Here are some of my favorite exhibits and performances from 2012. I won't say "best." "Best" implies an Olympian certainty about my own tastes that I don't have. In fact, I'm continually changing my mind. It also implies that I saw everything, which I most certainly did not. "Favorite" is better.
Of course, as you read this you may find you disagree with my choices. Indeed, I hope so! It would be a dreary world if everyone agreed with me. That's why I have a poll up that you can take: tell me what you think was the best art show and the best performance, this year.
The exhibits/performances below are listed in alphabetical order by artist or by title in the case of group shows.
Debra Barrera, Drive Me There And Back, 2012, 1986 Pontiac Firebird
Drive Me There and Back Again at the Blaffer Window into Houston and Kissing in Cars, Driving Alone at Moody Gallery, both by Debra Barrera. For her installation in the windows of 111 Milam St., Barrera created the best artwork featuring a Firebird/Camaro since the Dead Milkmen sang "Bitchin' Camaro." That was followed with a great show of photos, drawings and sculpture at Moody Gallery. The promise she showed in her Lawndale show was perfectly fulfilled with these two automotive exhibits.
William Betts, Untitled III, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"
Recognition by William Betts at McClain Gallery. This small exhibit blew my mind. Betts used surveillance photos from CTV cameras as the basis for his images--in short, automatic, random images made without regard for art. Then using software turns them into a spots of color that can be applied by machine dot by dot onto a canvas. Get close to the canvas and the images dissolve into dots. And despite the unartly origins and robotic execution of these pieces, there is something perversely moving about them. They really stuck around in my mind.
The Bridge Club, Medium, August 4, 2012, performance
Medium by The Bridge Club at Art Palace. People wandered in and out, chatting, clomping loudly across the floor, drinking beers in normal time. Meanwhile, The Bridge Club barely moved, sitting on chairs mounted on the wall, existing in slow time. This was a meditative, unearthly performance, and I loved it. I look forward to seeing their new project, The Trailer.
Christopher Cascio, Mushroom Mound, 2012, acrylic paint, colored pencil and toner transfers on paper
Spring Break at Cardoza Fine Art and an exhibit at Front Gallery by Christopher Cascio. These two shows overlapped so I am going to lump them together. They gave viewers the breadth of Cascio's work--large-scale pieces and installations at Cardoza with smaller collages at Front Gallery. In both shows, Cascio deals with obsessions, benign and otherwise.
Hillerbrand+Magsamen, eState Sale, 2012, video installation with random suburban detritus
eState Sale by Hillerbrand+Magsamen at the Art League. Stephen Hillerbrand and Mary Magsamen are a team of video and photographic artists whose work often deals with the absurdity of modern suburban life. Perhaps because I am a lifelong resident of the suburbs (with a few years living in the country, the city, and out of a suitcase), I really relate to their work. Much of it deals with the absurd accumulation of stuff that we suburbanites manage. A video of their daughter buried in a closet-full of stuffed animals, for example. This installation was notable for its combination of four large vertical videos and piles and piles of garage-sale-ready suburban detritus.
Perry House, The Vase (Intrusion Blue), 1989, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48"
Elegant Violence by Perry House at the Art Car Museum. I had seen a couple of Perry House's shows at Nauhaus/d.m. allison, and I liked them, but his show at the Art Car Museum which covered 30 years of his work was unexpectedly full of surprises. What I really like is his rich, muscular painting and breathtaking, somewhat spooky coloring. The work, as the title suggests, has an air of menace.
Miao Jiaxin, Mom's Suitcase (still), 2012, video
Chinama's Suitcase by Miao Jiaxin at Box 13. This collection of videos, stills from live performances, and images were hilarious and naughty and said something about the transnational world we inhabit, connected by jets and live chat with one another. The highlight was a somnolent live performance by Miao Jiaxin called I Have a Dream, in which he slept while engaging in Chatroulette. Never has Box 13 seen so much wanking.
Nic Nicosia, Four Rectangles, NuVoile scrim material, cotton rope, site specific installation, 2012
Space Light Time by Nic Nicosia at Hiram Butler Gallery. The first Nic Nicosia photos I saw were part of a group show at FotoFest, and they were photos of rooms. He continued that approach in Space Light Time, except he photographed small boxes that looked like rooms, and made room-like installations, including Four Rectangles. I like the way he constructs an environment in order to take a photograph. But the way he makes these photos would be beside the point if they weren't so strange and beautiful.
Aaron Parazette, Flyaway, 2012, acrylic wall painting, 7' x 56'
Flyaway by Aaron Parazette at the Art League. Two walls of the large gallery at the Art League became two receding focal points made of intersecting lines and planes of green, blue and black. They sucked you in in the room, and curiously recalled the most famous Art League installation, Inversion by Dan Havel and Dean Ruck. The selection of small paintings that accompanied Flyway were quite choice as well. The feeling of motion and unbalance make these geometric pieces work for me.
Emily Peacock, Teenage Couple on Hudson St., NYC, silver gelatin print, 10" x 10", 2011-12
You, Me & Diane by Emily Peacock at Lawndale Art Center. When I heard about this, I was worried that this was going to be another empty gesture of one artist appropriating another artist's work. But instead, Emily Peacock's restaging of photos by Diane Arbus with her family came off as humorous and full of heart. Instead of a cold intellectual exercise, these photos were beautiful, playful and highly personal--the best kind of homage.
George Romney, Emma Hart as "The Spinstress", ca. 1784-85. oil on canvas, 68 5/8" x 50 5/8"
Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London at the MFAH. You go to a show expecting one thing (a collection of masterpieces) and sometimes you get something altogether different (a window into 18th century English art). Seeing the Reynolds and Gainsboroughs was fantastic, but for me the real discovery was George Romney, particularly his paintings of Emma Hart (later Lady Hamilton), the sexiest, wildest celebrity of the late 18th century. See England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton for more.
