Like the braided clay that adorns some of her ceramic sculptures, Leigh’s practice articulates a richly interwoven narrative of recuperation, resistance, restitution, and healing that directly addresses this core viewership even as it puts the broader public on notice.
Considering the long-held view that, for ordinary people, manufacturing jobs hold the key to the American dream, there is something almost elegiac about the often reported fading fortunes of blue-collar workers. But is material, or physical, labor really a thing of the past to the extent that so many seem to think?
LandMarks 2017 The journey to Rebecca Belmore’s Wave Sound in Banff National Park in Alberta required considerable effort. Located on a promontory called Centre Point on the shores of Lake Minnewanka, a cerulean blue glacial lake flanked by tall subalpine mountains, the work was more than two hours from the nearest city.
New York The Met Breuer Daring and at times creepy, “Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body” celebrated the pursuit of imitative realism in Western figurative art, the desire to replicate the living human body. Invitees to this raucous, party-like exhibition included a mechanical, brocade-gowned Sleeping Beauty from Madame Tussauds (remade in 1989) “breathing” softly
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA Art Prospect Last year, Art Prospect, St. Petersburg’s first and only public art festival, marked its fifth year. Since its inception, its artistic vision has been shaped by Susan Katz, an American who has lived in St. Petersburg since 1998, and Kendal Henry, a New Yorker involved with public art. In 2016, the festival focused on social practice and community engagement, with projects by 33 different artists and artist teams, 22 from Russia and the remainder hailing from the U.S., Switzerland, Norway, Finland, and Poland.
VANCOUVER Vancouver Biennale A stack of five cars, precisely balanced on a twisted old-growth cedar trunk, erupts from a patch of green grass-an incongruity amid the spider web of roadways and elevated rapid-transit lines edging the downtown core of Vancouver. The 33-foot-high, 25,000-pound Trans Am Totem-its massive tree stump supporting the vehicles like an arboreal Atlas-is a tribute to, as well as a critique of the car, North America’s enduring symbol of personal freedom and technological innovation.
BEACON, NEW YORK Dia:Beacon Minimal Art evolved into prominence in the early 1960s. At the outset, the major sculptors included Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, and Robert Morris. I recall the term “epistemological Minimalism” associated with these five, coming from a critical essay by Robert Pincus-Witten. LeWitt soon made it clear that he was a “conceptual artist,” as noted in his well-known series of propositions published in 1967. Similarly, Judd, who worked as a critic at the outset of his career, thought of his sculpture as “empiricist,” not minimal—a refinement on his important 1965 essay, “Specific Objects.”
NEW YORK Guggenheim Museum Latrine, potty, WC, john, head, loo, privy, throne-polite epithets for the lowly toilet-are feeble descriptions for the plumbing fixture when it achieves high art honors, as it does with Maurizio Cattelan’s America, a fully functioning, 18-karat-gold replica of a commercial Kohler model. Set inside the Guggenheim’s fifth floor unisex lavatory and accorded the same egalitarian public access as its more accessibly priced porcelain cousins, it transcends all prior notions of performance and interactive art.
BOSTON Museum of Fine Arts The immersive, often interactive installations showcased in “Megacities Asia” explored identity amid the masses, sociopolitical issues, and ecological concerns. In a show that mimicked urban sprawl, curators Al Miner and Laura Weinstein examined the successes and failures of Asia’s boomtowns by cherry-picking artists from Beijing, Delhi, Mumbai, Seoul, and Shanghai. Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa’s Breathing Flower was sited next to the museum’s Huntington Avenue entrance. The giant, inflated crimson blossom fluttered buoyant in the wind. At bustling Faneuil Hall, Choi’s inflatable Fruit Tree was equally vivid.
PEEKSKILL, NEW YORK Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art A citywide public art festival organized by the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA), “Peekskill Project,” which launched in 2004, is devoted to bringing contemporary art out of the museum and into the community, specifically into spaces not normally used to present art. The 2015 iteration, “Peekskill Project 6,” featured works by 57 U.S. and international artists selected by an international curatorial committee and presented in various locations around the city, including empty industrial buildings, storefronts, public parks, and private homes, as well as at HVCCA.