Teaching with Contemporary Art

Under the Radar: Best of 2011

George Condo, "Jesus", 2002. Collection of Nancy and Robert Magoon.

The past year has been inspiring and simultaneously unpredictable when it comes to exhibitions. Whether it was celebrated blockbusters like Alexander McQueen or the current DeKooning show at MoMA, there is and was plenty to see, especially for educators interested in contemporary art. Think about it… In 2011 you could have spent 24 hours with Christian Marclay or done a long, slow pour with Lynda Benglis. You could have taken it outside for Art in The Streets at L.A.MoCA or grabbed your walking (not to mention, driving) shoes for Pacific Standard Time.

But some shows flew a little under the radar, even a few housed in major museums, and they had plenty to offer when it comes to teaching. This week I wanted to share the first of two posts dedicated to some inspiring shows that made me look again this past year. Links are included to the shows and/or examples of the work.

“George Condo: Mental States” at the New Museum. Forget about any renewed possibilities for hanging a show salon style, even though that’s probably worth looking into, this show thrust Condo’s portraits of invented characters into my line of vision when I was actually at the New Museum to catch the Lynda Benglis show. Condo’s exhibit proved one can most definitely be blown away by surprise. His work, to me, felt somehow comical and compassionate all at the same time. Portraiture gone wild. Kanye West knew what he was doing.

“Mark Morrisroe (1959-1989)” at ClampArt. I had seen Morrisoe’s work reproduced before, but never in person. Looking into the Poloroids had me imagining, over and over, the stories behind the pictures (or the pictures behind the stories- one of the two). During this exhibit I realized some of the best photography first makes you wonder about the story and then… the photographer. This isn’t always the case with drawing, painting or sculpture.

“Nick Cave: Meet Me At The Center Of The Earth” at the Seattle Art Museum. Cave’s narrative about the original Soundsuits, conceived shortly after Septemeber 11th and reproduced on the wall of the museum, had me hooked from the start. While McQueen’s threads were certainly entertaining, I still find Cave’s more energetic and compelling. Brash, infectious inspiration that isn’t just for sculptors or those interested in textiles.

Howard Hodgkin at Gagosian Gallery. This show (still on view through the end of the week) is a wild and joyous example of precision in gesture and color. Hodgkin’s painting taught me to examine the texture and juxtaposition between lights and darks in his paintings on wood. Often literally working outside the box, this exhibit encouraged a physical response, even if it was simply to sit on the benches and linger. (Imagine that? Lingering? On benches? In a major gallery with Hodgkin’s color and brushstrokes everywhere you look?). Can bold, gestural painting make you slow down and see? Absolutely.

“Day Job” at The Drawing Center. This was one of the more inspirational group shows of the year, curated by Nina Katchadourian, and featured artists who created works somehow related to their jobs or used the exhibition theme to begin a new project. I was introduced to the exquisite drawing of Pasquale Cortese and the layered constructions of Luis Romero, and that’s just for starters. Working artists left there thinking, “I can do this.” At least I did.

Next week:

Richard Serra returns.

Love it or hate it- Laurel Nakadate.

Katharina Grosse at Mass MoCA.

And more!


Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday…