The best of 1998.
1 Robert Gober (The Geffen Contemporary, Los Angeles) The one-night-stand aspect of museum installations has never been dramatized more poignantly than in Robert Gober's magnificent tableau at the Geffen. The experience of seeing the piece (which combined aspects of a Bernini fountain with a gorgeous, Thoreauvian Etant donnes) was quite literally haunted by knowledge of its transience. Upon arrival, you immediately wanted to return, and then return again. Leaving the museum, I felt like Bogey watching Bergman fly away into the fog.
2 Richard Serra, Torqued Ellipses (The Geffen Contemporary, Los Angeles) The only possible compensation for the loss of Gober's piece was its replacement by Richard Serra's piece de resistance. Early in his career, the richness of Serra's works was a little cheapened by the whole working-class-hero-invades-wussymuseum-with-raw-steel ambience. Not so with the Torqued Ellipses. They are clearly and unabashedly art on a grand scale, and the kinesthetic bang that Serra's work invariably delivers is undiminished. Macho transgression wears away. The athletic grace of the high baroque does not.
3 Ron Nagle (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Los Angeles) How far can you get from Serra and Gober and still be super? And still be baroque? Ron Nagle's tiny, luminous, pseudo-vessels occupy that position. If Faberge had lived in California, loved hot rods and surfboards, and been blessed with an impudent art-historical wit, on his best day he still couldn't compete with Nagle. No larger than teacups, Nagle's pieces shine, glow, swoop, curve, and blend - each with its own ghostly presence and haunting silhouette. We don't know what they are, but, clearly, they couldn't be better.
4 Takashi Murakami (Blum & Poe, Los Angeles) How far can you get from Gober, Serra, and Nagle and still be super? And still be baroque? Takashi Murakami's exquisite, life-size cartoon sculptures are Bernini all the way. Until I saw Murakami's My Lonesome Cowboy, I had never seen a contemporary sculpture that could compete with Bernini's Saint Theresa. Murakami's works celebrate sexual-spiritual ecstasy with comparable extravagance.
5 Maxwell Hendler (Patricia Faure Gallery, Los Angeles) Maxwell Hendler's modestly scaled paintings are made by pouring resin on rectangular wood panels in monochromes that are never quite the color you think they are. They have a simple readiness about them that defies all abstract pretension - a refined affability that reminds you, every time you look, that nothing in this world with a body and color is ever as simple as you think it is.
6 Peter Saul (Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York) In one of Peter Saul's new drawings, a bare-breasted woman pops out of a guy's head announcing, in a talk balloon, "Your sexist joke makes me puke," and pukes on him. The guy holds a sign announcing "I'm sorry," and we imagine Saul standing before his drawing board, fingers to his lips, with a talk balloon of his own: "Oh dear! It just slipped out!" The adolescent id is always slipping out in Saul's work, but it slips out pure, healthy as a twelve-year-old, and blissfully unaccompanied by adult brutality and malice.
7 The Art Guys with Todd Oldham: "Suits: The Clothes That Make The Man" Wherever cognoscenti choose to gather this year, from Times square to Cannes, the Art Guys will be in attendance, in Todd Oldham suits emblazoned with the logos of their corporate sponsors - thus does performance art meet designer couture meet NASCAR meet upscale marketing. In an art culture obsessed with petit-bourgeois proprieties, the Art Guys flaunt their integrity on the battleground of conflicting interests. Right on, art dudes.
8 Peter Carey, Jack Maggs (Alfred A. Knopf) If you despair of ever coming upon another solidly realized, swiftly paced novel with a great idea, go out and buy Jack Maggs. Peter Carey imagines the Victorian social circumstances out of which Dickens's Great Expectations might have arisen and tells this story from an Australian perspective. In Carey's book, the convict Magwitch (Jack Maggs) is the hero, Charles Dickens is an opportunistic hustler, and our little hero, Pip, is an insufferable twit. We read fast to find out what happens.
9 Helen Vendler, The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets (Belknap/Harvard University Press) If you are a writer who still uses English words (rather than chockablock bricks of jargon), this is the book for you. Professor Vendler takes Shakespeare's sonnets one by one and word by word. She talks about what the poems do and how they do it - their architecture, narrative, music, and language - so, along with the apercus and sharp insights, there are nifty charts and graphs. There is also a CD of Vendler reading the sonnets aloud, lest we forget that words are noise as well as ink.
10 This Critic's Year I write about artists every day. Once a month, I go out and lecture about them. Three or four times a year, I curate exhibitions of their work, so I must reserve this space for all those artists who have occupied my consciousness during the last year, for all the kids in "Ultralounge," and for Peter Alexander, Mark Burns, Sarah Charlesworth, Sharon Ellis, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Norm Laich, Hung Liu, Josiah McElheny, Elizabeth Peyton, Ellen Phelan, David Reed, Gerhard Richter, Norman Rockwell, Edward Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Christopher Wool, and Robert Zakanitch. Thank you very much.
Dave Hickey is an art writer who lives in Las Vegas. His essays have been recently collected in Air Guitar; Essays on Art and Democracy (Art Issues, 1997).
1 Alex Katz (P.S. I, New York; Saatchi Gallery, London) It's been a big, big year for the hep-Katz. A formidable retrospective of his landscapes at P.S. I this spring lent support to the notion that there are more than four seasons; and a display last winter at the Saatchi Gallery - twenty-six big-to-huge canvases in all genres from 1972 to 1996 - was one of the most spectacularly scenic painting installations this viewer has seen.
2 Jorge Pardo (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) His covered lakeside pier was a lovely place in which to while away a rainstorm two summers ago in Munster, but the 3,000 square-foot redwood-clad house he's built on a tight hillside lot in the Mount Washington area of Los Angeles would be the place to hang your hat if Pardo weren't planning to live there himself. Realized in a cannily fresh-looking ur-idiom of late modernist styles, in particular those associated with LA Case Study houses of the '50s and '60s, the house - aka "the exhibition" - was outfitted with some custom-built furniture, an edition of about a hundred Venini-esque hanging lamps made by the artist (and on loan from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam), and a few provisional pieces from IKEA. "The exhibition," accompanied by an assemble-it* yourself catalogue, was seraphically poised on the convergence point of art, concept, design, architecture, romance, and real estate - Viva Los Angeles! - but I still want to know who exactly paid for what.
3 Nest A diffuse homogenizing light has been casting its virtual glow on just about everything in sight lately. So three cheers for Joseph Holtzman! The recently published second issue of Nest, Holtzman's now-quarterly magazine of actually interesting interiors, is the triumph of an albatross over lemmings. Even more wideranging than the first number, which came out a year ago and featured articles on an IKEA displaydesigner's New Jersey attic shrine to Farrah Fawcett and a fifteen-year-old decorating "client" at home in his Baltimore rooms, the new Nest spans the economic distance between a Garouste and Bonetti "carte blanche" job for a Hong Kong Maecenas and the personalized cells of four inmates in a New Mexico women's prison. Production values are lush (yet the cover price is reasonable); care is given to text; coyness and correctitude are nowhere to be found. It's got guts, an eye, and a pulse.
4 Head On (dir. Ana Kokkinos) Nicknamed "hard on" for good reason, this first featurelength film by Ana Kokkinos (adapted from Christos Tsiolkas's novel Loaded) concerns a very busy day and night in the life of Ari, a nineteen-year-old Greek lad from Melbourne. So it's about being Australian and Greek, young and Greek, gay and Greek, a brother and Greek, a son and Greek, a friend and Greek, angry and Greek, druggy and Greek, arrested and Greek, frisked and Greek, etc. All the Greek-Australian characters are played by Greek-Australian actors, led by - ouch! - Alex Dimitriades, and they (along with a smattering of non-Greeks) are all wonderful. Perhaps because the director is a woman (and Greek and Australian), this movie steers clear of campish-clonish cliches. The cinematographer, Jaems Grant, is a comer.
