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You set the scene: installation from Harrison’s Consider the Lobster.

Photo: Chris Kendall

The Year In Review 2009

Best of 2009

Critic: Nadine Wasserman

1. Rachel Harrison: Consider the Lobster

The Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College

The New York Times critic Holland Cotter called this survey “tough” and “haunting,” and I have to agree.

2. Ińigo Manglano-Ovalle: Gravity is a Force to be Reckoned With

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

Who else could tackle a Mies design with such ingenuity and grace?

3. “This Great Nation Will Endure” Photographs of the Great Depression

New York State Museum

A timely show of iconic images by greats such as Gordon Parks, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange.

4. Amazement Park: Stan, Sara, & Johannes VanDerBeek

The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and art Gallery

A yearlong experimental show that captures the avant-garde spirit of the 1960s and 1970s by combining work of the father with contemporary work by the up-and-coming children.

5. MFA Thesis Exhibition

University Art Museum, University at Albany

Despite the gloomy financial outlook of 2009, this year’s show was notable because it was lively and carnivalesque. The work looked good together and the show had the appearance of different disciplines actually working concertedly.

6. Melinda McDaniel

Carrie Haddad Gallery

McDaniel’s experimentations with the photographic medium are compelling and thought-provoking as well as captivating.

7. Dynamic Equilibrium

Mandeville Gallery, Union College

The League of Imaginary Scientists’ campaign to colonize space doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

8. Jason Middlebrook: Live With Less

University Art Museum, University at Albany

Because a giant column of garbage reminds us why we have to save the planet so we don’t have to colonize space.

9. Sculpture in the Streets

Downtown Albany

In the past, this show has been so astonishingly bad that the curators this time deserve credit for producing a respectable show.

10. Jennifer Dalton: Is It Just Me?

The Teaching Gallery at Hudson Valley Community College

The Collector-ibles downstairs and the Art Basel condolence cards upstairs pretty much summed up the fluctuations of the art market.

Best of 2009

Critic: Meisha Rosenberg

1. Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

Technically, this three-floor exhibition—really less an exhibition and more like an act of God—opened in 2008, but 2009 marked its first full year in residence. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s only up for another 23 years.

2. Prendergast in Italy

Williams College Museum of Art

In dozens of exquisite watercolors and monotypes, shown for the first time together at Williams (home to a Prendergast archive and study center), American impressionist Maurice Prendergast perfected a subtlety rare among artists of any genre or period.

3. Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History

Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery

The original kids of K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) have grown up, but the collaboration continues. I imagine their riotous, passionate and graffiti-inspired paintings (sometimes painted on book pages from the likes of Moby Dick or The Scarlet Letter) as cultural ambassadors, capable of representing the best of American art to different times and places.

4. Upstate Girls: Brenda Ann Kenneally

Sanctuary for Independent Media

The gallery was just a downstairs hallway, but the “girls”—Troy women and girls followed by photographer Kenneally for years—are unforgettable. Some even added their own captions in handwriting on the wall—it doesn’t get much more real.

5. Photography Now 2009

Center for Photography at Woodstock

I didn’t have time to review this show, curated by Charlotte Cotton, but it blew me away. Photographs by Clint Baclawski, Stacey Tyrell, and Betsy Lin Seder, from postmodern landscapes to Yijun Liao’s Stills From Unseen Films were so good, so precise and insightful, that I will have to drop everything for next year’s selection.

6. Soldier Williams, 396 Days in Iraq

Billboard on Route 787, sponsored by Sanctuary for Independent Media

Suzanne Opton photographs the heads of soldiers while they are lying down, and the resulting portraits—vulnerable, honest—bring a much-needed note of grounding sobriety to a society that seems perpetually at war.

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