Our Favorite Exhibitions of 2017
As the year winds to a close we always enjoy reflecting on the exhibitions that we most responded to throughout the year. We didn't travel overseas this year so our picks are all US-centered and as you might expect, we responded favorably to a couple of shows that engage with the processes of printmaking relative to a contemporary art practice - mostly notably Matthew Brannon and R.H Quaytman. We hope it's been a wonderful year of discovery and experiences for you all - art-related or otherwise - and look forward to filling our Journal in 2018 with inspiring adventures and engaging conversation.
This exceptional show unpacked a troubling period of American history through an investigation of the documents that both instigated certain actions or reflected on the time through contemporary print journalism. That Brannon uses print process to explore the Vietnam War, pulls it back from being associated with televised war and instead reflecting on the maelstrom of print media and printed documents it generated - both confidential and otherwise.
This exhibition only just squeaked into 2017! We caught it on its last day - which was only the second day into the year - but boy were we glad to have made it. Gemini G.E.L is an icon of American printmaking and when the breadth of their skills and innovation is presented across such diverse bodies of work, it was a treat. Seeing prints in person is always a thrill and when the collection of artist collaborators includes David Hockney, Vija Celmins and Richard Serra it can't be missed.
R.H Quaytman "Morning: Chapter 30." at MOCA, Los Angeles
This was a comprehensive look at Quaytman's exceptional body of work from the past 10 years and featured a very large, 22-panel screenprinted piece that esponded to Michael Heizer’s seminal earthwork Double Negative (1969–70). From the MOCA website; "Quaytman was drawn in by the mythology surrounding the North American desert and Double Negative’s particularly complicated relationship to MOCA, as an artwork held in the museum’s collection but one that will always and forever be outside the museum’s walls... As a painter whose works are exclusively site-specific—all produced in response to institutional, geographic, or discursive sites and their related subjects—Quaytman is also rigorously engaged in a process of excavation as she digs out histories that are often underrepresented or marginal and, through the sheer beauty of her paintings, compels us to look."
This was the first exhibition of Colmer's work at Lisson after they began representing his estate in early 2017. The exhibition featured fifteen of the artist’s early spray-gun paintings from the 1960s and 70s - most of which had never been exhibited before. Working across mediums, Colmer was able to "connect the surfaces of his paintings to video by using this spray technique and a careful selection of color, to suggest filmic effects such as movement, flicker, distortion, and as Colmer described, “feedback”."
This exceptional show responded to Walter Benjamin's seminal (yet unfinished) text "The Arcades Project" and presented potent themes including the complexity of capital, celebrity, the experience of the city and the role of image reproduction in relation to power and information. These themes were illuminated through varied printed forms, from the gradually degrading photocopies of Timm Ulrichs, the careful graphite rubbings Milena Bonilla made of Karl Marx's gravestone to the framed silkscreen prints on mylar by Adam Pendleton that were then framed again by a giant reproduction of a printed page presented as a wallcovering. Between the poetic wall didactics and the large amount of work, the modest rooms of the Jewish Museum certainly felt full but the show was an incredibly thought provoking and cerebral approach to a writer who clearly continues to resonate with contemporary artists.
This show opened on the day of the 45th Presidential Inauguration and the tone of the work seemed to respond directly to that unfortunate circumstances that led to the events of that day. Ostendarp's work has long mined from the rich history of cartoon imagery and icon, and for one of the two bodies of work in this show he used expressions that are technically referred to as "ejaculations"; vocal sounds that are pre-language such as “ACK!,” “ECH!,” “ARGH,” “MMP!,” etc. According to Ostendarp, “these [are] expressions that summon up or refer to unwilled responses like disgust and outrage.” Definitely feelings that were looming large in January of 2017.
This was an unexpected and revelatory exhibition of work that carefully treads the compelling line between digital technology and laborious handcraft. The delicate subject matter and forms of King's work held its own in one of MassMoca's biggest exhibition spaces and the deft use of lighting and placement made the show completely transportive.
This exhibition featuring Fisher's largest installation work to date, and comprised of both an architectural intervention and a new body of paintings; a large–scale, printed paper installation curtains the main gallery, creating a layered environment of color and shape that is echoed in a series of abstract and text–based canvases. Many of the fragments of source material used across her work are lifted from outdated articles telling women of a certain class how to think, look, or behave, from diet to plastic surgery to suburban living.