5 Maxwell Hendier (Patricia Faure Gallery, Los Angeles) Now in his sixties and underknown, this Houston-born Los Angeles painter was apparently the first contemporary artist to hang in New York at the Met - in i975, under Henry Geldzahler's aegis. At the time he was an exquisite and anxious realist, along the lines of Vija Celmins or Rackstraw Downes, but since around 1980 he's been making sublimely spare, color-cued, constructed paintings that might look like Minimalist abstractions were it not for the fact that those colors are so damn specific: Is it Formica, or pink resin stain, is it the real ketchup soup or merely the mock. . . . Anyway, he's an avatar for a lot of recent Memorex painting (see below) and should be feted.
6 Laura Owens (Gavin Brown Enterprise, New York; Loyola University, Chicago; ACME, Los Angeles) A twenty-eight-year-old case in point, and, quite understandably, this year's It Girl for collectors - viz. three nearly simultaneous solo shows, in three cities. I particularly liked the four not-quite-identical bumblebee paintings she made to accessorize the four notquite-identical bedroom sets by her boyfriend, Jorge Pardo, at Patrick Painter. Will she, too, be sleeping in "the exhibition"?
7 Tracey Moffatt (Dia Center for the Arts, New York) Another It Girl, with a dybbuk, from Down Under. At age thirteen, in the suburbs of stodgy Brisbane, she made her friends get into costumes and pose for her camera. The three prints she recently produced of these badseed-Julia-Margaret-Cameron tableaux are pretty possessed - especially her ill-tempered Nativity. And her video of surfers changing next to their cars in a Bondi Beach parking lot was most aptly named: They're all gorgeous in Heaven, and they all see her peeping.
8 Patricia Cronin (White Columns, New York) An It Girl from Manhattan (via Boston) who paints horses. And her multifarious Tack Room installation, which will travel to Hartford next year in a show called "Horseplay," does for this most wholesome of female perversions what Mike Bidlo's drawings do for Duchamp's urinal.
9 Mike Bidlo (Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York) See above.
10 Richard Serra, Torqued Ellipses (The Geffen Contemporary, Los Angeles) No choice, really, but to put him last: He seems to feel he's in head-on competition not with artists but with Nature. See these, not the Grand Canyon, first.
Lisa Lisbman is a writer based in New York and a frequent contributor to Artforum.
1 "Recognizing Van Eyck" (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
A painter friend of mine in Chicago who deejays on the side once explained to me the reason he had so many more old rock 'n' roll records than new ones. "I like the best of the new," he said, "and the best of the old, and it just so happens that there's a lot more old." In art, old really has the edge, but - given the way artists crank out stuff nowadays - it sometimes seems like there are fewer old works than new. So here I'm gonna go with old. Back when men were men and pictures were little and took a long time to make, Jan van Eyck painted a pair of almost identical Saint Francises in the Wilderness (one about 5 by 6 inches, the other about a foot on a side), which are two of the best paintings ever done in the history of the entire world. Really.
2 William Kentridge (Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego)
If you care about positioning your opinions according to some scale of cool, Kentridge - whose hype peaked about a year ago - probably isn't a great bet these days. In case you were napping and somehow managed to miss this artist's ascent: Imagine a three-hankie Stanley Kramer movie with genuine avant-garde ambition. Tough to picture? Maybe, but Kentridge's drawings and videos really do choke me up and I don't care who knows it.
3 Richard Serra (The Geffen Contemporary, Los Angeles)
After a summer of lite microbrews, a jigger of sour mash. After a Weezer CD, Robert Johnson live in my living room. After two Anna Quindlen novels in a row, refuge in Northanger Abbey. After 4,037 exhibitions of intratextual multimedia pieces addressing the issue of cultural nomadism (while exploring memory, loss, and the violated transgendered body), some real big, real abstract, real art. At last.
4 Arthur Dove (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York)
It's conceited to quote yourself, right? OK then, I'll try and paraphrase: abstract, but not too abstract; American, but not too American; small, but not too small; poetic, but not too poetic - the kind of show I hope we'll see more of at the newly back-to-basics Whitney.
5 Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert, New York; originated at Kiasma, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki)
To hear her talk, Ahtila is a cinematic formalist - she says she uses space and time as physical entities, in the same way as, say, a sculptor uses mass and volume. She also builds stories from the ground up, so to speak, about intimately connected but poignantly uncommunicative residents of Helsinki and environs. And those stories are beautiful. Footnote: So how come the genetically reticent Finns manufacture Nokia cell phones and are now the most telephonically interconnected country, per capita, in the world? (Even street sweepers stop and gab on their Nokias.) I asked my friendly native guide, who told me that Finns have all this pent-up stuff to say to each other, so long as they don't have to do it face-to-face - which just may account for the quiet intensity she gets onto film.
6 John Wesley (Jessica Fredericks Gallery, New York)
There's something really sneaky, nasty, dirty, perverted, and, all right, "transgressive" about Wesley's paintings. And they look like Necco wafers. How does he do that?
7 Claude Wampler (Postmasters Gallery, New York)
First you gotta get their attention. Flitting about naked onstage is one way to do it. I'd already seen a tape of Wampler's latest performance piece, but I went to the gallery show hoping to catch this compelling performer in the flesh. What I got (and I guess deserved) was a big-screen dressing down. Wampler, as a domineering morn in a steam bath with "jumbo shrimp" Magic Markered on her forehead and some kind of jellied blood oozing from her nostrils, hurled Naumanesque abuse. Peering at me through a fish-eye lens, she left me no choice but to listen. And, you know, I have to agree with her: Whatever did make me think I could get into an Ivy League school?
8 Apex Art C.P., New York
This gallery's address is 291 Church Street, which has got to be a coincidence, or else there's a god of modern art out there. Anyway, this place puts on intelligent ("smart" is probably the word I want) little shows of mostly pocket-size or stripped-down works - the kind of stuff I come across in my professional travels and fear won't make it to New York. Apex is a nonprofit with some noble and complicatedly fair system for curating its shows, but that's not what gets me there. I just like to wander in for a recharge whenever the battery warning light in my brain starts flashing.
9 Steve Hayes and Tom Cayler (Eighty Eights, New York)
I'd put these guys higher up on my list if this entry weren't so self-congratulatory. My wife and I saw Hayes and Cayler do a themed stand-up piece called "The Exhibition" at Eighty Eights in the Village, and we laughed our heads off. So we commissioned a performance, in her studio, for some friends. "The Exhibition" is the product of a NYSCA grant a while back, but it's still funny.
10 George Bellows (New Britain [Connecticut] Museum of Art; Williams College Museum of Art)
No, not whole shows of Bellows, but there sure as hell ought to be. I saw two little paintings by him - Red Dinghy (in New Britain) and Portrait of a Young Man (Williams) - and was hit by Paulist lightning: this guy is right up there with Hals, Manet, and Sargent as one of the fastest, bestest brushes in the West. Plus, he's got soul. There's also a roomful of Bellows in the National Gallery that will (with maybe two exceptions) absolutely floor you. Time for a huge retro. We want Bellows! We want Bellows! We want . . .
Peter Plagens is a contributing editor of Artforum and the art critic for Newsweek.
1 Pierre Bonnard (Museum of Modern Art, New York; co-organized by the Tate Gallery, London) The delicious paradox in the title of Richard Howard's poem "Bonnard: A Novel" has finally come into focus. I had always thought this out-of-sync master made French confections too pretty and boneless for the tough narrative of twentieth-century art. How his plot has suddenly thickened! The cloistered, fragrant mysteries of the artist's private world, with its hide-and-seek muses, now evoke .the eeriness of Hitchcock. And these autobiographical ghosts finally stare at us head-on in a heartbreaking group of late self-portraits that rival even Munch's and Picasso's ultimate mirror revelations.
