To mark the year’s end, art critics from The New York Times curated a list of the city’s most captivating and thrilling exhibitions of 2023. The Best Art of 2023 are three CalArts alums: Lauren Halsey (Art BFA 12), Henry Taylor (Art BFA 97), and Tuan Andrew Nguyen (Art MFA 04) and former Art faculty Judy Chicago.
The article highlights Halsey’s new, site-specific rooftop installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, titled the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I). Inspired by the Met’s The Temple of Dendur, Halsey’s monument is covered in intertwining and overlapping hand-carved wall inscriptions taken from graffiti and shop signs in the artists’ home in South Central LA. Other personal touches in the installation include the faces on the four sphinxes, which are portraits of members of Halsey’s family. Described by The Times as “one of the greatest works of public art New York has seen in some time,” Halsey’s installation showcases her activist practice and commitment to collecting and preserving traces of Black popular culture, past and present.
Watch the Met’s artist video interview with Halsey on YouTube.
Henry Taylor: B Side at the Whitney Museum of American Art was hailed by The New York Times as a “thrilling” retrospective that “established him as one of the greatest painters of his generation.” The exhibition takes a deep dive into the career of the Los Angeles-based artist, known for his unflinching portrayal of Black life in America. Henry Taylor: B Side contains more than 70 canvases and also features an early collection of 19 portrait drawings of patients at the Camarillo State Mental Hospital, where Taylor worked while studying at CalArts. Taylor’s work in sculpture and installation is also a significant part of the exhibition. One of the show’s centerpieces is a multimedia installation that pays homage to the Black Panther movement, with dozens of mannequins strikingly dressed in black leather jackets.
Lots of blockbuster art shows this year (Picasso, Picasso, Picasso). But there were also surprises and hidden careers brought to light. Here’s our best of 2023: https://t.co/GRl183Wgea— New York Times Arts (@nytimesarts) December 7, 2023
Tuan Andrew Nguyen
Wrapping up the list is Nguyen’s solo show at the New Museum, which The New York Times previously called “one of the wisest, most beautiful and unsettling exhibitions in New York.” The article focuses on the Vietnamese-born artist’s film, Unburied Sounds of a Troubled Horizon. The hourlong fictional film is set in Quang Tai, a Vietnamese province that is still littered with landmines leftover from the war, and follows a young woman who works in a scrapyard to make a living and her sculptures. While grieving her brother’s death from a cluster-bomb explosion, the young woman meets a Buddhist monk who teaches her how to turn salvaged metal into percussion instruments, which generate healing music.
Also included in the “Best Art of 2023” is Judy Chicago: Herstory, a retrospective at the New Museum. A pioneering artist and founder of the Feminist Art Program (1971-1974) at CalArts, Chicago expands upon the boundaries of a traditional museum survey with an installation titled The City of Ladies. The exhibition places six decades of Chicago’s work in dialogue with more than 80 women artists and thinkers, including Hilma af Klint, Zora Neale Hurston, Georgia O’Keeffe, Virginia Woolf, and Frida Kahlo.
Also mentioned in the “Best of” list was Doyle Lane’s show at David Kordansky Gallery. Kordansky (Art MFA 20), opened a New York outpost last year in the Chelsea neighborhood.