My “Best Art(s) of 2011″ List

El Anatsui, Plot A Plan III, 2007. Aluminum and copper wire, 73 x 97 in. Photo courtesy: Jack Shainman Gallery.

El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa, Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College. March 30 – June 26, 2011.

Organized by the Museum for African Art, New York, but premiered at the Davis Museum, this exhibition was my introduction to the work of El Anatsui, whose wall pieces exist somewhere in the realm of textile, sculpture and fashion. Everything I saw was inspiring.

SpiNN, Shazhia Sikander, Digital Animation. Courtesy of the Artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. New York.

Shazhia Sikander: The Exploding Company Man and Other Abstractions, Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. September 19 – November 26, 2011.

Sikander explores many contemporary issues through an aesthetics that draws primarily from Indo-Persian miniature paintings. The title video work is a feast for the senses, resulting in an explosion of imagery, colors and textures that kept me returning week after week to see this exhibition.

Tristram Lansdowne, Hamburg Palimpsest 35 x 47 Watercolour on paper. Image Courtesy of the Artist.

Contained, curated by John Pyper, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, March 18 – April 24, 2011.

There were many interesting works in this show that still resonate with me today. Matthew Woodward’s jaw dropping graphite on paper drawings of decorative iron gates and Matthew Best’s diary-like “Suburban Foraging Project” sketches of edible plants he encounters throughout his travels, were phenomenal in this show.

River Street Tower Still #16, Daniel Phillips, 2010

River Street, Daniel Phillips. Public Art Installation, Boston Cyberarts Festival, April 30, 2011.

A site specific installation in Hyde Park and installed on the former site of a paper mill, River Street is an exploration of “place memory.” Moments that vanish before our eyes were captured through the use of approximately 900 photographs a minute, creating a time lapse moving image of the crumbling paper mill and the flora and fauna that live in the heavily polluted Neponset River.

Raul Gonzalez, Wake up Call (On My Last Nerve), 2011 | Ink and Bic pen, 45 by 65 inches acrylic. Courtesy the artist and Carroll & Sons Gallery, Boston.

Close Distance, curated by Liz Munsell, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts. July 15 – August 28, 2011.

The works of six emerging Boston area Latino artists were richly presented in this exhibition that was as culturally diverse, and distinct as were the artistic practices of the artists in it. The works were engaging and provoking and Munsell’s juxtaposition of Daniela Rivera and Raul Gonzalez allowed for a riveting experience.

Still Life with Glasses and Tobacco, 1633 Willem Claesz. Heda (1594-1680), Oil on panel, 20 x 29 ¾ inches (50.8 x 75.6 cm), The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Image courtesy Peabody Essex Museum.

Golden: Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Peabody Essex Museum. February 26 – June 19, 2011.

One of the most breathtaking and refreshing exhibitions of 2011. It was thrilling to see so many masterworks by the leading Dutch and Flemish artists of the 1600s including Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan van der Heyden among many others. The best part of the show was drooling over the details in the paintings using a magnifying glass provided by the museum.

Dance Hall Girl, Jennifer Steinkamp. 2004-11. Image courtesy of the artist.

Astatic, Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. February 1 – March 5, 2011.

One of the sweetest surprises of 2011 was this exhibition at MassArt exploring the role of animation in contemporary art practice. Jennifer Steinkamp’s “Dance Hall Girl” had me smiling for days. Click on Dance Hall Girl to watch a short animation. Once you’ve finished watching the clip, you can hit “next” to view the additional works under “Dance Hall Girl.”

Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, Harvard Art Museums. September 6 – December 10, 2011.

A mammoth of a show examining the scientific investigations of the 16th century through prints created by Northern Renaissance artists. An exhibition rich in scholarship, walking through it felt like a journey through time and space. Gorgeous.

Beg For Your Life, 2006, Laurel Nakadate

Laurel Nakadate: Say You Love Me, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University. November 17 – December 22, 2011.

I love Laurel Nakadate. This eight video installation at the Carpenter Center hit all the right spots (no pun intended) with work that explores and pushes the boundaries of voyeurism, exhibitionism, and vulnerability. Most of the works were difficult to watch, but they all touched you in ways you never thought possible. Nakadate’s videos were moving, empathetic and funny.

Images of “For You I Feel Lucky” by Mark Sarver, Courtesy of Jessica Gath.

For You I Feel Lucky, Jessica Gath. The Hallway Gallery, Jamaica Plain. November 8, 2011.

A wonderful performance that lingered on until this very day. Click on the title for my review and be sure to check out Jessica at the DeCordova Biennial in 2012.

BONUS BEST OF 2011:

Lillian Bassman, The V-Back Evenings, Dress by Pauline Trigère, Model Suzy Parker, Harper's Bazaar, New York, July 1955. Courtesy of the artist.

Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. April 15 – July 31, 2011.

What’s not to love about an exhibition on the culture of cocktails and their role in American fashion? This dazzling show featured fashion, jewelry, furniture, barware, textiles, photography and film. If you missed it, you missed a great show! Or you can catch it at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.

For You I Feel Lucky

Boston painter and performance artist Jessica Gath, known to many of us as The World Famous Secretary, has been exploring performance as a means of making people feel loved. “For You I Feel Lucky,” her latest work in the series entitled “For You,” was performed on Tuesday November 8th at The Hallway Gallery in Jamaica Plain. The goal of this performance was to “create in a room of strangers, a potential for an increased affinity in a short amount of time,” says Ms. Gath.

Strangers formed the core of this work. To participate, personal references were required by the artist who then contacted these via telephone or email. Three fill in the blank questions were asked and at least any one of the three was required from the reference. The answers provided the framework for the performance.

Three rules were also set in place. One, participants were asked to take the time to experience the beauty of what was about to unfold in the gallery. Two, the performance was not to last more than thirty minutes. And three, participants and performers needed to feel comfortable in their own skin. And so it began.

Any anecdotes or insights provided by the references were shared anonymously with the participants. Ms. Gath read these line by line, at times injecting her own remarks to compensate for those people who said similar things about the participants. In the end, For You I Feel Lucky was about celebrating the participants rather than the artist. It was a reflection of the participants and of those that loved them. This performance was also a reminder that each one of us has a very important role to play in fostering a strong sense of community.

For You I Feel Lucky lingered on hours after it had concluded. I felt lucky to have shared this wonderful experience with a friend and with total strangers, because their presence and being makes this world a much better place. Jessica Gath has gained a new fan, and I’m beyond excited to see what else is in the works!

Images of “For You I Feel Lucky” by Mark Sarver, Courtesy of Jessica Gath.