Top 10, 2011

by Katie Geha December 30, 2011

End of year lists allow a critic to consider the past year and tally up the most exciting cultural moments. I decided to take a less introspective approach and gave myself just five minutes to come up with a quick list of art exhibitions that I found especially affecting (or, at the very least, memorable). I present them here in no particular order:

1) Arthouse/AMOA: Lisa Tan, Two Birds, Eighty Mountains, and a Portrait of the Artist

New York artist Lisa Tan’s quiet exhibition of conceptual interventions managed to be simultaneously self-contained and romantic. Art historian and critic, Caitlin Haskell, put it best in her ArtLies review: “Two Birds… succeeds in large part due to its persuasive claim that, in the end, facts aren’t just facts: they are portents and symbols, rationally and irrationally sorted, coordinated and interpreted. Tan creates with impressive self-control, suppressing expressiveness while situating ordinary information in richly suggestive discourses.”

2) SOFA, Barry Stone Hum

I know it might be a little odd to choose a pick from my own space, but I really loved working on and living with Barry’s show. He culled information from his youth, experimented with processes, and matched it all with the intimate space of my living room. Barry remained whole-hearted and open in the creation of his photographs and collages but never got sentimental about the past. In fact, this show felt like something I’d never seen before.

3) Regina Rex, Jonathan Butt and Mernet Larsen

Regina Rex is a curatorial collective that has a space in Bushwick, Brooklyn. They’ve been open a little over a year and have continually presented thoughtful and careful exhibitions. This show in particular was both intellectually rigorous yet tied to objects. Matching artists is no easy feat, but here it’s obvious that the geometric perspectives that appear in Mernet Larsen’s paintings correspond oddly and perfectly with the collapsed and painterly forms of Jonathan Butt’s sculptures. Also great is the pairing of an older, more accomplished artist (Mernet) with a young up-and-comer (Butt).

4. Visual Arts Center, Amanda Ross-Ho, Untitled Nothing Factory

I already raved about LA artist, Amanda-Ross Ho’s exhibition here, but it’s worth mentioning again just how smart and simple this installation was. Taking over the Vaulted space at the VAC, Ross-Ho created a factory for the tasks of art making–stretching a canvas, making paper, and creating clay pinch pots. Students and faculty all took part in the exhibition which highlighted, in the end, process over product as the “nothing” in the title turned into something: a pile of potential. Awesome.

5. Domy Books, Travis Kent All Best

All Best was a collection of photographs by the young Austin artist Travis Kent (he’s also my friend). What Kent is best at doing is creating work that is seemingly matter-of-fact and materialist in nature. However, as the images unfold and accumulate–a photo of his grandfather dead in a casket, a pile of bright dishes in a sink, a green landscape at Hamilton Pool, a mundane family portrait–what arises is an elegiac portrait of a sensitive life observed.

6. Domy Books, Max Juren The Third Person

Max Juren, an artist who lives in Austin, created an incredibly sweet film that is kind of like Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life for the YouTube generation. In the film, written and directed by Juren (co-writing credit goes to co-star Michelle Devereux), the main character realizes that his life may very well be a movie that God is watching. Hence, he better make it interesting. A type of epic ensues with Juren riffing on the familiar tropes of film-making, creating a work that is both entertaining (it’s hilarious) and affecting (the somber ending  stayed with me for a long time).


7. Zach Feuer, Mark Flood Mark Fluid

Houston based artist, Mark Flood’s recent exhibition at Zach Feuer in New York had a tremendous amount of swagger.  Flood perfectly paired delicate lace paintings with a a manic preoccupation with celebrity culture all the while poking fun at the gallery system. It was a total rock star show.


8. Women and Their Work, Margaret Meehan Hystrionics and the Forgotten Arm

In this exhibition, Meehan wove a dense tale into her objects, photographs, and installations. But beyond the back stories (see: Victorian Pugilism, boxing, The Circassian beauties, and medical anomalies), I don’t think I saw a more elegantly installed exhibition all year. And that’s saying a lot, considering the gallery at Women and Their Work often feels stilted and constricting. Meehan essentially created a dramatic stage-set for both her works and the story she was longing to tell.


9) VAC Sound+Vision, Austin Video Bee Disco Desert

For this immersive video-installation, the Video Bees (an all-female video collective) went out into the desert with make-up and mirrors and recorded their encounters. A fire due to the drought created a dramatic back drop to some ritual desert dancing. The project was made extra dynamic by the variety of videos projecting onto a geodesic dome. Sitting in there was pretty nice.

10) Lora Reynolds Gallery, Colby Bird Dust Breeds Contempt

Playing around with sculpture and photography, Colby Bird proved in this exhibition that he will not be mired in one medium. Which, perhaps, is what made this show so transcendent. That is, Bird deftly conveyed a coherent aesthetic through a variety of styles and media.



