The end of a year is marked with lists galore. What were the best ______ you saw all year? Top ten favorite________. What are your resolutions for this year? I was curious about when and why we started this tradition of making New Year’s resolutions and making lists.
Little did I know that making resolutions dates back to the Babylonians, and even funnier is the most common resolution back then: to return borrowed farm equipment. We should look back to the Romans as well for their tradition of placing Janus, a mythological figure, at the beginning of the calendar. He had two faces, one looking back and one looking ahead, hence the tradition of reflecting on the past and writing resolutions for the future. So when faced with the task of doing a ‘best of 2006’ list, I became conscious of the tradition and am attempting to make this a GT yearly trend.
I asked some of our regular writers from around the state to give their best and worst lists for 2006. Our writers from Houston have covered lots of ground, from our local museums to graffiti on a street utility box. Christopher French brings some great perspective from his travels to NYC and Europe, while Michelle White and Sean Carroll hit the streets. From Dallas Titus O’Brien brings some of the disappointments to light, while Charissa Terranova chooses a single best and worst show. Noah Simblist has been traveling up a storm this past year between Dallas and Austin, so his contributions come from both communities. Marie-Adele Moniot offers some sound advice for Austin artists, while Michelle Gonzalez-Valdez, a.k.a. Bunnyphonic, turns in a punch list.
Here is my hit list because there is so much that I feel excited about experiencing in the last year:
-A few artists whose work I saw at the Armory Show this past year deserve mention. Brock Enright’s video at Vilma Gold was sitting upright in a cardboard box and singing at you. The best part about the piece was its proximity to Kalup Linzy’s Lollipop, literally on the wall around the corner. It was as if the two were singing to each other.
-My other favorite moment was watching Laurel Nakadate’s videos, but even better was watching other people’s reaction to them. They had that sort of cringing but still fixated look. When Nakadate came to Austin to give a talk, I realized how she is able to convince almost anyone to be in her videos. She carries herself with such certainty it places you at ease.
-I heard Marina Abramovic speak at the Frieze Art Fair this year. She quite possibly was the most generous artist and speaker there. For all that she has been through, Abramovic still maintains an optimistic attitude about performance and the work.
–Carsten Höller’s slides at the Tate Modern made up the best museum installation I have seen in a long time. Höller created multiple slides that ranged in size for the entryway of the Tate. People in every age group were going down them and enjoying every minute of it.
-I went to Juarez for the first time this year. The whole experience of driving across and realizing how close you are to the border and how much this affects El Paso’s residents and the community opened up my eyes.
All in all, what follows is a nice yearly roundup of GT picks. Thanks for an amazing year and keep reading and writing!
– Rachel Cook
This year my favorite exhibitions were at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The Kiki Smith and Pipilotti Rist retrospectives were awesome, as were Robyn O’Neil and Robert Pruitt’s Perspective shows. For curatorial ambition: Ps and Qs at the Glassell School of Art, Impossible Exchange, the lens-based show at Lawndale, and Beast at Finesilver. My other favorite things of 2006 include the wall of drawings at Domy Books, Amy Blakemore’s grid of photographs in the Whitney Biennial, the installation of Bólides in Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Yoko Ono’s ‘imagine peace’ billboard on I-45, issue 49 of Artlies, Katrina Moorehead’s Donald Judd Box Used As A Shelf For An Adidas Box at Inman Gallery, Alfredo Jaar: The Sound of Silence at DiverseWorks and the graffiti of pasted Jacques Derrida heads that used to be on the electric company utility box by the Starbucks on Montrose.
Thematic shows top my 2006 list, starting with The Menil Collection’s Robert Gober: The Meat Wagon. Another knockout was the Noguchi Museum’s ‘The Imagery of Chess’ Revisited. By contrast, the version of this show now at the Menil gets my vote for ‘traveling show most like condensed milk.’
The good news out of France is that the Pompidou Center has figured out how to be a museum again. Their revelatory Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris (co-organized with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York) was installed at the Pompidou in true Dada fashion — as a maze. If only the American venues had taken this approach. The Pompidou’s provocative permanent collection show, Le Mouvement des Images, showed that finally — FINALLY — someone in the museum world is serious about creating scenarios where video, painting and sculpture can coexist in the same room.
