The Best and Worst of 2013

best_worst_2013(IMAGE: Living Room (Yogi 2), 72 x 96 inches, oil on linen, 2013. Courtesy of www.beckysuss.net)

BEST

1.  Camp Paradox Days at UArts Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery
This show exemplified a circulating dialogue between five young artists playing with ideas of fractured banality, invitational flatness, object mythologies, and digested pop sensibilities.

2.  Uncanny Visions series at AUX
Primarily curated by Catherine Pancake, this series showcases an exciting and exemplary mix of contemporary video screenings and performance that meshes emerging artists with the likes of Shana Moulton, Dynasty Handbag, and Paul Chan.

3.  Chris Kraus Screening and Talk: “How to Shoot a Crime”(1987) at ICA
A bifurcated film that explores aesthetic violence by featuring a police videographer’s crime documentation and Kraus’s footage of a work-related conversation between two dominatrixes – both under the backdrop of New York’s imminent gentrification and loft conversions.

4.  Reprefantasion at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery
Becky Suss shined in this show, taking her work away from landscape to massively scaled, Hockney-esque paintings that are intelligent, obsessively rendered, emotionally cool domestic interiors which reflect on the question of painting as a decorative form.

5.  Phil Cote and Gwen Kurtz: Freestyle/Etc. at B2 coffee shop
A couple of local painters hung two years worth of vibrant, uncontrolled, abstract paintings salon style in a small coffee shop on Passyunk Avenue before relocating to NYC.

Honorable mention: Leger at PMA/Catch as Catch Can at Locks Gallery
Both exhibitions use a single painting as the gestation for a grouping of objects that branch out from and sometimes surpass the highlighted work in surprising ways through a variety of media.

 

WORST

1.  Trestletown at Locks Gallery

As residents of Trestletown, or the recently rebranded “Loft District,” this show set up a false sense of “community revitalization” and served as a fundraiser for the Reading Viaduct Park project, a gentrifying force which promises to drive our rent up astronomically – as well as Vox’s. In these feebly whimsical paintings, McEneaney depicted herself as a cruciform Christ figure to signify the work she has she done over the last 10 years to green light this project, but with Goldtex luxury apartments looming overhead, unfortunately there will be no saviors for the 319 Building, or other neighboring artist residences and studios.

2. CITYWIDE
A national grant became a facsimile episode of Trading Places in the name of fostering artistic community, but instead appears to have truly benefited only U-Haul and a trolley rental company. Filled with apologies, missed opportunities, balked trades, and nepotistic shortcomings, CITYWIDE served only to reinforce the power structure of the artist-run spaces that we already knew to the same tired audience.

3. Clifford Owens at PPAC
Aggressive misogynistic performance promoting rape culture veiled as an exploration of power dynamics, which was documented and further exploited in sales of the audience’s naked bodies on photographic prints.

4. Great and Mighty Things at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
A show of some excellent works that were almost entirely overshadowed by the living collectors who negotiated themselves into the title, wall text, audio tour, and a fawning video broadcasting a final impression of contractual curatorial strong-arming and displays of wealth and power within the city.

5. White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart at ICA
A garbled, over-simplified show that took on the idea of “fashion” in its most literal and digestible form, displaying ideologically unrelated objects next to each other with no hope of cultivating conversation. It seemed confused as to whether it was examining the fashion world’s vapidity, or whether the show itself was totally vapid.

Honorable mention: L&I vs. Viking Mill
A veritable bulldozer to the fragile artistic ecosystem of east Kensington.

 

Meredith Sellers and Jonathan Santoro are both artist living and working in Philadelphia.