What art and which artists had inklings we were entering a paradigm shift? Who was already channeling that in their work? Peering through aesthetic lenses of hindsight to the turnabout of political authority, conflicted posturings, hidden narratives, and changes in moral code, we see human Geiger counters who were making art that gleaned the doors of chaos suddenly being held ajar.
1 – Rob Pruitt, “The Obama Paintings”
Gavin Brown Gallery (ongoing) For every day of Barack Obama’s two terms in office, Rob Pruitt made one small painting of the president based on a photograph found online, in a newspaper, wherever. Installed wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, even stacked in bins, these 2,800-plus paintings are an extended act of unironic love, dedication, and discipline. If kept and displayed together, “The Obama Paintings” would fit in perfectly in the future Obama presidential library a reminder that not so long ago, power and beauty intertwined.
Photo: Thomas Mueller/Courtesy the artist and Gavin Browns enterprise New York/Rome
2 – “Open Plan” and Danny Lyons
Whitney Museum Five fantastic short-term shows appeared over three months, each using Whitney’s huge open fifth-floor space and giving us great art and the kind of experimental thinking we’ve already come to rely on from this reborn institution. Bonus: “Open Plan” was followed up by a stellar survey of photographer Danny Lyon.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and The Whitney Museum of American Art
3 – Marilyn Minter, “Pretty/Dirty”
Brooklyn Museum (ongoing) No one nails the nexus of bawdy sex, gaudy beauty, gorgeous surface, and electric, eye-popping color like Marilyn Minter. Her works are giant history paintings of women flaunting forms of political and visual being in mid-change.
Marilyn Minter (American, b. 1948). Orange Crush, 2009. Enamel on metal, 108 x 180 in. (274.3 x 457.2 cm). Private collection Photo: Courtesy of the artist and the Brooklyn Museum/JennyAntill
4 – Arthur Jafa,
Love Is the Is DeathGavin Brown’s Enterprise This seven-minute film of famous black figures and violence against the black body is a visual exorcism and a psychic gut-punch and as powerful a film as any made in this decade.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise New York/Rome
5 – Myla Dalbesio, “You Can Call Me Baby”James A.
Farley Post Office A rowdy, smart, anti-hegemonic show of strong work by women, curated by a woman, in the upstart art fair Spring Break (organized by a woman) that put all sorts of new, world-changing audacity on display.
Photo: Courtesy of Spring/Break Art Show
6 – “Dicks”
Fortnight Institute This tiny DIY East Village storefront space run by two super smart young women staged “Dicks,” consisting of pictures and sculptures including a plaster cast of Jimi Hendrix’s member of penises, mostly created by women. The show did all this without showboating only pointing (or giving) a highly charged political finger at male myth, dickishness, and the power structure.
Photo: Courtesy of Fortnight Institute
7 _ Glenn Ligon, “We Need to Wake Up Cause That’s What Time It Is”
Luhring Augustine The perfect bookend to Arthur Jafa’s sped-up film masterpiece of the black body, Ligon’s show gives us a super-slowed, silent deconstruction of one Richard Pryor performance making visible the magic dance that was always going on with this epic genius of American culture.
UNICODE Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine Gallery
8 – Francis Picabia, “Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction,” and Kai Althoff, “And Then Leave Me to the Common Swifts”
The Museum of Modern Art (current) Picabia is one of the artistic freedom machines of the 20th century, and “Our Heads” is delivered in full in this perfect retrospective. It only makes matters juicier to see this show exhibited next to the metaphorical insides of an artist’s brain survey of Kai Althoff.
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART Photo: Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Modern Art