2016 Top Ten Lists

“Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957,”
Installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, February 21- May 15, 2016
Photo: Brian Forrest


1) ICA Boston and Hammer Museum, “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957”
The glorified summer camp that birthed America’s mid-century avant garde.

2) The Morgan Library & Museum NY, (coming to Hammer Museum Feb–Apr 2017), “Dubuffet Drawings”
How the master of Art Brut got that way.

3) National Gallery of Art and Whitney Museum, “Stuart Davis: In Full Swing”
Fascinatin’ rhythms by a cubist original.

4) LACMA and Guggenheim Museum, “Agnes Martin”
Minimalism as the bridge between emotion and transcendence.

5) LACMA, “John McLaughlin Paintings”
Minimalism as the bridge between material and transcendence.

6) Guggenheim Museum and Art Institute of Chicago, (coming to LACMA Feb–Jun 2017),
“Moholy-Nagy: Future Present”
Bauhaus conceptualism, photographic constructivism, and modernism, summarized in one man.

7) Pasadena Museum of California Art, “Claire Falkenstein: Beyond Sculpture”
Geometric fantasy, surrealist structure, and modernism, summarized in one woman.

8) Whitney Museum, “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016”
A century of moving images moving around you.

9) Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), LA, “Gronk’s Theater of Paint”
All the world’s a stage for the bold LA painter.

10) New Museum, NY, “Jim Shaw: The End is Here”
All the world’s a dream for the irrepressible LA multimedialist.

“Rainbow Obsidian,” 2016, Kelly Berg, Acrylic, ink, and metallized ABS on wood, 351⁄2″ x 351⁄2″
Photo: courtesy Sloan Projects

LOS ANGELES by Shana Nys Dambrot

1) Sloan Projects, “Kelly Berg: Divergent Earth”
Spiky and opalescent landscape disaster fantasies of impasto and line.

2) Edward Cella Art + Architecture, “Jun Kaneko: Mirage”
Epic showmanship in an arching Op Art painted masterpiece and contrapuntal sculpture.

3) Meliksetian Briggs, “Tim Berresheim: Aus Alter Wurzel Neue Kraft”
Digital surrealism by turns painterly, gestural, appropriationist, and darkly poetic.

4) Charlie James Gallery, “Erika Rothenberg: House of Cards”
Restaged 1992 social satire installation of drawings biting, blithe and salient as ever.

5) Honor Fraser, “Annie Lapin: Watchers and Winks”
Risky merging of dimensional fields, interior and exterior spaces, nature and invention.

6) 1301PE, “Fiona Banner”
Vintage typewriter as both found sculpture and interactive sound installation with takeaway artifact.

7) Klowden Mann, “Bettina Hubby: The Sexual Bronze Show”
Small detail-rich bronzes of hilariously ordinary objects in unlikely pairs and suggestive photo-collages.

8) Cherry and Martin, “Tony de los Reyes: tecate dawn, tijuana noon, calexico supermoon”
Distorted landscapes embody shifting psychological terrains of liminal and literal border regions.

9) Vacancy, “Tim Sullivan: Lawns of Dawns”
Black carbon sands cradling an Ozymandian display of hand-wrought relics of dreams, jokes, and memories.

10) Sprüth Magers: “Hanne Darboven”
Confounding and engaging personalized historical catalogue of 20th century lifestyles.

“Untitled,” 1965, Wallace Berman, 4-part verifax collage, 14″ x 13″
Photo: courtesy Kohn Gallery

LOS ANGELES By George Melrod

1) Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, “Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture By Women 1947-2016”
Viscerally compelling material female convocation packed a wallop.

2) Kohn Gallery, “Wallace Berman: American Aleph”
Semina’s mystic visionary recontextualized as a numinous conduit for his times.

3) The Getty: “Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art On China’s Silk Road”
Not technically contemporary (5th to 8th century) but a mind-blowing revelation.

4) Hammer Museum, “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957”
Ground zero for inter-media experimentation in postwar US still illuminates.

5) Samuel Freeman Gallery, “Blindsight”
Understated works by Emilie Halpern, Molly Larkey and Jenene Nagy brought elegant physicality into sublime resonance.

6) Chimento Contemporary, “Marc Fichou: Outside-In”
Rigorous play from an artist who adapts forms from nature and physics like readymades.

7) USC Fisher Museum of Art, “Lita Albuquerque, 20/20: Accelerando”
Merging video, installation and performance, feminist eco-sci-fi work was lushly cinematic.

