For the Best of 2014 In Print, see the December Issue of Artforum.

Wrinkle Decker, Lazy Boy, 2014, wood, cardboard, dirt and glue, 7 x 6 x 5 1/2".

ORGANIZED BY Cabinet Gallery, the exhibition at the Airbnb’d Fitzpatrick-Leland House (a 1936 Schindler building) in Lauren Canyon perhaps was the closest you could get to a John Knight retrospective (February 2, 2014 to February 5, 2014). A take on the Los Angeles–based artist’s oeuvre was presented through a collection of his signature 8 x 10′′ exhibition catalogues, postcards, posters, photographs, a few editions and studies, and other ephemera, all part of the expanded site(s) of the works that locate them in the greater socioeconomic network of contemporary art. As the city is dealing with the curse—or blessing—of bigness, this exhibition, while modest in its presentation and duration, remained true to Knight’s conceptual practice and his interest in architecture as a discursive site.

In situ in the middle of Lydia Glenn-Murray’s living room was Wrinkle Decker’s Lazy Boy, 2014, a giant cardboard and clay sculpture of a mustached dude sitting on a rock, his hands locked around his knees; he looks bored or sad, if not both. An instant Instagram hit, the piece was part of “Push It @ Chin's Push,” (September 5, 2014 to September 27, 2014) a storefront attached to the owner’s residence in the “up-and-coming” neighborhood of Highland Park. What started off as a pretty standard gallery show in the storefront transitioned to the living room as you went up the stairs and entered the house through the kitchen where people were taking selfies A Subtlety–style. In a town where there are as many project spaces as taco stands, people’s apartments, closets, garages, studios, and front yards turn public, or rather semipublic, every now and then (the list of spaces that opened only this year will probably exhaust the word limit of this piece). Lazy Boy was a semipublic sculpture for a semiprivate space raising questions about how we perform in these undefined spaces, where some are welcome and others are not.

While on the topic of these halfway spaces, this summer, 356 S. Mission Road’s basement hosted Dopp’s—an open bar collaboration initiated by Michael Dopp, Calvin Marcus, and Isaac Resnikoff—after the original one in the back of Marcus’s studio got in the way of production. Perhaps not as mysterious as Piero Golia’s Chalet, it nonetheless had an air of privacy to it, casually invoking anxieties around in/exclusion and the navigation of these seemingly undefined spaces. Some call these pop-up art bars practices of community making, others networking schemes, alternative economies, or elite fraternities. But Tom Marioni’s historical formulation of drinking beer with friends as the “highest form of art” was clearly the spirit of the season with other watering holes surfacing around town, such as Jorge Pardo’s Mountain Bar reassembled at Tif Sigfrids gallery over the summer and, most recently, Paris de Noche bar at Night Gallery, not to mention Kunstverein’s Bob’s Your Uncle—a Los Angeles export a la Robert Wilhite.

One last thing: follow @therealstarkiller.

Sohrab Mohebbi is REDCAT assistant curator and a writer based in Los Angeles.

View of “Dear Nemesis, Nicole Eisenman 1993–2013,” 2014–15.

LAST APRIL, Cleopatra’s housed “Which arbitrary thing are you,” (April 6 to May 4, 2014) a two-person exhibition of sculpture and video by Sara Magenheimer and paintings by Sadie Laska. All of the works were from 2014, with the exception of Magenheimer’s seven-minute video, One Vast Focus, 2011, in which footage of a woman playing tuba before a grove of trees opens onto a quaalude-paced concert scene overlaid with text from Ada Lovelace’s megalomaniacal-Romantic musings to her mother—“I can throw rays from every corner of the universe into one vast focus”—which is then read aloud by the artist in a droll digitized voice reminiscent of Robert Ashley’s in “Perfect Lives.” Early video art is also evoked in Magenheimer’s pigment print on wallpaper panel composites, Sun Room 1 and Sun Room 2. Both pieces layer a print of an isolated basketball net atop images of houseplants in wicker baskets. The signifiers evoke movement (“swoosh”), rhyme, and pun in a video-like layering of effects. Laska’s thirteen mixed-media paintings are discrete Rauschenbergian assemblages; the artist’s sense of humor and experimentation breeze across bricolage surfaces (a shirt, a sandal, a comb, a paper plate, to name a few) that, although three-dimensional, strongly convey a painterly plane. Laska does not appear to be preoccupied with the de- or re- or neo-construction of painting, rather, these works read as a genuinely capacious celebration of the action and the form.

