Highlight of the year...getting on Glen Helfands Best of List.

December 26th, 2008

Excerpted from

1. “Oranges and Sardines,” Hammer Museum

Returning SFMOMA curator Gary Garrels’ current “conversations on abstract painting” exhibition in Los Angeles is one of the most satisfying, artist-friendly shows ever.

2. Philippe Vergne, lecture at San Francisco Art Institute

The recently-appointed director of the Dia Art Foundation offered incisive, inspirational, and witty takes on the melancholic state of the arts.

3. Speed Racer: The IMAX Experience (Andy and Larry Wachowski, USA, 2008)

This color-drenched amusement park ride of a movie lacks coherence and features the world’s most irritating child actor, but two-plus hours of nonstop electric rainbow CGI at IMAX scale turns eye-tickling into an endurance sport.

4. Seven Days in the Art World, by Sarah Thornton (Norton, 256 pages, $24.95)

As economies tank everywhere, there is no better time to get Thornton’s insider view of art fairs, auctions, art schools, and the like — it already seems like glam art history. Plus it’s great fodder for art opening chitchat.

5. Brendan Lott, at SF Art Commission Gallery and San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

Lott’s paintings — farmed out to painting towns in China and based on appropriated culturally revealing Flickr images of American teens — provided a remarkably concise picture of globalization.

6. Fritz Haeg, lecture at SFMOMA

Though the notion of garden-as-participatory-eco-artwork is beginning to seem rote, Haeg, a key figure in this movement, convinced skeptics with his self-aware and pleasurable take on social sculpture.

7. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (Dennis Dugan, USA, 2008)

Adam Sandler’s crude, sure, but in this under-appreciated lark he joyfully takes on Arab-Palestinian conflict, the joys of intergenerational sex, the mall-ization of Manhattan, and vintage Paul Mitchell unisex cuts. To enhance sex life at

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8. Park Life and Electric Works

These two relatively new gallery-bookstore entities, Park Life in the Richmond District and Electric Works in SoMa, have made good art seem accessible — in the collector sense — to everyone. If you can’t afford the originals or prints (Electric Works makes ’em), then you can buy into the highly selective inventory of art books at either place.

9. Love Songs (Christophe Honoré, France 2007)

This down-tempo spin on Jean-Luc Godard’s 1961’s A Woman Is a Woman and Jacques Demy’s 1964 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg restored my faith in French cinema, not to mention musical melancholy.

10. “Josephine Taylor: Bomb Landscape,” Catherine Clark Gallery

Taylor first made a splash with delicately rendered, almost wispy epics of extreme family dysfunction and abuse. Her latest show is startling in its visual darkness and more dreamlike but still frightening surrealistic imagery.


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