2 Chaim Soutine (Jewish Museum, New York) Thanks to the rejuvenating curatorial views of Norman Kleeblatt and Kenneth Silver, who presented both Soutine, upholder of the Louvre's traditions, and Soutine, Saint John in the AbEx wilderness, I was unexpectedly awakened by this major-minor artist who looked in so many directions and who seems at once so crazy and so sane. At the core of this fresh attraction to what Simon Schama unforgettably dubbed "gastric expressionism" may be Soutine's volcano of gutsy pigment, which can instantly satisfy any current nostalgia for the flesh and juice of oil paint. This old-master turbulence has returned at just the right moment.
3 Mark Rothko (National Gallery, Washington, DC) Having lived for decades with my own ruminations about this myth-prone genius, I was afraid that it might be time to wake up and just see pretty pictures instead of mystical omens. But, to my astonishment, this retrospective rekindled ancient faith. The best of these gorgeous canvases can still make you stand at the brink of who knows what and force you to reach for such embarrassing words as "beauty" and "nothingness."
4 Edward Burne-Jones (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) Preferring the insanely sharp-focus vision of the first generation of Pre-Raphaelites, I tended to ignore the later, more wishy-washy mutations of this breed. But "Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer" turned out to be bigger than life, a veritable theme park of Arthurian magic and languid sexuality, a floor-to-ceiling environment that immerses you in everything from stained glass to a hand-painted grand piano. The late canvases are marvels of Symbolist somnolence that can take you to murky places you've never been before.
5 Mariko Mori (Serpentine Gallery, London) Speaking of theme parks, Mariko Mori's might have floated down into Hyde Park from some alien planet that fused the populist high-tech seduction of Disney with the most exquisite refinements of Japan. A self-created goddess in ever-changing guises - holograms, 3-D movies, son et lumiere - she has materialized an immaterial universe, whose twinkling enchantment wafts us to both a fairy-tale past and a sci-fi future.
6 Gilbert & George (Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris) Gilbert & George's utopian ambition of bringing art to the people may have been nearly as successful as Van Gogh's. In Paris, huge crowds, especially the younger generations, swarmed around three decades of the duo's ever-expanding universe. From small black-and-white photos of dreary, walled-up East End private life to Full Monty performances of billboard dimensions, this London-based Virgil and Dante go on inventing new heavens and hells that rush us from here to eternity. I never stop marveling at the private rigor and public accessibility of their twinned dreams and nightmares.
7 Mike Bidlo (Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York) Obsession to the nth degree is what we've come to expect from Bidlo's worshipfully exact replications of everything from Guernica to Warhol's Bonwit Teller windows, but this show ups the ante. As a Sorcerer's Apprentice to Duchamp, Bidlo has made a seemingly infinite number, not of porcelain urinals, but of freehand variations on that sacred icon of modern art, each one miraculously different from its neighbor and from its mythmaking source. Can there be this many votive candles?
8 Vanessa Beecroft: Show (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York) "Post-human," the ever-more topical category Jeffrey Deitch defined in his 1992 exhibition, had a spectacular new entry in this one-night performance that now seems more dream than reality. A weird marriage of the naked and the clothed, the body and its double, these twenty immaculate clones of the ideal female created a mirage that hovered somewhere between the Rockettes and a fashion-world Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I will never forget how ravishing and creepy it all was, and how emphatically it did and didn't answer the nagging question of what both real women and department-store dummies might look like stripped of their Gucci wardrobes.
9 Charles Ray (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) As for Ray, long a member of the post-human gang, this retrospective gave me a fuller sense of his embalmed universe, where we can no longer distinguish between glass eyes and real pubic hair, giants and midgets, life and death. That towering, dressed-for-success businesswoman still hovers over me, and that once-real automobile crash is still a gray ghost in a much spookier car cemetery than those of Arman and Chamberlain.
10 "Picasso and Photography: The Dark Mirror" (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) Almost every year, Picasso has to be reconstructed as an even more complex artist than the one we thought we knew. Synthesizing a series of exhibitions at the Musee Picasso, Paris, Anne Baldassari has shuffled a whole new deck of Picasso cards, this time photographs. They include the master's own magpie collection, ranging from ethnography to kitsch; snapshots - landscapes, portraits, still lifes - that he took himself; and both mysterious and jokey handmade emendations to everything from news photos to Vogue fashion plates. After rummaging through this attic, we end up with countless fresh images that can even cast new light on the Demoiselles d'Avignon and Girl Before a Mirror. Like Satan, Picasso never sleeps.
Robert Rosenblum, a contributing editor of Artforum, is professor of fine arts at New York University and a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
1 Yayoi Kusama (Museum of Modern Art, Robert Miller Gallery, Peter Blum Gallery, New York) Nude bodies deserve to be seen and then covered with polka dots. One point of painting, after all, is to touch the body, repeatedly, obsessively. I love Kusama's return from obscurity; her self-dramatization; her indefatigability; her one-after-another seriality; her willingness to baffle and bore and outlast her critics. Three cheers.
2 The Gaiety This noble relic - strip bar, dance hall, tryst station, priapic parlor, variety show - still features consistently better performances than anywhere on or off or off-off Broadway. A standing rebuke to Giuliani's morals squad, who are busy ruining visual culture where it is liveliest - in Times square, in situ, in pornography.
3 Glenn Ligon (Max Protetch Gallery, New York; Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art) This painter, sculptor, and installation artist, also photographer, who was given a major retrospective this year at the ICA, continues to break new, difficult ground. In his most recent gallery show, at Max Protetch, I was most moved by a scrap-book of photos the artist took, as a boy, of his fornicating neighbors, a not conventionally photogenic couple of great sexual inventiveness and zeal. These deadpan, diurnal, decidedly nonglamorous snapshots, cheerful and calm and unperturbed, teach the interpenetration of homemaking and pornography: porn's subject is the home body, the arts of the home. Also in the show were walls of cartes de visite - calling cards, with the artist's name below gay porn shots from the recent past. Ligon's willingness to identify the unspeakable, and to identify with it, is an inspiration.
4 Francis Ponge, Soap, translated by Lane Dunlop (Stanford University Press) First American publication of one of the twentieth century's most important poetic/philosophic texts, a meditation demonstrating that thinking about next to nothing (a bar of soap) can be as difficult and beautiful as thinking about the enormous, the permanent, and the sanctified: "And this is why, doubtless, at this time, I have chosen this subject. Because it was necessary to find that one - and perhaps the only one - which reassures me, which justifies speech - and even stammering, gibberish. . . . Now, there is evidently much to be said about soap." (Dunlop's translation was first published in Great Britain, in 1969. The original French text, Le Savon, debuted in 1967.)
5 Mary Heilmann (Pat Hearn Gallery, New York) It has been a good year for painting, and Heilmann's are among my favorite examples: bright, spot-on, buoyant perfection, an antidote to winter. Sometimes I have heard pretty art tautologically damned as "too aesthetic." Heilmann, to her everlasting credit, is not afraid of being aesthetic. I am especially fond of those paintings (Mint, Slice, AEI, Jellyfish) in which she indulges the eye with green, summoning thoughts of Aquafresh, ice cream, and Miami. Her palette demands bonhomie, as if archly legislating it.
6 Charles Ray (Whitney Museum of American Art; organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) There is pleasure to be found in looking at deadened inanimate individuals who possess a secret liveliness. ! was especially grateful for the self-replicating orgy (Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley . . .), for the video fashion show (a sequence of ingeniously dreary outfits), and for the sculpture of the surreally tall woman. Estranging, to watch museum-goers watching mannequins.
7 Claude Wampler (Postmasters Gallery, New York) Wampler's exemplary, pincer-fine abjections bring pain, laughter, and shock - especially her Jumbo
Shrimp video installation, in which the performance artist delivers a monologue in the persona of "Mother," wearing a neck cast. She is ranting, she is monotonous, and she is familiar.
