Art & Development

Unmonumental Tendencies

Would love to see Unmonumental, the inaugural exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. It sounds like a really smart, timely curatorial proposition around un-heroic, modest tendencies in sculptural assemblage. 

In my own work, I’ve become more interested in art that just is, and doesn’t attempt to transcend its base materiality with illusion. Or allusion.

When I look at art now, I’m hyper-aware of artistic decisions that beg viewers to ignore conceptual or material details. I’m skeptical of modest scales that seem more to do with an economy of means, than how a work interacts with a space. I’m especially skeptical of materials that don’t reinforce content or concept. Objects (and art materials) have a life of their own — a manufactured history, a cultural value — and the act of incorporating something into one’s art doesn’t mean it’s become an object limited to visual significance. This is why I responded negatively to Louise Nevelson’s work at the De Young Museum: as a viewer, I felt compelled to ignore the spray paint, moulding and table legs, and felt that I would only “get it” if I could see compositions of shape and gradients of light. In contrast, Isa Genzkin, whose work is in the New Museum show, allows the viewer to see the crappy objects of her assemblage as what they are: blinds, PVC hose, all the useless junk crowding our garages and filling our landfills. 

This is in contrast with engaging with art on visual or formal terms. Sure, I’m still interested in how a thing looks or how it’s made, but using those criteria only can result in seeking only the most visually stunning or technically baffling. This feels to me more like channel surfing, than really engaging with art.


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