Saturday, February 20, 2010

Light-Hearted Exhibition at the Guggenheim

"Take This Museum and Shape It"
Roberta Smith, Art & Design, The New York Times (February 18, 2010)

"Art Review | 'Contemplating the Void'"

"The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is capping the 50th birthday festivities for its Frank Lloyd Wright building with some navel gazing. Still, there are worse navels to consider. Wright's spiral rotunda, in fact, could be thought of as the greatest belly button in modern architecture: an innie and an outie all in one.

"The rotunda is the inspiration for a frolicking, mostly feel-good show called 'Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum,' for which more than 200 artists, architects and designers were invited to redesign or repurpose the space. 'A self-reflexive folly' is how the project was described in the letters sent out by Nancy Spector, deputy director and chief curator of the Guggenheim Foundation, and David van der Leer, assistant curator of architecture and design at the museum. Participants were free to propose anything, since none of the proposals would be built.

"Whatever they sent in has been included in the show: computer renderings and posters, drawings of all sizes, a few written proposals, a model or two. There are architectural elevations and cross sections, nearly abstract charcoals, collages and Conceptual teasers. Some works are exceptionally beautiful, as with Matthew Ritchie's radiant watercolor that re-envisions the museum as the point of origin of the imaginary cosmos at the center of his work. Others are pointed jokes, like Josephine Meckseper's digital print of an oil rig floating in water that fills the rotunda's base — a reference, perhaps, to the Guggenheim's involvement with Abu Dhabi, where a branch of the museum is scheduled to open in 2013.

"This is the kind of low- budget, few-frills exhibition that major museums need to try more often, and it is not surprising...."

There are a fair number of photos in the review, and a slide show. Also a little background on past exhibitions at the Guggenheim.

Some of the (art?) is arguably silly - like the idea of rolling golf, Ping-Pong, and tennis balls down the ramp. Or maybe not so silly. I don't pretend to understand -would this be performance art? Although I suspect that some of it will show up in the 22nd century texts on abnormal psychology. Which is another topic.

The review isn't comprehensive - not surprising, considering the size of the 'Contemplating the Void' exhibition. But I think the article gives a pretty good idea of what to expect.

I also agree with the reviewer that this show is a good idea. There are too many artists, museums and wannabe geniuses who take themselves and their art 'way too seriously. In my opinion.

On the other hand, I ran into reminders that I may not be quite on the same page as the more 'serious-minded' people in contemporary American culture.

Take this sentence, for example: "A number of the proposals, to be sure, are no more than flights of fancy, harmless though often appealing...." What? Generally speaking, does something generally have to be harmful to be appealing?!

Oh, well: maybe I'm reading too much into that choice of words.


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