8 Amy Sillman (Casey Kaplan, New York) Of her paintings, which are winsome and elegant partly because they don't seem to value elegance (while entirely prizing color and digression), the artist writes: "I have an eye for the beauty of ugliness, awkwardness, isolation. Like a fatso, my paintings are built for comfort, not for speed." In Miniature Illinois, a square patch of orange on the horizon, like a medicinal poultice, gives the viewer a happy sense that a clean, nifty mistake has been made, and followed through, not rejected or corrected. In Blizzard 2-14, a black oval over a confused person's buttocks is neither spanking nor seat, but simply a decorous subpoena, a pleasant diversion from the horizontal, the vertical, and the rectangular.
9 Mike Bidlo (Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York) The diary of a perverse quest: hundreds of drawings of urinals, ostensibly Duchamp's fountain, on telephone book pages and other scraps. A visual essay on the different weights and textures and affordances of paper, Bidlo's installation is oddly Kusama-like in its serial tirelessness, its hunger for increment: a slow, extended, ecstatic homage to nearly nothing. Why move on from illuminations that haven't yet been understood? Like a litany of polka dots, the instances of fountain repeat their muted message.
10 Joan Mitchell/John Chamberlain (Cheim & Read, New York) This revelatory juxtaposition of lyrical paintings and smashed-car sculptures reminds me that the poetics of accident are not yet exhausted, and that artists and critics should never hesitate to place, next to each other, concepts or images that don't quite seem to match. The most farfetched comparisons are often the most illuminating.
Wayne Koestenbaum is the author of The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire (1993), and Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon (1995). His third volume of poetry is forthcoming in 1999.
1 Carroll Dunham (Metro Pictures) Painting's Best Boy celebrates confusion and conflict, psychosocial eruption, and the joys of aggression. Urgent and thoroughly rehearsed, this nine-canvas solo (which opened just after last year's Top 10s went to press) was the breakthrough moment this artist's rooting section had been waiting for. Dunham's monstrous masculine creatures - exuding protrusions, poking and squirting at each other in slapstick combat - become hieroglyphic symbols in this cartoon-colored psychic romp. Playful, unfettered, and damn well painted too.
2 Rachel Whiteread, Water Tower (New York) A ghost on the horizon: At twilight the tower is purple, the translucent cast resin pulling in light, holding the remnants of the day; when the sun is high it vanishes, evaporating into the skyline. An echo, a memory - here and gone. The house knocked down . . . the Holocaust memorial not built . . .
3 The Wooster Group's Kate Valk (in House/Lights and The Emperor Jones) A fearless actress. Her command of the dramatic gesture, her control of vocal intonation combined with surprising outbursts of sound and motion, and the speed with which she shifts mood and character astound. In each production Valk mutates, shifting, remaking herself. You have no idea who she really is, except that each time you see her it's like a minor miracle. How does she do that?
4 Richard Yates He's hard to find these days. Try used-book stores, rare book rooms, the local library. A cult figure once again on the rise, Yates (who died in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1992) is as current - or more so - than today's paper. Revolutionary Road, his infamous tome (originally published in 1961 and reissued by Vintage in 1989) defines the suburban novel: marriage, family, frustration, failure. Other titles: The Easter Parade (1976) and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (1962). Yates's prose is cuttingly clear, heartbreakingly accurate. My favorite, Disturbing the Peace (1975), is an almost unbearably intense account of a man unraveling.
Listen in on John Wilder, American Dream on a bender, calling his wife from a phone booth, telling her that he can't come home:
"Why?" she said.
"Jesus. Hundreds of reasons. More reasons than I could possibly begin to - possibly begin to enumerate. One thing, I forgot to get a present for Tommy."
"Oh John, that's absurd. He's ten now; he doesn't expect a present every time you -"
"Okay, here's another thing. There was a girl in Chicago, little PR girl for one of those distilleries. I screwed her five times in the Palmer House. Whaddya think of that?"
It goes on . . .
"John, I'm not listening to any more of this. Tell me why you can't come home."
"You really want to know, sweetheart? Because I'm afraid that I might kill you, that's why. Both of you."
5 Vanessa Beecroft, Show (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) The Stepford Wives stripped bare for one night only. Beige body makeup blanched the seminude models' skin an even tone. "One of the best haircutters in the city was called in to do the pubic hair," someone leaned over and whispered in my ear. A chill traveled down my spine. Was it the hot breath in my ear or the shimmer of Gucci glitter?
6 Viagra Hard candy.
7 Peter Garfield, Harsh Realty (self-published) Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, "How do you make those houses fly?" Domestic domiciles sail through the air, a mobile home crashes to earth, falling past power lines, splitting open like an English muffin. In "Split Level, Babylon, New York," the house goes to pieces in midflight. The catalogue features photographs - proof in pictures - of, for example, a helicopter lifting the house off the ground, while the artist and his team in hard hats stand by, conferring. The best part is that none of it is real - it's all a fake: There is no house, there is no home.
8 "Alexander Calder, 1898-1976" (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) This show brought me back to the museum of my childhood. Calder's kinetic compositions move like a well-choreographed dance, with the precision and delicacy of musical notes. The works are amalgams of high-modern intelligence and Yankee ingenuity - the man invented the mobile for God's sake!
9 William Kentridge His "drawings for projection" have been sprinkled across the globe this year like little video bread crumbs. Follow the trail to . . . Barbara Gladstone, the Drawing Center - San Diego, Brussels, Munich, Sao Paulo, Tokyo. Kentridge was everywhere, his videos glowing bluish-black-and-white, lingering in the odd corners of galleries, between hushed white walls. Animated on video, his drawing appears and disappears, creating wry and disturbing narratives - anxious, fragmented, hallucinatory. One almost hears the scrape of the charcoal across the paper, the eraser pulling at the page, the struggle, internal wrestling. For Kentridge, the personal is political. These are the only art videos I can sit through from beginning to end and then watch again. Top pick: History of the Main Complaint.
10 Monica Lewinsky Like it or not, 1998 was Monica's year. As our unofficial Miss America, she gave a demented face to our United State of embarrassment. My gut votes: Try her as a public nuisance and sentence her to two years of community service - giving blow jobs at Sing Sing. My conscience chimes in: You're demonizing the symptom instead of the scourge. So on second thought, let's send Starr and the rest of the perverted lot up the river instead.
A.M. Homes is a New York-based novelist and contributing editor of Vanity Fair, covering the arts. Her new novel, Music for Torching, is forthcoming from Rob Weisbach Books this May.
1 Oz (HBO) Home Box Office's determinedly transgressive series about prison life revels in the naughty bits they can't show on network television: graphic violence, rampant drug abuse, and male frontal nudity. With homoerotic tension to burn, Oz serves up a weekly prison-porn fantasia curiously packaged in an otherwise conventional hour-long-television-drama format. Sort of like Eight Is Enough with anal penetration. As the crusty but benign social worker Sister Peter Marie, Rita Moreno makes the whole thing fly.
2 Tony Smith (Museum of Modern Art, New York) There was much to love in the Tony Smith show at MOMA, the artist's first comprehensive retrospective at a major US institution - especially the massive, geometric sculptures with hippy-dippy names like Moondog and Free Ride. But the real revelation of the show was its architectural component, curated by John Keenen. Like his artwork, Smith's architectural projects - whether built or unrealized - resist categorization. They seem to synthesize the organic forms of Frank Lloyd Wright (for whom Smith worked in the late '30s) and the rigorous, abstract principles of European modernism. Smith's work as an architect, which spanned twenty-three years, has rarely been accorded the serious consideration it received at MOMA.
