Posts Tagged ‘First Thirty Years’
Museum of Contemporary Art
After seeing the first part of Collection [link to part one post] at MOCA’s Grand Avenue location I was surprised to see that the seemingly meticulous chronological organization used there, had been abandoned at the Geffen Contemporary portion of the exhibition. At Grand Ave. a single narrative was created with a series of rooms leading one to another. The architectural space at the Geffen does not have a series of rooms, and instead has an open floorplan of a warehouse, which does not lend itself to a singular viewing path. The experience at the Geffen is less rigid but also has little direction.
Because of the lack of a set path, I was free to choose my own, and the first thing I was drawn to was Chris Burden’s Big Wheel. It’s a large moving object and set right next to the admission counter, so it’s hard not to be drawn to it. From there I followed a rampway up, passed an awkwardly placed Richard Hawkin’s painting Disembodied Zombie Skeet Pink, and continued on.
The special installations, like Ruscha’s Chocolate Room at Grand Ave, continued in the second part at the Geffen. Paul McCarthy’s installation of tarnished Christmas trees festooned in dust-covered flowers and ornaments, along with worktables and photographs of creepy, pervy Santa’s made up the piece Tokyo Santa, Santa’s Trees.
The usage of artists quotes for artworks was carried out again at the Geffen, MOCA’s best attempt at education. In an additional attempt at education several benches were placed in the galleries with exhibition catalogues. I wonder how many people actually read a single essay out of the catalogue. The cover of the exhibition is Baldessari’s work This Is Not To Be Looked At, which is featured at the end of the of the Grand Ave portion of the exhibition.
Large sculptures were placed with enough space for a viewer to completely circumnavigate them. This was necessary for examining the details of complex works like Thomas Hirschhorn’s Non-Lieux and David Altmejd’s The Egg. The exception was with the installation of Yutaka Sone’s Hong Kong Island, which was surrounded widely with by black tape and kept the viewer too far to really appreciate the tiny details of the piece.
Underneath the platform of the previous galleries one could find creepy little tunnels leading to the video works. Spelunking into the caves created a sensation of tension that overwhelmed the works; I was more freaked out than really concentrating on the works themselves.
In one room issues of scale were played with. The attempt to balance large works within the same space, and not have them compete with one another, was successful. Thomas Struth’s Pergamon Museum II, Berlin seemed large until viewed next to Thomas Demand’s Space Simulator, and that even seemed small with Fred Tomaselli’s Hang Over down the hall. And then the leviathan Khedoori Untitled (Seats) was right next door.
Certain artists were featured in multiple places in the Geffen. Baldessari was hung at the very back and also at the very front. A series of Opie photographs was hung far from another self portrait. Why do this? The artworks from the same artists did not necessarily speak more to the works they did hang by, and would have been more informative of the artists careers to compare earlier and later works.
Finally, after all of my meanderings, at the end of the exhibition, I came to the introductory wall text. The bland and uninformative sentences were accompanied by Bruce Nauman’s colorful work Welcome. The work’s title was appropriate for this placement, but that was about all that was appropriate about it. Now I understood the content warning label at the entry of the exhibition. I also realized at this point that I had traversed through the show in the wrong direction.
I had made it through the show with little direction, which seemed to sum it up. At the Grand Avenue portion of Collection, it seemed MOCA was presenting a cannon of contemporary art, explicitly creating a narrative. Where as at the Geffen Contemporary Grand portion, MOCA allowed a visitor to create one’s own narratives.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Right in time for its 30th anniversary, MOCA presents Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years, on view through May 3, 2010. The exhibition celebrates MOCA’s collection in a big way: more than 500 works by more than 200 artists. Collection also takes up a lot of real estate and is spread out between MOCA’s two downtown locations. This is why this inquisition will be dished out in two parts. Beginning at Grand Avenue with the 1940s and Abstract Expressionism, the show is organized chronologically. The show continues at the Geffen Contemporary with art from the previous 30 years (check back for part two).
Not only is MOCA showing its much bragged about permanent collection, it actually provides some informative/educational wall texts, or as close to informative/educational wall texts as MOCA would go. Throughout the many galleries, the curators have integrated quotations from the artists on display. The quotes range from remarks on art theory to explanations about artistic process.
The show is curated using several tactics. Two of these tactics were creations of suites of a single artists work, and another was the system of juxtaposing a series of a single artist’s photographs with a sculpture. This second tactics was my favorite and used twice with very successful results.
The first suite of artist work was given to Rothko, a venerable chapel had been created for the massive abstract expressionist pieces. The curators also utilized temporary architectural elements to their advantage in this space (and throughout) to separate rooms into sections, but more importantly to highlight through framing particular works. This was used in the following gallery for a Pollock.
The second major artist suite was organized for Franz Kline. I’ve never seen Kline hung in such a serial way. I didn’t particularly enjoy the suite because it began to look like a herd of zebra.
