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2015 Top Tens
by george melrod, molly enholm, shana nys dambrot, peter frank, dewitt cheng, matthew kangas, richard speer, michael paglia, donna tennant, jon carver, james yood
Jan 2016


Black, Brown and Biege (After Duke Ellington), 1989
Noah Purifoy
Mixed media, 68" X 113"
Photo: Seamus O’Dubslaine, © Noah Purifoy Foundation, courtesy: LACMA

1) LACMA, “Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada”
From Watts to Joshua Tree, Purifoy’s raw, jazzy riffs on junk assemblage finally got a much-deserved spotlight.

2) The Broad, “Inaugural Exhibition”
Forget the quibbles: in a lesser city, this would be the modern art museum. The inaugural show gave but a glimpse.

3) LACMA, “New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933”
An engrossing, and enlightening, survey of a vital moment in the 20th-century zeitgeist.

4) The Getty,“Light,Paper,Process:ReinventingPhotography”
Focusing on the object-hood of photography, this tight exhibition startled with its physicality.

5) Craft & Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), “Art & Other Tactics”
Potent survey of veterans’ art, notable for its anguish, materiality, and conceptual oomph.

6) Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA), “Someday Is Now: The Art of Corita Kent”
A forgotten pioneer, who combined spirituality and social activism with a Pop Art bravado.

7) MOCA, “The Art of Our Time”
Curator Helen Molesworth’s engaging reinstallation of MOCA’s greatest asset: its powerhouse permanent collection.

8) Blum & Poe, “The Avant-Garde Won’t Give Up: Cobra and Its Legacy”
Museum-quality curated exhibition, juxtaposing works by Northern European “Cobra” group of 1950s and ’60s with kindred recent art.

9) LACMA, “Frank Gehry”
One needn’t be a Gehry fan to admire the scope of his vision, as evinced by an effusive panoply of models, drawings and images.

10) The Hammer, “Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth”
The LA art star’s first hometown museum show featured only his newest work, but still ...


TOP TEN 2015: LOS ANGELES By Molly Enholm

Cape Hope, 2015
James Turrell
L.E.D. light, etched glass and shallow space, 50 3⁄4" x 82 1⁄4"
Photo: Robert Wedemeyer courtesy of Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles

1) Human Resources, “It’s Just the Beginning: Umbrella Movement Anniversary Exhibition”
Artwork, photographs and documentation of the democracy protest in Hong Kong, lest we forget.

2) LACMA, “New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933”
This powerful exhibition educates on the diversity of artistic leanings and practices during the turbulent interwar period in Germany.

3) Kayne Griffin Corcoran, “James Turrell”
Three transcendental Elliptical Glass installations bathe the viewer in ephemeral washes of colored light.

4) Samuel Freeman, “Blue McRight: Drink Me”
Binding, wrapping, and combining, McRight evokes the ecological, the sublime and the surreal.

5) KP Projects, “Sashie Masakatsu”
Mysterious floating orbs haunt post-apocalyptic landscapes: a cautionary tale.

6) Richard Telles Fine Art, “John McAllister: Sultry Spells Rapture”
Intricate patterning, optical illusion, and manipulations of synthetic hues challenge rational perspective and perception.

7) Orange County Museum of Art, “My Generation: Young Chinese Artists”
The Post-Mao generation breaks through preconceptions of form, weaving together influences of East and West, antique and contemporary.

8) Edward Cella Art and Architecture, “Homeland: Pontus Willfors”
Domestic objects reimagined suggest a reconsideration of the value of their source materials.

9) Meliksetian | Briggs, “Mustafa Hulusi”
Diagonal, torn test strips fracture photographic vistas and aestheticize the war-torn island of Cyprus.

10) Peter Blake Gallery, “Larry Bell”
Historic contextualization aside, it’s always great when you go to see your favorite band and you like the “new stuff” best.


TOP TEN 2015: LOS ANGELES By Shana Nys Dambrot

Installation view: Let Power Take A Female Form
Photo: Fredrik Nilsen, courtesy of the artists and The Box, LA

1) The Box, “Eugenia Butler, Eugenia P. Butler, Corazon Del Sol: Let Power Take A Female Form”
Emotional and scholarly three-generation matrilineage yields an esoteric, witty, conceptual, indelible masterpiece of cake, underpants, bread, flies, and understated theatrics.

