- The Editors
The past year has been marked by the restoration of normality to some parts of life and the transformation of others. So it was no surprise that, when we asked contributors to pick their highlights from 2022, so many nominated shows engaged with the question of what should be restored and what abandoned, what preserved and what confined to history. These creative responses to the moment took forms as varied as archival approaches to activist art, interventionist challenges to censorship, the rewriting of history, dispersed curatorial practices, and collective exhibition-making. With the new year we too will be changing, expanding our coverage to reflect the dissolution of old forms and the emergence of new ones. Look out for forthcoming announcements, and we’ll be back on January 6. In the meantime, happy holidays. The Editors
I’ll take any opportunity to see work by the architecture collective Ant Farm. Most recently, their Dolphin Embassy project appeared in “Who Speaks for the Oceans?” at Baruch College’s Mishkin Gallery. Compiling work that ranged from whimsical to urgent, the quietly transcendent show offered a necessarily polyvocal approach to decentering the Anthropocene. Other stand-outs within the show included Myrlande Constant, Will E. Jackson, and Pia Dehne.
Tabea Blumenschein and Ulrike Ottinger’s “ZusammenSpiel” at the Berlinische Galerie explored the long-term collaboration between Ottinger, one of Germany’s preeminent feminist filmmakers, and her former partner and star of Ottinger’s most celebrated works. Its true achievement was to elevate Blumenschein as an artist in her own right through an unprecedented display of vibrant, decorative drawings that play with kitsch, gender, and self-representation.
“Transmissions from the Pleroma,” the first comprehensive survey of the artist Jerry Hunt at Blank Forms, New York, was a revelation. Mining the spiritual and mystical dimensions of sound technology, Hunt’s novel, mysterious, and flamboyant experiments with sound systems include over fifty eccentric wands, talismans, sensors, scores, and recordings, ending with video transmissions created in the final stages of the illness that killed him.
“Work in Progress” at Škuc Gallery, Ljubljana, sought to answer a question: Where do we go from here? Searching for more sustainable labor practices and prioritizing relationships over objects, this show transformed the white cube into a library and coworking space accompanied by an all-night public discussion. We may have clung to the old ways for too long, but “Work in Progress” proved that change is still within our reach.
Elfie Semotan’s “Color and Flesh” at Campeche Galería, Mexico City, was a jewel of a show. It’s rare to find photography exhibitions this precise. The laser-focused selection of ten images created a rich panorama of Elfie Semotan’s expansive career as an art and fashion photographer. Her lens wanders seamlessly between the commercial and the artistic, guided by her sharpened sense of beauty.
Imagine global economic or defense ministers not meeting for two decades. Amazingly, the 2022 Mexico City UNESCO Mondiacult Conference was the first meeting of world cultural ministers in 40 years. Convoked to center culture as a response to climate threats, security crises, and sustainable economic development goals, its legacy is the development of frameworks of international cooperation to sustain artists in an increasingly uncertain world.
Mayana Nasybullova’s total installation and series of clay sculptures “Everything is Terrible” at the Sidur Museum, Moscow, was the closest a Russian state-run museum could possibly come to publicly commenting on the war in Ukraine. Even without direct mentions of the conflict, images that resemble crying women and destroyed housing speak of the artist’s horror in the face of the war. Nasybullova has since left the country.
The exhibition of the year, measured by the impact it will have on the production of art for the coming decade, was unquestionably ruangrupa’s Documenta. But no work affected me as much this year as Maryam Tafakory’s extraordinary screening-performance at “Survival Kit 13” in Riga, which also presented a selection of the Iranian filmmaker’s shorts.
The Diego Rivera exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was much of what we expect, but also offers some surprises: two surrealist paintings done after he and André Breton released the Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art, calling for both political engagement and artistic freedom. The paintings reflect Rivera’s willingness to move outside of his familiar territory, to risk, to fail.
“La Pista 500” at Pinacoteca Agnelli, Turin, had great works by artists including Nina Beier, VALIE EXPORT, and Shilpa Gupta. But I was totally amazed by Cally Spooner’s “score for a cello, a building and anything that happens to be in between them.” It was one of the most beautiful and touching experiences I’ve had this year. I took a bad video on my phone and still watch it. Steve Bishop's exhibition “All Ages” at Carlos/Ishikawa in London touched me in similar ways.
