A visit to the SAM. A visit back to art history 101, old school style, as in traditional mausoleum display of big men names in chronological order. What is a museum to do with gifts though? Hide them away in storage like the Cheney Cowels Museum did to Ed Kienholtz’s Jesus Corner? The work stops you as if you were on the street and really, it looks good in storage jammed next to crates and tacky sculptures. (everyone should get to see it this way.)
The left hall in the SAM displaying West Coast Funk could use a little of that disorganizing. The crappy, colorful ceramics looked like found objects displayed with pretension instead of work oozing out of the Californians’ minds and studios.
The Modern/Contemporary hall was a little treat like Oldenburg’s small (1’ x 3’) Pecan Pie Slice. All works by men, which brings up the concern that validating only men’s work of the past, reinforces the confidence levels of those viewing the work today. By confidence, I mean, the value placed on museum hung paintings transposed to contemporary works. Pop is fun but not the only work going on in the 50-60’s. Even the work through the 80’s 90’s were mostly by men. So the SAM only has so much room and so few acquisitions, might as well fill up space with a bunch of big art + big names. Okay, enough ranting. I do like Wesselmann’s Great American Nudes. (Which are big.)
Cai Guo-Qiang’s video/installation Illusion was not convincing. The video stretched the 30’ wall. Playing on a loop for 90 seconds, a firework exploding Ford Taurus “appeared” to drive through Times Square. SAM says “Illusion explore(s) how images and truth are experienced and understood in our unsettled world,” and Guo-Qiang is “inspired by . . . Western technology, science and art.” It was filmed at eye level, the superimposed exploding car wasn’t quite on the street, didn’t look like it was actually moving, and that was it. The actual car was on display in front of the video. Sol LeWitt wrote in ’67 that the physicality of an object detracts from it’s meaning (paraphrased.) The car at first looked like a car bomb. Then on closer inspection the burned out firework cartridges seemed high school, the paint was undamaged, the car wasn’t really a car, it was gutted before the incident. All of this “physicality” squashed the excitement that could have lit some sparks in my head. The experience I had from this was that explosions don’t really do any damage. So, sure it was an illusion, but obvious from the beginning to end. I think this is another example of name recognition replacing good work. Of course once a museum gets a hold of an artist, by then his name is already recognized, then determined worthy. See previous paragraph. “The addition of this significant installation by Cai Guo-Qiang to SAM’s collection continues the museum’s commitment to representing global contemporary art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”
The best treat of all was on floor four . . . . . . . . . . Nick Cave’s Sound Suit!!!!! It was a good one, crocheted colorful wacky. I’m partial to the hobby, I don’t do it but it is very popular around here. Sadly, it was standing alone. The display of the “artifact” ill affected everything in the museum. The Masai women’s beaded jewelry lost all meaning apart from their bodies. I participated in a Masai wedding reception, so to see the ringed necklaces rigid and still was, well lame. According to Colleen Curran who saw a Cave performance, “Dancers lope across the stage, swishing, clanging, banging -- the effect is tribal, animalistic and utterly intoxicating.” Visually it worked with the traditional African mask displays and video/installation of a contemporary tribal social performance. Still, I am ruminating on the placement of the work in the African art hall instead of with the western contemporary works.
Fred Wilson has had an affect on museum curators, in fact there was a Wilson mixed artifact piece on the opposite side of the entry from the Sound Suit. But I think the idea was to decompartmentalize the museum not classify. Maybe the suit was a bridge between today’s Western + African cultures. I’m still thinking. Daily art in the world vs art made for a meuseum going public grasping for meaning.
I promise, next entry will be all about art I like. I'll ignore the venue and focus on the art. It will be about Drake Deknatel, who recently passed on god damnit! And hopefully a visit to Beth Sellar’s Suyama Space to find out what “challenging art” really is.
Colleen CurranRichmond.comMonday, October 13, 2003
Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, Sol LeWitt. Artforum June1967