8) Diane Rosenstein Gallery, “Aaron Fowler: Blessings on Blessings”
Brilliant mixed-media tableaux melding the Pilgrim legacy and contemporary African-American experience.

9) LACMA, “Agnes Martin” and “John McLaughlin Paintings: Total Abstraction”
Two exhibitions, two pioneers who imbued minimalist painting with meditative intensity.

10) Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, “Beyond the Object: The 72nd Scripps Ceramic Annual”
Blurring lines between two and three dimensions, between science and aesthetics, show’s wild diversity attests ceramics’ durability.

“Rose Rising,” 1968, Sam Gilliam, acrylic on canvas, 97″ x 132″ x 37⁄8″
Photo: courtesy David Kordansky Gallery

LOS ANGELES by Molly Enholm

1) David Kordansky, “Sam Gilliam: Green April”
Monumental works by this master of color and canvas manipulation receive overdue acclaim.

2) Steve Turner Gallery, “Jia & Luciana Lamothe: “Free Function”
Simplified Chinese characters transposed by Jia into elegant Op Art countered with Lamothe’s industrial assemblages.

3) Kayne Griffin Corcoran, “Deanna Thompson”
Hauntingly isolated homesteads, just out of reach, rest against an eternal horizon.

4) Christopher Grimes, “Sharon Ellis: Intimate Terrain and Pia Fries: seascapes”
Fantastical, luminous landscapes meet fractured, cataclysmic seascapes. Sublime.

5) LA Louver, “David Hockney: The Yosemite Suite”
Digital forays through Yosemite, from the parking lot through the wilderness to El Capitan.

6) Craft and Folk Art Museum, “Keiko Fukazawa: Made in China”
Technical precision: Jingdezhen porcelains crafted with subtly ironic interventions.

7) Gavlak Gallery, “Bovey Lee: Divertical”
Lee’s meticulous cut-paper works wryly reference urban interventions into the landscape.

8) Susanne Vielmetter, “Charles Gaines, Numbers and Trees: Central Park Series II”
When you can see (a mesmerizing analytic interpretation of) the forest for the trees.

9) William Turner Gallery, “Ed Moses: @ 90”
An evolution of intense experiments in process, mark making, and materiality from an LA original.

10) Richard Heller Gallery, “Amy Bennett: Small Changes Every Day”
At once nostalgic and cautionary: a quasi-documentary tale of suburban sprawl.

“Crossroads,” 1976, Bruce Conner, 35mm film, black and white, sound, 37 min. © 2016 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco
Photo: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Accessions Committee Fund purchase) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, with the generous supposrt of the New Art Trust; Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive


1) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, “Bruce Conner: It’s All True”
SFMOMA’s first big retrospective features the legendary local hero who exemplifies creative integrity, ceaseless, fearless invention, and ferocious social critique.

2) Pace Menlo Park, “teamLab: Living Digital Space and Future Parks”
Pace Menlo Park reopened with a dynamite show of mind-boggling “ultra-technologist” media art.

3) Exploratorium, “Theo Jansen: Strandbeest, the Dream Machines of Theo Jansen”
The eye-popping biomechanical critters of the Dutch visionary mix art, science, eco-consciousness and absurdism.

4) Mark Wolfe Contemporary Art, “Paul Mullins”
Mullin’s cutups of beautifully rendered drawings of good-old-boy mass-market imagery and abstraction are funny and mysterious.

5) Jack Fischer Gallery, “Kirstine Reiner Hansen: Reconfigurator”
Hansen subverts and redeems fashion photography in rendered painted collages, the distaff counterpart to Paul Mulllins’ work.

6) Robert Koch Gallery, “Lauren Marsolier: “Dislocation” and Rachelle Bussiéres: “Strata”
Marsolier’s photocollages of street scenes and architecture complemented Bussiéres’ painterly, geological, mixed-media photograms.

7) Triton Museum of Art, “Francisco (Pancho) Jiménez, “Excavations and Interpretations”
A young ceramic artist comments (without PC heavy-handedness) on culture and history.

8) Nanhai Gallery, “Wang Tiande: Literati Gathering”
Wang’s virtuosic homages to Chinese landscape painting, paired with carefully controlled burning, blend tradition and innovation.

9) Sanchez Art Center, “John Yoyogi Fortes: Hell 2 Pay and Other Works”
The Sacramentan’s vivid comic vision shows that intuition and imagination survive in Bay Area painting.

