Friday, April 22, 2005

I've done my fair share of duly bitching about the modern art world, so I thought it would be nice if, for once, I shared some of the artwork that I do like. I was at the MoMA today and I don't really know what came over me.

I don't think it's pretentious to say that visual artists see things, literally, different from the rest of us. Or at least they're supposed to. Good artists can share that vision with the lay public; great artists not only share that vision but turn it into something profound, larger than the piece of artwork. It's a mark of the mediocre conceptual artist to forget the sharing part of that — that's why they need an ivory tower blurb posted next to the piece explaining it. If you're going to do that, drop the visual arts and become a writer.

Here are some pieces that require no explanation.

Josiah McElheny's Modernity, Mirrored and Reflected Infinity (2003). This is, in my opinion, the piece in the museum that most deserves to be seen. The photograph misses a lot of the detail, the "infinity" part of the piece, and doesn't really do it justice. :(

Aristide Maillol's The River (1938–43). I think the sculpture is actually kind of banal. I've seen bathing female figures before. Not in real life. In art history class. But I like what I assume is more than just a curatorial decision: the fragile and ephemeral-looking reflection in the pool below.

I think it would be cool if the sign said look with your eyes, not with your hands instead.
Andreas Gursky's 99 Cent (1999). A good example of how non-artists like myself have trouble seeing the forest for the trees. The actual photo is eleven feet wide, so it's a bit more impressive.

Edward Hopper's Gas (1940). Hopper is the master of portraying American alienation. Kirchner kind of hits you over the head with it.