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The Year of Exalted Memories


The Des Moines Art Center’s (DMAC) exhibition year began with three brilliant films by Argentine Miguel Angel Rios and concluded with three more by Bavarian Thomas Demand. Both artists went to painstaking ends to preserve incidents that most people might quickly dismiss from memory. Angel Rios wistfully revisited his native Calchaqui Valley to film the boleadores he wielded as a child, filmed a dangerous game played in the slums of Columbia and recreated a peyote trip he took in Mexico. Demand spent three and a half months, with a staff of 14 animators, recreating paper models of a cruise ship dining room rocking in high seas, filmed a model of a surveillance camera in a Brazilian airport and simulated rain by shooting candy wrappers through layers of glass.                                  

Some of the best exhibitions of the year similarly recreated images that artists found irrepressibly significant. Lee Ann Conlan’s “Souvenirs” at Thee Eye was a painfully autobiographical diary of a lifetime of absorbed cruelties, mostly from bad romances. At Moberg Gallery, Frank Hansen’s “Growing Up Hansen” depicted the artist’s “bad-assed drunk” father, extracting teeth in the family kitchen, using an ax on the clothes dryer and taking gunshots at airplanes. Every piece in Steven Vail Fine Arts’ current show “Sourced” demonstrates how photographic images inspire original art. In one, Phillip Chen recalls the relationship between his father and John Dillinger through trappings of the family restaurant and a death mask of the gangster. DMAC’s “The Whole World Was Watching” brought a collection of historic civil rights era photos to town.


These are a few of our favorite memories of 2012:                

Artist of the Year — Larassa Kabel held her second exhibition at Houston’s Peel Gallery this year finding that her large paintings of floating horses now sell out as quickly as she is willing to paint them. She also exhibited at Miami’s 101 Gallery and at Art Hamptons International Art Fair in New York’s summer retreat. To complete a very good year, a painting of Kabel’s was chosen to grace the White House’s Christmas cards, landing the artist an invitation to a White House Christmas party. For that occasion she wore a vintage broach and earrings by Nicole Miller’s — a Moberg Gallery artist like Kabel.               

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Exhibition of the Year (museum) — Tony Feher brought imagination and a generous spirit to his self-titled show at Des Moines Art Center.                

Exhibitions of the Year (gallery) — 1) Moberg Gallery’s 10-Year Anniversary Show showed what a novice gallery can accomplish in a decade. Represented were 12 local and 13 regional artists. Most showed up at the opening, many from long distances; 2) Steven Vail Fine Arts collaborated with Osborne Samuel of London to bring “Exposition Henry Moore” to Des Moines — an American debut of the artist’s drawings for two of his iconic statues.              

Exhibition of the Year (non-traditional venue) — Robert Spellman’s one-night show was held in a parking garage under an East Village pub. His dazzlingly-colorful impressionist paintings rocked the dark bowels of that venue             

Design of the Year — RDG Planning and Design’s work on the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates modernized the building without detracting at all from historic preservation.                

Rising Star — Rachel Buse’s “Inverted Mountain” showed original talent for both irony and nostalgia. The Art Beacon, which she founded, became an exceptional outlet for art criticism.                

Event of the Year — Jackson Pollock’s masterpiece “Mural” made a surprise visit to Des Moines, inspiring a host of Pollock-themed events.               

May Bands of Angels Sing You to Your Rest — A retrospective of paintings by the late Byron Burford played at Olson-Larsen Galleries… University of Iowa art school icons Mauricio Lasansky and Elizabeth Catlett died in April, just days apart from each other, and each just weeks — one side or the other — from their 97th birthdays. CV

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