Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Best Art Exhibits of 2011

My list of the best shows that I saw this year is not very large, mainly because I didn’t see that many shows, or that many shows that I liked. I saw a lot of bad, mediocre or overrated (B. Wurtz anyone?) exhibitions, and there were exhibitions by major artists that were anything but major (Jasper Johns and Richard Tuttle anyone) but to be fair It’s difficult to see everything because there is so much of everything.  Also of note were the really terrific works that passed in front of my eyes this year on Facebook, strong bodies of work by many of my facebook artist friends were at times more exciting and rewarding than what I saw in museums and galleries.  So in no order of preference is what I liked in 2011.

Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World June 30–October 16, 2011  Whitney Museum. This is the kind of show that the Whitney does best, and they should lay off giving large shows to minor contemporary artists who do not deserve the attention or the recognition, and instead focus on the great and sometimes forgotten American artists who deserve the light that is usually withheld by museums like the Whitney who are way too much in awe of the flavors of the month. This was a beautiful and eye opening show for me, rich and full of Feininger’s lovely lyrical landscapes. Also notable were his roughhewed wooden toys.

Richard Serra-the metropolitan museum,  Gagosian Gallery. Two major shows by a forceful and pioneering sculptor who manages to manipulate space and weight with imagination and grace that is not usually found in minimal art. His large maze like sculptures at Gagosian were towering and tactile.

H.C. Westermann  Lennon, Weinberg Gallery. Any season that offers up a show of this great man’s work is indeed a good art season. I was just getting to know him as a friend when he passed at a way too early age. This was small but beautiful show that included a series of drawings that had never been shown before.

Richard Pousette-Dart-East River Studio-Luhring Augustine. This show was a revelation for me, I mean when was the last time I even thought of this artist. Every painting in the exhibit was absolutely brilliant and exciting. There was also some terrific sculptures.

Eva Hesse Spectres 1960. Brooklyn Museum. Not great paintings but interesting to see how they led this superb artist to her compelling sculptures, a few years later and while they were minimal were also eccentric and cranky with an inventiveness of materials that were an. Inspiration for a whole generation of artists including myself.  The clues in these works were her use of greys which would later show up in her sculptures. An unfinished life.

Youth and Beauty: Art Of The American Twenties.  Brooklyn  museum. I don’t think there was one bad work in this beautiful show and it works very well as a companion show to Hide/Seek, because of the many homoerotic works included.  

Hide/seek Difference and Desire In American Portraiture Brooklyn museum. Although flawed and predictable with a weak third act, this is a show that should be seen, and I’m indeed grateful that I had a chance to see it after its controversial run in the district of contempt.

George Tooker (1920-2011) Reality Returns As A dream: Memorial Exhibition DC Moore Gallery. A dream of a show by one of my favorite artists from my youth, this was one haunting exhibit and a rare treat to see so many of his works in one place.  

Wonder of the age. Master painters of india 1100-1900 metropolitan museum.  Beautifully installed and probably the best show to lose yourself in. 

Stieglitz and his artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe. Metropolitan museum of art. I was surprised by the size and scale of this show, I was expecting a small exhibit, so it was a treat for me to have rooms of Hartley’s and Dove’s. Granted some of his artists never please me much, especially Marin, but still the guy had a great eye for talent.

New galleries for the art of the arab lands. Metropolitan  museum of art. This is one of the great galleries in the city, and it’s so large and intense that I could only sample a little of it on my first visit and will be returning for many more samples.

Martín Ramírez: Landscapes Ricco Maresca Gallery. Way too small an exhibit for my money, but what was shown was magnificent.  His story and life were indeed sad, but what he left behind is so inspiring, this is work to get lost in. 

Matta: A Centennial Celebration-The Pace Gallery. This was another surprise for me, and if nothing else the size and scale of these works were impressive, plus all that color made for an impressive environment and finally one of these huge spaces gets it right.

de Kooning: A Retrospective. Museum Of Modern Art. Another great example of what the Museum of Modern Art does so well, and once again we have a major museum that is too focused on the now and not enough on the then, but this ravishing show makes up for their many blunders of recent years with regards to contemporary art and in particular with “installation and performance art.” I mean can it be that they finally get Fluxus?

Vivian Maier-Steven Kasher Gallery. A great photographer who almost got away, and suddenly and thankfully we have one of the great street photographers when nobody was looking. Saved from the garbage, this makes me think that there is indeed a God watching over us.  

Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art-The Museum Of Modern Art. A little too cramped and crowded this is what must be meant by the chickens coming home to roost. The murals were great, but I really loved his small sketches that he did in Russia.

John Chamberlain at Pace and Gagosian. No surprises here, except lots of great sculptures by one of our major sculptors who managed to mash together the car culture into big bright overwhelming  and yes beautiful pieces of expressionistic pop works that no one would have to worry about tripping over.

An Intimate Circle. Paul Cadmus,  Jared French, Margaret French, George Platt Lynes and George Tooker.  D.C. Moore. This was a beautiful show bringing together many rarely seen works including photographs by a group of friends most of whom were gay and who managed to put their  lives out there in sometimes coded images during a generally repressive time in our history. The works might seem precious and too particular for some tastes but I found it to be overall impressive in its  wide range of eroticism and fantasy.






Blogger 'Zann said...

My daughter just posted a link to some of Maier's photographs - I am awed both by the work and by its near loss and the saving of it.

Always a treat to read your reports on the shows.

10:50 PM  

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