You Had Me At Hello: 150 Contemporary Artworks That Altered My Consciousness - Part 1

I look at a lot of art. Some of it good, some of it bad. Every once in a while, I come across artwork that fundamentally changes me, even if I don’t understand it at the time. A friend of mine recently asked me which works had had the greatest impact on me over the years, so I compiled my thoughts. This is not a greatest hits list and many artists I love are not included in it. These are all works that have been, for whatever reason, seared into my brain. To be honest, there are a number of artists on this list whose overall practice I am not a particular fan of, yet, they got to me at least once. – Steven Zevitas, Publisher

Doug Aitken, Electric Earth, 1999 (video)

Courtesy of 303 Gallery

David Altmejd, Untitled, 2011

Courtesy of Xavier Hufkens           

Diane Arbus, Identical Twins, 1967    

Courtesy of the Artist

Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002 (video)

Courtesy of the Artist

John Baldessari, A Two-Dimensional Surface Without Any Explanation is a Dead Experience, 1967

Courtesy of the Artist

Matthew Barney, Cremaster Cycle, 1994-2002, (video)

I spent the day at the Guggenheim in 2003 and watched the entire cycle with a good friend. I am not going to lie…it felt like work. So much of it feels teasingly oblique rather than psychologically resonant, but it is undoubtedly a masterpiece.
Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery

Romare Bearden, The Block, 1971

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lynda Benglis, Quartered Meteor, 1969

Courtesy of Cheim Read

Forrest Bess, Untitled, 1957

Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1960

Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago

Louise Bourgeois, Untitled with Foot, 1989

My first exposure to Bourgeois’ work was at a 1994 exhibition at the Corcoran. I was lucky enough to walk through it with one of the curators, Terrie Sultan. I can still see the installation to this day. This work haunts me.
Courtesy of Cheim Read

Katherine Bradford, Pool Swimmers, Green, 2015

I have been a huge fan of Bradford’s work for years, and I am thrilled with the attention her work has been getting for the past few years. Apparently, she is completely incapable of making a bad painting. One gem after another.
Courtesy of Canada

Mark Bradford, Corner of Desire and Piety, 2008

Courtesy of The Broad

Joe Bradley, Whitney Biennial, 2008

Who knew where this guy’s career was headed.   
Courtesy of Gagosian

Chris Burden, Shoot, 1971 (video)

Courtesy of Gagosian

Vija Celmins, Ocean, 1975         

Courtesy of Tate

Nicole Cherubini, Exhibition at Samson Projects, 2007

Courtesy of Samson Projects

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005

Courtesy of the Artist

Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 1997

Courtesy of Pace Gallery

Robert Colescott, George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Text Book, 1975

Bruce Conner, A Movie, 1958 (Video)

Courtesy of the Artist

Matt Connors, First Straight Third (red/blue), 2012

Between 2012 - 2013 there were a flood of gallery and museum exhibitions focused on paintings’ expanded definition and its intersection with other media. Painter Painter at the Walker Art Center was probably the best among them. I had already known Connors’ work for few a few years, but this painting, which was included in the Walker exhibition, stole the show.
Courtesy of CANADA

John Coplans, Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above), 1984

Coplans produced an extraordinary body of work in a relatively short time span. To my mind, he has never gotten his due. I hope that a younger generation of curators catch on.
Courtesy of Tate

Tacita Dean, Five Americans, 2010 (video)

Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery

Thomas Demand, Clearing, 2003

Courtesy of Matthew Marks

Rineke Dijkstra, Coney Island, N.Y., USA, June 20, 1993

Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery

John Dilg, Mother, 2015

My first encounter with Dilg’s work was when he appeared in an early issue of New American Paintings. I never forgot the work. Every once in a while I would come across one of his paintings in a gallery…I always knew it was his work, even from a distance. Dilg makes intimately scaled, quasi-mystical paintings that are ruminations on nature and how it impacts our consciousness. He has been an educator at the University of Iowa since the mid-1970s during which time he has influenced many artists. I suppose that every “non-major” city has its share of artists like Dilg – artists who have had a consistent practice for decades, but, due to their physical location, remain woefully under-recognized. Dilg is a special artist and an extraordinary person.
Courtesy of Taymour Grahne Gallery

Lucy Dodd, Open Plan, Installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 2016

Courtesy of David Lewis Gallery

Carroll Dunham, Ship, 1997-1999

Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery

Shannon Ebner, USA (2003), from Dead Democracy Letters (2002-06)

Concrete poetry.
Courtesy of Altman Siegel

William Eggleston, Big Wheels, 1970

This is one of those images that just sticks. Every time I see it I get a gnawing sense of the past and how large childhood looms.
Courtesy of Cheim Read

Nicole Eisenman, Another Green World, 2015 

Klaus Kertess introduced me to Eisenman’s work at the time of the 2005 Whitney Biennial. I have followed her religiously ever since. I first saw this work at MOCA LA this past year. It is one of the best paintings I have seen in a long time. She is a genius.
Courtesy of Anton Kern Gallery

Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall, 2003

I flew to London for 72 hours just to see this work. It was worth the jet lag and then some. Awe inspiring. Sublime. Insert additional superlatives. How often do you get a crowd in the same room and know that everyone is sharing the same experience? It felt like what church should be.
Courtesy of Tate Modern

Franklin Evans, timecompressionmachine (Installation at MoMA PS1), 2010

Courtesy of Ameringer, McEnery & Yohe

Tony Feher, The Wart on the Bosom of Mother Nature, 2004

My first encounter with Feher’s work at D’Amelio Terras was mind altering. I spent an hour with the show…went to see other shows in Chelsea…and came back for another hour. What was happening to me? Feher was a master of redeeming materials that might seem to be aesthetically intractable. I looked at the world differently after that show.
Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins

Spencer Finch, West (Sunset in my Hotel Room, Monument Valley, January 26, 2007, 5:36-6:06 PM), 2007 (video)

Courtesy of James Cohan

Urs Fischer, Kir Royal, Installation at Kunsthaus Zurich, 2004

Courtesy of Gagosian

Dan Flavin, Untitled, 1996

Courtesy of The Menil Collection

Suzan Frecon, Composition in Four Colors 2, 2010

Courtesy of David Zwirner

Katharina Fritsch, Rat King, 1993

Courtesy of Matthew Marks

Ellen Gallagher, DeLuxe, 2004

Courtesy of Gagosian

Robert Gober, Prison Window, 1992

This work will always haunt me. It makes me want to escape myself. But I can’t.
Courtesy of Matthew Marks

Robert Gober, Untitled, 2003 – 2005

Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Perfect Lovers), 1987-1990

Indescribably poignant. One of my favorite artworks of all time.
Courtesy of the Artist

Robert Grosvenor, Installation at Paula Cooper Gallery, 1995

Courtesy of Paul Cooper Gallery

Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent, 1999

Possibly the most important photographic work of the past twenty years. It says everything about who we are and how we live.
Courtesy of Gagosian

Phillip Guston, Painting, Smoking, Eating, 1973

One of the paintings that made me believe in contemporary art. There is no way to overstate the influence that Guston has had on those painters who have followed him. He is the ghost in the machine of contemporary painting.
Courtesy of the Stedelijk Museum