Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dallas Museum Of Art - "Variations On Theme: Contemporary Art 1950's - Present"

A couple of days ago, I went to the Dallas Museum Of Art.  They have some great stuff in there. 
I also got a chance to check out the Nasher Sculpture Center for the first time.  It was incredible.  (I used to run the Jukt Micronics metal shop.  Many of the artists that Mr. Nasher purchased had some serious metalworking chops.  A few of them did welds that looked like birdshit on a wire, but most of us can overlook that.)   

And then there was the Dallas Museum Of Art's exhibit called "Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950s–Present"  Much of the art in that particular display was pretentious junk.  Give a relatively talented 8th-grader plenty of time and materials, turn her loose, and tell her to start painting/building/stuffing and protesting.  Mix her output with that of the Modern Masters on display at the DMOA, and I would defy any layman to distinguish the 8th-graders stuff from that of, say, Mark Rothko

But here's why you should go see that exhibit.  The descriptions on the wall beside each painting are freakin' hilarious. 
(To learn more about the descriptions and manifestos and stances and alliances that are now so critical to your enjoyment of contemporary art, check out Tom Wolfe's brilliant The Painted Word.  It is not a satire.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll go to the DMOA to see what he was talking about.) 

This piece was my favorite.  It's by Gerhard Richter, who Wikipedia claims is now the top-selling living artist. 
Here's the description:

The text, just in case you can't read the pic, is as follows:
Gerhard Richter
German, born 1932
Mirror, 2008
Mirror glass
Lay family acquisition fund, 2010
This piece, which is a fully functional mirror, questions the nature of representation, a central concern of Gerhard Richter in his long career as an artist. 
Shit, people, it's a fully functional mirror !!  The sumbitch works !!!!  And not only does it work, it questions the nature of that which it represents.  YOU can look at it this mirror at the DMOA for only $14.00  
Playing with the notion of what is an accurate depiction of reality, it simply and literally reflects what is in front of it, whether museum visitors or other works of art. 
Much like the ones for sale at Home Depot. 
The ubiquitous mirror is at once a common, everyday material and a mysterious object, invested with mythic capabilities and allusions, capturing a moment in both time and space. 
It is almost impossible to pass a mirror without looking; it demands our attention, and thus, our time. 
Here's the real thing, which rivals the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Mona Lisa, and maybe even those paintings of dogs playing poker.  It looks a lot better when other people are taking the picture. 
By the way, I impovised some bullshit of my own when I transcribed the text that describes this mirror.  I bet you didn't catch it, did you?  None of it matters.  It's just buzzwords piled on catch-phrases dumped in with jargon.  And lots of "juxtaposition".  Everywhere I looked, there was "juxtaposition". 

One word of warning.  I don't know much about Richter's work, but I think that this might not be the original Richter mirror.  After a close examination, I think this might be a clever fogery done by another artist.  Something about the style seems off, and the technique is less polished.  Is there anyone in the DFW area who could examine this piece and make a determination? 

This next bit o' commentary was in a different exhibition.  They're impressed that this Japanese dude constructed two different J.C. Penney clothing pedestals that are filled with identical amounts of water.  I think. 

Here are the pieces in question.  I swear to God I think that we used to stack books on these at Barnes And Noble, but they didn't have identical amounts of water in them back then.  (The piece on the wall was actually kinda cool, but didn't have water in it.) 

Anyway, I had a fun day off in the Dallas Museum District.  Seriously, check out the other stuff at the DMOA, and be sure to take in the Nasher Sculpture Center. 


Dr Ralph said...

Oh dear...

It's not my place to defend or argue with you about any of this.

For a long time, as a (lapsed) artist, I felt it was my duty to "like" everything that my tribe came up with. I've since realized I'm no under obligation to do that. There *is* a lot of pretentious shit out there. Since I haven't seen the show at the DMA, I'm not able to offer up a take on it.

That being said, I'm of the opinion the less an artist says about his/her work, the better. Otherwise it's usually an embarrassment for all concerned.

From a Free Market point of view, if collectors are paying big bucks for Rothkos or Richters, or even McNaughtons well, the market has spoken, right? Money talks, bullshit walks.

Or maybe it's possible having money doesn't mean you're right (about art or any number of other topics).

I will say that, given the fact that this stuff (much of which I'd actually probably like) as well as this (which I don't) seems to be what collectors are waving their checkbooks for, my mid-life career change from artist to IT web geek seems like genius.

BTW - if you're hitting the museums, you owe it to yourself to see the Lucian Freud show at the Modern in Fort Worth. Amazing stuff.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I have a friend who has told me good thin gs about the Freud exhibit, and that the guy had real talent. Will probably check it out.
BTW, who do you think is qualified (in this area) to give us an opinion on whether the Richter mirror is genuine or a forgery by a lesser artist? This question is haunting me.
BTW, your stuff is better than 95% of the junk in the DMOA featured exhibits.

Dr Ralph said...

Sir - you are too kind.

Regarding the possibility of "forgery," I can only say that notion of "ready-mades" has been with us for a long, long time. Context counts for a lot. What was once ironic is now merely... outsourcing.

For a lot of "collectors," art is just another form of bullion, and the art market, much like the banking industry, is more than happy to supply product for would-be investors. ...More reasons I'm an IT geek these days rather than a painter.

To get a real sense of what the art industry is all about these days, read about the career of artist Jeff Koons. Curiously enough, I find a few of his pieces quite appealling, despite my dislike of what he's come to represent. I dunno, maybe it's professional jealousy. We are about the same age and he's the toast of the art world, and I spend my days asking people if they've tried rebooting their computers.

When you've finished enjoying that, go to Netflix and find a film that came out a few years ago called "(UNTITLED)" - funny stuff, and not too far off the mark.

Dr Ralph said...

BTW - if you're at the Modern in Fort Worth for the Lucian Freud show, take a little time and make your way over to the Amon Carter Museum. In addition to the current featured show, "American Vanguards: Graham, Davis, Gorky, de Kooning and Their Circle, 1927–1942," there's also a wonderful little exhibition entitled Industrial Monuments: Photographs and Works on Paper from the Machine Age. It's easy to miss and shouldn't be.

Anonymous said...

Is this part of a new series? Will you be taking your lack of education, exposure and experience on the road to other cultural centers as well? Perhaps you will visit Russia, and declare as an incomprehensible fraud the unintelligible scratches in ink on paper that are an original manuscript for “War and Peace,” because you grasp the Russian language as well as you do contemporary art!
Instead of greeting that which you do not understand with a defensive snarkiness, perhaps a little humility, curiosity and willingness to learn would lead to a richer life. It should.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Please don't get me wrong if you perceived snarkiness and ridicule in this post.
I'm genuinely concerned that the Richter piece might indeed be a forgery. I looked closely at the mirror, and it didn't have any of the determining characteristics of a Richter. Yes, it reflected what was in front of it, but it still seemed to have a Home Depot "feel" to it. I don't know much about art, but I know my Richters.
This mirror, sir, just might not be a Richter.
About the display cubicles containing water....
Aw, c'mon. Give me a freakin' break. This stuff is crap, and you know it's crap.