Here is a list of my favorite exhibits of 2012 in no particular order.
Hirokazu Kosaka, Untitled, performance, 1972
Pomona College Museum of Art, August 30, 2011- May 13, 2012
Part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative, this series of exhibits and performance events highlighted the hotbed of creative activity on the Pomona campus between 1969 and 1973. The three exhibitions revealed the fertile community which grew from fluid exchanges between faculty, students and curators. Artists such as Bas Jan Ader, Michael Asher, Chris Burden, Judy Chicago, Robert Irwin, William Leavitt, John McCracken, Allen Ruppersberg, James Turrell and William Wegman engaged in experimentation that influenced the future of conceptual practices.
Installation view, Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone
Hammer Museum, February 5- April 29, 2012
This first American survey of works by little known Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow featured figurative sculptures that resonated with erotic and mortal weight. Fragmented and diseased parts longed for touch and psychological reunion with their lost host. There was a distinct ache in the visceral surfaces rendered through resin, rubber, raw wool, paper, and other tactile materials. Like Eva Hesse, Szapocznikow's oeuvre is haunted by the shadow of cancer that took her life at age 46.
Installation view, Rebel Dabble Babble, 2012
Courtesy of the artists and The Box, Photo: Fredrik Nilsen
Paul and Damon McCarthy's Rebel Dabble Babble
The Box, May 11- July 7, 2012
This ambitious collaboration between Paul McCarty and his son Damon, took the form of a multi-room installation of video and objects. The project, part of James Franco's Rebel show, was based on rumors about the time Nick Ray, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, James Dean and Dennis Hopper, spent at Chateau Marmont during the filming and rehearsal of Rebel Without a Cause. The videos oscillate between the fantasy of Hollywood and the lurid under belly of violence and power. Natalie Wood was only sixteen years old when she became embroiled with both her 44-year old director and co-star Hopper. The videos often focus on the vulnerable and over-sexulalized Wood character who craves constant attention from the eye of the camera and the grotesque men behind the lens.
Self-Obliteration (Net Obsession Series), c. 1966. Photocollage on paper,
Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.
Whitney Museum, July 12- September 30, 2012
The Yayoi Kusama retrospective spanned the artist's long and on-going career, from the tortured floral forms painted at age 20 to a room of vividly colored paintings from 2009. The show highlights Kusama's multi-disciplined practice that includes painting, installation, performance, film, fashion design and media publication. Vitrines were filled with remnants of the artists infamous free love works from the late 60s and reveal Kusama's happenings as precursors to contemporary works in relational aesthetics. The show also featured, Fireflies on the Water, one of Kusama's stunning light installations.
Gertrude Abercrombie, The Courtship, Oil on masonite, 1949
Photo © Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, by Nathan Keay
LACMA, January 29, 2012–May 6, 2012
This exhibit featured well known Surrealist practicioners, such as Louise Bourgeois, Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Lee Miller, Kay Sage, Dorothea Tanning, and Remedios Varo, but also introduced the work of lesser known artists like Gertrude Abercrombie. The exhibit raised interesting dialogues between the works around issues of female agency and sexual identity. It was also a nice surprise to see Marcel Duchamp menaced by a phantom noose in Maya Deren's Witch's Cradle, which looped on a small monitor.
Alberto Burri, Sacco (Sackcloth), 1953
MoCA, October 6, 2012- January 14, 2013
This show serves as a companion to Paul Schimmel's seminal 1998 exhibit Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979. Like Out of Actions, Destroy the Picture favors process and impermanence over the primacy of the precious art object. The show features a global roster of artists including the often overlooked artists of the Gutai movement. Works verge on collapse and reference the dark and formidable vacuum left in the wake of WWII. Artists like Alberto Burri, Robert Rauschenberg, Shozo Shimamoto, Lee Bonticou and Yves Klein, cut, burned, slashed and stitched surfaces fashioned from quotidian materials to produce a dark and poetic realism.
Sharon Lockhart, Five Dances and Nine Wall Carpets by Noa Eshkol, 2011.
LACMA, June 4, 2012–September 9, 2012
In this show, Sharon Lockhart turned her documentarian eye on the visionary work of Israeli choreographer and textile artist Noa Eshkol. Conceived as a two-person show, the exhibit featured Eshkol's carpets, dance scores, and drawings along side Lockhart's five-channel film that captured a selection of Eshkol's dance works derived from the universal notation system she created with architect Avraham Wachman in the 1950s. In Lockhart's film, young and old dancers moved together through a series of simple gestures synchronized to the metrical tick of a metronome. The sparse regulated motions created a mesmerizing display of bodies engaged in the translation of a kind of sacred language.
We don't lose Anything by being born, still from video document, 2000
Museum of Latin American Art, May 24 – September 30, 2012
This show featured a selection of the powerful and distressing performance works of Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo. Presented through video documents, the works explore issues of power and agency, especially in relation to the role of women in culture. Like body artists of the early 70s, Galindo places her own flesh in harms way to speak of literal and metaphoric violations of the body. Read my full-review from earlier this year here.
She seas dance, 2012, Iridescent, white and gold PVC, Louver styrene, 3 channel projections
Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
Susan Vielmetter, Los Angeles November 3- December 22, 2012
Wangechi Mutu’s recent solo exhibit followed threads of her previous bodies of work portraying the monstrous-feminine rendered through her signature brand of glimmering magic. The new collages showed two-headed creatures encrusted in thick layers of dirt and glitter as meditations on memory and identity. In the front space of the gallery, a room-sized structure loomed like a shimmering mirage. Made from layers of gold streamers, the interior of the space served as the surface for a three-channel video projection that showed a woman's glamourous disembodied eyes opposite a woman's private and languid dance.
Anne Gauldin, Photo collage for the Woman's Building Newsletter, 1982-83
Don’ It in Public, Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building
Ben Maltz Gallery, October 1, 2011 - February 26, 2012
Part of Pacific Standard Time, this show focused on the legacy of feminism and collective practices centered around the Woman's Building, a locus of the feminist art movement from 1973-1991. The exhibition featured objects and ephemera as well as an extensive on-line archive of first-person narratives on art and feminist communities in Los Angeles in the 70s. Founded by Judy Chicago, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Arlene Raven, the Woman's Building became a refuge for women who traveled from across the country seeking a community built through sisterhood. I wish such a place still existed today! For more on the history of the Woman's Building, see Terry Wolverton's excellent book Insurgent Muse.