Taking a Look Back: A Year of Art in 2022

After reading The New York Times article “Best Art of 2022,” which highlighted exhibitions like ‘New York: 1962-1964’ at the Jewish Museum, The Whitney Biennial 2022, and ‘no existe un mundo poshuracán’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art, I felt inspired to take a look back at a few of my favorite art experiences from 2022.

The Space Between Us, Ana Teresa Fernandez

My “art year” began in January at The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Reckoning and Resilience: North Carolina Art Now showcased a range of up-and-coming North Carolina based artists. The Nasher’s website states the show included  “media ranging from traditional drawing, painting, sculpture and photography, ceramics, textiles, performance and experimental video, the selected artists explore themes surrounding historical and current events, identity, loss and remembrance, and trauma and healing.” In person, the exhibition felt like all 30 artists coming together to heal, speak up, process, and re-energize as a response to various social and economic disorders such as the pandemic and unjust racism.

In February, I found myself on Annandale-On-Hudson in The Hessel Museum of Art viewing Kehinde Wiley’s 2021 Portrait, Abdoulaye Thiaw (2021.) The Hessel Museum’s new acquisition is a stunning portrait of a young man engulfed in a sea of blues, yellows, and reds making up one of Wiley’s iconic floral backdrops. When I first met the painting, it was a cloudy winter day, but Thiaw shone brightly in the ominous light. 

Nasher Museum sculpture by Wangechi Mutu

In March, I visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) and walked through Olafur Eliasson’s One-way color tunnel as part of the group show “Contemporary Optics.” The exhibition also featured Teresita Fernández and Anish Kapoor. After waiting about 25 minutes in line, I walked through the life-size “kaleidoscope tunnel” for the first time and experienced the pink and blue color-changing triangles that the SFMoMA describes as “intentionally simple in construction but thrilling to behold, sparking profound, visceral reactions designed to heighten one's experience of the every day.”

May brought one unforgettable experience: Storm King. If you’ve ever been to the Upstate New York sculpture park, you know the green rolling hills and the as-far-as-the-eye-can-see tree line is in and of itself magnificent.But try adding Wangechi Mutu’s incredible new sculptural creations to the mix. In Two Canoe and Nyoka sat on what felt like the tallest hill in the entire park and seemed to simultaneously look over and intimidate the other sculptures. Their strong but peaceful demeanor cast a hush amongst visitors who approached the stoic creatures who were bathing in the few sunbeams cutting through the leafy New York spring trees.

I took a quick “art intermission” during the summer of 2022 but made a quick pit-stop at The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. I walked alongside Mark Bradford’s largest work yet titled Pickett’s Charge. The layered, colorful paper-like stripes cling to the curved walls of the Hirschorn like wallpaper. The museum’s website says that “The work weaves together past and present, illusion and abstraction, inviting visitors to reconsider how narratives about American history are shaped and contested. Posed with his trademark fearlessness, Bradford’s open questions—or, rather, the deliberations his work elicits—are particularly timely in contemporary America.” In one way or another, a viewer can think of Bradford’s installation like the deconstruction and simultaneous construction of an American history textbook.

In September, I visited what felt like all 240 gallery booths at The New York Armory Show. My personal favorite, The Catharine Clark Gallery, featured multidisciplinary artist Ana Teresa Fernández. One of Fernandez’ new works titled The Space Between Us (2022) features, as the gallery description reads, “Two figures [standing] on the beach with their heads wrapped in these same space blankets. They attempt to kiss, pressing their faces close to one another, but are unable to do so through the mylar.” The description continues that Fernandez strategically “centers these metaphors of isolation and contact at the border and raises deeper political and ethical stakes.” Through this new work, Fernandez expands upon her 2011 installation Erasing The Border (Borrando la frontera) at the Tijuana/San Diego border promoting immigration rights.

I then made my way to the Casey Kaplan Gallery to see Jordan Casteel’s In Bloom—an exhibition featuring nine figurative paintings. Casteel highlights, in an intricate and intimate way, the simplicities of life as seen through humans and plants. The exhibition press release states that “this body of work invests in the reciprocity between painter and subject through a renewed approach to community engagement and an increasingly poignant vantage point of self-reflection.” Through this community engagement and self-reflection, as a viewer, it is clear that Casteel shines an intentional and caring light on ordinary aspects of life. Amongst an excited crowd viewing Casteel’s new series for the first time, I found myself enjoying mundane aspects of the world as we know it like Croc Jibbitz™ in a new, mesmerizing light.

I finished up the year seeing “Roy Lichtenstein: History In The Making, 1948-1960,again, at The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. This exhibition focuses on Lichtenstein’s early work—which, quite frankly, seems like the antithesis of the late artist’s iconic pop art career. Co-curator of the exhibition Elizabeth Finch states that “Visitors will be surprised to see how Lichtenstein explored abstraction just prior to his seemingly abrupt turn to Pop art in 1961. These works are fascinating because they show the artist straddling the line between unabashed lyricism and a wry critique of second-generation Abstract Expressionism.” So often, a famous artist’s early work is overlooked once they’ve found their voice and become famous, but really, the initial work is just as important in the overall context of the “final product.”

Looking back at my year of art might just be my new version of a new year's reflection and possibly a way to create resolutions. So, what did you see in 2022? And looking to next week, what art do you want to see come 2023?

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