Visual art: My 5 favorite things from 2021

I’ll remember 2021 as a year of reopenings and retrospection. On the former, not only did many museums and galleries reopen after shuttering for months during the pandemic, but a Balboa Park institution unveiled its grand redesigned space. We also lost a local legend just before the debut of her […]

I’ll remember 2021 as a year of reopenings and retrospection. On the former, not only did many museums and galleries reopen after shuttering for months during the pandemic, but a Balboa Park institution unveiled its grand redesigned space. We also lost a local legend just before the debut of her first-ever solo museum exhibition. Yes, 2021 had ups and downs, but, as is always the case, art helped us get through.

“Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist,” Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego

It was one of the true honors of my career to write about this exhibition, the first-ever solo exhibition devoted to the life and work of López. Best known for the work she produced in the ’70s and ’80s while a graduate student and activist at UC San Diego, López sadly passed away a few months before the exhibition was scheduled to open. The curators at MCASD did an exceptional job at displaying the iconic works, which included paintings, posters, drawings, collage and photos. Seeing her “¿A Dónde Vas, Chicana? Getting through College” series and especially her “Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe” painting up close and in-person was another career highlight and one that I’ll remember for years to come. And good news if readers still haven’t seen the exhibition: It will be up through April 2022, and it’s free with reservations.

“Fantasia Moral,” Centro Cultural Tijuana

Artist Shinpei Takeda

(Courtesy photo by Yumi Watanabe)

Local artist Shinpei Takeda went rogue for this immersive, otherworldly exhibition at CECUT, which opened in June. Working as something of a mid-career retrospective, “Fantasia Moral” (“Moral Fantasy”) featured everything from sound installations and experimental documentary, to silkscreen prints and enormous textile sculptures descending from the ceilings. Postponed from 2020 and working with a limited, post-COVID budget, Takeda took a DIY approach to the exhibition, literally knocking down walls and installing most of the work himself. The result was one of the most engaging and, yes, fantastical art experiences of the year.

Mingei International Museum reopening

After three years and a $55 million redesign, the Mingei officially reopened in September to understandable fanfare. Jennifer Luce and the LUCE et studio crew really outdid themselves, creating a welcoming commons area with an almost open-air feel to it and complete with a cafe, bar and gift shop area. The unveiling was also accompanied by two excellent new exhibitions, “Global Spirit – Folk Art from the Ted Cohen Collection” and “Humble Spirit / Priceless Art,” both of which should be seen before they’re packed up in 2022.

“SD Practice,” Bread & Salt and Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego

Bhavna Mehta: "Mabel Bell La Jolla Pioneer Woman," 2018, hand-cut archival paper, embroidery

Bhavna Mehta: “Mabel Bell La Jolla Pioneer Woman,” 2018, hand-cut archival paper, embroidery

(City of San Diego Civic Art Collection, purchase, through a gift of Thomas O. Rasmussen. © Bhavna Mehta)

For those who missed this grand, two-location exhibition back in July, it very may have been the closest thing we’ve had to a showcase of all of the best, brightest and boldest local artists. Held at the newly knighted ICA space in Balboa Park and Barrio Logan institution Bread & Salt, nearly 89 works were displayed salon style from artists who had been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis and whose work had been purchased by the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture to add to the city’s Civic Art Collection. For those who did miss it, it’s likely they’ll see at least one of the pieces inside a government building or library soon.

“Seven Passages to a Flight” by Faith Ringgold, San Diego Museum of Art

Last month, I wrote about a restructuring of the galleries at the San Diego Museum of Art, which included reordering some of the works thematically, rather than chronologically, as well the addition of some pieces that had not yet been shown inside the Balboa Park institution. This included pieces by artists with local connections such as surrealist painter Ethel Greene and fiber artist Faith Ringgold, who once worked at UCSD. The latter artist’s piece, originally created in 1997, tells the story of her life via an acrylic painting framed in a quilt. The result is something truly talismanic that everyone should see before it’s packed up in February, not to be shown again for another five years.

Combs is a freelance writer.


https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/visual-arts/story/2021-12-26/visual-art-my-5-favorite-things-from-2021

Dong Anker

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