Patrick Renner, chamber #4 (bounded operator), dirt, sand, rock, gravel, window panes, plywood, found objects, cloth, 2012
chamber #4 (bounded operator) by Patrick Renner at El Rincón Social. Patrick Renner had two wonderful shows at Avis Frank this year, but his most exciting piece was a complicated sculptural installation at El Rincón Social. The subject was time--geological time and personal time as represented by memory. It seemed to be an especially Houston piece, reflecting a city full of geologists and geophysicists. He also produces small sculptural works that are similar to core samples. chamber #4 (bounded operator) seems related to that.
Carrie Schneider, Dress (stills from the video, part of the Care House installation), 2012, multimedia installation
Care House by Carrie Schneider. This complex work about Carrie Schneider's mother used her old house in Katy as the setting. Individual pieces occupied most of the first floor rooms. Visitors could wander the room seeing videos, objects, and installations about Schneider and her mother and her mother's struggle with cancer. The superimposed videos were cleverly done and quite moving. It was the most personal piece of art I saw all year, but it was one I could relate to. I lost my dad to cancer in 2001.
Larry Burrows, One Ride with Yankee Papa 13, 1965, Photo Essay
WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath at the MFAF. This sprawling exhibit was arranged sensitively around 26 distinct sections, including "Training," "Prisoners of War," "Refugee," "Civilians," "War's End," etc. Some of the images in this show are almost unbearable to look at, but they must be seen. Some are quite familiar, but most were new to me. The exhibit is a remarkable achievement. It's up through February 3, so if you haven't seen it, you still have time. The photo above is from a photo essay that appeared in Life--you can see the whole thing here.
Geoff Winningham, Jerdy's Barber Shop, Port Arthur, Texas 2004, Fuji Archive print (2007) from a 4x5 film negative, image size 15.25" x 19.75", uneditioned
Words and Pictures: Photographs 1971 - 2012 by Geoff Winningham at Koelsch Gallery. It's hard for me not to be sentimental about Geoff Winningham--he was my photography professor in school. But this show was a revelation to me. In the choices made, it showed a clever kind of post-modern sensibility, especially in his photographs of other people's collections of images, which I called "naive curation" in my review of the show.
Honorable Mention. there were lots of shows in the Houston area this year that I liked. Here are are some of them:
- John Adelman at Darke Gallery
- Ricky Armendariz, Tu Eres O No Tu Eres Mi Baby (Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby), Art League
- John Gregory Boehme, at the The Lone Star Performance Explosion
- HoustonH.J. Bott, RHYTHM & RHETORIC: New Works Celebrating 40 Years of the DoV System, Anya Tish Gallery
- Pat Colville, New Works, Moody Gallery
- Demiak, The Big Blow, Redbud Gallery
- Nathaniel Donnett, ZZzzzzzz, Art League Houston
- Shannon Duncan, Brittney Connelly and Bryan Forrester, Identified and Objectified: A Study of the Ephemeral, Box 13
- Justin Brown Durand, "Love Man", Front Gallery
- Ibsen Espada, Ibsen Espada: 1985-2000, New Gallery
- Theaster Gates, Holding Court, CAMH
- Mark Greenwalt, Surface Time and Other Portraits, Hooks-Epstein Gallery
- Lane Hagood and Seth Alverson, Cronopios, Kaboom Books
- Chris Hedrick, at d.m. allison
- Candace Hicks, Compositions, Lawndale Art Center
- J Hill at PG Contemporary
- group show, In Plain Sight, McClain Gallery
- Jaspar Johns, Two Flags, Hiram Butler Gallery
- Aaron Landsman, Mallory Catlett, Jim Findlay and a cast of dozens, City Council Meeting, Diverse Works
- group show, Latin American Photography 1880-1940s, Fotofest at the Houston Fine Art Fair
- group show, Luxuriant Refuse, Pearl Fincher Museum
- MANUAL, Picture Books, Moody Gallery
- group show, Modern and Contemporary Masterworks from Malba - Fundación Costantini, MFAH
- Oscar Muñoz at Sicardi Gallery
- Floyd Newsum at Wade Wilson Gallery
- Jim Nolan and Linda Post, Low Impact (Resistance to Flow / ThisIsBobDylantoMe) Subject to Change, Lawndale Art Center
- Non Grata , Force Majeure, The Lone Star Performance Explosion
- Jules Olitski, Revelation: Major Paintings, MFAH
- Yasuaki Onishi, Reverse of Volume RG, Rice Gallery
- group show, Prelude: Beginning a Conversation, David Shelton Gallery
- group show, The Progress of Love, Menil Museum
- Robert Pruitt, You Are Your Own Twin, Hooks-Epstein Gallery
- group show, Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, CAMH
- Ariane Roesch, Playmates, Box 13
- Richard Serra, Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective, Menil Museum
- Joel Schapiro, untitled, Rice Gallery
- group show, Shifting Paradigms in Contemporary Ceramics: The Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Collection, MFAH
- Bret Shirley, Erin Joyce and Lauren Moya Ford, Wax, Cardoza Fine Art
- group show, Silence, Menil Museum
- Earl Staley at the Pearl Fincher Museum
- group show, Staring at the Wall: The Art of Boredom, Lawndale Art Center
- Shane Tolbert, Talk of Montauk, Optical Project
- group show, University of Houston MFA Thesis Exhibit, Diverse Works
- Lillian Warren, Drive-By Landscape, Pearl Fincher Museum
- Lillian Warren, Wait With Me, Lawndale Art Center
- Matthew Weedman, Order No. 227, Art Palace
- Eric Zimmerman, Endless Disharmony & Telltale Ashes, Art Palace