Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
Archive for July, 2004
Charlie Finch goes serious to discuss presidents and art. But why should American presidents factor in art (that is either made or shown)? And when an individual and his/her inner circle is so much a part of our daily visual experience, do we even want to see art featuring that person? And would we really see it if we saw it?
Whose Muse?, a collection of essays by Museum Directors You Know, is my current light summer read. (OK, OK, I read Aaron Elkins, P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy Sayers too.) I’m only about halfway through it (so don’t expect a thoughtful review in this post), but I can already tell that this is a book that anyone who cares about the role of arts institutions must read. I haven’t gotten to the Glenn Lowry essay yet. I wonder if I have to pay $20 to read it…
(Lowry promises a deontological approach to something. That sounds expensive or painful or both. At the very least, I hope Lowry tells us how it’s deontological to charge $20 a pop to allow his institution to compete for your “leisure” dollar. And remember, that’s his word, not mine.)
Update: I’m hearing that the LAT is changing some things on the fly and that the system may not be fully accessible. Will follow up.
If you love reading about art, today is a pretty cool day. The Los Angeles Times is back. No more silly pay-for-view to read stories about the visual arts (or any other art forms). I’d like to think the constant whining of blogs like this one and abLA had some impact, but I know that what really did it was the recent mass defection of LAT cultural staff (including architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff) to the NYT.
Therefore, it is great fun to link to this story, MAN’s first link to an LAT story in forever. (You’ll still have to register for lat.com — it takes about two minutes.) You may remember that MAN is not a fan of the unnecessary OldenBruggen that has been proposed for the front area of LA’s Disney Hall. Neither is Christopher Knight:
The sculpture is being fabricated now, and it won’t be installed until next summer. But based on a digitally fabricated picture of the sculpture on-site, it works like the giant Carpeteria genie or Michelin Man outside a rug shop or tire store — sculpture that functions as a sign. In less than a year, Disney Hall has become perhaps the most famous building in Los Angeles, which means one of the most famous in the nation. You wouldn’t think it needs a sign.
(Side note: “OldenBruggen,” which I’ve been using on MAN for a few weeks now, is not my invention, it was Knight’s.)
If you haven’t clicked over to AJ’s Classical Conversation blog — a discussion about classical music issues with a dozen or so prominent critics — you really should. I’m a complete cretin when it comes to classical music so I’m enjoying learning new stuff, but just as interesting is that much of what is being discussed over there is relevant in the visual arts too.
This really could be a weekly feature… But from this mention (not a review — reviews are longer than a mere 147 words) of a show: ”With seventeen contributing artists, mostly emerging or not recently shown in New York…”
Because we all know that if it doesn’t happen in New York, it doesn’t happen – or that it’s irrelevant. (Of course, that’s a perfectly valid phrase for a NYC-only publication. But ArtForum is a national/international publication, right? Right?)
Before we swing around the blogosphere, here’s an update on a situation at the Hirshhorn: A while back MAN complained about a Sally Mann installation… and shortly thereafter the Mann disappeared. Huzzah!
Well, last week I complained about the hideous tape the H of H put around an Anne Truitt… and shortly thereafter the tape disappeared. Unfortunately, it has been replaced by tape-text on all four sides of the sculpture that says something like, “Do not touch.” (Ever see that sign around a painting?) The new tape sounds awful. Solution: Put a guard (well, maybe not — the Hirshhorn’s guards are on the shortlist for most inept museum guards in America) or a volunteer in the room, for chrissakes.
- Todd Gibson on the recent emphasis on the ‘market’ part of art market;
- The conversation will be bloggerized: AJ will be hosting a 10-day, blogged discussion of classical music criticism. I don’t know my Mozart from my Chopin, but it sounds pretty fascinating anyway. For more, check out the top post on the main AJ page;
- A Daily Dose (which you really should read daily) says that Frank Gehry will be on the next season of The Simpsons (now if only ADD could fix its linking problems — you may have to scroll down to get to this post);
- Joseph Clarke of That Brutal Joint is about to do an architecture tour of France and Italy. Expect regular posts;
- Beverly Tang and I both enjoyed this Claudia Bucher installation at LA’s MFA show, Supersonic;
- This has nothing to do with the blogosphere, but I believe that the LAT goes back to the registration model for its arts coverage (and dumps the PPV model) on Tuesday. So wait until tomorrow to read Nicolai Ouroussoff’s profile of huge-in-LA starchitect Thom Mayne.
