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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best Shows of 2011

Cocotte Reading - from Pissarro's People
It's a time for looking forward and a time for looking back. As I check last year's Best Shows post, it amazes me how much things have changed as well as how much they have remained the same, at least for Get Visual.

At this time a year ago, I was crowing about how much traffic had increased on the site during its second full year. Well, this third year has seen the traffic rate double, tallying about 40,000 page views in 2011, with a peak of just under 5,000 for the month of November. Admittedly, a good number of those are probably just folks in Uzbekistan trolling for Norman Rockwell images to steal - but, hey, I'm not choosy!

George Rickey - Four Squares
from Sculpture in the Streets
Meanwhile, the product has remained consistent - 59 posts (last year had 54), representing at least that many exhibitions in a region that is so rich in fine venues; a milestone in the form of our first review written by a guest, that being Sara Tack's fine effort on the Michael Bierut show at The College of Saint Rose's Esther Massry Gallery (still there till Jan. 11, by the way), which went viral by our standards to draw 1,200 visits and counting; and the addition by host platform Google Blogger of easy captioning for images, making the posts more browsable.

Our regional cultural scene has also held up well despite the odds and the never-ending economic crisis that continues to hurt the arts more than any other category. This year we witnessed the birth of MoHu (still a work in progress, but a welcome addition to the overall energy); the near eviction of Upstate Artists Guild (still in intensive care but, hopefully, out of the woods); the death of Nadia Trinkala; and a wave of leadership changes at such institutions as the Williams College Museum of Art, The Albany Institute of History & Art, The Arts Center of the Capital Region, the Berkshire Museum, Fulton Street Gallery, Albany Center Gallery, Union College's Mandeville Gallery, and probably more that I don't know about or can't recall.

cant and wont - from Victoria Palermo: RAUM
The bottom line: Once again, we saw so many great shows in the past year that a simple Top Ten list will not suffice. However, because I now use a rating system, my job here is a bit easier. So, I will do a list this time - and then augment it with some excellent also-rans. Eight exhibitions that I reviewed received the coveted Must See rating; one exhibition that was rated Highly Recommended, in retrospect should have been a Must See; and two others would have gained that rating but were not reviewed due to conflicts of interest - they will round out this year's Top Eleven, which follows, arranged in the approximate chronological order of the exhibitions. Links are provided to the original Get Visual review where available.

Arm - from Mark McCarty: Skin
One more "by the way": Last year's list did not include The Jewel Thief at the Tang Teaching Museum, because I hadn't seen it yet - but, as predicted, it did rate a Must See; however, it is not on this year's list because it belonged on last year's. Also, as hard as I try to get around to every worthy exhibition and site, there are always some I miss. If you know of a show or venue that should have been noted here but wasn't, please feel free to mention it in a comment.


The Top Eleven
Also outstanding:
It's worth pointing out that Sage College of Albany's Opalka Gallery made the list three times - that's because the Opalka has made a rare commitment to mounting solo shows by outstanding regional artists who may have been unjustly overlooked. It just happened that three of those shows came in the same year.

All in all, it was quite a year for most of the Capital Region's exhibiting venues - a good sign that the future remains bright in the region. For all of them, and all of you - here's to an outstanding 2012! And thanks for reading ...

Yinka Shonibare - Black Gold I - from Environment and Object: Recent African Art

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