Wednesday, February 4, 2015

MOMA: The Forever Now

Untitled,  Oscar Murillo
Last month I visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and saw several shows, including The Forever Now, featuring the work of seventeen international painters. To see a slide show of the exhibit, click here. This is the MOMA's first large survey dedicated to new painting since 1958. 

In his review of the show in the January 5, 2015 issue of The New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl writes:
"It's not that painting is "dead" again -- no other medium can as yet so directly combine vision and touch to express what it's like to have a particular mind, with its singular troubles and glories, in a particular body. But painting has lost symbolic force and function in a culture of promiscuous knowledge and glutting information....
"The ruling insight ... is that anything attempted in painting now can't help but be a do-over of something from the past...." 

The work of the youngest painter, 28-year-old Columbian Oscar Murillo, was presented in a novel way.  Several of his large canvases were in a heap on the floor and visitors were encouraged to handle them. Considering that his works sell for hundreds of thousand of dollars, this presentation causes the viewer to question the "preciousness" of the paintings.

7+, Oscar Murillo

Murillo's work consists of oil and oil stick on pieces of canvas and linen, roughly stitched together. Though it is difficult to see from the photo, the "piecing" of the segments is obvious, with shadows cast by loose edges.

Another artist, the German Kerstin Brätsch, had several huge paintings on paper, mounted between sheets of glass held together with giant metal clips, reminiscent of Ikea-type framing options. Off to the side, a stack of these framed works leaned against a wall. The experience was like a visit to the artist's studio, where one might see works in storage, off to the side and ready to be pulled out for viewing. This prompts the viewer to think about why some paintings are selected for display, and others not.

Quoted below is the introduction to the show by curator Laura Hoptman, posted at the entrance:
"The science-fiction writer William Gibson coined the term atemporality to describe a new and strange state of culture in which, courtesy of the Internet, styles from all eras exist at once, and no single style represents the moment. Taking advantage of this avalanche of information, artists who embrace the atemporal condition create works of art that are a rich mix of styles and motifs from all over the art-historical timeline, especially from the past century. They reanimate, reenact, or sample elements from the past without a trace of parody or nostalgia, challenging them to be relevant again in our "endless digital Now," as Gibson has described our time.
"Artists have always looked to art history for inspiration, but the digital availability of a vast catalog of visual information has radically altered their relationship to that history; they no longer see it as a linear sequence that proceeds from one innovation to another, but as a broad, horizontal plane that invites exploration from any point. This approach can be most clearly observed in painting, which in the twentieth century was the primary medium though which forms and genres emerged, battled, and withdrew with an almost tidal regularity. In this new millennium, artists continue to reinterpret painting's traditions and strategies, as well as its more metaphysical, high-stakes questions on subjects such as originality, subjectivity, and spiritual transcendence.
"Art that defies chronological classification offers a dramatic challenge to the structure that disciplines like art history enforce - the ladder-like  narrative of cultural progress that is so dependent on new ideas replacing old ones. The seventeen painters in The Forever Now have created poly-chronological crazy quilts of assembled cultural data that have the potential to scramble set notions of historical hierarchies and frustrate rigid regimes of taste. Their work presents a hopeful, even invigorating, proposition about the infinite possibilities created by reevaluating, remixing, and retrofitting, and encourages the continued exploration of the vast, synchronic landscape of information peculiar to our century."
I found it interesting that the majority of painters in the show were women. It is heartening to see more and more museum and gallery exhibitions with a realistic representation from female artists and curators. The show continues until April 5.

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