Then came a room which was installed using the second tactic: the juxtaposition of a photographic series and a sculpture. This one combined a series of photographs from Robert Frank’s The Americans series with the metal sculpture Rayvredd by John Chamberlain. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap a picture of this room’s installation, so I made a poor mock-up in my favorite program Microsoft paint. I like this room not just because I am insanely fond about Robert Frank (yes I own the expanded edition of The Americans exhibition catalogue) but because the combination of a multiplicity of photos compared to a single unique, seemingly irreproducible sculpture made me think on implications of media and display of various kinds of media.
This room was followed but another large suite containing MOCA’s extensive collection of varying and impressive Rauschenberg combines. The spacing in this room was effective in that it allowed for a consideration of individual works while still making obvious the trends in Rauschenberg’s work.
Another room that operated similarly in contrasting sculpture and painting was the room with the Oldenberg sculptures from The Store. These garishly painted works were mounted from the walls (like paintings) and set up on a kind of stage that separated them from the viewer’s space. The paintings in this room were Warhol and Lichtenstein. MOCA presented one of each from its own collection; both were in black and white. But full-color works from these two painters were also displayed, a Warhol Campbell Soup Can, and Lichtenstein’s I…I’m Sorry, both borrowed from the Broad Art Foundation.
Wait a second; I thought this show presented works from the permanent collection, to the Broad collection! These two works filled a gap perhaps in MOCA’s collection. (A similar gap must also be in LACMA’s collection since these two works were also borrowed in the inaugural installation of BCAM).
Then came the long corridor. I’ve seen photographs displayed in this space before, but I sadly ignored most of them once I saw what was at the end of the corridor. The florescent bulbs of Flavin’s monument for V. Tatlin beckoned me to the end of the corridor; making breeze past what I’m sure was a treasure trove of photography. Flavin’s work really got me going.
Once I was at the Flavin I realized I’d made my way to a kind of halfway point, since I’d been through half of the cycle of room at Grand Ave. There is a definite suggested route throughout these galleries, counterclockwise following the canon of contemporary art chronologically.
In another room were works all without frames, yes frames my other obsession. The works in this room were by Frank Stella, Bridget Riley, Jo Baer, and Elaine Sturtvant. All of the works were without frames, for various reasons. (I imagine it would be hard to find or created a frame to accommodate the curvilinear sides of Stella’s work.) All of these painting were humungous which made it hard for any one of them to dominate the space. This equality was created by the paintings’ demand for equal amounts of attention.
MOCA aside from the major suites also created mini-suites of a single artist’s work. Two mini-suites were organized for Diane Arbus photographs and another for Smithson works. The Arbus mini-suite contained photographs mostly of pairings of people which was a selective decision on the curator’s part. The Smithson mini-suite showed the variety of media Smithson worked in, from sketches of spiral cinnabars to the row of mirrors hung at floor-level, Mirage No. 1.
The MOCA press release for Collection also mentions a series of special installations. One such installation was Doug Wheeler’s RM 669. A gallery attendant had a constant vigil to remind visitors to remove their shoes before entering the ghostly/heavenly space. Other light and space works were near by which were combined with finish fetish works. I had never realized that the two movements aesthetic both rely on perfection of execution to be really effective.
A series of photographs I didn’t ignore or rush by was Lewis Baltz, his series of structures from Industrial Parks near Irvine. The photos were familiar to me since I had just seen some of them at LACMA in the New Topographics show. LACMA displayed far fewer than MOCA does. I think I favor MOCA’s display because it is so much larger showing how extensive the series really was.
Another special recreated installation was Ed Ruscha’s Chocolate Room. I’m a fan of having my senses (beyond sight) engaged when I visit museums. I like hearing a work of art from rooms away and then gradually finding my way to it. Ruscha’s work engaged another sense, smell. The smell of chocolate wafted through the galleries leading me to the chocolate covered papered walls of Ruscha’s installation. It reminded me of Dieter Roth’s Chocolate Lion Tower that was in LACMA’s Art of the Two Germanys exhibition where you smelled the artwork before you saw it. Both Chocolate Lion Tower and Chocolate Room turned a chalky white once the chocolate began to oxidize in the gallery spaces. The gross white layer was the only thing keeping me from licking the walls.
Another room installed using the tactics of photography series and sculpture combination was a small room hung with a fascinatingly sexy display of Nan Goldin photographs and a Yayoi Kusama sculpture. The work on the walls and the phallic sculpture on the floor made this intimate room feel scandalous, but in a subtle way that I enjoyed. It was probably the smallest room, and also the room I spent the most time in.
A final suite was organized for Eva Mendietta. The two walls of photographs of her her siluetas were the last thing I saw before I was scurried out the door at closing time. I managed to see everything (some things were more actually browsed) in part one of Collection. I must say bravo to MOCA for organizing this show (whatever the reasons). MOCA constantly brags about its monumental permanent collection, but rarely shows it. Well, MOCA finally is actually showing it.
P.S. Check back for part 2, the Geffen Contemporary portion of Collection.