Saturday, January 19, 2008

Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal

Missing post? For some reason this should have been posted January 6th.

A brief, fairly annotated post on the partaking of art yesterday in Montreal, a cold day with much walking. It was the Hound's first visit to the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal and she endured a line up. But it was worth it. Vik Muniz is a Brazilian born artist who has taken Warhol's dictum that a copy is a copy is an original to the extreme. His work explores the images that have become embedded in our psyche--images from Time Magazine, images from pop art and culture, faces of the famous. The first show in the exhibit which ended Sunday (but will tour to Seattle and San Diego before long), features some replications of images (Kennedy, post-war kiss, napalm) drawn from memory, then photographed and reprinted. Other processes include negative sculpting as a form of painting: using masses of plastic toy soldiers on white to "paint" the negative space, or chocolate, black caviar, diamonds, dust, string... Some of this is predictable (Liz Taylor and diamonds for example) but extremely compelling nonetheless. The portrait of Alice Liddell (shown here courtesy of Musee d'art contemporain) created with masses and masses of cheap toys was a favorite.

Muniz also created some earth works. Scale continues to preoccupy us, and why not? When will nature writing catch up with the art world she wonders? (Is there a nature writer/poet in Canada who responds to the work of earth artists beyond Andy Goldsworthy? Beyond realism? What is realism anyway?) Muniz' draws in the earth, using what it's not clear, but they images look like they've been drawn with a Gulliver sized finger. These images are then photographed from above. There are several artists doing this whom I've posted about fairly recently, the scale that is. One wonders what is accomplished by these multiple procedures and perspectives? What happens when we randomly penetrate sites? Is this merely whimsy? And of course one wonders what the possibilities are of injecting such whimsy into poetry.

Karel Funk's work is a refreshing blast of representational painting--realism to the extreme, and an extremely compelling dose of realism at that. These acrylic portraits of young men, largely from behind, and one side profile, are startlingly powerful. Why? Is it the luminosity? The exaggeration? Roberta Smith raved about Funk in the New York Times after his solo show in Chelsea in 2007, and you can see why here. This is unbelievable detail, but there's something else too, a playful, energetic originality to the perspective, a much needed lightness not only in terms of the portraits themselves, but the texture. The work literally glows, and the subjects are intense, not easily read, not themselves without depth and nuance. Content works against technique here, and there are multiple inquiries that create tension. This is refreshing after so much procedural work (textual and visual), that refuses to go beyond one note. (shown here courtesy of Musee d'art contemporain)

Thomas Hirschhorn is an artist who uses found materials, much tape, staples, assemblage, and mounds of stuff to create banal sculptural installations that exude an anti-aesthetic. A mad, mad version of Jessica Stockholder meets Louise Nevelson meets...well there are a number of people doing this kind of work at the moment. Check out the Altar to Raymond Carver and the artist's statement. Loved seeing these three in tandem: they are so different, and each offers an important position, an exquisite exploration. I love how both Muniz and Hirschhorn are attempting to come to terms with commodification and over-production post-Warhol, post-post, but they come to the field in such vastly different ways.

Personally I found it almost unbearable to enter Hirschhorn's world. Applaud it I do, but I would rather read about it than inhabit it.

The show ended yesterday and the presence of the Contemporary Art Gallery in Montreal has cheered me to no end. But um, what about the relative absence of women in the Musee? Here are the Guerilla Girls on the down and dirty in galleries not only gender-wise, but the ties with corporations and fashion powerhouses...