For the Best of 2012 In Print, see the December Issue of Artforum.

Joan Mitchell, Trees, 1990–91, diptych, oil on canvas, overall 7' 2 3/4“ x 13' 1 1/2”.


Joan Mitchell: The Last Paintings” at Hauser & Wirth, London (February 3–April 28, 2012) The most unjustifiably underappreciated Abstract Expressionist, Mitchell painted as intensely as she lived. This intensity galloped to a defiant crescendo as sickness and death encroached, as the paintings gathered for this exhibition made ringingly clear, with their electricity, thick drunken lines, and preponderance of bright blues—primary color of vitality.

Hai Bo’s “The Blind” at Pace Beijing (July 25–August 31, 2012) “[T]o see and have the color stay where color stays, to see and have the water lie where water lies, to see and have the trees have leaves the way the trees have leaves, to see and be the one who has the work that makes the way that has the form that shows the land that is the grass and holds the weight that is the light and is the last that is the same as it is when it is where it is that every one encouraging themselves are denying and are not remaining to be sharing.” – Gertrude Stein, G.M.P., 1911–1912

Chris Kraus’s Summer of Hate (Semiotext(e), 2012) It might take a decade or two, but eventually people will come around to the fact that this is the most definitive novel of the Bush Years we’re likely to get. One of few novels brave enough to delve into the concept of moral integrity in the context of American intellectual life, it only reveals that every act of generosity is doomed to fail when it is performed within the context of a hyper-capitalistic infrastructure. A novel that shows how truly nightmarish this world has become at the hands of power-hungry men unable to exercise any foresight beyond their own petty wants, and who thus rationalize their promotion of greed as the sole model of desire for the disenfranchised, whose sole option is to follow course and fuck over those who have the potential to offer them genuine help. Most importantly, Kraus shows that there really is a hidden causality behind having shitty luck: Once branded a loser, you’ll remain a loser, and the ways out that the branders provide you with are actually tools for digging yourself further into an inescapable nightmare, and a “good day” is one in which you are simply left alone for once.

Travis Jeppesen is a writer based in London and Berlin.