Currently on view at ICA, Philadelphia is “Dear Nemesis, Nicole Eisenman 1993–2013.” (September 19 to December 28, 2014) The inimitable painter’s midcareer retrospective includes over 120 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints. The artist dedicates the handsome catalogue to her father who taught her to “see things that are not there and to see through things that are.” Eisenman’s tender, Rabelaisian figurations portray the bodily surface and ghostly psycho-vibes of conviviality and personal conflagration alike. In Winter Solstice 2012, 2009, eight figures drink, smoke, nosh, flirt, and pass out cold around a late-night dinner table. Each character—unique in palette, facture, and style of depiction—could have been plucked from its own painting. This mélange of ids and egos (and one bored lapdog) at once extols and lampoons the bohemian soiree, not to mention the Western canon of painting.

Last April also saw “Etel Adnan” at Callicoon Fine Arts (April 3 to May 23, 2014). Rolled out in tandem with the Paris-based artist’s signature leporellos and punchy meditative landscape studies was the long-awaited two-volume To look at the sea is to become what one is: An Etel Adnan Reader (Nightboat Books). This major compendium collects five decades’ worth of poetry and prose. Adnan’s diamond-edged power of observation and warm-toned, hard-nosed lyricism masterfully illuminate (and complicate) war and insurrection, painting and travel, feminism and exile, philosophy and creative devotion. “It seems to me that I write what I see, paint what I am,” she writes in Journey to Mount Tamalpais. The urgency apparent in each pursuit, the commitment to subject, and the precision with which Adnan pays attention to self and to world set the bar, in my opinion, for being an artist today.

Corrine Fitzpatrick is a poet living in Brooklyn, NY. She is a 2014 recipient of the Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.

Adriano Costa, How to Be Invisible in High Heels, 2014, concrete, sand, soil, dimensions variable. (Photo: Andrea Rossetti)

IMPLICIT IN ADRIANO COSTA’S EXHIBITION “LA COMMEDIA DELL’ARTE” AT MILAN’S PEEP-HOLE (September 26 to November 8, 2014), was a well-timed consideration of the narrative potential we encounter through objects, actions, and environments that appear like epiphanies in everyday life. For the Brazilian artist, a thoughtful examination of these quotidian moments means a thorough look at their complexities, particularly as a totality of contradictions, which, if appropriately analyzed, break free from the visual preconceptions that hamper our interpretations. For instance, How to Be Invisible in High Heels (all works 2014) is a sequence of fifteen monochrome Minimalist steles arranged in a geometric composition. Each sculpture’s height is equal to that of a Brazilian transsexual wearing high heels whom the artist encountered in Milan. Thus the show’s apparent monolithic and incorruptible Minimalism is, in reality, belied by the friability of the material employed—a mixture of concrete, sand, and red soil.

An entire city was taken into consideration for “SHIT AND DIE,” (November 6, 2014 to January 11, 2015) an exhibition curated by Maurizio Cattelan, Myriam Ben Salah, and Marta Papini. The trio transformed Turin’s Baroque Palazzo Cavour by interweaving “Turinese” phenomena with works of art from different decades by a roster of international artists, and, in surprising ways, the results reflected the enigma of this city, which is inflected through signs both sacred and profane through spirituality and occultism. The Rondò della Forca gallows, where criminals were executed until 1963, and the study of Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, undisputed protagonist of the unification of Italy, were included in the show, as was a mysterious interior design project from the Casa Mollino, home of talented architect Carlo Mollino. His work is also the subject of Séance, a film by Yuri Ancarani, which balances many different possible interpretations among the many to which Mollino’s sophistication lends itself.

