The Artists' Artists: To Take Stock of the Past Year, Artforum Contacted an International Group of Artists to Find out Which Exhibitions and Events Were, in Their Eyes, the Very Best of 2011

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Zhang Peili (Minsheng Art Museum. Shanghai) One of the first artists in China to make video-based work, Zhang is well known for exposing the social realities of contemporary Chinese culture through chillingly dispassionate incisions into the political ideology that permeates everyday life. The Minsheng Art Museum's retrospective demonstrated that, for twenty-some years, he has offered a critical alternative to an art world swept up in the fervor of commercialization and its attendant power struggles.

Translated from Chinese by Lee Ambrozy.


Botticell and Baldessart Bertin On one of Berlin's only sunny days this summer. I saw two remarkable paintings: at the Bode Museum, the striking ca. 1490 portrait by Botticelli of Michael Tarchaniota Marullus (in the exhibition "Faces of the Renaissance"), and at Spruth Magers gallery, not far away, John Baldessari's Double Feature: Deadline at Dawn, 2011. Both works were intensely radiant, each in its own way. Through Botticelli, we see the itinerant poet and soldier Marullus with skin the color of olive oil, a claylike alien face set against the austere ocher of a Florentine sky. The subtle dissonance of these colors, the friction between figure and ground, seems almost to bite, suspending Marullus in space like a bird on the wing. Baldessari also unhinges his subject, makes it float--but with the Californian painter, it's the white noise of an empty canvas, the vortex of hidden time, that frees the figure from any nameable ground.


Translated from German by Anne Posten.


"Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective" (Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York) Serra does not make black a color; he makes it form and space. In the presence of his drawings, emotions were forced out of me. I became human--almost under a searchlight. I became anyone who sees these expanses, no longer just a brain in a skull, but a thinking person. For their compositional precision, works such as The United States Government Destroys Art, 1989, and Pacific Judson Murphy, 1978, were truly inspiring. One actually stands inside the latter, feeling its visceral density and weight. For me, this was a transformative exhibition.



Artist talk by Tehching Hsieh ("Action Script" symposium, Hong Kong) In October 2010, I was invited to participate in a symposium on performance and documentation in Asia, organized by Asia Art Archive and the Centre for Community Cultural Development of Hong Kong. The high point was to be a talk given by Taiwan-born artist Tehching Hsieh, and he didn't disappoint: Beginning with an illustration of his first painting, from I960, he proceeded to review his entire corpus of performance works. Hsieh's legendary "One-Year Performances" (during which he lived in a cage [1978-79], punched a time clock every hour [1980-81], or was tied to another person [1983-84] for a full year) deal directly with an essential element of performance art--the body's expenditure of time. This was a rare and unforgettable chance to hear Hsieh discuss his own history.



Carlfriedrich Claus (Akademie dei kunste. Berlin)Living in not-so-splenclid isolation in the former GDR, Carlfriedrich Claus investigated--with both an artistic eye and a social-utopian impetus--possibilities for broadening the limits of our spoken and written language. His visual and acoustic works straddle the realms of literature, philosophy (Paracelsus, Karl Marx, Ernst Bloch), and fine arts. The remarkable results of this artist's radical and absolutely unique lifelong experiments in art and existence (ranging from drawings and photographs to hybrid forms that Claus referred to as Sprachblatter [Speech Sheets], Klang-Gebilde [Sound Shapes], and Lautprozesse [Sound Processes]) were shown in this exhibition curated by Brigitta Milde and Matthias Flugge--a stunning and inspiring presentation. …


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