Living in a city that is full of fabulous museums you can sometimes get lazy about visiting them…especially with the crowds and all of the other things that seem to be on the agenda to do. One recent Sunday afternoon, finding myself in town and nothing in particular to do, I decided to
trot on down to MoMA for a ‘refresher course’ on contemporary art. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that you can now hook up your smart phone to a wireless program which will give you descriptions of various pieces of art in the different exhibitions. No more bulky walkie-talkie looking devices with head phones.
Once there I headed directly to the museum’s permanent contemporary collection to see what was on display this month. As usual it was wonderful and varied and showcased many famous artists. But I also couldn’t resist touring the video art exhibitions on the same floor, which as we all know has become quite mainstreamed today. So, with that being said, let me show you some of the highlights of my self imposed tour that day.
There was an unusual Andy Warhol, called “Rorschach Test,” a series I was unfamiliar with and almost surprised to realize Warhol did it. The interesting thing about this series…and Warhol always did paintings and prints in series…was that Warhol created the Rorschach images himself rather than copying the ones on the actual test not knowing that there was actually a standardize Rorschach test. As you probably know, Warhol was infamous for copying iconic images ( like the Campbell Soup Can) so this was a one and only artistic experiment for him.
A Jeff Koons installation encased in a Plexiglas box and titled, “New Shelton Wet/Dry Double Decker,” had two commercial vacuum cleaners stacked on top of each other…very Duchamp, I think. Koons sees vacuums as being very anthropomorphic and having male and female sexual qualities. Very thought provoking…
A huge David Salle painting called “Muscular Paper” also caught my attention. Three distinct panels with references to the work of others artists, including Pablo Picasso and Max Beckmann, with assorted superimposed images create a composition which could be interpreted…and then maybe not. Very Salle.
The artistic duo Gilbert & George’s “Lives” portrayed their own similarly dressed images superimposed on a background of male figures dressed in red, blue and yellow in a large painting composed of panels that makes you think of stained glass. Interesting fact: apparently Gilbert & George always integrate images of themselves in all of their artwork.
A very interesting installation by Senga Nengudi called “R.S.V.P.” occupied half of one of the smaller rooms off the main gallery. It was made out of women’s pantyhose that had been stretched to unbelievable limits and also filled with sand creating heavy, sagging sections contrasting with the taut stretched rays of nylon attached to the walls. Nengudi is commenting on the constant push and pull on the human body and how eventually parts of it can no longer escape the eventual loss of elasticity and simply sinks under the pressure. I can definitely relate!
The Nigerian artist, El Anatsui, focuses his art on the relationship between present day consumer habits and African colonialism. This piece, “Bleeding Takari II” was created out of bottle caps and seals thrown away at Nigerian liquor distilleries. Alcohol is symbolic to him as it was an integral commodity in the slave trade business of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Obviously the “red” aspects of the work stands for the blood of the Africans forced into slave labor. The piece is impressive and thought provoking to say the least.
The video art installation of Attia Kader called “Open Your Eyes” was particularly impressive to me due to it’s subject matter. Kader acquired photographs of wounded soldiers from World War I and juxtaposed these against photographs artifacts from Africa. The piece is a commentary on the Western and African attitude towards beauty and the aesthetic standards of wholeness and perfection. It is mesmerizing to watch the slides and has a powerful impact on the viewer.
A more benign, but still thought provoking video, by Douglas Gordon filled an entire room with immense screens of an elephant going through different poses. The work is called “Play Dead, Real Time” and was filmed in the Gagosian Gallery in NYC and represents an elephant being commanded to lie down, get up, etc. by some voice you do not hear. Seeing this huge beast lying on the ground is intense and then watching it…sometimes struggling…go through it’s maneuvers is thought provoking. Gordon is apparently making a comment on how we are subject to forces beyond our control in life. Again, I can definitely relate!
There were so many other wonderful works of art that I could go on for days writing about them. I think the message I would like to impart today is that one needs to spend the time revisiting museums periodically in order to stay in touch with the current social commentary and artistic format being utilize. Some of it is truly mind boggling, but none the less impressive and important to incorporate into your day to day existence if you want to be current with the ways of our modern world today.
Ciao, ciao ’til next time!