Richard Serra’s Rolled and Forged at Chelsea’s Gagosian Gallery digressed from his towering steel walls, creating a surprisingly lyrical low-slung metal ensemble that surprised me for the way it made people regard the sculpture in terms of each other. Moody Gallery’s David Ireland, Jess, and Al Souza took three very different artists I thought I knew fairly or very well and changed the way I thought about each of them.
How low-key of a year was this? It didn’t seem to contain any anticipation besides Andrea Zittel’s retrospective debut at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston before it went to the New Museum in New York. David McGee’s show at Texas Gallery really started off the year well, with watercolor portraits of rappers labeled as Dada masterminds that soon made it into the CAMH. The best of the original exhibit was McGee’s portrait labeled simply GUGGENHEIM, with two boa constrictors entwined above. It didn’t sell. Mel Chin’s monster exhibit at The Station upped the energy for a moment. A site-specific, sprawling political commentary culminated in a black velvet portrait of G. W. Bush’s eyes and mouth staring at a splatter of bits of recently detonated human flesh across the room patterned after West Bank settlements.
Vinod Hopson’s Bowie-inspired performance at Commerce Street Artists Warehouse was a raw nerve of post-appropriation angst that properly gauged how far an artist should go for his work. Jenny Schlief’s video of her face as she masturbated for her Goodnight Moon exhibit at Redbud caught viewers unaware and exposed the viewer as much as herself. Urs Fischer’s installation at Blaffer Gallery in the summer transformed the sprawling gallery into a tabletop moment as viewers were enveloped in a stark arena and asked to contemplate sculptures up there with Robert Gober’s one-liners. Domy Books has joined an uber-hip clan at the corner of Westheimer and Dunlavy. Monster Show in October flexed the muscles of the in-house Drawing Club, including Rene Cruz, Eric Pierce and YAR among others. Pipilotti Rist, up at the CAMH, played fast and loose with her video and her audience. As you looked up, down and around in order to see her close-up explorations of the little things in life, a feeling of giddiness seemed to settle, stretching brains and muscles.
A number of shows brought to mind a cautionary phrase from Chuck D — ‘Don’t believe the hype.’ They include Santiago Carbonell at Gerald Peters, I-35 at Dunn and Brown, and Dave Kinsey at Art Prostitute, while John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ piano placed on the grassy knoll by Kenny Goss was far and away the most embarrassing art-related moment of the year. The collapse of the UTD-Southside artist residency program was especially unfortunate, but word is it will relaunch elsewhere in town in 2007. Best of 2006: Richard Tuttle at the Dallas Museum of Art, Nigel Cooke at the Fort Worth Modern, and the launching of Road Agent, And/Or and Marty Walker galleries, who’ve collectively helped invigorate the Dallas art scene with too many good shows to list here.
Chuck Close Prints at the Fort Worth Modern, Richard Tuttle at the Dallas Museum of Art, the mourning of Scott Barber through a works on paper show at Barry Whistler, a retrospective at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary and John Pomara’s show of paintings entitled 96 Tears . The Italians at the Rachofsky House, Lily Hanson at Mountain View College, Road Agent’s Ambush series, which made the summer seem like the peak of the art season, and Erwin Redl’s psychedelic Tron experience of flashing lights at Conduit.
WORST OF 2006: Van Gogh’s Sheaves of Wheat, Dallas Museum of Art. The DMA has a penchant for false advertising — for bombarding the public with advertisements about so-called blockbuster shows. Van Gogh’s Sheaves of Wheat is a case in point. A handful of works by Van Gogh surrounded by less interesting academic paintings brought together to bring home an irrelevant thesis on the love of ag-life does not really constitute a blockbuster. In a bit more productive vein, the show and the institution’s publicity shenanigans are proof of the power of media. The show has been quite successful, with people queuing up by the dozens to see it over the holidays. What the media does and does not decree unfortunately becomes reality or not, however degraded or beguiling.
