Before we herald in the new year here is my list for the best 10 exhibitions of 2013. These are shows that aroused my senses and changed the way I look at and experience the world. I see so much art and so many exhibits that I’ve really come to appreciate and treasure the few shows that enliven my place in this crazy, complicated world.
1 – LaToya Ruby Frazier:
Grandma Ruby and Me (2005)
Fifth-Avenue Tavern and UPMC Braddock Hospital On Braddock Avenue (2011)
Shadow (form the Momme Portrait series), 2008
Represented in two exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum March 22 – August 11, 2013 and the ICA Boston, November 13 – March 2014, Frazier manages to portray startling shifts in socioeconomic and class that are unfolding all across America especially in de-industrialized cities like Braddock PA (home of Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill), where all her work emanates from. By documenting her close relationship with her mother, Grandma Ruby (1925-2009) and the surrounding town, Frazier’s work offers an unflinching honest and painful portrait that goes way beyond the usual headlines.
2 – She Who Tells A Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World
Boushra Almutawakel, Mother, daughter, doll series (2011)
Newsha Tavakolian, Dont forget this is not you (2010)
Gohar Dashti, untitled (2008)
On view at the MFA, Boston from August 27 – January 12, 2013 assistant curator of photographs Kristen Gersh assembled a group of female artists who represent “the strongest photography coming out of this part of the world” and the evidence was both eye-opening and abundant in the 100 photographs and two videos on view. The best part of this exquisite exhibit for me was being introduced to so many new artists, who I otherwise would not know about.
3 – James Turrell, Guggenheim Museum June 21 – September 25, 2013
A sublime and transformative experience. I loved having to slow down, be patient and wait for the magic of his light experiences to be revealed. These images convey only a fraction of the accompanying sensations one feels in their presence.
4 – Magritte, MOMA, September 28, 2013 – January 12, 2014
La Clairvoyance (1936)
Le Portrait (1935)
La Duree Poignardee (Time Transfixed) 1938
The master of illusion and the unconscious – no one does it better than Magritte and this collection was a pure delight of painting skills and ideas. From the first painting to the last in the exhibit I was astonished to learn Magritte made all of them in just 12 years. A humbling realization to say the least. The exhibit also included sketches, photographs and letters.
5 – A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial, May 17 – September 22, 2013
Every three years the International Center for Photography in NYC brings together a group of artists creating the most game-changing photography. This year was by far the best collection of works yet. Assembled by Kristen Lubben, Christopher Phillips, Carol Squiers, and Joanna Lehan. Stand-outs included Rabih Mroue’s The Pixelated Revolution: a video installation that shockingly details how Syrian protestors are using smart phones and social media to broadcast their own deaths in real time.
Gideon Mendel’s portraits of people around the world whose livelihoods and way of life are threatened by floods. Mendel photographs their continuing existence amidst the flood waters, long after the newspaper headlines have receded.
Mishka Henner brings a twist to aerial photographs of the Dutch Landscape by incorporating the colored pixelation google uses to blot out areas deemed vital to national security.
6 – Kerry James Marshall, in the tower at the National Gallery of Art
In his first solo exhibition in Washington D.C., on view June 28- December 8, 2013, Marshall showed 10 paintings and 20 works on paper that evoke the Middle Passage of slave ships between West Africa and North America, and the themes of immigration, class mobility, and aspiration central to American life. A visual, conceptual and technical tour-de-force.
Great America (1994)
7 – We Shall: Photographs by Paul D’Amato, on view at the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago, September 12 through November 24, 2013
For 20 years Paul D’Amato photographed the everyday lives of ordinary people living in Chicago’s west-side neighborhood. This exhibit brought together portraits, interiors, graffiti, and street scenes presenting a vivid and poignant tribute to resilience and hope. A very moving photography exhibit and I was so glad to have been in Chicago when this show was on view.
8 – Thomas Hirschorn’s Gramschi Monument, on view in the South Bronx NY from July 15 – September 15, 2013
A participatory experiment created in collaboration with the people of this south bronx housing complex. I ventured up on a sweltering summer day and found a sprawling hodge-podge of activities. Community radio station, cafe, library and impromptu lecture series, all run and staffed by members of the surrounding community and volunteers. Everything, including a bridge between craft workshops and library was built with found and donated materials. At the end of the installation’s run, all equipment and materials will be gifted out to the community . I give Hirschorn high marks for continuing to bring together such an amalgam of social, art, economic and philosophical ideas.
9 – Lori Nix, Clamp Art, NYC, October 17 – November 16, 2013
For sheer inventiveness and craft, Nix creates these extraordinary tableaux in her studio. This group took on a decidedly apocalyptic view of NYC that were both humorous and disturbing.
10 – This Will Have Been: Art, Love and Politics in the 1980s. On view at the ICA Boston from November 15 2012 – March 13, 2013
Organized by Helen Molesworth, this exhibit was worth several visits to get the full flavor of this tumultuous decade. From the rise in aids activism to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the artists presented continue to influence contemporary art praxis. The exhibition was organized into four sections. I’ve included a tiny sampling (and I mean tiny) of the amazing breadth of work that was on view. This was truly a curatorial masterpiece.
part 1 -The End is Near
Candy Jernigan, Found Dope Part 11 (1986)
part 2 – Democracy
Artist Collective General Idea
Hans Haacke, Oil Painting (Homage to Marcel Broodthaers)
part 3 – Gender Trouble
Jimmy Durham self portrait (1986)
Cindy Sherman, Untitled #153 (1985)
part 4 – Desire and Longing
Deborah Bright, Dream Girls (1989-1990)
Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled (perfect Lovers) 1987-1990
Seems fitting to end with an image of clocks made by one of my favorite artists and someone who I turn to whenever I need to find inspiration and new reasons to believe.
May the coming year bring all of us more challenging art and continued hope.