“The World Does not Believe in Tears,” at Galeria Arsenał in Białystok, presented artists from the Polish region of Podlasie, now synonymous with Catholic fundamentalism and right-wing politics. Playing with the popular poetics of nostalgia, the exhibition countered the prevailingly enthusiastic narrative about the transition from socialism to free market capitalism by highlighting those marginalized and deprived of the economic privilege.
Deeply visceral and full of life, Rachel Jones’s “say cheeeeese” at London’s Chisenhale Gallery delved into the interior of the Black body, depicting textured teeth and gums. The British artist created a new series of large-scale abstractions, featuring her signature motifs and bold line work. With expressive blocks of color and layered shapes, Jones invited her audience to contemplate ideas of selfhood.
My exhibition-going felt sporadic this year, but a favorite moment was sitting in the third row of the small cinema of Close-Up Film Centre, London, watching John Smith’s early works before hearing him reflect on them, clear-eyed, clever, and charismatic as ever. Like Close-Up, he’s one of London’s gems and attending “John Smith: Introspective (1972 – 2022),” co-hosted by the ICA, felt precious.
“Empire through the Lens” at the Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, was a display of compelling historical photographs of the British Empire and Commonwealth: a Nara warrior, a palm oil plantation, a white baby, a prison camp, Woolworths in Barbados, a slaughtered leopard. The commentaries written by artists, historians, and descendants of the subjects or photographers were eye-opening. They explained this world to themselves in very different ways.
I was impressed by the video installation School without School (2022) in Hertica School House during Manifesta 14. This installation works with a traumatic memory and commemoration that hurts even after more than twenty years. Yarema Malashchuk and Roman Khimei’s “So They Won’t Say We Don’t Remember” at Galeria Arsenał, Białystok, framed the concept of youth, reality, and future, by reflecting and reacting on the Soviet past and the war, escapism, and resistance.
One exhibition I will not stop thinking about is Emily Hesse’s “The Witches’ Institution (W.I.)” at The Tetley, Leeds, which imagined how the marginalized practices of an oppressed people might form the foundations for a new kind of cultural institution. Rooted in place and experience, rigorously researched, materially sensitive, and imbued with transformative magic, Hesse’s imaginings proliferated with feverish generosity. The artist’s death in November is a huge loss.
Two exhibitions at the MO Museum, Vilnius, allowed local art histories to flow seamlessly into a wider art historical conversation. “The Meeting That Never Was,” organized in collaboration with Eindhoven’s Van Abbemuseum, featured Lithuanian artists active between 1955 and 2000 meeting their cousins from Western art canon. “Op Art Reflections” grounded optical art in local visual culture, from traditional textiles to psychedelic graphic design from Soviet Lithuania.
Jazz musician and composer Roscoe Mitchell performed in Theaster Gates’s “Black Chapel” at London’s Serpentine Galleries, this June, with pianist Simon Sieger and the extraordinarily gifted percussionist Dudù Kouate. This meeting of improvised music and art installation was exactly what I needed in 2022: a thrilling response to the question of how and where art can live in the long wake of a pandemic.
I really felt Na Mira’s spectral filmic nocturnes at Company, New York, and the Whitney Biennial this year. Her ritualistic gleaning of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s proto-surveillance poetics, was expert. “Louise Bourgeois x Jenny Holzer: The Violence of Handwriting Across a Page,” at Kunstmuseum Basel, and “Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child,” at Gropius Bau, Berlin, knocked me out. The first on text, the second on textile. Weave that tale, forever, LB.
Natasha Marie Llorens
“To Be Like Water” at Tent, Rotterdam, was sexy, rigorous, and meticulously installed. It featured a selection of Ellen Gallagher’s “Watery Ecstatic” watercolors combining scientific representations of marine life and Afrofuturist mythology; self-effacing ceramic, brick, pipe clamp, and fencing sculptures from Jumana Manna’s “Water-Arm Series”; and Jay Tan’s Soap Berries at Scholar’s Rock (2021), a writing desk transformed into a kinetic sculpture of a waterfall peopled with pop-culture archetypes.
