As always, but perhaps more apparent this year, art gave us tools to reckon with societal ills and discomfort. We rounded up some of the artists whose work intrigued and stuck with us.
Amy Brener's sculptures provide a transparent (literally) look into femininity and our digital age. "Dresses," screens, and altars mix the domestic with the industrial, encasing found objects like hair clips, keyboards, and nails in translucent silicone. We recently revisited her work at 315 Gallery in Brooklyn.
Multidisciplinary artist Azikiwe Mohammed transformed the Knockdown Center in Queens into a fictional thrift store, an immersive installation meant to serve as a safe space for people of color. Set in Davohaime (Mohammed's made-up city that gets its name from a combination of the names of America's five most crowded Black cities), the thrift shop was filled with Mohammed's own found and built objects, lit with muted neon signs and assorted lamp shades. During its run, Mohammed operated the shop as "Jimmy." The faux-store also included a "music library," where guests shared music with one another.
Cindy Ji Hye Kim's cartoonishly eerie black-and-white paintings and drawings caught our attention at Chinatown's Helena Anrather gallery in May. And while Kim's attention to texture and detail begs to be seen in person, her imagery is striking even when limited to a computer or phone screen.
Robin F. Williams' tongue-in-cheek depictions of nude female figures — crab-walking over a storm drain or sunburnt smoking a cigarette — probe expectations of female sexuality and brazen sexism. Her hard-edged, grainy brushwork moved us at her show, "Your Good Taste Is Showing," at P.P.O.W in Chelsea.
Harry Dodge amplified the inherent awkwardness of sex with a giant, wax-dripping hot dog-topped sculpture at The Whitney's "Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon" exhibition. His pleasantly self-aware drawings and videos accompanied the structure, making his quarter one of the exhibit's highlights and one of our favorite artists this year.