A roundup of Southwest Contemporary’s favorite exhibition reviews of 2021, from Ed Ruscha in Oklahoma City and Hong Hong in Houston to group shows in Albuquerque and Tempe, to help you catch up on some of the most compelling shows of the year.
Despite a choppy COVID-19 year, with variants and different state mandates regarding reopening, 2021 was a fruitful one for art exhibitions in the Southwest.
Southwest Contemporary was on the ball—once the staff and our invaluable contributors started getting jabs in the arms—covering exhibitions at legacy institutions as well as small galleries that thankfully survived the most intense parts of the pandemic. Our reach extended throughout the Four Corners region as well as Texas, Oklahoma, and more.
Here are some of our favorite exhibition reviews from 2021, from an anniversary show in San Antonio, Texas to a Denver art exhibition featuring 9,000 feet of pink and red tubes constructed with fabric and “emotional weight.”
Cerith Wyn Evans: Aspen Drift
June 11–October 10, 2021
Aspen Art Museum
Cerith Wyn Evans: Aspen Drift at the Aspen Art Museum saturated the senses with multimedia artworks in the Welsh artist’s first exhibition in the States in more than seventeen years.
Dust Specks on the Sea: Contemporary Sculpture from the French Caribbean & Haiti
June 19–September 18, 2021
516 Arts, Albuquerque
Dust Specks on the Sea was a rare exhibition for the Southwest region. The artists in the exhibition explored numerous aspects of Caribbean identity in the face of colonization, perceived and otherwise.
Ed Ruscha: OKLA
February 18–July 5, 2021
Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City
OKLA, Ed Ruscha’s first solo exhibition in his home state Oklahoma, wasn’t just a homecoming parade for the artist, who is still making work in his mid-eighties.
May 28–June 18, 2021
5. Gallery, Santa Fe
Egypt at Santa Fe’s 5. Gallery captured the intersection of modern photography, middle-class tourism, and the allure of pharaonic monuments through the legacy of Jean Pascal Sébah.
40 Years, 40 Stories: Treasures and New Discoveries from SAMA’s Collection
October 16, 2021–January 2, 2022
San Antonio Museum of Art
The San Antonio Museum of Art celebrates its fortieth anniversary with a wide-ranging exhibition showcasing the global and chronological breadth of its permanent collection.
Gulf Coast Anthropocene
July 31–December 5, 2021
Project Row Houses, Houston
Gulf Coast Anthropocene at Project Row Houses in Houston featured works that strayed from traditional narratives of the climate crisis to center the Black and brown communities most at risk.
Hong Hong: The Mountain That Does Not Describe a Circle
April 17–July 25, 2021
Asia Society Texas Center, Houston
At Asia Society Texas Center in Houston, Hong Hong’s massive, experimental paper works fused nature, craft, painting, and the sublime.
Laura Shill: Future Self Storage
May 8–June 19, 2021
Leon Gallery, Denver
Laura Shill’s Future Self Storage at Denver’s Leon Gallery featured 9,000 feet of pink and red tubes that combined humor with heartache and the sensual.
Thais Mather: Western Blue
August 11–October 15, 2021
form & concept, Santa Fe
Thais Mather: Western Blue at Santa Fe’s form & concept pondered the comprehensive characteristics of the color blue in a cunning display of sculptural installations, micro-pointillist drawings, watercolors, and holograms.
Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration
September 10, 2021–February 12, 2022
Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe
The artists in Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration explore the relationship between visual culture and imprisonment at the ASU Art Museum.