Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Artist is finally present

Happily the empress of emptiness, that high priestess of hype Marina Abramović is now gone from the MOMA, and has taken all her nudies with her. Also finally gone is the Tim Burton fun house of doodie doodles and ugly movie props, so I ventured back to this shopping mall of art on .53th street to check out Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917. The exhibit only covers 5 years of this extraordinary artist’s career so don’t go expecting to see a full retrospective but there are enough great paintings that I was pretty much satisfied. However I still wanted more. I was surprised and pleased that the crowds were manageable, I only threw about 3 dirty looks at people around me and took my sweet time taking in his breathtaking and still fresh paintings. I even backtracked to several of the galleries to get a second look at some of my favorite works. Even though I had grown up seeing many of these paintings since quite a few are from the Moma’s collection I was surprised by how large some of them are, but not by their unrelenting beauty. I spent a lot of time just looking at his surfaces and the large areas of luscious colors and unexpected line work that have influenced painters and artists ever since he painted them. I have never been a big fan of his sculptures and I’m still not, and the small etchings and prints could have easily been left out as far as I’m concerned, but why quibble when one has the chance to see lots of this great painter’s work in one place. While there I also took in the small but wonderful show of Lee Bontecou’s work which includes several of her ferocious early welded steel canvas and fabric sculptures that hang on the wall and jut out at you . There is also one of her more recent delicate wire and ceramic mobile sculptures that is suspended from the ceiling and resemble small constellations that throw off somewhat showy and dramatic shadows on the white platform beneath it. Also on exhibit is a show of photographs by women photographers This is a loosely put together historical show, that has some great images by Dorothea Lange, Arbus, Lisette Model, Nan Goldin and many others, but also includes some misses, (no pun intended) including the wildly overrated Cindy Sherman, who still leaves me wondering why her boring photographs are so highly regarded and praised, and a bad group of pedestrian color photos from the 1970’s by the otherwise great Helen Levitt whose best work is her black and white photographs of New York street life from the 1940’s and 50‘s. The Museum of Modern Art is good at putting up these small well installed shows featuring works from their extensive collection, and in the drawing galleries the curators have mounted a mostly enjoyable but easy show called “The Modern Myth: Drawing Mythologies in Modern Times.” This broad themed show gives them lots of freedom and leeway in the examples that they chose to show, but I found enough beautiful images here to keep me happy until two Euro-Trash Jonas Brothers look a likes decided to let off some farts as I stood behind them. Maybe the Moma should post a sign: “To all the Euro trash young visitors one does not fart in our galleries especially when someone is standing behind you, or something to that affect. Also annoying as usual were the tourists who snap their little digital cameras at every work of art in sight, which I find very annoying. I have come up with a new gorilla tactic and that is to walk in front of them just as they are going to click and snap.Hopefully many of them have some nice blurry photos of me in front of the Pollock or the Warhol. One woman was actually on the floor trying to get her snap and I just continued to look at the painting. . Did she think I would actually move and get out of her way? And finally I took in the Bruce Nauman sound piece “Days” which according to Moma’s description is “A collection of distinctive voices that produces a chorus—at times cacophonous, at others, resonant—and creates a sonic cocoon that envelops the visitor. The work invokes both the banality and the profundity of the passing of each day, and invites reflection on how we measure, differentiate, and commemorate time.” Banality yes, profundity no. This would have been an interesting piece in 1971 but in 2010 it’s totally unnecessary and just not compelling, and of course the Moma acquired it for their permanent collection.


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