Monday, June 15, 2015

Moma Mia

        This is a good time to visit the Moma, which is bulging out all over the place with many worthwhile exhibitions. The day I was there, last Wednesday was bearable in terms of the tourists and hoards, maybe they were all at the Whitney taking in the gorgeous views. The main show is the big Yoko Ono retrospective that I actually liked more than I thought I would. For sure I had problems with some of the work which I thought was too cute and sweet, and I don’t like reading 100’s of texts hung along walls, save it for the catalog. The works of course getting the most attention from the young tourists and fans are the sound proof room where you can grove on music from the Plastic Ono Band and her collaborations with John Lennon which I disliked even at the time. Their “War Is Over If You Want It” seemed callous and simplistic to me at the time, and it still rings hollow and her “Wish Tree” almost makes me gag.
                 By now everyone knows about her “imaginary” show that was never held at the Moma in 1971 which was a classic and imaginative action that has now 40 years later come to fruition with this rambling hit and miss show. Her collaborations with the important art movement Fluxus is also well represented with flyers and photographs and I would seriously consider taking another look at this show before it closes in September. I don’t know if this exhibition will get Klaus Biesenbach a reprieve but at least he has finally managed to mount a show of an artist who deserves the attention.
               I also liked the large show “From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola” even though it’s a bit chaotic and confusing in its installation. Stern and Coppola were a married couple and sometimes art collaborators who were active in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s and whose work was unknown to me. This is the kind of show that the Moma does so well introducing unknown or little known artists to a larger public. It’s filled with both of their art that take up separate galleries, In one is Coppola’s Bauhaus looking photographs, in another his photographs of Buenos Aires. The best pieces for me were by Stern including her strong design work she did for Ringle & Pit her graphic design firm that she ran with Ellen Auerbach in 1930 and her marvelous Surreal photomontages from the late 40’s and early 50’s ’s that she did for a woman’s magazine published in Argentina.
                 Also on view is a show of the early work of Gilbert and George, a pair that might not appeal to everyone, but it’s a handsome display of their mail art (Wish I hadn’t sold the set of inscribed illustrated pamphlets that they mailed to me in 1971) a set of which are now under glass in the show) along with videos, large drawings and installations. Wait there’s more. A perfect light summer show of Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans and other early work from 1953-1967 is also popular with the tourists, and the photographs by Shunk-Kender from 1960-1971 which is not. This is probably due to the fact that the exhibition is made up of documentation photographs which begins with the great photomontage from 1960 Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void (Saut dans le vide). The rest of the show consists mainly of documented photographs from Pier 18, a project that was conceived and organized by the late sleazy independent curator Willoughby Sharp in 1971 that  consisted of  works by 27 artists and although it interested me and brought back memories I don’t think that it would be appealing to the average Moma museum goer.
               Also displayed were a series of photo documenting Yayoi Kusama’s Happenings of the late 1960s that one of my first roommates John McSpaden took part in also working as one of her assistants. Unfortunately there were none of him in the show, but I do have one of him in my own collection that I’m reproducing here. John who was seminal in my life through the late 60’s and early 70’s, and was just as important to me as that other John was. He was one of the first to encourage me in my art making and introduced me to the work of many of the pertinent artists of the period and he once took me to a big party at Kusama’s loft in 1968 that made my hair stand on end. I should add that I could find no mention of the fact that when Shunk died in his home and studio in Westbeth in New York City on June 26, 2006 all of his photographs and other belongs were thrown in dumpsters (a fear of most artists) and much was rescued from the garbage by a clean up man hired to empty out his apartment.  Why and how this happened as I said is nowhere to be found in any of the information labels in the show, maybe its mentioned in the catalog but a search on the internet brought up this article from the New York Times. Part of their vast archive of some 600 photographs recently became part of the MoMA’s collection, thanks to a donation from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
The final show I took in was “Scorsese Collects” which is a small but beautiful show of 34 mostly foreign movie posters from the director’s large collection that is installed downstairs near the movie theatres. 


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