Perambulating the Bounds

Saturday, March 25, 2006

One Day in New York

Annual art trip to New York going on now. Yesterday the Whitney Biennial, David Smith at Guggenheim, and MOMA. I wasn’t as excited about the Biennial this year. Much of the work seemed admirable, but I have to admit being turned on by surprising and well-made stuff. The work seemed more political, like it absorbed all the energy that went into the 2004 campaign. In some cases what you see here are the results of that period, like Richard Serra’s Stop Bush poster with the hooded image from Abu Ghraib.

One exception was Urs Fischer’s big piece, two large branches painted silver, rotating from the ceiling with a lit candle at their ends. The candles deposited thickening circles of wax, and their own remains.

Peter Huyghe’s video about a trip to Antarctica and its reenactment in Central Park was very lovely. Except for opening narration, it was wordless but very emotional. It was all images and very slight motions. A woman on the boat turns her head slightly. What more do you need.

Chicago prejudice also kicked in. Jim O’Rourke’s video, where two opposing images of a door flashed across from a dark cityscape was pleasurable, largely because of the lush series of drones and overtones on the sound track. And Paul Chan’s animated silhouettes in a city sky projected onto the floor, objects floating up and bodies falling down, was so direct in making use of the 9-11 images but made it all a magical and fluid experience. In important ways an outrageous piece, but also one with a much broader perspective than we seem capable of these days.

At MOMA, they had a great little show of work by people from the Islamic world or interested in Islam. Raqib Shaw had this spectacular large painting, Garden of Earthly Delights III. In an Islam miniature style, blown up to grand proportions, it contains all manner of beautiful transgressions. Some of the paint seems to be auto body paint, thick enamels, and cheap spangles are affixed throughout. In the same room were smaller pieces and an animation by Shahzia Sikander, also using the miniature style, and pigments like tea and vegetable colors. One image that has been reproduced widely has a horned woman, some sort of pagan god as I imagine it.

This was my first time in the new MOMA. I've avoided it up til now. A lot of the spaces felt too garage-like. Big rooms with really tall ceilings. I was surprised the flows in the exhibits weren’t clearer. But there’s more floor area, and they were able to put out some amazing stuff, particularly in prints and drawings.

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