3 The Dodi and Diana Memorial at Harrods A spectacularly vulgar, baroque confection installed in the London department store owned by Dodi al Fayed's father. I searched desperately, but without success, for a crash-themed souvenir boutique or photo booth.
4 Pharmaceutical Advertising on Television For reasons unknown to me, ads for prescription medications didn't appear on television until recently. Now, TV is awash in pitches for drugs that treat every conceivable human ailment, including a host of tawdry "social diseases." Because corporate drug pushers are legally required to disclose their products' potential side effects, the ads' aggressively upbeat images of people living without fear of allergy attacks or inopportune herpes outbreaks are accompanied by voice-overs that cheerfully acknowledge the headaches, nausea, paralysis, and seizures that users of a given medication may suffer. An advertisement for a new antibalding pill warns pregnant women not to handle broken tablets due to "risk of a certain birth defect." That certainly aroused my curiosity.
5 Starship Troopers (dir. Paul Verhoeven) This lurid, mesmerizing sci-fi spectacle envisions a future in which nubile warriors with abs of steel must save the world from malevolent superbugs that colonize the galaxy by hurling their spores into space. When our heroes (all of whom seem to be alumni of the Darren Star Academy) attempt to invade the insects' home planet of Klendathu, the nasty critters respond by farting deadly streams of plasma at the approaching warships. The breathtaking battle scenes are worthy of Cecil B. DeMille, or perhaps Russ Meyer. Best Supporting Actress honors go to Rue McClanahan for her work as a renowned entomologist tatted up as if she were a refugee from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
6 Madonna, Ray of Light (Maverick) The Immaterial Girl's got a brand new bag: She's cuckoo for cabala! Mad for mendhi! Nuts for New Age! Whatever. She still produced one of the best albums of the year. The Koyaanisqatsi-style video for the album's title track was a triumph - sexy, arty, hypnotizing. Madonna may have turned forty this year, but she can still kick the collective ass of all those anemic complaint-rock songbirds on MTV.
7 "Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979" (The Geffen Contemporary, Los Angeles) This ambitious, provocative survey of performance art and related forms shed much-needed light on its relatively obscure subject, overcoming the formidable challenges posed by the work's ephemeral nature. I was riveted by the sheer insanity and desperate avant-gardism of many of the projects. Consider the gory antics of the Vienna Aktionismus. I love the story of Rudolf Schwarzkogler dying as a result of cutting off his own membrum virile in a performance - even if it is a myth. And I was particularly fascinated by the work of radical Japanese artists who, with the exception of Yayoi Kusama, were entirely unknown to me.
8 Jane Kaplowitz (Curt Marcus Gallery, New York) Insanity and violence: two great tastes that taste great together. In her show of enormous murals and drawings based on film stills from Taxi Driver, Jane Kaplowitz restored a visceral sense of creepiness to iconic images emasculated by overexposure. Kaplowitz laid claim to those familiar stills, transforming them fundamentally as personal studies in watercolor, acrylic, pencil, and oil stick. The psychological complexities of her subject were amplified into a dizzying (and seductive) kaleidoscope of madness, obsession, and rage.
9 Paul Rudolph's Manhattan Penthouse Following Rudolph's death last year, a campaign was launched to preserve his three-story apartment on Beekman Place, a marvel of architectural bravado and dazzling eccentricity. The penthouse's vertiginous composition recalls the Art and Architecture building at Yale - his best-known work - but here the material of choice is not brutal concrete but thick slabs of clear acrylic. Rudolph, a former marine who sported a military-style brush cut, clearly had a taste for the louche. Among the penthouse's more idiosyncratic features are its infamous peep-show shower stalls and a transparent acrylic hot tub that provides a vista of bathing booties to people standing on the level below.
10 Jil Sander's Final Solution The celebrated fashion designer has established company offices in a nineteenth-century German Neoclassical villa in Hamburg brilliantly renovated by architect Michael Gabellini. It's truly stunning. Emptiness has never been so gorgeous. One problem: The building's incarnation as a temple of discipline and rigor has a spooky, Master Race vibe. Jil, if you need the number of a good feng shui master, give me a call.
Mayer Rus is the editor in chief of Interior Design magazine.
1 Robert Gober (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) With this exhibition, which ended just as the year was beginning, Gober's visual poetry achieved a depth rare for any artist. He has joined the company of Philip Guston, Louise Bourgeois, Samuel Beckett, Jasper Johns, and very few others who successfully navigated the passage to consummate creative maturity. Gober's new work should be savored and doted on. In this Marian-heresy-as-installation, he refigures the iconography of father and son and the womb of the Blessed Virgin in a way that deftly eviscerates "faith" and "innocence."
2 Monsters of Grace, Philip Glass and Robert Wilson (Brooklyn Academy of Music) As BAM's producing director, Joseph Melillo, formulates the creative direction that will carry this indispensable institution into the next century, Monsters of Grace provides a moment to remember how and where that future began. Since Einstein on the Beach (two decades ago), Glass and Wilson have been out in front of the fusion of the visual and performing arts. And while Monsters cannot become the watershed that Einstein was - history won't allow it - Glass and Wilson continue to weave the diverse threads of visual and performance culture into a seamless fabric.
3 "The Drawings of Victor Hugo" (The Drawing Center, New York) Hugo kept these drawings to himself, never exhibiting them in his lifetime. And that is fitting, insofar as the cultural register that produced Les Miserables could not have made much of this body of work. One hundred and forty years later we can sift out of this material Hugo's various prefigurations of Symbolism, Expressionism, and Surrealism.
4 Daniel Libeskind, The Jewish Museum, Berlin Though the museum won't be open to the public until fall 1999, I can't help singling out this yet-to-be-completed building as a high point of my year. Libeskind's gift is alchemy: Implausibly blurring monument, sculpture, and architecture, he has literally woven the museum into Berlin's ominous urban history. Incised walls frame a view of the Goethe monument in the Tiergarten or point toward the Wannsee villa where the Final Solution was formulated in 1942. The museum is faithfully fixed on the history of the Holocaust, yet in the end the "irrepresentability" of this subject overtakes the "site-specific" and renders an overall effect.
5 Your Friends & Neighbors (dir. Neil LaBute) LaBute's serving of raw social behavior on the half shell is an unblinking, nearly anthropological inspection of modern intimacy. Social politics as a contact sport - it's why I live in New York.
6 "Archigram: Experimental Architecture, 1961-1974" (Thread Waxing Space) If you subscribe to Wallpaper", as I do, then you have finally caught up with Archigram's irresistible embrace of consumer culture. Once thought of as droll architects, they nursed a suave intuition that desire, technology, media, infrastructure, and mass culture would eventually meld. And they did. The Archigram cadre have come back into focus as futuristic visionaries predicting a strain of the "archidigital fusion" now practiced by Rem Koolhaas and a minority of his equals.
7 "The Drawings of Filippino Lippi and His Circle" (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) These sanguine and graceful drawings from the hand of the painter well known for his fluent treatment of bizarre, frightening, and sensational episodes from the lives of saints are extraordinary in their number and exquisite draftsmanship. Here, context made the show. Lippi's drawings were surrounded by related works from peers and precursors, including Filippino's father, Fra Filippo Lippi, and Sandro Botticelli, whose influence on Filippino, was perhaps even greater.
8 Jason Dodge, "Helsinki" (Casey Kaplan, New York) Jason Dodge possesses an extremely light touch considering the stately and sterile effects of his raw, exaggerated iconography. In Storage, 1997-98, for example, pure, uncut style becomes content. Lufthansa orange, Alvar Aalto's bent-birch style, and reference to the new Finnish design collective Snowcrash are all brought into the mix, producing something that lends new meaning to "saturation overdose." Art history and the history of design will of course be helpful as one wades into Dodge's work, but don't miss his nods to Kubrick, Nabokov, and Vonnegut.