The imponderability of gestural signs and the indescribable nature of what they communicate are the principal concerns of both the film and a resulting video installation in Jani Ruscica’s second solo show at Otto Zoo in Milan (September 23 to October 31, 2014). Here, the artist showed some of the documentation from a performance he created in collaboration with artist Sini Pellki (the video was originally commissioned by MTV’s Art Breaks in 2012). The subject is a man who acts the part a sort of living, white sculpture, with his minimal actions transitioning from stasis to movement.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Marco Tagliafierro is an art critic and curator based in Milan.

Andrew Witt


Phyllida Barlow, dock, 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view, Tate Britain, London, England, 2014.

IF MONUMENTS WERE ONCE CONSTRUCTED to celebrate the glories of history, the antimonuments of today question the future by destabilizing the present. History is substituted for abstractions of collapse and ruination. Patriarchal authority, empires, and the fallen of great wars all must succumb to gravity. For instance, Phyllida Barlow’s monstrous sculpture dock, 2014, installed in Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries (March 31 to October 19, 2014) read as an antimonument to the provisional. A perilous construction built of interweaving scaffolding, cardboard, plywood, and fabric, dock courted danger as a structural condition. The scaffolding encouraged her to build up as well as destroy in a method as constructive as it was ruinous. Though danger is often considered a running theme in monumental sculpture, in Barlow’s case it was material necessity.

Likewise, Helen Marten’s exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ (January 29 to March 15, 2014) dealt with the grammar of collapse from the standpoint of the body. In “Oreo St. James,” Marten arranged headless torsos as disjecta membra, or scattered limbs, as supports for a cluster of parts and objects. The surfaces of the artist’s torsos evoked a picnic sensibility, where tousled leaves, tin bowls, plastic baubles, yogurt cups, and other waste objects were assembled as a constellation. In this constructed world of degraded commodities, no object takes precedence or privilege—equivalence reigns. Disintegration reverberated throughout as images and objects refused to cohere toward any unitary narrative.

Along a similar trajectory, the rhetoric of speculative fiction was a central theme of this past year. Camille Henrot’s The Pale Fox, 2014, at London’s Chisenhale Gallery (February 28 to April 13, 2014) addressed a world pulled between formation and disintegration. At the heart of her installation was a mythic origin story wherein a series of questions was posed: What makes up a world? Who are its subjects? What are its objects? Where do these relations coalesce? And, How do they dissolve? For this artist, a world of collapse is one that disperses, scattering meaning—forms and in the same breath falls apart.

Andrew Witt is a PhD candidate in the history of art department at the University College London.

Lesley Ma


Lee Mingwei, Sleeping Project, 2000/2014. Project view, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2014. Photo: Yoshitsugu Fuminari.

SEVERAL EXHIBITIONS this year highlighted the effects of personal relations and social interactions on art made by itinerant or transcultural Chinese artists, as well as the increasingly wide sources of inspirations adopted by expatriate practitioners.

“Pioneers of Modern Chinese Painting in Paris” at de Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong (May 14 to June 21, 2014), assembled avant-garde paintings and sculptures made between the 1920s and the ’70s by Chinese artists in Paris. Though works by the familiar faces of that milieu—such as Sanyu, Zao Wou-ki, and Chu Teh-chun—were pleasers, T’ang Haywen’s paintings represented a bolder and freer leap toward abstraction. What really stole the show, though, were two realist oil paintings of female nudes by artists from an earlier generation: a 1932 work by Wu Zuoren (who later returned to more conservative subjects) and a 1967 one by Pan Yuliang (the only woman in the exhibition).