10) a.Muse Gallery, “Vanessa Woods: Emic/Etic”
Elegant Dadaist-Surrealist collages that reflect the spirit of our turbulent, incredible times.

“River Road: Milepost 13,” 2015 Holly Andres, Achival pigment print, 28″ x 42″
Photo: courtesy Charles A. Hartman Fine Art

PORTLAND By Richard Speer

1) Adams and Ollman, “Jonathan Berger: A Future Life”
With 90,000 charcoal briquettes installed on the floor and walls, and as objects, the New York-based artist virtuosically transformed the archetypal “white-cube” gallery into a repository for symbolically allusive black cubes.

2) Elizabeth Leach Gallery, “Sean Healy: Gut”
A simultaneously sobering and exultant meditation on aging, change, and acceptance.

3) Charles A. Hartman Fine Art, “Holly Andres: The Fallen Fawn”
In her brilliantly idiosyncratic style, Andres wove a narrative of childhood memories at the midpoint between halcyon and creepy.

4) Augen Gallery, “Matt Cosby: Enjoy—New Paintings”
Illusionism, pattern, and pure visual sheen met in a suite of luscious mixed-media paintings.

5) Bullseye Projects, “Hidden Narratives”
Dramatically installed and thoughtfully curated four-person show explored the enigmas of family and memory.

6) Froelick Gallery, “Yoshihiro Kitai: PAST PATH: DS 160 ~ I-485”
Cloud-like forms floated across gleaming gold-leaf planes in a serenely meditative body of work.

7) Portland Art Museum, “Contemporary Northwest Art Awards”
Northwest art curator Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson’s swan song at PAM was a high note in an illustrious career.

8) Butters Gallery, “Elise Wagner: Genesis”
Text met texture in this expansive, chromatically adventurous lexicon of mysterious symbols and varied surfaces.

9) Russo Lee Gallery, “G. Lewis Clevenger: The Way I See It”
Clevenger’s debut at Russo Lee continued an intriguing, decade-long journey from geometric painting to spontaneous gesture.

10) Elizabeth Leach Gallery, “Jaq Chartier—Hunting Color: New Paintings”
Quasi-scientific color experiments led to this scrumptious candy-box sampler of hyper-chromatic bonbons.

“Heart Teapot: Petrol Hostage- Yixing Series,” 2013, Richard Notkin
Stoneware, 61⁄2″ x 111⁄4″ x 53⁄4″, From National Ceramics Invitational
Photo: courtesy Traver Gallery

SEATTLE / TACOMA By Matthew Kangas

1) Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, “Barbara Earl Thomas: Heaven on Fire”
Spellbinding narratives of glass, paper cut-outs, paintings and prints that comment on the beleaguered African-American experience.

2) Woodside/Braseth Gallery, “Dennis Evans and Nancy Mee: Prospero’s Library”
Based on Shakespeare’s last play, “The Tempest,” glass books, paint, and metals support an illusion of 21st-century alchemy.

3) Greg Kucera Gallery, “Margie Livingston: Too Soon for Hindsight”
Livingston continued to confound expectations of what paint and painting can become.

4) Platform Gallery, “Scott Fife: Esto Perpetua”
Fife accentuated his flair for giant cultural icons of painted cardboard, in this case, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound.

5) Henry Art Gallery, UW, “Paul McCarthy: White Snow Wood Sculptures”
Gigantic laminated black-walnut effigies of Snow White and Seven Dwarfs from the 1937 Disney classic, engaged in violent, disconcerting behaviors.

6) Traver Gallery, “National Ceramics Invitational”
Museum-quality selection of big-name East Coast clay sculptors and promising younger artists from Washington and Oregon.

7) Pivot Art + Culture, “Juxtapoz x Superflat”
Takashi Murakami curated of-the-moment global artists and a zany Japanese ceramics collaborative making huge reclining figures.

8) Abmeyer + Wood, “Patti Warashina: Thinking Clearly”
Breakthrough show combining ceramics and glass with stringent social and political humor.

9) Tacoma Art Museum, “30 Americans”
In its only West Coast venue, the best African-American contemporary art survey of the decade.

10) Bellevue Arts Museum, “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair”
How haute couture came to mid-century America through fashion shows that raised black models and fashion designers to new heights.

