BEST OF 2011 by Lumi Tan

Bjorn Copeland, Untitled, 2011

There tend to be many issues with the ubiquitous “best of” lists which surface at the end of each year: they are overly predictable, forced, and either reach too far in to the past, conjuring up memories which already seem so irrelevant after a year’s worth of change, or are too lazy, only able to recall the happenings of the previous few weeks. Soloway, a gallery cooperatively run by artists Paul Branca, Munro Galloway, Pat Palermo and Annette Wehrhahn, upended the formula with the eight-day exhibition Best of 2011, featuring work “created, completed, or debuted in the first week of January, 2011.” It was the fourth exhibition in this former plumbing store on a residential street in Brooklyn, with eighteen pieces which seemed completely at ease in its narrow space filled with idiosyncratic interior details such as wood paneled walls, dropped ceilings, and checkerboard tile; a neutral white cube this is not. A welcome addition to New York’s recent resurgence of alternative spaces, Soloway possesses a firmly domestic quality, felt when passing through the adjacent bedroom to grab a homemade cookie in the kitchen during an opening, or attending a screening in the back yard decorated with pink bathtub planters leftover from the previous tenant. Like fellow New York space 179 Canal, Soloway seems unconcerned with being anything but itself, existing to support a cast of peers (many of whom are graduates of Bard College’s MFA program) with widely diverse practices. In an art world overly concerned with discovery, Soloway is comfortable just sharing what they know.
Best of 2011 capitalizes on that ability to rely on a circle of friends, and the radical concept that an exhibition space can simply trust artists to bring over something good, no further questions asked. With no other thematic conceit other than time of execution, the show reflected, in the best way possible, a spontaneous gathering. It also demonstrated what most of us know about the new year: it feels mostly the same as last year. Katie Hubbard’s understated pair of wooden hoops nested in and against the window were echoed in Ohad Meromi’s almost comically large ‘O’ (90”) (dated 1/02/11), one of his “rehearsal sculptures” which could be rolled around the gallery space as in his concurrent installation at Art in General. A turn around Pam Lins’ expanded pedestal rewarded the viewer by revealing its unexpected details slowly, one of which was a discount copy of a book about the “decisive glance”. David Horvitz’s Images for the Public Domain from California’s Highway 1 (2011) collected ocean side snapshots of the artist during a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, a dispatch from a picturesque landscape that seemed alien in comparison to the street outside, heavy with melting snow and litter. Periodically interrupting the exhibition were wooden punctuation marks by Charles Mayton, which could be equally and appropriately read as commas, apostrophes or one half of a quotation mark or semicolon.  
Following a year in which there were too many dedicated attempts at “best of” in New York (the Whitney Biennial, Greater New York 2010, Knight’s Move), Best of 2011 played on both the art world’s instant consumption of under-exhibited artists and the palpable competition which those shows create in artistic communities. By reflecting an egalitarian “present moment” amongst themselves, Soloway could put aside the superlatives and move headlong into another year.

Best of 2011, Installation view, with Pam Lins, Untitled, 2010

Best of 2011, Installation view

David Horvitz, Images for the Public Domain from California's Highway 1, 2011

Dustin Hodges, Letter Studies, 2011

Ohad Meromi ‘O’ (90”), 1/2/2011

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