9 "Egon Schiele: The Leopold Collection, Vienna" (Museum of Modern Art, New York) As we know, Schiele's jubilation in subjects pubescent and female was total. And while unblinking vulvas promised to be the centerpiece of the show, they were eclipsed by racism, politics, and restitution. (Apparently some of these works found their way into the Leopold Collection along paths ugly and irredeemable.) In and of itself the exhibition was exceptional, beyond plush, forceful, and often lyrical, but this I willingly sacrifice to a lesson yet to be learned in many quarters of the art world: As Edward Teller, the architect of the H-bomb, put it, "There is no case where ignorance should be preferred to knowledge, especially if the knowledge is terrible."
10 "Pop Surrealism" (Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut) This survey came not a minute too soon; the younger artists included have reached critical mass. And while the title "Pop Surrealism" may provide too tight a grip, the exhibition does map out much of the art world's current terrain. The artistic alloy of dreams, advertising, underground comics, film, TV, and the grotesque takes this exhibition beyond a sophomoric recitation of high and low influences. A full-fledged hybrid, a third, self-ruling enterprise comes into light when you see works by Richard Artschwager, Peter Saul, Lari Pittman, and Cindy Sherman next to pieces by Tony Matelli, Lisa Yuskavage, Bonnie Collura, and Anna Gaskell.
Ronald Jones is an artist represented in New York by Metro Pictures and Sonnabend Gallery. He is chair of the Division of Visual Arts and director of the Digital Media Center in the School of the Arts, Columbia University.
1 Kawasaki Ninja (Le Marais, Paris) I am pleased to announce that the lime green Ninja has now become a vehicle of archness, the transportation of hilarious choice for navigating the streets of this ground zero of hip.
2 Kick the Cat One of the less noticed aspects of the much rumored labor comeback was the inspiring endgame in the long struggle between Caterpillar and the United Auto Workers. Led by the fire-breathing writers for this Decatur, Illinois, 'zine, the rank-and-file actually rejected a contract that their union had negotiated and chose more time on the picket line over abandoning fired colleagues. What's more, their defiance worked: A month later Caterpillar agreed to a better contract. In a year that has seen so many complaints about public "cynicism," Kick the Cat represents the kind of cynicism we hope to see much more of.
3 The Battle of Chile (dir. Patricio Guzman) It's become a commonplace in our pseudo-populist culture to celebrate "town hall meetings," "interactivity," and "participation" as the ne plus ultra of democratic enlightenment. Most such talk is, of course, empty rhetoric, which is perhaps why this film, which was screened at revival and "art" houses in September, comes as such a revelation: The passion and intensity with which ordinary people are shown discussing questions of national consequence are political sensations almost unknown in the US. In fact, the movie would be the perfect subject matter for some "public journalist" looking for archetypal scenes of popular democracy to praise were it not for the fact that the Chilean democracy was overthrown by a military junta that, with the not-so-tacit support of many of the newspaper columnists who now pine plaintively for "popular democracy," quickly embarked on a course of massacre and assassination. That twenty-fifth-anniversary payback sure would have been nice. . .
4 "Our Town: Post Office Murals of the New Deal Era" (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC) One of these days we'll at last grow tired of convicting the avant-gardes of the '30s on trumped-up aesthetic charges invented in the red-hysterical '50s. When we do, exhibitions like this one, of the murals that still dot post offices throughout the small-town Midwest, might be better appreciated.
5 First Union Television Commercial First Union is only the most prominent of the financial institutions that have rushed to the airwaves in response to recent, um, unease. This commercial, reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, all but admits that the financial world is a nightmarish carnival of thievery, and invents an evocative set of images to boot: A man's porcelain head breaks on the ground; giant coins and '59 Cadillacs roll by; men in frock coats ride merry-go-rounds or walk around with "Acquire me" signs on their backs. "Banks and investment firms of mountainous size have ruled the land," goes the voice-over. True enough, but consumers are bound to wonder why, given such a convincing rendering of late capitalism, they would ever consider turning to another bank of mountainous size? Fuck First Union! Give me Eugene Debs!
6 Meredith Bagby, Rational Exuberance (Dutton, 1998) For encapsulating everything that's wrong about the "Gen X" idea, this one deserves a Top 10 all its own. It's hard to say what should be no. 1: Bagby's monumentally ill-informed '60s baiting? Her proud equation of media appearances by a given young person with success? Her almost complete ignorance, in a chapter about the workplace, of those who don't have white-collar jobs? Or her absolutely bizarre tendency, amid photos of nicely posed, clean-looking young millionaires, to frame all this entrepreneur worship in a language of the clear-eyed, futurific nobleness of youth that she lifts almost whole from books like The Greening of America and The Making of a Counter Culture?
7 The Avenida Kansas City (Seville, Spain) Natives of Kansas City will perhaps not be too surprised to discover how much of the statuary and fountains and landmarks and bits of ornament of their City Beautiful hometown are taken from originals in Seville. They will be astonished, however, to find that Seville's tribute to its "sister city" is a street lined with bleak-looking housing projects of a kind little known back home in Missouri.
8 9 10 Lasala Brand Absinthe; Bar Glaciar; Placa Reial (Barcelona, Spain) A beverage of almost fetishistic significance for the would-be flaneurs of the post-collegiate set, absinthe was this year's imaginary lifestyle accessory de rigueur: as seen in Utne Reader, Salon, Wired, and P.O.V., and on any number of websites, all of them longing rather pathetically for the days when the old avant-garde, wild-eyed, floridly dressed, openly sexed, and endlessly thirsty for the greenish boisson, seemed capable of administering genuine shocks to a sober, sexless, and downright stupid bourgeoisie. The drink's scarcity/illegality transforms it into a bona fide article of cultural contestation, an early casualty of the war between we artists and those blundering boobs of the hinterland. Fittingly, absinthe is now legal in Prague, where young affluents are said to consume a laughably obvious fake, redolent of turpentine and vividly dyed. In Spain one can purchase the vrai stuff, but the casualness of the absinthe experience denies any of its illicit thrill. I partook in the above-mentioned cafe, which spills out into the above-mentioned square in Barcelona, a place of execution during the Inquisition that has now become a seedy center for lowest-grade international youth culture. I tried to summon appropriate images of my favorite Symbolists (perhaps Lasala was Rimbaud's brand?), but wound up watching a squad of German youths, drunk to pukedness, make a great display of feint-kicking each others' crotches. Unfortunately, people live in the apartments facing the Placa Reial, and the constant circus of absinthe tipplers has of late driven them to hanging homemade exhortations to civility from their windows. One of them read: "Don't Piss, Please." Redeeming feature: Neither this nor any nearby establishments boasted pictures of Ernest Hemingway.
Thomas Frank is editor of The Baffler and a frequent contributor to Artforum. His most recent book is The Conquest of Cool (University of Chicago Press, 1997).
1 Jannis Kounellis (Henry Moore Studio, Halifax, England) There may have been few inspired moments in "artanspennine 98" - a show of commissioned work with the grandiose goal of carving out a new cultural region stretching across the entire north of England - but Kounellis's massive iron disks, hugging the columns of a huge nineteenth-century mill complex, offered a genuinely Promethean spin on Britain's epic industrial past. The fatigue factor of the heavy-metal heritage was countered by the artist's mere gesture of exposing an element that was already present. Simply by opening up a small drain in the floor and shining a light down on the forgotten stream that had originally powered this particular Dark Satanic Mill, Kounellis destabilized and complicated the site, making the whole piece literally sing.
2 Gavin Turk (South London Gallery) It was a typical Turk stunt to open his much-anticipated show with everything tantalizingly hidden under Christo-esque wraps. Beneath the veil, though, the many modes of Turk confirmed that his ongoing investigation into how we want our art (and artists) to behave has lost none of its deftness and rigor - nor its ability to piss people off. The life-size wax pieces (Turk-as-Marat, Turk-as-derelict) attracted the most attention, but I lost my heart to his pair of giant white balls of chewing gum, framed by the Neoclassical roundels in the gallery wall.