“Bullfight,” 1959, Elaine de Kooning, Oil on canvas, 775⁄8″ x 1311⁄4″ x 11⁄8″
Photo: courtesy Denver Art Museum, Vance H. Kirkland Acquisition Fund, ©Elaine de Kooning Trust

DENVER By Michael Paglia

1) Denver Art Museum, “Women of Abstract Expressionism”
Curator Gwen Chanzit rewrote the art history books by mounting this in-depth look at the heretofore mostly overlooked women of the Ab-Ex movement.

2) Goodwin Fine Art, “Patrick Marold: residuum”
Captivating conceptualism inspired by the residue of a monumental installation.

3) Center for Visual Art, “Under the Guillotine”
Curator Cecily Cullen juxtaposed 19th century political art with its present day corollaries.

4) William Havu Gallery, “Emilio Lobato & Virgil Ortiz: Evolution”
Striking hybrids of contemporary and Southwestern art by two regional notables.

5) Walker Fine Art, “Inherent Intent”
Harmonious bare-bones abstracts that crossed Minimalism with Expressionism.

6) Michael Warren Contemporary, “Robert Brinker: Chasing Dragons”
Porn was the raw material used to make these send-ups of Chinese folk art.

7) Leon Gallery, “Matthew Harris: Baroque Selfies”
A stunning combo of abstracted busts paired with wallpaper-like paintings.

8) David B. Smith Gallery, “Sarah McKenzie: White Walls”
Painted depictions of the white-walled interiors where art is commonly presented.

9) Space Gallery, “Expanding the Dialogue: Part One”
Another DAM-inspired show promoting the role of women in abstraction.

10) Robischon Gallery, “Kevin O’Connell: Inundation”
The pressing issue of water was explored in these luxurious photos and video.

“The Transfiguration,” 2014, Kent Monkman, Framed 46″ HD monitor, file on SD care, media player, wall mount
Photo: courtesy Peters Projects


1) Peters Projects, “Kent Monkman: Failure of Modernity”
New Indigeneity rises to rescue broken Cubist forms, releasing the dead spirit of colonialist Modernism.

2) SITE Santa Fe Biennial, “Much Wider Than a Line”
One of SITE’s best biennials to date offers spins on contemporary American vernaculars from the Arctic circle to Argentina.

3) photo-eye Gallery, “Nick Brandt: Inherit the Dust”
Magnificently poignant work describes Brandt’s “re-photos” of his earlier wildlife images in now industrialized settings.

4) New Mexico Museum of Art, “Mira Burack, Kelly Eckel, Shaun Gilmore, Dara Mark and Signe Stuart: Alcoves 16/17 #5”
Five female abstractionists prove the strength of subtlety.

5) Center for Contemporary Arts, “Robt. Williams: Slang Aesthetics!”
Our newest Old Master paints up a storm of wackiness that exuberantly pushes how high “low art” can go.

6) Peters Projects, “Christine Nofchissey McHorse: Ceramics, Bronzes, Steel, and Drawings”
First in show for pure abstract eroticism; Praise to the artist, and to curator, Eileen Braziel.

7) IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, “Pitseolak Ashoona, Napachie Pootoogook, Annie Pootoogook, Akunnittinni: A Kinngait Family Portrait”
Glimpse an evolving Inuit world through three generations of Kinngait women artists.

8) Tansey Contemporary, “Carol Coates: Dissonance”
Ogle goggle-eyed portraits and Remedios Varo–ish vignettes masterfully mixed from analogue and digital mediums.

9) Axle Contemporary and Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve, “Wilderness Acts 2016”
Axle’s second annual foray into the wild celebrates organic environmental interventionism.

10) 516 Arts, “Decade: Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of 516 Arts”
Off-site installations throughout the town are the best 10th birthday gift of all.

Installation view of “flow” by Jae Ko, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2016
Photo: Paul Hester, courtesy: the artist

HOUSTON By Donna Tennant

1) David Shelton Gallery, “Vincent Valdez: The Beginning is Near (Part I)”
Chilling monumental painting of the Ku Klux Klan in full regalia.

2) Menil Collection, “Picasso The Line”
Large show of original work, including some rarely exhibited Menil gems.

3) Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, “Jae Ko: Flow”
Massive installation of white paper “mountains” and “seas” drawing attention to climate change.

4) Barbara Davis Gallery, “Miguel Soler-Roig: The Ruin of Memory”
Melancholy photographs of the artist’s abandoned childhood home in Barcelona.

5) Deborah Colton Gallery, “Tribute: Women Artists of the African Diaspora”
Ten African-American women artists reflect on their place in the social order.