It’s easy to believe that you already know Tony Cokes’s work if you know its central mechanisms, but the site-specific inquiries at the heart of his twinned exhibitions at Kunstverein München and Haus der Kunst were profoundly observed and charged with the potential of other possible Munichs. Previously unknown to me were the glass study drawings of Lydia Silvestri at BAR, Turin, suggesting dreamy, swelling part-bodies bursting with fullness and hollowed out by emptiness.
John Douglas Millar
Zoe Leonard’s “Al río / To the River” at the Musee d’art Moderne in Paris was, to my mind, a significant exhibition that will remain so. The Paul Thek show at Foundation Nicola del Roscio in Rome was a smart hang and an interesting marker of the museum-level ambitions of wealthy private spaces these days.
Pivô organized “Vuadora,” a radical retrospective of Paulo Nazareth, one of the sharpest Brazilian artists of his generation. Preserving the artist’s experimentation, the show made tangible a poetics that derives mainly from processes dilated in time, space, and personal relationships. Nazareth’s work points to strategies and mandingas not only for the art circuit, but for a country that is regaining traction.
Sin Wai Kin often thrusts viewers into their universe, where they make use of speculative fiction to uncover social narratives about the self. In “A Dream of Wholeness in Parts,” at London’s Soft Opening, Sin continued these explorations of identity construction through a film, remnants of their characters’ made-up faces on wet wipes, and a display of performance accessories such as wigs and jewelry. A really beautiful show.
The theme of Lavar Munroe’s haunting and heartrending “Of Seafaring Men” at Jack Bell Gallery in London was migration by people from developing countries. His paintings—potent, poetic, political—were full of references to the sea, and one work spilled like waves onto the shore as it flowed onto the floor of the gallery.
“Oh my!” I responded to Zohra Opoku’s textile collages invested with runic properties and Bonolo Kavula’s frail hanging things that fuse printmaking with weaving and sculpting. “Yay!” I exclaimed at seeing Aaron Douglas, George Pemba, and Beauford Delaney together in “When We See Us,” Zeitz MOCAA’s pop-theatrical paean to the figure. “More!” I responded to Ben Stanwix’s uncanny sculptures and Jared Ginsburg’s erased letter painting.
Rachael A. Rakes
The Drawing Center New York’s retrospective “Fernanda Laguna: The Path of the Heart” introduced the artist and organizer’s painting and drawing alongside her personal history, feminist praxis, and communitarian energy. Her artworks appeared alongside piles of zines, protest banners, and photo and video documentation. Together, they formed a compellingly incomplete picture of her life and style, as well as of art and activism in Buenos Aires over recent decades.
Lamin Fofana’s “BLUES” at Mishkin Gallery, New York, embraced you with ethereal soundscapes of chirping electronic creatures and delicate clicks of matters organic and not. A shady environment in which everything was tinted ultramarine. Some people danced. Most trees stood still. On a table, open books told stories of the circulation of bodies across the Atlantic. Stories of invasion, subjugation, and dispossession. But also stories of transformation, emancipation, and collectivity. Stories remembered, reactivated, mourned and rejoiced.
Vivian Sky Rehberg
Aglaia Konrad’s exhibition at FOMU Fotomuseum, Antwerp, invited us to roam, as she does, with an attentive, embodied eye, through entangled histories of architecture and photography from prehistory to the present. In “Umbau” [modification], photographs saturated with color and sharp tonal contrasts collide with spatial and sonic representations of building and unbuilding, reminding us that aesthetic, material, and technical innovations entail their accursed share of sacrifice.
Niki de Saint Phalle’s Kunsthaus Zürich exhibition demolished my preconceptions. Here was the artist as a singular, determined innovator, whose bulbous figures are just one facet of a practice that repeatedly burst the bourgeois corset. And creating cacophony on Oliver Beer’s 2022 sound installation Little Gods (Chamber Organ) in the Venetian conservatoire, where Parasol Unit put on “Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained,” was a joy.
