2017 in review: favorite works, artists and architects
I have spent 2017 visiting galleries, museums, art fairs and artists’ studios. Here is a compilation of the best things I’ve seen and artists I’m watching.
Stop you in your tracks good. Can’t stop thinking about it good. Michelle Obama’s official portrait good. Five year wait list good.
A painter of our time, Schutz is able to capture the beautiful, the banal, and the awkward. She taps into the anxiety-ridden psyche of our time, while making us laugh at the same time.
Gibson’s artwork connects elements of traditional Native American art with contemporary artistic and social references. First known for his beaded and fringed Everlast punching bags, he has expanded into painting, while continuing to adorn with studs, copper jingles and sinew. Gibson is preparing for two major exhibitions in 2018 and is an artist to keep a close eye on.
Bursting onto the Boston art scene last year, Powell’s work has matured this year as she expanded the visual vocabulary of her landscapes. Moving on from the well known Birch Series, she continued to experiment with texture and the emotive effects of color to create these dramatic skyscapes.
Wróbel moved from Boston to Berlin this year to pursue a painting residency at the Berlin Art Institute. Her current abstract compositions, called Portals, encourage the viewer to enter the painting and begin a meditative experience. These wispy cloud-like worlds are simultaneously otherworldly and familiar. The composition is beautiful while providing an interesting escape or puzzle to solve for the viewer.
What drew me to Durling’s painting was his Nabi-esque light. The warmth that emanates from the light bouncing off the brownstones with the Hancock tower in the background is a scene that so many Bostonians recognize and enjoy. The reductive use of color adds to the elegant composition.
A master of trompe l’oeil, Warner’s canvases take the illusion to the next level as they are physically shaped to enhance the perspective. They become literal windows in which you can gaze out to your favorite scene without leaving the comforts of the city.
Introduced through a cold call, Cohen invited me to his Salem home and studio this spring and I was blown away by the quality and thoughtfulness of his work. A contemporary art collector, Cohen’s work and thinking is anchored in a deep knowledge of art history and design, as well as engaging in current politics and and the transgression of cultural norms. His earlier body of welded I-beam work has given way to found objects, such as those seen in his Rage series, a direct response to the 2017 presidential election.
The first contemporary artist to have a show in Florence’s Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace, Xhixha is an artist whose work I encountered on vacation and have enjoyed following since this summer. His large scale sculptures sumptuously reflect and fracture their surrounds. I love it when traditional architecture, interiors or garden design are juxtaposed with something contemporary, and this was the perfect pairing.
Ceramics have become a huge passion of mine this year. I’m continually amazed to see how artists are pushing the medium and its acceptance into the sculpture medium. I first saw Herzak-Bauman’s work at Corey Daniels Gallery in Wells, Maine. If you are ever in that part of Maine, it is absolutely worth checking out. Corey has a great eye and curates a restrained and beautiful aesthetic. This piece captures how porcelain can be used to trick the viewer into thinking this hard material is a stack of papers. I love how it bends and moves with gravity.
Continuing on my theme of ceramics, Nicole has been a key artist in pushing the medium beyond its physical limits. She creates sculptures that are assembled together from different pieces, showing the process in the final work. Here, in this photograph from a visit in her Hudson, New York studio, she creates pedestals out of cast plastic buckets, flipping material, object and purpose on its head.
I’m drawn to installations for the flexibility and fluidity in which they can utilize a space. Sabin’s ceramic sculptures, based on natural themes, are beautiful as individual pieces, but stunning when you see the whole. I love how they are clustered into different arrangements and scattered around the fringes.
I saw this new edition of prints by Julian Opie at the IFPDA print fair in October at Alan Cristea’s booth. This series, called Cornish Coast 2, are reductive and minimalist landscapes printed on glossy paper and mounted to acrylic backing. Opie takes and then digitally manipulates photographs of his subject matter, constructing his image by eliminating and distilling.
Durham Press has worked with Polly Apfelbaum over the last five years and produced a number of different editions of woodblock prints. It is exciting to see an artist utilize the print medium and have it so successfully translate their traditional practice. Here Apfelbaum has been able to experiment with woodblock prints and create her layered, dynamic compositions using the technique. These works are bright, poppy, interesting and fun.
Another artist working with Durham Press, James Nares’s twisting serpentine brushstrokes are captured using the screenprint printing technique. I’m drawn to the sinuous movement of the brushstroke, but also the visual play; the image has the qualities of an oil paint, but made using screenprint. It is a unique gesture that can be reproduced into a printed edition.
In addition to ceramics, I enjoyed new exposure to beautiful large scale photography. David Burdeny was a highlight in Miami at Pulse Art Fair. His works come in a variety of sizes and are formally beautiful, but also make you question what you are looking at and how the image was created.
I first read about Edward Burtynsky’s photographs in a lengthy New Yorker piece that explored his process to capture how the landscape is being altered and changed. Photographed from above on a helicopter, his works are often of gruesome pollution, but challenge the viewer because they are visually arresting.
From the series Metamorphoses, shot between 2003 and 2016, Karen addresses the disjunction between nature and culture, where she playfully combines technologies, digitally combining images of animals with ornate and historically significant interiors. Here she challenges the boundaries of real and created: the animal fits, but is also absurd.
Tadao Ando— four examples
Tadao Ando, a 1995 Pritzker Prize recipient, was a seasonally-consistent artist for me this year. It felt as if every museum I visited had been touched by his minimalist aesthetic and iconic luxurious concrete. Ando’s buildings are known for their use of cast concrete, incorporation of natural light and a strong connection to nature. Two of the buildings I went to were additions on to or restorations of existing buildings. The first, The Clark in Williamstown, Mass., opened its addition in 2014 and includes a 42,600 square foot center designed by Ando.
The second, the Punta della Dogana, was the original Sea Customs House at the entrance to the Grand Canal in Venice. Purchased to house the Pinault Collection, the building was restored over 14 months and opened to exhibitions in June 2009.
The two other buildings that I visited were conceived entirely by Ando, one as a free standing museum in St. Louis and the other a luxury apartment building in New York City.
The Pulitzer Arts Foundation was opened in 2001 after collectors Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer Jr. commissioned Ando to design a space in which their art collection could be displayed to the public in St. Louis.
The final Ando building of the year was one of the first I had read about. Located at 152 Elizabeth Street in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan, the ambitious project is the first building for Ando in New York City. The building contains seven residences, with his signature use of cast in-situ concrete.
Hall of Fame
The work Shield of Achilles (Dawn, Troy, 10/27/2002) at the MFA Boston in the Landscape, abstracted show was my first introduction to Spencer Finch. Since then, his work has continued to impress and dazzle by fulfilling two critical criteria: it is visually engaging while also having an interesting purpose. Cosmic Latte, pictured below, is a swath of beautifully hung light fixtures. This light-based work is features over 150 specially fabricated LED fixtures suspended from the ceiling. The constellations are arranged to mimic the arching shape of the Milky Way as it is observed in the Northern Hemisphere in March. The work’s title refers to the name of the average color of the universe, which in 2009 was determined to be more beige that what has been traditionally thought of as blue.
La Primavera holds up. :)
I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 holds!