Michael Scot January 3, 2012 - 19:06

What about AMOA-Arthouse’s Anxiety of Photography exhibition?

HJ BOTT January 3, 2012 - 21:11

Have never been “into” these ultra subjective BEST/WORST lists. GAG! It’s really all about the compiler not the elements/works within the lists. And is this about what was seen within the confines of Texas, or is the TIRE cracked and now we get to see “AdForum” spilling-out all over, again? So where do you place these TIRES? Ah! of course, we are now into “cloud” sites?!?!?!!!

HJ BOTT January 3, 2012 - 22:17

What I probably should have said:

I feel compelled to say there is a vast discerning spread about preparing artist or exhibition lists between liking, approving, admiring, repelled by, appreciating and then the veneration of being influenced by and/or humbly in awe, besides the usual genre circle preferences and “ let’s keep it in ‘our’ own coterie.

Links: Time theft. « La Linterna del Monstro January 4, 2012 - 14:56

[…] Katie Geha’s top ten art show picks of 2011. As of a couple weeks ago, I’m no longer the copy editor of …might be good. It was a […]

salvocheque January 5, 2012 - 23:08

I have to say, I’m disappointed.
Not with the individual entries, but with the list as a whole.

I feel this list is disrespectful towards the Austin art community.

Despite the introductory disclaimer, this list dismisses Austin art 3 times;
5 minute consideration of the whole year.
2 shows were not even in Texas.
At least 2 shows are of artists that Ms. Geha has worked with.

It might not have bugged me as much if only one of the offenses was apparent, but “3 strikes and you’re out.”

It wasn’t “odd” to choose your own show. It’s my opinion that it was WRONG to do so.
Next time, do a Top5 and leave your own shows out of it.

The Way I Sees It, Is A Bit Different « 'Bout What I Sees January 5, 2012 - 23:13

[…] as part of the Hybrid Arts Summit. But I thought it was a poor decision for Glasstire’s Austin blogger, Katie Geha, to end 2011/begin 2012 with such a dismissive list. I’d prefer if a critic didn’t see […]

HJ BOTT January 6, 2012 - 00:54

You are so on target. The ethics involved with this Geha list reads like the Devil being Ron Paul, choosing his fringe for the best of what!?!?! In the arts, this list is an abomination equal to the vile likes of NYT’s Roberta Smith coddling to her friends and lovers ( can there be any besides…) and rifling down those that have not fawned at her feet.
OMG the arts are as gross to observe as the GOPer clown parade. We are an incestuous lot for sure. Maybe, it’s the inherent egos, Congre$$ is not unlike our own antics. “ArtLies” tried to be another “AdForum,” and the collision of coteries domed it when it should have had a solid financial base. TOO MANY LISTS!

KG January 6, 2012 - 01:22

Not to stir any fires, but this what I think about friendship and criticism. It’s from poet Noah Eli Gordon:

“But isn’t it nefarious nepotism to write an article about one’s friends? Well, no, not at all. Something Joshua Beckman said nearly a decade ago on a panel during the University of Massachusetts’ annual Juniper Festival has stuck with me. Someone in the audience was complaining about the decision of then-fledgling Verse Press to publish books by friends of the editors. Beckman considered the complaint for a minute and then replied: “They’re your friends because of their poems.” Or something like that. The point was that friendship and taste and poetry were inextricably bound together. I can’t help but feel that those presses actively working to create what Robert Creeley called a company—not in an economic sense, but as companionship, something familial—are doing it right, doing it authentically.”

salvocheque January 6, 2012 - 15:21

Sorry HJ, I just made my own 2011 list.

KG, no fires needed. I concede that I am in the minority with my rigid rules of writing (say that 5x fast).

HJ BOTT January 7, 2012 - 00:31

KG, your inclusiveness commentary is much appreciated as it is the binding of genre promulgating development. The initial complaint of Katie Geha’s list was the obtuse imbalance while writing for THE TIRE and its environs. Of course with the web, travel and the plethora of art and culture publications, there are lists aplenty. Salvacheque does what we all do, make lists. What we want are lists from our TIRE wordsmiths; to wit, The TIRE editor-in-chief, Kelly Klaasmeyer, could do some comparative lists from the Conway, Arkansas, triangulation of Pickles Gap, Skunk Hollow and Toad Suck on her way to Crystal Bridges (citing a list of the various Texas artists in the collection) with what is on the TEXAS TIRE scene. Or, Bill Davenport could do some comparative lists of Texas vs the wiles of East Jesus as he scans the web to make non-TIRE remarks. Enough from me. The paint is dry.


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