Stephanie Cristello takes a look back at 2013 to survey the most groundbreaking exhibitions that presented themselves this past year.
Was there anything more visually and conceptually stimulating than Amalia Pica’s solo exhibition at the MCA in 2013? This was truly an impressive survey by the Argentinian-born, London-based artist, whose aesthetics fly under the radar in such an amazing way. Whereas the theme and subject of color is often a formal and exhausted premise for a show, Pica uses color to its full advantage, as both a metaphor and categorical approach – looking so incredibly familiar and unassuming at first, but also striking a larger concern of how we communicate and process language. Form is challenged throughout the exhibition – pieces such as Venn Diagrams (under the spotlight), where slightly overlapping theater lights with red and blue gels are projected onto the wall, or Eavesdropping, where a series of different colored vintage drinking glasses are inserted into the wall, as if suspended, are cheeky, playful, and adventurous – going against the expectation of conceptual art as an exclusively stark monochrome, while remaining sparse and poignant.
R. H. Quaytman, Passing Through the Opposite of What It Approaches, Chapter 25, 2012, acrylic, tempera, gesso on wood, 32 3/8 x 32 3/8 inches; Courtesy of the Renaissance Society.
As a writer, it would be easy to see why an artist working in “Chapters” would be appealing. This year, we were lucky enough to see one in a series of many of this ongoing practice by R.H. Quaytman, whose exhibition Passing Through the Opposite of What It Approaches, Chapter 25, at The Renaissance Society opened in early January. At a lecture of Quaytman’s the previous year, I had seen perhaps one of the most bizarre powerpoints one could possibly see on an artist’s work – not slides, but rather a series of sequentially-sized images, closely overlaid on top of one another, image after image, never once allowing the view of an individual work. Without explanation, Quaytman attempted to illustrate not only the importance of the grouping, but also the work’s relative scale, a sculptural proportion of stackable panels that can be (for storage purposes) potentially held neatly within one painting, and tucked away into a bookshelf for later revisiting. Having since followed much of her work online, it was rewarding to finally see the pieces in person. Quaytman’s work exists in an entirely different realm – definitely “required reading” for anyone interested in how we define image as text, in space.
Goshka Macuga, Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not 1, 2012. Courtesy of Andrew Kreps Gallery, Kate MacGarry Gallery, Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle. Commissioned and produced by dOCUMENTA (13) with the support of Fiorucci Art Trust, London, and Outset Contemporary Art Fund, London; Installation view, Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A, MCA Chicago, Dec 15, 2012–Apr 7, 2013; Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Research-based practices made their mark this year in Chicago and around the world – ever more present and rigorous in their thinking and execution. Polish-born, London-based artist Goshka Macuga, whose exhibition Exhibit A at the MCA marked the first survey of her work, had some pretty incredible pieces in the show I had been dying to see in person. Most importantly, it included one of the tapestry works exhibited at Documenta 13, Of What is, that it is; of what is not, that is not, 2012. Though I had read the piece was woven, the fact that this piece is not a black & white photograph was still somewhat stunning to me, as I imagine it was to many, given its material and scale. While a contemporary interest in history and curatorial practice is nothing new, Macuga’s exhibition was refreshing in contrast to other more quotational and style-driven reference based work as it was actively blurring the line between the historiographer and artist itself.
[Image on top: Amalia Pica, “Venn diagrams (under the spotlight),” 2011, Installation view, 54th Venice Biennale: ILLUMInations, 2011. Coleccion Patricia Phelps de Cisneros; Photo: Kiki Triantafyllou, courtesy of the artist; Herald St, London; Galerie Diana Stigter, Amsterdam; Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles]