter. His new exhibition shows this off in a way that also shows how he has pushed his ideas and mark making through where his last show stopped. The energy continues, the ideas are personal for where he is now – In the USA, in New York and in the studio. He still creates a new space for the viewer yet just as the viewer’s space is always changing, Ahmed showed us his next move. It is awesome.
- Lisa Yuskavage small painting show at David Zwirner– In the case of Yuskavage, bigger is not always better. I have always been a fan of her small paintings and have thought that there should be a show of only her small works. Zwirner must have had the same idea and curated a gorgeous show. These small canvases are not studies for her bigger works yet often she paints larger scale paintings of similar images. When that happens, I love spotting the differences. Love seeing how much information is important enough, that shows off the narrative, to have on the small canvas. How much information she can paint on a small scale.
- Ellsworth Kelly’s chapel & the corresponding exhibition curated by Carter Foster, Blanton Museum, Austin – The chapel looks beautiful in photographs as the windows that are Kelly – esque show off gorgeously and the paintings and one totemic sculpture all add to the Kelly vibe. Yet it is being immersed in Kelly’s world that is the true beauty. And knowing that an institution in Texas made the commitment to erect this space at the end of Kelly’s life, his last major work, adds to the mysticism. The cherry on top is the exhibition inside the museum, Form into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ curated by Carter Foster. With the exhibition, everything came full circle. In the show, Foster displays Kelly’s interest in European art and architecture, showing the origins of Kelly’s chapel. Displayed are chapel drawings that Kelly had made in the 60s and it is in seeing this that one realizes how full circle the chapel was for Kelly. How life affirming.
- Ranjani Shettar: Seven Ponds and a Few Raindrops at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ranjani, an artist from India, is exceptional at making lyrical works out of specific natural and industrial materials that are indicative to her geography. She often creates works that are suspended in air, caught up on tamarind-stained muslin and create amazing sense of light and shadows. Her installation at the Metropolitan was no different. A delight to see.
- Robert Indiana exhibition at Asia Society HK and Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo NY. As the Whitney exhibition in 2013 stated, Indiana is more than just the LOVE sculpture. In his show at the Asia Society in Hong Kong, LOVE Long: Robert Indiana and Asia, the curator Dr. Miwako Tezuka paired some of Indiana’s most memorable works alongside works by eight artists and collectives from Asia. The show investigated their shared use of language and sensibilities and showed the strength of Indiana’s ideas. His strengths were shown again this summer at his solo show at the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, NY, where this image shows one of the installation views. This focus of the exhibition is clear through the title Robert Indiana: A Sculptural Retrospective, and it certainly delivered on this promise. The show was an in-depth exhibition of Indiana’s exploration of some of his best known works along with those that are barely known. The show was gorgeously installed and took the viewer through his earliest works from recycled wood and iron of the late 1950s, to his most recent series of painted bronzes, with all of the greats in between. This year also saw the passing of Robert Indiana, an end of era and a sad moment as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century is no longer with us.
- Sam Gilliam, Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland – The Music of Color: Sam Gilliam, 1967-1973. I was told that this was the most beautiful exhibition and knowing the work from this time, is a show that I wished I had seen. The years highlighted in the exhibition saw Sam making his most radical work, from taking the canvas off the stretcher and hanging it directly on the wall to his beveled-edge paintings. It would have been wonderful to see this body of work all in one place. Sam made work that somehow beautifully fuses Robert Morris letting the material be itself, and color field letting the paint be itself, perfectly. Another show that was a notable exhibition of his work was Sam Gilliam: 1967-1973, a show curated by Sukanya Rajaratnam at Mnuchin Gallery, New York. It is not included in this list as it was technically the end of 2017.
13. Barnaby Furnas, Steep Rock Arts Foundation, Washington , CT – Steep Rock Arts hosted an exhibition of one of their former alumni, Barnaby Furnas, at the Mine Hill Distillery, in its newly restored 1872 Roxbury Station. The exhibition showcased a selection of historically themed works by Barnaby and were chosen by both Barnaby and Carroll Dunham, a fantastic artist in his own right as well as Barnaby’s former teacher. By hosting this event, Steep Rock Arts, already known in Litchfield County as a cultural force with their summer artist residency program, brought another enriching event to the area. Simultaneously, Barnaby had a solo show in New York, at Marianne Boesky Gallery, of his newest work, providing a great moment for such an influential artist.
14. Bruce Nauman, MOMA and MOMA PS1, NY – Nauman is an artist that never disappoints. His work is varied, from medium to the message, as he thinks about space and psychology while also contemplating the visual and art history. To see a retrospective is an honor. It is difficult to pick a favorite, yet I never tire of watching others interact with his phenomenological installations, especially the antics that arise. It feels so Nauman.
15. Max Jansons at there-there, Los Angeles– there-there is a relatively new space in Los Angeles, a hub in Hollywood that is a top to bottom incubator to help artists create and achieve their dreams. They have created a remarkable crossing of art, ideas, design and enterprise. Recently, they hosted and produced the solo show by Max Jansons, a fantastic painter who has been making luscious paintings at his studio in Santa Monica. His glowing LA Times review mentions “electrifying energy”. Yes, and I have always been attracted to how lovingly he uses his superb painterly techniques to invent his paintings. The flower paintings are exuberant, and paired with the stark monochromatic styled abstraction of his other works, an opposite tension is crated. The paintings pull, they speak, they charm.
16. Andy Warhol, Whitney Museum, NY – Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again. Since studying art, I have been a Warholian. I am fully under the rubric that he was a genius and so much of what I see today, stems from him. And as I grow, my relationship to Warhol changes and grows. I am able to find different favorites that fit that stage of my life. When I heard the Whitney was having a Warhol show, I thought, what could I see differently? Whatever they did, they curated a fantastic show, leaving space for everyone. My big takeaway from this show is that Warhol is my generation’s Picasso. The crowds were epic. The amount of work was vast. It is historic while being accessible. Fun while being sophisticated. What more could one want from an afternoon at the museum.