2) ACE, “Ben Jones”
Art historical, neon-hued multimedia romper room spectacle merging Op Art and 8-bit.

3) Anat Ebgi, “Jen DeNike: If She Hollers”
Dream, nightmare, escapism, reality merge in slow-motion melo- drama of hypnotic video trilogy and culled still photographs.

4) Gavlak, “Vincent Szarek: Like a Rock”
Desert landscape strangeness takes abstract geometrical form; from planar color studies to plein air rebellion.

5) Marine Projects, “Salon No. 13”
All-women group show of avant-garde ceramics, shaped canvases, eccentric paintings, and areas in-between exploring nature and un-naturalism.

6) C. Nichols Project, “Rory Devine: Iconoclastic Works of the Early 21st Century”
Gloriously fine, goopy poodles; a colorist’s dream of a hirsute bikini- clad trucker; color-study wall of party balloons like pixels of joy.

7) The Mistake Room, “Cao Fei: Shadow Plays”
Epic Second Life-generated simulations of modern/historical Beijing’s real-life surreality.

8) Walter Maciel, “John Bankston: Sundry Stories”
Paintings like children’s books illustrations reveal grown-up allegories, starring fantasy furries and real-life chimeras.

9) Mark Moore, “Julie Heffernan: Pre-Occupations”
Luscious, alarming self-portraits and symbolist landscapes; trees in captivity, humans in the wild, climate change in art history.

10) Klowden Mann, “Alexandra Wiesenfeld: when i when if when lie when life (Xavier Villaurrutia)”
Human experience in landscape form: awkward, intense, saturated, dystopic, dyspeptic, and prismatic.



Paris Society (Gesellschaft Paris), 1931
Max Beckmann
Oil on canvas, 43" x 69 1⁄8"
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Photo: © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

1) LACMA, “New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933”
After 1918, German art turned to a cooler, tightly wound expressionism, as arch, brittle, and full of foreboding as the interwar years themselves.

2) Walker Art Center, “International Pop” (also at Dallas Museum of Art and Philadelphia Museum of Art)
Supposedly an American phenom, Pop was actually a hotly contested realm of overlapping interpretations going on everywhere from England and Italy to Brazil and Japan.

3) The Jewish Museum, “Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television”
In its youth, American TV turned to visual art for inspiration, from The Twilight Zone’s surrealism in action to Ed Sullivan’s Op Art set designs.

4) Getty Museum, “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free” (also at de Young Museum, SF)
Late in his career, Turner all but dissolved form and contour into foggy blooms of pure color–and pure space.

5) ICA Boston, “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957” (also at the Hammer Museum and
the Wexner Center for the Arts)

Black Mountain College taught alternative tradition in all the arts, becoming a crucible for America’s postwar avant garde.

6) Tampa Museum of Art / Museum of Fine Arts St. Peters- burg, “My Generation: Young Chinese Artists” (also at Orange County Museum of Art and Oklahoma City Museum of Art)
Showed Mainland Chinese art has gotten a lot more sophisticated, lively, and unpredictable.

7) Whitney Museum of American Art, “Frank Stella: A Retrospective” (also at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth)
No matter how minimal or baroque, Stella’s paint-things hit your eye, and mind, where they want to be hit.

8) The San Diego Museum of Art, “The Art of Music”
Though mostly paintings of musicians and instruments, still provides plenty of juicy material.

9) MoMA, “Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971”
Covering her early years, show demonstrated that this Fluxus poet-artist merits her fame.

10) MoMA, “Picasso Sculpture”
Reminds us that the paterfamilias of 20th century art was at heart a three-dimensionalist.



Andy Warhol, Irving Blum, Billy Al Bengston and Dennis Hopper, at the Opening Reception at Duchamp Retrospective, Pasadena Art Museum, 1963
Julian Wasser
Vintage gelatin silver print, 7 ⁄2" x 9 ⁄2"
Photo: courtesy Robert Berman Gallery

1) de Young Museum, “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free”
The film biopic of the Romantic Englishman looked glorious, but his paintings, even better.

2) San Jose ICA, “Bruce Conner: Somebody Else’s Prints”
Drawings and prints by the legendary SF counterculture hero who sometimes used pseudonyms.

