1. Rachel Harrison: The Help, Greene Naftali
AFC’s Will Brand called Rachel Harrison’s sculptures designed to hold various cleaning products “unapologetically lumpy,” a description I like very much. These awkward pieces are what constitute beauty in collector culture, and while that’s weird, I’m not exactly immune to their allure either. They’re very funny pieces, and I like that.
2. John Wesley and Carl Andre: Serial Forms, Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Pop art and minimalism have more in common than you might think—this show! Mostly, this gets on my list because John Wesley makes the ordinary strange. Who knows why being greeted by a duck painting at the door should seem absurd—let alone a series of bulls hanging out over a bed—but in his world it is. Carl Andre’s minimalist matrix-like sculptures were a surprisingly good fit in this show, as seriality dominated both men's works.
3. The Cage Effect, Hunter College
While the Met’s Regarding Warhol may have demonstrated that dead artists who have influenced everyone doesn’t constitute a theme, Hunter went a far way toward proving the opposite. Its cohesive survey show of artists influenced by John Cage consistently showcased artists working with a clean style and meticulous approach. Of course, it would be incorrect to say that all artists working with a Cagean aesthetic produce work that shares his aesthetic, but that bias certainly benefited this show.
4. Viola Yesiltac: Scharfstellen was Autofokus war, Balice Herling & Lewis
This was the most under-recognized show of the season in my opinion. It’s hard to say exactly what makes these photographs of paper so good, but part of it seems to be the transformation of recognizable objects into minimalist abstraction. It’s a simple but visually effective gesture.
5. Michael Berryhill: Incidental Western, Kansas
The only problem with a near-perfect show is that it sometimes doesn’t leave much to talk about. I loved this show but eventually gave up trying to write about it because I couldn’t get my words to match the paintings. Berryhill’s encrusted surfaces belie a dedication to paint and surface rare amongst today’s painters. He is a painter to watch.
6. Elad Lassry: Untitled (Presence), The Kitchen
Elad Lassry is our time’s virtuoso of color and composition. In this show, cut walls frame austere black-and-white portraits and looping film of eggs moving on a miniature track. The artist also debuted a dance performance in conjunction with the show, which, though less developed, similarly demonstrated a clear mastery of symmetry and color.
7. Yehuda Duenyas: The Ascent
Relax and Yehuda Duenyas’s The Ascent will lift you into the rafters of a warehouse in Brooklyn—all this through the power of your brainwaves. I’m not kidding. Participants are asked to don a harness and brainwave-monitoring EEG sensors, and the more monk-like state they can achieve, the higher this artwork will raise participants. The piece resembles a game as much as it does an artwork in that the higher you go, the more lights turn on and music sounds. The transformative art element comes from the participants themselves, who have to let go of their daily stress for the piece to work at all.
8. Jean-Frédéric Schnyder: Swiss Institute
He's one of the great painters of our time. Schnyder’s show at the Swiss Institute won’t transform painting, but boy are those small landscape paintings ever great to look at. As I mentioned in my review of the show earlier this year, the paintings employ a certain amount of sentimentality yet lack the preciousness that defines much of today’s kitsch.
9. Virginia Overton: The Kitchen
Overton’s skill lies in her ability to create visual tension through balance. Driven by intuition, Overton’s sculptures are about weight, symmetry, and gravity. What a great show.
10. Gerald Ferguson: Work, CANADA
Seventies conceptualism began with Gerald Ferguson in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a mostly untold history laid bare at CANADA last winter. This survey show isn’t full of easy work—Ferguson wanted to make work impossible to buy so the paintings aren’t beautiful—but you can see the labor and thought that went into them regardless.
Bonus: Alex McLeod: Facebook
Incredibly curated. It’s mostly gold, hip-hop, and pictures of food—and it’s amazing.