Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Sorry I Haven't Posted

When I saw it mentioned in the New Yorker that Cory Arcangel was collecting posts with this title, it seemed a perfect way to come back to blogging after a long unexplained and unexplainable hiatus. And then Sunday I went to the Whitney to see Arcangel’s exhibition. The large dark space with loud music and huge video-game-style images of bowlers throwing gutterballs, the golf installation with a similar end, various types of reproduced drawings or Pantone colors created through painstaking technology…. My notes say “pointless, futile, wasted effort.” Boy, he works hard to produce nothing. I imagine that’s the point; it just didn’t take me very far intellectually or emotionally.

Except that it’s different, and I kind of liked the swaying display shelf sets, I really wondered what the Whitney was thinking. On the other hand, I imagine this is a generational thing and maybe it’s completely powerfully meaningful to some people. I kept staring at the big computer-generated color sheets, trying to connect them with abstract expressionism, as the labels instructed, but it just wasn’t working for me. Despite all the work he puts into it, the work just isn’t visually engaging.

Futility seems to be the contemporary theme for museum shows this month. At MOMA Francis Alÿs presents videos of himself carrying a gun through Mexico City until he was arrested after about 12 minutes, of 500 people shoveling sand to make a slight adjustment in the dune, of himself pushing a block of ice through the city till it melted, of himself with a group of sheep circling a pole, and of his hunt to catch “tornados” (actually dirt devils) in the dry Mexican desert. The sand dune project reminded me of early works by Zhang Huan, raising the height of a mountain and the depth of a lake using his artist friends. The Zhang works seemed relatively effortless, however, and this Peruvian sand dune project is heavily documented, laborious, hot, and suggestive of a planning process more like Christo wrapping the Arkansas River. Tom thinks they're all pretty dumb. Without the patience to see the final result, I assumed the effect on the huge dune was imperceptible.

One would imagine that the third artist installation in a major New York Museum would be equally dispiriting: Hans Peter Feldman’s Hugo Boss Prize exhibition at the Guggenheim. Surprisingly, $100,000 in $1 bills pinned to the walls and columns of a relatively large gallery to make a layered wallpaper is visually quite satisfying. The soft green and grey of the bills, their overlapping that suggests ivy leaves, and the variations caused by changing the orientation of the bills made for a very pleasant visual and spatial experience. For some reason it made strangers pleasantly chatty. We talked about doing it on a smaller scale in a room at home (just $10,000?), whether the insulation of the bills would create good acoustics for a music room, whether someone has the job to straighten the rows each day (a few bills have tilted), who did the actual physical installation (Guggenheim crew), how they measured to be sure the bills would fit (very carefully and with some anxiety). There are lots of images of the installation on the Web, but I don't think they convey the experience of being there. It's always wonderful when the art requires the viewer's actual presence in order to work properly.

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