Pirates, Ninjas, Black Metal, and Tate Modern

The eclectic definition of the contemporary conceptual became apparent as 2007 unfolded. Recent paintings by Zhang Xiaotao were written about adjacent to an interview with the director of Tate Modern and Glenn Kaino’s reflections on ninjas and pirates, revolution and romanticism. By year’s end the aesthetics of ambient audioscapes co-existed with the graphic design of logos for black metal bands. The activist art of the Center for Tactical Magic appeared alongside the more diffuse gender politics of Mathilde ter Heijne, the politics of Sheila Pree Bright’s photographs from African-American suburban homes (another Atlanta artist highlighted), and longtime theorist Thomas Lawson on history, tactile/visual thinking, and the politics of painting. “Curating Environmentalism for Post-Industrial America” rhymed oddly with a meditation on art’s recent fascination with shadows as evocations of non-place. Artists from San Francisco to Istanbul by way of Western Europe presented a spectacular set of diverse options for thought and artmaking, with interests ranging from “pictorial justice” to the place of historical memory in a post-1989 global condition. Past concerns with paradoxical architecture surfaced in an essay on the installations of Michael Jones McKean. In general, the broad range of interests evinced by the artists under discussion made tidy summation difficult, a situation that would continue over the next three and a half years.