3) Asian Art Museum, “Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh and Other Western Artists
The Japonisme of Impressionist-era France, traced in this collection from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

4) Robert Berman / E6 Gallery, “Julian Wasser: Duchamp in Pasadena Revisited”
Duchamp’s 1963 retrospective in Pasadena, documented in Julian Wasser’s elegant photos, accompanied by iconic replicas.

5) St. Mary’s College Museum of Art, “Visual Language: Mystery and Meaning”
Cheryl Calleri, Christel Dillbohner and Thekla Hammond explore history, archaeology and biology in powerful abstractions.

6) Dolby Chadwick Gallery, “Alex Kanevsky: Unstable Equilibrium”
Virtuosic paintings of nudes and landscapes question traditional figuration while also reasserting it.

7) San Jose ICA, “Jim Campbell: New Work and Collaborations with Jane Rosen”
Campbell’s video sculptures, with obscured images projected onto glass and resin, examine perception poetically.

8) International Art Center, “No Room for Form”
Stunning Asian-inspired abstract paintings by David Frazer, Fred Martin, Jeremy Morgan and Ming Ren.

9) Contemporary Jewish Museum, “NEAT: Experiments in Art and Technology”
Nine artists reprise the 1960s EAT show in exhilarating contemporary (read: digital) terms.

10) Sandra Lee Gallery, “Bryan Ida: Littoral”
Semi-abstract paintings inspired by memories of California’s coastal landscape that depict our current “floating world.”


TOP TEN 2015: SEATTLE / TACOMA By Matthew Kangas

Millipede, 2014
Buster Simpson
Titanium, 9 1⁄2" x 24" x 24"
Photo: Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery

1) Greg Kucera Gallery, “Buster Simpson: Double Bound”
The region’s nationally heralded sculptor followed his Frye Art Museum retrospective with a further selection of old and new altered readymades, site-related works, prints and photographs about cities in transition.

2) Woodside/Braseth Gallery, “Nathan DiPietro: The Structure of Things”
Gouache-and-tempera paintings with dystopian bucolic scenes of distorted nature.

3) Traver Gallery, “Marita Dingus: The Girls”
Sculptures and installations about the abduction of young girls by Boko Haram.

4) Tacoma Art Museum, “Art of the American West: The Haub Family Collection”
Inaugural exhibition of donation of historic Native American, cowboy, and contemporary art.

5) Frye Art Museum, “Leo Saul Berk: Structure and Ornament”
Berk’s sculptures and installations were commissioned by the Frye with related photographs, video art and sound pieces.

6) Bellevue Arts Museum, “Counter-Couture: Fashioning Identity in the American Counterculture”
This survey of hippie couture and tie-dye joins embroidery in eye-popping attire.

7) G. Gibson Gallery, “Mary Iverson”
Visions of natural beauty violated by climate change make convincing facsimiles of disasters yet to occur.

8) Seattle Asian Art Museum, “Paradox of Place: Contemporary Korean Art”
Six artists relate Korean culture to global trends such as consumerism and imperiled wilderness.

9) James Harris Gallery, “Taking Form: Quality in Clay”
The new national ceramic trend of clunky, abstract sculptures of entrancing mystery and beauty.

10) Davidson Galleries, “Jacob Lawrence as Printmaker”
Harlem Renaissance master in a museum-quality survey of his lithographs and serigraphs over a 40-year period.


TOP TEN 2015: PORTLAND By Richard Speer

Installation view of Andy Coolquitt: Solo Exhibition
Photo: Courtesy of Disjecta

1) Disjecta, “Andy Coolquitt”
Using pipes, tubes, hoses, basins, and lights, Austin, Texas-based artist Andy Coolquitt turned Disjecta into a bubbling water wonderland with dystopian undercurrents.

2) PDX Contemporary Art, “Joe Rudko: Picturesque”
Suavely spartan works on paper from an emerging talent in his first-ever gallery show.

3) Augen Gallery, “Tom Cramer: New Wood Reliefs”
Neo-Baroque gilding meets pagan nature-worship in a series of phantasmagoric relief paintings.

4) Bullseye Projects, “Origins”
Matt Szösz, Anna Mlasowsky, and Abi Spring pioneer new kilnform- ing techniques in a haunting meditation on the formation of ideas.

