Michele Alpern is an artist and writer based out of New York. Not including any of the superb shows by artists she knows personally, here are her selections for the most inspiring exhibitions of 2013:
1. Jean-Luc Godard, The Spirit of the Forms, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York
Near-complete retrospective of a profound body of visual art spanning the last half century. Godard is unmatched in understanding cinematic form, probing the intersections of subjectivity and politics, culture and history.
2. Chantal Akerman, Maniac Shadows, at the Kitchen, New York
Akerman’s mixed-media video installation extends her work on the complications between self and other—specifically mother. The autobiographical piece juxtaposes interior and exterior spaces, evoking tension between confinement and vulnerability. As in her classic films, the imagery is mundane, yet presented at a remove. The piece gets at the fundamental obliqueness of identity.
3. Dickinson/Walser at the Drawing Center, New York
A revelatory presentation of Emily Dickinson’s poem manuscripts on scraps, predominantly envelopes, and Robert Walser’s unique “microscripts.” Dickinson’s pieces, which are mostly legible, are astoundingly experimental in their interplay between the visual, the material, and the linguistic. The exhibition opens issues of visuality and textuality, the haptic and the conceptual.
4. Mike Kelley at PS1, Long Island City
Kelley’s work made a huge impression on me in my early twenties—the way he used psychoanalytic, feminist, and semiotic theory along with punk aesthetics and working/middle class American vernacular culture. Seeing this retrospective, especially the second and third floors, still had the same surprisingly emotional impact. Kelley goes to the painful and abject, and it resonates.
5. Ad Reinhardt at David Zwirner, and Richard Aldrich at Bortolami, New York
A strange pairing of painting shows I first saw on the same day. Not only were Reinhardt’s brilliant cartoons, paintings, and photography shown in one exhibition, but an extraordinary thirteen of the “black” paintings were beautifully installed in one room. We could move among the paintings at different distances and realize how particular each ostensibly similar one is, opening awareness of the endless oscillations and revisions involved in perception.
Aldrich’s work is increasingly about the relay of vision across pieces rather than within the bounds of an object. This show also operated across temporal interstices in memory: a second installation of mostly different work replaced the first for ten days during the run. I found the show often baffling, while evoking a challenging, and moving, sense of contingency.
See top 5’s from other NY Arts contributors here.