The Best NYC Art Shows of 2011

Three Voice critics name their favorites from the past year

William Powhida: "Derivatives*" (Postmasters Gallery). Love him or hate him (either way, he's on everyone's mind), Powhida has cornered the market on sidesplitting snark—especially the hand-biting kind. His recent show featured drawn letters, lists, and maps tracing financial and artistic influence (yours truly is mentioned, obviously erroneously). But if you believe his work just deals in tales from the art crypt, think again. It's about the deep-throating of money—everywhere, by everyone, all the time, with venal gusto.

James Siena (Pace Gallery). Featuring work created over the past three years with the use of "visual algorithms"—self-imposed rules that turn obsessive doodling into bright enamel paintings—Siena's abstractions usually evoke ADD prodigies and scientists with Einstein hair. Antic groupings of zigzags, loops, interlocking sequences, and the odd nasty bit, his latest efforts also recalled diagrams of chaos crossed with the Book of Kells.

Nice sunset: Lisa Yuskavage’s Outskirts
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York
Nice sunset: Lisa Yuskavage’s Outskirts

Lisa Yuskavage (David Zwirner). A display of "testicular virility" (to quote Rod Blagojevich) rarely seen among living paint-pushers, this show embarrassed both comparisons to younger imitators and, also, the usual pukewarm pieties. Cinematic in scope, disturbingly psychological in character, and radioactively gorgeous in facture, Yuskavage's realist perversions grew in both scale and maturity. Her latest Sexy Sadies own their confidence and vulnerability like they do their double D cups.

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