5) Fourteen30 Contemporary, “Blair Saxon-Hill”
Witty, mixed-media deconstructions of the erotic potential and foibles of the human body.

6) Froelick Gallery, “Laura Ross-Paul: Waterfalls”
Sensual figurative paintings of Northwesterners frolicking in the cascades of the Columbia River Gorge.

7) Laura Russo Gallery, “Francis Celentano: New Paintings”
Colorful, eye-boggling compositions, most of them on triangular panels and canvases.

8) Mark Woolley Gallery, “Arvie Smith: Tight Rope”
Tragicomic tableaux using cartoonish imagery to critique racial stereotypes.

9) Upfor, “Jeremy Rotsztain: Electric Fields”
Viewers donned a virtual-reality headset to experience what it would be like to walk around inside an abstract painting.

10) Carl & Sloan Contemporary, “Testable Predictions”
In this savvy new gallery’s debut show, Michelle Liccardo, Perry Doane, and Amy Bernstein toyed with the meaning (or lack thereof) of gesture.


TOP TEN 2015: DENVER By Michael Paglia

Installation view featuring The Muse
John Buck
Mixed media, dimensions variable
Photo: Courtesy of Robischon Gallery

1) Robischon Gallery, “John Buck”
The secret to blowing away last summer’s Denver Biennial of the Americas? Bring together a group of Buck’s monumental kinetic whirligigs and show them at the same time.

2) Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, “Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty”
This over-the-top survey documents Minter’s “overnight” success after 40 years of effort.

3) William Havu Gallery, “Monroe Hodder: Smoke & Mirrors”
To create these outrageous abstracts Hodder piled on wildly-colored pigments very thickly.

4) David B. Smith Gallery, “Paul Jacobsen: Outpost”
Jacobsen put the “high” in high style with his meticulous depictions of marijuana plants.

5) Walker Fine Art, “Sabin Aell: The Buoyancy of Nothing”
Using vinyl, resin and paint, Aell turned the gallery into an all-encompassing environment.

6) Denver Art Museum, “Starring Linda: A Trio of John DeAndrea Sculptures”
The DAM’s most famous piece, Linda, was joined by other DeAndrea masterworks.

7) MichaelWarrenContemporary,“LizHickok:GroundWaters”
Hickok set up scenes using crystals and then rendered them in luxuriously-toned photos.

8) Goodwin Fine Art, “Shawn Huckins: The American ___tier”
Cross Benjamin West with Snoop Dogg and you can grasp these paintings by Shawn Huckins.

9) McNichols Civic Center, “Trine Bumiller: 100 Paintings for 100 Years”
100 nature-based abstracts by Bumiller marked the centennial of Rocky Mountain National Park.

10) Gildar Gallery, “Kristen Hatgi Sink: A Tented Sky”
Flowers, honey and naked women were the star attractions in Sink’s sumptuous photos.


TOP TEN 2015: HOUSTON By Donna Tennant

Installation view of "Mel Chin: Rematch"
Foreground: Presentation Pallet for the Fundreds of America, 2013
Photo: Courtesy of the Artist and Blaffer Art Museum

1) Contemporary Arts Museum, Blaffer Art Museum, Asia Society Texas Center, and Station Museum of Contemporary Art, “Mel Chin: Rematch”
Major retrospective in- stalled simultaneously at four Houston institutions presents 40 years of work by this extraordinary artist.

2) Station Museum of Contemporary Art, “Corpocracy”
Edgy, political, satirical and subversive work by 13 artists who challenge capitalism and corporate culture in order to transform social consciousness.

3) Rice Gallery, “Anila Quayyum Agha: Intersections”
Simple but brilliant installation using light and shadow to create a sacred space.

4) The Jung Center, “Kelli Scott Kelley: Accalia and the Swamp Monster”
A journey through a haunted southern landscape populated by swamp monsters explores the transformative power of fairy tales.

5) Moody Gallery, “Helen Altman: Cover Your Nut”
Drawing on her love of nature and nostalgia, this artist creates clever and endearing objects.

6) McMurtrey Gallery, “Lance Letscher: Parallel Universe”
Intricate, captivating collages that mesmerize and entertain.

