Lorna Mills and Sally McKay
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It's that time of year again. Send in yer top tens for 2007. Starting us off, unprompted, the jewel of Alberta, and always one of the very shiniest marbles in the bag...Anthony Easton!
Anthony Easton's Top Ten Aesthetic Events, 2007
1) Lars and the Real Girl, 35 mm Film, 2007
There was an article earlier in the year featuring discussion about whether to make costume design into two categories, one for modern films and one for costume films. I think they should do this, if only because the costumes of Lars, the fair isle sweaters, chinos, barn coats and of the real girl, cast offs, polyester knits, sensible twin sets combined into a pas de deux of unrelenting melancholy. The rest of the set design, from the books in the town doctors library, the bed spreads of Lars' brother, the church basements and even the exteriors also made this a film where the objects were infused with memory stronger then the people.
2) Ted Kerr, Photographs, Mandolin Books
Ted's a new friend from Edmonton, and has had at least 3 shows this year in the city. They were all good but the show that he had as a stopgap, for two weeks at the end of November was great. Ted is unrelentingly positive, and optimistic. He thinks the world will be all right, but he makes this optimism palpable. The images at Mandolin, were black and white, blurry, printed big on vinyl, all of the marks of student laming—and if they were of snow bedecked trees, sunsets at dusks, and one lone raven, they would have been a disaster. But they were of this dance troop he is part of, people dressed in black dancing in public in the squares and markets. They are a contemporary and postmodern recreation of mummers, with all of the messy bodies and firsting/lasting that accompany that word's history.
3) Robert Rauschenberg, Cardboards and Related Work, Menil Collection (image: Reynolds Wrap (Cardboard), 1971)
LCD Soundsystem finally wrote the last hymn of nostalgia for 70s New York, and "New York I Love You But You Are Bringing Me Down", was released around the time that this show was put up in the Menil. It is a useful corrective, that the city was better before money. That Rauschenberg was able to create works of great visual sophistication, that he was able to document and (literally, physically) deconstruct, combine (pun intended) and then stitch together the history of his own falling apart, simultaneously as the cities falling apart, with greasy trash, and then have them reproduced 30 years later in a high end hard back, with gorgeous printing and monumental essays, touches the feelings of worship, awe, and exhaustion that mark the frayed edges of work being made today. (Not only music, it also reminds me of the work of Dash Snow, in a bunch of ways)
4) Mark Wallinger, State of Britain, Tate
Unofficially he won the Turner for this, officially he won it for that piece where he dressed as a bear and wandered around that Berlin museum for a few nights. State of Britain, with its recreating with much care the work that has been de-facto limited or banned by the state, and then have the state pay for it, is a brilliant end game…but what makes it even more moving is that he actually cares, that someone is basically without irony, in a post ironic age, might be the last refuge of the avant-garde.
5) Chuck Close, Portraits, AGO, Toronto
I like how its about the reproducibility and the distribution of images, how the jacquard loom is so very digital, and I loved how formal it was, how image durnk I got on those black and white daguertypes, how almost in a daze I was, in how they become clear and blurred like a stone in a pool of water. Shame the writing wasn't very good.
6) Jason de Haan, When the Ocean Meets This Guy, Stride Gallery, Calgary.
20 foot boat, 20 foot room, narrow stairs, the boat is white and looks more like a Judd then someone that will actually float. It will have to be destroyed at the end of the show but he has marine maps on the walls just in case it somehow makes it to the ocean. Not only was it a gorgeous refutation of the modernist instinct towards size, colour, heroics and form making—it had an almost mystical hope, but not in the hippie wank way that the phrase mystical hope suggests.
7) Nokomis, Found Fabric in Embroidery Rings, Retail Establishment
Nokomis is a fashion company in Edmonton that prints images on t-shirts and makes the occasional cute skirt. It has a look. They moved to a much bigger space this year, and as part of it, they now have 20 foot walls with giant windows. They used this space up not by making one huge piece, but making termite art, a slow building up of visual metaphors. The strongest of these are maybe 60 embroidery rings with vintage fabric, carefully calibrated according to colour, form, pattern and line. There is the pink perpendicular lines that moves past the edge of the frame, a couple of pucci rip offs that curl into a kind of infinite circle, and others. Better then almost any of the clothing.
8) Chuck Liddell Fan Art
I can imagine teenagers drawing Zac Efron for Teen Beat, I can even imagine (and have read) the erotic epics written by middle aged, middle class, middle American housewives about House/Wilson, Logan/Green, or Potter/Snape. But what I didn't imagine until I saw it on the website, was truckers and red necks carefully and lovingly recreating the best fights, the facial ticks and the bulldog body of UFC's own Liddell. There is something in the barely sublimated hero worship that slips out from the usual readings of homoeros/homosocialism into something more saintly.
9) Alexander McQueen's Collection in Memory of Isabella Blow
Her death was a major loss, and McQueen told us that working was a better cure then mourning.
10) Bridget Riley, Red with Red 1, 2007, Oil on Linen image via art fag city
Edward Said asks, in On Late Style "Are there unique qualities of perception and form that artists acquire as a result of age in the late phase of their career?" Riley answers, the colours become richer, the lines become fatter, but the movement retains its affect over the body. He goes on to say that some work has a "special maturity, a new spirit of reconciliation and serenity". The pistachios, ice blues, and sea foams of her new lithographs have this serenity, but this painting manages to extend her practice, making it resemble viscious fluids and offal. It maintains the security of pattern and line, while still being "intransigen(t), difficult, and unresolved.." Riley is deeply under rated as a painter for a lot of reasons, her control, her wrestling with the decorative, her beauty and sublimity, her print work, her gender, her refusal to become gestural, maybe even her Englishness, but this is a last, brilliant, and important work, one that should convince us that she is one of the, if not the best English painter of the 20th century. (Those better then her maybe: Hockney, Hodgkin, Freud, Spencer or Bacon)