Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Year, in Art

Keith Haring, The Broad

As I thought about the beginning of a new year, which, as Louis CK reminds us, “the turning over of one year to another is a mental construct that bears no more weight than the things that keep us apart and in competitive categories as human beings,” I realized that I saw more “good” art than I ate “good” food, in 2016.[1] My travels have become tightly focused on a mixture of food, art, and culture. Trips that were once fixated solely on eating as much food as possible have become a careful interweaving of art museums, subway rides, house tours, coffee shops, graffiti, beer bars, public sculpture, and restaurants. I plan and plan. I look up opening/closing hours. I obsess over location and safety. I plot the most efficient route. I want to see it all, wherever I go.

While finding exceptional food is still important to me, eating has had less importance and enjoyment since the election. I haven’t gone down the post-election path of Marc Maron, as much as I love his apocalyptic and dramatic tone: "As we head into a fairly guaranteed, dark unknown, I'm becoming a little more suicidal with my food fuck it, I'm just gonna eat this shit, what difference does it make? Why have I been denying myself? What's the point? Gotta enjoy it now while the joy has so much more of a profound effect in comforting me."[2] For once, I haven’t been eating to forget.

While I have eaten some good-looking food, I didn’t post a photo of food on Instagram until yesterday. Again, since the election, there is a sense that posting photos of food is unimportant. I realize it doesn’t matter if I post a photo of food, on my private Instagram account. Some of my unwillingness to post what I eat has been at the urging of New York Magazine’s Senior Art Critic, Jerry Saltz. He loathes food posts, judging these images as a reflection of our preference to “remain in [our] own bubbles…and stay immersed in the culture of celebrity and complacency.”[3] Before the election, about half of my photos were food. My approach has shifted, much in the way that my travel priorities have evolved. I have posted many more photos of art, landscapes, and facades. As such, I have been stuffing my brain with art, to forget.

Recently, I was asked to explain why I feel compelled to see art, in person. My answer came down to feeling “something.” That I could have emotions about something. That I know something so beyond me exists. That a painting, or sculpture, or installation, can overwhelm me, confirms that I’m alive. Perhaps most people don’t need confirmation from external sources to know that they are alive. Yet, I do.

I found a more eloquent explanation for my feelings about art in a book I read last week: Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle: A Death in the Family. I finished Book 1 in a week. I am deep into Book 2. I know that I’m in it for the duration (six books). Among the gorgeous details of his daily life are equally dazzling revelations about writing and art. Somehow, I relate to the mindset, anxieties, and troubles of a Norwegian, married, father of four. In Book 1, he writes about viewing a book of paintings by John Constable: “I didn’t need to do any more than let my eyes skim over them before I was moved to tears. So great was the impression some of the pictures made on me. Others left me cold. That was my only parameter with art, the feelings it aroused. The feeling of inexhaustibility. The feeling of beauty. The feeling of presence. All compressed into such acute moments that sometimes they could be difficult to endure. And quite inexplicable.”[4] This experience, often unsayable, is what I seek out.

In December, I wavered over going to NYC for the day. I had bought a cheap train ticket a few months prior. I was tired, busy, and felt like I should have done something else with the day. But, I went. It was clearly the right choice. I visited six galleries and the Guggenheim. “Filling my brain up” with art, as Maron always calls it, was the temporary answer to whatever I had been feeling in my post-election depression. Whereas food may have helped me before, right now it’s art.

For some reason, I began to think about all the art I had seen in the last year. I realized that I had the best art year of my life. As I ran through the list in my head, it was longer than I had imagined. Thus, I’m documenting it below, in chronological order. Highlights, in photos, are below.

1.     Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL
2.     The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
3.     Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, IL
4.     Frederick C. Robie House (Frank Lloyd Wright), Chicago, IL
5.     Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA
6.     Hampshire College Art Gallery, Amherst, MA
7.     DIA: The Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, NY
8.     The Judd Foundation/Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX
9.     The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
10.  Philadelphia Museum of Art” Philadelphia, PA (“International Pop” and “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950”)
11.  James Turrell, Skyspace at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, Chestnut Hill, PA
12.  Anton Kern Gallery, “Richard Prince: The Douglas Blair Turnbaugh-Collection (1977-1988), Los Angeles, CA
13.  The Broad, Los Angeles, CA (Cindy Sherman: “Imitation of Life”)
14.  LACMA, Los Angeles, CA (Agnes Martin)
15.  Tate Modern, London, UK (Georgia O’Keeffe)
16.  The Hepworth-Wakefield, Wakefield, UK
17.  Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK
18.  Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (David Hockney RA: “82 Portraits and 1 Still-life”)
19.  New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
20.  Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, NY
21.  DIA: Beacon, Beacon, NY
22.  North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
23.  Ann Hamilton, “habitus,” Municipal Pier 9, Philadelphia, PA
24.  “Philadelphia, Goddamn,” Little Berlin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
25.  The Whitney, New York, NY (Carmen Herrera: “Lines of Sight”)
26.  The New Museum, New York, NY (Pipilotti Rist: "Pixel Forest")
27.  South Dakota Art Museum, Brookings, SD
28.  NYC Galleries: Rothko “Dark Palette” (Pace Gallery), Joseph Albers “Grey Steps, Grey Scales, Grey Ladders” (David Zwirner), “Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches” (Mary Boone Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Jeffery Deitch), “Implosion 20” (Anton Kern Gallery), Bob Pruitt “The Obama Paintings” (Gavin Brown Enterprise)
29.  The Guggenheim, New York, NY (Agnes Martin)

With the exception of England, New Orleans, Raleigh, and The New Museum, I went to all of these places by myself. In some ways, over the course of the year, I was on a mission to reclaim my ability to be alone. There was no one to converse with, about what I saw. There was no one taking the perfect photo of me in front of famous paintings. It was all me, the art, and whatever I felt. And that’s what I’ve been after, especially since the election: a feeling that something matters.

Matisse, The Art Institute of Chicago
Ellsworth Kelly,  The Art Institute of Chicago

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, IL

Frederick C. Robie House (Frank Lloyd Wright), Chicago, IL

 DIA: The Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, NY
Prada Marfa, Valentine, TX
Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX
Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX
Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX

Flavin, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX
Twombly, PMA
Richard Serra, LACMA
Ed Ruscha, Tate Modern
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK
 The Hepworth-Wakefield, Wakefield, UK
Sol LeWitt, Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, NY
Dan Flavin,  DIA: Beacon, Beacon, NY
Dan Flavin, DIA: Beacon, Beacon, NY
Frank Stella,  North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

Ann Hamilton, “habitus,” Municipal Pier 9, Philadelphia, PA
Joe Boruchow, Little Berlin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA    
Aubrie Costello, Little Berlin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA    
Carmen Herrera, The Whitney   
Pipilotti Rist: “Pixel Forest,” The New Museum    
Frida Kahlo, PMA
Sol LeWitt, PMA
Art Alley, Rapid City, SD
Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches   
Ai Weiwei, Laundromat
Rothko “Dark Palette” (Pace Gallery)   

[1] Louis CK, e-mail message “From Louis CK,” December 24, 2016.
[2] Marc Maron, WTF with Marc Maron, Ep.767, December 12, 2016.
[3] Jerry Saltz, “This Post-Election Pain Is Good, At Least for Art,” Vulture, November 13, 2016, accessed November 13, 2016,
[4] Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle, trans. Don Bartlett (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), 207.

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