Ali Eyal’s first solo show in the US, “In the Head’s Sunrise” at New York’s Brief Histories, is a collective psychic portrait of a generation of Iraqis who have endured decades of war and the destruction of their nation. The frenetic linework and elastic figures in his drawings and paintings are the fantastical ruminations of someone limning the edge of sanity, reeling from irrecoverable losses.
In the tradition of Vaginal Davis terrorist drag, the Colombian performance artist Nadia Granados delivers hysterical caricatures drawn from her native country’s players. In her exhibition at La Galería Santa Fe, Bogota, she emulated music videos, telenovelas, and tv news to critique the narco, the politician, the paramilitary, and the revolutionary, channeling patriarchal machismo and capitalist rot.
I’ve grown suspicious of catharsis: Is the benign satiety of feeling the embrace of an ethically aligned peer group (vs the political shitshow trapping us) productive or condoning? I loved, therefore, Julia Scher’s daring, non-consoling “Maximum Security Society” at Kunsthalle Zurich, featuring kink, paranoia, social reproduction, spectacle, and surveillance in dungeons and hyper-scrutinized beds. I hope the artist’s nuanced first institutional survey will travel.
Yve Laris Cohen’s exhibition and season-long performances at MoMA, New York, rethought how one institution might steward another’s legacy. Architects, urban planners, archivists, curators, and a fireman associated with Jacob’s Pillow in the Berkshires, which recently burned down, were called upon as witnesses against a backdrop of charred wooden beams and pipes. Institutions are collections of people, not always monolithic concentrations of power, with memories as impermanent as a building in flames.
In the western deserts of Karakalpakstan, near the Aral Sea, the Nukus Museum of Art houses the second largest collection of Soviet avant-garde in the world, as well as a remarkable collection of Karakalpak folk crafts and classical antiquity, put together semi-officially during the Soviet era by self-taught, Kyiv-born archaeologist Igor Savitsky. Considered illegal in the Soviet Union, these works could not be exhibited until just before its collapse. The collection includes 60 amazing drawings by Kyiv-born artist Vasily Chekrygin, affiliated with the Cosmist movement and deeply influenced by writings of Nikolai Fedorov. It seems the museum has never exhibited them, so they took me to storage to have a look—a moving, magical experience.
MoMA’s “Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces” is a moving, 360-degree tribute to Linda Goode Bryant’s gallery of the same name. Beyond showcasing JAM’s early support of artists like David Hammons, Senga Nengudi, and Lorraine O’Grady, the exhibition included artworks ripe for (re)discovery. A personal favorite was Janet Olivia Henry’s 1983 doll diorama The Studio Visit. A printed collage of bills and eviction notices highlighted, importantly, the day-to-day trials of running an experimental space centered on BIPOC art.
I loved Sola Olulude’s warm and sensual visions of intertwined queer Black couples, spilling out from the canvas over the gallery walls, curated by Ladi’Sasha Jones at Sapar Contemporary, while Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang’s thrilling To the Moon (2018) and The Chalkroom (2017), at the formidable Mass MoCA, stretched the boundaries of technology and terrestriality. Of several brilliant films I caught at TIFF, I was particularly struck by Carmen Jaquier’s Foudre (2022), a simultaneously spare and sumptuous portrayal of burgeoning sexuality set in a nineteenth-century Swiss village where superstition reigns. I hope 2023 will bring it a far wider release.
During the draconian lockdown measures in Shanghai, footage of local Yang Xiao’s intervention “Goodbye to Language” briefly went viral on Chinese social media before they were censored. It showed a loudspeaker blasting out ideologically-specific gibberish to empty streets, created by algorithmically randomizing some 600 frequently used state media words voiced by an AI newscaster. Both its virality and erasure reflect a profound, collective understanding of an infrastructure of power and language that govern everyday life.
Barbara Chase-Riboud’s “Infinite Folds” at the Serpentine Galleries, London, functioned as a career retrospective—an astonishing introduction to more than seven decades of work from the Philadelphia-born Paris-based artist and poet. Her monumental sculptures make intricate folds of cast bronze appear weightless above materially dense and symbolically loaded masses of draped, knotted, looping textiles. Her oeuvre is a significant contribution to histories of twentieth- and twenty-first-century sculpture.