Our Best of 2016 keeps going today with Director of Film/Video David Filipi, Associate Film/Video Curator Chris Stults, Director of Performing Arts Charles Helm, and Curator at Large Bill Horrigan chiming in on the best work from out of town, including a show that's still on view in San Francisco, and another right here in Columbus that's been extended through January 28.
Two things come to mind. First, the exhibition Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. These types of shows don’t always hit the mark but this one managed to be epic and personal, including examples from de Toro’s films as well as seemingly exhaustive installations of his preoccupations and obsessions. Second, a program of Technicolor reference reels organized and hosted by Mike Pogorzelski of the Academy Film Archive at il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna. The reels were reference reels to make sure future prints matched the original color palette of an individual film upon its original release. The program was informative and entertaining, with “Pogo” showing just one reel from such classics as Rio Bravo, To Catch a Thief, and The Quiet Man. It was fun feeling the audience get into the film and then experiencing “cinematic interruptus” as one reel ended and another began.
(Pictured, work from Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters. Photo: David Filipi)
Bruce Conner: It's All True is a terrific retrospective I saw at MOMA of this pioneering artist who worked in many disciplines, and whose work was greatly informed by a wide range of music over many decades. It’s on view at SF MOMA through Jan 22, and it should be great to see it installed there in his home city.
Unallied forces in 2016 deterred me in my tracks, and among those were Sadie Benning’s Shared Eye at the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society (soon traveling to Basel), a 40-panel mixed-media master class in rendering still images narratively dynamic; New York-based Robert Buck’s Exposure at Angela Meleca Gallery, Columbus, a series of “iPaintings” reclaiming light as perception’s foundational miracle; Hilton Als’s The Romance of Certain Old Clothes: Sheryl Sutton, My Sister, My Mother, Senga Nengudi, and the Rest at The Artist’s Institute, New York, the last in his self-curated trilogy of exhibitions advancing an autobiographical work-in-progress via artifacts and lateral visual evidence of those abetting his own formation; Moyra Davey’s Hemlock Forest video at Bergen Kunsthall/La Biennale de Montreal, the reckoning of a collision between Chantal Akerman and Karl Ove Knausgaard as witnessed by a woman co-raising a teenage boy; and William E. Jones’s video, Fall into Ruin, an irony-loathing excavation of the artist’s encounter with fabled art dealer Alexandre Iolas, visualized within a tableau of a Greece doubly pillaged, which will be presented to the public for the first time in March at The Modern Institute, Glasgow.
Many of the best films that I’ve seen outside of Columbus, we’ve been able to show at the Wexner Center (or will be bringing soon – look out for Tower and Aquarius showing in January), so I’ll limit myself to notable exhibitions I saw this past year.
Most other years, I couldn’t imagine seeing anything more powerful than the Kerry James Marshall exhibition Mastry at MCA Chicago or the Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim. Both shows overwhelmed me and deepened my appreciation for two of my favorite artists. But the two exhibitions that I end this year thinking of the most are Arthur Jafa’s Love Is the Message and the Message Is Death at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in Harlem and Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s Maintenance Art at the Queens Museum.
Jafa (who visited the Wexner Center in February with his film Dreams Are Colder than Death) is one of the great cinematographers of our time so it’s no surprise that his new video is explosively visual (even though most of the footage is culled from online sources). But it’s astonishing how adroit of an editor he is. In just over seven minutes (and set to Kanye West’s reclamation of gospel song “Ultralight Beam”), he pays tribute to the fraught, ebullient, tragic, and glorious history of black people and culture in America. In a year where the question “do black lives matter?” was posed to the country in the most explicit form during my lifetime and the response was in the negative, AJ’s video should be required viewing. This’ll go viral if it’s ever posted online.
The Ukeles exhibition valorizes the most quotidian, avoided, and marginalized forms of labor. From domestic chores to sanitation workers, Ukeles reorients these efforts as art. Dignity is in a real short supply today in public life (Barack Obama and Ben Sinclair’s pot-dealing character on HBO's High Maintenance—another form of maintenance worker—are two rare examples) so it was a rejuvenating to see an artist highlight the dignity of labor that is made invisible by our society. I left the exhibition feeling hope for the first time in a while; in an age overtaken by a tone of belittlement, art is one of the few channels where we can hope for an embiggening.
(Pictured, installation shot of Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art. Photo: Chris Stults)