Favorites from 2011

A look back on a few shows that blew my mind and kept me thinking…


Installation view of “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” (2011). Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I was fortunate enough to see this show three times, one of which was on a Monday when the Met is closed to the public. I can therefore truly appreciate the mania of the record breaking crowds, while also having had the opportunity to see the show in more ideal and intimate viewing conditions. Initially, I was a taken aback by the haunted house sensibility of the galleries with their dark ambiance, dramatic music, and wind machines. But I quickly became enamored with the insanely imaginative and beautifully crafted works of art/clothing on display. It was particularly exhilarating to see the boundaries between art and fashion being challenged and wrenched apart.


Li Songsong, Craving and Flaws (2011). Image via The Pace Gallery.

“Li Songsong” at The Pace Gallery

I left this show feeling truly excited about painting and its possibilities. The galleries were thick with the smell of still fresh paint, for the canvases were inches thick with gooey swirling pigment. Each massive canvas was divided up into a patchwork quilt-like melange of textured impasto surfaces. In certain passages the artist appears to have used the opposite end of the paintbrush to create lines by digging away at the paint, oftentimes revealing multiple layers of different colored pigments beneath. A singular patch of paint was enough to keep my eyes and mind entranced for elongated stretches of time. Given the artist’s use of found photographs as his source for the painted imagery, there is also a lot of conceptual and political material to mine through here. The show marked Songsong’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., and it certainly won’t be his last.


Installation view of “Picasso and Marie-Therese: L’amour fou” (2011). Image via Gagosian Gallery.

“Picasso and Marie-Therese: L’amour fou” at Gagosian Gallery

I may be committing art history sacrilege by saying this, but I often tire of Picasso. His shadow looms so large across art of the 20th century that I often feel desensitized to his genius and inventiveness. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by Gagosian’s show focusing entirely on Picasso fiery relationship with Marie-Therese. The air of attraction and intimacy hung heavy in the air, and the display of all these works in one space was a testament to Picasso’s intense passion and adoration for this one women. It was riveting so see how Picasso used a modernist vocabulary and formal innovations to visualize the object of his love. This was a show that pulled off the seemingly impossible pairing of being both intellectually stimulating and deeply romantic.


Video still from Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010). Image via Paula Cooper Gallery.

Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” at Paula Cooper Gallery

My only regret is not staying the full 24 hours for this spectacular film marathon that splices together video clips from an enormously wide array of movies and television shows. Once I got over the initial amazement of watching movie time collide in synchronicity with real time (2:10am in The Clock equals 2:10am for the audience), I was captivated by the cleverness with which Marclay crafted his film. Some sequences of clips relate to common themes, be it alarm clocks ringing or bombs ticking, while others glide effortlessly into each other – a door closes in one scene and opens in the next. These details added layers of interest and depth to The Clock. The film has been referred to as a masterpiece, a loaded moniker that I wholeheartedly endorse.

Installation view of September 11 (2011). Image via PS1.

“September 11″ at PS1

I wrote about this show at length in my review in October. Over two months later, I still can’t stop thinking about Janet Cardiff’s haunting audio installation, The Forty Part Motet (2001). The show’s curator did a brilliant job of using art to elicit new resonances and ideas about a highly visualized event and emotionally difficult subject matter.


Douglas Wheeler, DW 68 VEN MCASD 11 (1968/2011). Image via MCASD.

“Phenomenal: California Light, Space, and Surface” at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD)

The IFA’s Contemporary Art Consortium recently published my review of “Phenomenal”, and I will post the full version on my blog in the near future. Showcasing a number of so-called Light and Space artists, “Phenomenal” featured immersive experiences and enigmatic objects that masterfully dissolved the boundaries between the real and surreal.

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