At the end of 2013 through
the beginning of this year, Christopher Wool took over the Guggenheim’s central rotunda with his iconic word
paintings, in a show that traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago. Coming of
age in the ’70s and making a name for himself in the ’80s, Wool experimented
with the potential of painting—often using commercial tools or techniques—at a
time when it was fast becoming outmoded. Probing the very nature of
image-production, Wool explored the possibilities of photography, silkscreen,
reproduction, and modes of erasure, all in relation to his trademark graphic
Representing a hodgepodge
of 82 artists from around Southeast Asia, organized by 27 curators from the
region, the Singapore Biennial—which began in late 2013 and wound up in
2014—was reportedly a very mixed bag, or “Flawed but Fresh,” as one
review called it. Titled “If the
World Changed,” the event asked artists to address the shifting sociopolitics
of their respective home countries as well as to ponder the future. Highlights
included Nikki Luna’s exploration of labor in the form of a
thousand diamonds cast from sugar; and Oscar Villamiel’s unsettling installation featuring a field of
dolls’ heads retrieved from a Manila landfill.
Carrying the banner for
Expressionists, Helen Frankenthaler invented the soak-stain technique, applying
thin washes of paint to unprimed canvases—and her stunning compositions
influenced numerous other Color Field painters of the ’60s. “My pictures are full of climates, abstract climates,” she once said. “They’re not nature per se,
but a feeling.” In spring 2014, Turner
the pioneering painter together with the sublime canvases of the institution’s
namesake, the British Romantic painter JMW Turner, in a surprising, but enlivening pairing.
Best known for her seminal
work that has a permanent home at the Brooklyn Museum, The Dinner Party (1974–79)—which
takes a revisionist approach to the male-dominated history of Western
civilization, literally placing some 1038 women at the dinner table—Judy Chicago has been challenging gender bias in the arts
for four decades. This past summer, the Brooklyn Museum hosted a presentation of the early work she
produced while in L.A., including painting, sculpture, and Chicago’s love
affair with pyrotechnics.
The 2014 Biennale of Sydney
opened amid considerable controversy—including the announcement that five
artists were pulling out in protest against one of the event’s sponsors—and to mixed
reviews. The biennial nonetheless
launched with a bang, including large-scale installations on Cockatoo Island
from Eva Koch and Mikala Dwyer, and an interactive piece from Callum Morton,
who sent biennial visitors through a giant rendering of a Google search page on
a miniature train.
The 10th edition of the
Gwangju Biennial, considered one of the most important biennials in the world,
with visitors to the event coming out in six-figure droves, was curated by
Jessica Morgan. Described
as “a solid, diverse, and uncommonly aggressive exhibition” by The
Guardian, the presentation featured a sobering installation from Korean
artist Minouk Lim, for which she worked with the
victims and widows of several Korean War-related massacres.
One of Surrealism’s icons, René Magritte is perhaps best known for his bowler hat motif
and declaring a pipe not a pipe, or “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” The Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition of his work—which originated at
MoMA—featuring over 100 paintings, collages, drawings, and objects, spans 12 of
the artist’s most creative years, in which he met other titans of the
Surrealist movement, including Breton, Dalí, and Miró.
The Hammer’s biennial survey of L.A.’s brightest
up-and-comers was as strong as ever this year, with a museum-wide presentation
of painting, sculpture, performance, installation—and plenty of exciting new
video work. Highlights included a video installation from Wu Tsang featuring Boychild, large-scale compositions
and animated works from Tala Madani, and Alice Konitz’s experimental exhibition
venue, The Los Angeles Museum of Art.
Metropolitan Museum of Art stepped into the now this past winter with a blockbuster show of
contemporary Chinese art interspersed within its traditional Chinese galleries,
allowing intriguing relationships to emerge and drawing a continuous line
between traditional ink art and the medium’s use today. “‘Ink Art’ is something of a landmark in the way it
places recent Chinese art against the backdrop of the vaunted brush and ink
traditions,” noted Roberta
Smith in The New York Times.
Amid the proliferating
flurry of biennials around the world, the Museum of Arts & Design entered into the fray this year with its
inaugural edition of “NYC Makers,” the brainchild of its new director Glenn Adamson, presenting the work of 100 New York
makers—including artists, artisans, and designers—nominated by over 300
NYC-based cultural leaders and civic figures. Among the eclectic roster of
contributors were Marilyn Minter, Laurie Anderson, and Meredith Monk.
Continuing his global
presence in the art world, despite his effective detainment in China (the government
has denied the return of his passport), Ai Weiwei made headlines this year with a sprawling
site-specific installation of work at California’s famous former penitentiary
Alcatraz. Organized by the FOR-SITE Foundation, this show was the most-viewed of all museum
shows on Artsy this year, proving Ai’s ability to transcend borders with his
powerful message of resistance in the face of oppression.