6) Hooks-Epstein Galleries, “Edward Lane McCartney, Media Whore: the persistence of making”
Impeccably crafted objects exemplify this assemblage artist’s complex world view.

7) Art Palace Gallery, “Anthony Sonnenberg: Apollonian & Dionysian”
Sculptural pieces express the artist’s exuberant attitude and Dionysian love of excess.

8) McClain Gallery, “Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo & Andrew Mroczek: CANON”
Photographic portraits honor the resilience of transgender Peruvian women.

9) Asia Society, “Drawn From Nature”
Four contemporary sculptors allude to the beauty and fragility of the planet.

10) Anya Tish Gallery, “Jooyoung Choi: Paracosmic Alchemy”
Korean-born artist explores her experience of
being raised in an American family.

“Souvenir I,” 1997, Kerry James Marshall, Acrylic, collage, silkscreen, and glitter on canvas, 9′ x 13′
Courtesy: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund, 1997.73
Photo: Joe Ziolkowski, ©Kerry James Marshall

NEW YORK by Hovey Brock

1) The Met Breuer, “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry”
Wielding irony like a scalpel, Marshall makes a dazzling display of art historical acumenand technical mastery. WARNING:
your cherished notions on painting are at risk.

2) The New Museum, “Nicole Eisenman: Al-ugh-ories” and Anton Kern Gallery, “Nicole Eisenman”
Gender fluid eroticism, art historical re-contextualization, and virtuoso oil painting in twoplaces at the same time make for an unforgettable tale of resistance.

3) Mnuchin Gallery, “David Hammons: Five Decades”
Confirms Hammons as America’s premier Dadaist. The mind boggles at the ironies asHammons’ deconstructions of race and class take over Mnuchins’ tony Upper East Side townhouse venue.

4) Metro Pictures, “Camille Henrot”
The archetypes are calling, so do your Self a favor and pick up the phone.

5) David Zwirner Gallery, “Raoul de Keyser: Drift”
Welcome to the zombie-free zone: abstract painting that
can walk and chew gum at the same time.

6) The Museum of Modern Art, “Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective”
Who knew institutional critique hinged
on eagles and mussels?

7) The Whitney Museum, “Danny Lyon: Message to the Future”
Riveting survey of a life-time spent working in the space between journalism, portraiture,and political advocacy.

8) Paul Kasmin Gallery, “Peter Hujar: Lost Downtown”
Elegiac, concise, and moving collection of images from
the other side of the culture wars.

9) DC Moore Gallery, “Carrie Moyer: Sirens”
Lash yourself to the mast or plug your ears, else you’ll drown in this sea of color and surface.

10) Canada Gallery, “Katherine Bradford: Fear of Waves”
Don’t worry about the hot colors or the splashy paint—come on in, the water’s fine.

“Swim Meet,” 2015, Andrew Holmquist, Oil, acrylic, and spray paint on canvas, 84″ x 72″
Photo: RCH | EKH, courtesy: the artist and Carrie Secrist Gallery

CHICAGO By James Yood

1) Museum of Contemporary Art, “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry”
Chicago’s very own gets his national victory lap —LA buds, prepare to catch it at LA MOCA this Spring!

2) Rhona Hoffman Gallery, “Rhona Hoffman 40 Years”
Three exhibitions celebrating the vision of this central figure in Chicago’s gallery scene.

3) Printworks, “Riva Lehrer: The Risk Pictures”
Portraits that are stunning and challenging explorations into disability culture.

4) Carrie Secrist Gallery, “Andrew Holmquist: STAGE LEFT”
This terrific painter is off to Berlin for a while, but welcome home anytime.

5) Chicago Cultural Center, “Phyllis Bramson: Under the Pleasure Dome”
Very selective retrospective of this irrepressible Chicago icon.

6) Bert Green Fine Art, “Helen Maurene Cooper: Other Waters: The Aquatic Valley”
Photos of Florida mermaids and maidens. Did I mention mermaids?

7) Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, “Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago”
The kind of show a university museum should organize: scholarly and groundbreaking.

8) Volume Gallery, “Thaddeus Wolfe: Dead Frame”
New work—plus neon!—by one of most provocative vessel makers of our time.

9) 65 Grand, “Erik Wenzel: Just Like A Normal Person, Even More So”
As if! Drawings and objects by the human conundrum.

10) Western Exhibitions, “Deb Sokolow: Men”
3.75 billion of them can’t all be wrong, but then again…