Sunday, January 2, 2011

My "best of" list ... Chicago art 2010

I have heard tell that "best of lists" can be trying and tedious. I personally find them intriguing, if only because they provide, to me, a sense of what captures the list making critic's interest or even more often, lack of interest. I also like to grouse a bit when I read a list that fails to actually show an engagement with what has been introduced over the year; I'm known for being free with my own criticism towards many a local art or music critic, for their solipsism and consequent narrow range of interest.

So, turnabout is fair play. I present my own lists of what I thought most important and engaging among the gallery, non-profit, and museum shows in Chicago during 2010. Grouse away in turn ... but don't ever accuse me of not paying attention!

Among the best shows I saw in Chicago this year, in no specific order of importance (i.e., all are equally respected by me as among the finest)

Shows in Chicago Galleries:

Christopher Wool, Corbett vs. Dempsey
Ali Bailey, Andrew Rafacz Gallery
Deb Sokolow, Western Exhibitions
Zachary Buchner, Andrew Rafacz Gallery
We thought maybe you were in the plot, Rowley Kennerk Gallery
Joseph Grigely, The Gregory Battcock Archive, Rowley Kennerk Gallery
Alex Hubbard & Jon Pestoni, Shane Campbell Gallery
On Painting, curated by Michelle Grabner, Western Exhibitions
Arturo Herrera & David Schutter, Tony Wight Gallery
Tony Tassett, Kavi Gupta Gallery
Jason Middlebrook, Monique Meloche Gallery
Wendy White, Andrew Rafacz Gallery

Museum exhibitions and non-profit gallery shows that stood out in 2010:

Jessica Labatte, 12 X 12, Museum of Contemporary Art
La Frontera, Museum of Contemporary Photography
Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy, Museum of Contemporary Art
Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Modern Century, Art Institute of Chicago
focus: Richard Hawkins – Third Mind, Art Institute of Chicago
Rebecca Warren, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago
Matt Saunders, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago
New Icon, Loyola University Museum of Art
Kelly Kaczynski, The Stagehand’s Unseen, ThreeWalls

I should probably now note, I don't really consider this a “best of list.” It is instead a list of what most captured my interest and engagement across the year, and what I felt captured the excitement and, dare I say, importance of current contemporary work on view in Chicago. Yet, what I believe is even more important is that I saw a fine selection of shows here this past year that just missed making my list, including such shows as the Dan Gunn exhibition at Lloyd Dobler, which has been well spoken of by a number of critics already; Carrie Gundersdorf, Dana DeGiulio, and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung's respective shows at Julius Caesar; Rachel Niffenegger and Richard Hull at Western Exhibitions; or the Curtis Mann and James Krone shows at Kavi Gupta that closed the year. These were wonderful examples of work that both captured my eye and left me curious for more by the artist. And taking into account the summer group shows that Tony Wight and Monique Meloche held, with sublime pieces by Barbara Kasten included in each; the ON PTG show during the CAA conference held at Julius Caesar; the consecutive Kabinetts being presented at Devening Projects; and the survey shows Rhona Hoffman and Donald Young each presented, it is terribly hard to argue that art that is immediate and also historically relevant is not being shown in Chicago, as some local critics have suggested. Instead, 2010 showed strongly that the galleries in Chicago are stepping up their game quite readily, challenging us to think broadly and well about what contemporary art is and where it is going.

Beyond the galleries, Chicago’s museums held several rather interesting and even thought-provoking shows in 2010. There appears to be an immense changing of the contemporary guard at present in Chicago; the opening of the Modern Wing at the AIC has truly advanced the opportunities for viewing important work, including historically significant pieces by lesser known artists to Chicago like Roger Hiorns and Isa Genzken (whose work was shown as part of the SCA acquisition process this past spring; in fact, it is my strong opinion that Genzken is in need of an important retrospective here in Chicago), as well as highly respected artists having their first museum exhibition (such as Richard Hawkins, in an amazing retrospective curated by Lisa Dorin). With Madeleine Grzynsteyn’s second full year as chief curator at the MCA coming to a close, and the recent hiring of Michael Darling as an important addition to her curatorial staff, there are likely to be some important opportunities unfolding at this institution. The Luc Tuyman’s retrospective seems a fine harbinger of the continued relevance of the MCA; here’s hoping it gets actively challenged to take on riskier opportunities in the coming year.

In line with above, this past year in Chicago art has been one of increasing excitement and strong movement forward, particularly in regard to revealing some very fine work by a combination of both emerging and mid-career artists. This past year’s Fall Season in particular has been a game changer, with the West Loop galleries joining the city’s main museums and non-profits in exhibiting a series of provocative, stimulating exhibitions. There is much to worry about always in terms of Chicago's role in the arts; a lack of exciting work is just not one of those worries.

No comments: