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Best in Show 2008

Sandeep Mukherjee, Untitled (Long Gold Spiral) (2008)

Louise Bourgeois, Martin Kippenberger, Marlene Dumas, Lawrence Weiner, Allan Kaprow and “Collecting Collections” at MOCA: Because while L.A.’s premier institution for contemporary art has had its greater and lesser exhibitions over the years, this year’s impressive lineup, which not only brought world-class contemporary art to Los Angeles but also showed the wealth of MOCA’s art holdings, couldn’t have made a better case for why this institution needs to be rescued — not just by Eli Broad and a handful of wealthy patrons, but by all of us. I respect Mr. Broad’s generosity in offering $30 million to bail out MOCA, I admire his savvy in realizing how the demise of MOCA would harm prospects for a revitalized downtown, and I hope that he comes through with this no-strings-attached infusion of capital. I also share in his call for others to pony up, but this goes beyond just those who can afford to (and should) write big checks. We just elected a new president, and in the process transformed the electoral process, with a campaign based largely upon word of mouth and small donations, and as a result, many people who haven’t felt so in a long time or at all, feel like they’ve made an investment and have a stake in government. It’s time for all who value MOCA to give something, even if only a few bucks. It’s time that all of us, whether we sit at the trustees’ table or not, feel and act like we have a stake. Make a donation. If you’re not a member, become one. If you are a member, buy a membership for someone as a holiday gift.

Martin Kersels at ACME and the Santa Monica Museum of Art: Because with this double feature, the big guy made the case for the enduring relevance of his work. As with the way even the best of comic actors and performances are sent to the back of the line behind the more serious thespians and dramas whenever awards season rolls around, Kersels and his odd blend of humor, from semiotic gamesmanship to old-school physical comedy, with sculpture, installation, performance, photography and participatory works, might not get taken as seriously as the art world’s equivalents of dramatic actors, but his work — subversive and at times cleverly pointed — is serious business worthy of serious attention.

Ken Price at LA Louver, Katie Grinnan at the MAK Center, and Kristen Cunningham at Thomas Solomon Gallery & Cottage Home (through December 20): Because the new kids keep proving what Price has been proving for years, and did once again this year — that some of the best sculpture anywhere is being made by L.A. artists.

Chris Pate at Jail, Sarah Cromarty at Circus, and Brenna Youngblood at Margo Leavin: Because it’s fascinating to watch a phenomenon unfold — in this case, to watch three young artists, all with very different backgrounds but with the common denominator of fringe and marginal origins and orientations, explore America and Americana. Hints of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, Mike Kelley and Cady Noland turn up in the works of all three — lessons well learned and strategies smartly lifted, but the work feels less derivative than assertive of a tradition in American-culture-mining art and insistent of a next wave in that tradition that is explicitly next-generation and unabashedly individualistic.

Steve Roden at Susanne Vielmetter: Because intuition, intelligence, idiosyncrasy, rigor, conceptual complexity and formal sophistication rarely come together so well as in Roden’s works in a variety of media, and most of all in his paintings. Roden is an artist who never disappoints and keeps taking it up a notch.

Sandeep Mukherjee at Sister and Cottage Home: Because I’m still thinking about one of the most lovely and stirring exhibitions of paintings, from cosmic abstractions to atmospheric illusions to fantastic landscapes, that I can remember having seen.

Hans Burkhardt at Jack Rutberg, Wally Hedrick at The Box, Andre Butzer at Patrick Painter and Daniel Richter at Regen Projects: Because all four make work that compels with a ferocious rawness, and because Richter and Butzer do it well enough and fresh enough to mark both a generational shift and a clear worldliness and currency, and to be worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as the departed Hedrick and Burkhardt.