artforum - best of 2014 cover

WHAT MAKES AN EXHIBITION exceptional? For artist Glenn Ligon, it must be “rigorous, challenging, and beautifully installed” and it really registers if it causes him to self reflect. “A good exhibition is one that makes me reconsider my own practice,” he says in Artforum.

The magazine’s December “Best of 2014” issue takes a look back at the past year, querying artists, critics and curators about the art they have seen, seeking their favorite highlights.

Lynne Cooke, the new senior curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., featured Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” at the former Domino Sugar Factor in Brooklyn, N.Y., prominently on her Top 10 list (No. 2), along with the Kerry James Marshall show “Painting and Other Stuff” mounted at the Museum Van Hedendaagse Kunst in Antwerp, Belgium (No. 8).

when the stars begin to fall coverEleven experts contributed Top 10 lists in the print magazine. Despite being drawn from across the globe, the selected group is largely homogenous—10 white and one of Asian descent. In addition to exhibitions, other artistic endeavors such as books, TV shows and Instagram feeds made their cut. Cooke is the only one who ranked projects focusing on the work of Black artists among his or her top picks. Online, Hili Perlson, an Israeli-born writer and critic based in Berlin, noted Julie Mehretu’s “Half a Shadow” exhibition at Carlier Gebauer Berlin, among a trio of picks.

IN A SECTION CALLED The Artists’ Artists, Artforum asks about the most memorable images, exhibitions and events. Ligon singled out “When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination in the American South,” the Studio Museum in Harlem’s spring exhibition curated by Thomas Lax.

Considering the ways in which artists of African descent have been inspired by the U.S. South, the group show “signaled a paradigm shift for exhibitions that mingle contemporary and ‘outsider’ art, using the theme of the South as the show’s narrative thread and downplaying the juxtaposition of insider/outsider that has become a standard curatorial tactic of late,” Ligon says, citing the work of J.B. Murray and mother and son artists Patrice Satterwhite and Jacolby Sattterwhite, as particularly revealing.

In conclusion, Ligon draws on the succinct wisdom of an elder relative who he has referenced periodically in his writing: “As my uncle Tossy would have said, ‘The show was all that and a bag of chips.'”

“When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination in the American South” at the Studio Museum in Harlem “was all that and a bag of chips.”
— Glenn Ligon in Artforum

That rousing endorsement was published alongside those of many others. A selection of artists signaled the creative moments that resonated most with them in 2014, among them:

    Rashid Johnson submitted an image he took of a building exterior in Denver featuring a sign with a green medical cross that reads: “LoDo Wellness Center Retail and Medical Marijuana.”

    Simone Leigh contributed an image of the aging exterior of the United Order of Tents building on MacDonough Street in Broolyn, N.Y.. The site housed a secret fraternal order of Black nurses during the civil war and was part of the inspiration for Leigh’s “Free People’s Medical Clinic” project, which was a part of Creative Time’s fall community-based exhibition “Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn.”

    Edgar Cleijne Ellen Gallagher - Nothing IsAdam Pendleton was moved by Joan Jonas’s “Reanimation” at Performa 13. He says the performance, a collaboration with composer and pianist Jason Moran, “activated the distinctions between the senses in a particularly acute manner.”

    The alt/pop artistry and seemingly “premeditated fiction” of London-based Dean Blunt‘s Skin Fade [Deluxe Edition] mix-tape struck a chord with artist Shahryar Nashat. Blunt’s latest release in November addresses UK policing and race relations.

    Jacolby Satterwhite identified “Mature Themes” by Andrew Durbin, a mix of poetry and art criticism, he says the book captures the perspectives of over-networked New Yorkers. “It currently lives in my studio, filed under ‘inspirational’ because it reaffirms my surrealist approach to art and parallels my strategies for finding the poetry in everything,” Satterwhite says.

    “Nothing is…,” a collaboration between Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher that takes it name from a 1970 album and poem by Sun Ra and involves a 16mm film projection and a harp, captivated artist Aura Satz. Featured in “Ellen Gallagher: New Work” at Hauser & Wirth in London, Satz says “for all the work’s complex points of reference, this hybrid combination of animation, film projector and musical instrument exudes a haiku-like simplicity.”

The eclectic choices are a testament to the creativity of ever-curious artists who are pushing into new realms—through multidisciplinary collaborations, new technology, investigations of the past and modern approaches to traditional mediums—and the extraordinary vision of curators, their co-conspirators. If this year is any indication, 2015 promises to be an invigorating year in art. CT

IMAGE: Above, EDGAR CLEIJNE AND ELLEN GALLAGHER, Film still from “Nothing Is…,” 2013 (16 mm Film and Harp, 5 minutes 48 seconds) via Hauser & Wirth London.