7) Catherine Couturier Gallery, “Lori Vrba: Moth Wing Diaries”
Deeply personal photographs and assemblages provide a tantalizing view into the artist’s private domain.

8) McClain Gallery, “Kelli Vance: Recital”
Evocative and disconcerting dramas unfold in powerful, large-scale paintings of erotically charged situations.

9) Devin Borden Gallery, “David Lackey: Memories & Maladies”
Unexpected juxtapositions of antique photographs and vintage frames produce fascinating surrealistic objects.

10) Menil Collection, “Barnett Newman: The Late Work”
The Menil’s first solo show of the master’s work reunites long-separated pairs of paintings and presents unfinished works from the studio after his death.



Poniard Series, 1965
Francis Celentano
Acrylic on masonite, 34" x 42"
Photo: Courtesy of David Richard Gallery from “Op Infinitum”

1) University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque,“Necessary Force: Art in the Police State”
Nightstick your own noggin if you missed this eloquent artist/ac- tivist response to systemic police bigotry.

2) David Richard Gallery, “Op Infinitum: ‘The Responsive Eye’ Fifty Years After (Part II)”
The space sizzled this summer with sensation and subtlety.

3) James Kelly Contemporary, “Tom Joyce: Aftershock”
Local genius blacksmith reinvents the wheel in fissured steel.

4) Tai Modern, “Tanaka Kyokusho”
Art as a means of perfecting perception.

5) 516 Arts, Albuquerque, “HABITAT: Exploring Climate Change through the Arts”
The cup of aesthetic activism spilleth over.

6) Tansey Contemporary, “Irina Zaytceva”
Elaborate and eye-fooling porcelain portrait vessels.

7) Peters Projects, “Trophies and Prey: A Contemporary Bestiary”
Intriguing artworks aimed at our animal natures.

8) Photo-Eye Gallery, “Kate Breakey: Shadows & Light”
Cyanotype silhouettes of dead wildlife reinvent natura morte.

9) Turner Carroll, “Hung Liu: Migratory Seeds”
Beautiful meditations on immigration, people and time.

10) Phil Space, “Larry Bob Phillips: Paintings of the Electric Night”
Hallucinatory figure/ground graphics pop off the walls.


TOP TEN 2015: CHICAGO By James Yood

Golden rest- Dead treez (detail), 2015
Ebony G. Patterson
Mixed media jacquard weaved tapestry with handmade shoes and crocheted leaves, 78" x 114"
Photo: courtesy Monique Meloche Gallery

1) Monique Meloche Gallery, “EbonyG.Patter- son: unearthing treez”
This one hit all the buttons, a concentrated theme (death in paradise, or some- thing close to that) superbly executed by an artist at
the peak of her skills.

2) Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, “International Pop”
I’ll never stand in a classroom and say “Pop Art is American Art” again. A revelation.

3) Art Institute of Chicago, “Charles Ray: Sculpture, 1997-2014”
More like a coronation than an exhibition, august and ceremonial, but worked in the quirky way Ray always does.

4) Hyde Park Art Center, “Susan Giles: Scenic Overlook”
Four enormous wooden observation towers by one of Chicago’s most interesting artists.

5) Schoenherr Gallery at North Central College in Naperville, “Brian Ritchard: Turbine Paintings Series”
Evocative, moody landscape paintings ŕ la the Dutch 17th century, with wistful wind turbines poignantly dotting the land.

6) Kavi Gupta Gallery, “Claire Sherman: Funeral Mountain”
Engaged and intense painterly images, each completed in a single day.

7) Corbett vs. Dempsey, “Rebecca Shore: Barely Committed to Three Dimensions”
These hard-edged, quasi-Op abstract paintings managed to induce great pleasure, and a bit of a headache.

8) Museum of Contemporary Art, “Doris Salcedo”
Retrospective of the poetic, politically sober Columbia-based artist was a quiet triumph, a show for grownups.

9) Chicago Cultural Center, “Richard Hunt: Sixty Years of Sculpture”
Excellent overview justifies 80-year old Hunt’s position as perhaps the youngest old master in art.

10) Western Exhibitions, “Nicholas Frank: Post-Self”
New work by the most interesting artist in Milwaukee, a more competitive distinction than you would guess.

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