- Not a blog, but this AJ-provided link deserves a huzzah!;
- Tomorrow on MAN: Thoughts on Richard Serra’s anti-Bush art.
The first room of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s minimalism show, A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958-1968, is the best room I’ve seen in a year and a half. It is the entrance to the show and gives us everything that is best about minimalism. It is tactile but distant, it attracts me but scares me, its simplicity stuns.
As I walk into this room, a large Carl Andre covers much of the central floor, and three more Andres stand nearby. Shall I walk across this one? Or will an unknowing guard or museum-goer tut-tut me and make a scene? Three large early Frank Stella paintings hang around the Andres. If I can walk on the Andre, can I touch the lines in the Stella, can I feel the wooden stretchers under the canvas?
The minimal, repeated straight lines in the Stellas echo the minimal, repeated straight lines in the Andres – or is it the other way around? The colors, well, there aren’t really colors here… just surfaces that have so much character and so much visual depth that I remember color when only texture exists. Museum-goers will be talking about this room for years.
But then the show retreats into disappointment, raising more questions about the choices made by curator Ann Goldstein than it provides great work.
To borrow a distinction from the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, Goldstein chose to build a museum show, rather than a gallery show. As such, A Minimal Future? is a lead-you-by-the-nose march through art history. I wish that Goldstein had created a gallery show, a show where the greatest minimal art was shown on its own, to be appreciated as great work, not as a link in a chain.
A Minimal Future? is an examination of art that happens to be minimal and that was made between 1958 and 1968. A walk through the show isn’t so much a stroll down a timeline, as it is a stroll through museum rooms (and hallways) dedicated to each of 40 artists. This means that Larry Bell and Donald Judd receive equal time. Robert Huot is spatially equal to Agnes Martin. Alas.
In A Minimal Future? minimalism is no more than another -ism, an -ism that needed to be chronicled, has been, and now that’s that. With the exception of that first room, the show completely misses what makes minimalist art greater today than it was when it was made – and isn’t that the ultimate test of art? Minimalism is to American art what icons were to Catholic churches. You can see both minimalist art and icons with a cursory glance and know what the object is. In each work, you are not seeing the supernatural but you feel affected by something extra-natural. If you take the time to study a great individual minimalist work or a great icon, you will find the subtle majesty within it.
I think that the link between religious art and minimalism is especially apt. For many years now museums have been where secular America goes to church. In an era where most mainstream entertainment is designed to be as baroquely overblown as possible (what else could possibly explain The Rock?), museums provide rich visual quiet. Minimalism is the art that best typifies what art museums are now. It is quiet. It is sublime. It rewards careful attention and a meditative gaze. It is quiet.
Goldstein’s show is not a quiet show. It drives me out of the work and into the questions that fill my mind. I understand that minimalism’s first decade was from 1958-68. But why did Goldstein establish an artificial 10-year benchmark and why she chose the ‘58-’68 period in particular? So many of the artists in this show, from Donald Judd to Anne Truitt to Robert Ryman, made their best work after 1968.
Why 40 artists, and why so many examples of fourth-tier artists who barely matter in the minimalism’s history? (See Chicago, Judy or Novros, David. If we needed a show that revealed minimalism’s bench as unworthy of future examination, we got it.) Why is there a Claes Oldenburg in the show and why does it share a room with Judd?
Goldstein seemed so eager to include so much art by so many artists that her installation suffers. Why can’t I walk all the way around Hans Haacke’s Blue Sail the way the artist intended (and the way James Cohan Gallery thoughtfully installed it in a group show about a year ago)? Why are there four Dan Flavins packed into one gallery, making it difficult to see any one of them? Why is there a Dan Graham slideshow in the exhibit, and why is it projected across a busy hallway? Too much of this show is shoehorned into barely available space.
Despite the problems, there is some great work in this show. In addition to the first room, work by Brice Marden, Anne Truitt, Agnes Martin and Dorothea Rockburne looks fantastic. Most surprisingly, I never expected to be so absorbed by Michael Asher, but here he looks ready for a significant examination.
This is not the minimalism show that I hoped it would be. The early years of minimalism have now had their academic survey. I’m ready for the rest and best of the story.