Top Ten 2011
TruffleHunting’s Top Ten List for 2011
1, 2, and 3.) Christian Marclay The Clock
It would be damn near impossible to overestimate the joy and importance of this aesthetic event. With this in mind, I assign the top three positions to Mr. Marclay. Every so often an artist comes around and changes the entire game. This can be accomplished by either changing the rules or just scrapping the game altogether and inventing a new game from scratch. Christian Marclay, with his ambitious and sublime “The Clock,” has done a bit of both. A brief description is in order, especially for those who aren’t aware of the piece.
The Clock is a 24 hour film assembled from thousands of clips from film history. In each clip a clock or watch appears and the time which is read on-screen is the actual time in which the clip is presented. The almost mathematical precision of conceptual editing is a thought-provoking paradigm in and of itself. But the assembly is far from dry or rote. New and unexpected narrative possibilities reveal themselves constantly. It’s not merely a collage of images. It is a complete reinvention.
Marclay’s brilliance is two-fold. As an editor he harnesses the tropes of narrative film making technique. A woman in a B&W film from the 30’s hears a knock on the door. She turns and the next visual is of another door, this time in color from another film from the 60’s. The sound continues from the previous clip as she says “Who is it?” Our perceptions fuse the two films and the jarring potential of narrative dissonance evaporates into a stunning suspension of disbelief. As an artist, Marclay never lets us forget the artifice of the paradigm either. Each grandfather clock, wristwatch, alarm clock or character reacting to a particular time of day reminds us of the present we live in. Effortlessly we careen between fictional narrative and grounded reality. The feeling most resembles the awe and delight of seeing a truly gifted magician. The epiphany of discovery is never impeded by the knowledge of artifice.
I have seen two and half hours of “The Clock” and yearn to see the entire opus in longer stretches and in different moods. LACMA was one of several museums to purchase the piece and for that I’m grateful.
Quick Note: For those in the LA area there is another 24 hour screening at LACMA coming up on March 24th and 25, 2012. Here’s the page on their website. The most wonderful aspect of their screenings is that it is held in the Bing theater which has a large screen and seats over 1500 people. A real movie going experience.
Update on the narrative: For those of you who are into the long form Journalism that the New Yorker used to be famous for, I highly recommend a long form profile about both Christian Marclay and the making of the The Clock. It’s from the March 12th, 2012 issue of the New Yorker. Daniel Zalewski has written a piece that magically pulls back the curtain but leaves alot of mystery intact.
4.) Willem DeKooning MoMA Retrospective Monograph and Gerhard Richter Panorama Monograph
Weighing in at 5 1/2 and 4 1/2 pounds respectively, these two monographs are wonderful examples of both scholarship and aesthetic gluttony. The writing in the de Kooning tome sings with greater clarity. It also includes insightful chronological entries specifically addressing painting techniques Willem used and forged throughout his diverse career (Yes, after seeing the exhibition he and I are on a first name basis.) The Richter Monograph attempts to capture an artist who is still at the height of his powers and will continue to surprise us. Herr Richter (the German in me could never allow the familiar first name,) is still defining and redefining the playing field so he’s more of a moving target. A dear friend of mine admitted to never having “drunk the Richter kool-aid,” and I respect the arch doubt that Richter evokes. As for me…bartender, another round of Richter, neat…make it a double. Oh and thanks to my dearest friends Araby in Louisville and Julie in Los Angeles for Birthday and X-mas gifts respectively.
My admiration for Mr. Ruscha is road tested. His appreciation of the poetry of language coupled with a visual bravado always had me at hello. The delicate balance and six part harmony between language and image came to a perfect pitch moment in the Hammer Museum‘s presentation of paintings and an ambitious book based on Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. Less illustration than evocation, the exhibition of Ruscha works clearly references the iconic piece of beat literature without ever getting mired in one to one commentary. It was as though Kerouac and Ruscha were riffing side by side, one taking the other’s work as catalyst for creation.
6.) Nick Lowe on Fresh Air Stop light roses
I’ve been a fan of Nick Lowe for well over 30 years now. What I admire most about this artist is the uncompromising melding of remarkably evocative lyrics within the pop music paradigms. The songs are catchy, optimistic even. The lyrics are poignant and laced with metaphors and turns of phrase that hit the bull’s eye of emotion without ever crumbling into saccharine cliché. Like de Kooning, Richter and Ruscha, Lowe is in it for the long haul. No one hit wonder, Lowe just seems to be getting better, honing a craft and maturing.
So the post-modern charm of this story is what I adore. Writer invents artist named Nat Tate. Book gets written about tortured career and unappreciated importance of said artist and real critics are called on for assessments of the artist’s worth and historical effect. Book launch on April Fool’s day at Jeff Koons studio. Fact and fiction. Fact or fiction. The writer is William Boyd and the book is called Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960. The book was published fourteen years ago (by 21 Publishers owned by David Bowie who was in on the satire) but this year saw the first sale of one of the fictional artist’s work at Sotheby’s London. What’s not to love? Lastly it proves that anything intellectually spirited was done before by Woody Allen. Zelig anyone? 1983!
8.)John ChamberlainHelen FrankenthalerCy TwomblyJohn McCrackenLucian FreudGeorge KucharRichard HamiltonLeonoraCarrington
One sentimental part of the annual Oscars telecast is the In Memorium segment where images flash across the screen of film artists and artisans who passed away in the previous year. No such tip of the hat exists to sum up the loss in the fine art world of major forces last year. The list above, strung together like a run-on sentence offers a staggering landscape of invention, tenacity and grace. Each changed our take on the world. (Each name above is individually hot linked to articles, obits and appreciations.)
9.) Martin Scorsese’s Hugo
Having a four-year old, as I’ve mentioned several times in this blog, has changed the landscape of my cultural consumerism. I was easily on a movie a week habit before fatherhood. So now, I choose the films I see wisely. Hugo is worth it and more. Martin Scorsese remains a master of the medium regardless of the genre he tackles. The 3D effects are both stunning and naturalistic and I would urge anyone with even the slightest curiosity to see it in a good theatre with the full 3D experience. The subject of early film history is dear to my heart as well. Melies is a hero of early film, coaxing the magic from the moving image at every turn. The casting is pitch perfect especially Sascha Baron Cohen who delivers a restrained performance of physical humor and pathos.
I haven’t really been remiss in not covering the Getty’s monumental multi-city and multi-venue appreciation of the arts in southern California from 1945 to 1970. I’ve been more speechless. There have been so many great exhibitions and the entire endeavor has been nothing short of encyclopedic. Launched in September of 2011, it’s still going on! Kudos to all concerned!
-Mario M. Muller, February 28th, 2012, Los Angeles