Ralph Rugoff

Article excerpt

1 "100 Days No Exhibition" (Salzburger Kunstverein) While the overriding tendency among museums was to kick off the millennium with a publicity-grabbing bang, Kunstverein director Hildegund Amanshauser decided to darken her gallery spaces and host a hundred-day series of symposia questioning the basic assumptions underlying current curatorial practices. At a moment when the international circuit is glutted with cloned exhibitions and pseudosensational shows, "100 Days" was exemplary--offering hope for a future beyond the knee-jerk reflexes of standard institutional fare.

2 Tom Friedman (Feature Inc., New York) Friedman's splatter-film self-portrait as eviscerated corpse was one of the year's indelible images. Meticulously fabricated from colored construction paper, the sculpture read like a metaphor for the violence of aesthetic experience. Looking at how works of art can tear preconceptions to shreds has been Friedman's stock-in-trade for years, though the deceptive impact of his pieces is typically engineered with plenty of humorous ingenuity and a playfulness almost scientific in its precision.

3 Louise Bourgeois (Tate Modern, London) When Tate Modem opened last spring, the big attraction wasn't the collection but the former power plant's spectacular Turbine Hall, undoubtedly the most capacious museum lobby in the world. As a space for showing art, it is practically useless, however--unless an artist happens to possess the imaginative bravado of Bourgeois. Her triad of towers--I Do, I Undo, and I Redo--didn't impress at first sight, but their vertigo-inducing stairways and distorting mirrors offered a nervy response to the hysteria generated by Tate Modem's space. And by accommodating just one person at a time, Bourgeois's structures insisted that art is also a private event, and a rewarding one for those willing to reciprocate the artist's risks--not to mention wait in line.

4 Paul McCarthy (Hannover Expo 2000) McCarthy's contribution to Expo 2000 has to be the most fantastically weird and utterly disconcerting public sculpture ever to grace a world's fair. Boasting a vaginal mouth in addition to a jiggling phallic proboscis, the gigantic inflatable Chocolate Blockhead Nosebar Outlet towered above the surrounding attractions and national pavilions, suggesting a mutant version of Walt Disney's Pinocchio. The candy-bar vending machines placed under its hindquarters sweetened its monstrous sex appeal.

5 Jean-Luc Mylayne (The Photographers' Gallery, London) Most animal photography is thinly disguised eco-porn, but Mylayne is an extraordinary exception. This miniretrospective featured color prints from the past twenty years (stateside, a similar range of his work was seen at Barbara Gladstone), almost every one offering a surprising twist to his ongoing meditation on the relationships among time, seeing, and photography. Whether blurring the outlines of his bird subjects so that they assume a shimmering transparency or presenting starlings and robins as camouflaged details in the larger landscape, Mylayne conveys a poignant sense of the precariousness of avian existence while also reflecting on the contingency of our own visual experience. …