I started out thinking I didn’t have a neat theme for this year in art. Then I realized that the theme is about who gets to make art, and who doesn’t. Who pours their labor into their art only to see it sold out or destroyed, and who gets the privilege of a museum show and an artistic career.
Isaiah Zagar: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Much like The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation’s Millennial General Assembly at SAAM, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens proves that we should encourage people to spend years pursuing their shiny weirdo pet projects. Zagar bedazzled an entire property (and the vacant lot next door) with a mosaic of glass and stones and toys and folk art and counterculture affirmations. In the early 2000s the capitalist philistines tried to tear it down and the good people of Philly said absolutely the fuck not.
Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina (Met)
I am not one to be blown away by a pottery show. I also propose that anyone who says they are not blown away by this pottery show is either lying or incapable of enjoying noncommercial art. David Drake’s pottery and poetry speak so loud and clear that you can hear them across the centuries.
I wonder where is all my relation
Friendship to all—and every nation
Dave brings us a different story of slavery: a plentiful material culture by a joyous artist and craftsman. This is what they took from us. Imagine all the Daves who couldn’t write, or who never got a chance to throw clay.
Marc Swanson: A Memorial to Ice at the Dead Deer Disco (MassMOCA)
There was a surfeit of unnecessarily large and unstructured sculpture at MassMOCA this December. Dead Deer Disco was not one of them. The aesthetics were impeccable, the sculptures just provocative and uncanny enough, and both galleries formed a cohesive and breathtaking experience. The lighting designer should receive an award and a raise for this masterpiece.
kelli rae adams: Forever in Your Debt (MassMOCA)
This summer, after a lot of pointless delay, the Biden administration announced that yes, they would forgive a piddling amount of student debt, in the typical means-tested and bureaucratic way that renders it even more symbolic than usual. They immediately backed down as soon as republicans threatened to sue. Adams won’t get her 10K anytime soon, but I hope this exhibition of several hundred handcrafted bowls meant to be filled with ~$40 in change will help. Then you think about it a minute longer and realize that with the $40 in labor costs to hand throw each bowl, she’s only breaking even. Still, you have to respect the hustle.
Turner’s Modern World (MFA Boston)
Was there a thesis to this exhibition? Probably. Something something changing times, modernity, industry, etc. Point is he’s one of the best to do it, and the Tate is happy to tour him out, so for that I’m thankful.
Dana Chandler, Jr.: Fred Hampton’s Door 2 (MFA Boston)
Fred Hampton’s door looks colorful, inviting, even festive, until you get up close. If reading the name doesn’t get it for you then the bullet holes do. “You can murder a liberator, but you can’t murder liberation.”
Rosamund Purcell: Nature Stands Aside (Addison Gallery of American Art)
We got the behind the scenes tour of this massive retrospective from curator Gordon Wilkins, and thank god Purcell talked her way in to some behind the scenes taxidermy photography action at Harvard back in the day, because it launched a compelling career of bizarre, gothic (maybe even goth) art.
Laurie Anderson: Chalkroom (MassMOCA)
Welcome to the neon and black lit future the movies all assured us was coming. We didn’t get to try the virtual reality but it’s probably for the best. Let’s just enjoy the future the way we want to see it.
Lily Cox-Richard fire hydrant (MassMOCA)
Real Photo Postcards (MFA Boston)
Guadalupe Maravilla: Luz y fuerza (MoMA)