“Worst year ever” was a verdict passed down by many as 2016 drew to a close. But Anne Doran, artist and senior editor at ARTNews, has salvaged highlights of last year’s New York exhibition calendar for this edition of the White Columns Annual. First impressions are an exhilarating jumble. At the entrance hang framed broadsheets with short prose and photographs by Hilton Als, resident at the Artist’s Institute last spring. But as you read Als’s prose it’s hard not to get distracted by a pair of eye-catching paintings by Marcia Hafif. Her bold, curvy, two-color abstractions were made in the 1960s, but weren’t seen in the US until Hafif’s show at Fergus McCaffrey in the spring. Around the corner, the wiry arms of David Hammons’s Cigarette Chandelier (1994–95) snake up and outward from swatches of tacky metallic fabric, sewn together into something like a tapestry; each branch ends in a half-smoked cigarette. John Farris’s bust of a woman, fashioned from masking tape and garbage bags, looms over it.
Other surprises await in the side galleries: a totemic plaster sculpture by Nicole Eisenman, and a beguiling drawing by Susan Te Kahurangi King, who folds mutations of Disney characters into rainbow doodles. For all the variety of work on view, the exhibition is spare. Doran was more judicious in her selection than previous curators of the Annual, who tried to fill White Columns from end to end to fully represent the year. The yawning emptiness in the middle of the galleries feels almost elegiac—as if, for all the troubles 2016 brought, it should be remembered fondly as we lurch into an unpredictable present. —Brian Droitcour
Pictured: John Farris: Head of a Woman, ca. 2015, plastic carry bags and masking tape, 12 by 7 by 8½ inches. Courtesy White Columns, New York.