3 "The Quick and the Dead: Artists and Anatomy" (Leeds City Art Gallery, organized by the Hayward Gallery, London) Fact and fiction, art and medicine, the exquisite and the grotesque met, mingled, and merged in this glorious bodyfest running from Leonardo, Durer & Co. up to the most recent probings and manipulations of the human form. Cindy Sherman's prosthetic composites and Marc Quinn's molten self-portraits seemed right at home alongside earlier anatomical fantasies such as Juan de Valverde de Hamusco's sixteenth-century Roman-style tunics with their intestinal inserts, and an eighteenth-century painting of Virgin and Child, in which an open-wombed mother offers her breast to a dissected fetus.
4 Richard Billingham: Fishtank (BBC 2) Billingham's TV debut pushes you so close to his fighting, drinking, low-income family that it hurts. His photographs have always wrong-footed any neat interpretation, and now Fishtank uses a camcorder to up the emotional ante with an often excruciating, sometimes exquisite fusion of intimacy and objectivity. It's a strange sensation to scrutinize mother Liz as she puts on her makeup, or to be made to linger on the ravaged face and sagging throat of father Ray. But Billingham doesn't ask for your sympathy or empathy - his work is neither soap opera nor social documentary. In this film, flies on the wall tend to get swatted.
5 "Picasso: 1917-24" (Palazzo Grassi, Venice) So what if Picasso never made it to Venice? If the theme of the show was the impact the artist's two trips to Italy had on his work, the focus was the theater. The stagey, swanky Palazzo Grassi was the perfect venue for this frisky show heaving with commedia dell'arte. It also covered my favorite slice of his career, when the stunning line drawings and weighty Neoclassical figurative canvases were being made in tandem with audaciously playful Synthetic Cubist pieces.
6 Bruce Nauman (Hayward Gallery, London; organized by Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) The brutalist concrete interior of the Hayward provided the perfect vessel for the Maestro's mutterings, flashings, spinnings, and pratfalls. Claustrophobia, paranoia, hilarity, and profundity all came together in a Dantesque experience of overwhelming intensity. Pieces more than a quarter century old in this important focus on his text and video work from the '60s to the '90s looked fresh and up-to-the-minute, and I was awestruck by the sheer scope of the man whose work has launched a thousand careers. We're reminded once again what a debt is owed Nauman by the current generation of young British artists!
7 Michael Raedecker (The Approach, London) Paint and thread meet to form a weird and inexplicably unpleasant chemistry in these scuzzy and unsettling canvases depicting shabby modernish houses and empty interiors. Forget craft or social commentary - these works reek of menace and the eerie sense of normality just before something really unpleasant happens. Deceptively low-key and nonchalant, they've lodged in my psyche like bad dreams that won't go away.
8 Esko Mannikko (White Cube, London; co-organized by Serpentine Gallery, London) Mannikko's extraordinary eye for composition makes his photographs of the men and women of northern Finland in their bleak domiciles seem like votive icons, Vermeer interiors, or still-lifes by Chardin. I loved their ability to be tender and melancholy but never sentimental or contrived. Like all great art, they are both part of and beyond their time and place.
9 Chris Ofili (Southampton City Art Gallery) Ofili's first major solo show surpassed all expectations with a carnivalesque, eyeball-popping procession of vivid, vibrant canvases that fizzed with energy and even glowed when the lights were switched off. A quieter counterpoint to the complicated patterns, posturing superheroes, and posing pinups of his big paintings was a series of tiny, tender oils of women's heads, called "The Chosen Ones," sometimes painted on canvases no bigger than a cassette tape.
10 "Wounds" (Moderna Museet, Stockholm) If there was no real coherent theme, "Wonnds" was largely redeemed by its outstanding parts. Cathy de Monchaux's somber slabs of floor-bound lead and spiky metal-and-leather spines animated their space with all the intensity of a force field. Juan Munoz's figures hovered between the painful and the sublime, and Willie Doherty's glowering Northern Ireland landscape photographs were especially effective in their oscillation between a sense of surveying and being surveyed when installed inside the small cells of the naval prison building adjacent to the Moderna.
Louisa Buck is a writer and broadcaster on contemporary art and a monthly columnist for UK Esquire. She is the author of Moving Targets: A User's Guide to British Art Now (Tate Gallery, 1997).
1 Doctor L, Exploring the Inside World (Barclay/Polygram) Every important development in pop music over the last two years has come out of France. Daft Punk took funk's thirty-year-old tradition of the endless groove and branded it with microchip-size beats sequenced in a new house style. Air proved that the industrial production of atmosphere can be doubly negated - the pastoral becoming pastoral again. Now there's Doctor L: above all, trip soul in a generous, modernized, psychedelic Norman Whitfield tradition. Everything but the vocals is sampled, yet the musical codes from three decades of club and street music aren't so much cited as laid down like ciphers for states of mind. Doctor L's unconscious is structured less like a language than like a block party turned nasty.
2 Snake Eyes (dir. Brian De Palma) A flop in the States - because folks didn't like the story! Have Americans not yet learned what the director's films are all about? Snake Eyes is signature De Palma: the most interesting cinematic treatment of architectural space in the business, something Frederic Jameson and Mark Wigley might have come up with over the phone; a vision of psychic extremes that makes Alfred Hitchcock look like a cool clinician; what seems to be the longest shot in film history. And at last Nicolas Cage looks like himself again. Up there with the director's other masterworks: The Fury, Body Double, Carlito's Way, and Raising Cain.
3 "Junge Szene 1998" (Wiener Secession, Vienna) While Europe is subjected to endless rounds of club-scene and ambient art, and gruesome group shows like the Berlin Biennale force us to choke down more pop cuteness for the sake of cuteness, curator Kathrin Rhomberg succeeded with many of the same artists - like John Beck and his obsessive cages and treehouses-cum-architectural-critique. In this veritable Kinderdocumenta (installed in a relatively small space), the various positions remain distinct and discernible and get a chance to speak in ways that have resonance.
4 King Britt Presents Sylk 130, Where the Funk Hits the Fan (Columbia/Sony) If you can't live without the voice of poet Ursula Rucker, you're better served by King Britt's release than by the slightly disappointing 4 Hero double CD (even if we can be thankful for the Alice Coltrane revival it unleashed!). In addition to her "womanist" poetry, King Britt's radio-play staging of a black adolescence in the '70s offers much more: a winged passage through utterly heterogeneous social spaces (the streets, clubs, political organizations, concerts, kitchens, kids' rooms), the music of which is not only fabulously reconstructed but invented anew for the most accurate account of an education sentimental on record since A Tribe Called Quest and Van Dyke Parks's version of Randy Newman's "Vine Street."
5 Isa Genzken (Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne) When all the Cologne galleries hold their openings on the same evening and we inhabitants have the joy of escorting out-of-town guests through the city so that they can take in nine or ten in two hours, I always make the Simpsons wager: Will a single exhibition manage to challenge, in artistic terms, the episode of said show broadcast on the same evening? Homer usually wins. But this time Isa Genzken made a loser out of me.
6 Tony Oxley's Birthday Party By its own legend, what's called "improvised music" in Europe - somewhere between "new music" and "free jazz" - was founded in the early '60s in London by the group Joseph Holbrooke. Unfortunately its members - composer Gavin Bryars, guitarist and improv-philosopher Derek Bailey, and percussionist Tony Oxley, who was later involved in such diverse pursuits as John McLaughlin's first solo album, innumerable collective improvisation projects, and running an independent label (INCUS) - never recorded an album together. Their reunion on Oxley's sixtieth birthday in the Stadtgarten in Cologne seduced old comrades and caught youngsters off guard with one of the sweetest glowing weaves the acoustic permits.
