Here are the 10 art shows that left the most impact on me in 2008, presented in no particular order and with regrets to the other fine exhibitions that just didn’t quite make this admittedly subjective list.
Ryan McGinness: Aesthetic Comfort (Cincinnati Art Museum): The street culture-influenced New York artist’s layered, coded fluorescent paintings are like 21st-century mandalas. One could see young people responding to these as earlier generations did to Jackson Pollock or Jay DeFeo. And the gallery’s trippy, black-light atmosphere is so cool it cries out for a waterbed. (On view through Feb. 15.)
China Design Now (Cincinnati Art Museum): Organized by London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and keyed into Olympics-year interest in China’s new graphic design and architecture, this show focused on developments in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. It made us feel on the edge of international design and change. (On view through Jan. 11.)
Pat Steir (Carl Solway Gallery): This new work by the long-admired American painter featured oil paintings of waterfalls that seemed so close and real — yet abstracted in a ghostly way — that she captured the visual qualities of mist.
David Ellis: Uh-oh (Country Club Gallery): The show’s centerpiece, “FMAS 2,” in which the New York-based artist arranged an interaction between art-storage crates and studio debris to make musical noise — composed and arranged by Roberto Lange — was tough to explain but marvelous to see and hear in a Rube Goldberg way.
Young Kim: Passage (Art Academy of Cincinnati): This North Carolina photographer’s process involves somehow imprinting images of faces onto neatly arranged mounds of salt using clay powder. The exhibit had a soothing, prayerful atmosphere — low lighting, small bowls with offerings in front of each portrait. It was a powerful installation.
Maria Lassnig (Contemporary Arts Center): A career overview of this 89-year-old Austrian painter, this show — presented first in London — made a case for her contemporary figural depictions as being in a league with such better-known international artists as Alice Neel and even Francis Bacon.
(On view through Jan. 11.)
Supplemental Ornament: Sculpture and Prints by Althea Murphy-Price (Weston Art Gallery): The Bloomington, Ind.based artist used synthetic hair in prints and canvases to both make us admire the beauty of the material and get beyond thinking about hair as identity. Her large, tapestry-like floor installation, “All That Remains: Rug Series,” was outstanding. (On view through Jan. 10.)
piece.work: Sculpture by Walter Zurko (Weston Art Gallery): This Wooster, Ohio-based artist’s wood sculptures were so smooth and elegant, so unencumbered with decoration, that you might at first think them functional. But they had subtle visual staying power and intellectual depth.
Kevin T. Kelly: Opus Proprium (AVS Art Gallery): Art Academy grad Kelly made quite a colorful splash with his sexy, funny, politically barbed post-Pop Art paintings, bringing to mind a hip update of both Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann, for whom Kelly worked as a studio assistant.
From Winslow Homer to Edward Hopper: American Watercolor Masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum (Taft Museum of Art): The Brooklyn Museum loaned some of its finest and most resplendent watercolors for this show, which offered far more than Homer and Hopper. There was also work by Eakins, Sargent, John Moran, Childe Hassam and many others.
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