Monday, December 30, 2013

3 Works of Art That Didn't Suck in 2013

So, do you want the good news or the bad news first? Bad it is.

Art in 2013 was largely a dismal, maggoty pile of banal bullshit. Across the board, it was a dank sulfurous cloud of awful. Music? Pitchfork, Stereogum, and ack, Rolling Stone all compiled "Best of 2013" lists placing Vampire Weekend, Kanye, and Daft Punk as high water marks. A bloody nadir if ever I saw one. Cinema? The most acclaimed movies of recent years have left me yawning (and longing for John Waters' early work).

But it was in the visual arts that things got well and truly wretched. All the promise that the rise (and fusion) of lowbrow, pop surrealism, & street art held has been co-opted and boiled down to tchotchkes and sneakers. I know some of you, and for the most part I like you, but this Keane obsession must stop...and the bunnies...and that gawdam suicidal bear! I swear I've seen that fucking bear in nearly every high profile "urban" art gallery in Los Angeles. Dude, I'm glad you've found a way to make a living but do you have anything else to say? Anything at all?

Things weren't any better in the upper echelons either. "High Art" consisted of the usual oblique, esoteric nose-thumbing, or lamp shows. I stopped writing about art here because the only things compelling me to do so were venom and sadness. You have to do better. I do too. I know I'm not exempt.

Here's the good news though...when the walls are so crowded with repugnant garbage, the great stuff jumps out at you fast. I really wish this list was longer, but here are my three favorite works of art from 2013:

3) "American Nightmare" by Jason Andrew Hite

I'm not a huge fan of "preachy" art. I say this with tongue firmly in cheek. I make my fair share of preachy art. It matters how you do it though. No one goes to a gallery to be scolded. When I walked into Copro back in March and saw this piece, it was like hearing "California Uber Alles" for the first time. I was shaken to my core. I immediately grabbed Greg Escalante and said "Who made this?!" Greg, if you're reading, this may be the best thing you showed all year.

2) "I Don't Sing" by Brandi Read

Here's what I know about Brandi Read:

1) She seized my attention with a series of paintings of caryatids in April.
2) She's struggled harder than an artist of her caliber should have to, just to provide for her daughter.
3) That's her daughter in the above painting.

I don't want to even mention the gallery where this showed. The theme was just ridiculous. Google "Put A Bird On It" and you'll be amazed at how many galleries took Portlandia's satirical skit as a literal suggestion.
Brandi's response is everything I want art to be.

1) " a young Bessie Smith" by Hudson Marquez

Fine, call me a cheat. I do not care. This piece has been seen by very few people. It's never been exhibited in a gallery. It's in my home, I see it everyday. There are a number of reasons why I love this piece so much, but what it really boils down to is that I have immense affection for both Hudson and Bessie. Great art can be as simple as that...or this:

I have more good news, 2013 ends tomorrow and good riddance.

2014 is already showing quite a bit of promise though. I've had a sneek peek at a frighteningly good piece that Matjames Metson will show at the Fowler.

Also, on Jan 11th, "Two Johns and a Whore" opens at Coagula Curatorial. That show is curated by Lisa Derrick. I don't expect Lisa to show bunnies...or pull any punches.

So, Happy New Year! Give me something to write about.