7 Rainald Goetz (www.rainaldgoetz.de) It's an unfulfilled modernist dream: The writer publishes, in real time, everything that happens as it happens. With this daily diary, Rainald Goetz comes wonderfully close to the ideal, exploiting the self-surveillance capabilities of new technology. Tom between the shame of violating another's intimacy and the titillation of reading a serialized novel, even those who had no previous interest in Goetz ask what time today he's going to open the diary. The author once noted he'd sent me a letter. That evening, before I had received it, a friend asked me: "Did you get Rainald's letter yet?"
8 Jorg Schlick/Sabine Achleitner, Bonjour Madame For the last twenty years this pair has been responsible for some serious art partying in Graz with institutions like "Forumstadtpark" and "steirischer herbst." Schlick, who is also an outstanding artist, makes electronic and other kinds of music under the name JB Slik. The latest release: Bonjour Madame, with Ultra Violet (yes, that Ultra Violet!)
9 "Baustop.randstadt" (NGBK, Berlin) As the Berlin show buildings are reaching completion, the new express trains are up and running, and the move to the new capital is underway, there are still a few who believe it makes sense to criticize the irreversible process of building a vulgar, spectacular capital and enlisting the arts in the effort. The exhibition "Baustop.randstadt" exposed the clandestine, disastrous side of the new metropolis and the attempt yet again to cut short political and cultural debate.
10 Nothing Ever Was, Anyway: Music of Annette Peacock (ECM) The oceanic music of Annette Peacock - the synthesizer artist, singer, and composer of soft and melancholic balldesque pieces that seem at once in love with and bored by the world - always appears on the verge of oblivion. We're fighting it. This double CD features Paul Motian and Gary Peacock accompanying pianist Marilyn Crispell - a congenial interpretation to Peacock's unforced, circular, at times disengaged music. My most listened to record for the year 1998.
Diedrich Diederichsen is publisher of Spex magazine in Cologne. He is the editor, most recently, of Loving the Alien: Science Fiction, Diaspora, Multikultur (Berlin: ID Verlag, 1998) and the author of the forthcoming Der lange Weg nach Mitte: Der Sound und die Stadt (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch), due out in February.
1 Pierre Bonnard (Museum of Modern Art, New York; co-organized by the Tate Gallery, London) I once thought of Bonnard as that other pretty-pretty French painter who wasn't Matisse. Soaked in a Symbolist ethos, he is anything but a Montparnassien joie-de-vivre vendor a la Utrillo or Duly. A collision of sensory overload and domestic creepiness, misery and decor, distinguishes Bonnard's work. Why did his mistress, Renee Monchaty, kill herself? Because he finally left her, returning fully to Marthe, she of the invalidism, the little dogs, the putrescent baths? Looking at the single painting of Renee on view - in which the bare outline of Marthe's profile can be discerned - one exclaims, "Radiant!" but doesn't she look a bit bizarre as well in this stridently sunny picture, a rosy Ensor mask for a face topped by a weird blond perruque?
2 Jocelyn Wildenstein Mme Wildenstein underwent massive plastic surgery so that she might better resemble a jungle cat. An inspired convergence of feline fancy and vanguard hubris, her elegant transversal of the art/life divide puts even Orlan to shame. Check out the too happy congruence of my 1998 pinnacles in the Vanity Fair photo of the bride of Wildenstein posed in the "Bonnard room" in the family's Manhattan townhouse.
3 Slavoj Zizek, "The Lesbian Session" (lacanian ink 12) For Zizek, no less than Mesdames Bonnard and Wildenstein, hysteria remains the order of the day. I reveled in his quotation from Ayn Rand's otherwise unreadable The Fountainhead: "I'm going to fight you - and I'm going to destroy you. . . . I will fight to block every step you take. I will fight to tear away every chance you want away from you. I will hurt you through the only thing that can hurt you - through your work. . . . I have done it to you today - and that is why I shall sleep with you tonight. . . . I'll come to you whenever I have beaten you - whenever I know that I have hurt you - and I'll let you own me. 1 want to be owned, not by a lover, but by an adversary who will destroy my victory over him, not with honorable blows, but with the tough of his body on mine."
4 Marilyn Manson If you watch much of daytime TV, there's no missing the sheer volume of talk shows devoted to parents outraged by their Goth kids' adulation of Manson. Their hatred is reason enough to love him. Manson's new glam-rock look totally works, and I sing along to "The Dope Show" every day: "The drugs they say/Are made in California/We love your face/We'd really like to sell you/The cops and queers/Make good-looking models/I hate today/Who will I wake up with tomorrow?"
5 Jeff Wall (Marian Goodman Gallery, New York) Austere black-and-white photographs that were poorly received when shown at Documenta X. In one, a bedraggled woman waits outside a crummy-looking Vancouver apartment. In a pointed gesture, Wall inserts a rectangle as a collage element indicating the grimy aperture through which her drug deal is transacted.
6 Andreas Gursky (Matthew Marks Gallery, New York) In New York at least, the insider track has tended to privilege the other Becher progeny - the Thomases Struth and Ruff - over Gursky. The former's photography is touted as truly Conceptual; the latter's, merely so, albeit extremely beautiful. Today, some thirty-five years since the Bechers first exhibited, Gursky's show proves the distinction tenuous, boring, specious.
7 Vilhelm Hammershoi (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York) Great rediscovery, especially for those of us who always thought Scando alienation was the coolest way to be depressed. Extra credit: Carl Theodor Dreyer cites Hammershoi as an important influence on his sublimely bleak films - another link between the painter and early-twentieth-century avant-garde culture.
8 Opticality redevivus Imagine my bemusement upon opening the September issue of Artforum to Lane Relyea's cover story on the new Color Field, only to discover my own enthusiasm for the old Color Field ridiculed in the second sentence: "'Formalism is back and better than ever,' gushed David Rimanelli in these pages a few months ago." Relyea refers to the opening of my review of the Andre Emmerich show "The Green Mountain Boys" but evidently misjudges its ironic tone. The New Sincerity's OK, I guess, but actually living a life without irony would be tough. This attitude is apparently at odds with that of the beauty-is-back-and-better-than-ever crowd who hold such sway in LA nowadays.
9 Starship Troopers (dir. Paul Verhoeven) Verhoeven, director of RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls, confirms his genius with a film extending the frontiers of cinema in a way that James Cameron's contemporaneous Titanic does not. Both are cartoon movies using real actors, but whereas Titanic wallows in bathetic goop, Starship Troopers advances a cogent travesty of humanistic hokum. In a fantastic global Earth community, nubile and plasticine youths - e.g., the eerily perky and self-aggrandizing young pilot, Carmen, played by my favorite new actress, Denise Richards - volunteer for military service in the war against a civilization of huge predatory insects. Mayhem both horrific and hilarious ensues during the Troopers' ill-fated invasion of the arachnid home planet, Klendathu. One moral of the story: While the film closes with an apparent provisional victory for man, the bugs may be superior after all. Unlike their foes, at least their fascist order is biologically determined, not merely human. Rah-rah agitprop festivals and faux commercials aside - the movie is frequently punctuated by sham online advertisements hawking the glories of "service" - the real message here is: You lose.
10 Wild Things (dir.John McNaughton) Camp is good for you, especially when it achieves this movie's auto-parodic density, subsuming multifarious TV-show cliches in a bouillabaisse of perversion. Wild Things confirms the ascendance of Denise Richards's crazy star. Best moment: Richards, the human Barbie doll with a heart of titanium, assaults Neve Campbell in the courtroom-drama sequence, slapping her while shrieking "You fucking cunt!"
David Rimanelli is a contributing editor of Artforum. He lives in New York.
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|Title Annotation:||notable art exhibits|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1998|
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