From Rothko to RETNA

MOCA is doing what every museum ought to do: mainstreaming the art of right now into permanent collection galleries. The latest reinstall of MOCA’s collection, at the Grand Avenue building, may be the most satisfying ever. As usual it starts with Giacometti and abstract expressionism. The chronology runs continuously all the way to 2013 and, yes, street art. The latest works are two RETNA murals commissioned for a corridor, Para mi gente, los pintores de mi alma (For My People, the Painters of Our Spirit) and The falcon, before and after.

The most topical surprise is a loan, Charles Ray’s monumental relief Two Boys (2010). Have effigies of Huck Finn youth ever been more controversial than Ray’s? Venice is removing his tourist-friendly Boy with a Frog because (according to which story you believe) the boy is nude and/or they want to replace an antique lamppost that used to be there. In the U.S. the ultra-conservative National Civic Art Society has damned Frank Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial largely on the basis of a conversation Gehry had with Ray—in which Ray passed on the opportunity to sculpt Ike. Operating in Joe McCarthy insinuation mode, the NCAS report quotes from the MoMA catalogue entry for Ray’s Family Romance (the passage could just as well describe the viewer before Two Boys): “Its manipulations of scale also imply a disruption of society’s balance of power: not only have the children grown, but the adults have shrunk.”

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