BEST OF 2006: Peel by Candace Briceño at Mighty Fine Arts. Briceño puts the wall to good use. With Peel , it becomes clear that fabric is not just for the body or the bed, and the wall is not just for paintings and light switches. Her brightly colored felt plant-life twirls and extends from the wall as though moving with the sun. Hers is a heliotropism entirely in keeping with the current renaissance in fiber and textile art. Similar to Anne Wilson, Polly Apfelbaum, Frances Bagley, Lily Hanson and Jeff Hand, Briceño shows how polyversant working with fabric can be and, more potently, that it is not just women’s housework anymore. Her fuzzy organic logic is wacky and the stuff of odd creature comfort.
-Charissa N. Terranova
AUSTIN / SAN ANTONIO:
Oliver Boberg’s tricky and seductive architectural photos at Lora Reynolds, the poetic and touching experience of Cauleen Smith and A. Van Jordan at Testsite, and E-Flux at Art House, which allowed for rare access to hundreds of contemporary video works and a great excuse for some curated screenings. An entrancing favorite was Nuclear Football by Korpys/Loffler — an unflinching look at the bizarre rituals of the presidency. The Blanton has a room from its permanent collection up right now; pieces by Emily Jacir, Christian Marcley and Anton Vidokle seem as if they were meant to be together in a room packed with politics and an investigation of time. Droppin’ Drawers at Okay Mountain had some surprisingly fresh drawings gathered from around the world to this exciting collaborative space. Other great drawings in Austin this year included Eric Zimmerman’s dystopian spaces that sit somewhere between architecture and abstraction and Heyd Fontenot’s portraits, which dripped with wry humor and a strange postmodern classicism at Art Palace.
Though they have the advantage of exhibiting toward the end of the year, like Oscar contenders, Cauleen Smith and A. Van Jordan’s I want to see my skirt and Eric Zimmerman’s Simplon Pass were Austin’s most satisfying shows in 2006. Both were fully realized and very moving to sit and look at. In Testsite’s living room, Smith and Van Jordan created a pulsing duet of film and poetry born of the photographs of Malick Sidibé. Further south at Art Palace, Zimmerman’s deliberate drawings evoked interior and exterior architectures of pain and progress.
Other moments, inside and outside the city, included Paul Chan’s animation, which made the Blanton’s bittersweet opening a bit more sweet, and Cameron Jamie’s fantastic work, everywhere this year but hidden at the Whitney, where it was so disorienting that I nearly turned green.
As for stinkers, I’ll be chicken and instead encourage artists and gallerists to think big and beyond their navels in 2007. If a work takes less than a day to complete, it’s probably not ready for our eyes. Austin’s art community regularly participates in several self-defeating activities, including valorizing the shallow. Serious work requires time, energy and thought, so let’s see some blood, sweat and tears. We arrest ourselves with anything less.
It’s time to hop through the year-end countdown. These are the events that made life in the Texas art world either magical or bothersome.
Stinkbombs of 2006
1. The T-shirt show at Stella Haus
2. Salma Hayek portraits at Blue Star
3. San Antonio Museum of Art
4. Carla Herrera-Prats and Ursula Dávila Villa at Testsite
5. Cark Flood’s personal musings
Stellar, sparkling gems of 2006
1. Alan Licht and Tatuzi Akiyama at Salon Mijangos
2. Eduardo Navarro’s clever Argentinean drawings at Art Palace
3. Droppin’ Drawers at Okay Mountain
4. Slapstick at Lora Reynolds Gallery
5. Caitlin Haskell and Jules Buck Jones at Testsite
6. Mimi Kato at Joan Grona Gallery
7. The Bungalow Projects during Contemporary Art Month: San Antonio
8. Over & Over: Passion for Process at Austin Museum of Art
9. Paul Chan singing ‘I’m a Creep’ at a karoake bar at 3 a.m.
10. Leona Scull-Hons’ indefatigable optimism for contemporary art in Texas
-From the Desk of Bunnyphonic
Images courtesy the editor.