Taipei Fine Arts Museum’s Li Yuan-chia retrospective “View Point” (March 8 to June 8, 2014) was the first museum exhibition to cover the entire career of this rarely discussed artist. The show proved that Li may be the most inventive of the Ton Fan Society, an important Taiwanese postwar modernist art group—but it also positioned Li’s work in more global contexts, examining his involvement in the avant-garde circles and galleries of Bologna (Il Punto, early 1960s) and London (Signals Gallery, Lisson Gallery, 1966–68), as well as his efforts operating the LYC Museum in Cumbria (from 1972 until his death in 1994). The accounts of his cohort and supporters, included as wall texts, provided entry points into an oeuvre that spans from ink painting and sculpture to participatory and kinetic art.

Questioning the aesthetic potential of relations—familial and random, human and objective—is the central focus of Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei’s career and the theme of his retrospective, Lee Mingwei and His Relations: The Art of Participation – Seeing, Conversing, Gift-Giving, Writing, Dining and Getting Connected to the World” at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (September 20, 2014 to January 4, 2015). The fifteen “social sculptures” conceived since the 1990s, originally for various biennials and exhibitions, seemed reflections on tradition, memories, and change. Lee activates personal histories by designing unorthodox forms of gift-giving—whether by dining with strangers to mending visitor’s clothes to having museumgoers serenaded by an opera singer. The Mori exhibition underscores Lee’s bicultural influences—the practices of Allan Kaprow and Suzanne Lacy among them, but also Zen philosophy. It thus proposes thoughtful alternatives to art’s place in existing economic and theoretical systems, and sheds light on the changing dynamic between art, artist, viewer, and the public space.

Lesley Ma is the curator of ink art at M+, Hong Kong.

Hili Perlson


View of “Geoffrey Farmer,” 2014, Kunstverein Hamburg, Hamburg. Photo: Fred Dott.

AT THE RISK OF SOUNDING DRAMATIC, 2014 was nearly marked by a personal crisis of faith in art, as too many exhibitions pertained to trends I couldn’t get excited about. If artistic production addresses a contemporaneous condition, am I wrong not to feel enthused by work that directly responds to technological advances? Is the flat, lurid quality of much of the art seen the only adequate expression of the effects of networked technologies on our lives? What’s more, as violence and war became increasingly devastating throughout the year, I saw too many hapless examples of the slippery relation between art and politics. These three exhibitions below followed no trends and didn’t rely on eliciting political sympathy—which I’d argue encourages reducing complex conditions to simplified binaries—and yet still reflected the times we inhabit with an independent poignancy.

Geoffrey Farmer, “Let’s Make the Water Turn Black,” Kunstverein Hamburg, March 1 to May 25, 2014: In this show, kinetic props performed while a sound archive mapped the life of Frank Zappa. Referencing Zappa’s own influences, Farmer constructed a library of key movements of twentieth-century art and music history, with clips from radio news broadcasts providing chronological cues, including the 1941 announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The sound files were played by an algorithm, save for several choreographed sections when the kinetic works broke out in a delightful, mechanical dance. By also including bits by Schwitters, Cage, and organized sound pioneer Edgard Varèse, the installation echoed Musique concrète in both approach and acousmatic structure, with Farmer probing our expectations of art and how we perceive objects.

Smadar Dreyfus, “School,” Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, May 29 to July 14, 2014: Dreyfus’s audiovisual installation represented secondary-school classes in civics, bible reading, geography, history, Arabic, and more at a secular state school in Israel. One heard disembodied interactions between pupils and teachers while English translations of the classroom cacophonies were projected, giving rise to questions of pedagogical techniques, power, nationhood, and belonging. The show oscillated between affirming the school’s function as an Althusserian site for reproduction of ideology and a place characterized by hopefulness, where alert teenagers challenge ethics in the context of current affairs.

Julie Mehretu, “Half a Shadow,” Carlier Gebauer Berlin, September 20 to November 1, 2014: Following her work for Documenta 13, which was inspired by the Arab Spring, Mehretu abandoned architectural structures for her new paintings. Dark, chaotic, and nebulous, they seemed motivated by disillusionment and doubt and are evocative of a cavernous space of retreat. Beside the work’s unflappable humanism, it’s affirming to see an established painter evolving her language.

Hili Perlson is an Israeli-born, Berlin-based writer and critic.