Holiday gift-guide / round-up: exhibitions of 2017

Since June, I've returned to regular blogging and saw some good exhibitions and some mediocre ones. But here, I'd like to list only the good and the favorites of 2017. The criteria I use evolves around these questions- 1. Did the exhibition in one way or another open a new conversation about art in general? 2. If it's a one-person retrospective, how successful was the narrative or biography conveyed? Of course, aside from all seriousness, these are also just the ones I really enjoyed. 

Extra! Extra! Scroll all the way down for an exciting update from artist, Caris Reid. Hint, hint, she's just completed a huge project in Downtown L.A.!

Levi Strauss & Co. waist overalls, 1890. 
Courtesy Levi Strauss & Co. Archives (San Francisco)

Gallery View, Clothes/Not Clothes: War/Peace © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Is fashion art?  This question has occupied the minds of curators and museums that looked for ways to expand the definition of art. In this summer and early fall, two big museums managed to open new conversations about art and fashion. "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between" at the Met featured Kawakubo's work for her Comme des Garçons brand, which she started around 1969. "Items: Is Fashion Modern?" at the MoMA presented a collection of modern garments in the context of examining the social impact of fashion in the contemporary cultural landscape. 

Compared to exhibition of the MoMA, the Kawakubo retrospective was more accessible, and less critical. It mainly relied on the visual and the physical construction of the designer's pieces to show the ever-shifting notion of fashion through the decades. Whereas, "Items" showcased specific garments that marked a time of cultural change. For instance, there was Vivienne Westwood's t-shirt, aka. "tits-shirt," and her anglo tartan mini-skirts that have became cultural symbols for the Brit Punk era of the 70s. 

Just to give one more example, the original Levi-Strauss bluejeans stood in to showcase that "fashion," whatever it might be, could exist as practical as well function as a cultural sign. Since its invention, those bluejeans went from the staple of western cowboys in the 20s and 30s to had worn by rebel-without-a-cause / subculture teenagers in the 50s and 60s. All in all, one theme both shows had in common was the effort to re-define "fashion" and finding different ways to definite it. 

Both exhibitions come with beautifully produced catalogues, click on the below images for purchasing details:  

Carol Rama
Le tagliole [The Traps], 1966; Hide and enamel on canvas
23 5/8 x 19 3/4 in (60 x 50 cm); Photo: Tommaso Mattina

Bruce Weber (American, born 1946)
Georgia O'Keeffe, Abiquiu, N.M., 1984; Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 in. (35.5 x 27.9 cm)
Bruce Weber and Nan Bush Collection, New York.
©Bruce Weber

Next up, one-person retrospectives! When it comes to planning a retrospective show of a single artist, there is the concern of what should be the focus, the artist's persona or her life's work. There are different ways of telling a story, it can be biographical or thematic as to trace the changes in her artistic style.

There are two exhibitions that stood out this year.  The Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum called, "Georgia O'Keeffe: Modern Living," and  "Carol Rama: Antibodies" at the New Museum. While the latter presented a survey of Rama's body of work during her lifetime, (the most comprehensive in the States so far,) the other one focused on reflecting the artist's persona through her life.

The two different curatorial missions, however did share similarities. First off, both were stories told from a third-person perspective. With "Antibodies," the curator's choice of the works and of her hand-made "wedding dresses" were exhibited with personal quotes from the artist. This aimed to present not just the works but an exploration of the artist's inner psyche after the personal trauma, which prompted the artist's creative outpour. At the BM, on the other hand, by exhibiting O'Keeffe's personal wardrobe, photo-portraits of her by notable photographers along with her own paintings, also tells a story from a third-person perspective. However, what was different about "O'Keeffe" at BM one was that the photo-portraits contributed to how O'Keeffe had been seen by her fellow artists. Whereas NM's "Antibodies" presented the story from just the present perspective. 

These two exhibitions also come with elaborately produced catalogues that could be nice holiday gifts for art-lover friends. Click on the below images for details:

Last but not least, I have an exciting update on my good friend, Caris Reid, a prolific young painter who has recently been commissioned to paint a 40 ft. mural in downtown L.A.! She is such a strong, intuitive, and above all graceful being. Check out the recent interview we did together, and here is a review I wrote a few years back on her then, newest paintings. (all photos courtesy of the artist)

I hope all of you out there are enjoying the last few weeks of 2017! Holidays are so stressful, isn't it? Let me know if you think otherwise. 


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